6 Questions To Ask Before Hiring An Accountant

What do you look for when choosing a new Kelowna accountant?

Choosing an accountant is a very important part of solidifying your core and makes a significant impact on the financial future of your business. Don’t be afraid to hold the same level of scrutiny you might have choosing a surgeon as you would selecting your accountant because after all this is your hard earned money.

As an accountant myself, I can appreciate when a client comes prepared with questions for me and isn’t afraid to put me or our firm to the test. The questions below will help reveal crucial information for you when making your decision.

1. How often should I expect communication/How often do you expect communication?

This is an interesting one that tends to come up. If we don’t set up the right expectation at the beginning then we’re setting up an opportunity for ourselves to fail the client or the clients can fail and no longer be somebody we want to service. If a client is calling every other day with time consuming demands then that might not be our expectation. On the other hand, they might not have any communication until year-end and that also doesn’t really fit our expectation of a typical client.

This is why it’s important that mutual expectations of communication are setup at the beginning. We don’t want to hear from a client after they’ve sold an asset or part of their business because we want to be a part of the communication throughout. If the client is not expecting to have their accountant involved and is only interested in handing over a done deal saying, “Figure it out,” then that’s probably not the type of client we want.

2. How aggressive are you with tax planning strategies?

You need to know the type of accountant that you’re working with. We always tell our clients that we will walk them up to the fence, we will help them climb the fence and, in certain situations, we will sit on the fence but we will never go over the fence.

If there’s a hardline with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), we will never go over it, but there are accountants that will.

This is why you have to know who you’re working with, in terms of how aggressive they are. Occasionally we’ve taken some clients on that say that they’re not comfortable with their current accountant because they advised them to do something that they felt was pushing the limits.

Make sure that you’re both on the same page with your risk tolerance before you decide to work together.

3. What is your experience dealing with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?

Many of our clients turn to us whenever they have CRA asking for information. You really want to have somebody on your side with significant experience because you can get yourself into trouble by not knowing how to answer their questions, even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

4. What other types of clients do you deal with?

If you’re considering hiring an accountant, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask them what other types of clients they are dealing with. We are more than happy to talk about clients in a similar industry and I think that it’s important. We obviously don’t talk about specific names but when we’re picking up a new winery client we are very open to discuss how we’re working with three other big wineries and fifteen midsize ones.

It’s important that you know they have experience in your industry so they can help you with things other than just year-end, such as more specific things related to your business. When you do this you give your accountant a greater ability to read between the lines and see things numbers alone can’t piece together. It’s truly the best of both worlds when done right.

Your business could be making money but if we have fifteen other clients in that industry and their margins are 10% better, that would be nice information to know. If you have an accountant that has lot of experience in the industry, you are far more likely to get more out of it then if you were the only client of your kind on their roster.

5. What other services do you offer?

It’s not uncommon that a person who starts off as a personal tax client is surprised when they find out that we work other than from January through April. If they don’t have a corporation then they don’t understand that our business is not really cyclical, it’s consistent throughout the year. Sometimes we have clients come to us because they’ve outgrown their accountant and their accountant is not really available other than during tax busy season.

Sometimes we have clients come to us and say that they aren’t sure that their bookkeeper knows how to do their payroll properly. We have a payroll service that handles anywhere from 1-1,000 employees and it saves many clients countless hours, headaches and hassles while providing the peace of mind it will get done right.

6. What’s your personal experience in business?

Even if they don’t have personal experience working within your industry, an accountant has other life experiences that they can bring to the table that can benefit you. It’s not by any means going to make or break a deal but knowing the background of who you’re dealing is relevant.

Ken Davidson always tells this story about how when he ran a software company where he took the last few hundred bucks out of his account to pay his employees. Someone who has only ever been in public practice probably has never personally had that pain because, let’s face it, accountants do pretty well. ‘Death and taxes’ make it a good business to be in from a financial perspective.

There’s no question that you always need an accountant that knows numbers but if they can understand what it’s like to be where you are, consider that a healthy bonus.

What is most important to you when choosing an accountant? Let us know in the comments below.
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