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?