Accounting Firm Funding: The Essential Guide to Loans for Accountants

female accountant bookkeeping at a desk

Understanding your funding options and applying for the right small business loan for your business can be confusing. Our Industry Funding guides make it easy to compare your funding options and choose the right loan for your business, whether you’re just starting up or are looking to grow an existing business.

Getting Started with Loans for Accountants

The accounting services market is valued at $120.6B in 2022, with over 93,000 businesses employing nearly 1.4 million people. 7% growth is projected between 2020 and 2030 as the number of accounting businesses increases, corporate profits rise, and growth in corporate activity such as acquisitions and mergers and IPOs fuels demand.

The accounting industry is dominated by the “Big Four” professional services firms: Deloitte, Ernst & Young (EY), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and KPMG. Combined, these firms audit more than 80% of US public companies, including many Fortune 500 companies, earning a gross revenue of over $66.5B in 2020. Thanks to their size, the Big Four are able to offer a wide range of professional services, including auditing, assurance, taxation, management consulting, actuarial services, corporate finance, and legal services.

There are many other small accounting firms that operate independently of the Big Four. These firms typically offer a smaller number of accounting-focused services, including:

  • Bookkeeping and accounting
  • Payroll
  • Tax
  • Compliance
  • Business advising
  • Audit and assurance

Tax preparation and payroll are the two most commonly outsourced accounting tasks by SMBs. The majority of tax preparers are small businesses—37% are run by a single person and 53% employ less than 10 people.

The challenges faced by small accounting firms are growing as they contend with increased demand and other challenges unique to their field, such as competition with the Big 4, staff burnout, seasonal volatility, and technological advancements.

Accounting firm loans can help accountants overcome these challenges and embrace industry growth. All accounting specialties can benefit from accountant funding, including bookkeeping and accounting, tax and compliance accounting, business advisors, and audit and assurance specialists.

Accountant Loan Options

Accounting firm loans are designed for accountants who are preparing to start their own firm, as well as established businesses who are ready to grow. Long- and short-term loans for accountants are available, as well as secured and unsecured loans, including:

  1. SBA loans for accountants
  2. Bank loans for accountants
  3. Alternative funding
  4. Lines of credit
  5. Equipment financing

Let’s take a look at each of these options.

1. SBA loans for accountants

SBA loans for accountants are not direct loans—instead, they are offered in partnership with commercial lending institutions like banks. Your application will be processed and the funds will be disbursed by the bank, but the loan is guaranteed up to 85% by the Small Business Administration. This reduces the risk to the lender, allowing them to offer lower rates, longer terms, and larger loan amounts.

The SBA offers a number of loans for accountants. Here are some of the most popular:

  • 7(a) Guaranteed Loans: These are the most popular loans for accountants, with the largest loan amounts, lowest rates, longest terms, and no restrictions on how funds are used. Loans up to $5M are available with terms as long as 25 years, and funds can be used to meet short- and long-term needs, as well as for expanding or acquiring a business.
  • Express Loans: Express Loans are available up to $500,000, with SBA review completed in 36 hours. The SBA guarantees Express Loans up to 50%, with rates and approval determined by the partnering commercial lender.
  • 504 Local Development Company Loans: 504 Loans are long-term, fixed rate loans that are administered by Community Development Corporations (CDCs) through commercial lenders. The lender provides 50% of funding, the SBA contributes 40%, and the remaining 10% comes from the borrower. These loans are granted to borrowers who are seeking to create or retain jobs or uphold other public policy goals such as supporting minority-owned businesses, revitalizing a business district, or rural development, and are commonly used for real estate or equipment.

The SBA considers accounting businesses to be higher risk, in part due to seasonal demand, which can make it difficult to acquire the funding you need. Only the strongest applications are approved—you must provide extensive paperwork along with years of detailed personal and business financial information, and you must also have an extremely high credit score and a strong financial history. The application process is also lengthy and it can take weeks or months to get a decision. If you don’t need your funding quickly and you meet their strict approval criteria, SBA loans are often the preferred option thanks to their higher loan amounts, longer terms, and lower rates.

Difficulty:

5/5

Pros
  • Lowest rates and typically better terms
  • Large loan amounts are available, up to $5 million
Cons
  • Most applicants are rejected, especially those with low credit
  • Extensive application requiring years of detailed business and personal financial information
  • Can take weeks or months to process with no guarantee of approval
  • Some loans restrict how you can spend your funds

2. Bank loans for accounting firms

Banks also offer loans for accountants. Terms and rates are competitive, but may not be as low as the SBA and will depend on the size of the loan and your business and personal financial histories.

Approval requirements may not be as strict as the SBA, but it is still difficult to acquire funding from a commercial bank, especially if you don’t have an existing relationship with the lender, can’t offer collateral, or you are still establishing business credit. The application process can also take weeks or months with no guarantee of approval.

Banks tend to prefer granting loans to larger, established businesses, which can make it difficult for smaller firms to get the funding they need. Some commercial banks may offer loan programs that are designed specifically for accounting professionals, but accounting businesses are often considered higher risk due to seasonal volatility. However, if you are seeking a larger loan, don’t need funding quickly, and you meet their approval criteria, bank loans are a good alternative to SBA loans and may suit your purposes better than alternative funding options.

Difficulty:

4/5

Pros
  • Low rates and good terms depending on size of loan and credit history
  • Slightly less strict application requirements than SBA loans
Cons
  • Many applicants are rejected, especially small loan amounts and applicants with low credit
  • Extensive application requiring detailed business and personal financial information
  • Can take weeks to process, with no guarantee of approval
  • Some loans restrict how you can spend your funds

3. Alternative funding

Alternative funding for accountants is available from direct online lenders, including Greenbox Capital®. Alternative lenders have more flexible underwriting requirements than banks or the SBA, with less focus on factors like credit score and financial history, no collateral requirements, and more emphasis on the health and potential of your business. These lenders also offer streamlined applications and approval processes and can deposit funds in as little as 24 hours.

Alternative lenders offer multiple types of funding, including more traditional funding options like lines of credit, collateral real estate loans, and term loans. They also offer innovative forms of financing that can be used to bridge seasonal cash flow gaps or provide working capital for growth, including:

  • Merchant Cash Advances: Merchant cash advances are a non-loan form of financing known as a purchase of future receivables. You’ll receive a cash advance up front, and your lender will receive a percentage of your daily or weekly credit card sales until the advance has been repaid. Learn more about merchant cash advances.
  • Invoice Factoring: Invoice factoring is another non-loan form of financing known as accounts receivable financing. You’ll sell your outstanding invoices to a lender, called a “factor”, and the factor will advance you up to 90% of the invoice’s value. The remainder will be paid out to you when your client pays. Learn more about invoice factoring.

Loan amounts are typically lower with shorter terms than SBA or bank loans. Because terms are shorter and approval requirements are more flexible, rates may be higher; however, it’s a common misconception that alternative funding rates are always higher than other forms of funding. Shorter terms often means your funding will cost less over the lifespan of the loan, but ultimately the cost of your funding will depend on the type of funding you’re seeking and your business’s risk assessment and creditworthiness.

If you need a smaller loan, fast funding, or don’t meet the strict approval requirements of the SBA or commercial banks, alternative funding may be the right option for your accounting firm.

Difficulty:

2/5

Pros
  • Faster approvals with funds deposited in as little as 24 hours
  • Easier lending requirements
  • No restrictions on how funds are used
  • More likely to fund younger businesses
Cons
  • Higher rates
  • Daily or weekly repayment terms depending on type of funding

4. Lines of credit

Lines of credit are available from both traditional and alternative lenders, typically for longer terms than short-term funding options like MCAs or invoice factoring and with larger limits and lower rates than business credit cards. Fixed or revolving terms are available, as well as secured and unsecured lines of credit, though unsecured lines of credit may have higher rates or lower limits than secured lines.

Lines of credit offer the most flexibility, allowing borrowers to draw and repay from the line as needed, only ever paying interest on the amount borrowed. This makes lines of credit ideal for covering unexpected expenses, purchasing inventory, repairing equipment, investing in growth, or bridging seasonal cash flow gaps.

Difficulty:

3/5

Pros
  • Only pay interest on the amount you borrow
  • Draw and repay funds as needed
  • No restrictions on how you spend your funds
  • Lower rates and higher limits than business credit cards
Cons
  • Tougher application requirements
  • Lower amounts than other forms of funding

5. Equipment financing

Equipment financing is designed specifically to fund the purchase or repair of equipment or technology. These loans are offered by commercial lenders, though alternative lenders also offer funding options that can be used to purchase equipment and technology, such as:

  • Investing in cloud accounting software or new tech to streamline operations and improve efficiency, or meet the changing needs of your clients and stay on the cutting edge
  • Purchasing new computers or laptops to facilitate flexible working policies and enable remote work or on-site work
  • Upgrading office fixtures like desks

The equipment serves as collateral to secure the loan, which can make equipment financing easier to acquire than other types of funding, especially if you’re just starting your accounting firm. Loan terms will typically match the lifespan of the equipment, and a down payment may be required.

Difficulty:

3/5

Pros
  • May be easier to qualify for because equipment serves as collateral
  • You own the equipment instead of leasing it
Cons
  • Funding can only be used to purchase specific equipment
  • Very specific equipment or equipment that goes out-of-date quickly may have higher interest rates

What Are The Best Accountant Loans?

The best loan for accountants depends on your goals. The loan, including the type of funding, the loan amount, and repayment terms, should serve a specific purpose that helps you achieve your business goals, such as hiring staff, purchasing a business, investing in new technology, or improving your services.

For short-term funding, non-loan financing such as merchant cash advances or invoice factoring can provide a quick infusion of working capital that you can use to maintain cash flow, cover unexpected expenses, or fuel your business’s growth.

For long-term funding, SBA 7(a) loans offer the largest loan amounts with the longest terms and lowest rates, but they are the most difficult to acquire. Bank loans may be a good alternative, especially if you already have an established relationship with a bank.

For fast funding, alternative lenders are always the best option. These lenders have flexible underwriting requirements and can approve and deposit funds in as little as 24 hours, while SBA and bank loans can take weeks or months with no guarantee of approval.

How To Use Accounting Firm Funding

21% of small- and medium-sized business owners admit to not knowing enough about bookkeeping—a positive sign for accounting firms. In addition, 91% of companies with 26-100 employees are satisfied with their accountant’s efforts, further underscoring the anticipated growth of the accounting industry.

As the industry grows, accountants will face a number of opportunities to grow, such as:

  • Adopting cloud accounting: 82% of small businesses and 57% of enterprises use cloud accounting, and about 67% of accountants prefer cloud accounting. Accounting firm funding can provide the working capital you need to invest in cloud accounting software and employee training without negatively impacting your firm’s cash flow during the transition.
  • Offering client education: 27% of small- and medium- sized business owners feel their accountant doesn’t provide them with enough advice, and 23% say their accountant doesn’t educate them enough. Funding can help you develop and implement client education programs or hire new staff to communicate with clients and educate them on day-to-day cash flow management, tax preparation, and other accounting efforts.
  • Investing in new technology and software: The global accounting software market is expected to reach a value of $20M by 2026. Over half of accountants say technology is increasing their productivity, and 35% say updating their technology has helped them keep pace with client expectations, resulting in increased retention rates. Accounting firm funding can be used to invest in new technology so you can increase productivity and offer better services, such as CRM software, cloud accounting, and client records management software.
  • Hiring new staff: Accounting firm funding can provide the working capital you need to hire qualified new staff so you can take on more clients or offer a wider range of services.
  • Upskilling current employees: Investing in training and education for your existing staff will enable you to offer more services and retain your best employees, such as learning more about cloud accounting, enterprise resource planning, data analytics, or financial modeling and forecasting.
  • Embracing automation: Automation minimizes the chance of human errors and inaccurate calculations. Nearly 50% of accounting firms intend to use automation to streamline repetitive, time-consuming tasks such as data entry, invoicing, or accounts payable processes, and nearly ¼ of accounting firms strongly agree artificial intelligence will help improve operations and automate tasks. Automation software can be costly to implement, and accounting firm funding can provide the working capital you need to get started and ensure a smooth transition.
  • Boosting marketing: Accounting firm funding can be used to create or update your website, as well as develop online and offline communications strategies to ensure new and existing clients know about what service you offer, especially if you’re offering new services.
  • Purchasing another firm: Acquiring an existing business is one of the simplest ways to start or grow your accounting firm, but this method of starting up or expanding often comes with very high costs. However, these costs typically include a client roster, as well as all equipment and fixtures, which can simplify the process of opening a new business and eliminate some of the stress of marketing your firm to attract new clients.

Accounting firm loans can also be used to help accountants overcome the unique challenges of their field, including:

  • Seasonal revenue bias: March and April are the peak of tax season, and many accountants are booked solid during these times but experience drops in business throughout the rest of the year. Accountant loans can help stabilize cash flow during these times so you can continue to operate at your best and grow your business.
  • Slow-paying clients: Though accountants typically have a demonstrated ability to manage finances responsibly, sometimes clients don’t pay on time and working capital is tied up in accounts receivable. This can negatively impact your cash flow and make it difficult to manage your business’s finances. Accountant loans can help fill in these gaps so you can continue to grow your firm.
  • Switch to remote work: More employees are demanding flexibility—77% of accounting professionals would like to continue working from home—and workplaces need to adapt in order to retain talent. This can mean investing in new tech so your staff can work remotely, or creating programs that will allow you to hire remotely so you can bring in the best talent. Accounting firm funding can provide the working capital you need to enable this flexibility.
  • Changing client expectations: Client needs and expectations are changing as pandemic restrictions loosen and technology advances. Accountant loans can help you stay on the cutting edge by giving you the working capital you need to create and implement programs or offer new services to meet changing client needs.
  • Hiring qualified staff: 40% of respondents to a Sage Practice of Now 2019 study claimed that company reputation was the main reason why they chose to join one firm over another. It can be difficult for smaller firms to compete with the Big Four and other larger firms with prestigious reputations and higher compensation packages. Accountant loans can help smaller accounting firms make a competitive offer to attract qualified staff.
  • Technology literacy: 57% of accountants found tech literacy to be the most critical additional skill for future employees. Accounting firm funding can help you provide tech training programs for new and existing staff so you can stay on the cutting edge.
  • Tax law and regulatory changes: Tax laws are constantly changing—even more so in recent years thanks to federal COVID-19 relief programs, including tax extenders, deductible PPP funding, and PPP loan forgiveness. Accountant loans can provide working capital to help you keep on top of these changes.

How To Apply for Accountant Loans

Accountants are often considered to be higher risk applicants due to seasonal cash flow volatility. Some lenders may only consider applicants who have 3+ years of experience as a partner or a high-level CPA. Other factors that may be considered include:

  • Profit margins: Some lenders look for profit margins or 25% or more before partners’ salaries have been deducted.
  • Down payments: You may need to provide a down payment, depending on the lender you’re working with and how you plan to use the funding.
  • Revenue and billing structures: Delays receiving payments from clients can strain your cash flow, which may make it difficult to get approved for accounting firm funding. Requesting payments up front, billing quickly, and providing easy ways to pay can improve cash flow.
  • Business plan: You may be asked to provide a business plan that outlines a timeline of your accounting firm’s income for the last 1-5 years, including costs associated with running your firm, an analysis of competition in your area, and how you intend to use and repay your funding. Some lenders, including the SBA, will require this, while others, such as alternative lenders, may not. It’s always a good idea to have it prepared just in case to minimize any delays with your application.

Otherwise, steps you will follow to apply for accounting firm funding will be similar other industries

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do you have to put down on an SBA loan?

As a general rule, you should plan to make a down payment of at least 10% and up to 30% when you apply for and receive an SBA loan. Some loan programs don’t require a down payment, but many of the most popular do, including 7(a) Guaranteed Loans, 504 Loans, and Microloans.

What are the typical uses of funding for an accounting firm?

There are many ways you could use your funding. Some uses of funding for an accounting firm could include equipment and software purchases, marketing and advertising expenses, expansion costs, and much more. Make sure to consult with one of our Funding Advisors to ensure you are using your funding in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Are there any restrictions on how alternative accountant loans can be used?

There are no restrictions on how your funds can be used. We have a very simple application process, with same-day funding available. To get started, fill out our one-page application form or speak with a Funding Advisor.

Which type of funding is best for an accounting firm?

A merchant cash advance is one of the most popular funding options for firms that need fast funding, a smaller loan, or don’t meet the strict requirements of the SBA or a bank. We recommend you speak with one of our knowledgeable Funding Advisors—they can help you explore all of the available funding solutions for your business.

Greenbox Funding Options for Accountants

As an alternative lender, Greenbox Capital® can approve more accountant loans than traditional lenders. We can also approve loans for accountants faster, with funds deposited in as little as 24 hours. We offer several types of accounting firm funding to help grow your business, including merchant cash advances, invoice factoring, lines of credit, and more, with funding from as low as $3,000 up to $500,000.

Greenbox Capital funds all accounting specialties. Our expert Funding Advisors will work closely with you to determine which funding option will help you achieve your goals without compromising your business’s cash flow.

Learn more
Author:
With over 25 years’ experience in financial services, Pamela Kohl has worked closely with banks, alternative finance, and other fintech platforms to develop core banking services, as well as establish new card programs, lending programs, and global payments platforms. She has been nationally recognized for creating innovative solutions, leveraging new markets, and developing winning strategic partnerships. Currently, Pamela serves as Vice President of Marketing at Greenbox Capital. Pamela earned a B.A. from Marshall University, summa cum laude, and M.A. in International Economics from the University of Miami, where she graduated with Distinction.