How to find someone to do your taxes
If you're like me and don't want to do them yourself because you don't want to.
Me looking at the KN95, rapid tests and sanitizers in my home, wishing I could claim them as medical costs on my taxes.
I got my first tax document last week, my RRSP contribution statement from March-December 2021. You know that means, tax time is here!
(American readers, this one is for the Canadians on this list but there is some good stuff here for you as well.)
Like almost everyone else, I’m going to be eyeballs-deep in tax documents and asking my accountant questions about whether I claim my condo’s special assessment fee and waiting for the final number that I owe in income tax and HST after paying most of it in quarterly installments.
As I wrote around this time last year, “Talking about money is awkward even when you’re paying someone to do your taxes for you and you’ve given them explicit permission to look at your spending. That’s why finding an accountant or tax preparer you like is important.”
Now, you can definitely do your taxes yourself. The tax programs are very easy to use and if you have a T4, it makes it even easier to do. But if it’s your first time self-employed or your financial situation has changed, working with an accountant or tax preparer can be reassuring. Once you’re more confident, you can transition to doing your own taxes.
Now, if you’re looking for someone, here’s what to keep in mind.
Start with your network
Personal referrals are very powerful so ask around your friends and family for the names of their accountants/tax preparers. Ask people who are in or familiar with your industry. Gather your list and start contacting them to see if they’re taking on new clients. Do it as soon as you can because this is a busy time for tax preparers and accountants and they book up fast.
Check their certification
Do they have the proper certification to actually do your taxes? You don’t want to hire a random to prepare your taxes. (No one wants the CRA or IRS knocking on their door.) One way to check certification is to check your province’s certification boards such as CPA Ontario.
Check your level of participation
People don’t think about asking this but I think it’s important. Are you the type to hand over a box of receipts and wait to sign the prepared documents? Or are you expected to fill out your spending on a form and submit it to your accountant? I’ve done both and I like that my current accountant expects me to fill out a form. It lets me know what I spent on things. (I said this the last time I wrote about taxes: My phone and internet are just wow, thanks Canadian telcos. Yeah, nothing about that has changed.)
Check their specialization
That will make it easier for both of you when it’s time to do your taxes because you both understand your field. I like my accountant because they also run their own business, and they also have experience in media so they understand and can recommend deductions.
Check your vibes
Yes, taxes involves very factual numbers but your instinct or gut plays a role when finding the right accountant for you. If you get a bad feeling when you sit down with this person, walk away. Even if your BFF or family member LOVES them, if you don’t, don’t feel bad about not hiring them. You may want this to be a long-term relationship so you need to feel comfortable.
Last year was the first time I met with my accountant via video. We usually meet at her office, where we spend a couple of hours, filling out the forms, and then they’re submitted. It’s easy to connect when you’re face-to-face but because we vibe, it wasn’t that much different to do the same via video in 2021. I don’t know if we’ll be meeting face-to-face this year but I expect we won’t.
Check your alignment
You want to be on the same page as your accountant. In this article I wrote for MoneySense in 2020 but still holds up, Liz Schieck, a certified financial planner at The New School of Finance in Toronto, said that you need to be comfortable with your accountant’s suggestions regarding your deductions.
If you do your own taxes, finding a program you like is just as important. Plus it never hurts to have a relationship with an accountant in case you need to ask a question or two throughout the year. I’ve asked my accountant several questions about taxes, savings, pension plans or expenses throughout the year. It helps with planning.
Oh, one more thing. People ask why they should file their taxes. Honestly, do you. I’m not going to stand over you with a stick because I don’t have time, it’s not my job and I don’t want to. But one reason why you should file is because you could qualify for certain benefits like the GST/HST credit, which is a “tax-free quarterly payment that helps individuals and families with low and modest incomes offset the GST or HST that they pay.”
You have to file your taxes to be automatically considered. That’s not a bad reason.
This week’s readings:
The moral calculations of a billionaire (Yahoo Canada)
Financial considerations when launching a side hustle (BNN Bloomberg)