Not all accountants are created equal (how do you choose an accountant)

My first contribution to this blog has resulted from a recent experience had by a new client of my practice with someone who also used the title ‘accountant’.

Firstly, you need to understand in the UK there is no requirement to have any formal training or qualifications before calling yourself an accountant. This does not for one minute mean that someone without formal qualifications is going to be bad, not for one minute, so how do you chose your accountant?

As with anything, I would always say choose an accountant on the recommendations of a friend/colleague. If you know someone who uses an accountant, and they are happy with them, then this is a good starting point. Next, does the accountant have relevant experience in the industry you are in, or an allied industry, after all, it’s going to make life a lot easier if he actually knows a bit about the industry you’re in when offering advice.

But what if you don’t know anyone who can make a recommendation, what next? This is where I would definitely look for an accountant who belongs to a professional body, and holds a current and up to date practicing certificate, at least this way I would know this ‘stranger’ has gone through a certain standard of training and will have had to achieve a minimum level of experience before being admitted to membership.

The decisions don’t stop there though, unlike other countries where there is either one or a very small number of professional accounting bodies, the UK has many, as shown at the end of this post.

In summary, if you know someone who uses an accountant they are happy with meet them first, next find an accountant who understands your industry and finally if you have to make a selection on your own, then meet and interview at least three accountants before making your choice, remembering their membership of a professional body affords you some protection. Good luck!

Here is the list of accounting bodies:

The Association of Certified Accountants (ACCA)
The Association of International Accountants (AIA)
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Englandand Wales (ICAEW)
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI)
Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)

Professional bodies whose members cannot act as company auditors:

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
Certified Public Accountants (Ireland) (CPA)
Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA)
Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)

AAT, ACCA, Accounting, AIA, Bookkeeping, Business Development, Business Start Up, CIMA, CIPFA, CPA, CPAs, ICAEW, ICAI, ICAS, IFA, sme-blog

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