One of the biggest questions you’ll have if you’re looking to buy an accountancy practice is: how much will it cost? The bulk of the outlay will, of course, be the price negotiated for the practice itself. Our article on how accountancy practices are valued goes into more detail on how much you can expect to pay. But what about the brokers who facilitate the sale? In this article, we take a look at some of the business brokers specialising in accountancy practices to see what their fees are like. The accountancy practice sale market is completely seller driven. Sellers can dictate their own prices and terms with ease.
Proctor Partnerships have over 30 years of accountancy practice experience and, unlike many business brokers, deal exclusively with the accountancy sector. They handle sales, purchases, mergers, and fee acquisition and disposal. But how much do their services cost?
The firm charge an engagement fee of £875 +VAT. However, unless you need them to prepare lengthy draft agreements and Heads of Terms, then this is almost always refundable. Upon conclusion of a successful purchase, each party is charged 2% of the agreed sale price minus the engagement fee. However, Proctor Partnerships emphasise that their priority is finding the right match for their sales and mergers and suggested that the fee could be reduced to 1.5%.
APMA are a leading mergers and acquisitions broker specialising in accountancy. The founder, Jeremy Kitchin, has experience of accounting dating back to 1973 and over the past 25 years APMA have managed to sell all the accountancy practices and blocks of fees that have come their way except for just two.
APMA offer two different service options to clients looking to acquire an accountancy practice or block of fees. The first is a more passive approach that basically entails registering with the firm and then waiting for something suitable to come along. The second is an active approach that entails defining your ideal target and then researching and contacting firms that fit the bill. The cost of this service is £1.30 per firm which includes any letters, telephone calls, and visits. APMA estimate that to identify even a couple of serious sellers they will need to contact at least 1000 practices, so you’d be looking at a minimum of £1,300 +VAT for this service.
Bear in mind that this cost is on top of the fee charged for a successful purchase. APMA require you to register with them as a potential purchaser before they will send across their terms of business outlining their completion fees. However, until you sign this, there is no contract between yourself and the firm.
Jacob & Jones are business brokers specialising in sales and purchases across Scotland and Northern England. Their offices are based in Glasgow and they deal with a broad spectrum of industries and sectors including accountancy practice. They have business transfer agents based in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Inverness, as well as Glasgow.
Jacob & Jones offers a general service that includes identifying suitable businesses according to your requirements and then negotiating any purchase on your behalf. Depending on the size and value of the practice, the fee for a successful completion would be between £1,250 and £2,500. If, on the other hand, you already have a practice in mind and are looking for a broker just to handle the negotiation of price and terms, then they offer a fixed fee of £750.00 +VAT.
With over 20 years of experience in the market, Owens Professional are leading accountancy practice brokers offering their services across England and Wales. They specialise in advising both buyers and sellers throughout every step of the process and negotiating sales and purchases to completion.
The rate of commission they charge is 5% of either the consideration paid or the fees acquired and this is calculated based on the higher amount. Owens Professional charge their fee on agreement of a sale. There is no charge prior to this – for example when meeting a seller or considering a practice.
5. Vivian Sram
Vivian Sram are business brokers specialising in accountancy practice sales and mergers. They have over 30 years of experience in the field and have offices in London and Manchester. They handle sales and purchases both big and small, from £50,000 blocks of fees to £10 million practices.
The firm’s fees depend on the type of service you decide to go with. For a contingency search the fees are as follows:
Sale/Purchase: the fee in this case is 5% of either the total consideration or the gross income, whichever is greater, and is payable by the purchaser.
Merger: for mergers, the fee is 5% of the past 12 months’ gross income for the smaller of the two parties and the fee is split equally between both parties. There is a minimum fee of £2,000 +VAT.
Vivian Sram also offer a retained assignment option where they act exclusively for you. The initial retainer fee is agreed on a case by case basis and the completion fee is the same as the contingency fees outlined above.
Anderson Shaw are boutique business brokers who handle the sale and purchase of firms across different fields including accountancy. They have experience of businesses with turnovers of £500k to £20 million. The firm have been around for almost 15 years and have their offices based in Warwickshire.
The firm have two types of fee that are applicable to purchasing an accountancy practice. Firstly, there is a daily rate of £500 for each day spent searching for and approaching suitable agreed targets. Once interest has been established with the seller, then a success fee would apply for completion of the purchase. This is calculated as a percentage of the practice’s revenue or adjusted EBITDA and is subject to a minimum fee of £7,500 for each acquisition.
As the name suggests, Bristol Business Brokers is a Bristol-based firm of brokers helping sellers and buyers to successfully complete transfers. While they do not deal exclusively with accountancy practices, they do have a particular focus on the accountancy sector.
If you decide to go with Bristol Business Brokers for your acquisition, then there are two lots of fees to pay. Firstly, an initial engagement and marketing fee of £3,000. And secondly, a success fee of 5% of the agreed price. This is due in two tranches – half when you sign the Heads of Terms, and then the remaining half once the practice has successfully been transferred.
8. Draper Hinks
Draper Hinks are based in Rugby and specialise solely in the buying and selling of accountancy practices and fees. They have successfully completed the sale of over 300 practices in recent years and the firm offer a free eBook guide if you register on their website. So how do they measure up when it comes to cost?
Draper Hinks’s standard fee is 5% of fees transferred up to the amount of £500k. Above this, it drops to 1%. This is a one-off fee for the purchase of any accountancy practice and it falls due upon completion. Unless the purchase is completed, there is no fee to pay. However, the firm do offer a bespoke mailing service that they carry out on your behalf for £550 per mailshot.
Ten Percent Financial are both accountancy practice brokers and recruiters for the accountancy sector. This means that they have access to an extensive network of practices, greatly increasing the chances of a successful transfer. They specialise in high street firms with a turnover of £50k to £2 million.
The company charges a fixed fee to the buyer if a deal occurs. No other fees are payable. The fee is based solely on the estimated value of the sale and agreed at the outset. Sellers pay no fees at all. Usual range of fees is from £1,000 to £8,000 plus VAT.
Whichever broker you decide to go with when purchasing an accountancy practice, make sure to clarify before signing up exactly what fees are due. While some brokers do not charge anything unless there is a successful purchase, others require initial non-refundable engagement or admin fees. Double-check beforehand so that you don’t find yourself out of pocket for a transfer that may not even happen!