How much should a sole-trader pay an accountant?

The real answer is, whatever you pay, you should get value for money from your accountant. If you don't, change your accountant asap.

Below, I have listed what you will typically get based on fees for sole-trader accounts. This information of course is a generalisation but it is based on our real world experience from clients who provide feedback of their previous accountants

Annual fee £200 or under

Who typically offers this price?

  • Part timer with another day job, doing accounts on the side to earn extra cash, or

  • Someone starting out afresh and building a client list purely on price / race to the bottom

  • Working from home, with no support staff or systems in place.

What service are you likely to get?

  • Without support staff and systems, it is almost impossible to keep track of clients requirements and their deadlines.

  • You pay a low amount for the service, but in reality you don't get much of value.

  • At best, the accountant will file something basic without any checks; at worst, they will make mistakes and miss deadlines potentially costing you thousands.

What service should you expect?

  • The reality is, at such a low price, you shouldn't expect to get much beyond just a filing service without any checks, and for that, even £100 would be too much

  • If you have no self-employed income and need to file a personal tax because HMRC has asked for one, it is possible that a filing only service with some minimal check is sufficient for you at this price.

Annual fee between £300 to £600 (excl VAT)

Who typically offers this price?

  • Small practices, typically in offices or on high street. Most practices fall in this group

  • Usually have at least one or two admin/book-keepers and the principle accountant

  • They will have between 100 and 500 clients and will be VAT registered (which is why they have to charge VAT)

What service are you likely to get?

  • You get a wide range in the quality of service unfortunately

  • Some are efficient, organised and responsive to their clients' needs

  • Others will be not quite so good - they will reply late, miss deadlines etc but rely on clients being sticky (ie most clients don't change their accountants easily)

What service should you expect?

  • For this price range, a modern and efficient practice will make sure no deadlines are missed

  • Clients should get a responsive service, with replies within the week for non-urgent queries. Ideally you will have a relationship with a top-notch team that you feel comfortable asking any questions and who will not ignore you.

  • Clients should receive advice on how to save tax or how to make the best decision based on all the options provided by their accountants

We can't emphasise this point enough: If your accountant isn't able to provide the expected service, you should move asap - You will immediately realise how much value a good accountant will add to your business. And yes, this of course also goes for our own team at Tax121, so if you're not happy, you should definitely consider moving your business elsewhere.

Annual fee over £600 (excl VAT)

Who typically offers this price?

  • Large multi-office practices - run like a large national corporation

  • Usually cater to larger businesses with turnover over above £5m

  • They will have over 500 clients in each office

What service are you likely to get?

  • You get a very wide range in the quality of service unfortunately, even with the high fees

  • Will be overkill for most sole-trader businesses.

  • As a sole-trader, you will likely be a 'small' client so likely to not receive adequate treatment

What service should you expect?

  • For this price range, you should get amazing service and excellent tax advice, but in reality, the price will be just too high to get good value.

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