How many accountants does a company need

How many accountants does a company need?

The question is often asked with pleasure and is often linked to the sentence: "Measured by sales, this company has far too many accountants." Young, inexperienced supervisors and non-specialist consultants in particular use this sentence even if the accounting department is so understaffed, measured against the size of the company, that the accounting itself is no longer physically possible within the framework of the legal requirements. Clear benchmarks and key figures are not often to be found, as the companies can be very different and incorrect comparative values ​​and benchmarks are often chosen.

When it comes to the question of how many accountants a company needs, the company's software systems and the degree of automation of the processes play an important role. Small companies with sales of less than € 10 million usually do not have a fully integrated ERP system such as SAP in use if they are not part of a larger group. In addition, the question of process compliance plays an important role. Here, it must be checked whether the account assignment can be easily determined for all invoices that reach the accounting department and whether the cost center is clear or must be asked here first. The question of whether all invoices have already been approved also plays a role here.

With an insight into many companies, we can provide the following benchmarks for accounts payable:

environmentCharacteristic value
The invoices are posted without an order reference or only partially with an order reference. Invoice entry requires regular inquiries in the departments.40 incoming invoices per accountant per day
At least all material invoices are posted with an order reference. Regular inquiries in the departments are necessary. There is an approval workflow for invoices. The invoices are recorded electronically via scan and OCR software. Master data maintenance and payment runs are part of the tasks.80 incoming invoices per accountant per day
Only all invoices are posted with an order reference. The invoice is released when the purchase requisition is released. The invoices are recorded electronically via scan and OCR software. Master data maintenance for the accounting part and payment runs are part of the tasks.120-150 incoming invoices per accountant per day
Only all invoices are posted with an order reference. The invoice is released when the purchase requisition is released. The invoices are recorded electronically via scan and OCR software. Other activities such as master data maintenance or payment runs are not carried out.250 incoming invoices per accountant per day

Another benchmark, albeit a very imprecise one, can be the company's turnover. Both external and internal sales count, since the actual size of this measure is the costs. However, the information here can only be used for orientation, as essential factors such as the integration of a group, the level of software systems, the level of automation, the number of customers and other factors can only be assumed, but have a significant influence on the number of accountants required.

salesNumber of accountants
up to € 5 million1 accountant
€ 5 to 10 million1-2 accountants
€ 10 to 20 million2-3 accountants
€ 20 to 50 million3-4 accountants
€ 50 to 200 million4-6 accountants
€ 200 to 500 million5-8 accountants

Other thumb sizes are 500 to 1,000 customers per accounts receivable accountant and ½ main and asset accountants with sales of € 20 million or more, or 1 main and asset accountant with sales of € 50 to 100 million. Here too, for example, asset-intensive companies need a chief and asset accountant rather than pure service companies.

Of course you can find more and less accountants in the various companies than stated here. With more accountants, increased complexity can be a reason. Another reason would be inefficiency. A smaller number can speak for a low level of complexity, e.g. only one product and a few customers. In an average complex company, however, you have to reckon with understaffed departments and then with compensation for the quality of work and later fines in the tax audit.

When it comes to these values, one or the other manager will certainly nervously ask whether it is not possible to do the bookkeeping with fewer people. That's fine. However, this question is comparable to the question of whether you can drive 150 km / h or more on a country road. Of course, it works where there are no bends. If you are flashed or caught by the police in some other way, it can be quite uncomfortable.