Do I need an accountant?
As you get older, managing your money becomes more important than ever. That’s because, as your working years go by, you have less time to earn money and save for your retirement. Making an offhand purchase is easy in your 20s; in your 50s, you need to consider the relative benefits of saving that money or putting it into your pension pot instead of spending it on something you want but perhaps don’t need.
It’s at this stage in life that consulting an accountant begins to seem like a necessity for the ordinary man and woman, rather than a luxury enjoyed by the wealthy. Accountants can help you put your finances in order, to reassure you that you and your family will be well provided for after retirement or if you pass away. And although they can be expensive, the knowledge they bring with them could save you time and money in the long-run.
The benefits of having an accountant
The biggest way that accountants can help you is in tax matters. This is particularly important for people who are self-employed, but can also be useful for full-time company employees. This doesn’t mean that accountants will facilitate tax avoidance; instead, they can help you understand and prepare for things like inheritance tax, property tax, capital gains tax, VAT reclaims and more. Essentially, accountants can help ensure that you pay the right amount of tax: not too much, so your income isn’t unnecessarily depleted, and not too little, so the tax office won’t contact you for underpayments in the future.
By getting your tax affairs in order, you can approach retirement safe in the knowledge that you’re on a sound financial footing. If you work in the financial sector, or you have extensive knowledge of tax laws, you may be able to do the same job as an accountant yourself. However, for the vast majority of people, consulting an accountant – even if only once – can save a significant amount of time and, potentially, money in future years.
In some cases, you may have to authorise your accountant to handle your affairs with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – the HMRC website has more information on how to do this.
How to find the right accountant for you
Once you’ve decided that you could benefit from an accountant, finding one can be tricky. That’s because, technically, anyone can call themselves an accountant – even when they’re not qualified. So it’s essential that you don’t simply choose the first accountant you find on Google. Take time to check the credentials of anyone posing as an accountant, with professional bodies like the ICAEW or ACCA. It does mean that it’ll take you longer to find an accountant – but it’s much better to be sure you’re paying for a good service than to have to repair the damage of a bad tax return later on.
You can find further tips on how to find an accountant on money advice sites and blogs. This post from Guardian Money is aimed at people filing self-assessment tax returns, but its advice is useful for anyone looking for a professional accountant.
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