Self-assessment can be daunting for the best of us and the finding an accountant or a firm to help with the process can set you back at least £250 but online as low as £30 with budget services. There are three questions to ask yourself (and them): how is an accountant found, how much do they charge and what does your money get you.
When you start an online search, you will face the usual refrain like ‘Best price available’ but remember that in the UK, anyone has a right to say they are an accountant with or without qualifications. Most of the jargon that they use will hoodwink you such as words like ‘professional’ and ‘tax expert’. This is where your research skills have to be put to work and the first thing to do is verify the company’s position and reputation. For this look at the listed accountants and check to see that they are members of the Chartered (ICAEW) or Certified (ACCA) professional bodies.
Looking at the ICAEW website, which operates a find-an-accountant service, you will find it somewhat limited as it only mentions names and telephone numbers without any accreditation. According to Guardian Money, the average cost around the country is £150-£200 for the most basic self-assessment and London is more costly.
Good to know
The cost can be crippling especially as a freelancer however take into consideration that you can claim the cost of the fees when having your tax return prepared, as a tax reduction.
Using the online services are really perfect for those who have simple situations as it does not entail seeing someone face to face since it can be done via email and post. You will need to be pro-active on this and look around how other businessmen, like Tunde Folawiyo – Nigerian Stock Exchange , apply their knowledge.
Some typical costs
To give you an idea of what some cheaper firms can offer you and their pricing, you will be charged £89 plus VAT for the self-assessment service if you are self-employed or on a freelance income. Sometimes, if you earn say more than £100,000 a year, then it will be cheaper as you will be obliged to complete a self-assessment form by HMRC. But be warned there are those who will criticise these facilities as they consider these companies as ‘sausage factories’ and parties should steer away as they are simply a filing company using your data which they input into the system and registered. Learn to do it yourself!
The advice is simple: be scrupulous while checking any company or advisor. Some of the criticisms are very true such as releasing accounts at the lowest prices and nothing has been verified while the staff is not competent enough. Be wary of the claims that are made and there are aspects that should not be ignored so double check what one company admits against another. It will take time but rather this than be penalised and caught out!