How To Hire the Right Accountant

by Tax Guy - Burlington Accountant on December 3, 2009 Print This Post Print This Post

Update: When I originally posted this article, I only made mention of CGA’s and CA’s. Thank you to Brian Peteson, MBA, CMA, CFP of BP Group in Ancaster Ontario for letting me know that Certified management Accountants (CMA’s) also practice public accounting. 

It is important to understand that when you hire and accountant, or any professional for that matter, that you are entering into a business arrangement. And when you enter a business arrangement it is critical that the professional you are partnering with is both competent and trustworthy. Therefore, you should always perform some level of due diligence before making the hiring decision.

What Do You Want From Your Accountant?

Before looking for a professional account, you should being to think about what you want the accountant to do for you. Remember that the more you ask any professional to do, the more it will cost you.

Here is a list of services a local accounting practice may offer:

  • Bookkeeping Services – Entering transactions into your accounting software.
  • Controllership Services – Controllers offer a range of accounting services that are much deeper than simple bookkeeping. These services include cash management, preparing financial statements, make or buy analysis, cost analysis and other forms of financial or business analysis.
  • Income Tax Preparation – Preparing your tax returns and GST or HST returns.
  • Business Consulting – Other business services outside of traditional accounting.

Questions To Ask The Accountant

Once you have figured out what services you need, you can then being to compile a list of questions to ask the accountant. Some questions you should consider asking include:

  • When did you receive your professional designation (CGA, CMA or CA)?
  • How long have you been in public practice?
  • How many year have you been practicing in tax (bookkeeping, cost analysis, preparing financial statements etc.)?
  • Have you ever been disciplined by your professional association?
  • What would you do if you discovered that you had filed my tax return late? (Things like this are common and do happen. The response you want to hear is that you would get a telephone call from the accountant and expect that he or she would pay the amount of any penalties or interest).
  • How much liability insurance do you have and have you ever let it lapse for any reason?
  • What are your fees and how does your billing work? Can I call periodically with general questions? Is there a fee the call?

These sorts of questions are a little uncomfortable to ask and be asked. But they give you a clear picture of the type of person you are dealing with and you can make an informed decision.

Questions To Ask Yourself

Once you have interviewed a few accountants and considered the responses. It’s time to ask yourself some questions:

  • Do I trust this person?
  • Will tell me what I need to hear instead of what I want to hear?
  • Do I like this person?

About The Tax Guy...

Dean Paley CGA CFP is a Burlington accountant and financial planner who services individuals and business owners locally, nationally and internationally. Dean has appeared in the National Post, Toronto Star and Metro News.

To find out more, visit Dean's website Dean Paley CGA CFP or connect via Twitter @DeanPaleyCGACFP.

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sam December 6, 2009 at 3:12 pm

I have been looking for a decent corporate tax accountant for 9 years, switched 5 times so far and I am not happy still.
The fees I paid for preparing a simple income tax preparation (corporate) ranged from $350 to $2000 for the same corporation a single owner/employee. All of them make mistakes preparing my taxes (sometimes huge ones). I am not an accountant but I do have some knowledge of the rules through reading tax sites and blogs (like this one), but the fact that I am catching these mistakes scares me because I don’t know about the errors I am not catching (due to my lack of knowledge on the subject)

So referrals has not been working for me as you can see, where would the best place be to find a good one?

Elina February 6, 2010 at 11:34 am

I feel that CGA guy I paid for only care about collecting as much as he can with the least amount of his time. He ask to file T4 for me for $100 and claim it’s easy to make mistakes which is actually so easy to be done on CRA website.
CGAs are probably lower level professional, you can’t expect much from them. Similar to all other professionals, the lower the professional level (the easier the license), the lower level of code of ethics. Try to do it yourself if you can.

Tax Guy February 6, 2010 at 12:15 pm

@ Elina:

If you were able to hire a fully designated accountant to prepare your tax return for $100, you got the deal of the century for a basic return! Most accountants charge more than $150 for a basic return and I suspect the average is more than $300.

As for CGA’s vs other professions, their CEPROC is very comparable to the other professions as is the training and experience requirements. If your return is, as you say, simple, then use tax software or go to a preparation service like H&R Block.

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