January has been super busy with some chunky projects and a number of new clients coming on board. There's always a lot to do at the beginning so I'm running to stand still and will be for a while! Acquiring or changing accountant shouldn't be arduous but can be a little bit of a faff. I therefore thought this might be a good opportunity to share some of the questions I'm being asked, and some of the things that I've been dealing with since setting up the practice.
You will have to provide ID
Anti-money laundering guidelines mean that all accountancy practitioners must keep proof of your identity on file for six years. You will need your passport. You will need it anyway if you want to open a bank account for the business (always recommended). Find it.
HMRC send everything through the post
When you register a company, become self-employed, or set yourself up for a new tax you will have to wait for some sort of code from HMRC. This will ALWAYS be sent via good old Royal Mail. There isn't any way around it. I am an "Agent" of HMRC - as most accountants will be - meaning I can deal directly with them on your behalf, once I'm authorised to do so. Authorisation isn't tricky, but it involves waiting for a code and then telling me what that code is. It can therefore take a bit of time, and a few letters, for all the access to be properly set up. In some cases, the client may have to call HMRC directly - usually where addresses are out of date or reference numbers have been lost.
Oh and your Unique Tax Payer Reference for Corporation Tax is the last 10 digits of the 13 digit number HMRC have sent to you. I have no idea why the first 3 digits don't count, but that's the way it is.
We have to send you legal bumf
We have to send you an engagement letter which is full of legal bumf about roles and responsibilities, the scope of the work to be carried out, and what we have agreed to provide. This is a professional requirement, and also a protection for us (and for you!) It means that if something goes sideways we are clear whose fault it is and how it can be resolved. The basic principle is that even if you contract an accountant to do your book-keeping, annual accounts and statutory returns, you remain responsible for the information and the decisions being made. This means that - however little interest you have - you should at least look at your annual accounts and tax returns before they are submitted. I encourage my clients to ask questions and understand what's happening as I think its makes you a better business person. (And I think its interesting. But I'm a MASSIVE geek so you may not agree).
If you have previously had an accountant...
Its not as hard to switch as you might think. Your new accountant will write to the old one to check there's nothing dodgy about taking you on, and request any pertinent information about your reporting history. The outgoing accountant is duty bound to respond professionally, once you have given them permission to do so. This process is called "professional clearance" and shouldn't present a problem if you are up to date with your payments, and haven't been doing anything you shouldn't.
It is always easier and cleaner to switch at the end of a period - a year, a quarter or a month. With online accounting systems, there is usually a simple process to follow to transfer the data to a new "adviser" and they can start working on it straight away. Simples.
If you don't already have an accountant then why ever not? We can help you achieve your dreams!
Not much happens day to day
I charge my clients on a monthly basis to cover everything that needs to happen over the year. I think this benefits us both - you spread the cost, and I get a steady income: win win. However, accountancy is cyclical and there are periods of time where not a lot is going on. Data builds up as you buy and sell but the majority of actual technical accounting work is annual (though VAT returns are quarterly). The big push comes in December & January (when self-assessment tax returns are due - you may have noticed your accounting acquaintances falling slightly off the map recently) and it is busy again from April - August as the majority of year end reporting is completed. Your corporation tax deadline is dependent on your year end, but an awful lot of companies choose 31 March so I'll have a lot of accounts to prepare in April and May this year! Its always better to get things in early if you can so you can get on with the current year. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to remember what happened (as anyone who is submitting their self-assessment today will know!)
So, as a client, there will be a lot of activity and communication at the start to get everything set up and find out what you want in terms of remuneration, additional services, VAT reporting and tax advice but then it will go quiet until a deadline is looming. And then I suspect you'll get sick of me and my annoying questions.
If you want to talk about your business with us to see if we can help you just drop me an email on email@example.com or tweet me on @bulldog_ac