The freelance lifestyle is an attractive one. But with all of the flexibility comes the reality that work might not always be as regular as we
Do you need a CPA for your small business? Many freelancers and small business owners struggle to know when it’s time to bring in help from a CPA. Although there is no set time frame, the expertise and knowledge a CPA has can help you navigate different areas of your financial and tax reporting. Comprehending their services, pros and cons, cost, and other factors will help you determine when it’s time to find a CPA.
What is a CPA?
A Certified Public Accountant, known as a CPA, is an accounting professional who has met certain requirements imposed by state agencies. CPA requirements include completing150 credit hours at an accredited university, maintaining a full year of work experience, and passing a 4-part national exam. Although the specific requirements may differ by state, they generally encompass the same basic components.
Compared to regular accountants, CPAs have a greater knowledge and are held to higher standards. State and national regulatory agencies, such as the AICPA, implement rigorous requirements for continuing education, ensuring CPAs are up to date on the latest regulations. Furthermore, CPAs need to meet certain criteria, including no felonies on their record and strong ethics. Regular accountants are not held to such high standards.
What Services Does a CPA Offer?
CPAs offer a wide variety of services, designed to fit the needs of small business owners and freelancers. Most CPAs give businesses access to customized service packages and added insight. Among the services a CPA offers are:
- Bookkeeping – CPAs are accountants, meaning they can complete bookkeeping procedures for your business. Having your CPA act as your bookkeeper allows your business greater insight into your operations and financial health.
- Tax Return Preparation – One of the main services a CPA offers is tax filing for both business and individual returns. Only authorized personnel with a valid Personal Tax Identification Number (PTIN) are able to file returns. Many accountants and bookkeepers won’t engage in the filing of returns, which is why small business owners and freelancers contact a CPA. Additionally, you can be sure you are taking all available self-employed tax deductions when you work with a CPA.
- Tax Planning – Minimizing your tax burden is an area that a CPA can help with. Each business is different, meaning you will need an expert to uncover strategies that are tailored to your specific situation.
- Payroll Processing – Although some CPAs won’t process your payroll, many will. Payroll processing includes paying employees on time, remitting accurate taxes, and completing monthly and quarterly filings. The IRS closely watches payroll to ensure you are paying employees properly, making it important to retain a CPA.
- IRS Correspondence – Most small business owners and freelancers will receive a letter from the IRS or state agency at some point. In order to reduce the fines and penalties, you need a CPA’s opinion. Many CPAs have the ability to correspond with the IRS and other agencies on your behalf, after you’ve filled out a Power of Attorney form, which relieves you of this burden.
- Consulting – Whether you are looking for strategies to grow your business or are considering succession planning, a CPA can walk you through the financial and tax implications of each. Proper growth and tax saving abilities are grounded on transparent insight into the effects of tax.
- Financial Statement Preparation – Another common service a CPA can complete for your business is financial statement preparation. Compilations, reviews, and audits all require an independent third party to prepare financial statements. CPAs pride themselves on independence, allowing your business to receive accurate financial statements that can be distributed to lenders, investors, and other third parties.
These are just a few of the services that a CPA can offer. Each CPA will have a different set of skills in their toolkit, making it important to search around for the right fit. One way to do this is through using platforms, such as Fiverr, that provide access to a multitude of different CPAs.
What are the Advantages of Working With a CPA?
The advantages of working with a CPA far outweigh any disadvantages. First, CPAs can work alongside you to ensure you are producing accurate financial statements and maintaining strong internal controls. Small business owners often don’t have the funds to hire an in-house accountant to oversee operations. As a result, the risk of fraud and asset misappropriation is heightened. Depending on the services you are looking for, a CPA can act as your in-house accountant, giving you the tools needed to secure business growth and improve your business’s financial health.
Another key advantage of working with a CPA is less stress surrounding tax time. When you work with a CPA throughout the year, you won’t have a large burden when year-end rolls around. Your CPA can file your business returns in a timely fashion, giving you the tools needed to file your individual return as well.
Furthermore, tax planning for retirement, succession, and the sale of your business can all be done with the help of a CPA. When your CPA understands your entire financial situation, including your small business or freelance income, they can better advise you on the right steps to minimize your tax burden.
What are the Disadvantages of Working With a CPA?
Despite a mounting list of advantages, there are disadvantages that should be considered. One of the top disadvantages of small business owners and freelancers is high fees. Compared to accountants or bookkeepers, CPAs are able to charge higher fees because of their extensive knowledge and services. As a result, you may see a larger bill; however, this is a small price to pay when you consider all the benefits you receive from working with a CPA.
How Much Does a CPA Cost for a Small Business?
Understanding the costs associated with a CPA is important to determine if it is the right move for your business. According to recent studies by the National Society of Accountants, CPAs charge an average hourly rate of $180 to file taxes, while a rate of $174 is generally assessed for other services (Cimone, lili). The fees you are charged will depend on the services offered, complexity, and years of experience of your CPA.
However, the peace of mind you receive from having a qualified expert prepare key financial and tax information for your small business is priceless. Furthermore, accurately filing important documents can reduce costs down the road associated with fixing any errors.
How Do I Know When It’s Time to Hire a CPA?
Comprehending when it’s time to hire a CPA will vary amongst business owners and freelancers. Many businesses see benefits from hiring a CPA before their business even begins. This is because the setup procedures for small businesses can be overwhelming. You want to start your business off strong, meaning a proper setup is a must.
However, if you are already in business, you can hire a CPA whenever you feel overwhelmed or need additional assistance. Business owners and freelancers don’t have a great deal of free time to dedicate to the financial and tax functions of their business. This is where a CPA can come in to take taxation off your plate. Small businesses and freelancers are often set up as a sole proprietorship or single-member LLC, meaning all income or loss is reported on an individual return.
Even though you don’t have to file a separate business return, you do need to be sure you are taking all available credits and deductions. Hiring a CPA to file your individual or business taxes is essential. Moreover, if your business is trying to achieve a certain goal, such as improved cash flow management or growth, you need an expert to guide you.
How Do I Find a CPA For My Business?
Finding the right CPA for your business is no easy task. You will need to thoroughly analyze each candidate to be sure the services they offer and the price they charge are in line with what you are looking for. One way to do this is through a search engine tool that provides you access to dozens of qualified CPAs in seconds. One such search engine is Fiverr, which allows you to search for a CPA, based on the services you are looking for. Be sure you reach out to each prospective CPA and ask them basic questions, such as the time they have to dedicate to your business, if they offer bundled packages, and what information you need to provide to them.
A CPA can be a great addition to your business, giving you access to tailored advice. The right time to bring on a CPA will depend on your situation and business needs, but many small businesses and freelancers benefit from working alongside a CPA early on. Make a list of your current needs to understand if now is the right time to start searching around for a CPA.