September 26, 2017

Business Advice From Berkshire : How Easy it it to change accountant?

How easy is it to change accountant?

I have been asked this twice in the last week, so I thought I would explain the process.

Before changing, decide what you don’t like about the existing one which is causing you to consider moving. It is their fault or yours? This might sound harsh but if you find their bill high, is it the rates they charge per hour or, do you have to be chased and ask them to work miracles with an incomplete box of bills and till rolls? The reason I ask is what is going to change if you change accountant.

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Another reason quoted for wanting to change accountant is that the existing firm only put together the accounts and tell you how much tax to pay. They do not advise or get involved on a more regular basis. Why is this? Is it because you are trying to keep your bills to a minimum and therefore just asked for the minimum legally required, or is the firm not set up to do more than a production line approach to your accounts? Even if you have decided to change accountant, you still need to answer these questions so you don’t replicate your unhappiness with the next one.

Having made your decision you can then proceed:

Step 1 – Find an alternative accountant who a) you feel happy with and that you find approachable; b) can provide the breadth of services you require; c) has the capacity to take on the work you want doing within the timescale you need d) that is open about their method of charging; e) that can provide references unless you have approached them through recommendation of a friend or business colleague; f) that is a member of one of the accounting bodies. This does not have to be Chartered or Certified (unless you have a big company that needs an audit) but some recognised organisation that you could complain to or contact if you are having difficulties. Mine is the Association of Accounting Technicians where I am registered as a Member In Practice and get checked up on by visits to my practice. I also have a registered ‘understudy’ in case I get run over by a bus. This means clients will get looked after until a long term solution is agreed. Ideally go and visit a couple of accountants so you can compare and contrast. Don’t forget to let the unsuccessful candidate know.

Step 2 – Notify your existing accountant that you no longer require their services and give them the details of your new accountant. This gives them authority to disclose the information. Let your new accountant know the details of the old accountant and that they have been notified of your intended move.

Step 3 – The new accountant will write to the old accountant asking for all relevant information and if there is any reason that the new accountant should not act for you. The old accountant should then send the new accountant ‘everything’ relevant. They may delay sending the information if there is an outstanding bill. They are entitled to do this.

Step 4 – The new accountant will send you an engagement letter setting out what services they have agreed to provide and any contractual type things such as payment terms.  You usually have to sign and return a copy. If not already done, you may also be asked to complete a form 64-8. This is sent/submitted to HMRC and gives HMRC  the authority to talk to the accountant about your/your business affairs.

And that’s it. Your new accountant does what is needed/requested and you pay them. Regarding timing, any time of year is possible but half way through the accountant preparing your annual accounts will cost you a little more as work may need to be done twice. The new accountant may want to redo the bit the old accountant had started. Payroll is better transferred in April but can actually be done at any time.

Let me know which of your questions I haven’t answered!

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