Can Accountants Work from Home?


If you have (or want) an accounting job, you might be wondering if you can work from home.

Accountants can work from home, and there are many jobs for telecommuting accountants.  These include auditor, bookkeeper, controller, CFO, financial analyst, and manager.  Accountants who telecommute can work for small or large companies, either as employees or contractors.  They can even start their own accounting firms!

Read on to learn more about working from home as an accountant.

Requirements

To be an accountant, there are different requirements for education and experience, depending on the role.

Education

If you join the family business, they may hire you as a bookkeeper with a high school diploma.  However, most small companies will require at least an Associate’s Degree, along with some bookkeeping experience.

In order to work as an accountant at larger companies, you will likely need a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting.  If you want a pay boost and more opportunities, consider becoming a CPA, or Certified Public Accountant.  To become a CPA, you must pass the CPA exam.  Usually, this involves studying for 300 to 400 hours before the test.

You can go even further and earn a Master’s Degree in Accounting.  This can boost your pay even further, although you should probably gain some experience before pursuing an advanced degree.

Experience

The experience required for a remote accounting job will depend on the responsibilities and pay.

In a bookkeeping job, you will be updating and maintaining a company’s general ledger.  This general ledger is a record of the company’s financial transactions, including income and expenses.

If you work as a personal tax preparer, you should know all about 1040s.  This includes knowledge about different types of income and the associated taxes.  It also involves knowledge about personal tax deductions and credits.  You should also be familiar with income taxes and applicable rules in your state.

If you work for a business or corporation, you will need to know about depreciation schedules and possibly payroll.  You should also have the ability to schedule payments and keep track of bills.  If you pay late, you can hurt your company’s credit.  If you pay everything too early, the company can run short of cash for emergencies.  Figuring out a schedule for paying bills consistently, and adapting based on unexpected expenses, is part of your job.

Jobs and Companies

There are many different jobs in the accounting world.  Some, like bookkeeping for a small company, may only require a high school diploma.  Other jobs, like high-profile positions in a large corporation, will require you to be a CPA.  They will also require many years of experience, an advanced education, and detailed knowledge of the company.

Jobs

There are several different jobs that you might hold as an accountant.  This list is not exhaustive, but should give you an idea of the variety of available roles.

Bookkeeper

As a bookkeeper, you will probably only need a high school diploma or Associate’s Degree for small companies.  In many family enterprises, the ledger will not be complex.  In this case, a reasonably hard-working high school graduate could learn the job from family members.  You might also do payroll processing, in addition to paying and sending out bills.

CPA

A CPA who runs his own accounting firm can prepare personal and business taxes for clients.  However, he also has a good understanding of legal entities, such as Limited Partnerships, LLCs, S Corporations, and C Corporations.  He also understands the benefits and drawbacks of each.  A good CPA offers advice on structuring a business to minimize taxes paid.

Financial Auditor

In this role, you will analyze financial records to make sure that they are accurate.  You will note any discrepancies, in addition to searching for unusual patterns.  An auditor can uncover fraud on income claimed, taxes owed, or business income reported to partners or investors.

Forensic Accountant

Companies and courts call upon a forensic accountant when expecting a lawsuit.  This will involve investigating financial records of a company.  You might be looking for include payroll fraud, tax fraud, or some other type of discrepancy in records.  In this role, your work must be impeccable so that it will be admissible in court.  You might also testify in court regarding your findings.

Chief Financial Officer

A CFO prepares and presents reports on a company’s historical financial data.  This gives company management or potential investors a look at how the company has fared over a specific time period.  A CFO also looks after a company’s assets, deciding how and when to invest.  In addition, he decides whether to take on debt or use equity financing.  Finally, a CFO provides projections and forecasts for the company’s probable future growth.

Keep in mind that if you have a higher-visibility role in the company, you are less likely to work remotely.  The reason is that company leadership wants to see high-ranking lieutenants in the office.  They don’t want investors to have the wrong idea!

Companies

There are many companies that might hire accountants to work remotely.

  • H&R Block – among other jobs, you could be a virtual instructor at H&R Block’s Tax Academy.  As long as you have the knowledge, education, and experience, you could make a living working from home!
  • Intuit (TurboTax) – Intuit is the company behind TurboTax, which is a very popular DIY tax preparation software package.  If you are an accountant or tax attorney, you can work remotely while helping customer with their taxes.  This role would involve offering tax advice, reviewing tax returns for accuracy, and assisting with calculations.  You would also respond to any questions regarding the TurboTax software package.
  • Public and Private Companies – As with many remote roles, you might need to prove yourself before earning remote work privileges.  Do you have the education, experience, self-discipline, and company knowledge to work remotely?  If so, ask for a trial run!  Then, prove that you can work productively one or two days per week.  At that point, you will be in a position to ask for full-time telecommuting.

Pay

The pay for accounts varies widely by level of education and experience, not to mention geographic location.  However, here are some guidelines for different roles:

  • Bookkeeper – $35,000 to $50,000 per year
  • CPA – $50,000 to $125,000 per year
  • Financial Auditor – $50,000 to $70,000 per year
  • Forensic Accountant – $30,000 to $125,000 per year
  • Chief Financial Officer – $100,000 to $1,000,000 per year

Large gaps in pay ranges are due to differences in years of experience, company size, and specialty.

Starting Your Own Accounting Firm

If you start your own firm, then you can work remotely as an accountant, as long as you have customers!

What You Need

First, you will need accounting credentials so that people will trust you.  Your best bet is to become a CPA, and gain some experience at a company.  You could also work for a more experienced CPA who has his own firm.  He might make you a partner, and eventually you can buy him out when he retires.

In addition to becoming a CPA, it is a good idea to choose a specialty.  Perhaps you can specialize in helping businesses to minimize taxes with their choice of legal entity and state of incorporation.

Finally, you will need a space to do your work.  This could mean a home office, traditional office space, or even a coworking space.  Whatever you choose, know that your clients will want to know that their private financial information is secure.

If you have a reputation for integrity and knowledge, you might find referral clients.  However, if you want to build your business, you may need to advertise.  This could include traditional outlets, like phone books or restaurant menus (for older folks!).  It could also include online advertising, from Facebook and YouTube to Google Ads.

You could even approach a website owner and ask to place an ad, in exchange for a referral fee.  A good place to look would be websites of tax attorneys.  People grappling with the IRS will want to avoid such a struggle in the future.  Imagine when they see your ad on a tax attorney’s website.  Rest assured that they will be in the right frame of mind to retain your services!

Who You Can Serve

When you have your own business, you can choose your clients.  One possibility is do take work preparing personal tax returns, perhaps helping sole proprietors and partners to prepare Schedule C’s.

You could also work exclusively with businesses, including Limited Partnerships, LLCs, C Corporations, and S Corporations.

Another idea is to specialize in forensic accounting.  In some cases, you would offer testimony in court to make sure that the bad guys don’t win!

Whatever you choose, remember that advertising only goes so far.  Your long-term success will depend on your reputation for integrity, knowledge, and discretion in keeping client information private.

Conclusion

There is a wide variety of accounting jobs available.  As long as you have the education, experience, and ability, you have a chance of making your role remote!  Your best bet is to ask for a trial run, and then transition to full-time remote work.

If you want to start your own remote accounting business, check out my article on how to find remote freelance clients.

You might also want to check out my article on what internet speed you need to work from home.

I hope you found this article helpful – if so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

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