Does the date April 30th, give you the hives? Are you allergic to filling out tax forms? Scared of what you’ll find in the numbers? If you’ve read my last post about filing your taxes yourself and broke out into a cold sweat, have no fear, because this week I’m focusing on hiring a tax professional to do your taxes for you.
If on the other hand, if you want to file your own taxes, take a look at last week’s post for how to go about it in a calm and timely manner. And while there are many similarities between the U.S. and Canada on how to hire a tax professional, this post is focused on how to go about it in Canada. Let’s get started!
While hiring someone to do your taxes can be a stress relief, you still want to do your due diligence when hiring a tax professional. You’ll need have your 2014 bookkeeping closed out and you’ll need to be prepared to answer questions about your business activities.
If you have a bookkeeper already, they are a great place to start in terms of looking for a tax professional. More than likely they are willing and able to file your taxes for you. After all, they already know the ins and outs of your finances and it could make the process a whole lot smoother.
If you don’t have a bookkeeper, a great place to start looking for a tax professional is via your friends. Ask for referrals from people you know. Chances are your friends have a tax professional they trust. You can also inquire of your business peers who they use to file their taxes. This is another great place to get a trusted referral and more than likely one who already understands your type of industry which can be a boon when discussing business activities.
When you hire a tax professional, you will be paying for a service, so keep this in mind and within your budget. You want to make sure that the person you are hiring is reputable and knowledgeable. You don’t want to have your Grandma or Uncle Phi file your taxes because they’ll do it for cheap.
You’ll also need to start looking for a tax professional as early as possible. You don’t want to wait until April to try and find someone. If you do, it will be much harder as April is a very busy time and they may not have room in their schedule to fit a new client in. You may also end up having to spend more money since April is right up on the filing deadline.
It’s best to start looking for someone at in February and no later than March. If you weren’t able to get a referral from a friend or business colleague you can look online or in your phone book for tax preparers. You’ll need to make sure that the tax preparer has a tax filer number, which means they are registered with the government and are allowed to do this type of work and every tax preparer in Canada needs to be registered for E-file to file taxes.
You may want to inquire of their schooling and look for an accounting diploma, but know that even H&R Block preparers may not have a specialized accounting diploma. They will have had extensive training though and be certified through their company.
You will also need to know what type of relationship you will want with your tax preparer. Will you want an ongoing relationship? Then you may want someone who you’ll meet with one on one and know that they will be doing the work. On the other hand, a service center such as H&R Block will have a handful of people trained in tax preparation, but you may not know who actually performs the data entry.
Compare price vs services. Do you need more than just tax data entry? For example, do you have a business to report? Do you also want advanced tax planning? You need to know what you need as some tax preparers only do just that, prepare taxes. You must ask if they will also advise you on tax deductions if you need that type of service. You’ll also need to look for a preparer that will be able to do business taxes, as not all preparers will be knowledgeable about business taxes.
Once you find a tax preparer that you like, you’ll need to come into your meetings with them prepared. Have all papers ready, like your T4’s, RRSPs, investment income, rental costs, and Statement of Business Activities if applicable. Most tax centres and possibly some tax preparers will have a form to fill out with questions about your situation, and have suggestions on which forms to bring. You’ll also need to know about your previous year’s filings. If they don’t ask about your previous tax year, that is a red flag.
You may have several meetings when you hire a tax professional. You’ll make an initial appointment to go over all your documents. Then another meeting once the tax has been prepared. You’ll have to go in to sign and file the final forms. Your tax preparer will explain your tax return process and they’ll file your return in front of you. If you’ve picked a professional for their advanced tax planning services, they will advise you on your retirement calculator and discuss any further tax planning for next year and possibly beyond.
Your tax preparer will be able to send your return electronically, via E-file. But you always have the option to take the return papers yourself, and mail them to the government. Keep in mind though, that refunds are generally received a lot sooner if filed electronically. You will also be able to receive a refund quicker if you have applied for Direct Deposit!
Once everything has been signed and sent off to the government, you should receive a Notice of Assessment, which will have your limits for RRSP deductions, and the assessment of the return itself. The government will determine if your return was prepared properly and whether a refund or balance due was declared.
Don’t forget! You must also keep all your papers for 6 years after filing. The papers for your current taxes don’t get sent through Efile, so keep those handy in case the government asks for them. Your tax preparer will only keep a copy of the return – so you should keep all of paperwork, including a copy of your return.
Hopefully the process of finding and filing your taxes with a tax professional is smooth and easy. Keep up the good work by getting a jump start on tax planning for 2015. In next week’s post I’ll go over some deductions that you should be taking advantage of.