What does an accountant do?

In a nutshell, an accountant’s primary responsibility is to record and manage the financial information of an active business, typically providing strategic advice and suggestions on improvements that can be made. There are different types of accountants, with some requiring a specific licence to carry out their work.

At Sherlock & Co, our professional and experienced accountants can offer advice to businesses and individuals looking to hire an accountant or learn more about how they can help their business. In this guide, we will outline the different types of accountants, what their responsibilities are, and how hiring an accountant could benefit your business. 

Before an accountant can start work

While basic accounting services such as bookkeeping do not require licensing or qualifications, accountants with a degree in accounting or additional licences and certifications will be able to offer a wider range of support.

Even with qualifications, before an accountant can begin work, they must first register with HMRC and have authorisation from a professional body, such as the Financial Reporting Council (FRC). Following this, an accountant must acquire the appropriate licences or certificates to:

  • Act as an insolvency practitioner;
  • Undertake public practice;
  • Audit or probate work;
  • Undertake mainstream investment business;
  • Broker credit, or adjust or counsel debt; and
  • Keep records of personal records.

For more detailed information on each of these, call Sherlock & Co on 0161 330 3067 or fill in our contact form, and we will help you to assess exactly what to look for when considering an accountant. 

The different types of accountants and their responsibilities

There are several types of accountants, many of which relate to different industries and professions. Each will require different licences and qualifications and will have different limitations for this reason.

The following list details the official types of accountants that can undertake work in the UK:

  • ​​Bookkeeper - Bookkeepers are the most basic type of business accountant, but are essential to companies that are trading and thus requiring financial record keeping. Bookkeepers will ensure that all incomings and outgoings are properly recorded and managed; they can also complete tax returns.
  • ​​​​​​Tax Accountant - Tax accountants ensure that businesses are compliant with HMRC and any relevant tax laws.They are also responsible for completing and submitting tax returns. With a thorough understanding of financial law, tax accountants are also well-positioned to advise businesses on ways to save on tax.
  • ​​​​​Financial Accountant - Financial accountants analyse the finances of a business to produce reports for HMRC and provide recommendations to the business on how to improve profits by reducing outgoings. Financial accountants are also responsible for making sure the business follows HMRC regulations.
  • Public Financial Accountant - Public financial accountants are similar to financial accountants with the exception of working in the public sector. This means they are responsible for ensuring public money is appropriately spent.
  • Chartered Accountant - Chartered accountants provide advice on various aspects of finance and business for both private and public companies. Chartered accountants have a ‘chartered status’ which indicates that they have passed specific exams and have a wealth of experience behind them to be considered chartered. 
  • Payroll Manager - Payroll managers are responsible for making sure employees of a given company are paid the right amount and on time. They can be in charge of accountancy teams, or solely responsible for managing the payroll. 
  • Management Accountant - Management accountants plan and implement financial strategies to improve a company’s finances and share value. They are also responsible for drawing up and presenting reports to the company directors.
  • Cost Accountant - Cost accountants are primarily for companies that have manufacturing or service costs. Cost accountants predict profits or losses based on costs to the business and try and optimise these for their clients.
  • Investment Fund Manager - Investment fund managers work with trustees and other financial advisers and accountants to manage assets belonging to a client. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to, trust funds, pensions and investments.
  • Forensic Accountant - Forensic accountants analyse the financial health of a company by analysing easy-to-miss errors and miscalculations with the goal of improving the company’s finances.

While these are individual roles in their own right, they are also similar in many areas, with several cross-over responsibilities. Different accountants can often pick up different roles by acquiring the necessary qualifications.

Which accountant should you hire?

Depending on the size of your business, the amount of employees, the specific industry, your predicted income and many other factors, you may want to consider hiring a professional accountant. If you run a smaller business looking to grow or are concerned that you will not be able to manage your finances well, a bookkeeper may be your best option. Alternatively, if you need someone to organise and advise on tax issues, a specialist tax accountant may be for you. 

To better analyse your business and finances, you should consider hiring a chartered accountant, such as those at Sherlock & Co. Our team will be able to assess your unique situation to provide you with accounting advice and services tailored to suit your needs.

Sherlock & Co can help

Understanding the day-to-day requirements of accounting along with HMRC requirements and financial law can be difficult. If you are in need of financial advice or accounting services for yourself or your business, call us on 0161 330 3067 or fill in our quick contact form and one of our experienced accountants will be able to assist you.

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