Let’s face it. People like certainty. The same dentist, the same plumber, the same accountant. You get comfort in the process and you know how they works.
But at what point does the pain of staying put outweigh the pain of change?
On a scale of seamless to a nightmare, changing accountants is perceived to be right up there as a stressful, time-consuming job. But should it be? I don’t necessarily think so. But what is clear, is that being with the wrong accountant can become damaging. Whether it is leaving money on the table in tax, poor advice, or simply a service that isn’t what it should be. Here I answer the question of how do I change my accountant.
Make sure a change is right for you
Whilst I will always say getting a good accountant is invaluable for you and your business, you should be sure that a move is going to be better for you. You need to conduct some research. The simplest way to do this is to speak to other accountants.
Most accountants, like us, will offer an initial consultation free. I have spoken to many people who have wondered whether things could be better. Whilst personally I strive to make sure anyone who decides to work with us will never regret it, I’ll be honest with them. If I feel their current accountant seems to be doing things really well, I’ll let them know that.
If you do discover some things aren’t quite right, having a chat with your existing accountant could sort things out. Be frank, express your concerns, ask for their solutions, and hopefully they can make some tweaks to what they do so a change may not be necessary.
Here are some good questions to ask yourself about your current accountant.
- Does my accountant work with me to support my business?
- Am I getting value for money?
- Would my business welcome fresh ideas?
- Do I feel like an important client to my accountant?
- Are they keeping my finances in good order?
- Do they advise me and keep me informed?
Deciding to leave
If after reflection a move is correct, you need to speak to your new accountant and sign off a letter of engagement with them. Simultaneously, you should tell your existing accountant you want to leave and move on. A few things to keep in mind here.
- Understand your fees and terms. You might need to see out the financial year, have prepaid for work, or have an outstanding bill. Ask for a final invoice and statement and confirm what you can do with regard to leaving.
- Give them permission to speak to your new accountant. Your new accountant will need to conduct what is known as professional clearance, to confirm there are no professional issues with accepting the engagement. This is standard practice, but also it is a nice opportunity for your current accountant to pass on work to your new accountant. Sometimes, if the demands of the new accountant are excessive, they may charge for the effort to pull the information together.
- Be mindful of your deadlines. If you have year-end accounts close to being due, a change may not be wise, as you risk incurring penalties and fines amidst the transition. We always check with people looking to join us when their next accounts or tax returns are due. If there is something imminent, it may in the majority of cases be better to hold tight, see out the work, and then move. Think carefully about what a handover timeline might look like and if there’s any urgency or preferential timing.
If you want some help on how to approach your accountant about this, do get in touch. We can even provide you with a letter to use as a template.
Your new accountant will need to conduct onboarding. This is a process of collating key information about you, such as proofs of ID and address for anti-money laundering purposes, address history, and tax details. What is required really depends on your situation and the services you need. Your existing accountant will be able to provide some of this information.
This process also involves being granted access to systems, such as pension information, or bookkeeping software.
Getting the authority to speak to HMRC on your behalf will make things a lot easier for all. Your new accountant can talk to HMRC on your behalf and have those tricky conversations on your behalf, saving everyone time.
Agent authority is granted usually through completing a form 64-8 which you need to send to HMRC to give your consent to allow your accountant to access your records. However, there are a couple of other options.
Your new accountant can request an authorisation by entering some information onto a special HMRC agent website, which will send a code to you in the post. Once you give this code back to the accountant, they can enable agent authority. This doesn’t work though if your address is not up-to-date.
Even better though, is to set up your own Government Gateway. Not only is this incredibly useful to access your tax history whenever you like, but you can instantly grant your accountant access to those taxes by entering a unique agent identifier code they have.
What’s all this in a step-by-step guide?
I said it’s simple and I really believe it is, so here’s a step-by-step guide for you to follow.
- Confirm leaving is the right thing to do.
- Understand your commitment to your existing accountant, fees outstanding or overpaid
- Be mindful of any critical tax deadlines and what a handover timeline should look like
- Identify your new accountant of choice and engage with them
- Collate key documents for your new accountant, such as proofs of ID and addresses requested
- Inform your existing accountant and settle any fees
- Give them permission to speak to your new accountant to enable professional clearance and the handover of any additional records
- Transfer across any system accesses
- Support agent authority requests
The whole process can take anything from a few days to a few weeks, but should not require a huge amount of your time.
Thinking of a change? If so, why not speak to us and take advantage of our free consultation.