How to Choose Accounting Services

Before you launched your own business, keeping track of your finances and doing your own taxes was probably a cinch. Easy-to-use bookkeeping software such as Microsoft Office Accounting, Quicken and QuickBooks helps you keep control while doing it yourself.

Like many entrepreneurs trying to shepherd an expanding enterprise, it might now make sense to turn over tax, accounting and other financial chores to outside specialists. Choosing the right type of accounting services, however, is an important decision. The right accounting assistance can lift a tremendous burden off your shoulders.

Accounting services: one of your most trusted advisors

An outside accountant can be one of your most trusted business advisors and a key to your success. Although many business owners work with big national firms such as Ernst & Young or Deloitte & Touche, most prefer to work with small independent firms or solo accounting professionals.

Keep in mind that accountants are not bookkeepers. They can only prepare financial statements and tax returns based on the numbers that you give them. Bookkeeping services, if offered, will be extra. If you plan to hire your own bookkeeper, make sure the person you choose is qualified. How? Administer the “Bookkeepers Hiring Test” available free from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers.

Balance Your Books (BYB) offers online bookkeeping services for small businesses. You deliver the data and their accountants and bookkeepers will process and analyze it and report back to you. You can access your financial reports anytime via a secure internet connection.

Most small businesses don’t need a full-time accountant - just someone to crunch numbers monthly or quarterly and prepare all of the necessary tax filings. But if your personal recordkeeping style leans more toward the proverbial shoebox full of receipts rather than crisp spreadsheets, you should also consider full or part-time bookkeeping help to keep you in fiscal shape.

NetSuite Small Business is a web-based service that offers complete “back office” financial solutions for small businesses and startups, from accounting services and sales to fulfillment and support. It’s worth a look for fast-growing firms seeking more than just accounting help.

Four key factors to consider when choosing accounting services

Factors to consider when selecting a certified public accountant (CPA), accounting services, or other financial professionals include these:

  • Services needed : List the services you think you need, such as tax preparation, financial reports, balance sheets, invoicing, payroll services, general bookkeeping, someone to set up your books or suggest cost savings. Some firms may handle it all, or you may need to split the tasks. And don’t forget about Enrolled Agents . EAs are licensed by the Federal government to prepare tax returns and have either worked for the IRS or have passed a rigorous IRS exam. They are savvy tax experts, but generally don’t have the degrees of CPAs and tend to charge less.
  • Cost : Fees vary greatly, from $50 per hour to $300 or more. Some accountants will provide a specified list of services for a flat monthly fee, and may provide less costly help for bookkeeping and other tasks that don’t require CPA-level training.
  • Who will you be working with : If you are considering a larger accounting firm, find out which people you will be working with directly.
  • Philosophical fit : Try to match your general philosophy with a firm that is as conservative - or aggressive - as you are on tax matters.

Our Bottom Line

Do you really want to go another year doing business taxes and other accounting work yourself? Probably not. It’s time-consuming and complex. Farm out that work with the help of accounting services, and your time can be better spent elsewhere in your startup business.

© 2005 BizBest Media Corp.


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