Every business owner can benefit from hiring an accountant, especially one who's well-versed in financial standards, compliance, valuations, and taxation and is knowledgeable in financial strategy and forecasting. In your business, you may use an accountant for daily cash reconciliations, tax preparation, reporting, collections oversight, forecasting, or preparing financial statements that can help you attain financing or prepare to sell your business.
Armed with bookkeeping and tax software, some business owners feel confident taking on this work alone. But because of the breadth of knowledge that’s required—and the time these tasks consume—you may consider working with an accountant who can take on the bulk of your accounting duties.
Can I afford a small business accountant?
Accounting services are a cost you must factor in, but you don’t have to hire a full-time employee to fill this role. Many owners choose to work with a professional accounting service to take on their more arduous financial tasks.
High-quality business accountants often charge between $100-$300 per hour, and while the cost may seem high, they can be worth every penny. The time they spend navigating the financial aspects of your business is time you can use for equally important tasks, like developing your strategy, working with your clients, or handling the operational concerns of running your business.
Depending on your business’s needs, you may work with your accountant for a few hours each month or the equivalent of several working days. In either scenario, an accounting service can be a much more affordable option than bringing a full-time, knowledgeable accountant on staff.
There are ways to reduce your accounting costs without sacrificing the quality of services you receive. For instance, you might choose to contract with a professional bookkeeper (whose rates tend to be much lower than those of a professional accountant) for certain financial tasks. Or, you might choose to retain some of the accounting work for yourself and work with a fractional chief financial officer (CFO) who can help you with forecasting, financial risk mitigation, and strategic accounting issues.
|If you don’t have a background in accounting, can't devote the time to learning accounting standards and practices, or are unable to keep up with changes to regulations and tax policy, it’s advisable to hire a small business accountant who can help you with your everyday accounting tasks.|
How can I find a small business accountant?
Referrals are a great way to find a reputable, full-service accountant, but you may already know of an accountant by reputation alone. If so, reach out and learn more about the services they offer.
If you need some help finding an accountant, you can use our matching service to connect with one who serves your area and has the skills and experiences you need. Click the button below to get started:
Interested in some of the other pros we've mentioned?
Consider Bench for bookkeeping services:
Growth Force is another great resource for bookkeeping, accounting, and controller services:
Which qualifications should I look for?
When it comes to full-service accountants, you may want to find one who is a certified public accountant (CPA). This designation is an industry-standard verification of an accountant’s knowledge and expertise in the field of public accounting. Try to find an accountant in your area who has this designation and a sufficient level of experience in handling small businesses’ financial needs.
If you plan to work with a bookkeeper, you may want to find a one with the certified bookkeeper (CB) or certified public bookkeeper (CPB) designation, both of which confirm a professional’s knowledge in bookkeeping (verified through rigorous testing and demonstrated experience).
Like accountants, you should expect a fractional CFO to be a certified public accountant, but some may hold a certified management accountant (CMA) designation, which is a globally recognized credential signifying a professional’s expertise in planning and analysis, accounting technologies, performance management, and risk management.
Before retaining an accountant’s services, consider speaking with accountants from several firms to learn about the breadth of their experience, their capabilities, their style of communication, and their fee structure. To home in on the best accounting candidates, consider asking questions on the following topics:
How many small business customers do you support?
Can I talk to some of your customers about their experiences?
How can you help my business handle its day-to-day challenges and plan for future growth?
Can you assist me with forecasting, tax concerns, or valuations of my business?
What are the qualifications of the person who would handle my requests?
What is the standard turnaround time to complete a small business evaluation?
How frequently will you communicate with me throughout the process?
Do you have connections to valuation specialists, attorneys, or other experts who might help me with specific challenges?
Do you charge per hour or by project?
Can you provide me with a written estimate of your costs?
How do I move forward?
Use each accountant’s responses to assess their skills and qualifications. Pair what you learn with online reviews, verification of licensure, a review of the practice’s website, and web searches to ensure you have enough information about your accountant candidates to make an informed decision.
Some accountants will allow you to negotiate their rates, so once you’ve made your selection, you may consider asking for a reduction in fees, especially if they are out of alignment with the rates other highly qualified accountants are charging. Then, write an engagement letter that spells out the services you require; the duration of time you’ll need assistance; and the fees you’ll pay upfront, throughout the process, and after completing a service.
With the right accountant in place, you can shift your focus to finding other key members of your professional team, including an attorney. You can start connecting with tax, employment, and other attorneys through the search tool at the bottom of this page.
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