How Do I Choose An Accountant?

“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional wait until you hire an amateur” Red Adair (the famous go to fire-fighter when oil Company’s wanted to put an oil rig fire)

Did you know that you do not have to be qualified to call yourself an accountant?

I met a new client yesterday and she did not know that accountants didn’t need to be qualified. She thought that all accountants in business were qualified.

It came as a shock to her to discover that in the UK the word ‘accountant’ or ‘tax advisor’ is not legally protected which means that anyone can set themselves up in business and call themselves an accountant or tax advisor, even though they may have no or very little experience or may have worked in a very junior role in an accounts department.

Now don’t get me wrong there are some very good unqualified accountants out there and there are also  some poor qualified accountants, but surely in general it is better hiring a professional that has gone through the rigorous process of qualifying, rather than someone who has not or could not quite make it.

So why does it matter?

Well if you need someone for your bookkeeping then it probably doesn’t matter, there are some very good bookkeepers out there. But if you want to make sure that your tax affairs are dealt with properly and you are only paying the tax that you need to, you should seek out a professional.

Additionally, if you run a business, and are either seeking funding or references regarding your financial position,  banks and lenders expect those to be provided by a professional firm of accountants.

Many times, I hear “but my accountant’s great I don’t pay much tax and his fees are really low”. Well first of all how do you know whether your accountant is good or not?

Just because HMRC haven’t investigated doesn’t mean what’s been submitted is correct. I have had my fair share of clients where their previous accountants messed up and we had to re-correct everything.

Sometimes you won’t know until HMRC question something years later.

Remember in law it is your responsibility to get your accounts and tax affairs right, not your accountants. They only act as your agent. It will be a very poor defence indeed if your accountants or tax advisors weren’t experienced enough to do the job.

Secondly, I think we all know that picking a product or service solely on price is a mistake. Generally, market forces dictate that you get the quality and service that you pay for. There is often a very good reason why some people charge more than others, and generally it’s because they are better and add more value. At the very least they shouldn’t make fundamental errors.

What you should do when picking an accountant or tax advisor

Don’t be fooled, when picking your accountants or tax advisors it is a case of ‘buyer beware’.

  • Check credentials – Are they qualified or experienced enough to do the job you have engaged them for
  • Are They Regulated – Do they have a governing body that you can complain to if things go wrong
  • If necessary ask to talk to some of their clients with similar circumstances to you
  • Do they carry professional indemnity insurance
  • Are they making unrealistic claims such as a great new scheme where you will pay much less tax – usually if something appears to be too good to be true it is too good to be true.


Paul Stankiewicz is the owner and principal at Paul Marks & Co Chartered Accountants which is the trading name of Paul Marks Ltd a Limited Company registered in England and Wales (registered number 4487645).This article is designed for the information of readers only and is the opinion of the author only. Readers should not act on any of the information contained in this article without seeking professional advice.Nothing in this article constitutes advice, nor does the transmission, downloading or sending of any information or the Material create any contractual relationship. Links to third party websites are provided as a convenience to the reader, Paul Marks Ltd does not control and is not responsible for any of those websites or their content.Paul Stankiewicz and Paul Marks Ltd accepts no liability or responsibility whatsoever for any loss or damage suffered by any user of the information contained on or accessed through this article or the Material downloaded.