In desperate need of an accountant?
Image: Paul Stumpr
How long did you spend looking for your accountant? Probably less time than you spent looking for something as simple as a TV. When I bought my TV, I spent hours poring over reviews and websites. When you are spending that much money, you want to know that you are getting the best possible result. Eventually after hours of searching, I found the right size, with the right price and a great warranty.
When you think about how much time and effort you put in to buying consumer goods, why is it then, that when we need financial services we only put in a fraction of the time and effort?
The margins you save choosing the right financial services provider could be much higher than the cash you saved on your shiny new television, but it is often a choice that we don’t know that we have.
I am an owner of an SME and I was in hunt for a business accountant a few months ago. Not surprisingly, and thanks to Google, I was able to find at least 500 in my city, who claimed to be qualified.
How do I choose from the list that Google threw up? How do I get to know if they are qualified? How do I know if he’d be able to live up to my expectations? Of course, many of the businesses you have found offer the same in the way of services, but there are a couple of things to look for to ensure that you get a professional service.
- Qualification Check
Check if the accountant is a member of one or more of the accounting bodies/associations.
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW)
- Association of Chartered Accountants (ACCA)
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
- Association of International Accountants (AIA)
- Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)
- European Accounting Association (EAA)
- Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA)
- Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT)
Most of the websites have an option to look up their registered members. Just perform a quick search by using the search feature on the website and you’d find the firm you are looking for.
Members have to take up three years of professional development throughout their career, as these bodies strive in emphasising high quality server delivery and thus certification would mean that the firms would have gone through these tests.
2. Credibility Check
Use Google to look for information on the accounting firm. Information could include reviews, general information, testimonials, etc. A website can say a lot about the attitude of a company, and although you should not judge a book by its cover, you can be sure that the higher quality firms will have a suitably smart website.
There are various review websites that helps users review and rate a particular business. Some of them include FreeIndex.com, Thomsonlocal.com, Yell.com etc. These websites can prove resourceful while doing credibility check. So, higher the rating a company would have got, more credible would be the company.
3. Experience Check
Accountants have to go through rigorous tests and certification programs before they qualify. However, due to diversity and complexity of the sector, it would be advisable to choose someone who has good number of years of experience; the simple reason being that the accountants who have hands on experience would have better understanding about the market and would handle unforeseen situations better than the ones without any experience.
So although you may not be versed in the technical aspects of accounting, chances are, by looking for simple signs and by using some consumer shopping tactics, you can find a service that is right for you, and most importantly, saves you money.