When business owners think about services CPAs can provide, preparing tax returns may be on the top of their lists. However, there are several other services CPAs offer that are relevant and can be very helpful.
Keeping complete and accurate books and records is essential for every business. CPAs can provide a range of accounting services depending on the size and complexity of your business. Basic accounting operations include sending invoices to customers, credit and collections, paying vendor invoices, preparing bank reconciliations, maintaining payroll records, and paying employees.
For more complicated operations, CPAs can help with applying generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), preparing financial statements for lenders and owners, and participating in due diligence analysis for mergers and acquisitions.
Business owners can engage CPAs to help them manage daily account operations and supervise staff. Some CPA firms offer CFO on-call services. CPAs can also provide valuable consulting advice in areas like risk management, insurance, design and review of internal controls, contract negotiation, investment selection, and human resource management.
This area is a very critical area where businesses frequently need advice from outside consultants. CPAs can provide advice and offer implementation assistance in evaluating and selecting new accounting and operational software solutions. They can help businesses create project teams to work on implementing new accounting standards like leases, revenue recognition, and credit losses that require significant changes in how finance departments account for these transactions.
CPAs have knowledge and experience that can be instrumental in helping businesses evaluate moving their data to the cloud and evaluating safeguards and IT security overall. Cybersecurity is a very hot topic right now where businesses need expert advice, and CPA firms are investing heavily in resources to address these risks.
CPAs can help businesses investigate criminal activities that have occurred or are suspected, like embezzlement of funds, fraud, or other misuses of company funds.
Budgeting and Forecasting
Small businesses can use CPAs to help them prepare financial plans, budgets, and forecasts of operating results and cash flows. These can be prepared for internal purposes, to manage operations or as the basis for accounting models, or for external purposes, for lenders, business partners, owners and shareholders, and investors.
Modeling and forecasting can be complex and time-consuming, depending on the size and offerings of the business. CPAs can help businesses think through their assumptions and develop processes to track actual results against budgets and short- and long-term plans.
Tax Research and Planning
CPAs can help business owners evaluate the potential tax effects of business decisions by applying their knowledge of the tax code to different scenarios (including how to maximize deductions or take advantage of tax credits to reduce taxes due). They can also research specific solutions and make recommendations on solving tax problems a business is facing.
CPA firms can audit a company's financial statements, which may be required by lenders, government grants, or shareholders. Audited financial statements provide assurance that the financial statements are fairly stated and comply with GAAP. CPAs may also provide audits of a company's internal control over financial reporting.
Compilations and Reviews
Another service CPAs can provide related to financial statements is compilation or review. These are less comprehensive than audits and may be required by lenders or other outside parties who look for a CPA to be associated with the business's financial statements.
In a compilation, the CPA does not provide assurance on the accuracy of the financial statements but reads them and considers whether they appear appropriate in form and are free from obvious material misstatements.
In a review, the CPA performs analytics, makes inquiries, and performs other procedures to obtain limited assurance on the financial statements. For both compilations and reviews, the CPA issues a report.
Business owners should consider their current and near-term needs from a CPA. Most CPAs would be happy to discuss your needs and how their firms can (or cannot) provide those services, along with the fees they will charge, so you can find a CPA that you are comfortable working with.