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Do I Need a CPA for My Small Business?

December 10th, 2023 | 8 min. read

By Brian Paulson

As a small business owner, you know that you have to have current books. However, there are a few ways to achieve this. Should you do it yourself, hire an accountant, or work with an outsourced service? First, you need to know what each of these things entail.

CSI Accounting & Payroll has helped small businesses with accounting for over 50 years. We’ve talked to small business owners who have worked with all kinds of accounting solutions. Here’s what they wanted to know:

  • Can I do my own accounting?
  • Should I hire an in-house CPA or use bookkeeping and tax services?
  • Should I hire an in-house CPA or use a monthly accounting service?

Blog - Do I Need a CPA for My Small Business

Doing Your Own Accounting

You can do your own accounting with the help of bookkeeping and tax filing software, but there is a huge question about whether or not you should

Business taxes have a lot more at stake than individual taxes, and the value of your time as a business owner is way too high to be spent working on your books. Ideally, you should focus on growing and improving your business. Doing your own accounting isn’t truly free when you consider this.

Even startup businesses with more limited budgets begin with either the owner or an administrative employee doing the bookkeeping. However, they’ll often at least pair this with a professional tax service. This still doesn’t guarantee accurate books, tax savings, or guided decision-making, though.

We say the best time to hire an accountant varies a bit, but it’s largely whenever you feel like you should. The same is true for working with a service.

Regardless, don’t neglect your accounting! There are lots of consequences for this, including facing back taxes to make up for everything missed once you start getting your books together.

In-House CPA vs. Bookkeeping and Tax Services

In-House Accountant

First, make sure you know what it takes to have an in-house accountant. You have to consider the following cost factors of hiring and retaining an accountant as your employee:

  • Salary or hourly pay
  • Benefits
  • Taxes
  • Recruitment and onboarding costs
  • Training costs
  • Their portion of office space, equipment, and utilities
  • Legal and miscellaneous costs

The total cost for employing a full-time accountant is approximately $60,000-$85,000 per year as of 2023, and there is also a huge range in services that they provide your business.

That means the range is approximately $5,000-$7,083.33 each month to employ a full-time accountant in your business.

Bookkeeping and Tax Services

On the other end of things, basic bookkeeping services with a fixed pricing structure will often charge $300-$1,200 per month for bookkeeping and (sometimes) monthly financial statements. The price will increase if other services are added on, such as:

  • Annual tax preparation and filing
  • Payroll processing and add-on features
  • Business consulting
  • HR services and employee benefits

If your bookkeeping service does not offer annual tax services, you need to work with an annual tax accountant. There are disadvantages to not having your bookkeeping and taxes under one roof, though - such as a lack of year-round tax strategy and potential errors being missed.

If you work with an annual tax accountant, then you should receive a bill with a fee ranging from $500-$2,500 annually. This range depends on:

  • The firm you work with, including their experience and size
  • How much accounting activity your small business has
  • How complex your accounting operations are
  • How much time you spend working with the accountant

Read the complete guide to Small Business Taxes For Beginners

In-House CPA vs. a Monthly Accounting Service

In-House Accountant

As mentioned in the section above, the total cost for employing a full-time accountant comes out to approximately $5,000-$7,083.33 each month as of 2023, and there is also a huge range in services that they provide your business.

Monthly Accounting Service

What is monthly accounting? Monthly accounting is a step up from basic bookkeeping. It includes more services - and therefore more value. It’s basically a bookkeeping, consulting, and tax service all in one.

As an example, CSI Accounting & Payroll’s average monthly accounting investment is around $675. A client at this price point would either have a complex accounting situation with roughly 50 monthly business transactions or have no complexities and just under 100 monthly business transactions.

However, depending on your activity and complexities, your fee can range from $500 to $1,000+ per month.

Monthly accounting includes the following in that set monthly investment:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Monthly financial statements and discussions around them
  • Unlimited business operations and financial advice
  • Year-round tax strategy: tax projections, planning, and preparation
  • Annual tax filing

Monthly accounting services also offer other services that you can add on for an extra cost:

  • Payroll processing and add-on features
  • Business consulting (sometimes - depending on how large the project is)
  • HR services, workers’ compensation insurance, and employee benefits
  • Specialized tax services, such as obtaining the ERC (sometimes - depending on the service)

Make sure you know when monthly accounting is the right fit for your business.

If you’re ready for monthly accounting but you still use a lower-level service, you can put your business at risk. You won’t notice potential issues as quickly before they snowball. It also helps you stay on top of your finances and make better-informed business decisions.

Get the Best Value: Outsource Your Accounting

It’s important to stay on top of your accounting! Now that you know about doing your own accounting, hiring an in-house accountant, using bookkeeping services and tax services, and using a monthly accounting service, do you think monthly accounting is right for you?

If so, please consider CSI Accounting & Payroll! To see if we can be a good fit for your business, click the button below for a free consultation:


Not ready to talk? That’s okay! First, learn more about what it’s like to be a client of CSI Accounting & Payroll by clicking the image below:

Learn what it's like to work with CSI!

Brian Paulson

Brian began working at CSI in 1996, and he purchased the business in 2002. As Owner, his primary role is in the management and growth of the firm. Since 2002, the firm has more than quadrupled in size. In 2009, Brian started CSI’s payroll service to complement CSI’s accounting and tax services. Brian received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota, with a double major in Accounting and Financial Management. He’s a member of both the National Society for Tax Professionals and the National Society for Accountants, and he serves on the board of directors for the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants, where he was once president. Brian also serves on the business advisory council for Opportunity Partners, an organization that helps people with disabilities find employment. He’s also contributed to several business books, including Six Steps to Small Business Success and The Lean Mean Business Machine. Fun Fact: To help put himself through college, he used student loans, delivered pizzas, and worked summers in a salmon processing plant in Alaska.