Unless you know a lot about accounting yourself, it is very likely that your company accounts are prepared by either an internal accounts department or an outside professional. For small and medium enterprises, the latter option can be more appealing because employing a permanent, dedicated tax accountant is more expensive and sometimes unnecessary for a small company. However, whether you are employing a tax accountant in your business or outsourcing to a freelance tax professional, it is critical to choose the right accountant for your business. For example, when it comes to your annual tax return it may be prepared by someone else but ultimately it is you who is legally liable for any mistakes in it.
You therefore need to ensure that you find someone who has a meticulous eye for detail and who has experience working in a similar sized business to your own. An accountant who tends to work for small companies, for example, might do an excellent job for small companies, but may not be capable of handling the payroll for your 300 employees or of keeping an accurate record of your 10,000 monthly sales. Anyone can call themselves a tax preparer, but what you need is a true professional. There are various types of accountants so be sure that you know which one is right for you.
When interviewing or searching for accountants, find out if they generally carry out tasks such as preparing tax returns, if this is what you need them to do. Certain accountants may specialise for example in estate planning or financial forecasting and although they may have great qualifications, they are more likely to make mistakes than a lesser qualified accountant who has prepared hundreds of tax returns. There are walk-in tax preparation companies that offer very low rates for preparing your tax return. However it is best to avoid these companies wherever possible and to hire a tax accountant, as these companies use seasonal employees with only basic training to complete as many tax returns in as short a period as possible. Mistakes are therefore very likely and very common.
A good tax accountant will cost more but your tax return will receive more of their focus and attention. Using a cheap tax return service now only to receive a large fine later on will not save you money. Once you have decided on the type of tax accountant that you need, you still have to find him or her. If you know a friend who has used an accountant in the past ask for recommendations. The chances are, if they did a good job for your friend they will do a good job for you too. However if you do not know anyone who has used a tax accountant in the past, you can still find one online on sites such as LinkedIn, directories or a website that is there specifically to match up businesses with qualified accountants.
It is important that you do not rush into choosing a tax accountant and that you instead take some time to question them and find out if they have the qualifications and experience that you need. Do an online check for their name or the name of the company they work for if they are not freelance. Immediately disregard anyone for whom you are able to find complaints. Ask about their qualifications and if they belong to any professional accountancy organisations. It would also be a good idea to check references, especially ones from companies similar to your own, to find out if the person is reliable and has produced error free returns. Other questions to ask include finding out their fees and how they are calculated, such as hourly or a one-off price per tax return.
The tax accountant may also charge extra for things such as phone calls, so ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what you will be paying to avoid unpleasant surprises further down the line. When choosing a tax accountant be picky as you need to ensure good service. Ask around and find the best rate, but do not choose the wrong person simply because they are cheap. A property accountant, for example, is not the right person to do your tax return, just as a tax accountant may not be the right choice for estate planning. You can find many freelance accountants in the real world or online so it should not be difficult to find the perfect person for the job.