What are you paying your accountant for?

The popular image of an accountant is of someone with an encyclopaedic knowledge of tax rules who spends their days tapping figures into a calculator. But these days, the truth is somewhat different

Much of the number crunching traditionally performed by accountants can now be handled by decent accounting software. You can use this to automate tasks like creating profit and loss reports or checking bank statements.

And while HMRC’s online services might have some way to go, they’ve come a long way. Although most businesses still get an accountant to generate their year-end accounts, it’s relatively easy to file VAT returns and run payroll without assistance.

Against this changing financial landscape, how can you find the accountant who best meets your needs? And what are the best ways to work with them efficiently?

Your accountant is your adviser

The right accountant for your business will make sure you comply with accounting and tax rules. But they should also be able to tease out knowledge contained within your accounts, providing insights to make good decisions.

They should take the time to understand your business objectives, in order to provide financial support that helps you achieve them. This might mean identifying the best time to start developing a new product, or giving you an honest appraisal of why now is not the time to hire a new member of staff.

“Your accountant should do so much more than just draw up your accounts once a year,” confirms Gisela Sharpe, a Certified Chartered Accountant based near Reading. “You should be able to use them as a sounding board for ideas and rely on them as a voice of reason.”

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