Do I Need a Personal Accountant?

By Pam O’Brien · May 08, 2023 · 5 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Do I Need a Personal Accountant?

You’ve landed your dream job — and your dream salary. Or maybe you’ve started your own business or taken up a side hustle. Along with the happiness of earning more comes the responsibility of making sure your money is working as hard as you are.

You may be wondering, is it worth hiring a personal accountant to help with things like self-employment taxes and investing for the future? Or should you try to handle them on your own?

The answer may depend on a number of factors, including your financial acumen, money-management needs, and whether you’re the hands-on type or not.

The types of accountants out there are as varied as the kinds of services they offer. Here’s how to determine if you need a personal accountant, and if so, how to find the best one for your specific situation.

What Type of Accountant Do I Need?

The term “accountant” is sometimes used as a catch-all phrase to refer to any professional who deals with financial transactions or taxes, but there are different types of accountants. For instance, there are bookkeepers, accountants, and Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), to name a few, and they all have different skill sets and varying limits on what they can and can’t do. Choosing the right professional could help you achieve financial security, whether you’re running a business or investing money for your future.

A CPA is certified to do everything a general accountant or bookkeeper can do, along with one important addition — government permission to file taxes on a client’s behalf and represent them in case of a tax audit.

Becoming a licensed CPA requires passing the Uniform CPA Exam and completing continuing education hours each year in order to maintain their certification. CPA fees can range anywhere from approximately $33 to $500 an hour.

An accountant without CPA certification cannot sign tax returns on behalf of a client, but they can prepare them. An accountant also can record and report detailed financial transactions and provide analysis.

Most accountants hold an undergrad degree — although it doesn’t necessarily have to be in accounting — and many pursue additional certifications such as Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and Chartered Accountant (CA) . Like CPAs, their hourly rates can vary widely depending on location and expertise.

Finally, a bookkeeper is someone who can help keep your books if you’re running a business. Their responsibilities can include paying bills, keeping track of account balances, recording transactions and providing reports throughout the year.

Bookkeepers aren’t required to hold an accounting degree, but some organizations and businesses do offer certification, including a Certified Public Bookkeeper (CPB) certification, which means the bookkeeper has passed an advanced skills exam and is required to take continuing education.

Bookkeepers might also handle payroll and other business taxes, although they aren’t allowed to sign tax returns or provide audit representation. Bookkeeper fees can vary widely.

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What Financial Issues Can a Personal Accountant Handle?

Accountants can be experts in money-management topics across the board, including taxes and helping navigate complicated financial situations.

Beyond that, how an accountant can help depends on your individual financial needs. Here are some details on which type of accountant is best for specific needs.

For Independent Contractors and Solo entrepreneurs

There are many benefits to being an entrepreneur. But finances can get complicated for independent contractors and solo entrepreneurs, from managing invoices to tracking inventory to keeping one eye on the big business picture. In short, an accountant can assist with most things money-related so that the business owner can focus on the business.

Although a non-certified accountant can’t file your taxes on your behalf, they can help you with business issues like tracking your deductions, including payroll deductions; calculating estimated tax payments; and ensuring that you reap the most benefit from your tax deductions (which include hiring an accountant). An accountant is also more likely to be on top of the latest changes in the tax law.

Another way an accountant could help independent contractors is by handling all the organizational factors that come with running a business. Tasks such as invoicing, tracking sales, and tracking receipts, can feel overwhelming to someone who’s never taken business classes.

For Small Businesses

For businesses with more than one employee, an accountant with small business expertise can help with everything from determining the right business structure to filing taxes.

If you’re just starting out as a small business owner, an accountant could help with the financial segments of your business plan. During day-to-day operations, a good accountant can help with everything from opening a business bank account to payroll to providing guidance regarding government regulations or any changes in tax law.

And if you hire a CPA, they can even file business taxes on your behalf.

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For Individuals

If you have a lot of financial issues to handle, a personal accountant can help you manage them.

Perhaps the biggest reason an individual might hire an accountant is to help with taxes, especially if they’re facing complicated tax situations like receiving an inheritance, filing taxes for rental property, or navigating capital gains taxes.

But even for everyday life, a personal accountant can help turn your personal finance knowledge into action. It’s one thing to understand that you need to cut spending, but it’s another thing to actually put that knowledge into practice.

The same goes for paying down debt. An accountant can help keep you on track to repay what you owe.

Recommended: How Many Bank Accounts Should I Have?

The Takeaway

A personal accountant may be helpful if you’re an entrepreneur or you have a lot of personal financial issues to deal with. However, if going the DIY accounting route is more your style, you could enroll in a course to learn more about money management, do research online, or use a money-management app. Whichever method you choose, make sure you feel comfortable with the decisions you’re making for your money — and your future.

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