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Buying or selling an accountancy practice

The purchase or sale of an accountancy practice can succeed or fail due to a number of factors. The articles on this page focus on ways sellers can make their practice more saleable, as well as highlighting some areas that potential buyers will want to explore.

Featured article

Technical debt: is your firm underwater?
A look at the broad business and technological implications of technical debt for accounting firms and their clients. The article suggests some steps firms can take to manage technical debt.

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Featured link

How to maximize client retention after a merger 
Journal of Accountancy, April 2014
Tenth in a series: culture, communication, the business plan, and personal involvement are key.

Online articles

The Library provides access to leading business, finance and management journals. These journals are available to logged-in ICAEW members, ACA students and other entitled users subject to suppliers' terms of use.

Technical debt: is your firm underwater?

A look at the broad business and technological implications of technical debt for accounting firms and their clients. The article includes questions to ask about the current state of the firm's technology, the impact of technical debt on mergers and acquisitions, and some steps that firms can take to manage technical debt.

Make or buy?

The article offers ideas for accountants on to determine the price of an accounting firm in an acquisition. Several important factors to consider when pricing firms during mergers including the assumption of liabilities, enrollment of new partners into the compensation program, and the guaranteed minimum compensation levels, are discussed. Suggestion for accounts to refresh the fundamental laws of valuation and the substitution principle to make an accurate estimate of the process is offered..

How to keep clients after an accounting practice sale

Looks at the seller's perspective on lowering transitional risks, how the seller should communicate with their clients, and the need for the buyer to minimize change for clients in the first years after closing.

Navigating the path to success in accounting practice sales

The article discusses the importance of knowing how to avoid major hazards in accounting practice. It explains the protection of the seller's confidentiality and the strongest confidentiality procedures. It suggests avoiding due diligence prior to accepting an offer, avoiding premature announcements to employees and clients, and discusses the importance of competition for keeping the deal on track. INSETS

Exit strategies for owners of CPA firms

What are the options if you own an accountancy firm and would like to retire? This article explores the pros and cons of turning out the lights, selling, merging or arranging internal succession. Includes advice on how to value an accounting firm. Written for a U.S. CPA audience.

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Useful links

Buying and selling fees
ICAEW technical helpsheet to help ICAEW members in practice identify various issues in connection with the purchase or sale of a block of fees of a practice.

AccountingWEB published a three-part series of M&A articles in February-March 2015:

Guide to practice management for small- and medium-sized practices (Dec 2012)
Good practice guidance prepared by the Small and medium practices committee of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). Module 8 covers succession planning and includes checklists covering the sale of a firm and the sale of fee-parcels. Available to download in PDF format.

Articles and books in the Library collection

Selected material

Preparing for sale
Accountancy, July 2013
Discusses how firms are valued and how important it is to have realistic valuation expectations. Provides advice on how to prepare for sale and of the timeframe involved.

A practitioner's guide to the sale, merger, acquisition & valuation of accountancy practices
(Jobtel, 2013)
Contains lots of practical advice, key questions to ask, due diligence checklists and sample heads of agreement documents for the process of going about selling, merging, acquiring or valuing an accountancy practice.

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