How to Find a Shopify Accountant and Bookkeeper: Your Ultimate Guide
Have you ever found yourself lost in the maze of Shopify accounting and wondered if there was someone who could guide you through its intricate pathways? You’re not alone. Managing fees, refunds, and taxes for your store can be an overwhelming experience. And when you consider that up to 90% of ecommerce businesses fail within the first four months, it’s clear Shopify merchants should do all they can to gain a competitive advantage. One often overlooked way to gain an edge is hiring a specialized Shopify accountant or bookkeeper.
While some use a DIY approach or a generalist accountant, Shopify merchants who use platform-specialized accountants have a clear advantage. A Shopify specialist accountant not only understands the platform; they use the right tools, and grasp the unique aspects of accounting for a Shopify store, such as platform fees, diverse payment gateways, and bulk payment reconciliation. And, beyond ensuring your compliance, they offer tailored insights and guidance for growing your store and avoiding common pitfalls.
This guide covers all aspects of finding a Shopify accountant or bookkeeper: their roles, when to hire, selection criteria, and where to search for them. Armed with this knowledge, you can assess when to start working with a Shopify accountant who will help propel your business even further.
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The importance of specialized Shopify accountants or bookkeepers
You probably chose Shopify due to its reputation and user-friendly platform. But while launching a Shopify store might be straightforward, accounting for that store is another story. This is because there are challenges that come with accounting for ecommerce that you don’t encounter with traditional retail.
Before we dive into what makes Shopify accounting so different, let’s quickly discuss the difference between types of accountants you can hire.
Generalist accountant vs. Shopify accountant
A generalist accountant: These professionals understand the fundamental accounting principles relevant to their region. They know how to prepare financial statements and offer services like bookkeeping, tax preparation, audits, and cash flow management. They serve clients working across many different industries.
A specialist: These accountants have niched down into a particular area of accounting, such as tax or auditing.
A Shopify specialist accountant: These accountants have niched down to cater specifically to ecommerce businesses. They understand international accounting principles crucial to international sellers, are familiar with various ecommerce platforms, specifically Shopify, and are aware of the nuances of accounting and bookkeeping for an ecommerce business.
So, what are those nuances? These are things that a Shopify specialist accountant understands but a generalist accountant may not. The next section will explore a few of those differences.
Unique financial challenges with Shopify
Bulk payouts comprising multiple sales
A Shopify payout, which is often composed of multiple sales over a given period, is more complex than it appears at first glance. While it’s tempting to treat these deposits as income, they include various line items such as Shopify merchant fees, sales tax, returns, shipping costs, gift card reimbursements, and more. Failing to account for these items makes it difficult to accurately reconcile the payout amount. You need expertise and attention to detail to be certain your accounting is completed correctly.
Ecommerce businesses generally allow customers to pay in multiple ways, for example, with a credit card, via PayPal, by bank transfer, or in installments. This happens when you enable payment gateways such as Shopify Payment or PayPal on your store. These payment gateways all charge fees. These fees are taken before you get your payout but it’s still important that the fees are properly accounted for so your records are accurate.
A major difficulty in ecommerce are the varying sales tax rates. Store owners need to track when thresholds are hit and when they become eligible for tax in particular states or countries.
Shopify operates a little differently from marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy, which collect and remit the sales tax on a sellers’ behalf. While Shopify will charge sales tax (if Shopify Tax is turned on), it’s your responsibility to set this up correctly and to remit the tax.
Because sales tax is paid out to merchants in the same payout as sales revenue, it’s not uncommon for merchants to mistakenly code their entire payout as income, forgetting that a portion of that payout is tax that needs to be remitted. Ultimately, this means incorrect records and will later result in a tax bill.
Large order volume = too much data
Each ecommerce order contains a lot of data, including payment details and shipping and billing addresses. While this information is necessary to get products to customers, only some of this is needed for accounting purposes. Despite this, it’s not uncommon for unaware store owners or generalist accountants to install apps that bring all the data into the cloud accounting software anyway. But, if a store is processing hundreds of orders a month, this is a huge amount of data for QuickBooks or Xero to handle, and after a while it will slow it down—or even overwhelm it completely.
Many ecommerce stores aim to increase their reach by selling internationally. Although this is great for business, it does result in additional accounting complexities such as multiple currencies, foreign exchange rates, and cross-border tax regulations, for example, VAT in the EU and UK.
Ecommerce businesses have their own unique digital expenses, including web hosting, Shopify plan fees, online advertising, and payment processing fees, which are not as common for brick-and-mortar stores.
These are just a few of the many reasons why Shopify bookkeeping and accounting is hard to do correctly unless you have expertise. Generalist accountants typically have a wide variety of clients, and may only serve a small handful of ecommerce businesses. In fact, they could even rely on you to educate them on the ins and outs of Shopify. This is a major indication that their work will likely be inaccurate and that they probably won’t use specialist tools like A2X, that make the accounting process more efficient and accurate. And, if they aren’t aware of the complexities of ecommerce sales tax, they might not track when a store is approaching thresholds for sales tax in other states. If they fail to miss that, it will result in unexpected tax bills later on.
On the flipside, a Shopify-knowledgeable accountant already understands all of these intricacies. In addition to completing your financials correctly, they also know how to properly analyze your books to identify opportunities or point out potential problems. In this respect, your accountant can act as an advisor who is fully aware of your store’s position and invested in its growth. For example, they could identify your most profitable SKUs and look for opportunities to widen margins, advise you to focus on cash flow management to better position the business for potential buyers or funding, or introduce new methods, such as Profit First, giving you a more organized, reliable, real-time view of your business financials.
With all of this in mind, let’s explore the right time to hire your ecommerce accountant.
Recognizing the right time to hire a Shopify accountant
It can be challenging to gauge what point your business is at. To help you assess your business stage, we worked with Tracey Newman, former director of Bean Ninjas and current A2X Product Manager, to break down Shopify business stages, their characteristics, and to learn how a Shopify accountant could assist each.
While these stages may not fit your exact situation, for example, perhaps you’re a well-established brick-and-mortar business just entering ecommerce, or a seasoned online seller expanding into new markets, they should help roughly gauge where your business is, what its accounting needs are, and how an expert Shopify accountant or bookkeeper can support and enhance your business operations.
Read on and assess where your business stands, or skip to the end for the takeaway.
🔴 Starting out (ecommerce novice)
This is the very start of an ecommerce journey. During this phase you’re learning the basics of running an online store and testing potential markets. You might be selling products as a hobby or a side hustle. Your main goal is to understand the store’s target market and find a winning product to sell.
Ecommerce novice characteristics:
- At the idea/testing stage
- Uses basic record-keeping (notes or spreadsheets)
- No outsourcing; all functions performed in-house
- Uses simple cash basis accounting (or no accounting)
- Does their own bookkeeping and compliance
- One shopping channel and selling in limited regions
Do you need a Shopify accountant?
At this stage, the business is still small and straightforward, and you can typically manage with spreadsheets and basic accounting knowledge. However, a Shopify accountant would be able to set up robust financial systems and offer ecommerce and platform-specific advice. This would give your business a strong foundation to build from as it grows, so you don’t need to do this at a later stage. When it comes to end-of-year taxes, a generalist accountant might suffice but having someone familiar with Shopify would ensure total accuracy (and save you from having to explain the ins and outs of the Shopify platform).
🔵 Establishing your business (ecommerce pioneer)
You’ve validated your product or service idea and are in the process of establishing your business. You have a Shopify store up and running but are still self-managing in most aspects.
Ecommerce pioneer characteristics
- At the establishment phase
- Uses spreadsheets or basic apps for inventory
- Self-managed, no outsourcing
- Uses cash basis accounting
- Manages own bookkeeping and compliance
- On Shopify’s basic plan and considering international sales
- Explores diverse supply options like dropshipping, producing own products, or using third-party logistics (3PL)
Do you need a Shopify accountant?
As your ecommerce store evolves, a Shopify accountant can help strengthen existing financial systems so they will scale with your business. This includes setting up any specialist accounting tools you might be considering but that could be daunting to integrate yourself, such as A2X. Their expertise in Shopify means they can guide you in handling transactions, shipping, sales tax, and payment gateways. Although you might get by with a generalist accountant at this stage, hiring a specialist also gives you access to actionable, ecommerce-tailored advice.
🟡 Small and settled (ecommerce warrior)
You’ve established your business’s presence but your operations are still relatively simple. You primarily rely on spreadsheets and manual processes but may use tools like A2X for specific tasks, such as generating COGS entries based on the quantities sold.
Ecommerce warriors characteristics
- Early growth phase
- Uses spreadsheets for inventory tracking
- Budget-conscious with no outsourcing
- Uses cash basis accounting, may be exploring accrual accounting.
- Manages own bookkeeping and compliance
- One shopping channel, selling in one region
- Uses basic dropshipping or imports a single collection at a time
Do you need a Shopify accountant?
Your business has begun to diversify its operations. It has increased transactions and may need an inventory management system. With this growth, your store could need specialized software like A2X to manage, and would benefit from a Shopify accountant or bookkeeper assisting with setup and implementation to get the most out of it. A professional will also be able to streamline financial processes, guide tax strategies, and ensure your business is set up for scalability and efficiency. Crucially, at this stage, a Shopify accountant can give advice and offer strategies for how to drive growth and mature into a robust, sustainable business.
🟢 Growth and expansion (ecommerce master)
Your business is further into the business growth cycle. By now, you may have more of a reliance on your tech stack and use the inventory solutions built into your cloud accounting software, like Xero or QuickBooks. You likely raise purchase orders from the general ledger system, and the accounting software calculates COGS based on the quantities of each SKU sold.
Ecommerce master characteristics
- In the growth phase of the business cycle
- Using a simple inventory system within their general ledger or other low-cost solution
- Starting to outsource
- Using a hybrid of cash and accrual accounting
- Outsourcing some bookkeeping and compliance
- Integrated multiple sales channels and expanded to global markets.
- Uses Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), 3PL
Do you need a Shopify accountant?
An expert Shopify accountant is essential at this pivotal stage. As you navigate more complex operations, multiple sales channels, various payment gateways, and potentially international sales, you need an accountant who truly understands these specifics.
These experts should be well-versed in cloud accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero, ensuring you get the most from these tools. Beyond this, they should offer strategic insights and help you optimize your systems for scalability. With your current growth trajectory, it’s crucial for your accountant to adeptly navigate intricate tax regulations to avoid unexpected tax surprises down the line.
At this stage, using a generalist accountant over a Shopify specialist will hinder your business’s full potential.
🟣 Mature (ecommerce wizard)
Your business has evolved into a large, sophisticated operation. You have dedicated operational and finance teams, and employ advanced inventory systems like Dear, Cin7, or enterprise resource planning software (ERPs) such as NetSuite.
Ecommerce wizards characteristics
- In the maturity phase of the business cycle
- Uses advanced inventory management system (IMS) or ERPs
- Outsourcing many functions
- Using full accrual accounting
- All bookkeeping and compliance tasks are outsourced; they might have a CFO or fractional
- Full omnichannel selling
- Many payment gateways
- Selling globally
- Using 3PL or their own warehouse
Do you need a Shopify accountant?
At this established stage, a specialist Shopify accountant is not just helpful—it’s indispensable. Your business now operates on a grand scale, spanning multiple regions and currencies.
Your accountant should not only be proficient in inventory management systems but also have a strong knowledge of omnichannel operations, and demonstrate confidence in handling tax compliance across various jurisdictions.
More than just a financial expert, your accountant becomes a strategic ally, advising on how to enhance financial efficiency and profitability. They offer insights based on business goals, market trends, and ecommerce particulars.
A specialist Shopify accountant brings the knowledge and experience to adequately support your business throughout this advanced stage and beyond.
Early Stages (Ecommerce Novices and Pioneers): While at first glance a Shopify accountant or bookkeeper may seem unnecessary, it’s a smart investment. An expert will provide valuable insights while also establishing robust financial setups and tools designed to handle growth from the outset. If a dedicated accountant is beyond your means, using ecommerce-specific accounting software or a virtual bookkeeper will also offer substantial benefits. Whether you invest in an accountant and tools from the start, or gradually adopt more sophisticated systems as you grow, the most important thing to remember is that an ecommerce specialist will always offer your business more.
Mid to Advanced Stages (Ecommerce Warriors, Masters, and Wizards): At these levels, the complexity of business operations demands a specialist’s touch. With vast transaction volumes, diverse sales channels, and international trade intricacies, a Shopify accountant becomes indispensable. Settling for a generalist accountant, unfamiliar with Shopify’s nuances and global ecommerce, could prove costly in the long run.
In summary, regardless of your business’s current stage, it’s crucial to know how leveraging the expertise of a Shopify accountant will enhance financial efficiency, ensure compliance, and position you for sustainable growth.
Criteria for selecting the ideal Shopify accountant or bookkeeper
To find a good ecommerce accountant you need to know if they’re well-versed in accounting and intimately familiar with Shopify’s ecosystem. This list will help you know what to look for and what questions to ask so you’re able to weed out the experts from the pretenders during your search:
- Ecommerce savvy: they’ve worked with other ecommerce clients, particularly those on Shopify, and understand an online business’s unique needs and challenges.
- Intimate knowledge of Shopify: they clearly understand the platform, including the different Shopify membership plans, from Basic through to enterprise-level Shopify Plus, and their implications on business finance and operations.
- Familiar with ecommerce tools: they should know the best integrations for accounting, inventory management, CRM, etc., within the Shopify space.
- They understand Shopify access levels: they know what level of collaboration access they need to your Shopify store to get necessary data for financial reporting without compromising your store’s security.
- Proactivity approach: they prioritize regular finance reviews, foresee challenges, anticipate needs, and offer strategic guidance rather than just reacting to problems as they occur.
- Ecommerce cost insight: good knowledge about variable costs like PPC advertising, warehousing, and merchant fees, and can give sound advice on margins and break-even points.
- They talk about Shopify-specific metrics: they should explain how key Shopify metrics like average order value (AOV), conversion rate, customer lifetime value (CLTV), and cart abandonment rate impact your financial health.
- Certifications: look out for certifications from trusted sources, such as A2X certification, Shopify Partner credentials, and Xero or QuickBooks advisors. These show competence and commitment to staying updated in the field.
- Sales tax expertise: with global selling comes complex sales tax obligations. Your accountant should be proficient in handling sales tax for different regions or able to refer you to their network of ecommerce accountants worldwide.
- Familiarity with inventory management: they should understand inventory management complexities, from cost of goods sold (COGS) to dropshipping and third-party logistics.
- Understanding of payment gateways: they should be knowledgeable about various payment gateways, their fee structures, and how they can impact your profits.
- They can handle multi-channel sales: if you’re selling beyond Shopify, your accountant should understand the nuances of each platform for flawless financial management.
When searching for an accountant, you need to start a discussion to ascertain whether the accountant you’re considering understands ecommerce on the same level as you. Many of the points above should come across naturally during your discussion, but ask them specific questions as well. Remember, you’re not searching for someone who will just manage your books, you want a knowledgeable strategist who will help your business flourish.
Hiring an accountant without ecommerce expertise can cost time and money and cause stress. In this video, business owner Jules explains how advice from generalist accountants backfired for her business and what changed once she engaged a Shopify expert.
Resources to discover a Shopify accountant
Now that you know what you’re looking for in an accountant, the next step is finding potential firms and making inquiries. Here are a few ways you can go about finding accountants that suit your needs:
The A2X Directory is a curated list of experienced accountants and bookkeeping practices specializing in ecommerce accounting. These accountants understand the complexities of Shopify, they know the difficulties ecommerce businesses specifically face and they have the expertise to navigate through them. They’re also proficient with the software and tools that integrate directly with Shopify to make accounting more accurate and less time-consuming, like A2X.
When using the A2X Directory, you can filter by ecommerce platform, location, and language to help you find the right match. Each practice has a profile detailing its services, areas of expertise, and client reviews. This means you can easily compare and contrast different professionals to find the one that aligns best with your business needs.
A2X vets each accountant listed in the A2X Directory for their knowledge of A2X software. This way, we know they will help you get the most out of A2X and ensure you utilize any features and integrations to streamline your accounting processes and gain accurate, real-time insights into your financial health.
Mixing with other ecommerce business owners at a meet-up, industry event, or conference is the perfect time to bring up the topic of accounting. You’ll get referrals from those happy with their current service, and you can dig in with specific questions to get their honest review and check they’re relevant for your particular ecommerce business. After receiving any recommendations, run your own checks to make sure the accountant is an ecommerce specialist before pursuing them any further.
Online communities open you up to a global network of ecommerce accountants whose services you could engage. LinkedIn is a fantastic place to start looking, many accountants actively use the platform to find new clients. You could make use of LinkedIn’s features to look for professionals who have shared connections with you, or those within your state or region.
There are frequent discussions about ecommerce accounting on X (formerly Twitter). Here, you could embed yourself in the community by following relevant accountants and bookkeepers or search using hashtags like #ecommerceaccounting or #ecommerceCPA to find prominent and respected voices.
Reddit is another helpful forum. There you can seek out niche ecommerce or accounting forums (called ‘subreddits’), read and respond to posts from others, submit your own, and build connections.
We Google almost everything in life, so why not look for a Shopify accountant or bookkeeper there too? Looking for an accountant on Google will give you many options, but you’ll need to be specific to find accountants that fit your needs. You’re also more likely to see results from accountants with an excellent online presence. Remember, this isn’t necessarily a reflection of their ecommerce accounting skills but of their online marketing prowess. Reading Google reviews can be a good pre-vetting tool to see what others liked or disliked about the service they received. It’s also worth remembering that you don’t need to use a local accountant, so be sure to amend your searches if Google only gives you results for local-area practices.
The appeal of A2X for Shopify merchants
During your search for an accountant, you absolutely need to find a practice that is comfortable and willing to use technology to do their work. As an ecommerce store owner, you’re constantly taking advantage of evolving tools and software to make your business more efficient. Your accountant should be doing exactly the same. A2X is one such tool that not only speeds up the monthly accounting process, it frees up your accountant to do more analysis on your store.
A2X is an app that integrates with Shopify and your cloud accounting software, either QuickBooks or Xero. It sits between the two, extracting necessary financial data from Shopify, interpreting the information and organizing it into summaries, and then passing those summaries to your general ledger. Once the summaries are your accounting software, they will perfectly match your Shopify payouts, so everything can be reconciled in one click.
Without A2X, this task has to be done manually, which takes a long time and makes the data prone to human error. A2X is automated, saving you or your accountant time that can be spent elsewhere—like performing a full financial analysis, identifying potential problems or opportunities, and building a financial strategy.
A2X is trusted by both leading ecommerce accounting practices and business owners and has processed over two billion orders worth of data since its inception. A2X can be used by single-channel businesses using Shopify or multi-channel businesses using platforms like Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Etsy, and BigCommerce in addition to their Shopify store.
Common queries surrounding Shopify accountants
Why do I need a specialist, can’t any accountant manage my Shopify finances?
While generalist accountants can handle basic accounting tasks, ecommerce, especially platforms like Shopify, present additional unique challenges. A specialist Shopify accountant or bookkeeper is familiar with specifics like inventory management, sales tax compliance, payment gateways, and other online business metrics. They can provide tailored advice and strategies to optimize your online store.
How do I find a Shopify accountant?
One of the best ways is to use the A2X Directory, a curated list of accounting professionals specializing in ecommerce, including Shopify. You can browse profiles, filter by various criteria, and connect with accountants who understand the unique needs of ecommerce businesses.
What qualifications do I look for in a Shopify accountant?
Look for accountants with qualifications like A2X certification, Shopify Partner credentials, or who are Xero and QuickBooks advisors. These credentials showcase their ecommerce accounting expertise and dedication to staying up-to-date in the field.
What kind of software tools do Shopify accountants commonly use?
Ecommerce accountants often use cloud software like QuickBooks and Xero. Tools like A2X automate manual tasks and ensure the accuracy of your records. Using software enables accountants to spend less time on time-consuming tasks and more time focussing on in-depth analysis to benefit your store.
Are there any specific tax-related issues that a Shopify accountant can help me with?
Yes, Shopify accountants are adept at managing sales tax obligations that evolve as your business grows. They understand the thresholds and can guide you through sales tax complexities in new states or countries, ensuring compliance and saving you future stress.
How much access to my Shopify store does my accountant need?
Your accountant may need collaborator access to your Shopify store to get relevant financial data. If they do not ask for access or if they ask for full access, this could be a red flag. Ideally they will prioritize your security and request collaborator access.
Do I need an accountant for Shopify or can I do it myself?
While it’s possible to manage your Shopify accounting, a specialized accountant offers expertise and strategic insights. If you opt for DIY accounting, cloud accounting software will help you stay compliant. However, a qualified accountant can interpret data, provide insights, optimize processes, and offer specific advice for better financial decisions.
Can I hire a Shopify accountant for one-off or short-term projects?
Yes, some practices will be happy to assist you in one-off projects. For example, many practices will set up systems or software, like A2X so you can self-manage it. This gives you peace of mind that your software is set up correctly, and later on you could reach out to the practice for ongoing accounting services.
What should I look for in terms of pricing and fees when selecting a Shopify accountant?
Accountants’ fee structures differ. It’s important to understand the fees and included services. Some may charge a flat fee, hourly rate, or offer ecommerce-specific packages. Consider the value they offer against their charges and choose an accountant with transparent pricing.
How can I ensure a good relationship with my Shopify accountant?
Open communication is key to a successful working relationship. Clearly communicate your business goals, challenges, and expectations from the start. Regularly touch base with your accountant, provide necessary financial information promptly, and be open to their advice and suggestions. Building a strong working relationship will benefit your Shopify business in the long run.
Can I switch accountants if I’m not satisfied?
Absolutely. If unsatisfied, you’re free to change your accountant. However, it’s crucial to evaluate your needs, address any concerns with your current accountant, and carefully vet potential new ones to ensure a good fit.
Do I need a Shopify accountant from day one or can I hire one as my business grows?
Initially, a Shopify accountant is beneficial but not essential. As your business scales, their expertise is crucial. For a deeper dive, refer above to the section on “Recognizing the right time to hire a Shopify accountant.”
When should I change from a generalist accountant to a Shopify-specific accountant?
Consider switching when your business scales, such as consistently processing hundreds of monthly orders. Also, when branching out to multiple sales channels or international markets, a Shopify accountant’s expertise becomes invaluable. At these stages, an ecommerce specialist will be able to implement better processes and give tailored advice for how you can grow. For further details, revisit the ‘Recognizing the right time to hire a Shopify accountant’ section.
Choosing the right accountant for your Shopify business is not just about numbers. It’s about finding a financial partner who understands the unique challenges and opportunities of ecommerce. From their level of familiarity with the Shopify platform to their proficiency in specialized accounting tools like A2X, your chosen accountant should offer more than just bookkeeping services. They should be a strategic advisor who can help you navigate complex sales tax landscapes, optimize costs, and make informed financial decisions that propel your business forward.
While it may be tempting to manage finances yourself or opt for a generalist accountant, the intricacies of the ecommerce world demand specialized expertise. And, as your business grows, a Shopify-specific accountant becomes increasingly indispensable.
Start your search armed with the criteria laid out in this guide and make use of the various resources available, including the A2X Directory. Remember, the right accountant will not only ensure financial compliance but also provide strategic insights to help your business thrive in a competitive ecommerce landscape.
Ready to find an accountant for your Shopify store? Search the A2X Directory now.