5 Best Virtual and Outsourced Accounting Services for Small Businesses in 2020
Don't waste time agonizing over your books—choose outsourced or virtual accounting services and get back to running your business.
Best OverallCash-basis and accrual-basis accountingOptional payroll and tax prep services
Most AffordableLow monthly rateEasy account reconciliation
Best for Established StartupsFull-service tax filingOutsourced CFO services
Best Bookkeeping OnlyComprehensive, easy-to-understand reportsDirect syncing with your CPA or tax professional
Best for Payroll and HRPayroll and HR add-onsBusiness coaching and fractional CFO services
Business owners know: there’s never enough time. You’re handling strategic planning, marketing and selling, managing employees—all while trying to maintain a personal life.
So unless you’re a CPA, managing day-to-day bookkeeping and accounting tasks can seem like a total time and energy destroyer. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about hiring an expensive full-time accountant to handle these tasks for you: you can outsource it. Why? Because online accounting services have the technology and expertise to save you time and money.
Here are our favorite virtual and outsourced accounting services of the year. (And if you’re not entirely sure what “virtual and outsourced accounting” means, don’t fret; just hop down to our FAQ section below.)
|Brand||Starting cost||Services||Accounting software||Cash-basis or accrual-basis accounting||Learn more|
|Bookkeeper.com||$285/mo.||Bookkeeping, payroll, tax prep||QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop||Both||See Plans|
Monthly bookkeeping reports, bank and credit card account reconciliation
|QuickBooks Online||Cash-basis only||See Plans|
Federal and state tax filing, employee reimbursement requests, on-demand outsourced CFOs
|Proprietary in-house software||Both||See Plans|
Real-time cash flow reporting, dedicated bookkeeper, optional tax filing
|Proprietary in-house software||Cash-basis only||See Plans|
Dedicated accountant, HR and payroll add-ons, fractional CFO services
|Xero or QuickBooks||Both||See Plans|
Best overall: Bookkeeper.com
Don’t let the name fool you—Bookkeeper.com offers bookkeeping, accounting, payroll, and tax prep services. Both of Bookkeeper.com’s plans includes these features:
- Monthly reconciliation
- Basic financial document preparation, including income statements, profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements
- Expense management
- Accounting software setup assistance
Bookkeeper.com manages your accounts using QuickBooks Online (or QuickBooks Desktop, if you prefer Intuit’s desktop software to cloud-based services). Since QuickBooks is among the most popular accounting software providers for small businesses, a lot of small-business owners are already familiar with the software. Even if you aren’t, though, its user-friendly interface makes collaborating with your virtual bookkeeping team easy and efficient.
If you use an accrual-basis accounting system rather than a cash-basis system, Bookkeeper.com also has your back. Only a handful of virtual bookkeeping and accounting services work with both accrual-based and cash-based accounting, and Bookkeeper.com is one of them.
If you use the cash-basis accounting system, you update your books right when you receive cash or make a payment. If you use the accrual-basis accounting system, you update your books whenever a transaction is scheduled, not necessarily paid out in cash.
For instance, if your catering company scored a big wedding gig a few months out, a cash accounting system wouldn’t record that transaction until the day the contract is paid out. With an accrual accounting system, you’d record the transaction the day the contract is signed.
Both methods have pros and cons, but cash-basis is more common for smaller businesses with no inventory. Otherwise, cash-basis accounting can paint an incomplete picture of your business’s sales, especially if you have a large backlog of clients with unpaid invoices.
Bookkeeper.com pricing and plans
Bookkeeper.com offers two main pricing plans: Small Business and Small Business Plus. The primary difference between the two is in the number of transactions Bookkeeper.com’s team will reconcile for you—Small Business includes up to 125 transactions per month while Small Business Plus goes up to 250 transactions per month. And as you can imagine, the Plus plan costs quite a bit more, starting at $495 a month.
Want help beyond managing basic financials? If you choose Bookkeeper.com’s payroll processing services, they’ll tackle every payroll aspect for you, including direct deposit or check payments, year-end and quarterly tax forms, and W-2 and 1099 forms. And if you add on tax preparation services from Bookkeeper.com, the team can prepare and file your small-business taxes. (If you want to add payroll and tax preparation, you’ll have to contact Bookkeeper.com directly for a quote.)
Most affordable: Merritt Bookkeeping
If you want to outsource your bookkeeping services but aren’t ready to pay for an expensive, fully featured accounting plan, Merritt Bookkeeping is an excellent place to start. With plans starting at $190 per month, you can automate some of the most time-consuming bookkeeping tasks and focus more on running your business.
Once you’re signed up, you’ll log into Merritt’s simple, easy-to-use interface. Connect your accounts, and Merritt will keep your books updated monthly and your transactions categorized. The dashboard shows your balance sheet, monthly and yearly profit and loss statements, and income and expense graphs. Like Bookkeeper.com, Merritt Bookkeeping uses QuickBooks Online, which makes it super-accessible to most business owners.
Merritt Bookkeeping has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and markedly glowing online customer reviews1—a rarity in the world of bookkeeping and accounting services.
Own a nonprofit or charity? Get in touch with Merritt Bookkeeping—they advertise free bookkeeping for charities.
Unfortunately, Merritt Bookkeeping doesn’t list much additional information about its services online. You have to contact the company directly to learn more, which is a little frustrating. On the other hand, reaching out to the company means you can ask specific questions about how Merritt can help your unique business. Just don’t feel pressured into signing up just because you’ve given a customer service rep your info; it’s okay to shop around.
Merritt Bookkeeping plans and pricing
Merritt Bookkeeping offers a flat monthly rate of $190, which beats out most of the competition. Unfortunately, Merritt doesn’t offer many of the services that other providers we compared do, like payroll management, invoicing, or tax filing, but it provides enough bookkeeping services to free up valuable time.
Best for established startups: inDinero
Of our top five picks, inDinero is the only one to have added a list of COVID-19 resources—which we see as a huge help for prospective customers who need a bookkeeping boost in these odd economic times.
Defining itself as a “software + service” solution for small-business bookkeeping and accounting, inDinero offers a unique customer experience and data-driven mission. For those reasons alone, it’s a great option for established startups with complex accounting needs.
The built-for-founders software helps you with tedious tasks like managing accounts, invoicing, and employee reimbursements. It also lets you file federal and state taxes, pay bills, and generate financial statements. The company even has outsourced, on-demand CFOs. If you need someone who can completely dedicate themselves to your finances and work alongside you to grow your business, inDinero’s CFO service is a good (though pricey) solution.
Unfortunately, inDinero doesn’t sync with QuickBooks; instead, the company uses its own proprietary accounting software. However, the software is pretty comprehensive and includes tax help and automated workflows. Through inDinero, your W-2 employees and 1099 contractors can also use a secure site to submit reimbursement requests and get paid.
inDinero plans and pricing
Starting this year, inDinero offers two plans: the Essential plan, which starts at $300 a month and includes cash-basis accounting only, and a custom plan, which is for larger companies that need accrual-basis accounting.
Best for bookkeeping only: Bench
If you hire a tax professional for a few weeks out of the year, you can save additional time and costs with Bench’s bookkeeping-only plans. With Bench, every customer gets a dedicated bookkeeper who talks you through setting up Bench’s in-house software, analyzes your books, and sends you monthly financial reports.
On your Bench dashboard, you can see your real-time cash flow. If you’d like, your dedicated Bench professional can connect directly with your current part-time tax professional or accountant—the two of them can hash out bookkeeping details without bogging you down in tedious tasks. Bench will even prepare your tax paperwork for you, simply leaving the filing up to you, your CPA, or your tax professional.
Bench’s bookkeepers aren’t individual contractors who lack in-house support. Instead, they work as part of a team that peer-reviews each other’s work. You won’t have just one set of eyes on your books: Bench’s experts work together to ensure the numbers are crunched correctly every time.
If you don’t have your own tax professional, Bench now offers its own tax prep services, BenchTax. Like Bench’s bookkeeping services, BenchTax pairs you with a dedicated tax expert who prepares your end-of-year tax forms, deducts the right amount from your account, and files taxes on your behalf.
Bench plans and pricing
Instead of offering additional services at higher price points, Bench breaks its plans down by how high your business’s monthly expenses are:
- Starter ($139/month): Monthly expenses $1K or under
- Micro ($159/month): Monthly expenses between $1K and $7.5K
- Boutique ($179/month): Monthly expenses between 7.5K and $15K
- Venture ($219/month): Monthly expenses between $15K and $50K
- Corporate ($299/month): Monthly expenses between $50K and $1M
Like inDinero, Bench charges you annually. If you want to pay month by month, you’ll end up spending $20 to $50 more each month, depending on the plan. But since each plan lets you sync up to 15 financial accounts, you’re still getting a pretty good deal, especially compared to providers like inDinero, whose most expensive plan allows only up to four financial accounts.
- No contracts or commitments
- Full-picture visibility into your business’s finances
- Results-oriented approach to support growth
Best payroll and HR: Bookkeeper360
Bookkeeper360 functions a lot like Bench—but instead of focusing just on bookkeeping, it offers more general accounting services.
With Bookkeeper360, you’ll get a dedicated accountant who sends detailed reports on a monthly basis. Bookkeeper360 works primarily with Xero (though it recently added a QuickBooks option)—so if you’re a Xero fan, Bookkeeper360 is the way to go.
This virtual accounting company offers a variety of add-ons and perks, especially in the HR and payroll department. It works with ADP and Gusto—two of our favorite payroll service providers—to make direct deposits, help with time tracking and PTO, file payroll taxes for you, and find medical benefits and workers compensation insurance for your small business.
Bookkeeper360 plans and pricing
Bookkeeper360 recently changed its pricing, plans, and features. The company now offers two plans that differ based on how often you need its services: a monthly plan, which starts at $399 per month if you pay annually, and a weekly plan, which starts at $549 per month (not per week!). Along with more frequent bookkeeping updates, the weekly plan gets you a dedicated accounting team rather than one dedicated accountant. It also has more reporting, more frequent updates, and top-notch customer support.
Heads up: Bookkeeper360 charges a lot more for accrual-based accounting than it does for cash-based accounting. The prices listed above are for the cash method; pricing for the accrual method is $549 for the weekly plan and $749 for the monthly plan.
Want more than just accounting? Bookkeeper360 has a few more add-on options:
- Fractional CFO services, business coaching, and capital raising services
- Payroll and HR, including full-service tax filing and medical benefits
- Business tax services
- Back-office connectivity, meaning Bookkeeper360 connects all your business data and documents to streamline record keeping
If you’re interested in any of these solutions, you’ll want to contact Bookkeeper360 for a quote; pricing isn’t listed online.
More small-business accounting solutions
There are hundreds of accounting providers to choose from. We picked our favorites above, but here are five other popular providers of online accounting services worth looking at.
Best for startups: Pilot
Pilot has a thorough list of COVID-19 resources specific to startups, including info on the R&D tax credit and a 40-minute video on how to keep your startup growing even when the economy is suffering.
Pilot’s bookkeeping is geared specifically for new startups. Like Bench, Pilot structures its pricing around how much you pay in expenses each month, so if you’ve just gotten off the ground and aren’t spending (or making) too much money yet, Pilot’s dedicated accountants can help you figure out how to get—and stay—on track. Unfortunately, you’ll pay a lot for the help: plans start at $599 per month for businesses with $15,000 worth of monthly expenses.
Best for cash-basis only: KPMG Spark
While KPMG Spark doesn’t have a comprehensive small-business resource section, it does have a banner asking potential customers who are going through a tough time to email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to start building a custom plan.
KPMG Spark (formerly known as Bookly) has its own software and mobile app, which means you can connect with your dedicated bookkeeper on the go. Signing up is easy: just create an account, enter your bank and invoicing info, and you’re good to go.
KPMG Spark used to advertise a cash-basis and accrual-basis plan with the accrual-basis plan costing hundreds more a month. Now, the company’s pricing is broken down by how many accountants you want working on your business. For one to three accountants, pricing starts at $195 a month.
Best reporting: Ignite Spot Accounting
Ignite Spot’s excellent guide lists the financial relief available to small businesses, and it also covers management and finance strategies to keep costs low while the economy wobbles. The page also has a lovely little section on mental health strategies to stay balanced during the crisis; it includes positive, morale-boosting news updates on virus response and handy tips for practicing meditation and mindfulness at home. Whether you end up opting for Ignite Spot or not, give the guide a look—it’s one of the best we’ve seen!
Ignite Spot Accounting delivers heftier reports than many other providers we checked out for this piece. Along with the typical financial statements (like profit and loss reports and balance sheets), you’ll get a KPI (key performance indicator) report and profitability analysis, among others. The company doesn’t charge a setup fee unless your books aren’t current; if they aren’t up to date, you’ll pay a fee to get everything in order.
Ignite Spot is definitely on the pricier end of virtual accounting. Its bookkeeping services start at $575 a month, and its virtual CFO services start at $500 a month.
Best for high earners: AccountingDepartment.com
Are you making $1M or more per year? AccountingDepartment.com is targeted at businesses like yours. Along with offering the typical outsourced bookkeeping services, AccountingDepartment.com provides outsourced controller services, which means their CPAs manage bookkeeping while also budgeting, forecasting, doing job costing, managing cash flow, tracking inventory, and performing other financial management tasks on your behalf. Contact the company directly for a quote.
Best for international enterprises: Flatworld Solutions
As a global company based in India, Flatworld Solutions has had to be super agile in its COVID-19 response. The company’s press release spells out the details of how it’s working with customers during the crisis.
Looking for something even more affordable than Merritt Bookkeeping? Flatworld Solutions might be your key. This India-based operation offers hourly pricing options and by-the-project billing. The company has been around since 2002 and has clients all around the world. If you aren’t interested in offshore customer service, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere, but if you’re interested in paying between $8 and $15 an hour for quick accounting help, Flatworld Solutions is a good bet.
What is virtual accounting and bookkeeping?
Virtual accounting and bookkeeping firms provide you with typical accounting and bookkeeping services, including balancing your books and analyzing fiscal trends to make sure your company is on track for growth. But instead of working out of your office, they do it all from afar.
“Afar” could mean they work across the country or across the world, but either way, virtual accounting and bookkeeping companies provide you with a remote team of accountants or CPAs who tackle your most important financial tasks. Usually, virtual accounting and bookkeeping companies use cloud computer software to ensure you have constant access to your own financial records.
Is there a difference between virtual and outsourced accounting or bookkeeping?
Virtual, outsourced, and online are often used interchangeably when referring to bookkeeping and accounting. However, virtual bookkeeping and accounting can sometimes refer to accountants or CPAs who work out of their homes and contract out their services individually. In contrast, outsourced bookkeeping and accounting nearly always refers to accountants with an accounting firm who handle your books from their own office.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of virtual and outsourced accounting?
Starting and running a business takes hard work, determination, and a keen understanding of business processes. But it’s easy for small-business owners to get bogged down in daily, tedious tasks like managing financial books, sending invoices, and filing taxes.
Sure, you can (and should!) educate yourself on small-business bookkeeping basics. But without the expertise to properly manage more advanced accounting details, you could accidentally expose your company to errors, noncompliance, and poor financial planning.
This is why, for decades, business owners have hired bookkeepers or CPAs to do the dirty work for them. However, it can cost nearly $41,000 a year to pay a full-time bookkeeper,2 putting dedicated accounting help out of reach for many small-business owners.
But it’s not the only solution. Bookkeeping software and online technology enable businesses to outsource their financial tasks to remote teams made up of specialized experts. Even better, online accounting provides business owners with the help they need at a fraction of the traditional bookkeeper model.
- It’s cheaper than hiring in-house bookkeepers or CPAs.
- You can access automated technology that speeds up accounting processes.
- You spend less time and energy on small details.
- You can spend more time growing your business.
- You may prefer to have complete control and oversight of your financial data.
- You may feel uneasy about working with a virtual, nonlocal team.
- There may be some hidden costs.
What should you look for in an accounting or bookkeeping provider?
Whether you’re looking to hire a local accounting firm or outsource your bookkeeping to a virtual team, a few key features can help you determine which company is best for your business:
- Price. Many outsourced accounting providers list pricing online, but even if they don’t, that doesn’t mean you’ll get a bad deal—it could just mean the outsourced company wants more information about your business to give you a more accurate quote. Plus, fixed pricing could mean you end up paying more for features you don’t want or need, like software or setup fees.
- Worker credentials. Not all virtual bookkeepers are CPAs. But they should be highly trained, and you should be able to easily learn about their certifications and specializations either online or by contacting the company directly.
- Location. If you don’t want to send financial data overseas, choose an accounting service that’s based in your country. Also, find out how quickly you can reach someone if you need support—sometimes, being in the right time zone is the biggest perk of local service.
Outsourced bookkeeping and accounting has changed a lot over the years. What was once a complicated and expensive process is now a cost-effective solution to handling your small-business financial tasks. With one of these reliable and reputable providers, you can stop wasting time in the weeds of managing your books and start spending time reaching your business goals.
Would you rather perform in-house accounting? Check out our list of the year’s best accounting software for small businesses to get started.
At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don’t guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.