For most businesses, accountancy and bookkeeping is a fundamental service and in most cases, a good accountant will save your business money. Not every accountant is the same and often it can be difficult to determine which accountancy firm offers the best value for money and quality of service.
As with every industry, there are plenty of good and bad options, but for the untrained eye, poor accounting practises can be very costly. In this article, we look at 4 potential signs that it’s time to switch your accountant.
1. Key deadlines have been missed
Whether it’s your end of year accounts, quarterly VAT return, PAYE or filings at Companies House, it’s important that these deadlines are met. Failing to do this will often result in either a warning or a fine from HMRC/Companies House. Often there will be some leniency with missing a deadline, however, if this occurs too many times, penalties and interest will be applied. Consistently missing deadlines will result in HMRC having no leniency and even if a deadline is a day late, they may apply additional charges.
In addition to this, there may be an occasion where you need to arrange a payment plan or cannot file on time for other reasons, so making sure you’re always filing on time is critical.
If you’re paying an accountant for filing this information, the professional responsibility lies with your accountant to ensure that they are filed with enough time for you to review and check before submitting. Ultimately though, as the business owner, the final responsibility for filing on time is with you.
2. Your accountant is reactive, not proactive
A reliable accountant should always be proactive in making sure you’re aware of any upcoming submissions and/or liabilities which are due to arise in the future. It makes it very difficult to forecast if you’re not aware of your tax liabilities in advance. If you find yourself regularly having to request an update or a reminder of when your next tax bill is due, it’s a sign that your accountant is not on top of your business. Some accountants may rely on clients checking their accounting software for elements such as your VAT return. If you’re not able to see this or are unfamiliar with how to do this, speak with your accountant today.
3. You have received unexpected letters and/or fines from HMRC
Brown letters in the post are a necessity for all businesses and unless it’s general information, they shouldn’t be a surprise. That’s not to say that there aren’t occasionally mistakes from HMRC which results in an accidental letter. Either way, if you’re receiving reminders and warnings about deadlines, this is a sign your matters are not being handled correctly. You have the option to direct copies of letters to your accountant who can review and respond where necessary. If however, you’re receiving fines or assessments from HRMC or Companies House in the post, it may be a sign that your accountant has been filing your returns and accounts late. Read through the correspondence and ask for a second opinion if you’re concerned that your accounts or returns may have been filed incorrectly.
4. Communication with key information or advice is always verbal and never written
Accountants are often the primary source for advice and information for business owners. As Devonshire Green Accountants, we offer advice and consultation for every client. When discussing complex matters such as tax affairs, figures and filing your accounts, it’s very easy to become overwhelmed or confused. Whether you’re discussing general advice or a specific problem, your accountant should always be willing to confirm to you via email so that you can refer back to the advice. It’s completely normal to discuss topics via telephone or in-person, but if you’re not 100% sure on the advice or figures, it’s always best to ask for your accountant to follow up via email or at the very least take notes yourself. If your accountant has a habit of avoiding direct questions via email and refuses to confirm their advice in writing, this is a potential warning sign that they are not sure of their advice or it may be inaccurate.
Negligence aside, there is not one sure way to determine if it’s time to switch your accountants. The key is not to panic or worry – accountants are very used to taking over and transferring accounts across and the process is usually very straightforward. If you’re unsure whether your accountant is handling your affairs correctly or you’ve decided it’s time to change, speak to a member of our team today. Our accountants are based in London and Kent and we can provide free advice on guidance on how to switch your accountant.