How to choose an accountant?

Alright, let me just come out and say it: having an accountant tell you how to choose an accountant probably sounds pretty biased, right?

 

I get it. But here’s the thing: I’m not out there to convince everyone to pick us, because we don’t actually want to work with clients that aren’t going to be a good fit. It doesn’t benefit them, and it doesn’t benefit us either. So picking the right accountant is actually a good thing for everyone.

 

With that in mind, here are my top tips for choosing an Accountant:

 

  • Talk to them and make sure you feel comfortable; you’ll need to share details of your personal life as well as your business life in order to get the best advice, so it’s important to feel comfortable doing so.
  • Specialization: do you need specialized services? Ask about their experience with your industry or with your particular issue. Certain industries will benefit more from having an accountant who deals a lot in their area and is familiar with the tax credits specific to their industry. And certain areas of tax can be particularly complex, so accountants do sometimes specialize.
  • Experience and knowledge: you want someone with lots of experience (and trust me, you can’t always assume experience based on age!), but also it is important to ensure that your accountant is up-to-date on the most relevant knowledge for you particular issue.
  • Consider your personal preferences: do you prefer a full service accountant who will look after everything for you, or do you prefer to do some things yourself and only request the basics as needed? Choose a firm that fits your style accordingly.
  • What is your risk level tolerance? There are always grey areas when it comes to taxation, and in particular what can be considered a business expense. Some accountants are more conservative, and some are more aggressive. Know what your comfort level is, communicate this to your potential accountant, and then ask your accountant where they fall.
  • Check credentials. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a new client come to me, telling me (very kindly) that they had bad advice and/or major concerns about their previous accountant that caused them to switch to us, only for me to ultimately discover that their previous accountant wasn’t actually a trained accountant at all. So let’s be clear: anyone can call themselves an accountant in Canada. ANYONE. But only trained, licensed, and regulated CPAs can actually call themselves a Chartered Professional Accountant (or even a Professional Accountant). So check credentials.