How Much Does Bookkeeping Cost?

My billing over the past 10 years was tiered based on income levels: $380K, $880k, $1.5 million, $6 million.  The new billing is based on expenditures processed: more expenditures means more transactions to process, review and more after-work in terms of CRA compliance.

This move is also in response to CRA’s increased audits of different expense account and industries.

If you are going to do something, do it as best you can. There is no sense in working 30 years, sacrificing your health and time with your children if you can make the same money in 10.

Efficiency is only important when a resource is scarce.  As a young person with a whole lifetime ahead, money was the priority. As we get older, time and attention is the priority. (Attention is important, for example, Spending 1 hour QUALITY time with your kids, interacting with them and reading to them is much better than spending 2 hours with them in front of the television)

Its an inefficient use of time to advance your wealth beyond a certain point since money eventually becomes perpetual (ie living off 7% returns on $3 million).

We all should maximize our limited time left on earth and improve our craft each day.  Office workers are not capable of more than 5 hours of focused deep work each day.  The best way for me to improve is to work with big numbers on limited accounts. Big numbers mean the errors of others would compound to adversely affect my customers.

Businesses that revolve around E-commerce, beauty/aesthetics, food/health are all great businesses that could effectively give you $20,000 or more a month in after-tax income and being in Alberta, there is still some opportunity left in the oil/pipeline sector as well.

Keeping in mind, Pareto’s principle aka the 80/20 rule, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes and in our case, 80% of the inefficient use of time comes from 20% of the customers. By refusing service to companies that do not use their time and resources efficiently guarantees we don’t have to lose time with audits. This, in turn, gives us more time to spend with our valued clients.

In 2016 we cancelled the consultant category because it made no sense to corrupt our Dunbar’s # when half the people we dealt with only generated 10% of our revenue.

2017 we have improved where  14.67% of our revenue comes from 37% of our customers.  But it clearly makes more sense to give up $115,000 of revenue (14.67%) if we can save 37% of our time, hence we have eliminated the next category up.

e all-inclusive flat fees including GST are as follows:

$8,800    Industry: Annual expenses over $1 million
$7,100    Enterprise: Annual expenses between $450k and $1m
$5,600    Venture: Annual expenses between $200k and $450k
$4,700    Boutique: Annual expenses between $100k and $200k
$3,900    Micro: Annual expenses less than $100k

Save 1 free month of bookkeeping for every new client you refer to us.  Your referral will also get 1 free month of bookkeeping and you’ll receive a thank-you for introducing them to a service that at a cost of 1% or less, legitimately reduces the 3 sources of negative cash flow that matter (taxes, payroll, and housing) by 3-30%.  If you have those 3 sources of negative cash flow figured out, leasing a Benz for $1,000 /month really can never make a difference.


Choosing Your Market & Pricing

There are only three markets you need to know:

  1. Average women

  2. Women in the top 20%

  3. Men in the top 20%

Where is the average men? They simply don’t count in Canada– their women control their money -so direct your efforts directly to them!

How do you pick your market?

A) If each transaction does not require a material amount of an individual’s time then you can enjoy the largest market- the average people. They come in, they order your soup, which is prepared in a large amount, they pay, they leave. Businesses that can enjoy the mass market: online sales, retail, and restaurants.

Big money is made in this market, but few clients can tap into it because many of the times this involves producing junk- think Walmart, Apple, Starbucks, big Pharma. THUT 2.0 was the accounting service we tried to deliver to everyone, but it failed. Unless it is online sales or mass production, the masses will slow you down.

B) If each transaction requires a material amount of an individual’s time then you are better off focusing on the top 20% of the population. This was our strategy to enter at the high end of the market: Edmonton’s oil and gas industry, where earners who were in the top 1-5% of the population were prepared to pay a premium, and we used that money to develop cost efficient accounting solutions for other sectors. But we didn’t have enough of these lucrative clients to survive off of doing accounting for a few big CNC oilfield shops.

Sometimes you do what you have to do to get yours: 10 years ago on the time-money continuum we had no money but we had the youth and energy to each work 80 hours in a week.

  1. We did personal tax returns for $20 each no matter the complexity. People came for 10-15 minutes, paid us, and left.

  2. We exercised the same procedure for small businesses charging $2,000 for a nail salon.

As clients grew in complexity, the amount of time required also grew. Those average people simply dragged us down as we could not recover the time spent on each file. So as we progressed on the money-time continuum we dropped clients to reach equilibrium.  Simultaneously, we were still banking money from the 1%ers and using the money saved to drive down the market to higher unit volumes and lower prices with each successive category until we can economically service the span of the higher 1%-20% of the market.

Raising prices

Some businesses that would be better off having the end goal of catering to the women in the top 20% that will lead to more satisfaction and less headache in the long run include:

  1. nail salons (without robots)

  2. construction trades

  3. used cars

  4. auto services

  5. consulting

Successful price increases help you acquire better customers who are more serious about enjoying your offering and less likely to churn. When we had lower prices, we had customers that changed accountants, looking for a better deal, never mind that it will cost them more in the long run in taxes and/or penalties. Our current fees dramatically improve the lifetime value of our customer which in turn boosts lifetime value to customer acquisition cost ratio. It has allowed us to have a more sustainable business model without having to spend years working 80 hours a week each. The success of our price increases lies in the transparency. Everything is listed on our website and customers know exactly how much it costs and what is included. We know most accountants charge more than us, but our goal unlike theirs is not revenue maximization. Our goal is sustainability, and that involves selling something that our customers need.

  • $2M revenue and $200K profit is worse than
  • $1M revenue and $400k profit

When we include more features, like including bookkeeping, this drives the demand for our offering over other accountants and creates an opportunity to extract the added value in the form of higher prices. 

Signs you are ready to transition to cater to the higher end market

  1. Customers and prospects tell you how cheap you are. For example, customers have told us they are surprised we make money and that they appreciate the value.

  2. You create a very high ROI. You should aim to capture 10-20% of your economic value. If your construction build will save $100K over PCL’s you deserve that extra $10-$20K (your customer still saves $80-$90K). At the cost of 1%, we reduce customer costs by 3-30% (taxes + accounting).

  3. Many companies use a 5% annual price escalator so 2 years without raising prices would mean you fell 10% behind your competition.

  4. You included new value without monetizing them. Customers are more open to price increases when you can show a track record of using that extra money to invest in improving your offering. For example, we started doing everyone’s personal taxes at no additional cost, and unlimited CRA correspondence/audit support for free to create goodwill with customers. We continually go to businesses who get audited.


  1. Offer customers a discount for them to refer a family or friend. We give our customers one month free off their service plus one month free for anyone they refer. While many customers were quick to refer someone, many simply paid the higher price. So we raised the average price without driving away customers who might otherwise seek out a “cheaper” alternative. The effort involved with making a referral makes deal-prone customers feel like smart customers- and smart customers are happy customers.

  2. Give them alternatives. We used to only offer 2 categories. Now we offer 5 categories. We convince salon owners to downsize staff and do more work themselves so that they retain more of their income, while their lower revenue keeps them in a lower price category for accounting. Likewise, customers who are already financially independent and look to their business as more of a passive income want to pay us for a more expensive category as a consequence of maximizing their volume.

  3. Make your offerings look more valuable. A nail salon could put a bunch of nail-care and beauty products in a pretty box and sell it at a premium. The idea is to get customers to compare the price to a day at your salon- so in comparison, the package is a good deal. Because most people are illogical and lazy, they will return to your salon just as often, and they got no additional value from the package but you have increased your income. Likewise, restaurants may package a number of foods together, encouraging customers to compare the price to dinner at their restaurant thus raising the perceived value of the packaged treat. Nail techs/restaurant staff and tradesmen should all wear uniforms: scrubs or coveralls. Contractors should have vinyl decals on their van/truck.

  4. Make peace that you won’t convince 100%. We can help you with the math on a price increase so we can determine how many customers you will lose and still break-even. Keep in mind that some of those lost customers eventually come back once they try an alternative and realize the grass wasn’t greener on the other side.

Hiring out work

Unless you are financially independent, you should be working rather than hiring out the work. No one will ever do a better job than you, and no one will ever care about your big picture as well as you.

Only farm out things that can be completed more efficiently through unique skills and economies of scale (Accounting, bookkeeping vs. doing it yourself). Due to minimum efficient scale, the cost/technology would not make sense for an individual to specialize in something that is not directly related to their ability to generate revenue.

Restaurant Specific Advice

  1. Choose fast-casual rather than higher end dining or fast food. Eating out was one of the first things to get cut back in many Albertan households when the oil price crashed. Among clients, sales on average rose 4%. But there is a sector where sales rose 9% last year. It is the sector above fast food, but a step down from fine dining: that middle, ground fast-casual restaurants. While the minimum wage increase hurts fast food places, the fast-casual sector will remain unaffected. As the population gets older, and as the economy remains uncertain this trend will continue to favor fast-casual rather than more costly dining.

  2. The average food cost in restaurants is 30%. Fast food places operate at 25% and the finer the dining the higher the % up to a maximum of 35%.

  3. If one item in your meal is priced at 40% food cost, then the second item needs to be at 20% to maintain your 30% average. Mix low priced rice/noodles with high priced meat.

  4. The staff should ask if customers are interested in any appetizers, side dishes, and deserts. The simpler the preparation the higher the profit.

  5. Consider paying your servers on commission. Any increased wages you pay out to them should mean more profit to you.

  6. Descriptive words on the menu are better than pictures.

  7. Customers find restaurants on their phone. Make sure you have a solid digital footprint: Facebook, Google, Instagram, Yelp. Your consumer base will return on average 1.7 times per month for 2.7 years, for repeat sales.  Accordingly, you should value your customers based on their lifetime value 1.7 times per month for 2.7 years.

  • Share with someone that could use some advice in this post or save some taxes and EARN UP TO $583! For every customer, you refer we’ll give you a free month or a gift card equal to 1 month of service of your referral – whatever is bigger! Anyone you refer gets a free month of bookkeeping!
  • The end-to-end solution at an unrivaled annual fixed price. There is more time, more inspiration and more money for the implementation of your business. Do not waste money and time with taxes and accounting.  At the cost of just 1% or less, we reduce customer total costs by 3-30% (taxes + accounting).
  • SwissBooks provides a complete accounting, bookkeeping, payroll and tax solutions for Canadian controlled private corporations throughout Canada in a wide variety of industries and leverages extensive expertise to deliver the best solutions to our customers.
  • The strategy was to enter Canada at the high end of the market: Edmonton’s oil and gas industry, where customers were prepared to pay a premium, and  SwissBooks used that money to develop cost efficient accounting solutions for other sectors.  In turn, that money was used to develop even more cost efficient accounting – driving down the market to higher unit volumes and lower prices with each successive category: Industry, Enterprise, Venture, Boutique, Micro-businesses and Holding Corporations.  Take advantage that Alberta’s oil and gas enterprises spent millions of dollars to pay for the development to let you outsource your accounting at an affordable cost.  
  • Send us your prior financials and we will prove to you how our value is unrivaled in Canada.

How Other Accountants Decrease Your Taxes

Willkommen to the second article on our series on terrible accountants and what you need to watch out for before they waste your money and time.
The aim is not to harm this Chartered Professional Accountant, this post is only there to give some background information on why clients make the upgrade to SwissBooks and wonder why they have to pay corporate income taxes for the FIRST time after more than 5 years in business. This should also save some unsuspecting business owners the same grief.

 Each time we discuss these details with the clients, they have no idea where his numbers come from.
1. A successful Edmonton Tint Shop The accountant wrote off more than $115, 000 of vehicle expenses in the year the client purchased a brand new Mercedes Benz ML63 for over $100,000. (If you have assets of a business (buildings, equipment, vehicles, etc.), you can ONLY claim a yearly deduction on the depreciation on the cost of these assets, also known as Capital Cost Allowance (CCA).  – As this is a vehicle, the rate is 30% and the first year rule applies = $100, 000 / 2 = $50,000 x 30% = $15,000 versus the $100,000+ that the accountant claimed)
2. A successful Edmonton Nail Salon – 
  • Strangely in the preceding year, the accountant reported sales which are $100,000 less than the debit/credit card terminal payments deposited in the bank.
  • There was also an unexplained $12,437 of vehicle expenses vs. our itemized $1,412 of vehicle expenses 
3. A corporation running 2 Award Winning Restaurants – 
  • Strangely there is nearly $50,000 of unexplained interest expense in the first preceding year, as well as abnormally high and unexplainable amounts in the second and third preceding tax years.
  • Same story with the repairs & maintenance account: we have nearly $11,000 of itemized entries mostly paid by the client credit card. In the 3 preceding years, the other accountant claimed there was more than $36,000, $38,000 and nearly $50,000 of repairs and maintenance.  
  • For EACH of the years in question, nearly $18,000 + $12,000 +$9,000 were claimed as professional fees when the ACTUAL amount paid for the 3 years is less than the accountant’s claim in 1 year
  • The accountant claimed GST on ALL of the food purchases for the restaurant when most foods do not have GST
  • This client pays for his restaurant’s expenses with his Mastercard but the accountant double claimed expenses by recording the expense off of receipts AND THEN also recorded the expense again by claiming the payment to the Mastercard as food purchases.

We have documented every time we tried to get working papers or the accounting ledger.  We look forward to the day he corrects his ways and takes his profession more seriously otherwise we will work with his professional accounting board to make sure he is punished.  (We have already successfully worked with CGA to score a fine against a different Edmonton CGA who was taking client’s cheques written to CRA and making them out to herself)

Make no mistake, these people are cowards and unsophisticated criminals, cheating their customers and the federal and provincial governments. Their designation means nothing when the client signs all this paperwork that they take whole responsibility of the reported numbers.

This is what we call inflating expenses to “minimize” your taxes: fake accomplishment will bite you in the end. Putting your customers at risk by reporting bogus numbers should put you in prison.

We feel sorry for this CPA (and his victims) but need to leave his name here to save time (so we do not have to explain the taxes his former clients need to pay and for his current and potential victims). It is truly a meaningless life when you charge material amounts of money and give nothing to the client in return other than a fake accomplishment, stealing from the government and eventually hurting the client when this catches up to them.  We fired one unsuccessful client who wanted us to help her cheat, only to get a professional courtesy letter from this same CPA, birds of the same feather flock together.

Welcome to SwissBooks
  1. 1. A full ledger is provided that reconciles to your bank and credit card statements showing each accounting entry in a clean layout.
  2. THUT is committed to further extending its market position.  The basis for this is an outstanding reputation.  Clear virtues and principles determine our daily thoughts and actions.
  3. High performance is the value that represents THUT.
  4. Striving for the highest quality, uncompromising customer service, and continuous further development create the common foundation on which we act when working together.

  5. Our credibility is based on the code.  It sustainably shapes our good name with the public, and therefore also our financial success.

  6. Our promise unequivocally says what we stand for and what we deliver.  We put ourselves in our customer’ shoes.
  7. The THUT tradition of commitment – as strong today as through the 19 generations of our state documented history – continue to place the interest of whom we serve before all other considerations.  Niklaus Thut, a Habsburg overlord and now a revered Swiss hero died defending his home.  Before he was killed, he ate the flag to prevent it falling into enemy hands. We will never dishonor our family reputation which stood for over 630 years for any ill-gotten short-term gains.  We will work with you to minimize your tax obligation, preserve and protect assets for future generations.  Accounting is beautiful a series of debits and credits that must balance.  There is no such thing as bad accounting- only bad accountants.

Like all people with no value, bad CPAs should be avoided at all costs.  Join my personal vendetta against all the bad CPAs in Canada that hide behind their designations or hide behind their high fees. Their customers automatically associate authority based on the high fees they charge. Bad CPAs: please start behaving or I will continue throwing punches as usual.

Upcoming topics for bad accountants:
  1. “Investing” under $500,000 in individual stocks: inefficient waste of time. If you could beat my index fund your time is worth more working on Wall-Street.
  2. Franchises: not worth pursuing unless you are the franchisor.

We can’t be responsible for other accountants irresponsibility.  Our responsibility comes from 10 years of delivery quality, completing files on time, servicing memorably and saving our customers’ far more money in taxes than any small price difference.

Share with someone that could use some advice in this post or save some taxes
For every person, you refer we’ll give you a free month or a gift card equal to 1 month of service of your referral – whatever is bigger! Up to $600!
Anyone you refer gets a free month of bookkeeping!
THUT data capture technology extracts data from bank, credit card, and online statements and allows for automatic bank reconciliation – this renders the CPA obsolete.
THUT uses artificial intelligence to locate and extract line item and tax summary data from receipts and exports it into a CSV file.
Cleansing algorithms allow it to extracts transactional data that is 100% accurate.
Send us your prior financials and we will prove to you how our value is unrivaled in Canada.