When it comes to looking at the assets, liabilities, costs and revenue, farm accounting can often be time consuming and hard work. From breaking down the costs of maintaining the land, to keeping up to date with subsidy schemes, accounting for livestock and deadstock, understanding machinery and equipment depreciation, accounting for losses and tracking the profitability of the farm to plan for the future, an accountant can help to relieve the pressure.
A great accountant will also be able to advise the farm on its strategy, can help the farm reduce its tax bill and for family-run farms who may have diversified into other projects in recent years, having a good accountant can help mitigate a range of succession planning, inheritance tax and agricultural property relief related issues.
Taking the time to find an accountant who understands the sector is a vital first step, but what else should you look for in an accountant, what can you expect from them and what makes a good accountant great?
Wealth of farming knowledge
“The more knowledge you have, the better plan you can build,” said Ian McIntyre at Wilkins Kennedy. “Know your stock, understand depreciation, keep track of your profitability and account for any loss – these are the four things I tell all of my clients to keep on top of.”
Having qualified at Wilkins Kennedy in 1986, Ian McIntyre has built up a diverse client portfolio over the past 30 years, which includes a number of farms, smallholdings, SMEs and owner-managed businesses.
Based at the firm’s Ashford office, Ian has a wealth of farming knowledge, having lived on a farm for a number of years and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) Audit Faculty and Farming Group.
Drawing on this experience, Ian advises his agricultural clients on all aspects of their business affairs, such as how to plan an effective farming strategy, particularly given the recent threats to farm subsidies following Brexit.
Asking the right questions
When it comes to choosing the right accountant, they must also be able to understand your business. Every farm is unique, and they will need to correctly advise you on the best way forward, whether you are looking to expand your business, diversify or pass over the reins to a family member.
“Diversification is another area that is commonly approached by our clients as a way of raising income from their farms,” said Ian. “While this may appear as simple as just running with an idea, all sorts of careful planning needs to be taken into consideration.”
Is the business idea sustainable all year round? Are there any threats to the profit and loss balance sheet? What are your competitors doing? Are you making the most of any tax reliefs available to you? These are all questions that a knowledgeable accountant will ask you in order to make sure you are building the right strategy for you, your family and your business.
Solving individual problems
“A good accountant is one that can solve a problem before you even know you have one – and that applies to more than just the numbers,” said Mike Startup, partner at Wilkins Kennedy’s Maidstone office. “We know that a lot of our clients run family businesses, some of which span back generations and we appreciate that there are lifetimes of knowledge, skill and experience as well as emotional investment involved. We work with clients to protect that investment for years to come.”
As someone who enjoys dealing with people, Mike Startup sees the business world made up of a wide variety of individuals, each with different outlooks on life.
When advising farming and agricultural business owners, Mike treats every assignment as unique and focuses on helping to solve individual problems and spot opportunities, be they financial, organisational or tax related, so that his clients can move forward in a more positive way.
“The nature of agriculture is so varied,” said Mike. “We have clients that range from livery yards to fruit growers and they all require a specific level of advice that needs to be tailored to suit their needs. The farming and agricultural industry requires a number of technical skills, from business and advisory services, to capital allowance planning, inheritance tax and succession planning.”
With numerous ties to the rural community, including the National Fruit Show and Kent’s annual ploughing matches, Wilkins Kennedy’s agri-business staff are deeply embedded in the community.
“Most of us are from farming backgrounds and we all have expertise in taxation matters as well as any personal issues facing rural businesses and their families,” said Mike.