As a small to medium business owner you may already have an accountant, or you may be on the lookout for one. There are many benefits to using an accountant however, the most important aspect is finding one that fits and understands your business.
When looking for an accountant you will come across different acronyms such as ACCA, ACA and ICAEW and you will also find words such as Chartered and Certified. These are all associated with accounting bodies and types of qualifications they provide/hold and can give an indication of the countries the accountant can practice in. But what many people may not realise is anyone can call themselves an accountant without any formal training or qualifications (although they do have to register with HMRC to represent a client).
It is therefore significant to understand whether your accountant is Chartered or Certified as this will indicate they have extensive professional qualifications and are regulated by the appropriate bodies. To attain Chartered or Certified status an accountant must undergo the rigorous theoretical and practical coursework required by the regulating body. This provides them with the knowledge to provide advice concerning accountancy, finance and business. An ICAEW and ACCA member must also hold professional indemnity insurance, which means losses incurred from incorrect advice will be covered.
As a new business you may not be overly concerned about the type of accreditation your accountant has; however, if you are looking to eventually expand your business and explore further opportunities, it is recommended that you employ an accountant versed in these concepts. This is not to say that a non-accredited accountant cannot do the same job, however one that does provides a reassurance of their qualifications. An accountant who is affiliated will have greater resources at his/her disposal and will provide you the confidence so that you can conduct your business appropriately.
There have also been situations where non accredited accountants have come into the limelight for the wrong reason. Recently a Canvey accountant was found guilty of defrauding one of his clients to the tune of £170,000. The accountant blatantly used his position to manipulate his client and HMRC. This is just one occurrence out of many, but it does highlight what improper use of accounting knowledge can amount to.
Whether an accountant is affiliated with a governing body should be a consideration when choosing an accountant and it should form part of your own research and gut instincts about selecting the right accountant for you. An ideal accountant should eventually be one that you have a symbiotic relationship with, and one that you can discuss all aspects of your business with.