Generally, when people think of accountants, they think of taxes, and ledgers, and reams of paperwork. But there’s more that goes into accounting services than tax paying and money counting. There are many different levels of accounting, each with it’s own responsibilities and certification requirements. Some services can be handled by an in-house bookkeeper others may be outsourced to accounting firms.
Three Main Services
Depending on whether or not it’s for business or personal accounting, there are many different services that accounting firms can provide. These services can be lumped into three basic categories: Financial & Accounting, Strategic Planning, and Human Resources.
- Financial & Accounting-
This is what most people think of when they think of accounting services. There are literally dozens of responsibilities that fall under this category, everything from A/R collections, invoicing and billing, GAAP audits and compliance, sales audits, to quarterly and yearly financial statement preparations, and more. These backroom services support the day-to-day operations of a business, ensuring taxes are paid properly and funds are accounted for, but that’s not all.
Accountants can also negotiate equipment leasing, create procedure manuals, negotiate credit or A/R lines, handle financial budgeting and forecasts. While most small to medium enterprises may not need all the services listed, having someone (or a firm) on hand who can handle more than expected is always appreciated.
- Strategic Planning–
Whether it is dealing with mergers & acquisitions, investor management, licensing agreements, venture capital or bridge financing, accounting services firms can be there to help a company move to the next level. They also assist in creating restructuring plans, handling asset sales in the event of a business closing, and with wind downs. Most firms that handle this type of accounting service also advise clients on recent developments regarding taxation, foreign investment regulation, and technological developments that can increase financial efficiency.
- Human Resources–
When talking about accounting services role in HR, it is easy to assume that it ends when it comes to payroll, but it is actually much larger than that. Accountants help create benefit packages, employee manuals, new hire requirements, and personnel files compliance. They also handle stock option administration, equity planning, and performance reviews.
Now generally, handling all of this would be more than a bookkeeper or general accountant would be able to handle on their own. Many of these services such as strategic planning or financial auditing are considered different specialties within the field. That is why many large businesses turn to accounting firms if they need comprehensive assistance. Now, like the accountants themselves, not all firms can handle all aspects of these accounting services.
There are some that specialize in tax accounting, some in strategic or financial planning, but many of the larger accounting firms do offer a comprehensive package and there seems to be a growing demand for firms that can do this.
It is becoming more common for businesses of all size to look at outsourcing some or all of their accounting needs. If a business is interested in hiring an accounting firm to handle a wide variety of accounting services, one of the best ways to find the right fit for the company is through word of mouth. If that is not possible then usually it is quite easy to do research on the Internet to find one that might suit the business’ needs.
Like with a prospective employee, once a firm has been found, it is best to do your due diligence. Interview them, have questions prepared, get quotes on what they are offering you. Find out what experience/education they have, what kind of software they use, if they offer guarantees or whether they are flexible. Will they be willing to work part-time or full-time to meet your needs? Will they offer interim staffing to meet a short term need? Will there be specific people responsible for handling the business’ needs or will the load be split among the company?
Accounting has become more than bean counting and tax filing, with a multitude of specialties and various levels of certification and education; it is one of the main supports of a business. Depending on the needs of the business, accounting services can be quite comprehensive, from financial and taxes to HR and strategic planning.
License: Creative Commons
This article was written by Emma Seung, who works for an accounting firm that offers myriad accounting services to businesses of all kinds.