Every business goes through some tough patches, times when their business or their markets in general get affected adversely. In universal economic crisis like what we face today, it can be even more challenging. Typically, tough times demand tough decisions – cost cutting. Many companies would look at options where they can reduce their expenses to maintain the bottom-line. Given the limited knowledge that businessmen have about accounting and its relative importance, it could become a target of cost cutting. Some may choose to perform the accounting functions themselves or have it done in-house than give it to an accountancy firm. Others may not take such a drastic step but look at other firms offering the services at lower costs. Both make perfect sense at first, but they come with huge risks involved. Hence, one must consider all alternatives before making the decision to cut costs in accountancy aspects.
If one looks to maintain the accounts oneself, then they must be ready to dedicate time towards this activity on a regular basis. This would be a distraction from the core business functions. In the long term that can have devastating effects on the business. Besides given the inexperience, one cannot be as adept at solving accounting problems as a professional. Rectifying bad accounts could cost more than maintain them right from the beginning.
If one looks to change the accountant, there is a host of aspects one must consider before making this decision. The first one is the reason for the change. Is it solely because of cost pressures or does it also have to do with quality of service being offered? If it is the former, then one needs to be extra careful before making the switch. Accounting is an important part of any business, so don’t get narrow minded and substitute quality with cost. The decision could boomerang in the long term.
So what are the “quality” factors one needs to consider before switching accountants? For one look at all the services that your present accountant offers and compare them with what the other potential firm offers? Some aspects of the service could be very vital to you like 24 X 7 support, or regular meetings and feedback, etc. Ensure that the new firm also provides these services. If not avoid engaging with them.
Secondly, you must look at the credibility and reputation of the firm and its client base. During such tough economic times, there may be many low quality firms that would look to exploit the psyche of the businessmen. Avoid getting into any such traps. Moreover, look at their accountants and their experience. Many firms may employ under qualified and inexperienced personnel to maximize profits. Though you get services at lower rate, the accountants may not be able to solve the tougher accounting problems of your firm. This can be dangerous in the long run.
Lastly, look at the fine print and the hidden charges if any. Some firms may only advertise rates for preparing your returns and filing them. The price may not include any customer service or support, and they may charge you separately for that. In that case you may end up paying a higher price for the complete service that what you bargained for.
In conclusion, cutting costs during tough times is important and you may have to do that in business accounting. But if you decide to change your accountant, ensure that it is based on sound, rational thinking and not a narrow minded, near sighted one.