Upon giving someone a quote, I received the following response:
"Isn't that expensive? Don't you just have to stick in a few numbers?"
It was a relatively simple job, but I couldn't see how it could be offered at a lower rate. In fact it turns out I was in line with what others were/are quoting. It's true, if the task was a simple as sticking in a few numbers, a quote of more than a few quid would seem excessive.
This makes it an interesting question. Let's explore why even a simple job does come at a price:
What Numbers and Where?
Much of accountancy could be perceived to be "sticking in a few numbers". The key is knowing what the numbers should be, where to put them and what they mean.
It's not just the numbers - in some cases just knowing to put a tick in the right box can save a company thousands. Bringing this expertise to the party is where true value can be added rather than mindlessly typing in numbers.
Setting Things Up
If an accountant agrees to act for you, there are various steps they need to take to get everything set up. Apart from their own internal systems and processes they have to comply with various legislation, such as running anti-money laundering checks, and getting authorised as your agent with HMRC.
This all takes time and effort.
When Problems Arise
Unfortunately problems can arise that are out of our control. Sometimes sins of the past, perhaps ones you didn't know about, can pop out of the woodwork.
Rather than shrugging their shoulders, many accountants take responsibility for these issues. They will help to resolve them and check that there is nothing else that could present an issue in the future.
While this gives you peace of mind, it passes on the risk to your accountant. Your accountant's grey hairs come at a price.
Keeping up the Standard
When running a business we all have standards and should stick to them.
Sometimes this is to comply with regulating bodies, sometimes it's just because we want to offer a quality service. This makes it impossible to do a "five minute job" in five minutes.
If you have a simple job that needs doing and are confident taking care of things yourself, this might be a good option. After all, you will not have to go through all the steps an accountant would have to deal with. However, if you are unsure or don't think you'll get round to it in time - perhaps consider getting some help.