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How to choose a contractor accountancy firm
Posted Apr 19, 2011
Selecting the right accountant is an important step in starting out a contractor.
A good accountant will ensure that your company meets all of its statutory and legal obligations.
They will also make sure you don't pay more tax than you need to.
Most of all, a good service provider will allow you to get on with your contract work without having worry about your accounts.
With this in mind, here are some tips on choosing the right accountancy firm for your limited company.
Top Contractor Accountant Tips
1. We would recommend hiring an accountant before you start contracting. They will be able to set up a company for you, and register you and your company with the tax authorities. They will also be able to brief you on the key tasks they will carry out, and what your obligations are to ensure your paperwork is up-to-date.
2. Your accountancy firm should be run by qualified accountants - either certified or chartered. You should be able to find out this information easily, just ask if you are unsure. The main accountancy bodies in the UK include the ICAEW, ACCA, and ICAS (Scotland).
3. You should hire a specialist contractor accountant. They are far more likely to be up-to-date with the latest industry legislation such as IR35, and will understand how contractors work in practice, for example how best to draw income from the company.
4. Find out what the full fees will be for a year, as well as any one-off set up costs (for setting up a company, for example). Many specialist accountants charge a fixed monthly fee, which can range from around £70 to well over £120. As in life, price does not always relate to the quality of service you will receive, it is just one of many things to bear in mind.
5. Find out if your prospective accountant offers any additional services, such as completing your personal tax return. Do they offer IFA or legal services which you might find useful?
6. Aside from accounting errors, nothing is worse than having to chase your accountant, or wait days before you receive a response to your emails. You may only be able to judge how efficient your accountant is after being a client for a few months, but if you're not impressed you can always move on.
7. There are dozens of contractor accountancy firms out there, ranging from one-man practices to mammoth operations with thousands of clients. Your decision will also be based on many intangible factors and the impression you are given when researching different firms.
8. You simply cannot beat a personal recommendation from an existing contractor. The flashiest website and most charming sales person can never give you a real indication of what it will be like as a client. You could also unleash Google to find reviews and comments about accountancy firms you are interested in.
Take a look at the concise contractor accountant checklist on our sister site, ITCA. The guide should help you compare providers, and ensure that you've asked all the right questions of prospective firms.
For more information, read our guide to the typical duties you can expect your accountant to carry out.
Try our partner accountancy providers (listed below) as a starting point, and for a more complete list, visit our directory.