A Comprehensive Guide to
Virtual Accountants

What is a virtual accountant?

A virtual accountant does all of the same work of an in-house, in-person accountant. Instead of working in an office, a virtual accountant works remote. And, in most cases, virtual accountants are contracted and may not be working full-time hours for your company, which means their work costs less than an in-house, full-time role. A virtual accountant can be the perfect fit for a company who does not have the budget to hire a full-time accountant.

You will typically work with a virtual accountant who offers their services over the internet instead of locally. That means using computers or other connected devices, teleconferencing, and other remote technology to get the accounting services you need. Because of their remote nature, virtual accountants may be more familiar with cloud-based tools (accounting softwares like Bench or QBO or Xero)

What financial tasks can be outsourced to a virtual accountant?

A virtual accountant should be a qualified accounting professional, capable of doing anything a conventional accountant can do. They simply telecommute and are contracted. Services might include corporate tax filing, bookkeeping, reconciliation of accounts, processing payroll, accounts payable, and even CFO services. 

What’s the difference between an accountant and a bookkeeper?

Both accountants and bookkeepers can be virtual, but they do different things. While both can help you manage the ins and outs of business finances, bookkeepers are not trained in higher-level, complex financial tasks. Bookkeeping is about transactions, while accounting is about interpreting that data, and other financial information, to produce financials that comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Accountants generally have more familiarity with applying these numbers to business decisions, such as flux analysis, budget vs actuals reporting, or cost accounting. 

What are the pros and cons of hiring a virtual accountant?

The biggest advantages to using a virtual account are convenience and cost. With a virtual accountant you can choose the services and scope you need. You will only pay for what you require, while ensuring that that work is done correctly by a trained professional. You get an expert on your team, without needing to pay a full salary, benefits, or overhead.

Alternatively, there are some logistical considerations for working with an off-site team member, namely that they are not a simple door-knock away. However, using Zoom or other systems, you can typically engage with these professionals just as easily as if they were an office away. You also need to consider the security of your data. These disadvantages can be mitigated by choosing a virtual accountant with the availability and security precautions that you need, and ensuring your data is vetted and protected.

Is it worth it to hire a virtual accountant to do your taxes?

Corporate taxes are a key deadline and opportunity for businesses. Do it wrong, and your company will suffer the consequences of penalties, late fees, or missed tax savings. Get it right, and you may find rebates, tax breaks, and other financial advantages.

It’s also helpful to have a professional do your business taxes as they can work on the reports and filings along the way. Many businesses intend to manage taxes but find themselves in a scramble at tax time, having to reconcile and file information in a hurry. 

Will hiring a virtual accountant help a business save money?

Typically, yes! Compared to hiring an in-person, in-house accountant, a virtual accountant costs less to get the same work done. They use their own tools and software, giving you the best of the best without requiring your company to invest in these financial resources. And, if your business doesn’t have anyone taking on that accounting role otherwise, you are missing out on key financial direction and strategy that can streamline operations and find efficiencies. 

What types of businesses are ideal for hiring virtual accountants?

Practically any business can benefit from a virtual accountant! Small and medium-sized businesses may find a virtual accountant particularly appealing, as these companies typically have fewer resources for in-house staff. Instead of settling for a less-experienced full-time employee, you can get the expertise you need at a fraction of the cost with a competent virtual accountant.

How do I know if my business is ready to go paperless? 

The alternative to manual processes and paper documentation is a paperless, digital approach. There are a few key signs that your business can benefit from going paperless. For example, if you’re not keeping up with processing documents, you’re overloaded storing paper, or you can’t easily look up paper-based info, a digital system will add efficiency.

If you’re struggling with customer service, can’t follow metrics and reports, or are running into regulatory/compliance issues, a digital transformation can also help! It puts the right information in the right place, so you can act on the data you have.

Where to find virtual accounts for hire

How do I find a reliable accountant

Finding a virtual accountant is often a matter of researching, looking at reviews, and asking friends and colleagues. Be sure to find an accountant experienced with your size of business, and with your industry. This is especially key for industries with regulatory compliance rules. You can triangulate from a few areas, 1) Google search to find virtual accountants in your industry or geographical region, 2) online reviews of other customers, and 3) recommendations from other entrepreneurs in your space.

How do I know I can trust a virtual accountant with my finances?

Great reviews and references are important! You should also look for an accountant who listens to your input and allows you to check in on what’s happening. A good virtual accountant takes charge of your finances but offers full transparency to the company with established procedures and policies.

How do I find a specialized virtual accountant?

Again, asking colleagues and contacts within the industry can help. If your potential accountant says they have worked in your industry, ask for references, and follow through to make sure they truly understand your specific needs. You can — and should — interview a virtual accountant just as thoroughly as you would with an in-house hire. 

What skills do I look for when hiring a virtual accountant?

What professional certifications are important?

There are a variety of professional accounting certifications that your accountant may possess. A certified public accountant (CPA) is the most common and is required for many managerial positions. A certified financial analyst (CFA) can apply their knowledge and skills as an analyst, while a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is good for larger companies needing financial management. 

Chartered Global Management Accountants (CGMA) usually work in business and government, and Enrolled Agents (EA) deal with the Internal Revenue Service and taxes. 

What software should they be proficient in?

Your accountant should have skill sin software that helps with the services you require from them. That could include keeping a general ledger, accounts payable, bank reconciliations, cash management, budgeting, tax preparation, asset depreciation, or more.

How are virtual accountants evaluated?

As the company is contracting a virtual accountant, it’s up to your business to evaluate the accountant and determine if they suit your needs. It’s a good idea to set out what you expect a virtual accountant to do and check in regularly to ensure it’s getting done. If the accountant’s cost doesn’t translate to benefits for your business, your return on investment isn’t that great and you might take a second look at who you’ve selected.

Our experts are ready to talk to you today on how Finvisor can stream your operations by working virtually.

*This blog does not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. This blog should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction.*



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