Switching accountants is a big decision. The relationship between accountant and business owner is a very personal one, and cutting off a relationship with a trusted business advisor can be extremely difficult to do.
I’ve often heard business owners complaining to their mates over a beer, but when asked a simple question “why don’t you change your accountant?” they mostly respond with “No, I couldn’t possibly leave Peter. I’ve been with him for 5 years!”
Loyalty may be a staying factor, but the latest statistics from the CCH Accounting Firm Client Survey* pinpoints that 36% of clients are dissatisfied and already shopping for another accounting firm.Businesses simply cannot afford any setbacks – especially where tax and compliance are concerned.
Here are my top 16 non-negotiable reasons to switch accountants:
ONE: They are not proactive in saving you tax
They never evidently try to find solutions to help you pay less tax.
They never offer advice tax planning or personal benefits. They simply fill out your tax return, prepare your financial statements and send you a bill.
TWO: They’re late
Your information is ready by the end of January, but for some reason your tax return is always put on extension and filed 6 months after the original due date. This is a signal that you are not a valued client to them.
THREE: They have a large personal tax return practice for non-business owners
This is usually an indication that they are more focused on the private client market rather than the business market. You will benefit from an accounting firm that is dedicated and highly experienced in the SME market.
FOUR: They are unable (or unwilling) to explain things in a way you can understand
It’s simply not true that all accountants are poor communicators. It is true that some accountants use industry jargon as a way of keeping their clients in the dark and making themselves seem all that more valuable.
FIVE: They don’t “get” your business
If your accountant does not take the time to understand what your business is about – or if they are not interested in what makes your business ‘tick’, there’s a chance they won’t be very effective at identifying opportunities for you. You want to work with people who believe in your visions as much as your bottom line.
SIX: They’re never available
Accountants need to be available for those urgent problems or requests, and they should be able to offer you the time you need.
SEVEN: They’re unapproachable
You should never be in the position where you perceive that your accountant is too busy to give you advice, or feel that you are asking a ‘stupid’ question.
EIGHT: You have unexpected tax liabilities, penalties and interest charges
NINE: You never know what they will charge you, or they charge you unexpected or additional fees without warning you
Accounting fees should always be transparent, and you should have options for paying fixed monthly fees too.
TEN: You’ve been passed down the “food-chain”
People want to deal with a Partner, and when the Partner gets too busy to deal with the “smaller cases”, and passes these clients down the line to younger, more junior people within the firm, the relationship with the client is put at risk.
ELEVEN: They are providing poor value for money
Accounting firms are capable of offering so much more than tax and compliance.
TWELVE: They only contact you once a year
A great accounting practice will regularly check with you on your changing needs.
THIRTEEN: They perceive that you are more interested in last year’s accounts than planning for the future
You want someone to believe in your big-picture possibilities, to lead you through a business accounting path that makes the ups and downs more manageable and rewarding.
FOURTEEN: They rarely talk about ways to help you increase your profits
FIFTEEN: They have not discussed (in recent years) your exit plans – for selling the business or retirement
Some clients never get asked tough business questions, which is so important in
SIXTEEN: They don’t stay up to date with the latest technology
You are leveraging technology and you should expect your accountant to do the same, whether it’s working in the cloud or digitizing more of your environment.
How to leave your accountant
If you are not entirely satisfied with your accountant and wish to move your account, here are the steps you should take to switch:
- First, you should appoint a new accountant, especially if you are in the middle of a tax or financial issue. Your new accountant will prepare a letter for you, which you sign and send to your current accountant. They will quickly pass over all your information and files.
- Look in your business records to see what kind of agreement you have with your accountant. Most accountants don’t work from a retainer, but if you do have a letter or contract, follow the agreement in timing and notifications.
- Send a registered letter (so you have a record of receipt) that states your intent to terminate the relationship effective immediately upon receipt of the letter and requesting your accountant to stop working on any matters in process. You don’t need to give a reason; it’s not necessary. In the letter, request a refund of fees paid for work not yet completed. Ask for a statement detailing fees for all imminent work and expenses.
Ending the business relationship with your accountant is never pleasant or easy, but sometimes it’s necessary. If you would like to speak to me about switching, or have any questions about moving your account, please request a call back, send me a direct email, or post your query in our contact form. We look forward to hearing from you!
* This independent survey commissioned by CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business, was issued to accounting firm clients including individuals and small, mid-size and large businesses.