Can an accountant work as a freelancer

Working independently as an accountant

What makes self-employment as an accountant attractive?

Many self-employed accountants like the independence of their work. You decide for yourself which employer you work for. These can be small companies as well as large corporations.

Often the accountants stay in the company only temporarily and oversee important projects. This can be assistance in converting accounting from HGB to IFRS principles, converting bookkeeping from cameralistics to double in the municipalities or merging companies and their accounting systems.

In self-employment, a significantly higher hourly wage can be achieved than in an employee relationship. The scope and timing of the work can be freely decided, some of the work can also be done in the home office.

How to start my own business?

Successful qualification as an accountant is a prerequisite for self-employment. If you would like to work independently afterwards, then start the preparations in good time. You are allowed to advertise with the title “Certified Accountant” because it is legally protected.

Draw up a business plan and calculate how much income you need to generate in order to meet all obligations. Set your price for the services. As an accountant, you are excellently trained and highly motivated. This should also express your target compensation. Unfortunately, many accountants offer their services too cheaply, especially if they start on a part-time basis. The current fee schedule of the b.b.h, the professional association of self-employed accountants and accountants, provides a good orientation aid. Think of all the costs that will be incurred.

Adequate insurance is also important. As an accountant, financial loss liability is indispensable. Acquiring orders is difficult because the accountants are not allowed to advertise aggressively. Now good contacts and a tightly knit network pay off. In addition, prepare a homepage on which you can present your service in a professional manner. The investment will be worth it.

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What requirements does a self-employed accountant have to consider?

The qualification as an accountant is equivalent to a commercial apprenticeship with corresponding professional experience. According to the Tax Advisors Act, you can use it as an accounting aid. As a self-employed accountant you have a commercial profession.

Unfortunately, the activity is not included in the list of liberal professions, so that a business registration is necessary. Self-employed accountants must report the start of their activity to the tax office, which then assigns them a tax number.

What services can I offer as a self-employed accountant?

The areas of responsibility of the self-employed accountants are unfortunately strictly limited by the Tax Advisory Act. As an accounting aid, they are unfortunately denied all tax advisory activities.

Independent accountants are allowed to take on the following tasks for their clients:

  • Enter data according to documents, post ongoing business transactions
  • Assign receipts, issue booking instructions
  • Doing paperwork and arithmetic
  • Settle current wages and salaries and submit income tax notifications
  • Maintain open items and remind delinquent customers
  • Control payments and execute payment transactions
    Calculate costs, calculate prices

If you want to advertise your service, you must explicitly point out which activities you are allowed to carry out. However, many customers expect more from their external accountants. Point out that this is unfortunately not permitted by law.

What types of work are self-employed accountants not allowed to offer?

Chambers of tax advisors keep a very close eye on self-employed accountants. They obviously fear competition. Therefore, there is a long list of what services they are not allowed to perform.

Accountants are not allowed to offer the following services:

  • Set up the bookkeeping or the chart of accounts
  • Prepare the annual financial statements or the balance sheet
  • Make preparatory closing entries (depreciation, accruals, provisions)
  • Determine the profit / loss
  • Set up wage accounts
  • Trigger advance sales tax returns or submit tax returns

What are the penalties if accountants exceed legal limits?

Independent accountants are not allowed to provide tax advice and similar services. If the tax office proves violations of the Tax Advisor Act, fines of up to 5,000 euros per case are possible. In addition, the chambers of tax advisors in particular look closely at the advertising measures of the self-employed. Here they distribute warnings with fines if unauthorized services are promised.

How can I advertise my services as a self-employed accountant?

Self-employed accountants must pay particular attention to their advertising measures, because advertising slogans such as “I'll take care of your bookkeeping!” Are not allowed. Courts here regularly rule in favor of tax advisors who believe that customers can expect the entire bookkeeping to be done. In addition to posting and account assignments, this also includes setting up bookkeeping and preparing financial statements. However, this is expressly reserved for tax advisory professions and the accountant is not permitted.

In the meantime, accountants are allowed to advertise their titles on business cards or in the phone book. On their homepage or in descriptions of their services, however, they must still list the activities to which they are authorized.

Criticism of the legal position of the accountant

In practice, self-employed accountants are therefore allowed to take on fewer tasks than their employed colleagues. For them, at least the advance VAT return and the preparatory postings for the annual financial statements are part of the job description. This is not justified because the training is identical.

The tax consultant law in Germany is outdated and hinders the professional practice of accountants. They also suffer disadvantages internationally. In European countries they are allowed to offer the services that they would take over in their home country. An accountant from Austria is allowed to draw up financial statements in Germany because the law allows it there. A German colleague, however, cannot offer this service in the neighboring country, even if he has the necessary qualifications.

The major associations of accountants, the b.b.h. (Federal Association of Independent Accountants and Accountants) and also the BVBC (Federal Association of Accountants and Controllers) are urgently calling for improvements. Unfortunately without success so far.

Pros & cons to self-employment

To set up self-employment, accountants need staying power, flexibility and a functioning network. Many a dry spell has to be overcome. Often there are work peaks in which a regular working week cannot be implemented. Especially in the early days, accountants have to invest a lot of time in advertising and acquisition - an effort that is not paid for.

Accountants need a steady client base to cover their running costs. Interesting and varied work tasks await here, because every company lives by its individual conditions. With an increasing number of orders and temporary assignments in companies, the self-employed can earn an attractive income.

In addition, as the accountant you are your own boss - you decide on holidays, Christmas bonuses, company cars and other bonuses.