How would you tell if your
accountant has been doing a good job
Like with so many professionals or technical services, it can be really quite hard
to assess if your accountant has done a good job. It may not be until much later on that you find out that your accountant has not been delivering you with the level of advice you thought – the tax man comes banging down your door, or you find yourself in sudden financial difficulties.
In a similar way to when you walk in to a mechanic, or into a dental surgery, you are presented with an expert and are not in a position to challenge them, or even spot if there is a mistake. They are the experts after all. If you knew the answers then you would probably not have sought out their services in the first place.
Luckily, there are some precautions you can take to avoid ending up in a tricky position
Before you do anything, check what qualifications they have. Any respectable accountant will have qualified with one of the major accounting bodies – the ICAEW, ACCA, ICAS and CIMA (if you are looking for a tax speciallist you will not get better that a CTA – Chartered Tax Advisor – but they don’t come cheap). This is important and all of these bodies will be willing to supply you with proof that the accountant is registered with them.
With all of these bodies, they have rules that mean any accountant in practice must be insured by professional indeminty insurance This protects you in the event that something goes wrong
Secondly, obtain individual references, and by this I mean proper references. In the internet age it can be not at all hard to fake online ratings etc. It ought not be a problem for a good accountant to supply you with a few names who will vouch for their service.
Thirdly, inquire if the accountant has taken on assignments similar to this before. The world of accountants is very wide and most accountants specialise in one area or customer type, such as, small business, trading business, property business, capital gains, trading profits…the list goes on.
Fourthly, ensure that you get an engagement letter. These are effectively the written agreement where they set out exactly what they are going to do for you, and the other terms of their business. These letters are helpful to firstly make certain that you have a record of what was agreed, should it ever be required, and secondly, it suggests that the accountant is organised and records things properly – remember- if they aren’t documenting your engagement, what else are they not recording…!
So even though you may not be able to tell precisely what you accountant has been doing, and whether or not it is of high quality, you can take several steps to ensure that that you are protected somewhat