I recently had a lady walk in to our office asking about the cost of preparing a tax return for her corporation. She was quite surprised at the fees we charge given that her last accountant (who had recently died) only charged her $350. Now our fees are not high by any means and in relation to most accounting firms we are on par so to hear what she was paying in the past, made me very skeptical as to the level of professionalism that she was receiving.
When she put a copy of her last tax return and financial statements in front of me, my first reaction was "well now I can see why you only paid $350". The statements were riddled with blatant errors and audit triggers and once I explained to her the implication of the errors and triggers, she was all too happy to hire our firm to fix things up.
The lady was a recent (2 years ago) immigrant from Europe and had chosen her previous accountant based on a referral from a friend. She had no idea what accreditation was or the difference between accounting professionals so I explained the following to her:
There are three types of designated accountants in British Columbia, the Chartered Accountant (CA), the Certified General Accountant (CGA) and the Chartered Management Accountant (CMA). Each type have vigorous educational and practical requirements so you are well served with either one, however, some designations carry differing areas of expertise so depending on your needs, you may be better off with one versus another. The CMA is great in industry as their training weighs heavy on cost accounting, the CA is great for audits and their training is mainly in this area, and the CGA makes a choice in the latter part of their education as to what area they would like to focus on; public practice, government, industry, non-profit etc.
Any person can call themselves an accountant or tax preparer but that does not mean they have the education or experience that you may require. They definitely do not have the backing of an organization that will support you, should things go wrong and thus it is always recommended that you use a designated accountant. Being a CGA, our firm is listed with the local office and areas of expertise are indicated so if you are in the dry cleaning business, you would be referred to a local CGA who has other dry cleaning clients. This can be very beneficial to you as industry norms can be discussed and your business decisions can be further supported.
So the next time you are looking to find a professional to assist you with your business, make sure you know who and what you are getting!
This article was written by Gabrielle Loren -- a partner with Loren & Company, CGA's located in North Vancouver, BC and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 604-904-3807 or check out their website at www.loren.bc.ca