Changing accountants can be a challenging time for company directors, even if the handover process goes smoothly. In this article, we ask if there is an optimum time of year to move to a new firm.
There are many reasons why you might want to change your accountant.
From our experience, poor communication is often a key culprit. Missing deadlines or inaccurate tax returns are also unforgivable to contractor clients, whose tax affairs are typically very simple.
We’ve covered these scenarios, plus how the switching process works here.
But, when is the best time to make the change? What factors should you consider before giving notice to your current accountant?
Timing your move – things to consider
In an ideal world, the best time to change firms is at the end of your company’s financial year.
When is your company year-end?
Find out when your limited company’s year end is. This is usually the end of the month on the anniversary of the date your formed your company.
If you’ve been paying for your accountant on a monthly basis, part of these fees should contribute to finalising your year-end accounts.
Assuming you have already paid for your year-end accounts to be produced, make sure your current accountant finalises your accounts.
Unsurprisingly, if poor service influenced your decision to switch accountants, you might not be confident that they will produce your year-end accounts accurately, or in a timely manner.
In this case, you can ask your new accountant to take over your accounts in their current state. They will usually charge a one-off fee to bring your accounts up-to-date.
The ‘switcher’ market in the contractor accounting world is very competitive at the moment, so you can find deals where a new accountant will take over your tax affairs and bring them up-to-date for free. It’s worth looking around.
Avoid ‘busy’ times of year for accountants
December and January are sub-optimal months for switching.
For obvious reasons, businesses start to shut down by the middle of December, in advance of Christmas.
Self-assessment time is also typically a very business period for small business accountants.
Personal tax returns must be submitted to HMRC by 31st January each year, to avoid penalties.
Given many company directors leave this task to the last minute, you will find that many accountancy firms are rushed off their feet helping clients for the second half of January
If you have a choice, mid-December until the end of January might be a good time to avoid switching, as you don’t want your new accountant to be distracted at an important time for your company.
The reality of timing your switch to a new accountant
If you have made the decision to change your accountant, you must be unhappy with the service you’ve received.
In many cases, you will just want to move as soon as possible.
After all, if your accountant has made mistakes, or filed paperwork late, who’d want to stay as a client in case more errors are made?
If this sounds familiar, then from our experience, you’re better off looking for a new provider right away.
The extra expense of bringing your company accounts up-to-date is likely to be fairly small compared to the peace of mind you’ll get when you move to a new accountant.
Some useful reading
Here are some popular guides to help you choose the best accountant:
- How to change accountants – how does the process work?
- How to authorise your new accountant to deal with HMRC
- What are the typical tasks an accountant will carry out for your company?
- Contractor accountancy fees comparison table
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