In most cases, with a little study and help from computer software tools, you should be able to manage your most basic financial records without the help of an accountant. This includes the daily recording of transactions, maintenance of a general ledger, and maintenance of your cash records. There are some other records you may need to maintain, depending on your business, such as accounts receivable ledgers and accounts payable ledgers.
You may need an accountant to help with less routine tasks, such as preparing periodic adjusting entries, financial statements, closing entries, and income tax returns, or helping you prepare a budget. You may also decide to have your accountant set up your books when you first open your business. If you've been in business for a while, your accountant could give your bookkeeping procedures and records a one-time or periodic checkup.
If you are using an outside accountant, how often will you need his or her services? At a minimum, you will need your accountant to help you close the books annually because you have to file an income tax return every year. If you are having financial statements prepared, you will want them done at least annually. However, annual financial statements may not be enough to help you keep tabs on your business. You may want financial statements every quarter, or even monthly. Depending on the size of your business, you may want to have your accountant close the books every month, particularly if you need to submit monthly sales tax to the state.
For more on dealing with an outside accountant, see our discussions on: