Client Accounting Services (CAS): Definition, benefits, and examples by Karbon image

Client Accounting Services (CAS): Definition, benefits, and examples by Karbon

Everything you need to know about Client Accounting Services (CAS), including strategies for growing your CAS delivery.

Posted byKarbon
onWednesday 27 March 2024


Client Accounting Services (CAS or CAAS) refers to a wide range of compliance and advisory services an accounting firm provides to a business client. Essentially, the accounting firm acts as an outsourced finance department for the client.

Business owners are actively looking for ways to achieve more growth with less work, time, and workforce. And an increasingly popular way they’re doing that is by outsourcing their accounting department to their accountant via client accounting services (CAS).

CAS does more than grow the business receiving the service—it can be very profitable for accounting firms providing the service. According to a survey from Accounting Today, 80% of firms that offer client accounting services report that it ‘provides superior revenue growth’, while 90% cite improvements in client satisfaction.

It’s one of the ways growth-focused firms are embedding themselves as their clients’ trusted advisor.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to build, scale, and position your firm’s CAS model.

What are Client Accounting Services (CAS)?

Think of Client Accounting Services (CAS) as a level above traditional financial services and advisory.

CAS firms are outsourced to perform finance-as-a-service and do most, if not all, of the accounting and financial tasks for their clients.

You’ll also find CAS referred to as CAAS, Client Accounting Advisory Services, or Client Advisory Services.

Here are some of the key tiers of CAS:

Bookkeeping (Tier 1)

Bookkeeping is a foundational tier of CAS.

By helping clients with the day-to-day recording of financial transactions, you create the building blocks of their financial records, aid in compliance, and provide the necessary data for strategic decision-making.

Offering bookkeeping through CAS involves many of the core financial services you’re already familiar with:

  • Accounts payable. This involves managing outgoing payments and expenses for a client, invoice processing, ensuring timely payments to vendors, and managing cash flow effectively.

  • Accounts receivable. Includes incoming payments, invoice creation, tracking payments due, managing collections, and ensuring that the client's cash flow is steady and predictable.

  • Account reconciliation. Ensures that all business transactions are accurately recorded, ensuring the integrity of financial data.

By offering bookkeeping under CAS, you give clients peace of mind and free them to focus on their core business activities.

Audits and tax preparation (Tier 2)

Audits and tax preparation are traditional services, but they remain integral to comprehensive CAS offerings. 

Audits involve examining a company's financial statements and records to ensure accuracy and compliance with accounting standards and regulations. Additionally, tax preparation involves compiling and filing tax returns, ensuring accuracy to avoid penalties, and advising on tax-efficient strategies.

Accounting advisory services (Tier 3)

A key reason why clients will opt for CAS over traditional accounting services is for the strategic guidance from their accounting partners.

CAS encompasses a range of advisory services that leverage financial data to provide strategic business advice. These services include helping businesses plan for growth, forecasting, optimizing operations, tax planning, and navigating complex financial challenges. 

Virtual controllership (Tier 4)

Many CAS models offer virtual controller services, where the accounting firm essentially provides outsourced CFO services.

This might include overseeing the production of financial reports—such as balance sheets and profit and loss statements—predictive modeling, managing budgets, and ensuring compliance with financial regulations and reporting standards.

Wealth management (Tier 5)

Wealth management services are targeted at high-net-worth individuals or businesses with complex financial needs.

These services include offering advice on investment portfolios, providing insights on maximizing returns while managing risks, and assisting with retirement planning, including managing pensions and retirement savings. Estate planning is also a crucial part of wealth management, helping business owners manage, protect, and transfer their wealth effectively.

Cost of Client Accounting Services

There are several ways to approach pricing your client accounting services.

Hourly billing

Traditionally, billing by the hour has been the go-to method in accounting. Firms calculate an hourly rate based on fixed costs and a targeted profit margin.

On paper, it’s a straightforward approach: you do the work, the clock ticks, the bill grows.

But this model is becoming increasingly outdated in today's accounting landscape. Technology is helping you be more efficient. The more efficient you are, the quicker you work, and the lower the bill. 

Regardless of a service’s value to your clients, you’re capping your pricing based on how long it takes to deliver that service.

Fixed-rate pricing

In a flat-rate pricing model, firms charge a set fee for a specific service.

Think of it like a fixed-price menu. For example, you would have separate prices for:

  • Preparing balance statements

  • Documenting transactions

  • Processing payroll

Unlike hourly billing, fixed-fee pricing allows you to increase profit as you increase efficiency—the more efficiently you can work, the greater the profit margin.

It's clear and predictable. Which can also be a shortcoming. By definition, fixed-fee pricing is inflexible, and in a complex industry, inflexibility can leave you vulnerable to scope creep and  cost you money. 

Value-based pricing

Value-based pricing sets rates based on the perceived value they have to your clients.

It’s similar to a fixed-priced model in that you charge differently depending on the service, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

It involves individual discussions with your clients to determine what their priorities are, what services they need, how often, and the scope of the projects. From there, you can weigh up all of these factors and give them a quote that accurately reflects the effort, time, and work required to meet their needs.

One of the biggest benefits of a value-based pricing model is the flexibility it offers. Unlike a fixed-pricing system, it allows you to adjust your fees according to individual asks and obstacles.          

Subscription pricing

The subscription pricing model isn’t a subscription in a traditional sense, where you take your value pricing, divide it by 12 months of the year and engage clients on monthly retainers.

Instead, it lets you support your clients in any way they need. It’s full-service, which means there is no scope of work. Anything you can do to help your client, you do it. And when you can’t, you facilitate their relationship with a specialized service provider.

It’s a premium model: a premium level of service and a premium cost. It prices your relationship with your client, rather than inputs or outputs.

For example, you may charge a client $7,500 per month, which includes all the services you offer.

This model is a relatively modern pricing structure for the accounting profession, but it is gaining popularity—particularly among progressive firms.

Mixture of methods

You don’t need to stick to just one pricing model across all of your services.

Sometimes it may make more sense to charge a flat rate for basic services, hourly rates for additional time-consuming tasks, or value-based pricing for high-impact services.

Using a mixture of methods is a hybrid approach that offers flexibility and can be tailored to suit different types of clients and services.

Strategies for growing your Client Accounting Services

CAS is a service offering that’s genuinely built for scale and growth. There are a number of strategies you can use to get a successful CAS model off of the ground. 

1. Adopt a steady service progression

Like with anything in life, good things take time.

So when it comes to building out your CAS firm, steady, sustainable growth is the name of the game.

Start with a basic tier of client accounting services: transactional and write-up offerings. This includes services like:

  • Bookkeeping and tax services

  • Invoice processing

  • Cash flow statements

  • Financial reporting

As you grow, you can start to gradually move towards offering more advisory services, including strategic planning sessions, financial health assessments, or tax planning advice.

2. Choose a niche business category

Finding a niche will enable you to become an expert in a specific industry or with a particular group of clients. You’ll have a deep understanding of their unique challenges and opportunities, making you a perfect strategic advisor.

This will help you attract specific businesses, scale your CAS model, and charge more for your expertise.

3. Lean on existing resources

Resources like the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) can be invaluable for firms looking to develop or expand their CAS offering.

AICPA offers educational materials, best practice guides, tools for implementing and managing CAS, even CAS certification courses.

Leveraging these resources can help firms:

  • Learn how to do workflow analysis and document the CAS process for clients

  • Stay aware of emerging technology

  • Learn the core techniques to perform a successful client assessment

  • Build a successful client onboarding plan

  • Measure results with KPIs and critical success metrics

  • Stay updated with the latest industry standards and practices

You can also leverage the Karbon Template Library, which includes a specific collection of CAS workflow templates. These templates are designed to streamline your common CAS workflows.

You can download these templates as Excel spreadsheets or use them directly in your Karbon account. Either way, they’re completely customizable to suit your firm.

Embedded image
Examples of the CAS workflow templates available in the Karbon Template Library

4. Adopt new technologies

Scaling an effective CAS program means adopting the right technology to help you do it.

Automation tools represent a fundamental, positive shift in the way financial data is processed, analyzed, and reported. Studies show that 77% of all general accounting operations can now be fully automated with the right accounting software.

Today, accounting technology can help you automate tasks, data entry, report generation, and even some aspects of analysis, which significantly enhances efficiency, accuracy, and the speed of service delivery.

It frees up time for accountants to focus on people-first services like advisory while also improving client satisfaction with quicker turnaround times and reduced error rates. 

Using accounting practice management software for superior CAS delivery

A comprehensive offering like CAS necessitates a comprehensive accounting technology stack.

Accounting practice management software like Karbon should be at the core of yours. These tools are purpose-built to handle multiple clients across multiple verticals efficiently, with automated workflows, specialized client management tools, and AI features.

Firms like CRC are doing just that.

There are key features of accounting practice management software that dramatically increase the effectiveness of any CAS offering:

  • Workflow and project management. Best-in-class accounting tools unite your entire team in a single platform by organizing work, tasks and email into a manageable action plan. You can also easily track the progression of jobs, identify bottlenecks, manage team capacity, and standardize common workflows with templates.

  • Time tracking and billing. Practice management software offers integrated time and billing tools to improve spend management across CAS. It can help you effectively manage resources, prevent overspending, enable timely adjustments, and ensure all your client’s projects are on budget

  • Centralized client management. Tools like Karbon make managing accounting services across dozens of clients possible. With real-time client details and correspondence at your fingertips in centralized client portals, accounting teams can assign tasks to clients, communicate with clients within context, schedule automated reminders, and securely share information.

  • AI-powered communication. Karbon AI can help you summarize email contents, compose an email from a task, and auto-adjust your tone to get more work done in less time.

  • Business intelligence and reporting. Because accounting practice management software centralizes all of the work across your CAS efforts, you can get the fully contextualized insights and dashboards you need to guide critical decision-making for your clients and your own firm.

Book a Karbon demo or start a free trial to learn how scaling client accounting services is possible with world class accounting practice management.

Client Accounting Services FAQs

What is the goal of client accounting services?

The primary goal of client accounting services is to provide comprehensive financial support to clients—support that goes beyond traditional accounting and bookkeeping.

It aims to offer strategic financial insights, assist in decision-making, and help clients improve their overall financial health and business performance. This includes services like financial planning, tax advice, budgeting, and business advisory, all designed to help clients achieve financial stability, growth, and long-term success.

How do clients and accounting firms work together on CAS?

CAS focuses on close-knit and ongoing collaboration between clients and accounting professionals. The process often involves:

  • Understanding client needs. Initially, the accounting firm thoroughly assesses the client's small business to understand its financial status and needs.

  • Tailored service offering. Based on this understanding, the firm offers customized services that align with the client's specific goals and challenges.

  • Regular communication and updates. Frequent communication is a must. It’s up to the firm to provide regular updates, insights, and advice. This can involve reviewing financial statements, discussing strategies, and making adjustments as needed.

  • Strategic partnership. Full CAS requires accountants to be involved in key business decisions with a comprehensive understanding of the client’s business. So firms must approach CAS work with the mentality of a strategic partner, offering proactive advice to navigate financial complexities and capitalize on opportunities.

What duties does an accounting firm have to its clients?

An accounting firm has several key duties to its clients, especially when it comes to CAS.

They need to ensure they are:

  • Delivering accurate and compliant financial records and statements

  • Maintaining the confidentiality of all client information

  • Being transparent about fees, services provided, and any conflicts of interest

  • Keeping professional standards and ethical practices in all dealings

  • Providing proactive, timely advice to help clients make informed financial decisions

  • Keeping clients informed about their financial status and any changes in regulations

  • Providing the best possible service by staying up-to-date with the latest in accounting standards, technology, and practices

In essence, offering outsourced accounting services is all about establishing a trusted, advisory relationship where firms actively contribute to the client's financial success and stability.

Elevate your client accounting services to new heights, solidify your reputation in the industry, and unlock greater profitability with Karbon. Sign up today.

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