The three fee structures that accountants generally use to determine how much to bill clients are hourly rates, proposal-based rates and fixed rates, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. Proposals are the most common of the fee structures. They are basically total-cost estimates that an accounting professional submits to a client as the total estimated bill for completing a specified project.
Hourly rates vary drastically from one location to the next, and rates are also affected by the types of services being rendered and the experience of the accountant who is completing the work. A writer for the NFIB estimates that the rates in her firm alone vary from $90 to over $300 per hour, as of 2015, according to NFIB.com.
Fixed-fee structures are generally offered for completion of ongoing tasks or projects, according to Sequence Inc. For example, tasks such as bookkeeping, balancing books, doing payroll or posting transactions typically fall into this category. Rather than paying for these services all at once in a lump sum, clients pay an accountant a monthly fee for continuing to provide those services on a regular basis.
Accountants with certain specializations, such as fiduciary accounting or forensic accounting, often charge more than accountants who specialize in other areas, according to Sequence, Inc. For example, forensic accountants are accountants who are involved in legal matters, and they often provide expert testimony in civil suits and other cases brought before a court. Forensic accountants in these settings typically charge $300 to $400 per hour in court settings as an expert witnesses.