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If you're in business for yourself, you can't afford to go without an accounting and bookkeeping service. Hiring a professional accountant provides peace of mind that your financial records are accurate and compliant with all state and federal laws.
There are three basic services that a professional accounting service provides:
- Annual tax filing services;
- Monthly bookkeeping to support tax filings and effectively manage your business finances;
- Any audits or reviews that might be required by banks or investors.
It's extremely difficult to estimate the cost of a professional accounting and bookkeeping service because it depends on so many variables. This includes the size of your business and the complexity of the bookkeeping. But, we'll help you understand some of what to expect.
Accounting and Bookkeeping Average Costs
Most tax accounting services bill by the hour. Hourly rates vary from one firm to another. But, they also vary among employees at the same firm. On any given account, a junior member will do some of the simpler accounting work for a lower hourly rate while senior members or Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) will perform more complicated tasks for a higher hourly rate.
Below is a general breakdown of billing rates for various staff members at professional accounting and bookkeeping firms. Nevertheless, keep in mind that large national firms tend to have higher rates than smaller regional or local firms.
- CPAs are at the top of the pay scale, commanding $150 to $250 per hour in most cases. In major cities, however, a tax accounting firm's top talent might command up to $500 per hour.
- Firm owners charge rates of about $200 to $250 per hour.
- Work done by supervisors and senior staff members is usually billed at $100 to $200 per hour.
- Junior staff members command about $60 to $120 per hour.
The number of hours a firm spends on your accounting and bookkeeping is entirely dependent on the complexity of the task. There are steps you can take to reduce the complexity and save money and we'll get to those a little later on.
Accounting and Bookkeeping Services Fixed Rates
Occasionally, tax accounting services will charge a fixed rate. The price is negotiated in advance based on the perceived complexity of the job and how many hours it is expected to take. This is a popular option with business owners. But, it's a risky venture for accounting firms because unexpected issues that prolong the work could easily pop up.
Because fixed rates are so risky for accounting firms, they're usually reserved for very straightforward bookkeeping jobs. Small businesses with relatively simple books are the most likely to negotiate such a rate. However, some firms also offer introductory fixed rates to attract new clients.
Saving Money on Accounting and Bookkeeping Services
There are steps you can take to lower the total cost of accounting and bookkeeping services. The best thing you can do is to keep your financial records as organized as possible. If you show up with a stack of loose receipts and disheveled books, plan on spending hundreds or thousands extra just to pay accountants to sort through it all.
There are several documents you can prepare before turning your books over to an accountant in order to streamline the process. They include:
- Balance sheets
- Profit and loss sheets
- Cash disbursement records
- Cash receipts
Once you get a bill, review it carefully. You don't have much say over the hourly rate. But, you should be aware of which levels of employee are performing each task. If a CPA is doing almost all of the work - even routine tasks - you're paying too much. You're also paying too much if a junior accountant is spending hours and hours on complicated tasks that a CPA could do quickly.