Contractor accountants reveal what to consider before taking them on

Some of the subtleties which limited company contractors look for in their accountants -- or should look for before appointing them -- have been revealed by tax advisers themselves.

In a post on the thorny issue of changing accountants, adviser Alan Broome said a client of a rival accountant asked him “What would your fee be if you took on…[my] accounts?”

While Broome, boss at Acumenica, replied with a number, his follow-up answer will interest more PSCs than just the one who was voicing “frustrations” with their accountant to him.

'Fees come behind work-quality, relations, and delivery'

“I don't believe that the decision to change accountants should be made based on the fees charged,” said Broome.

“[Fees should be] a consideration, of course. But in the pecking order, it's way behind quality of work, relationships, and method of delivery.”

A ContractorUK reader who feared their accountant was overcharging has been told that as less costly advisers will “always” exist, it is standard of service which warrants the real scrutiny.

'One in three tax advisers unregulated'

“Essentially anyone can say they are a tax adviser and give advice and they are not required to have any formal qualifications,” cautions Juno Sports Tax partner Sofia Thomas.

A former expat adviser at PwC, Thomas took to LinkedIn to disclose that figures from 2021 show that as many as one in three people offering tax advice were not regulated.

“Additionally, anyone can become a HMRC-registered agent. There are no checks for this. It doesn’t mean they are qualified or even hold insurance. Yet the badge can look quite official.

“This can cause major problems for individuals who are trying to seek tax advice and are misled by ‘professionals’ claiming to offer tax advice,” she wrote. “[It] can cause real chaos”.

'Digest complexity, but present it simply'

The Chartered Institute of Taxation (and the AAT) say that to be able to call oneself an accountant, an individual ought to really be a member of a professional body like theirs.

But membership to a professional body isn’t a guarantor that the holder will avoid some of the day-to-day clangers that even top-flight accountants make.

According to barrister Andy W, those clangers include ‘showing off,’ overusing the words “obviously” and “clearly”, and not writing in prose which “mum and dad” would understand.

“We need to be able to digest complexity but also be able to present it simply to clients,” the barrister, whose is also a chartered tax adviser began online.

“We need to be able to prepare a fugu puffer fish from a tech perspective -- but explain it to a client as if we were making a peanut butter sandwich.”

'Don't be a show-off'

So that means, as an accountant “Don’t be a show-off” (“Look, we know you’ve spent 200 hours in research…”).

It means, “Write for your parents (“Imagine mum and dad are reading your advice, could they understand it?”)

And, continued the barrister -- a specialist in digital assets, it means, “Don’t keep saying ‘clearly’ and ‘obviously’ (“That said, if you’re speaking with another professional, assuming a level is sensible.”)

Also sensible are the four reasons why Onpoint Accounting’s Victoria Willard believes all small businesses owners should use an accountant.


They are; for “Time & Resource Optimisation;” “Tax Compliance & Savings,” “Financial Planning & Goal-Setting” and fourthly, “Risk Mitigation & Business Sustainability.”

But Willard says the benefits of an accountant “extend far beyond managing financial records” to the extent that for some successful firms, their accounting professional was the “game-changer.”

“Remember, in the highly competitive and dynamic business world, financial clarity leads to better decision-making and sustainable growth,” she reflected. “By partnering with a skilled accountant, your business gains a strategic advantage, equipped with the financial insights it needs to thrive and stay ahead of the competition.”


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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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