Is your accountant doing the best possible job for your practice? Here’s a checklist of things that they should be doing for you as standard:
- Primary care insight: Commentary on new developments that will affect your practice
Is your accountant on top of the NHS Long Term Plan and the five-year GP contract? They should be explaining how these changes will affect your practice through in-depth analysis, newsletters and articles.
- Pensions: Navigating the complexities of the NHS pension scheme
Each year estimates of pensionable profits along with year-end certificates need to be submitted for GPs who are part of the NHS pension scheme (and for some who aren’t if they’re claiming seniority). Tax charges can arise from the growth in a GP’s NHS pension. Is your accountant able to discuss this with your GPs and offer proactive advice?
- Partnership agreement: Making sure financial clauses are fit for purpose
Your accountant should be able to review the draft agreement in collaboration with the GP partners. Looking for a firm of solicitors specialising in primary care? Your accountant should have close links with specialist lawyers.
- Drawings and tax projections: Calculating monthly drawings for GPs
A key concern for GP partners is their monthly drawings. Your accountant should be advising you and your GPs on a drawings plan and estimating personal tax payments well in advance of the amounts falling due. They should also be advising on how each GP’s capital account needs to be balanced with the partnership accounts.
- Financial benchmarking: Comparing practice figures
Whether against national profiles or other local practices, comparing your practice figures with other practices will help you highlight areas of efficiency or inefficiency which can then be explored or remedied. If your accountant has access to a substantial set of data then the benchmarking can be made much more relevant by looking at statistics based on your locality and the profile of your practice (for example, GMS vs PMS or dispensing vs non-dispensing).
- Review of practice income: Spotting any missed claims
A cardinal sin in the eyes of any practice is not being paid for the work you’re doing. The complexities of primary care funding make this danger all too possible. An accountant specialising in GP accounts will be able to help spot any missed claims and advise the practice on making sure their systems are up to scratch when it comes to making claims.
- Balances to outgoing partners: Calculating what’s due
When a partner leaves the practice, they will normally be due the money from their capital account (unless it’s overdrawn). This can be a sensitive time as the retiring partner will be keen to receive the money as soon as practicable, especially if there’s a tax bill looming. Your accountant should assist you in calculating the money to pay exiting partners to avoid problems later on. The last thing anyone wants is an embarrassing and hard-to-remedy mistake coming to light after the money has been paid.
- Practice expenses: Recommending what can be claimed by the partners
Expenses incurred by the partners in relation to the running of the surgery, and ensuring they’re claimed for tax purposes, is another issue to watch out for. Accountants specialising in GP accounts should be experts at spotting any possible items that have been missed. Remember, if legitimate expenses aren’t claimed then tax bills will be higher.
If you’re in the process of appointing a new accountant, a specialist is likely to offer you greater value for money. Invite your local firm to a meeting so that they can explain how their services could benefit your practice. In most cases, the meeting will not be charged for – in which case you have nothing to lose!
James Gransby is a board member of the Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants (AISMA).