How to Change Accountants

The thought of changing accountants may fill you with dread. The fear that it will all go wrong, it’s too much hassle or it’s difficult to do. This guide talks you through the process and highlights some key things to think about.

When you are looking to grow your business, the relationship that you have with your accountant as a trusted member of your team, is core to your success. Your accountant needs to understand you and your business inside out. They need to understand what you want to achieve and the way you want to work. By doing this, they can provide you with practical advice on how you can save tax, become more efficient and profitable and therefore help grow your business. When this relationship works well, your accountant becomes an integral part of your team, a trusted adviser and someone you can turn to for help when you need it.

However, this is not always the case in practice and you may have taken the decision that your accountant is no longer the right one for you. There are a variety of reasons why you might want to change accountants including:

  • You don’t feel your accountant fully understands your business
  • You don’t get the level of service that you are looking for
  • They don’t return your calls
  • You may feel that your accountant is charging too much for what they provide
  • Your business may have outgrown the service that your accountant provides
  • Errors may have been made in your accounts and tax and you have lost some faith in them
  • You want an accountant that provides you with not just the numbers but explains what they mean and how to use them to grow your business.

Whatever your reason for wanting to change accountant it is important to make sure that any handover is handled smoothly and without interruption to you and your business.

So what do you need to consider?

Finding the right accountant

The starting point is often asking fellow business owners who they use and what they like about them. You will only really get a feel for how your potential accountant works by speaking to them. Find out what qualifications they have, what type of clients they work with, if they specialise in any specific areas, how fees are charged and what they include, what support you can expect to receive, do they hold professional indemnity insurance (Never assume an accountant is qualified or holds insurance!). Ask them for some testimonials and some examples of things they have done to save their clients tax and grow their business.

With modern technology, there is not always a need for your accountant to be based locally. Most things can be done online and by phone so unless you specifically need or want face to face meetings regularly, you can cast your net wider and really get the right accountant for you.

So, you’ve chosen your new accountant, what now?

Check the agreement you have with your existing accountant, then check it again!

When you start working with any accountant you should sign a letter of engagement which outlines the services to be provided, the fees to be charged and the terms and conditions. Check if there is anything you need to do to switch such as notice period or fees to pay.

You then need to consider the best time to switch. Often it’s easier to wait until the financial year end but this is not always possible or practical. The reason for this is that there can be a clean break, any fees will be correctly accounted for and just after the year end accounts and tax returns have been produced there is often little work outstanding.

If it is not practical to switch at the financial year end you will need to agree a switchover date which will have the least impact on your business, choose a time where there is little activity between you and your existing accountant and the changeover can be as smooth as possible.

In any case, make sure you have completed everything you need to and paid any outstanding fees and the handover process should run smoothly.

So you have chosen your new accountant, checked your agreement with your existing accountant and everything is up to date – What next?

The actual process of changing accountants

The physical process of changing accountants is actually straightforward:

1) You let your existing accountant know that you want to change and give them permission to talk to your new accountant. This can sometimes be an awkward conversation but if you deal with it professionally and with a business like approach, it will be pain free.

2) Your new accountant will write to your existing accountant notifying them that you wish to use their services and request ‘professional clearance’ and any paperwork that they need to get started. Don’t worry, this is not an awkward process as three are industry guidelines as to how this is managed.

3) Your existing accountant then needs to provide the information in a reasonable timescale.

4) Once you have paid any outstanding fees and your new accountant has all the information they need the process of changing accountants is complete.

Like anything in business, if you approach changing your accountant in a professional, methodical, business like way, the process will run smoothly. You new accountant should guide you throughout and make the process as hassle free as possible for you.

If you have any questions about this guide, or would like to find out about changing your accountants to Vanilla Online Accountancy, get in touch.
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