Aren’t all accountants pretty much the same?
Absolutely not. Are all plumbers the same? Doctors? Teachers? Licensed accountants may receive a similar education but experience, competence, and specialization separate one from the next. As well, some are very basic in what they offer while others can provide a buffet of services. Another factor that should be important to you is compatibility. You need to trust your accountant, get along with them, and be comfortable discussing any financial problems or confusion you may have. They, in turn, need to communicate in a way that makes sense to you.
Is there a difference between a bookkeeper and an accountant?
An accountant is a financial professional who spends as long as six years in school to earn their credentials. You can become a certified bookkeeper in three months. CPA’s will sometimes subcontract specific tasks to bookkeepers so that they can monitor the financial health of the client from a higher and more rounded perspective.
How do I know I’ve hired the right accountant?
Choosing the right accountant is important. After all, they are helping you build your financial future. Asking yourself the right questions will help you determine if you’ve made the right choice:
- Do you know anyone who uses them?
Direct referrals are often the best source of reliable intel on a company. Talk to one of their clients if you can.
- Is the accountant certified and licensed?
Not all people who claim to be accountants are licenced and certified. Be sure!
- Are you compatible with the accountant?
Trust is essential as is the ability to speak to your accountant about some personal or even private matters. Are they able to explain things so that you understand?
- Does the accounting firm offer the services you need?
What do you need your accountant to deal with now and in the future? Will you need bookkeeping, back tax filing, financial statements, estate planning, payroll services, cash flow, and budgeting analysis, or business advice?
- Does the accounting firm communicate status updates and deadlines?
Even when your accountant is handling your affairs, you need to be informed and aware. Make sure your accountant keeps you in the loop!
- Are you comfortable with the payment structure?
There are many payment options available these days. If you can’t come to an agreement that makes sense to you, move on.
Is it worth it to pay an accountant? Can’t I just use an app to do my taxes?
Accountants spend years in school learning tax law back to front and then spend their careers keeping up with changes in tax law, case law, the enactment of relevant bills, and even changing financial forecasts. They know what you can and can’t claim, the best business strategies to employ, techniques that could put more cash in your pocket (or at least help you minimize your tax burden), and will advocate with the CRA on your behalf if needed. What does the app do again?
What do I need to give my accountant for tax season?
You can find almost everything you need to prepare in a checklist. For personal and sole proprietorship tax season try these:
- T1 Personal Tax Pre-Season Checklist [.PDF]
- Rental Expenses Pre-Season Checklist.pdf [.PDF]
- Moving Expenses Pre-Season Checklist [.PDF]
- Employment Expenses Pre-Season Checklist [.PDF]
- Business Proprietorship Pre-Season Checklist [.PDF]
For corporate tax season, this will work:
I’m starting a new business. How can you help me?
First of all, congratulations! Although it can be an exciting and stressful time, we can guide you in building a solid foundation that you can build upon to create a successful business. We can also:
- Establish the best business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, partnership) for your situation.
- Assist with the financial analysis in your business plan.
- Recommend accounting software.
- Provide advice and assistance on opening a business bank account.
- Make sure your accounting procedures comply with government regulations and requirements.
- Advise on how best to track expenses during your daily business activities.
- Explain the importance of keeping personal and business expenses separate.
I’m behind on my taxes. How can I catch-up?
Nobody likes to fall behind. The standard penalty for not filing your individual and corporate tax is five percent of what you owe plus one percent for every month missed for not filing your return. It can stack up fast, so it’s best to file as soon as possible. Before you contact the CRA be sure to review the following steps:
- Locate your last notice of assessment.
- Collect all of your T slips from every year you missed (note: an accountant can help you recover those missing T Slips from the CRA).
- Gather your RRSP contributions and any other investment activities.
- Compile all of your receipts from charitable donations to expenses, e.g. medical, disability, moving, rental, business.
- And book a meeting with a licensed accountant so you can discuss your situation and review your options. You could qualify for the Voluntary Disclosure Program which could give you some penalty relief.
How do I avoid a business audit?
Nobody can guarantee the CRA won’t audit your business, but here are some general tips to help keep you off of their radar:
- Have a licensed accountant advise you.
- File your tax return on time.
- Be consistent with your expenses.
- Understand which expenses you can claim and which you cannot.
- Make sure your books and records are balanced.
- Pay yourself properly from your corporation.
- Review your return before submitting it.
Help! I received a notice that the CRA is going to audit me. What do I do?
First things first. We will need to go over somethings, so request an appointment and we can determine how we can help. Then breathe. You’re in good hands. We deal with the CRA on a daily basis and can very quickly determine what they require and assess next steps.
Should I incorporate my company? How?
Please see my article from October 2017; Top 5 Reasons to Incorporate Your Business.