Choice of ac­coun­tant - what to look out for

Bray People - - OPINION -

Q . I am work­ing free­lance at the mo­ment and I need some help to get my ac­counts in or­der. What should I look for in an ac­coun­tant and what is the best way to find one? A . Ac­coun­tants are not just there to do your ac­counts, al­though this is a key ser­vice they of­fer. Many now have a wide range of knowl­edge and skills to help with ev­ery­thing from per­sonal in­vest­ment ad­vice to busi­ness plan­ning and ex­pan­sion con­sul­tancy.

This wide pack­age pro­vides a com­pre­hen­sive range of ser­vices, but can make it a lit­tle daunt­ing to choose an ac­coun­tant, par­tic­u­larly for the first time. It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ent ser­vices on of­fer and what they mean in terms of legally and in­de­pen­dently deal­ing with your fi­nances.


As you are self-em­ployed, you will file your ac­counts an­nu­ally un­der the Rev­enue’s self-as­sess­ment sys­tem, known as Pay and File. If you are reg­is­tered for VAT you will also need to reg­u­larly file VAT re­turns and an end of year sum­mary. There is more in­for­ma­tion about your tax­a­tion du­ties on the Rev­enue’s site, www.rev­, as well as in­for­ma­tion and ac­cess to the Rev­enue On­line Ser­vice (ROS).

You will need to keep proper books in or­der to file your ac­counts ac­cord­ing to the Rev­enue’s re­quire­ments. You may just need a book keeper to set you up to do your own ac­counts or to do them for you and as­sist with fil­ing them on time (to avoid penalty charges) and ac­cu­rately. Al­ter­na­tively, you may want an ac­coun­tant who will also help you make your money grow, for ex­am­ple by rec­om­mend­ing sav­ings or in­vest­ments; or find cost sav­ings, for ex­am­ple, by rec­om­mend­ing tax efficient steps you could take; or help ex­pand your busi­ness fur­ther down the line.

If you are look­ing for ad­vice, make sure that it is in­de­pen­dent fi­nan­cial ad­vice and not tied in any way to a sin­gle fi­nan­cial ser­vice provider (for ex­am­ple, be­ing a sole agent for a par­tic­u­lar pen­sions provider) as this will more than likely limit the op­tions put for­ward to you.


The next step is to talk to other peo­ple in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion and find out the book­keeper/ac­coun­tant/fi­nan­cial ad­viser that they use and how sat­is­fied they are. Re­fer­ral is a one of the best ways of find­ing providers of pro­fes­sional ser­vices, such as ac­coun­tancy and fi­nan­cial ad­vice, as rec­om­men­da­tions are usu­ally only made if some­one has had a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.


Make ini­tial con­tact by phone. Ex­plain what you are look­ing for and in­clude those that can pro­vide it on a short­list. If you don’t man­age to get any re­fer­ral con­tacts, go through a lo­cal list­ing such as one in the phone book or from the lo­cal cham­ber of com­merce.


If you are look­ing for an ac­coun­tant, the first cri­te­ria they should meet is to be a mem­ber of a recog­nised pro­fes­sional ac­coun­tancy body as this ensures they meet the reg­u­la­tions laid down by that body. This is im­por­tant as cur­rently any­one in Ire­land can use the term ac­coun­tant to de­scribe their ser­vices and it is a way of iden­ti­fy­ing those that meet an ac­cepted stan­dard.

The Ir­ish Au­dit­ing and Ac­count­ing Su­per­vi­sory Au­thor­ity is re­spon­si­ble for su­per­vis­ing ac­coun­tancy bod­ies and how they reg­u­late their mem­bers and has a list of the rel­e­vant bod­ies on its web­site ( If you are look­ing for a book keeper, who may have ex­pe­ri­ence of do­ing ac­counts but no pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions or af­fil­i­a­tions, re­fer­rals are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant. In both cases, it is ad­vis­able to ask for ref­er­ences.


Call the names re­main­ing on your short list, find out how they would meet your needs, how much it would cost and ex­actly what is in­cluded in the price. For ex­am­ple, do you have to pay for each visit to the ac­coun­tant and what is their avail­abil­ity by phone or email. Se­lect one or two that meet your re­quire­ments and go see them in per­son.

It is use­ful to pre­pare a list of ques­tions be­fore the meet­ing that fo­cus on ascer­tain­ing if the prospec­tive ac­coun­tant can meet your needs. A face-to-face meet­ing will also help you de­cide how eas­ily you would work with that per­son – it is im­por­tant that you meet with the per­son who will be your on­go­ing con­tact, and not a key per­son brought out solely for prospec­tive clients, as you will need to build an open and hon­est re­la­tion­ship with that per­son.

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