Are you with the right accountant?

How important is it to find the right accountant?
It is really important, if you take the time to find a good accountant, it could save your business, and you personally, a lot of time, effort and money.

How do I know if I’m working with the wrong accountant?
If your accountant is preparing your tax return for the tax year ended 5th April 2014 in January 2015 (the deadline is 31st January 2015), you can be reasonably sure you are using the wrong accountant! Some accountants are only interested in the fee, others can be too busy to give you the service you need, which means your business suffers, which can include paying more tax than you need to.

When should an accountant prepare my tax return?
If your accountant is properly engaged in tax planning, you should have discussed your tax return for the year ended 5th April 2015 by January 2015 in order to give you time to take advantage of any tax planning opportunities before the tax year ends. Your tax return for the year ending 5th April 2015 should then be prepared by 30th June 2015. This ensures that any payments on account (due on 31st July 2015) can be properly calculated and you can get on with tax planning for the following year.

In Summary: if your accountant is chasing you for information for your tax return for year ended 5th April 2014 in January 2015 you are with the wrong accountant!

What can an accountant help me with?
All the things which can be a huge burden to deal with, and an even bigger burden if you get them wrong: PAYE, VAT, personal tax, business tax, year-end accounts, returns – tasks that many individuals and business owners find difficult or just plain boring. Not everyone is good with figures, and trying to do it yourself could in fact prove much costlier than paying an accountant to do it for you. You will also have peace of mind which leaves you free to concentrate on other, more value added matters.

What about monthly fee arrangements?
It is generally better to pay as you go, that way, you can see what work your accountant has done. You can reduce your accountancy fees by doing your own simple bookkeeping and keeping an orderly record of your expenses, of course but you should consider the Opportunity Cost of carrying out these tasks for yourself.

What about paying for basic advice?
Your accountant shouldn’t charge for occasional basic advice. Anything more than that and you’ll probably have to pay, but having to pay for half an hour with your accountant could save you a stack of money.

Should I appoint an accountant when setting up a business?
Generally speaking – yes! Getting things set up properly from the get-go can save you a lot of time and trouble later on. Many accountants will even give you free basic start-up advice, if you agree to them doing your accounts. You can set up your own limited company without an accountant but you will then receive a plethora of documentation from the taxman and Companies House which may be daunting – it’s usually best to use an accountant so that you know all these things are taken care of.

How important is it to find an accountant with relevant experience?
For businesses in sectors with specific tax rules such as the temporary labour market, it is crucial. You should find an accountant with a good track record of working with temporary contractors. My advice? Ask an accountant to explain IR35 to you – if they take more than 60 seconds and/or you can’t understand what they are saying, chose a different accountant.

How do I get the best out of my accountant?
If you value their opinion – follow their advice. Don’t bargain them down too hard on price – you may get a deal, but you’ll never be top of their priority list. When your accountant asks for something, provide it quickly. If you want to keep the fees down, do what you can to make their job easier.

In summary?
Most people never change their accountant – even if they have a terrible experience… in the same way that people don’t change their bank. Rest assured, changing your accountant isn’t hard at all – so don’t over stress about choosing one. If it isn’t working for you, find another accountant – simple as that!

HMRC: The Worst Excuses for missed Tax Returns

HM Revenue & Customs has published what it considers to be the worst excuses for missing the January 31 tax return deadline.

A few are believable, others sound like a forgotten homework excuse, and some are outlandish, but all have been used in unsuccessful appeals against HMRC penalties for late filing.

Many of the excuses claim it was someone else’s fault – pets, girlfriends, and work colleagues – and one person even implicated US president Barack Obama.

Here’s the full list:

1. My pet dog ate my tax return… and all the reminders.

2. I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a postbox or get an internet signal.

3. I fell in with the wrong crowd.

4. I’ve been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency.

5. Barack Obama is in charge of my finances.

6. I’ve been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs.

7. A work colleague borrowed my tax return, to photocopy it, and didn’t give it back.

8. I live in a camper van in a supermarket car park.

9. My girlfriend’s pregnant.

10. I was in Australia.

HMRC director general of personal tax, Ruth Owen said: “People can have a genuine excuse for missing a tax deadline, but owning a pet with a taste for HMRC envelopes isn’t one of them.”