May 2010; the tax season is behind us for another year. If you are like almost half the Canadian population, you prepare your own taxes each year. But, as the Canadian tax code is growing increasingly more complex, a greater number of Canadians are seeking professional assistance from accountants in order to reduce the risk of paying unnecessary taxes.
Locating accountants is relatively easy. Finding the accountant suitable for your specific needs is far more difficult. Canada boasts three professional accounting bodies whose members are certified to serve the accounting needs of the nation. However, each organization has different standards and requirements for membership. Therefore, if you are shopping for an accountant, it's best to decide precisely what your needs are and interview prospective accountants carefully.
By far, Chartered Accountants (CA's) are the best trained accounting professionals. Only CA's can audit and sign financial statements. Roughly 40% of CA's in Canada work with the public, while the remainder is employed in the private sector, government, or education. Although advertisements for CA's will make many claims, it is wise to get several references.
In addition to CA's, Canada also has 37,000 Certified Management Accountants (CMA's). Generally, CMA's do not have private practices but, rather, work in large organizations, monitoring and interpreting operating results to help management develop operating strategies. Nonetheless, a CMA should have adequate training to help a small business or a self-employed individual with basic tax management and preparation.
Finally, Certified General Accountants (CGA's) offer a little something for everybody, working both in private practice as well as corporate or government settings.
Whomever you choose, your best bet is to ask friends and colleagues for recommendations. Also, take the time to interview at least three prospective candidates. Be sure that the chemistry is right between you. But, as much as possible, try to be your own accountant. A wealth of information is available online today. If you can't do it yourself, gather as much information as possible so you know what to request of your accountant. By learning to prepare your own taxes, you'll gain valuable insight into managing your everyday financial affairs.
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