Getting the best from your accountant

Getting the best from your accountant

Are you receiving the best possible business and tax advice? Debbie Boulton reveals the conversations you should be having with your accountant.

When working with a new client, they often tell us that we’re giving them advice that they’ve not had before from their previous accountant.

Unfortunately, as in many areas of life, you don’t know what you don’t know, so if your accountant’s not giving you the right advice, how would you tell?

As a guide, here are the top ten conversations your accountant should be having with you, to help you both save and make money:

Ensuring you’re operating in the right business structure – if you’re setting up a new business, should you be a sole trader, a partnership, a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) or a limited company? With each having their pros and cons, there’s a lot to consider. And if you already have an existing business, incorporating or dis-incorporating should still be considered and could save you thousands every year.

Tax planning – although there are increasingly less tax planning opportunities available for business and individuals, discussing tax planning pre-year end will ensure you’re maximising any tax savings and minimising the tax you legally need to pay. Some tax planning opportunities, such as pension payments, need to be made before the end of your financial/tax year, so waiting until your accounts or tax return have been prepared to have these discussions will be too late.

Advising on improvements to your bookkeeping and management information - if you’re running a business, the day-to-day bookkeeping needs to be done professionally so you have access to accurate, reliable financial information throughout the year on what to make your decisions. Not only that, but having management accounts prepared on a timely basis will ensure you know straightaway if something’s going wrong and won’t need to wait until well after the year end to discover costly mistakes.

Ensuring you’re speaking to a financial advisor – although accountants can do a great job in preparing your accounts and tax return and advising on tax planning, they can’t give advice on specific pension and investment products. By giving you access to trusted, local, independent financial advisors, you can ensure your retirement plans are in hand and your investments are well looked after.

Making sure you’re getting a good deal on your borrowings – as we’re in regular contact with the local banks and finance providers, we can review the rates you’re paying on new and existing borrowing, as well as charges on your current account and credit card transactions, to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

Advising on inheritance tax planning and care home fees planning – with us all being increasingly aware of an ageing population, planning for your later years is essential, not just for you, but for your extended family. We have contact with local lawyers who can prepare a will that includes our tax planning advice so you can be rest assured that you won’t be leaving you loved ones with issues to sort out after your death.

Reviewing your remuneration structure – each year, your remuneration should be reviewed to ensure you’re getting the most tax efficient mixture of dividends, salary and pension for your business and personal needs.

Agreeing fees up front – accountants, historically, have billed on a time cost basis, meaning you may end up with a bill much bigger than you were expecting. By discussing and agreeing fees upfront, you can be reassured that there will be no unexpected and unbudgeted fees to pay for.

Offering profit improvement advice – we get to know numerous businesses so are well placed to discuss your year end accounts and management information with you, and talk through ways of improving business performance such as looking at your pricing to ensure you’re maximising your gross profit margin, and improving credit control to reduce your debtor days and improve cashflow.

Discussing your long-term objectives and exit plans – by looking to the future and your long-term personal and business goals, advice can be given on possible exit strategies and steps to take now to provide you with the financial future you require.

If you’re accountant’s not talking to you about these important areas, contact Debbie Boulton