Accountants are financial professionals who have received an accounting degree from a four-year university or college. By trade, accountants prepare, maintain and examine the financial statements of an individual, business or institution. An accountant prepares reports for tax purposes and can also perform audits of public companies. Common tasks include creating budgets, analyzing profits and losses of a company, processing payroll, preparing financial statements for company leadership, and creating and maintaining financial database systems for a company.
Accountants do not automatically have a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation unless they have passed the Uniform CPA Examination and received the proper license. Regardless of whether they are CPA certified or not, accountants can assist businesses and individuals with bookkeeping and financial reporting, while CPAs are more knowledgeable in tax codes as a result of the CPA licensing examination and continuing education requirements. CPAs are also eligible to represent clients before the IRS if audit support is required, while a non-CPA accountant is not. Academic background, years in the field and professional reputation all can affect an accountant’s rates.
Check out the average hourly rate for accounting services in your area.
What’s the best way to set up a consultation or an appointment with a tax preparer during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The best way to conduct an appointment during the COVID-19 pandemic is virtually, as this will ensure that you remain within the CDC's social distancing guidelines.
Ask tax professional near you if they would be willing to give a consultation via phone call, Zoom, Skype or other video conferencing software to discuss the scope of work. Also, ask them how they handle payments and whether they will be able to conduct all of their services remotely.
Accountants’ rates vary based on their education, licenses, experience, and the work for which they are being hired. An accountant may charge an hourly rate when a company or individual needs their services on a short-term basis, such as when performing an audit or requesting assistance setting up a financial database or process. Hourly rates can range as widely as $40 per hour to $300 or more per hour, depending on your geographic location and the accountant. Check out the average hourly rate for accounting services in your region.
Accountants may offer a package rate for weekly, monthly or annual services to reward ongoing customers. Many accountants offer online services where small businesses can access online accounting software and payroll assistance, and the accountant — for a monthly or other recurring fee — provides financial analysis and reporting of their numbers. For basic monthly accounting services, an accountant might charge anywhere from $75 to $500 or more, depending on what was included in a given package, the size of the client’s business, and the complexity of work requested. Nationally, full-time staff accountants earn between $40,000 and $80,000, depending on experience and other factors.
To find out which services are deemed essential in your area, visit the official government website of your state or city and look for information about essential services.
For information on a national level, visit CISA’s publication on critical infrastructure workers. However, not all jurisdictions follow CISA’s definitions of critical infrastructure.
If you decide to hire a tax preparer near you, ask if the tax preparation can be handled remotely. Most accounting firms and tax preparers may be willing to offer this. Before you hire a tax preparer, contact them and ask about their procedure for working virtually.
It is not typically necessary for a tax preparer to enter your home. Many CPAs and tax professionals operate remotely. Ask the tax professional if they can conduct their services remotely, and see what precautions they have in place during social distancing.
Before you hire a tax professional, visit their business profile to see how they handle payments. Many CPAs and tax experts accept digital payments through Venmo, PayPal, Square Cash, Zelle and other online platforms. More businesses may be changing their payment methods to accommodate social distancing. Check with your tax preparer to see how they handle payments.
Contact local CPAs or tax professionals to see if they can offer their services without in-person contact. Many firms can operate remotely or virtually, and others that typically operate face-to-face may be changing their procedures to keep up with social distancing guidelines.
Any individual with a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) is eligible to file your income taxes on your behalf. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will be the best candidate to provide the help you need with your income tax preparation. The IRS explains that CPAs, attorneys and enrolled agents are all allowed to legally represent their clients before the IRS. They have a more thorough understanding of tax code than an individual operating solely with a PTIN or an Annual Filing Season Program participant who provides their services on a volunteer basis. Consider the complexity of your tax return and what level of expertise you’ll require. Before entrusting someone with your private financial and personal information, do some research on their qualifications. The IRS has a searchable database where you can verify the background and credentials of your income tax preparation professional. Once you have selected someone, ask about their service fees and confirm their availability. Then provide them with all the documentation they require, including W-2s, 1099s and more. Always ask to review the paperwork before it is submitted, and never sign a blank tax return.
Hiring a professional to help with income tax preparation can be priceless. Pro help can mean no mistakes and a maximized tax return. The cost to get your income taxes done depends on the professional you hire. Tax attorneys or in-demand CPAs will often have the highest rates for their services. Next in the pricing tier are enrolled agents, who will usually have higher rates than individuals solely working with a preparer tax identification number (PTIN). Nationally, the average cost of income tax preparation ranges from $150 to $190. Income tax preparation prices can also vary based on where you live and the complexity of your tax returns. Here are some examples of average income tax preparation prices from an enrolled agent:
- Taxpayers filing only a W-2 tax form: $50.
- Taxpayers filing a W-2 along with additional tax forms such 1099-INT and 1098-E: $150.
- Taxpayers with several tax forms and one or two additional considerations such as a rental property, investment transactions, K-1 income, 1099-MISC or a simple small business: $225.
- Taxpayers with multiple activities (rentals, K-1 income, small business, etc.), several stock transactions and more: $395.
Nationally, the average hourly rate nationally for a tax prep professional ranges between $150 and $450.