IRIS Elements: How accountants feel about their strategy, security and growth aspirations in 2024  image

IRIS Elements: How accountants feel about their strategy, security and growth aspirations in 2024

So far, this year’s been something of a whirlwind. The team have already travelled from one end of the UK to the other, meeting clients face to face in our ever-popular roadshows.

onTuesday, 14 May 2024

With 2024 well underway, we’ve had some time on the road speaking to you: the accountants and bookkeepers that help keep our economy running. 

So far, this year’s been something of a whirlwind. The team and I have already travelled from one end of the UK to the other, meeting clients face to face in our ever-popular roadshows. 

The result has been many brilliant, engaging conversations with professionals, who’ve provided some very valuable insights. 

An up-to-date picture of the industry  

Roadshow participants were also able to take part in our survey of the industry, which saw a total of 139 UK-based accountants agree to give us their anonymous feedback. 

This helped us answer some burning questions, like: 

What are accountants charging their clients? 

How do they handle money laundering? 

Are they confident in being protected against cyber attacks? 

And now, combined with the in-person discussions we’ve had, we're able to paint a picture about the current state of the industry.  

The survey 

In all, accountants responded to 13 multiple-choice questions. Among the answers, we heard that: 

  • 90% of accountants charge between £126 and £400 for a tax return. Most of the remainder charge between £400 and £600, although 1% charge more – with these latter respondents being based in London and Scotland. 

  • Regarding bookkeeping, 84% charge between £25 and £40 an hour; the rest ask for more than £40 per hour.  

  • 78% of accountants charge between £500 and £1,000 for a set of accounts; 22% charge over £1,000.  

  • As part of compliance work, 38% of accountants offer advisory services. On average, 60% charge separately for this valuable service; only 2% do not provide advisory at all.   

The results in detail 

The above is just a small snapshot of the insight IRIS gathered. Below, we go into more depth about what accountants revealed.  

What do accountants need to strengthen their firm? 

Respondents were given four options for this question: compliance, efficiency/productivity, hybrid/remote working and resources. 

In the five regions where we reached out to accountants – Scotland, Northern Ireland, The North, The Midlands and London – we found that efficiency and productivity were the order of the day. In London, the desire to streamline processes was highest, with 80% saying this made a difference. Only in The North did accountants disagree and say that resources were what made their firms stronger: 

Scotland – Efficiencies (63%) 

Northern Ireland – Efficiencies (59%) 

The North – Resources (57%) 

The Midlands – Efficiencies (58%) 

London – Efficiencies (80%) 

How do accountants deal with AML?  

Only in London and The North did most respondents say they used third-party software to help them run ID checks. 

In all, many accountants rely on old-fashioned pen-and-paper as part of their AML processes:  

In Scotland, 73% of accountants use paper-based checks as part of their AML processes. 

In Northern Ireland it was 59%. 

In The North, 61%.  

In The Midlands, 48%.  

In London it was 40% that used paper-based checks for AML. 

How much do accountants charge on average for a tax return? 

Although we have discussed this earlier, here is a regional breakdown of the most popular responses regarding how much accountants charge for this service.  

In Scotland, 67% charge £126-£250; 24% charge £251-£400. 

In Northern Ireland, 47% charge £126-£250; 41% charge £251-£400. 

In The North, 54% charge £126-£250; 29% charge £251-£400. 

In The Midlands, 71% charge £126-£250; 29% charge £251-£400. 

In London, 49% charge £126-£250, 35% charge £251-400 and 14% charge £401-£600. 

How much do you charge for bookkeeping per hour on average? 

Here, it seems Scotland and London felt more comfortable charging clients a higher rate than colleagues in Northern Ireland and The Midlands: 

In Scotland, 43% charge £25-£40; 43% charge £41-£60. 

In Northern Ireland, 47% charge £25-£40; 29% charge £41-£60. 

In The North, 58% charge £25-£40; 35% charge £41-£60. 

In The Midlands, 48% charge £25-£40; 24% charge £41-£60. 

In London, 40% charge £25-£40; 40% charge £41-£60. 

What is your minimum charge for a set of accounts? 

Here’s the regional breakdown, but note an important detail we’ve added at the end: 

Scotland – 43% charge £500-£750; 43% charge £751-£1,000 

Northern Ireland – 65% charge £500-£750; 22% charge £751-£1,000 

The North – 36% charge £500-£750; 36% charge £751-£1,000 

The Midlands – 60% charge £500-£750; 32% charge £751-£1,000 

London – 30% charge £500-£750; 34% charge £751-£1,000.  

It’s worth noting that the remainder in London charged more, and that, of these, 14% of respondents said they charged a fee greater than £2,000. 

Advisory – do accountants charge more for it? 

Accountants have been providing advisory services since the profession began, and often without realising it.  

The reason is simple enough: good advice is hard to separate from compliance work and trying to help your client.  

The problem is many accountants provide this insight without adding another line to their invoice. 

Our thoughts on the matter? Accountants need to make a conscious effort to point out where they provide this service; it saves people money and is well worth charging for. 

Proportionately, Northern Ireland saw the most accountants itemise advisory separately, at 88%. 

Next was The North, at 68%. 

Then London at 65%. 

Scotland was notably lower at 52%. 

That’s before we finally look at The Midlands, where 46% of accountants charged separately for advisory. 

When was the last time you mapped out and documented all your processes? 

Increasingly obscure and complex processes can crush efficiencies in your firm. They make workflows difficult to track, creating a headache for new and established staff alike. 

Even a process you set out a year ago might be out of date if you have added additional apps or solutions.  

So, if you’re an accountant, when was the last time you mapped out and documented your processes? 

On average, 74% of accountants say they carried out such an exercise more than 18 months ago. 

Here’s what the responses looked like, region by region: 

59% of accountants in Northern Ireland mapped and documented their processes more than18 months ago. 

75% of accountants in Scotland said it had been at least this long since their last review.  

81% of accountants said likewise in The North. 

67% of accountants said the same in The Midlands. 

76% of accountants said this was the case in London. 

How do you monitor and manage your workflows and tasks? 

Spreadsheets have their purposes, but organising an accountancy firm is not one of them. 

It only takes one person not to update a spreadsheet for processes to become undone, and having to reassign work can be a nightmare when it’s unclear what stage a job has reached. 

But, on average, just above half of accountants say they try and make do with this painful system. This is in contrast with their desire to be more efficient and productive. 

Region by region, it doesn’t deviate from this by much. Northern Ireland saw the lowest number of accountants (41%) using spreadsheets to organise their business. The highest proportion of people using spreadsheets were in both London and The Midlands (58% for both). 

How confident are accountants that their firm is protected against potential cybersecurity attacks? 

It’s never been trickier to keep track of cybersecurity. 

Part of attracting and retaining staff is the ability to offer remote or hybrid working. But how secure is yours and your clients’ data if your employee doesn’t have the right hardware, fails to update their software or logs in from a cafe? 

On average, one in four accountants are not confident about their cybersecurity; about 60% of accountants say they had some confidence in their protection. 

Are you using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to access your firm's data? 

Multi-factor authentication is a powerful weapon when it comes to protecting data. 

Half of accountants we spoke to said their businesses uses it. 

But there two notable deviations from this average: in Scotland 62% implement MFA, but in Northern Ireland just 35% took this precaution. 

Connectivity issues 

We asked accountants about the speed of their server connection during peak times, like Busy Season. 

Almost a third (28%) on average said they find it slows down significantly. 

It was felt worst in Scotland, where 36% had this issue. 

The challenge of finding the right staff 

The old saying “you just can’t get the staff” is no longer a joke. It's an especially painful issue for accountancy and bookkeeping firms.  

Up to 96% of accountants in some areas said they found it very challenging to attract great new people to their business. 

Region by region, here’s how many accountants are struggling to recruit: 

76% in Northern Ireland say they are struggling 

96% in Scotland 

96% in The North 

92% in The Midlands 

66% in London 

...and how easy is it to get auditing staff? 

Generally, accountants are finding it tough to get the talent to help deliver this often-profitable service. 

90% of accountants said they were struggling to get this expertise in Northern Ireland. But what about the other regions? 

Although lower, in all regions most say they are finding it difficult to get staff to deliver an audit.  

The numbers were: 

73% in Scotland 

72% in The North 

60% in The Midlands and 

72% in London. 

How IRIS helps 

If you only do what you’ve always done, you can't expect better results. You have to change some things in order to progress and grow. 

IRIS provides the tools and the expertise to help accountancy firms grow, streamline processes and provide sophisticated, next-level services for clients. 

Learn how you can improve your software infrastructure here. 

What about putting your business in the cloud? Click here for more. 

And how about finding great people? Here’s one way we can help. 

Or what about outsourcing? Click here for more. 

Sign up to our newsletter - don't miss out on all the good stuff.

Latest news, events, and updates on all things app related, plus useful advice on app advisory - so you know you are ahead of the game.

Connect with us

  • Facebook logo
  • Twitter logo
  • LinkedIn logo
  • YouTube logo