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trulyscrumptious
31-01-2008, 08:27 PM
Hi,

I have just set up my own cake shop in Brighton and am looking for a firm to handle my accounts.

I don't really know what to look for and to be honest I don't really know what I need them to do - I'm in a bit of a mess!

I found an accountant through the firm Tax Assist on google and they say that they specialise in small business accounts and startups but I just wondered if you knew whether they were any good and whether there was anyone you could recommend?

I probably should have sorted an accountant out before I opened I suppose but everything seemed to happen so quickly!

Any help is greatly appreciated

Thanks

Laura

trevora
31-01-2008, 09:07 PM
Hi Laura

Im not located in Brighton unfortunately - any good accountants will provide you with a free consultation before you sign up to anything.
I presume you are a sole trader ( and have let the revenue know?) therefore you will need to ensure you keep basic book keeping records. you can do this or if you are anyway unsure hire a book keeper. Your accountant whoever they may turn out to be will then produce you a tax return each year.

My advice is to ensure your records are straight this will save time and money as well as giving you info on your business. The tax year runs from March to April basically but you dont have to pay your tax until Jan. I reccomend you get your tax return done as soon after the 5th April and not leave it until Jan. You don't have to pay until Jan but it will save you fees as Accountants tend to be very busy in Jan.

If you need anything else let me know
Trevor

adandy
31-01-2008, 09:17 PM
An accountant can offer your business help ranging from basic bookkeeping to specialist business advice. However, in order to get the best value for money there are things you should find out first. Before you choose an accountant you should:

1) ask about their qualifications
2) find out how many partners there are in the practice
3) investigate whether they are experienced in dealing with businesses of a similar size and at a similar stage of growth to yours
4) assess whether they understand your business sector and its needs
5) find out who will look after your business on a day-to-day basis
6) ask about their estimated response times
7) ask whether the service you will receive will be proactive - eg whether they will remind you when you need to submit accounts, or send you updates on changes in tax law
8) find out if they offer any additional services - eg inheritance planning or advice on information systems
9) ask whether the practice offers any specialist services - eg in start-ups or stock-market listing
10) investigate their charges and what they cover - find out if a fixed fee can be arranged for the first 12 months

James Smith
01-02-2008, 10:11 AM
I would be slightly wary of "tax assist". This is a franchise, and often used by accountants who haven't managed to pass all their exams and so cant call themselves "chartered" and use the brand to give a more proffesional image. That said I am sure there are lots of perfectly competent accountants working for that franchise who have managed to pass their exams or are qualified "by experience" ie been doing it long enough to know whats what. Also I believe TA does provide training and support for its members, so its probably less risky than an independent unqualified.

Generally the word "accountant" is an unrestricted term so anyone can use it with no minimum standard. "Chartered" means they have trained for a minimum of 3 years after uni passing exams to a high standard, and undertaken a minimum of 2 years of post qualification experience in a controlled environment before being able to act independently. They will also be properly regulated and insured on an ongoing basis although like anything there are some really **** qualified accountants and some really good unqualified ones.

Excellent list of questions from Andy btw, I would go on recommendations myself for any service.

In terms of what you want from them, I wouldn't get your accountant to do your bookkeeping, but do get them to help you set up your records and find a bookkeeper. Accountants make for very expensive data entry clerks! They should help you with the "bigger picture" rather than the day to day, ie helping you to decide if to register for VAT or not, how to approach a bank for a loan etc, as well as the tax return etc.

*Blatent plug alert* there is a chapter in my book about finding an accountant and what the different roles are with a bookkeeper and an accountant.

Regards,

shamrocker
01-02-2008, 11:27 AM
James, I thought you'd be going into hibernation today.


Laura,

You will be able to do a fair amount of work yourself, in terms of book keeping and record keeping. Most accountants will offer you a free consultation and you can use this consultation to find out the things you need to keep a record of. They will tell you what can be used as legitimate business expenses, the proper procedures for record keeping, etc. which will make their job much easier when it comes to submitting the return.

A lot of people on here use James as their accountant, despite not necessarily living near to him, so maybe this is an option for you. James has said in the past that it is perfectly possible to do all your own accounts and returns if your business is fairly simple and consistent, but would probably need to have done a few returns via an accountant first in order to know how to do it correctly. You can find out an awful lot by reading up on the web (www.hmrc.gov.uk is a good place to start - www.taxationweb.co.uk is another I use occasionally). I do my own returns via Self Assessment, but my business is very simple and constant with very little in the way of overheads. In your case, if you have an everyday shop with premises, then you'd certainly be better leaving the returns side to the experts.

From experience, I know how important it is to verify the credentials of an accountant you are considering using, because as James says there are so many variables - and TBH it is exactly the same in most professions.