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How to Shop for Accounting Services: Hourly, Fixed, CPA, EA, or Something Else?

Updated: May 23

When hiring accounting services for the first time, business owners often have diverse expectations. These expectations can vary widely, including what a CPA does, the cost of services, and more. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the different types of accounting services available and what might be the best fit for your needs.


Hourly Billing

Pros:


Flexibility: Paying by the hour can be cost-effective for businesses that don't require extensive accounting services. If you only need occasional assistance, this might be the best option.

Cost Control: You pay only for the time spent on your work, which can be appealing for budget-conscious businesses.

Cons:


Availability: Finding an accounting professional who has the capacity to work on an hourly basis can be challenging. Availability can be inconsistent, as accountants may prioritize larger, ongoing clients.

Unpredictability: If your accountant takes on a big job, they might not be available when you need them, leading to potential delays in your financial management.


Fixed Billing

Pros:


Consistency: Fixed billing allows the CPA firm to schedule their workload in advance, ensuring they always have time for their clients.

No Incentive to Overcharge: With fixed fees, there's no temptation for the CPA to run up the clock. The focus is on providing value rather than maximizing billable hours.

Cons:


Upfront Costs: Fixed billing might seem more expensive initially, but it often proves cost-effective over time with reliable service and fewer surprises.

Pre-payment vs. Post-payment

Pre-payment:


Security for CPAs: Many CPAs require pre-payment to avoid the risk of non-payment. This helps them allocate their time efficiently and focus on serving clients without the distraction of chasing payments.

Client Assurance: Before agreeing to pre-payment, ensure the CPA has a good reputation. Reading reviews and checking references can help you feel confident about your choice.

Post-payment:


Flexibility for Clients: Post-payment can be more convenient for clients, especially if they prefer to pay after services are rendered.

Risk for CPAs: There's a higher risk of non-payment, which can detract from the CPA’s ability to serve other clients effectively.

Choosing Between a CPA and an EA

Certified Public Accountant (CPA):


Routine Management: CPAs excel at establishing and maintaining regular financial processes, helping prevent issues before they arise.

Year-Round Service: They provide consistent, ongoing support to keep your business finances in order throughout the year.

Enrolled Agent (EA):


Specialized Knowledge: EAs are often better suited for dealing with specific IRS issues, such as payroll and back taxes.

Problem Solvers: If you have significant historical tax problems, an EA might be a better initial choice. Once issues are resolved, you can switch to a CPA for routine management.


Our Approach

At our accounting firm, we specialize in fixed, automatic, and transparent pricing. This ensures that our schedule has adequate time to serve our clients consistently each month. Our goal is to provide reliable, year-round service that helps prevent financial problems and keeps your business on track.


In conclusion, when shopping for accounting services, consider your business’s specific needs and the level of service you require. Whether you opt for hourly billing, fixed fees, a CPA, or an EA, understanding the pros and cons of each option will help you make an informed decision that supports your business's financial health.

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