Find the right accountant for your business
(NC) As a small business owner, there comes a time when you need to hire an accountant for the best interests of the company. But did you know the term “accountant” is unregulated in Ontario? To make sure that your accountant is fully trained, engage someone who is professionally designated accountant.
Designated accountants, such as certified general accountants (CGAs), have rigorous training and real-life experience. If problems are encountered during the course of a business relationship, with a professional accountant, there is recourse. Professional accounting associations typically offer mediation services or have a disciplinary process for irregularities and infractions.
Although business requirements may differ, the criteria for selection of a professional accountant are universal. The expertise you choose should lead to productivity, efficiency, sustainability, savings and growth. The interview process is an important one. The questions you ask will go a long way towards developing a solid relationship based on mutual trust.
To get the right fit for your company, take the following steps to save both time and money:
Find the right match. Assess your level of accounting knowledge. If you have a limited knowledge in this area, choose an accountant who can explain basic concepts in easily understood language.
Define your immediate timeframes. For example, if the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is demanding your tax return, your timeframe will be less flexible than if you are starting a new business.
Determine how accessible your accountant needs to be. Will you travel to their office? Or do you require them to report to you personally?
Identify your needs. What functions will you require of your accountant? Will you require services such as the preparation, compilation, review or audit of financial statements? The preparation of income tax returns? Cash flow projections; tax and financial planning? Will you require your accountant to meet with bankers, lawyers or the CRA?
Organize your financial papers. Organizing and preparing documentation ahead of time will reduce the time (and billable hours) that an accountant spends on simple tasks. Completing this task may also help you to assess your knowledge and identify your needs.
Does the accountant have prior work experience with your type of business? Do they make suggestions that indicate an understanding of your business? Will they provide the names of clients in a related line of business? If so, verify with those clients as to whether the accountant is accessible and completes work on time and within cost estimates.
Who will do the routine work, the accountant or other staff? Whether your accountant will be personally responsible for routine work may depend on your needs, the size of the accounting firm, and the nature and number of their clientele.
Are they open to the idea of using other experts? An accountant dealing with smaller, privately-owned companies should be willing to seek outside advice if or when specialized business affairs warrant such action.
What is the standard billing procedure? An hourly fee is the norm – Once the nature and requirements of your business are detailed, can the accountant provide an estimate?
How was the personal “fit”? Following the interview, ask yourself how comfortable you felt. You want someone whom you can speak freely. Someone who hears what you say and can explain their thoughts and advice clearly. Compatibility is essential.
More information can be found at www.cga-ontario.org.
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