It has been said that a good accountant will ask, how much profit do you want to make? 'Cooking the books' tax-dodge jokes aside, an accountant can be an invaluable business tool. In theory, what he charges will be covered by what he saves you in terms of tax and time.
Paul Singh, who trades in Telford, Shropshire, currently has an accountant - but the bloke is about to retire.
"We want someone who will help our business save money," says Paul, "who can justify the change in margins, the wastage and the promotional activities that Inland Revenue doesn't understand."
The answer is rather old fashioned. Word of mouth is best. You need somebody readily accessible who understands the business.
If your business is uncomplicated and you are a sole trader, there's always the DIY approach (not advisable for limited companies).
A couple of years ago I ran a series of recommendations from retailers on DIY accountancy packages. Simplex, Sage and JQL Software got testimonials. And two guys with retailing experience who had developed their own systems offered free downloadable or cheap, tailored solutions. They are Gerry Davie at GMC News (07900 681 840) and Peter Levene's Clear 'n' easy accounts books (01273 605696). It's good stuff and still available.
I should give the last word to Satish Thakrar who runs Maypole Estate Post Office in Bexley, Kent. He says Money Manager for him is spot on the money. It is cheap and Satish says he can do his year's accounts in 10 hours with his wife's help and another five on his own for IR's self-assessment. He reckons he saves £750 + VAT every year.
New recommendations of DIY packages, or real live accountants, will be warmly received.