Are you thinking about moving to an online accountant? What can you expect from working with a virtual accountant and how different is it to a bricks and mortar or local accountant?
In a post-Covid-19 world, many accountants are moving online and catching up on trends that this industry had been traditionally very reluctant to embrace. As a result, the lines are blurring between online accountants and traditional accountants – and as you’ll learn, that is a good thing for you as a client.
As a small business owner, one of the main reasons you outsource to an accountant is to give you peace of mind that your deadlines are met and your business is compliant with Irish Revenue and CRO regulations, so this peace of mind shouldn’t be compromised at any cost.
An online accountant should give you the same support, and indeed, even more support, than a local accounting firm. By their nature and culture, online accountants are usually technology-focused and therefore, more accessible online and equipped to help your business adopt online technology like online accounting software.
If you’re not ready to switch to an online accountant completely, you should, at least, challenge your accountant if they have traditional paper-based methods of taking care of you.
This guide shows you how working with an online accountant may be different and how they may help your business become more online-focused, so you can make better business decisions, have more control over your business’ accounts, and become more efficient with bookkeeping.
How is an online accountant different to a bricks-and-mortar accountant?
Having an online accountant is no different from having a high street or local accountant so your expectations of professionalism and quality of work should be just the same.
If anything, an online accountant can offer an improved service in many ways:
You should expect a greater response rate from our accountancy and compliance teams – they are available online through email, phone, and video chat and some even have a live online chat.
If a firm has made the commitment to go digital, they should also have an awareness of response times and meet the accessibility expectations of the modern consumer.
2. Transparency on fees
You wouldn’t buy anything online with an ambiguous price, so why should online accountancy services be any different?
Some business owners may not think to challenge an accountant on the fees they are charging, but it’s important to do so. Any firm that’s dedicated to being digital should also be up-front and clear on what they are charging, and the work being carried out.
Most should have their fees, terms of engagement and fair usage policy displayed clearly on their website. Check out our post on accountant fees for more details.
3. Proactive value–add services online
If you’re paying for a service, you’ll want to see the value in it from the outset and throughout the subscription period. When working with an online accountant, you should expect the same.
Many digital-first firms use online tools, such as online webinars and workshops, to proactively help businesses succeed and grow. Some may have podcasts, training videos, or online messaging tools to ensure your business has access to important information and resources.
4) More efficient processes
As well as being proactive, your life should be easier with an online accountant, not harder. One of the advantages of engaging with a technology-driven firm is that they use systems that make it easier to do business online.
- For example; Accountant Online conducts Know-Your-Customer procedures online using our online profile area and ID software, ID-Pal. This means you don’t need to come to our office or get your identification certified by Gardaí or a public notary.
- Digital signing software, like Dropbox Sign, is used to make signing important documents easier and quicker.
- Meetings via video chat are also part of a digital culture rather than the exception so you don’t have to worry about commuting to our offices.
In a post-Covid-19, digital world, these practices are becoming much more common, so often even your high street accountant should be up to speed on these technologies.
5) Expertise in online software
Working with an online accountant isn’t only for tech-savvy business owners – your online accountant should be there to support you in the transition from paper to digital.
If you’re already using software to manage your cash flow online, your accountants should be happy to work with whatever you’re currently using. If you’d like to change software, they should help with that too.
Most online accountancy firms know the good and bad points of most software and generally have preferences. For example, our firms’ clients use a range of different software, but our accountants use Xero. We also have a team of Xero Accountants and users to help you get your accounts online.
So, the expectation here is that you can trust your online accountant to support your business no matter what stage it is at and to select the supports relevant to you.
How to choose the right online accountant?
Look for professional accountancy membership
Not all accountants are part of a professional body. “Accountant” is not a protected term so anyone can use it. Look for an online accountancy firm that has a membership with a professional body, such as Chartered Accountants Ireland. At least, this way you know you are dealing with qualified professionals.
Interview the firm first
Are you concerned about how the relationship will work with an online accountant? Before you commit, interview the firm and get to know their communication style. They may have online events or free introductory calls where you can determine if they are a suitable fit for your business.
Check out their special offers
Online accountants are in a better position to offer special prices to clients compared to traditional accountants. They are usually fast reacting to the market and trends. Some may offer free access to online software or coupon codes for company formation.
Use online accounting software
Have you considered how you will manage your cash flow from home or on-the-go? Using online accounting software gives you real-time information on your bank accounts, cash flow, and invoices so you can make better decisions for next week and next month.
As part of our Startup Offer for Limited Companies, we offer a free premium subscription to Xero accounting software. This is the first step to taking your business online and we want to make sure your company is set up correctly from the beginning.
Check out our guide on how to move your accounts online and if you need support, our certified Xero users are here to help by hosting a live online bookkeeping workshop each month.
If you’re already using online accounting software, that’s great. We’ll help you make sure you’re getting the most out of it!
If you’d like to get started and outsource to an online accountant, get started by talking to our Client Services team. We’re here to help you choose the right services for your business.
Manage your payroll online
If you are an employer, you can take your payroll process online by moving to online payroll software that allows you to manage your staff from your phone.
This is a great step for businesses that want to move their in-house payroll onto an online platform.
However, you could outsource the task of payroll processing, so we can take care of calculating tax and reporting to Revenue. We will also ensure staff are paid properly and any changes are implemented.
The great thing about outsourcing your payroll to an online firm is that you get access to online payroll software. Employers get access to a great mobile and desktop dashboard that allows you to manage employee holiday requests, upload HR documents and view your Revenue payments online.
Talk to us
Let us know if you’re nervous about working with an online accountant. We’re happy to talk you through the process and how it will work for your business.
We still look after your accounting and compliance like any bricks-and-mortar accountant, so you don’t need to worry about that.
Our difference is that we’re a digital-first firm and here to help strengthen your overall business operation by going online.
Kelly is the Marketing Manager at Accountant Online. Kelly is passionate about making the complexities around running a business simple to understand and accessible to the every-day person. Kelly holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Marketing from Dublin Institute of Technology.