The payroll services problem: solutions for CPAs 

Awareness global payroll header no bg
By Alison Clynes | 06/04/2024 | 5 min read

For Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), providing payroll services can be seen as too much work for not enough reward. 

But with the right solutions, savvy CPA firms can change their perspective and start seeing payroll as a lucrative new revenue stream that adds huge value to clients. 

Do CPAs offer payroll solutions? 

Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) can and do offer a payroll solution for clients, often alongside standard accounting and CPA-specific services. 

However, many CPAs and CPA firms choose not to offer a payroll solution. While the reasons vary, payroll management has a reputation for being complex, labor-intensive, and subject to compliance and legal risks.  

However, with the market becoming more competitive than, it’s a great time for ambitious, forward-thinking CPA firms to start offering payroll solutions. 

Why should CPAs consider offering payroll solutions? 

A growing number of CPAs have started offering payroll services, citing payroll as an opportunity to:  

  • Strategically expand their business scope 
  • Enhance client relationships by offering additional service 
  • Generate consistent revenue streams 
  • Secure a competitive edge in the CPA market. 

While payroll services are an investment, with the right tools, resources and strategy, CPAs can reap significant benefits. 

Turning Payroll into Profit: A Practical Guide for CPAs 

This free guide offers a roadmap for CPAs looking to enhance their payroll services and get the edge on competitors. 


Download today for insights like: 

  • A wider look at the CPA market and payroll 
  • Barriers to offering payroll services 
  • Strategies to effectively offer outsourced payroll  
  • Software and managed payroll recommendations. 

What’s holding CPA firms back from offering payroll services? 

More and more businesses are turning to their CPA firms hoping for an answer to their payroll prayers. But what’s stopping CPAs from coming to the rescue? 

“We don’t want to risk non-compliance” 

Payroll is notorious amongst CPAs and accountants for being a regulatory mine field.  

Firms are well aware that payroll can be complicated; from complex tax withholdings to upholding strict adherence to both federal and state-specific labor laws. 

The concern is, in many ways, justified. Failing to accurately manage payroll can result in: 

  • Significant financial penalties 
  • Damage to relationships with clients 
  • A tarnished reputation in the industry.  

But that doesn’t mean CPA firms need to risk it all to reap the rewards. There are payroll solutions out there – like an outsourced service or sophisticated payroll software – that can help put any compliance concerns to rest. 

“We’re already maxed-out on resources” 

Running payroll can take up a lot of time and – particularly for smaller CPA firms – a lot of mental real estate. 

Ever-changing payroll regulations mean that CPA firms need to be on the ball, which means continuous investment in both human capital management (HCM) and technology. 

Even larger CPA firms might pass on payroll services so they can concentrate on areas that are perceived as more profitable or high priority. 

Thankfully, there are ways round this roadblock. You can secure additional resources who can handle your clients’ payroll (while you and your firm take the credit), or you can your people power go further with admin-busting, time-saving payroll software. 

“We don’t think payroll is worth the effort”  

In the CPA and accounting world, payroll has historically been perceived as a low-margin service – it can feel like a lot of buy-in for not a lot of reward. 

This a valid argument, but the key word here is “historically”. Today, CPA firms have access to powerful resources to help make the provision of payroll services well worth it, including: 

  • Competitively-priced outsourcing solutions you can white-label as your own service 
  • Payroll software that cuts down on admin with automation features. 

It’s more than possible to provide payroll services that won’t eat up internal resources or put budgets out of balance. 

“We can’t price competitively in the payroll market” 

When businesses can use automated DIY payroll solutions, it can be tough for CPAs to compete on price. So, can payroll actually be a sustainable revenue stream for a CPA firm?  

The answer is up to you, but many CPA firms are finding that payroll is financially well worth the investment. Strategies like these can help: 

  • Finding the right cost-effective outsourced or software-based payroll solution  
  • Offering tiered pricing packages based on the level of customization and support provided 
  • Transparent pricing models to help build trust and ensure client understand the value of the service. 

With the rise of automated payroll solutions that offer businesses do-it-yourself options, CPA firms often find it difficult to compete on price while still maintaining a level of service that justifies their fees. Consequently, these firms worry about the viability of payroll as a sustainable revenue stream in the face of stiff competition from both software solutions and larger firms that can operate on thinner margins due to economies of scale. 

“If we get payroll wrong, this could impact client relations” 

Given the direct impact payroll errors can have on an employee's livelihood, the stakes are incredibly high for whoever’s handling payroll. 

CPAs work hard to build strong relationships with clients, built on trust and an expectation of excellence. Running payroll could introduce a level of risk that some CPA firms are not willing to take. 

But this shouldn’t hold CPA firms back from pursuing the promise of new revenue streams or business growth opportunities. Using outsourced expertise or software with automated compliance measures should assuage any concerns, too. 

Find your perfect solution to the payroll problem