Posted on September 15, 2013  
by Noel Guilford

Each year thousands of people decide to go it alone and set up their own businesses.

A chartered accountant can provide a new business with much needed help and support. As well as offering essential compliance services to ensure a new business abides by its statutory and financial obligations, a chartered accountant will also be proactive in giving a range of financial, accounting and tax advice.

Finding a chartered accountant is easy, but finding one who is right for you and your business requires a little more thought. To ensure you engage an accountant to help you grow your business, here are five essential questions to ask any potential candidate:

Do you hold an accountancy qualification I recognise?

Believe it or not anybody can call themselves an accountant. However, not everyone can call themselves a ‘qualified accountant’.  An accountant with relevant qualifications will belong to a professional body such as the ICAEW. This body regulates its members, who are all ‘chartered’ accountants to ensure quality control and professional competence.

Furthermore, only a qualified accountant who belongs to a professional body is likely to carry professional indemnity insurance. For them it is mandatory. Insurance affords you a level of financial protection in the event that any advice you’re given results in a monetary loss to your business.

What relevant experience do you have in my field of business?

While all chartered accountants should be able to ensure that you meet your tax and other financial obligations, what you really need to assess is whether or not your prospective accountant has a good understanding of your specific business.

This may depend on the complexity and type of business, but the more relevant experience an accountant has with your particular business, the more likely it is that he or she will be able to offer strategic and practical advice and support that will help you achieve short-, medium-, and long-term goals.

Can I contact any comparable clients for references?

As in just about every other walk of life, it’s good business sense to ask for references – and in fact most accountants will expect you to do so. All accountants maintain client confidentiality so it is unlikely that you will be able to pick a name out of anyone’s client list. Expect to be put in touch only with clients who have offered to make a recommendation or appear on the accountant’s website.

Who will be my regular point of contact?

It’s vital that you establish who will be your day-to-day contact; you should be interviewing the person you’ll talk to most regularly and who is directly responsible for dealing with your affairs. All relationships are built on trust and nobody wants to be passed from person to person when dealing with a firm. Make sure you don’t just meet the ‘marketing’ partner and then find you are passed to a junior member of staff

What is your charging structure and do you offer fixed-fee quotes?

A chartered accountant will always provide you with a letter of engagement which outlines all the terms and conditions of their appointment and pricing. Fee levels will characteristically depend on the type of advice and service provided together with the complexity of any task. Fees are always negotiable and may be fixed.

Noel Guilford is the principal of Guilford accounting and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales. He can be contacted on 01244 660866 or at


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