When it comes to choosing the right bookkeeper for you and your business, there are a number of things you need to consider and some key questions you need to ask:
Are they a ‘real’ bookkeeper?
Anyone can call themselves a bookkeeper! Most people are shocked to hear that there’s no legal requirement to have any accounting qualifications or experience at all to run a bookkeeping business. The only legislative requirements are that you register with the Money Laundering Regulations with the Inland Revenue, they do NOT ask for qualification, experience or proof of insurance!
Are they qualified?
Can they prove it and are their qualifications up to date? Some of the more common qualifications/membership to professional bodies for bookkeepers include the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) the International Association of Bookkeepers (IAB) and the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB). All of these awarding bodies start with the basics and show you how to do the bookkeeping manually so that you understand how the whole process works. They usually have a ‘computerised’ module within them, most use SAGE as their software of choice (market leader). They also come in different levels; foundation, level 2, level 3, and level 4.
Ask to see their qualifications, so you know that they have them and also when they qualified. Ask them how they keep up to date, for example, tax rules change at least once a year (through the budget). Many of the professional bodies insist that members spend a certain amount of time (approx 32 hours) updating their skills and make compliance checks when they renew their membership.
Qualifications/membership to professional bodies commonly associated with accountants. Include the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) although there are many others.
Do they have bookkeeping experience in businesses similar to yours?
Relevant experience really does matter! Ask who their current clients are, you’re looking for matches in your industry, business size, and, or business type. How much work have they done? How long ago? Can they provide references?
Do you want them to work at your premises?
Most bookkeepers won’t come to your premises to process your books. Many won’t collect your paperwork and will expect you to take it to them. This may seem like a trivial matter, but think about who will ‘mind the shop’ if you’re at your bookkeeper’s offices when your business should be open, and what about confidentiality and safe storage of your paperwork whilst it’s on their premises? There are a few who will provide this service so don’t necessarily engage the first bookkeeper that you take to. Have a good look around and get the service that best fits your business, not the other way around.
Do they have Professional Indemnity insurance?
All businesses must have public liability insurance and bookkeepers should also have Professional Indemnity Insurance (PI). This is a requirement for a bookkeeper registered with their professional organisation and will offer you some protection. Most (bookkeeping) professional organisations will ask for your turnover, and a copy of your insurance to ensure that they match.
Are they registered as compliant with Anti-Money Laundering Regulations?
They should be, by law! Since December 2008, all ‘Accountancy Service Providers’ (including accountants, bookkeepers and payroll administrators) have been required to have systems in place to identify money laundering and to report suspicious activity (and will be fined if they don’t). A registered and compliant bookkeeper will ask you to produce your personal ID for their records.
A good bookkeeper will have all of the above as minimum working practices! They may have additional certifications for the software they use or membership to an organisation that underpins their professional knowledge or can be useful to clients. You may want to talk to business associates or your accountant who may be able to suggest bookkeepers.
Useful additional questions to ask:
- If they can use the same software as you use, or, can they advise you on suitable software for your business?
- Are they proactive? Can they support your business as and when you require it?
- Can you work with them? Do you know, like and trust them?
- Can you build up a good rapport with your bookkeeper and/or staff (not just the owner)?
- Can they work with your accountant (if you have one) or can they suggest one (or more) that may suit you and your business?
Not all bookkeepers are the same, so shop around for the best match for your business and remember, that may not necessarily mean the lowest cost service around, like with most professions, there’s a difference between ‘cost’ and ‘value’. If you ask the right questions, you’ll have a much better chance of finding the right bookkeeper at the right price for you.
And, just in case you’re wondering, Turpin Bookkeeping can put a big ‘tick’ against every one of the above questions.
If in doubt, Contact us!
Tel No: 01482 210876