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How to find a good accountant

Do I need an accountant for my small business?

Unless your business remains very small, its accounting requirements will quickly become too much for you to handle alone. Furthermore, if you are not a trained accountant, this can be costly both in time and money, as you will take longer and may make costly mistakes. Broadly speaking, if you find you are spending more than four hours a week on the accounts, or have plans for growth, then it is time to engage a professional.

What can an accountant do for my business?

Having an accountant frees up your time so you can focus on what you do best. It also cuts the risk to your business by reducing the likelihood of errors in tax, financial reporting and compliance. An accountant can also actively save you money in many areas by increasing tax efficiency, improving cash flows and sourcing funding. In addition, he or she can provide invaluable general support by offering general business advice, discussing your ideas and stress-testing business plans.

Finding an accountant

There are two ways to find an accountant on Unbiased. The first way is to use our Connect tool. Just give as much detail as you can about what you need, and our system will match you with the nearest suitable accountant. The second way is to search and browse. Enter your postcode to see a list of accountants in order of distance from you. You can then refine your search (e.g. to find accounts with specialist expertise).

Is this accountant right for me?

Be sure to meet your accountant in person before engaging their services. You will be working closely together, so a personal connection is important. Ask about their range of services to ensure that they can meet all your needs. This is also a good time to talk about their qualifications and experience. It is not a legal requirement for an accountant to hold any qualifications, but you should ensure that yours is qualified through one of the recognised UK bodies, e.g. ICAEW, ICAS, CIMA or ACCA. Also find out if they are a chartered accountant – chartered status is an internationally recognised level of professional standing.

One-person band, small firm or larger firm?

Consider carefully if the size of your accounting firm is right for your needs. Broadly speaking, you should match like with like. Therefore, if you are a contractor or sole trader then a small firm will probably suit you best, but if you are a fast-growing startup with a big vision, you will be looking for a medium-sized firm to match.


It’s that time of year again. The one that makes us all sweat and panic. It’s tax season. And with the new tax laws that Congress recently passed, you might need some additional help. Hiring an accountant can make paying your taxes easier and less stressful. They can help you think of deductions you aren’t even aware of. A good accountant will also help you figure out how to pay your taxes if money is tight this year. But finding the right personal accountant for your tax needs isn’t always easy.

Determine Your Needs

Before you start searching for the perfect personal accountant, figure out what your needs are. You may only want an accountant to handle your books and file your taxes. Other situations may call for needing an accountant to provide you with some good advice while your finances and business grows. If you own a business, chances are you’ll need an accountant who knows how to help you with leases, franchise agreements, and other business matters

Get a Referral

The best way to find your personal accountant is to ask your friends, family, and colleagues if they know of one they can recommend to you. However, don’t just get a name and number and think your search is over. Not everyone has the same accounting needs as you. For any referral you receive, ask the referrer why they are recommending the accountant. Ask them what they liked best about their accounting services

Make Sure They’re Licensed Properly

Before you start working with your personal accountant, ask what credentials and licenses they have. Make sure you work with the right type of accountant before you get started. There are three types of accountants you can choose from. Enrolled agents tend to specialize in complex tax situations.

Make Sure Your Personal Accountant Knows How to Communicate Well

Unfortunately, accountants aren’t known for their social abilities. They tend to be quiet and prefer working with numbers than humans. But it’s so important to find a personal accountant who communicates well with you. When you’re doing your search, make sure they respond to you in a timely manner. No matter which type of communication path they choose, make sure you understand fully exactly what they’re telling you.

Ten tips for picking the perfect accountant

Hiring an accountant for your business is no longer just about finding someone good at number-crunching and getting the maximum returns come tax-filing time. Registered professional accountant Fernando Renna, for one, has seen the role change dramatically since he began his business 28 years ago in Cambridge, Ont

“We’re not just bean counters any more,” says Mr. Renna, a spokesman for the board of directors of the Society of Professional Accountants of Canada. “Thirty or 40 years ago, business owners may have said, ‘Here are my books, do my taxes, goodbye and I’ll see you next year.’ Now, accountants are expected to do a lot more.”

There is more demanded of accountants as businesses emphasize risk management – one of the repercussions of the global economic downturn, according to a recent report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, which is based in London, England.

“Business success depends on the ability to make sound decisions in a risky, uncertain world,” says the report titled Accountancy: The Future Outlook, based on interviews with 750 chief financial officers, partners and senior finance executives. “Qualified accountants can help management teams to make those decisions, based on information drawn from accurate data and informed by broad business knowledge.”

“We look below the surface to see what helps business owners, or what’s causing [their business]not to do well, or give advice on how to turn it around or help them determine if it’s time to pack it in,” says Mr. Swartz, who is also a certified management consultant and financial planner.

Checklist: find a good accountant

Get the best accountant for your needs

An accountant might be great at what they do – but they may not be the ‘right fit’ for your business. To find an accountant who can take your business to the next level and help you avoid costly mistakes, use the questions we’ve provided below. Check out the accountant’s website – you might find some of the answers there.

What are your qualifications?

Make sure they have an accounting qualification and are a member of an accounting body. Your accountant can only give you tax advice if they’re a tax agent. They can only provide financial planning advice if they have an Australian Financial Services licence or are an authorised representative of such a licence holder.

How long has the practice been operating, and how long have you been with the practice?

Find out what the practices succession plan if it’s mature. You don’t want to start a relationship with an accountant and then have them leave you in the lurch if they sell or retire.

What kind of clients do you see, and what services do you provide?

Find out if they have clients like you and experience in the services you need?  Ask to talk to a current client to see if they’re happy with the service provided.

What other services do you provide?

If you want an accountant to help you grow your business, they’ll need expertise

How to find the right accountant for your needs

Understand your needs

Get clear on what your needs are before you start looking for an accountant, so you can narrow down options. Understand what services you need someone to handle for you, and if there is a particular level of expertise or experience that will be required. If you’re like most people, you’ll be keen to find an accountant who can work with your accounting software, too.

Check qualifications

Obviously you must check the qualifications of everyone you consider, too. Depending on your needs, you might be searching for a Chartered Accountant or a Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA), or it may not matter to you which body the accountant is certified by. It’s also possible to use an accountant who isn’t certified, chartered or registered, but this isn’t recommended in a lot of cases.

Find a specialist

You can hire a general accountant who handles a variety of jobs, or you might decide to choose a specialist for one or more areas. There are tax accountants who focus on the preparation of individual or company tax returns, and who can help you to structure your business in the most tax-effective way. Management accountants help with analysing business reports and results, and assist managers to get budgets and forecasts in order for more informed decision making.

Consider location

Years ago, everyone pretty much just chose an accountant that worked in their local area. Today, thanks to technology, things have changed and it’s possible to hire an accountant from anywhere around the world. If you need to find a specialist but there isn’t one in your city, it’s really helpful to be able to go elsewhere to find the right person. When going down this route, make sure the accountant you’re interested in has experience working with clients remotely. Ask them about how they will communicate and how often.

See what other clients have to say

No matter how wonderful an accountant seems on paper, don’t hire someone without having first done research into what their previous or current clients say about them. Social media is a boon for this kind of information. Search for reviews and testimonials on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn about the accountants on your shortlist. There are also other websites to check out, such as accountant-related forums or industry sites.