What should my accountant do for me?

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Something that’s largely misunderstood by people who need an accountant is what the accountant is actually expected to do for them.

Accountancy is such a huge remit – and can cover many specialisms.  There are many thousands of one-man-band accountants around the country who do a similarly general range of things for their clients.  Most are behaved and stick to what they know, and others cover absolutely everything they can.  Even medium sized firms can be guilty of mission creep.  Some firms get into financial services, others offer administrative services and even HR advice.

The truth is that to keep up to date with the continual rule changes in tax and compliance, accountants need to specialise more these days than ever before.  Being a one size fits all firm is getting harder as all services require a fair amount of continual training.

Our advice when choosing an accountant is to look at how large the firm is and compare that with the services they offer.  If they’re a 100-person firm and only do audit, they might not be best at offering advice on a bookkeeping system.  If they’re a one person firm and are offering to do everything you need, you might want to consider if they have time to be doing all this work – and the training that goes along with keeping current.  In all cases, an accountant who can’t help you, ought to volunteer that.  Don’t be afraid to ask if the thing you need is something they’re genuinely able to help you with.  Accountants should be open about what they can do for you and what they can’t.

But outside of actual accountancy knowledge, what should an accountant be doing for their clients?

We think it’s important for accountants to be there for clients, with almost no limits on what they’re struggling with.  It doesn’t mean that a firm needs to start offering technical advice when a machine breaks down or to fix a broken server – but we’re well connected as an industry and usually know someone who can help.

Also, many things find their way back to finance, somehow.  If someone’s struggling to get a loan, it might be that a tidy up of their accounting system is what’s needed.  Or if their bookkeeper leaves, we might be able to put the client in touch with a good recruitment agency.  It might be that a client has no cash and this might be down to poor credit control procedures or a clunky banking system.

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