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small business accounting

When Is the Best Time to Hire an Accountant for a Small Business?

April 11th, 2023 | 9 min. read

By Brian Paulson

For many small business owners, having a trusted accountant by your side can feel like a great burden has been lifted off your shoulders. The right accountant can help you stay on top of deadlines and provide expert financial advice.

However, many business owners wait to hire an accountant until after an issue arises, such as falling behind on taxes, filing for an extension, or becoming swamped with bookkeeping or payroll tasks. The key is to recognize early signs that indicate your business is ready for professional assistance.

Hiring a full-service, in-house accountant isn't a viable option for most small businesses, but luckily, there are various options for hiring outsourced accounting - or even separate bookkeeping and tax services.

At CSI Accounting & Payroll, we've worked with small businesses for over 50 years. After sitting down with thousands of business owners, we know a thing or two about:

  • Signs your small business would benefit from an accountant
  • The best practices for when to hire each type of accounting solution
  • Characteristics of a good accountant


Signs Your Small Business Would Benefit From an Accountant

Realistically, most businesses need some form of in-house or outsourced accounting. However, some small business owners use accounting software in hopes that they can handle their own bookkeeping and taxes. However, even in this scenario, you may still relate to the following:

  • You spend too much time working IN your business rather than ON your business. You have the expertise to benefit your business from a growth and customer experience improvement standpoint. However, you spend a lot of time handling responsibilities like bookkeeping instead.
  • You stay late – maybe even after hours – to complete accounting tasks on a regular basis. Your time is worth a lot, but you're not taking advantage of the time that outsourcing opens up.
  • You rely on personal resources, such as friends or family, to help with increasingly complex accounting and tax issues. Nearly everyone knows someone with a bookkeeping background, but you can feel like a burden by regularly asking for help. 
  • Your business has experienced rapid growth and you feel overwhelmed. Accounting only becomes more complex as a business grows.
  • You are having trouble keeping up with changes to tax laws. There are changes every year. Are you on top of following them and claiming every tax credit that you can?
  • You’re experiencing an audit. No business is 100 percent audit-proof, so this doesn't necessarily mean you've done anything wrong - but don't rule it out completely. Even the best-case scenario of an audit is temporarily reduced efficiency due to the amount of time it takes.
  • Read more about the signs that your business is ready for accounting services here.

In any of these scenarios, an accountant can be an excellent partner, saving you time and money in the process. Plus, hiring an accountant is easier than you may think.

When to Work With an Accountant

The short answer? Whenever you feel the need. 

Don’t feel obligated to stumble through another year of annual tax preparation on your own before thinking about professional help. Many accountants can provide you with a catch-up service within the current tax season, while making plans for maximizing your deductions and reducing your tax liability moving forward.

While annual tax accountants and bookkeeping services go through periods when they're not accepting new clients (or just place them on extension immediately), some monthly accounting services accept new clients year-round while still minimizing the chance of an extension.

The longer answer to when you should work with an accountant would be that it depends on which type of accounting solution you're looking for.

Choosing the Right Accountant for Your Small Business

Regardless of the solution you're looking for, there are some characteristics to keep in mind. Make sure to shop around and compare the services of each firm you are researching. Make sure that the potential accountants:

  • Specialize in your industry. Your accountant should be familiar with and up-to-date on issues concerning you and your business.
  • Have a fixed fee. To ensure proper support, make sure that your accountant will provide more than an annual service - or at least answer your one-off questions quickly and for no extra fee. Monthly accountants have a fixed monthly fee but may offer add-on services for extra.
  • Have an accountant assigned to you. There’s nothing worse than educating a new person every time you have a concern regarding your business's finances. It’s nice to build a long-term relationship with a partner who truly cares about the success of your business.
  • Make you feel comfortable. If you don’t have a good feeling about a particular firm or accountant, trust your gut. Trust should be the number one priority in hiring someone to handle money issues for your business.

Discovering your ideal level of service is also determined by where your business is in its life cycle - which is also another way of looking at when the "ideal time" is to hire an accountant!

Beginner Level

Startups and other very small, newer businesses may not have the capital or business activity yet to justify a strategic accounting method. Because of this, you may want to start out with any combination of the following bookkeeping and tax options.

  • Handle your own bookkeeping or delegate to your support staff as part of their existing role.
  • Hire an outsourced bookkeeping service.
  • Use an online service to file your taxes or delegate to your support staff.
  • Work with an outsourced annual tax accountant on your taxes only.

Intermediate to Expert Level

As your small or medium-sized business starts to grow in revenue and activity, you can (and should) expand your investment. If you're looking for a more comprehensive and accurate accounting experience, the ideal solution is to:

  • Hire an outsourced monthly accounting service to handle your bookkeeping, monthly accounting, and annual taxes under one roof. Many will even offer payroll services too!

Plateaued Experts

Of course, after a business enters the large business category, it can finally:

  • Hire an in-house, full-service accountant or an entire accounting department.

Hire the Right Accountant at the Right Time

Hiring an accountant for your small business can be a game-changer, freeing up valuable time and resources to focus on growth and development.

By recognizing early signs that your business could benefit from professional assistance, you can make a well-informed decision on which type of accounting solution is right for you. From beginner level to intermediate and expert, there is a range of options available, including in-house or outsourced accounting, bookkeeping, and tax services.

If you're considering monthly accounting as a solution for your small business, why not check out CSI Accounting & Payroll? Click the button below to schedule a free consultation and see if we can be the right fit for your business!


Not ready to talk? That's okay! First, click the image below to learn more about one of the biggest benefits of monthly accounting: the huge variety of advice topics that it allows.

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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.