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6 signs to spot a dodgy accountant

10th June 2020

6 signs to spot a dodgy accountant

Finding the right accountant can be tricky, especially if you’re new to the world of self-employment or tax returns. How much is too much? What does it mean to be qualified? How long should everything take? It’s a jungle out there!

To help you out, we’ve put together a quick rundown of six signs that spell bad news when it comes the hunt for the right accountant.

1. Not qualified

In the UK, you don’t have to have passed accounting exams to describe yourself as an accountant. Although a non-qualified accountant isn’t necessarily a red flag, it’s something to be mindful of when you choose someone to do your accounting. Qualified accountants in the UK are part of professional institutes by which they are governed. They are also covered by indemnity insurance covering both you and them if anything goes wrong. 

Watch out for an ‘accountant’ asking you for your HMRC login. This is a telltale sign that they are not qualified. Agents registered with HMRC shouldn’t need it. 

2. Up-front money promises

If your accountant has lured you in by telling you how much money they can save you with their services before they’ve even seen your accounts, this is a big warning sign. Data on how much they’ve saved their other clients is fine, but as your accounts are unique, it would be impossible to forecast your savings by switching ahead of time. 

3. Unprofessionalism

Irrespective of the state of your accounts, it’s very unprofessional for a new accountant to slate the work of your previous accountant. Often, they’ll have to clear up some of the previous work to get themselves up to speed, but generally they’ll do this free of charge. If your new accountant bad-mouths your previous accountant and then charges you extra to re-do their work, consider this a big red flag.

4. Bad communication

There’s nothing worse than signing up for an accounting service and then not being able to get in contact with them. A good accountant should be proactively trying to help you, as opposed to responding only when prompted.

5. High fees and nothing to show for it

If you’re being charged sky-high fees by your accountant, you need to make sure that the costs are justified. Also be wary of an accountant asking you to give them money to pay your tax bill (e.g. “Your tax bill is £2000, give me that and I’ll pay it for you.”). This is a reported scam that has resulted for some in the ‘accountant’ running off with the cash.

Shop around before settling on an accountant. We’d recommend checking out your online options as well…

(*cough* TaxScouts)

6. Jargon-friendly

A good accountant will not explain things to you with jargon. They should be available to talk you through anything that isn’t clear and help you understand what you pay for and what expenses can be claimed. If you come away from speaking to your accountant more confused than you were before or if you’re able to get better insights from someone who isn’t your accountant, there is a problem!

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