Running an eCommerce business requires you to wear many hats. It is easier to hire and outside accountant than to do it yourself or worry about keeping a full time accountant busy. Accounting can be difficult and having an online business makes it even more challenging, which is why finding accountants with specialities in eCommerce is important.
In this article we'll cover what makes a good accountant and do they need to be knowledgeable about eCommerce to help you? What exactly will they help you with and when is the best time to start using them? Not to mention, do you need an ecommerce accountant near you or can it be done remotely?
There are three options for hiring an accountant for your eCommerce business.
Let's examine the pro's and con's of each option.
If your business is small or just starting out and relatively uncomplicated, it’s completely fine to self-manage your finances. Not only is it cost-effective, but doing your finances will help you understand your books and business better. It will help you be a better scrappy entrepreneur in the early days.
That said, once you hit $10,000 to $20,000 monthly revenue, other things will need your time and expertise, which is when you should consider hiring an accountant.
Hiring traditional accountants for ecommerce might seem like a sensible decision but you need to make sure they understand the ins and outs of an ecommerce business. Ecommerce business are more complex due to a the types of sales through many sales channels across many platforms.
If you’re considering an accountant who has had very few ecommerce clients—and indicates they aren’t particularly interested in learning the complexities of ecommerce—they probably won’t be able to give you the best support and advice. That includes when it comes to minimizing your tax burden and making decisions to help your business scale or take on investment. While they might have the best intentions, their lack of expertise will ultimately cost you.
Because of the complexities mentioned above, ecommerce sellers will have the easiest time using an accountant familiar with and dedicated to ecommerce clients.
When you hire an accountant, you’re doing so because they want to save time and gain assurance that their finances are in the best hands possible. You don’t want to be introducing an accountant to Shopify or Amazon for the first time and having to explain the ins and outs of sales channel fees and transaction types. Not to mention the complexities of having multiple sales tax obligations.
Using accountants for ecommerce means you already have a shorthand—they understand your business model and can immediately start digging into your books to get what they need.
We've put together a list of amazing accountants who specialize in eCommerce accounting. You can also see our services here.
When it comes to deciding when to hire an accountant for your business, several factors come into play. However, if your business is still relatively small, your primary consideration is likely whether you are generating sufficient revenue to justify the investment.
Once your business begins to generate enough income that it's your full time job —about $20,000-$50,000 per month—it can be a good time to explore hiring an ecommerce accountant. If you are not there yet, ecommerce accounting practices can still help you—many have courses that teach smaller businesses how to do their bookkeeping correctly.
Other reasons why you want to consider hiring an accountant?
In any of these situations, hiring an accountant could be a worthwhile investment.
Although CPA and accountant are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two. While a CPA is always an accountant, an accountant is not always a CPA.
A certified public accountant (CPA) is a licensed accountant who has passed the Uniform CPA Exam and fulfilled additional state-specific requirements. They can provide a wide range of accounting services, including tax planning and preparation, auditing, and financial analysis. CPAs can also represent their clients before the IRS in case of an audit. CPAs must also continue their education throughout their career, meaning they stay up-to-date on changing accounting standards and regulations.
An accountant generally has a degree in accounting or a related field and can perform a range of financial tasks, such as bookkeeping, financial statement preparation, and tax compliance. While they may not have the same level of expertise as a CPA, they can still be a valuable asset to your ecommerce business.
A CPA will typically cost more than an accountant, and large ecommerce businesses who need specialized services should consider hiring an ecommerce CPA. However, for smaller businesses with smaller budgets, an accountant should be able to handle your needs.
Accountants don't just do your books. They do a lot more. Good accountants will help with all of these things.
Output offers a full range of these services. See more here
Besides the basic functions an accountant performs, you'll also want to evaluate the following about them.
Experience and qualifications
Starting with an obvious one but your accountant should have experience working in the ecommerce niche, understand the lifecycle stages of an ecommerce business and have the right qualifications. If an accountant indicates they believe ecommerce accounting is much the same as accounting for a brick-and-mortar business, they lack the expertise to properly help you.
Uses cloud-based software and apps
If you’re running an ecommerce business, you should want to work with an accountant who is just as comfortable in an online environment and uses cloud-based software and apps. Confidence in using technology to assist with accounting means your accountant is likely using apps such as A2X to automate the manual, time-consuming parts of accounting. This means they can use that saved time to analyze your business and offer you more solutions rather than just providing the bare minimum.
Focussed on growth
Similar to the above, if you’re spending money on an accountant, you should be working with someone who is excited to work with your business and is eager to grow it with you. This means helping you understand profitability of your business and working to optimize and automate back-office workflows so that you can make better financial decisions for your company,
Knowledge of international sales tax
If you’re selling internationally or plan to be, you should go with an accountant who understands your international tax obligations, knows the tax-filing dates, and is confident in filing tax returns on your behalf. Ask about their experience with sales taxes in the US and Cananda
How they charge
While it used to be the norm for accountants to charge by the hour, these days many specialist accountants offer a set monthly price for their services. If one type of payment format suits you better than the other, be sure to factor this in when you enquire with an accountant.
Where they’re based
In this digital age, proximity isn’t always the most important thing. So, if you’re starting your search for an accountant with “ecommerce accountant near me,” you might want to reconsider your approach. The accountant most qualified to help your business might be on the other side of the country, or if you sell internationally, you may need the help of an accountant based overseas. Rather than just looking at local firms, search for accountants highly recommended by others in the industry, and look at reviews and ratings.