What can an accountant do for me?
Are you thinking about outsourcing some of your business accountancy work to an accountant or hiring an accountant to help with your ongoing company bookkeeping and financial admin? Are you asking yourself: what can an accountant do for me? This guide explains some of the most popular tasks small and medium UK organisations assign to accountants and what to expect.
1. Help with Company Tax Obligations
Business owners and managers are often juggling multiple tax liabilities, declarations and filing deadlines. They can find it extremely difficult to allocate enough time to ensure every return is filed on time, with full compliance.
Most UK companies will need to manage the following:
- Corporation tax
- VAT returns
- Payroll submissions
- P11D, P60 and P45 forms
- Capital gains tax
Directors may also need to balance salaries with dividends or account for dividend payments made to shareholders, which can add a layer of complexity in producing the correct documentation and recording payments made.
Accountants can ensure that all tax forms, returns, and submissions are completed correctly, accurately and submitted on time to avoid late payment penalties, errors, omissions, or fines.
In the worst-case scenario, material errors, even an unintentional mistake on a tax return, could result in an HMRC tax investigation which is costly, time-consuming, and potentially very serious if the tax inspector decides that your returns are not compliant.
2. Manage Tax Exposure
Businesses have multiple potential allowances and exemptions they can apply to reduce or remove tax liabilities altogether. However, if you don't claim or are unaware a business allowance is available, it is highly unlikely the tax office will let you know.
Professional accountants stay updated with changing tax regimes and reforms and can advise which tax treatments you should apply to ensure you don’t pay more tax than necessary.
For example, you may be eligible to claim capital allowances for new assets you have purchased for business use, marginal relief for periods with lower profits, research and development relief, or business asset rollover relief.
3. Advance Cash Flow Planning
There is little so stressful as working hard to ensure you have filed all your tax returns, only to find you do not have the finances available to remit the tax owing within the deadline.
Planning ahead for tax liabilities is important, particularly if you have a tight cash flow or periods where your outgoings exceed your income. Short-term commercial borrowing can be prohibitively expensive, and late payments can also accrue fines and interest charges.
An accountant can estimate your future tax bills, advise on ways to structure transactions to benefit from available allowances and ensure you remain ahead of the curve when the time comes to submit your next set of accounts or VAT return.
Some accountants also provide accounts receivable services, such as chasing unpaid debts, following up on contractual negotiations, or setting up automated reminders through your bookkeeping system to send notifications to clients when they have unpaid bills.
In many cases, a simple accounts reconciliation is the best place to start – identifying where you have cash owing to the business and recommending the right strategy to bring all your customer accounts back up to date.
4. Give business Growth Advice
Accountants can deal with countless transactional tasks but also have knowledge and skills that can be more valuable than managing your bookkeeping or keeping control of your tax exposure.
For example, if you are developing a business case, tender or business plan to attract investment or to pitch for a new contract, an accountant can review your documentation and provide independent advice about potential improvements.
Loan applications can also vary in terms of product charges, interest rates and fees, so an accountant can evaluate different options or offers and advise which makes the most sense for your business.
They can help you navigate regulatory considerations, compare borrowing options, or be a third-party consultant if you need to make long-term business decisions, from market analysis to growth assessments and advice about the best action plan.
5. Save Time on General Bookkeeping
For many businesses, it isn’t the larger tasks, such as year-end accounts, that pose the biggest hurdle. Instead, it is ensuring that financial records are consistently updated and maintained to confirm any business decisions are made with the benefit of real-world information.
If you haven’t reconciled your bank statements for several months, the values in your management accounts will be unreliable and will not reflect your current business position.
Accountants can reduce the administrative burden by taking over general admin or bookkeeping tasks. They can charge a rate per hour so you can utilise professional support as and when you need it without overspending.
6. How to Find the Right Accountant for Your Business
Of course, finding an accountant with whom you can build a rapport and ongoing relationship is key. Once your accountant understands your business, knows your pinch points, and has a solid idea of your objectives, they can provide targeted advice.
There are several factors you might choose to prioritise when selecting an accountant to work with:
- Skills and experience: highly qualified accountants tend to charge more per hour. However, the speed at which they work is often very quick, and their advice will be invaluable if you are making important decisions.
- Charging basis: an accountant can charge per day, hour, or task – it is up to you what makes the most sense or the type of quotation most relevant to the work you'd like them to undertake.
- Areas of expertise: some accountants have specific areas where they are experienced, such as within a sector, industry, or market. An accountant with existing knowledge of your business model may be ideal if you need advice.
Remote accountants can be the most cost-effective option. They can use online bookkeeping systems to manage your accounts, produce reports, analyse performance, or reconcile accounts – although if you prefer an accountant to visit your business to speak one-on-one, you may prefer somebody local.
You can also choose between freelance accountants or an accountant who is part of a larger firm. The latter tends to be slightly more expensive but may offer a broader range of services and accountancy support.
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