12 Oct 2023

Switching Accountants: A ‘how to’ guide

There are numerous circumstances that might lead you to consider changing the accountant services that you use, or to engage with financial advisors for the first time. Perhaps you recently moved house and would like to find a firm local to you, or you may simply feel that it is time for change and would like to find a better ‘fit’ of advisor.

Whatever the reason, it’s not always clear how to go about making the switch, what the process will look like and what you need to consider. We will provide you with some guidance and tips below.

Why do I need an accountant in the first place?
Clients sometimes tell us that they didn’t think they required the services of an accountant initially, typically because they were running a very small business operation, and therefore believed that they could save money by completing their accounts and tax returns themselves. Others may view the process of finding and hiring an accountant as daunting and don’t know where to start in handing their affairs over to an advisor.

The reality is, clients of any size can benefit significantly from the services that an accountant can offer. Whether that be the occasional help with bookkeeping or VAT returns for example, or having access to an advisor who can ensure that the business is running as efficiently as possible. Leaning on an external person can free up valuable time that the client could be spending on other important tasks such as resource planning, hiring staff and improving their service/product offering.

By using an accountant, clients gain an individual who is an expert in their field, has insights in the whole market and is up to date with new technology and developments. This means that they will be able to identify opportunities for cost and time savings, such as highlighting tax reliefs or grants that clients may not otherwise have been made aware of.

I’m already using an accountant but would like to switch, what do I need to do?
There is a perception that moving accountants will be a long and complex process, but we want to debunk this misconception and demonstrate how simple it can be.

The first step is deciding whether it is the right time to make the move. Try to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you getting value for money?
  • Do you feel you can approach your accountant?
  • Does your accountant understand you and your business?
  • Have you outgrown your accountant, or have they perhaps outgrown you?
  • Do you receive proactive advice, or do they simply want to get the job done?
  • Are you kept up to date with changes which might impact on your business with plenty of time to plan?

If the answers to any of the above questions raise concerns for you, it may be time to look elsewhere. You deserve to find an accountant who has your best interests at heart and is invested in ensuring you are as financially stable and successful as possible, rather than offering the bare minimum.

Changing accountants is surprisingly straightforward – any good accountant will make the process very clear and easy, minimising disruption to your business. The main steps are as follows:

  • Inform your current accountant of your intention to move – a simple call, email or letter will suffice.
  • Your current accountant should then send a disengagement letter providing details of the work that they’ve completed to date – there should be no charge for this.
  • The new accountant will write a professional clearance letter to your old accountant, requesting permission to act for you. This is merely a formality and very rarely causes any problems.
  • Your new accountant will then ask you for the authority to be appointed as your agent at HMRC. This will enable them to correspond with HMRC on your behalf.
  • To comply with anti-money laundering regulations, they will need to verify your identity.
  • You will be issued with an engagement letter by your new accountant outlining the services they are providing and your respective responsibilities.

Is there anything else that I need to consider?
Surprisingly, anyone can call themselves an ‘accountant’, so it's important to check the qualifications and regulatory body of the new advisor and ensure that they have adequate professional indemnity insurance in place. For further guidance, read our recent blog which explores how to tell if your accountant is qualified.

To make the switching process even smoother you may want to consider the following points:

  • Changeover date – choose a date that will cause the least disruption to your business. The end of the financial year or quarter is a good choice.
  • Ensure all outstanding bills are paid with your current accountant.
  • Give your new accountant permission to contact your current accountant for handover information.

There could be a whole variety of reasons why a client may put-off appointing a new accountant, but if you are concerned, it’s crucial that you don’t delay in seeking alternative advice, even if it is simply to provide reassurance that you are still in the right hands.

Remember many accountants offer a free or reduced cost initial consultation, allowing you to ‘try before you buy’ and ensure that you feel comfortable with and have confidence in the accountant you choose.

At Monahans we are always happy to talk to potential clients and offer an initial meeting completely free of charge, without obligation to engage our services.

With years of experience in providing accounting and business advisory services, we are proud to be able to offer you an accountancy service that is specifically tailored to your needs and strives to translate numbers into meaning. Get in touch with the team today to find out more.

Becky Young