Prepare for tax time and get strategic advice for your small business all year round by asking an accountant these questions.
Talking to an accountant shouldn’t be a once-a-year event during tax season. They can offer you strategic advice, answer your tax questions, and tell you about relevant changes in tax law to help you make the best business decisions all year round.
Your meetings with them aren’t only about filing your taxes. These are also about making sure you’re getting the support you need to keep growing your small business for years to come.
Not sure what to ask an accountant? Try these 11 questions.
- 1. What Qualifications and Experience Do You Have?
- 2. How Long Have You Been in Business?
- 3. Do You Have Any References From Small Businesses?
- 4. What Information Do You Need From Me?
- 5. How Can You Help Me With Tax?
- 6. How Should We Keep in Touch?
- 7. Can I Achieve My Goals?
- 8. Am I Doing Anything Wrong?
- 9. How Will You Help Me Prepare for Tax Season?
- 10. Can You Offer Me Advice on This Deduction?
- 11. Am I Using the Right Business Structure?
- Get the Most From Your Accountant
1. What Qualifications and Experience Do You Have?
Ask your accountant about their credentials. Like many other professionals, accountants can join professional bodies to demonstrate and improve their skills and knowledge.
Before working with them, make sure they’ve got qualifications and experience that give you confidence in their abilities to help you with your business finances. Independent reviews from other small businesses are a good showcase of this too, but we’ll talk about that more a little later.
2. How Long Have You Been in Business?
Find someone who understands the particular challenges small business owners face, and who has a provable track record of helping people like you to thrive. A good accountant will help you raise profits and save money.
You want someone who can do more than help you just get by. You want someone who can help you to grow your business.
3. Do You Have Any References From Small Businesses?
Be prepared to walk away from an accountant if they can’t, or won’t, share references from a small business owner. You need to know what other companies like yours are saying about them. This is the only way to confirm they can live up to the promises they’re making in their marketing messages.
If they can’t provide references or aren’t willing to share these, consider working with somebody else. Somebody with proof of helping many small business owners.
4. What Information Do You Need From Me?
Nobody wants to drag out the process of filing their taxes. Being organised is one of the best first steps you can take before working with an accountant. Ask them what information they need from you, when they need it, and be prepared to share everything when they ask for it.
Organise your receipts, bank statements, and invoices, and review your books and business expenses. This work may not lower your tax bill, but it will help prevent unnecessary back-and-forth communication.
Many accountants now offer accounting software as part of their services. They can set you up on their preferred system or if you’re already using software, you may be able to invite them to use this. They’ll have access to your financial information in a few clicks.
5. How Can You Help Me With Tax?
Accountants are invaluable come tax time. They can help you discover if you’re owed a tax rebate and can show you business expenses you may not have been claiming before. This will help you lower your tax bill and keep hold of more of the money you’ve earned.
They’ll make sure you’re only paying the tax you need to, and alert you of any expenses you shouldn’t be claiming for. This will help prevent you from getting into trouble with HMRC.
6. How Should We Keep in Touch?
How do you prefer to communicate with partners and suppliers? A quick email here and there, or do you find it easier to make a phone call? And how does your accountant prefer to keep in touch?
You need to agree on communication. Make your preferences clear and ask your accountant if this works for them. If they agree, great! If not, there are plenty of other accountants around.
7. Can I Achieve My Goals?
Honesty can make or break your business relationship with an accountant. Whether you want them to help you manage your business finances, personal finances, or both, one of the most important questions you can ask an accountant is whether you can achieve your goals.
Even if they say no, they should be able to show you things you can do to increase your chances of success. There are 2 perks here: You know they’re telling you the truth, and showing they’re willing to help you take steps to make sure you do overcome your business or personal cash flow challenges.
8. Am I Doing Anything Wrong?
This is another area where honesty is essential. If you’re doing something wrong, your accountant needs to be clear with you. Sugarcoating mistakes that are having a negative impact on your business’ financial prospects? That’s something you just can’t afford.
No matter how big or small the error is, they must address this with you as soon as they spot it. After all, they’re there to help you. And doing so benefits both of you: You’ll have stopped a lot of money from potentially going to waste and avoided any tax liabilities, and they’ll have proved their worth to you.
9. How Will You Help Me Prepare for Tax Season?
Nobody wants to find themselves in a panicked scramble at the end of January, struggling to find all their receipts and invoices before the self-assessment tax return deadline. But an accountant can help you to avoid a stressful situation like this.
They can, and should, be willing to support you in keeping track of your financial records throughout the tax year. This will make tax time easier for you and them. They should also be able to offer you advice on any new tax laws or industry-specific tax regulations that come into play and may affect your business.
10. Can You Offer Me Advice on This Deduction?
Put some thought into a question and ask your accountant about making a deduction. But not just any deduction: Make it one that’s relevant to your industry or, even better, your specific circumstances.
If they can answer your question with lots of detail and logic, in a way you can understand, then it’s a sign you’ve found an accountant who knows their stuff. But if they struggle to provide an answer, it could be a hint that you need more time to look around for someone else’s help.
11. Am I Using the Right Business Structure?
If you’re a sole trader, for example, and you’ve recently started earning over £50,270, you’ll now be paying the higher rate of tax at 40%. Becoming a limited company will allow you to withdraw dividends, which are tax-free for the first £2,000 and subject to a lower rate of tax after that. Ask your accountant and find out what’s best for you.
Get the Most From Your Accountant
Meeting with your accountant is an opportunity you should take advantage of. It’s not something you should avoid, or rush through in order to tick it off the list.
An accountant can complete your self-assessment tax return for you—saving you time and stress in the process—and help you all year round by offering advice on how to grow your business, become a more profitable business owner, and save money.
Many can help you get set up with accounting software, which helps you save even more time by automating processes like invoicing, expenses tracking, and sending quotes to your clients.
So make the most of your relationship with them, and ask your accountant the most important tax questions you have. It’s always good to have a trusted adviser in your corner for your own business.
about the author
persuasive and engaging copy from Cardiff, United Kingdom. When he's not writing, you'll find him reading, running, and attending rock shows.Greg writes