5 things your accountant isn’t telling you

Accountants spill their secrets about clients, fees, deductions and more.

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From the December/January 2014 issue of the magazine.

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Businessman writing in an accounting ledger

1. Errors? Not my problem. As far as the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is concerned, the buck stops with you, dear taxpayer. You did, after all, sign off on the accountant’s work. The good news is accountants have errors and omissions insurance to compensate you if it turns out they made a mistake preparing your return. Hopefully it won’t go that far, says Toronto chartered accountant John Mott. “Most people I know in the business would do everything possible to fix a mistake or situation they had a hand in creating.”

2. My fees are negotiable. Most accountants working on personal income tax or small business charge a flat fee for their services. Ask your accountant to include potential future audits in your price. Otherwise you could be forced to re-hire the same person when and if the CRA decides to re-open your file.

3. Investment cost analysis is extra. Most accountants won’t track the adjusted cost base of your individual stocks, ETFs, bonds and other investments unless you pay them additional fees to do it. That’s considered the responsibility of the investment adviser, or the client in cases where they trade themselves.

4. I work in shades of grey. “There’s lots of room for interpretation in the Income Tax Act. Not everything is black and white,” Mott says, referring to tax deductions. What may seem like a bizarre or unusual expense to most may be a legitimate business expense for a small business owner, for instance. A good accountant will know the difference and make a solid case on your behalf.

5. I don’t take on clients I don’t like. While it’s true that accountants make a disproportionate amount of income during the spring tax season, good accountants are also busy year-round and are hardly starving for business. Make yourself as eligible as possible by keeping your receipts organized and by going in ahead of the last-minute filers.

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