Although there are probably lots of accountants in the UAE, when you whittle the list down to those with the right qualifications and experience, you will probably only have two or three to choose from.
Some accountants have broad expertise, but many like to specialise on specific businesses or tax topics.
To help you find the right accountant, here are some simple steps to follow:
Why do you need an accountant?
If you are in business, you probably need help with back-office activities, like book-keeping, VAT, payroll and annual accounts.
As an individual you might want help with your self-assessment return.
For simple questions, try looking up the advice for free or downloading forms from the HM Revenue & Customs web site
Bigger businesses may want internal documents drafted, like management accounts or cash flow forecasts.
What type of accountant?
For day-to-day business administration and help with tax returns, you need a financial accountant or tax consultant for more complicated cases.
The services these accountants offer include preparing accounts, VAT, payroll, and drafting self-assessment and corporate tax returns.
Financial accountants come with the qualification ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant) or ACCA (Associate Chartered Certified Accountant), while accounting technicians belong to the Association of Accounting Technicians.
Accounting technicians are qualified accounting professionals but cannot call themselves ‘chartered’.
Businesses looking for help with costing the goods they make; cash flows and budgets should look for a management accountant who belongs to CIMA - the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.
Always check out an accountant’s qualifications as the name is not protected. That means anyone can set up in business as an accountant regardless of their qualifications.
Find out how much accountancy advice costs
The price you pay will vary according to the work you want the accountant to do and if the work is of a specialist nature.
Most UAE accountants will be in general practise and can help with most day-to-day activities.
They will charge a fixed fee for the work and take on rolling contracts as clients will work completed every year.
Expect to pay between £100 and £300 for a tax return.
Company accounts will start from £1,200 a year.
An hourly rate could fall anywhere between 200 and 1,000 dirhams an hour.
Specialists dealing with trading businesses, property and corporate affairs will charge a fixed fee or hourly rate and are more likely to provide a one-off service.
Fees will depend on the experience and qualification of the accounting professional.
Hourly rates could be anything up to 2,000 dirhams.
Check out reliability
Most accountants are reliable professionals with an in-depth knowledge of their fields, but sometimes niggling things can strain a business relationship.
Little things can build into bigger problems over years or months.
Time-keeping is important for accountants. In the UK, HMRC and Companies House work to strict deadlines and so should your accountant. That also means being on time for appointments.
Timely replies to emails and phone calls are also important. You need to know any queries are seen and dealt with in a reasonable fashion.
Don’t be afraid of asking questions - and expect a clear response. Tax and accountancy are technical topics that can be difficult for lay people to fully understand and you need to know how some issues will affect you and your business.
Choosing the best accountants in UAE
If you have a short list of accountants in Dubai, for instance, then benchmark them by going through the steps listed above.
The best accountant for you is the one that has the qualification and experience to handle your case, and that is not necessarily the cheapest.
The acid test is a good accountant should save you at least the same amount each year as they charge you in fees.
This saving could be downtime book-keeping when you could be making sales or reducing the tax you pay by offsetting business expenses against income.