That's a great question but unfortunately there's no easy answer. It really depends on a few key things that I'll go over.
In general though, it's important to note corporate year ends are becoming increasingly commoditized. That means all firms preparing year ends pretty much do the same thing and generally, this means prices should be stable. In addition, stiff competition for year end business has been building for well over 10 years amongst firms, again putting pressure on rates charged. If you feel like your bill has gone nowhere but up, keep reading, I'll answer "How much should my Accountant be Charging for a Corporate Year End?".
Factors that Determine what you get Charged
What kind of service are you getting?
a) Corporate Tax Return - Most small businesses will opt to only have their corporates tax returns prepared. This is the most basic of services and is strictly for tax compliance purposes.
b) Corporate Tax Return with a Compilation Report - Small or medium sized businesses might opt for a compilation engagement (or "Notice to Reader" as it used to be called) which generally includes a corporate tax return and simple financial statements. The accountant's minimum requirement on the financial statements is to make sure nothing is obviously false or misleading and to report on how generally the accounting is prepared but nothing really more than that. Compilation financial statements in my opinion are mostly pointless, unless specifically required in a corporate credit agreement such as a business credit card or loan. You should know that modern accounting software should be able to produce financial statements for you very easily. My accounting software recommendation is Xero and you can read more about that Here.
c) Corporate Tax Return with Reviewed or Audited Financial Statements - Medium or Larger sized businesses usually require reviewed financial statements and sometimes audited financial statements. These engagements will usually include the preparation of your corporate tax return as well. Reviewed financial statements are generally needed if you participate in certain government programs, you have bank financing, you operate in certain industries, or you lease or finance significant capital assets.
What Condition are your Accounting Records in?
Nothing will explode your year end bill more than showing up with terrible accounting records and bookkeeping. Many firms charge in excess of $150 an hour for staff accountants to work on your file, and if they have to fix a bunch of things for you, your bill is going to sky rocket. Accounting firms are fine with a few year end adjustments, however, if you're coming away with 10+ accounting adjustments at year end, you and your finance team / bookkeeper can do better to save money. If this is you, certainly reach out to someone like me who can help sort out your accounting workflow.
Who is Your Accountant?
I think everyone has heard the saying, "you get what you pay for" and for the most part that holds true for many things in life. However, medium and large national accounting firms generally charge more for their services than small firms or sole practitioners. Larger firms will support their higher rates by claiming you get access to other specialty services and professionals by working with them; however, if you don't really care about that, you're probably paying too much. In my experience, there are some super qualified professionals out there that used to work for bigger firms but now provide their services directly for lower rates. Consider this as well, working with smaller firms may lead to better service and value overall because you get more 1 on 1 time with actual experienced professionals.
Big Firms are: PWC, KPMG, Deloitte, and E&Y.
Medium sized firms are: BDO, Grant Thornton, MNP
What Should my Accountant be Charging for a Corporate Tax Return and Financial Statements?
As noted above, there are many factors that play into how much your bill should be. You could also discuss what service you are getting with your accountant. Maybe you don't need a compilation report / compilation engagement and a corporate tax return on its own will do just fine. Here are my cost ranges to make sure you aren't paying way too much:
Corporate Tax Return Only - $1,500 - $2,500
You'll probably pay $2,000 to $2,500 if you are with a larger firm and / or have some complexities in your business. Sole practitioners and small firms with little to no overhead should be able to help you out for around $1,500 to $2,000. Be aware, there are many unlicensed corporate tax return preparers out there. They offer corporate tax returns for as little as $500 and I would recommend you stay away from those providers. Those kinds of providers will push you to completion as quickly as possible so they get paid and their work will more likely than not have errors in it. In addition, those low cost providers will leave you with little opportunity to ask questions and won't offer much in terms of tax planning.
Corporate Tax Return with Compilation Financial Statements - $2,500 to $4,000
If you pay more than $3,500 to $4,000 for a compilation engagement, you can definitely find better pricing if you want. However, if your accounting records are terrible and you routinely come away with 10+ year end adjustments, your bill could easily approach $5,000+. If this is you, it might be time to look for a new bookkeeper or engage someone like me to help sort out what's going on. Sole practitioners and smaller firms should come in at between $2,500 and $3,500 depending on the complexity of your business.
Corporate Tax Return with Reviewed Financial Statements - $7,500 - $15,000
Unfortunately not as many sole practitioners and small firms help companies with review engagements. There's more risk involved since the accountant is certifying the financial statements to a degree. However, large and medium sized firms have been fighting tooth and nail to get new businesses to work with them. As a result, fees are stabilizing and they may quote low to get your business. For a simple company, you should be able to get your invoice down to around $7,500 assuming your records are impeccable. Complex organizations with great record keeping can expect to pay around $12,000 to $15,000.
Audited Financial Statements - $20,000 - $35,000+
The need for corporate audited financial statements is rare. However, if your company needs one, assuming you aren't a Not for Profit with a strange reporting requirement, you can expect to pay between $20,000 and $35,000+. Again, great records are so key and they really impact your cost. If you feel your bill is too much, ask you accountant what you can do to get the bill down. If there are reasons within your control, such as poor accounting records, I strongly suggest you get someone like me on board to help you sort out what's going on.