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Client onboarding in an accounting firm: what to look out for if you want to start off on the right foot?

Anna KALISZ
Accountant at RSM Poland

When onboarding a new client to your accounting firm, a member of your staff dedicated to support this particular entrepreneur should focus on many things, starting from building a good relationship to implementing proper procedures that will help identify specific needs your client has. On the other hand, it is in the interests of the entrepreneur (who either decides to start working with your accounting firm or to change the outsourced accounting service provider) to be actively involved in the onboarding process: only successful client onboarding can guarantee that tasks will be completed efficiently and further cooperation will be fruitful.

Learning the details of the client’s business and a comprehensive analysis of expectations and preferences at the onboarding stage is going to help accountants collect all the information necessary for reliable bookkeeping and ensure correct tax settlements, whereas the client will feel that they are dealing with professionals. A good start is crucial if both parties are to be happy about working together later on, so it is a good idea to prepare for it well.

Client onboarding in an accounting firm guarantees that the common goal will be achieved

When you start providing outsourced accounting services to a new client, you should be aware of the fact that both your accountants and the client have the same goal, namely to reflect the actual state of the client’s business transactions accurately in the books and to submit correct tax returns on time. If you make a detailed analysis of the client’s business at the onset of your cooperation and ask many insightful questions during the pre-work, it means that your accountants are concerned about what is good for the client and want to find and come up with solutions that will, on the one hand, help meet their contractual obligations and prevent any disputes with the tax authorities, and on the other hand: ensure effective communication to reduce the need for the client’s involvement during later tasks. Owing to successful onboarding and active cooperation with the service provider during the implementation stage, a client of the accounting firm is going to have more time and energy for other activities and will be able to focus their resources on their core business in the years to come.

Different faces of onboarding: what should a client expect when starting to work with an outsourcing firm?

The analysis and client onboarding method will greatly depend on whether the client is just starting their business in Poland or whether they have been present on the Polish market for some time now and decided to change their accounting service provider. Clients who are just starting out should be first and foremost briefed on the main tax aspects and informed about documentation and information requirements, whereas those entities that already operate on the market can be offered, apart from future accounting services, a verification of their books kept to date, all depending on the situation and needs of the client.

At the client onboarding stage, the accounting firm staff should also identify the specific needs of the client, for example when it comes to the following:

  • reporting for management purposes,
  • support in preparing accounting documents,
  • ongoing administrative support,
  • compliance with formal documentation requirements or
  • payment management.

Through their involvement and correct identification of the client’s needs in the onboarding process, accountants build trust and confidence, and this will surely pay off during later cooperation.

Another important element of creating a good relationship with an accounting service client is good communication. What is essential is that you not only need to select the preferred form of contact: be it e-mail, phone or in person, but also dedicate persons being the main point of contact both on the part of the client and the accounting firm, and define what they need to deliver and when. Timeliness and clarity of answers provided, as well as information about the current availability of contact persons are crucial to the quality of service. You also have to remember about the communication style: both an overly formal and overly casual style of talking to the client may make them feel uncomfortable in their contacts with the outsourcing company. Therefore, all this should be discussed and agreed at the beginning of your cooperation, when getting the client onboarded.

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Initial analysis procedure in the process of onboarding the outsourced accounting client

At the onset of your cooperation with the client, a dedicated employee of your accounting firm collects the incorporation and registration documents and verifies their completeness, as well as any contracts concluded by the client and any applications filed for tax and registration purposes. Apart from the aforementioned documents, the following documents shall be analysed:

  • accounting policy,
  • entries in the general ledger and subsidiary ledgers,
  • journals, trial balances,
  • fixed assets register,
  • table of accruals,
  • stock records and VAT registers and
  • submitted financial statements.

Once you analyse the documents you have received, it is a good idea to summarise all the information and clarify any things that may be unclear. Sometimes, the scope and type of products and services in the portfolio must be specified, one of the reasons being the requirements set forth in the tax regulations. Informing the client about the deadlines for reporting and submitting tax returns and declarations as well as deciding together on the date of handing current documents is surely going to smooth the accounting service from early on.

The next step in building your relationship with the client is that a dedicated accountant receives a power of attorney to take over the obligation to submit the client’s tax returns and any information to the tax office, just like reports and declarations required by other institutions, e.g. Statistics Poland  (GUS) or the National Bank of Poland (NBP).

Client onboarding in the accounting firm: what else do you need to remember?

When starting to work for a client who has outsourced the accounting service elsewhere before, it is a good idea to suggest their books to be verified and the reporting and tax obligations analysed to see if they are correct. Owing to the analysis of economic events and entries in the company’s accounts, the accountant can quickly get on track with the new company, while the client will feel secure and confident that their accounts for earlier periods have been kept the way they should have been.

When onboarding the client in the accounting firm, you should clearly explain what your responsibilities are and what the client is responsible for, and ask the client for any necessary authorisations, e.g. those for preparing payments (to check if entities are on the white list or verify the split payment mechanism). It is more effective to have appropriate procedures in place beginning from first payments instead of analysing later whether all the transactions have been paid correctly.

Summary

Even though a detailed analysis of the business profile and the onboarding process itself may seem time-consuming and cumbersome to the accounting service client, they ultimately benefit both parties to the contract. They allow the accounting firm’s staff to become thoroughly familiar with the client’s records and the specific nature of their business, and to properly plan the time load needed to provide effective services. The client who receives an onboarding checklist finds it easier to deliver on everything they need to prepare and provide, and they know how to submit any information necessary as your work will move forward. This way, the client saves time they can devote to their core business later on.

At the end of the day, the goal and stakes for both parties to an outsourced accounting contract are the same: correct and reliable accounts and tax returns, peace of mind and the effective management of resources.

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