What should I look for when selecting an accountant or what do firms charge for their services? Find answers to these questions and more in the FAQ below.
What should I look for in selecting an accountant?
Most individuals engage their accountants for many years. Keep in mind that a long-term working relationship between you and your professional accountant can help you take an informed, consistent approach to personal, financial and business problems and to help you meet your financial goals.
Here are some general tips and considerations for selecting a professional accountant:
- Develop a checklist of needs before engaging the services of an accountant.
- Establish what functions you require the accountant to fulfil. For example, the preparation, compilation, review or audit of financial statements, tax planning, income tax returns, or assistance with cash flow statements and financial planning. You may also require assistance your dealings with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), making a presentation to bankers, evaluating a business sale or purchase, and so on.
- Define your immediate needs and the timeframe for execution.
- Assess your level of accounting knowledge. If you have little knowledge, choose an accountant who will be able to explain basic concepts to you, in language you can easily understand.
- Be organized. Do the basic work yourself, which will help to reduce the number of hours your accountant spends on a task (as well as the accounting fees you pay).
- Determine how accessible your accountant needs to be. Does the accountant need to be available on an immediate basis? Will you travel to his or her office?
- The nature of the work required (including the type and size of the engagement), as well as the billing costs for an accountant’s time, determine whether you should be seeking to engage an independent practitioner or a larger accounting firm.
How can you get the most value for your accounting fees?
- Gather information about any business or personal financial decisions under consideration so you are able to ask the professional accountant specific questions.
- Save yourself unnecessary fees by maintaining good financial records and not using your professional's time for organizing your paper work.
- Be prepared to openly discuss your plans and objectives. Professional accountants are in the best position to advise you and serve your interests when they understand your goals.
- Be open to advice and suggestions to improve your financial situation. Professional accountants have vast experience and are able to assist you with your problems and concerns. Their objective advice may directly improve your financial stability and cash flow.
- Clearly explain what you expect from the services. Focusing directly at the outset saves time and money.
- Keep your professional accountant informed of changes in your personal and professional life. A recent marriage or divorce, the birth of a child, a career change, sale of an asset or an especially generous bonus can all have a significant impact on your personal financial goals and tax situation.
What do firms charge for their service?
The accounting profession does not set out guidelines for what professional accountants may charge for engagements. The scope of work and type of engagement an accountant performs for you determines the amount charged. Each situation is different, so standard rates are not possible. However, prior to the engagement, the professional accountant should be able to provide you with an hourly rate charged and an estimate for the completion of the engagement under typical circumstances.
When reading financial statements, what do I need to know?
CPA Canada has developed a free publication that aims to answer some key questions a user trying to obtain a basic understanding of financial statements might ask. Download a copy of the publication here.