Today’s accountants do more than tax returns

Baker Tilly, a leading national provider of accounting and business services, looks at what today’s accountants offer, and how businesses can benefit from seeing them as financial doctors who oversee the general welfare of businesses from birth through to maturity.

We always used to think that accountants provided a very narrow service to businesses of varying shapes and sizes. They tended to prepare annual accounts and calculate income and corporate taxes. A good accountant was seen as someone who could keep the taxman at bay and the bank manager onside.

However, in today’s more complex and competitive business world, accountants are expected to act like financial doctors overseeing the general welfare of businesses from birth right through to maturity. It stands to reason, of course, that small one or two man bands are at an immediate disadvantage in this environment because they are instantly identified as being jacks of all trades and master of none. In order to get the full benefit of all the various business services that today’s modern accountancy firms provide, you have to find one that is big enough to have teams of specialists in every department. Another benefit of hiring a big firm, is that thy will also offer statement printing services to help you accelerate revenue collection and cut billing costs.

You might very well question whether accountancy practices that are large enough to have all the specialists you are likely to need during the life of your business are automatically going to be impersonal and expensive. Well, the good news is that there are a number of firms who have their main office in London with all the top flight expertise you would expect there together with a network of regional offices that are local to most areas in the UK.

This really gives you the best of both worlds because you can still have a personal and convenient relationship with a firm on your doorstep while, at the same time, being able to plug into the very best sources of specialist advice as and when you need it.

So what specialist expertise might you want to access over and above the basic tax and accounts package that you would normally expect from your accountant?

Well, at some stage you are almost certain to require finance for expansion and you will probably want someone who can put together a sound proposal and business plan as well as introducing you to different sources of loans, grants and investment. Then, there may come a time when you want to consider buying another business and you require thorough due diligence to ensure that you know about any skeletons hiding in the cupboard.

A good modern accountancy firm will also expect to assist, where necessary, in preparing growth strategies and in improving profitability. It will also have specialist expertise in risk management, pinpointing areas of vulnerability when it comes to areas like fraud and business disruption and coming up with solutions. There will also come a time, hopefully, when you will need to access expertise in things like pension schemes and wealth management.

Finally, of course, there are things that you will need help with that aren’t even on your radar yet. Suppose the business climate in your sector takes an unexpected nosedive and you suddenly find yourself struggling to survive. Wouldn’t it make life a lot easier if you knew you could just pick up the phone and speak to experienced business turnaround experts who had already saved umpteen firms from extinction? Then, in more prosperous times when you might consider selling out or floating on the AIM market for example, your accountants would have their own in-house specialists who could ensure that you obtained the best possible value for your lifetime’s work.

Tax is seldom black and white and there will frequently be a range of options for every decision.  To find out more visit