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I hear plenty of stories from CPAs about how small business owners are suddenly turning to them for business advice, rather than just financial help. Acting as an advisor is not particularly difficult, especially if you have been a CPA for a while and have worked with small businesses before. But the busy work that businesses occasionally ask their CPAs to handle can become a problem as most CPAs do not have an abundance of time on their hands.
Not all CPAs are comfortable doing some of the jobs that clients often ask for either, so here are a few ways that CPAs can use document-filing services to solve these issues.
Dealing with Deadlines and Renewals
Most CPAs who work with small businesses have multiple clients, but each individual business that they work with is going to have its own set of paperwork and reports that must be filed by a particular time. Annual reports, for example, can be a real pain if you have multiple clients expecting you to prepare these reports every year. They may not be the most complicated documents to prepare, but they do eat up time.
A lot of CPAs then turn to outside businesses to help them. Once their client’s business entity is formed, these third-party companies can be trusted to handle all of the annual paperwork and submit it to the proper agencies. Cloud-based document storage services can also help CPAs clear out some of the clutter that naturally results from doing annual business filings. States have differing requirements as to how long physical copies of records must be kept, but cloud storage allows you to back up and share anything that you have filed on behalf of your client.
Helping CPAs Avoid Tedious Jobs
Business owners try to stretch every dollar they spend, and so their accountants suddenly assume the responsibility of becoming business advisors. Clients may come to you asking how they should go about getting a business license or a DBA name. Again, chances are you know how to do that, but if neither you nor the client feels like personally filing the paperwork, utilizing a third-party service is an excellent, relatively low-cost option.
Depending on where you primarily do business, licensure can be a bit of a headache to work with—your state and even your city has its own set of requirements, some of which may differ from each other. If you don’t have the time to spend a couple of hours researching licenses and permits for your client’s business and industry, working with an outside service can be extremely useful. Many businesses may also need the services of a registered agent. If your client counts as one of them, it’s very useful to know what outside parties are willing to act as a registered agent so you can refer your clients to them.
Providing an Alternative to Attorneys
Attorneys are extremely expensive and their services often remain well beyond the reach of most small business owners. However, as tax season rolls around and many CPAs realize that their clients could save money simply by changing their business’s legal structure; CPAs find themselves in slightly murky situations.
Accountants are rightly wary about dispensing legal advice, and often defer to attorneys on legal matters. So, while CPAs are perfectly comfortable telling clients about the tax benefits of forming an LLC, many do not go any further than that. The best route to go is working with a legal document preparation service. These services can’t provide legal advice either, but they are experienced in filing legal paperwork and are well acquainted with the various laws and regulations applicable to creating a new business structure. Recommend a couple of attorneys to your clients and, if you think they could use them, any third-party services, which are much more affordable.
There are a multitude of businesses that offer these types of services, so remember to research each one carefully before recommending them to your clients or using them yourself. But, no matter which you choose, that third party will make your life much easier and help you save time.
Many legal document preparation companies count multiple CPAs as customers for that very reason. If you feel as though your accounting firm is becoming a one-stop shop for businesses looking for advice and help, look into affiliating with an outside company.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com, a company that provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, including corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark and copyright filing services. She can be followed on Twitter at @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.