Your 12-point checklist for selecting a new accountant

30 April 2024

Expert Verified


Ruben Portz


Are you looking for a new accountant? Whether you're a small business owner or running a prominent tech startup, finding the right accountant can be daunting. With so many options, it's important to know what to look for to ensure that you find an accountant who can meet your unique needs. In this article, I will share the most frequently asked topics we discuss with business owners when they're comparing accountancy firms.

Checklist for Selecting a New Accountant

  1. Define Your Business Needs: Outline the standard services you need (e.g., annual accounts, bookkeeping, payroll, VAT returns,  financial planning, audits), as well as any specific services (e.g. OSS VAT, R&D Tax Credits, EMI Scheme Support) and specific industry expertise (e.g. CIS, SEIS, Tax Allowances). Try to cover everything you need with a single firm.
  2. Verify Credentials and Certifications: Ensure the accountant or firm is certified or chartered through a recognised professional body. The accountant should ideally be a member of the ACA, ACCA, or ICAEW.
  3. Assess Technical Competence: Avoid having to switch to and get familiar with new software by confirming the accounting software (e.g., XERO, Quickbooks) that the accountancy firm will use, as well as any specific payment providers (e.g., Stripe) and banking integrations that you might use. They should be familiar with all of these.
  4. Evaluate Communication Style: Determine their preferred method of communication and ensure it aligns with yours. If you prefer doing business over WhatsApp, ensure the accounting firm is okay with this. Similarly, if you prefer to walk into your accountant's office, then this might not be something every firm can facilitate.
  5. Consider Their Client Portfolio: Ask for examples of similar businesses they manage. In the best-case scenario, they have been working with similar clients that operate in your industry and at a comparable turnover, employee count, and transaction volume.
  6. Review Their Fee Structure: Understand how they charge (hourly, retainer, per service), the notice period, and what is included. We have spoken with many owners who get a surprise bill at the end of the year or are charged additional fees per consultation. Always confirm the cost for any out-of-scope or one-off tasks.
  7. Check References and Testimonials: Review online testimonials and ratings if available. If you’re unsure about these, don’t hesitate to request and contact references to discuss their experiences.
  8. Adding Value to Your Business: Aside from doing your books and ensuring tax compliance, how can the accountant help your business grow? How proactive are they about saving you money? Do they have a network of agencies, investors or banking relationships that you can tap into in the future?
  9. Inquire About Their Team: Understand who handles your account directly and their experience level. Determine if they work solo or with a team and who you can expect to communicate with regularly. Try to avoid having to deal with new people for each component of the service (e.g., payroll, annual accounts, VAT) or firms that seem to have a high staff turnover rate.
  10. Set Expectations for Reporting: Agree on the frequency of financial reporting and business reviews. And set expectations for ongoing communication and scheduled meetings. Just ensure that both parties know what to expect and when so you don’t have to chase for answers.
  11. Assess Fit and Trust: Your accountant will likely support you for many years to come. So, think about it. Do you feel comfortable discussing confidential financial matters? Trust your instincts about their integrity and the rapport you feel during initial meetings.
  12. Plan for Long-Term Engagement: Are you quickly outgrowing the firm, or can they support you as your business evolves? Discuss their ability to scale services as your business expands. Make sure that they are open to changing their services when potential changes are made to your business model.

Selecting the right accountant is tough, but by following the checklist above, you can ask the right questions and make it easier to find an accountant who supports your unique business needs, is technically competent, and has a communication style that aligns with yours. With these considerations in mind, you can choose the right accountant and build a long-lasting partnership that helps you achieve your financial goals.