Checklist: Do These 7 Things First, Before You Hire An Accountant

So how do you go about finding a great accountant?

Take a moment and ask yourself why you’ve chosen to receive care or services from your physician, your dentist or your lawyer.  When you are seeking the help of professionals, you look for people who understand you and your circumstances; people who can relate to you and you can trust. Finding your ideal accountant is no different. Your accountant should be invested in your financial well-being and understand your personal and professional goals. So, don’t be afraid to go out and interview potential accountants to find your right fit.   Here are 7 tips to find the accountant for you:

  1. Get referrals: Ask friends, family members and other professionals you work with for recommendations and their experiences with their accountants. “When someone has been referred to me by a friend, I feel a double obligation to do my job well,” stresses Fay. You can also get referrals from professional associations like CPA Alberta (https://www.cpaalberta.ca/Protecting-the-Public/Find-a-Firm).
  2. Determine your business needs: Do you want an accountant to just handle the books and file your taxes, or someone who can give advice, and who will be there as your business grows? Most business owners want someone to advise them on a range of things. A proactive accountant will give you advice without you having to ask!
  3. Look for licensed candidates: Almost five years ago, the three professional accountancy designations, Chartered Accountants (CA), Certified Management Accountants (CMA) and Certified General Accountants (CGA) merged together to form a common designation, Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA).  As a member of a professional regulatory body (CPA Alberta), a licensed accountant is bound by professional and ethical standards, which protect you and provide you with a high level of competency.
  4. Ask what they charge for services: Most charge by the hour, others will offer a flat fee. Ask what those fees include – for instance, do they charge every time you call for advice? “Find out the hourly rate – will they be flexible in billing, especially if your business is just getting off the ground?” Fay says. Bring a copy of your tax returns to accountants you’re thinking of hiring, to see if they can give you an idea of the cost of their services.
  5. Talk about technology: Spreadsheets and other accounting paperwork are a thing of the past. Fay says paperless accounting saves time and money. But in this digital age, you will want to ask what high level security measures they use to maintain your confidential and personal information.
  6. Be kept in the loop: Some accountants have newsletters or blogs that keep their clients informed. Fay says, “Look for an accountant who will provide you with information that could be of interest or benefit to you.”
  7. Call and talk to a real person: Although much of your research can be done online, to see if you really connect with someone, it’s best to meet in person or talk on the phone. Many accountants offer complimentary introductory meetings with potential clients to see if they’re a good fit. Ask your questions in person and then determine if this is the right accountant for you.