How to Find the Right Accounting Firm
By Nicholas Au, Last updated: 2021-11-10 (originally published on 2020-08-12)
Regardless of which industry a business operates in, the role of an accountant is always important. These professionals help ensure that your company remains compliant with local rules and regulations and they often possess practical knowledge to advise on various aspects of your company in Hong Kong. While social networks and friend referrals are useful as they can provide greater insight into an accounting firm, there are plenty or more things you should look at. In this article, we will provide tips on how one can find the right accounting firm for their business.
One Stop Solution with the Relevant Licenses and Service Offering
Many accounting firms can provide more than just accounting services. Look for a firm that can provide a one-stop solution to your accounting, audit / taxation, payroll, work visa and corporate service needs. However, some services can only provide these services if they possess the relevant licenses with the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (“HKICPA”) or possess a Trust or Company Service Provider License (“TCSP”).
If you require an accounting firm who can not only assist with your bookkeeping, but can also help you with your audit and tax needs, then look for a firm that is licensed with the HKICPA. Typical accounting firms who do not have a CPA license can only provide you with bookkeeping services and you will need to engage another firm to help you complete your audit.
Not All Accounting Firms are Equal
Oftentimes, certain industries will be subject to accounting standards or tax treatments that are unique to them. Engage an accounting firm that has the relevant experience / skills to help your company by checking out their industry focus and experiences.
To better understand an accounting firm’s capabilities, find an accounting firm that has experience serving clients of a similar size and in a similar industry. This increases the likelihood that they possess a unique understanding of the needs of your business and can provide you with a greater sense of security.
Find an Accounting Firm that Understands Technology
The best accounting firms understand the uses of cloud technology and can introduce the industry’s best practices to their clients. For example, cloud accounting tools like Xero are becoming increasingly popular among businesses which help businesses become more efficient. They can increase the level of transparency to facilitate collaboration between a client and its accounting firm.
Normally, traditional accounting firms are slow in their turnaround time. As the information they work with is not consolidated in a single digital platform, these firms must often complete their work manually. This results in low transparency, and inefficient communication. The platforms mentioned above all allow an accountant to be more productive. Platforms like Xero and Hubdoc act as a one-stop solution for accountants to complete their job responsibilities.
Reach Out to Government and Business Associations
Many governments have established various business associations and encourage them to provide support to SMEs. SMEs can utilise the networks developed by these associations to help find an appropriate accounting firm.
For instance, Xero maintains a directory of all businesses that utilise their platform. Companies can peruse this directory to identify accounting firms who meet certain criteria, such as those who have experience servicing similar size companies or those from similar industries.
It is important to understand your budget before you engage an accounting firm. Some accounting firms charge their clients with an hourly rate, whereas some will offer you fixed fees for their services.
Take time to find an accounting firm that offers a fixed fee so that you have better control of your budget. It will be difficult to project the costs of engaging an accounting firm if you have agreed to pay them on an hourly basis.
Flexibility and Responsibility
An accounting firm must be able to do more than provide you with your expected level of service quality – they must be pleasant to work with. The subject nature that accounting firms will assist with can result in possible fines and penalties in the event of non-compliance. So you need an accounting firm that can offer tailor-made, flexible solutions that can fit your business needs and budget. In addition, your accounting firm should have a quick turnaround time, and be prompt and responsible when handling your engagement.
You won’t be able to ascertain the quality of an accounting firm without talking to them. There is only so much information that a website can convey. It is often most effective to arrange a meeting where you can ask any specific questions you may have. This will be a good opportunity for you to understand how each accounting firm works, what you can expect when you engage them, and to even any questions you may have about accounting, audit or taxation in general.
Identify Your Business Needs and Leverage an Accounting Firm’s Network
Understand your business needs and what advice you’re looking for. Companies at different stages will have different needs. A good accounting firm should add value to a business by giving you good advice and can help open doors for you. For example, many accounting firms have their own professional networks, such as legal and IT consultants, and it is best to leverage their networks to obtain recommendations.
Also, the best firms are the ones that provide you with the opportunity to network. Look for accounting firms that are closely connected with the SME community through their organisation of seminars and networking events.
Call to Action
Finding the right accounting firm for your business can be challenging, especially when there’s such a variety to choose from. Take time to understand your business needs and learn about what each accounting firm has to offer. Going through this initial process of identifying the most appropriate firm will pay dividends down the road!
This article does not constitute legal advice.
The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.