Contractors Guide to Choosing an Accountant

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1 Contractors Guide to Choosing an Accountant

2 Genie Accountancy have produced this guide to illustrate the importance of selecting the correct accountant, an accountant who will strive to support your business and truly help you achieve your business aspirations, an accountant who listens to your business needs and does not just act as a one-directional accountant. Contents: Chapter 1: Do I need an accountant? Page 3 Chapter 2: Choosing the right accountant Page 4 Chapter 3: Benefits of a specialist accountant versus a high street accountant Page 7 Chapter 4: Easy Guide to Switching Accountant Page 9 Page 2 of 10

3 Chapter 1: Do I Need an Accountant? Whatever stage of your contracting career you are at, it is important to consider the right accountant for you. If you are new to contracting your accountant will be an invaluable source of information and support but even if you are an established contractor you will value the benefits a professional advisor can bring. Choosing the accountant that suits you will bring peace of mind and the freedom to allow you to concentrate on what you do best. 1. Your accountant should:- Ensure you do not end up in trouble with HMRC or Companies House Ensure you legitimately minimise your tax bills Support you in running your business by ensuring you fully understand your responsibilities as a director and the statutory requirements of the company. Build a long term relationship with you, understanding your aspirations so you can work together to achieve them Not surprise you with any unexpected bills An accountant should be an asset to your company: they should save you time and money ensuring you are up to date with any legislation that affects your Limited company such as IR35 and income shifting rules. An accountant should simplify the administration and paperwork so that running your company is simple straightforward and you can enjoy the benefits of being your own boss as opposed to worrying about perceived additional burdens. I started my own company a few months ago and being the Leo that I am, I thought I could be a hero and save myself a couple of quid. I thought I could read up online about how to submit my tax return form and all the rest of it I mean how hard could it be? However not being an accountant I started making small mistakes, missing deadlines and submitting the wrong thing. I got myself into a terrible mess and it began to become a bit of a headache. I decided it was time to seek some expert help as clearly it wasn t working for me doing it on my own. I was recommend Genie Accountancy by a friend so I got in touch with them and have not regretted it all. I can now spend more time building my business and fully concentrate on my job, leaving all the boring accounting malarkey to Genie Accountancy. I ve built a great relationship with my accountant and would most certainly speak highly of their service. - Eddie J 2. Thinking of going it alone? Would you advise your end client to undertake the project work that they have engaged you to do, knowing that they did not have all the expertise required? The answer is probably no. Applying the same principle to the question of professional advice, why would you not engage a specialist contractor accountant? It is almost always advisable to hire an accountant, even before you start your first contract. It is highly unlikely that dealing with numbers, payroll, VAT and tax issues is your primary job and therefore won t be part of your expertise. Engaging a contractor accountant is money and time well spent to ensure you and your company remain legislatively compliant and are able to maximise the benefits whilst staying fully inside the rules. Page 3 of 10

4 Chapter 2: Choosing the Right Accountant Professional Support for your business could make all the difference in terms of your success. When choosing your preferred accountant don t gamble on one of the most important decisions you can make, know your options and follow these 4 steps to make sure you appoint the right accountant for you. 1. Personal Touch Best advice has to be based on a real understanding of you, your circumstances and aspirations. Only by getting to know you can we tailor advice that suits your needs. Even if you are an established contractor, who understands the technical accounting aspects of the statutory returns that your company needs to submit you will still benefit from talking to your accountant who will recognise opportunities to provide further advice. The contractor market includes many providers of accountancy support but beware of those that call themselves online accountants many offer no more than access to online accounting software and do not actually act as your accountant! To gain the most from your accountant you have to know who you are talking to. Make sure your accountant will provide a qualified dedicated accountant and team to look after your business and that you will only talk to them. Ensure that when you call someone in the team will be available to answer your query and not expect you to wait for a call back. A favourite differentiator for contactor accountants is to offer free face to face meetings with their clients. Not all meetings are equal ensure that your accountant will come to meet you at a location of your choice, at a time you choose. Make sure that you are not restricted to one free meeting over the course of your relationship with your accountant. Ultimately the best way to choose your accountant is to ensure a connection between you and your advisor. Talk, talk and talk again to the accountant you are thinking of appointing. You will know instantly if you feel that you can work together and if you can trust them to provide you with the service you deserve. Page 4 of 10

5 2. Knowledge Accountants come in all shapes and sizes, just like contractors. Your best advice will come from a specialist contractor accountant who will be able to demonstrate both a substantial level of experience in dealing with Freelancers and a clear understanding of how you work. Specialist Accountants will keep you up to date with the latest industry thinking on legislation, such as IR35 and will make sure you remain fully compliant with HMRC returns and deadlines. When appointing an accountant, consider their personal qualifications. Your best combination will be a qualified accountant with industry expertise. Make sure you talk to them and find out how long they have been supporting contractors, ask them how they build relationships with their clients and what techniques they use to stay in touch and keep you informed. 3. Accounting Software It is vital that you make sure the software you choose to maintain your company records is fit for purpose. Your accountant should offer software that has been designed specifically with Contractors and Freelancers in mind. Choose a facility that is simple and quick to use, whilst clever enough to keep you in control at all times. Your chosen solution should include:- Easy uploading of bank transactions either via an overnight feed or the download of a file from your bank. The software should facilitate easy allocation of each transaction against a list of pre-defined categories. Easy to enter expenses, via your phone, tablet or PC. You never have to loose a receipt again as they can be captured instantly and allocated to the correct cost category via an easy to use menu Facilities to set recurring expenses and mileage records, saving time and hassle A time sheet and invoicing function that allows you to invoice and your clients from within the system ensuring timely preparation of invokes Access to a detailed Overview screen that clearly sets out a tax timeline of future liabilities and payment dates, any amounts owed to you and a reminder of the company profits and available dividends. 4. Fees Many accountants now offer what appear to be fixed monthly fees and some are outwardly much cheaper than others. Beware of the headline prices and the hidden additional fees the service behind the fees will not be equal! Costs can add up quickly and so transparency is vital. Choose an accountant who offers a truly inclusive service for their fixed fees and ask them to set out in writing what their fee includes. If you believe you need additional services ask for a price to be agreed in writing before the work commences. You need to make sure you have no nasty surprises in the future. It is also really important to make sure that you understand any minimum tie in periods and costs. If you are new to contracting you may not be sure what you need to ask, Consider the following when reviewing fees:- Page 5 of 10

6 Do formation costs cover registering for various taxes e.g. VAT registration and the opening of a PAYE scheme Is there an additional fee for using the accounting software? Is your tax return included? Are there additional fees for non contracting income to be included on the tax return? Is there an annual filling fee? Are charges made for rent or mortgage references? Are you charged for meetings? Is all telephone and advice included in the fee? Is there a closure fee? Genie Accountancy: your personal accountant Genie Accountancy only deals with Contractors and Freelancers and all of our staff, accountants and administrators have accountancy qualifications so the whole team is very experienced in supporting people like you. As part of our standard fixed price package we offer access to accounting software, written by Contractors for Contractors. We support this software with a personalised bespoke advice. We love to meet our clients, but if that is not practical we are available via phone and as mush as you need us to be. Any accountant should be able to prepare the statutory returns and records that you need but not all will deliver these with the additional value of bespoke proactive advice. As a client of Genie Accountancy you can be confident that you have engaged a specialist who will keep you informed of anything that affects you and your company. We will ensure that you comply with your responsibilities with regard to the filing requirements of Companies House and HMRC and we will do all of this for a transparent fixed monthly fee! Page 6 of 10

7 Chapter 3: High Street Accountant v Specialist Contractor Accountant Not all accountants are equal! Contractors and Freelancers are a significant part of the UK economy and they are governed by specific rules which effect the way funds can be with drawn from the Limited company including IR35 and MSC. Specialist Contractor Accountants such as Genie Accountancy have the experience and knowledge to be able support you and your company. None of your questions will be silly questions and it is likely that we will have come across all of your queries many times before. Many High Street accountants don t have this level of expertise and don t focus on what makes a difference to you and your success. High Street Accountants traditionally charge for individual pieces of work and you should ensure that you understand their cost structure. The most common differences are as follows:- Same day company formation and advice on opening a company bank account Specialist IR35 advice Qualified accountant assigned to deal with all of your affaird, so you always know who you will speak to All staff are experts in Contracting and Freelancing Access to an online portal to record your company records - updated 24/7 Register your company for VAT, PAYE and Corporate Tax Preparation and submission of Annual Return, quarterly VAT returns, Annual Statutory Accounts and CT600 Access to specialist contractor financial services and advice Regular tax planning and proactive advice provided Accountant references for all purposes e.g. Mortgage and VISA included in the fees Meetings available with your dedicated accountant at a location of your choice at no extra fee Monthly fixed fees no fluctuating fees based on time spent Genie Accountancy Specialist Accountant High Street Accountant Page 7 of 10

8 Switching from a local high street accountant to a specialist contractor firm saved me thousands! I have provided specialist services to the television/ film industry for years but until recently I didn t take specialist advice! Originally I operated as a self-employed individual. In the beginning everything went smoothly. I opened my Limited company which began to trade almost instantly. The problems lay with what I had not been made aware of. My local accountant never discussed the implications of IR35 on me. I had operated for 4 years, totally unaware of the legislation that was crucial to determining the legality of the way in which I was withdrawing funds from my company. I continued to claim travel & subsistence costs, unaware of the 24 month rule & the risks I was then facing. After meeting Genie Accountancy, it became clear my situation needed to be reviewed. Genie Accountancy went on to liaise with HMRC to bring everything up to date. I was then handed a 11,000 tax refund that Genie Accountancy secured me. - Rob F Chapter 4: Switching Accountants as Easy as 1,2,3 If you are not happy with the service you are currently receiving from your Accountant why accept this for a moment longer? Despite the myths about swapping accountants the process is easy and can be done at anytime. 1. Let us know that you wish to appoint Genie Accountancy as your specialist contractor accountant 2. Inform your current accountant that you wish to leave from a given date and provide them with our name 3. We will complete a process called Professional Clearance to obtain all the necessary information from your previous advisor and start to get to know you straight away We are aware that contractors who change accountant face potential leaving fees from current providers or duplication of fees for a given accounting period. We at Genie Accountancy believe that you deserve exceptional support and advice and that these costs should not prohibit you from seeking such service. We are often able to provide incentives to allow you to change accountants at effectively no cost this may mean we discount our fees to help cover your leaving fee elsewhere or we provide some services for free during the switch over period. Each case will need to be reviewed on its own merit, but our overriding aim will be to get to work with you in the long term rather than a short term financial gain. The service that has been given to me Genie Accountancy since I moved over from my previous accountancy company has been excellent. I am really most grateful for the time and effort, that you have put in to helping me settle down to using both your services and the portal. Whenever I have a problem or question, I know that I can phone or sand get the answers that I need instantly, or, in a very short space of time. After the abysmal service that I received from my old accountant, I expected a better service from Genie Accountancy, but, I didn t get a better service, I got an outstanding service. So, thank you very much and keep up the great work, I can assure you that I will recommend you any time that I can. - John M Page 8 of 10

9 Contact us Whatever your dreams and aspirations, in a quickly changing world, it has never been more important to choose the right partner for you. Contractors and freelancers contribute enormously to the success of our economy and deserve to have access to the very best advice. Genie Accountancy has the skills, knowledge and expertise to guide you in achieving your business goal. Our long term aiml is to build a relationship with our contractors. We have helped hundreds of contractors no matter what stage they are at in their business cycle with their accounting needs. We can help you too. Below is how you can get in touch with us: When I signed up with Genie Accountancy, I felt immediately that I had found a company that knew what they were doing, but had a personal approach, so often missing in similar organisations. Setting up my company and sorting VAT registration was done very well as was their explanation of what they do and how they do it. I really feel that all the anxiety about the accounting side and what that entails being a freelance contractor, has been taken away from me. I am also finding the Open Books package comprehensive and easy to use. Consider me a satisfied customer. - Dale Orange Genie Orange Genie

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