How do I change my accountant?

In the first of a series of question led blog posts, we consider the sometimes-thorny subject of how to change your accountant.

Whether its price, quality of work, changing requirements or the odd dispute that causes you to look at changing your accountant, the fact is business owners are now far more willing to move their corporate affairs between firms. Largely spawned by the encouragement to market test or shop around for utilities, insurance and financial products as consumers, the same concept increasingly crosses the boundary into our commercial lives too.

The traditional concept of the retained accountancy or legal firm being the only constant as the in-house teams come and go over generations, no longer holds true. Like all service providers we accountants have had to adapt to changing client demands and change is a fact of life these days. Some clients will move to us and sadly, some will go in the other direction. Our job has to be to make that process as smooth as possible for our clients and provide them with the best and most cost-effective service in the interim. So, if you’re thinking of changing your accountant, why not follow our simple 5 step guide:

5 Steps to Change Your Accountant

1. Pick the best time

We know there is never a good time to change your accountant but we would recommend picking a point whereby you have limited active business with your current accountancy firm e.g., not whilst they are preparing a tax return or completing your annual accounts.

The move does not have to be aligned with your year end, and in fact in many cases it is better not to move during the year end process, unless you have serious issues with service.

The reality is, you cannot pause everything and make the move, so you will need to carry on trading and doing the accounts during the transition process. A good accountant will be able to pick up your affairs at any point during the year.

2. Resolve any issues and settle any fee invoices

There are rules governing an accountants ability to take on a client who has unresolved issues with their existing firm. As you will read below, there is a concept called ‘professional clearance’ which the new firm has to request from the old firm before being able to start work for you. It basically asks for confirmation that there are no outstanding issues. So, before you can move you need to have resolved any issues and settled any outstanding fee invoices. The ICAEW, the Institute that oversees the accountancy profession in England and Wales, can help with disputes.

3. Professional clearance

Once you are in a position to move, your new firm will need to write to your existing accountants and ask them to give professional clearance before they can assume the role as your advisors. At this point they will also ask them to forward on any relevant files or open case work. Your accountant is permitted to charge for any administration time incurred in this process but it should be limited to around one hour. Most accountants tend to waive their right to charge, as a gesture of goodwill.

To be honest, by step 3 you are moved…! Steps 4 and 5 are really about housekeeping.

4. Update HMRC

Once professional clearance has been agreed and your new firm assumes the role as your accountants, you need to make sure other parties are aware of this. If you have previously nominated your accountants as agents for HMRC you will need to update this and nominate the new firm to act on your behalf.

5. Housekeeping

It is worth spending a little time working through any indirect effects of moving. For instance, has your registered office changed as part of the process? If so, you will need to update invoices, letterhead, websites etc. If you outsource any business support functions, such as bookkeeping or payroll, or you have other advisors to your business, it is courteous to let them know, if they don’t already.

If you would like to talk to us about moving your affairs to Evans Weir, please click here for more information or call us on 01243 787751

Based on search data to our website, this series of blog posts is designed to answer some of the most common ‘how to’ queries around setting up, running a company and managing your personal and commercial tax affairs. If there is a particular question you would like us to answer, please contact us today. Click here to view all the articles in this series.