Types of accountant

  1. ‘Compliance officers’ who act largely as an an extension of the state. These people rely more on a good relationship with HMRC than with you. The may save you some late filing penalties but that is about all. These types are just an overhead. Can cover your business tax returns, personal tax returns, company secretarial stuff and are likely to get excited by your Data Protection registration
  2. Auditors – used to be required for every limited company, but happily no longer. Definition of an auditor: someone who comes along after the battle is over and kicks the wounded. But if something goes wrong, they will almost certainly avoid any blame even when they gave Robert Maxwell (and his ilk) their sign-off
  3. Score-keepers – they maintain your books of account (a Companies Act requirement by the way) but focus entirely on the past (sometimes distant past) and tend to think in terms of the reporting formats defined by the Companies Act, which have nothing to do with information that may provide insight into how you, management, should manage your business OR they prepare your weekly/monthly management accounts – more useful but again tend to focus on the past, but hopefully at least present the data in a way that might help you make sensible decisions
  4. Advisers on myriad other tax issues like VAT, Excise Duty, inheritance tax and many many more. Tax avoidance is a dirty word these days, although it is perfectly legal (as opposed to tax evasion, which is not) to arrange your affairs so as to pay the minimum legitimate amount of tax. Return on their fees can be  most attractive, but remember they are still only helping you manage one overhead
  5. “Corporate Finance’ types who perform due diligence in advance of an acquisition, so you don’t get sold a pup OR protect you when someone is doing due diligence on your business OR prepare cash-flow and profit forecasts and/or report on them on an IPO or for other fund raising efforts. At least they are looking forwards (mostly)
  6. Specialists in raising debt, equity or other funding, from micro businesses to multi-billion bond issues or a flotation. If they are not specialists, in this day and age, the odds are against their being ultimately successful
  7. Cost analysis types – it all gets very clever and technical. Note costs are far easier to grab a hold of that income – which is perhaps why you don’t see many Income Accountants. A shame as, hopefully, income is bigger than costs
  8. Insolvency practitioners who help when your business gets into difficulty or goes bust (heaven forfend).No one can say accountants do not provide a cradle to grave service
  9. Business advisors – hopefully they understand your business and so help you set-up systems, procedures and controls that enable your business to work effectively and without being ripped off, then as every business decision has a financial aspect, they will help you interpret the data from the scorekeepers and make wise decisions
  10. Finance directors. Of course, many are just score-keepers, but the good ones are part business adviser and part clairvoyant who can tell you what your accounts will look like in X months time. This forward-looking element is the rarest, most difficult to do, and so should be treasured

Bonus type

  1. Escapologists – the ones who gave up accountancy at the first opportunity. Often the most interesting as people

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