If you’ve started your own small business, you probably plan to make money. That’s good. But if you plan on making money, you will eventually need to hire an accountant. And that can be expensive.
Certified public accountants typically charge from $100 to $400 an hour, depending on region, expertise and the task at hand. This is just one reason that small-business owners often include accounting among the jobs they do themselves to save a little cash.
After all, you are a seasoned professional, and in the age of TurboTax and QuickBooks, it’s not absurd to think you could handle your own quarterly taxes or payroll. “It depends how much of the grunt work you’re willing to do yourself,” says Eric Tyson, author of Small Business for Dummies.
But when it comes to something more complex—like your annual tax return or an audit—even veteran business owners can benefit from the help of a professional. Luckily, a pricey CPA isn’t your only option.
“There are CPAs and then there are enrolled agents,” says Tyson. Enrolled agents, tax professionals authorized to represent citizens in their affairs with the IRS, typically charge far less than CPAs. “If you have a relatively uncomplicated tax return, there’s no point to paying a CPA $300 an hour.” Finding an enrolled agent isn’t hard. Most states have a Society of Enrolled Agents, including a website with listings. As always, it’s helpful to ask for referrals from people who own small businesses similar to yours.
Of course, accountants play many roles besides tax preparer. They can be consultants, financial planners and record keepers. When you need something more than an IRS liaison, you’ll be happy to have a fully trained CPA on your side.