Do I really need a CPA?

Not necessarily. In situations where you have basic tax requirements and you're comfortable compiling your own personal tax or bookkeeping records, it may make sense to do it yourself. Keep in mind if you do hire someone, you tend to get what you pay for. Hiring someone off Kijiji might work out, but…

On the other hand, if you don't have time to maintain your company books, if you're worried about being offside on tax rules, if you want to make sure that you have support during a tax audit, or you need someone who really understands financials to help you with business decisions, a CPA can be very helpful.

Ideally your relationship with your CPA is one that will last for decades. They'll be there for you during all stages of your business. They can help you during the good times (ie. When should I hire staff), during the not-so-good times (ie. How to survive a downturn or tax audit) and when you're ready to sell the business and retire. The year end accounting and tax return is just a one part of what your CPA will do for you.

What exactly am I paying a CPA for?

This is a question, phrased a number a ways, CPA's get all the time. Most people don't know what CPA's do and kind of think of us as glorified tax-bookkeepers. The reality is, we have years of rigorous training to get our designations and are required to maintain and upgrade our training every year after that and so on.

But really, as far as most of our clients are concerned, we a) keep them out of trouble with the tax man or b) get them out of trouble with the tax man. We deal with the things you don't have time to do or don't want to figure out how to do. We deal with these things a lot, and we're good at it.

In your packages you include "tax support". What does that mean?

Tax support means we will be there for you if the CRA calls you about returns we prepared. We will respond to their requests for information and answer questions they have about your tax returns. It also means we will answer your basic tax questions at no extra cost. Need to know if an expense is deductible or what to do if you get paid with something other than cash? Just send us an email and we'll give you an answer.

How do you bill your clients?

Traditionally, CPA's bill their clients by the hour, calculated in 6 minute increments, so there is always some uncertainty about what the year end bill will be. At Paper Mountain, we spend a lot of time talking to prospective clients about what they need from us and prepare a quote that covers all of those needs. If you wind up needing something more or less, then we'll process a change order. Work that reoccurs every year (year ends and tax) gets billed monthly through an automatic charge to a bank or credit card. One-off work (eg. getting caught up on 5 years of tax returns) is billed as a lump sum and we usually obtain a retainer for the full amount before we start work.

I'll only hire you if you get me a big tax refund, OK?

This is a common misconception among potential clients. For example, we will often hear "I don't mind paying your rates if you get me a big tax refund". Frankly, it doesn't work that way. We base our rates on providing a certain product to you (a tax return) based on how complicated it is to prepare. Have one T4? You'll get our lowest rate. Have a business statement, rental statement, stock options and foreign tax reporting? You'll pay a lot more because there is a lot more work and expertise involved to get it right. We follow tax law regardless of whether a client wants a big refund or not. You may get a large refund or you may pay a lot of tax. We keep a look out for tax opportunities for all our clients and, if there is an opportunity, we'll discuss the benefits and risks with you.

Do you have any staff?

Rojean Hatton is the owner of the firm and works in it full time. She contracts other professionals to assist with client work as necessary.

Are you going to be boring and talk over my head?

It's true. Sometimes CPA's are boring or just get caught up in the excitement of explaining tax law (no joke). At Paper Mountain, we take pride in our ability to explain complex tax and financial concepts to people who have better things to do with their time than study tax and finances. It's important to us that our clients make informed decisions and we'll take the time to make sure your comfortable with those decisions.

I feel like getting my year end completed will be a big hassle. Will you make it easier?

It doesn't have to be a hassle. With your consent, we can access much of the information we need online and we try to make the year end process as painless as possible. On the other side, we expect our clients to invest some time in making sure we have the information we need so that we can move through the work efficiently.

How accessible are you?

Most of our work is conducted online, so we are very accessible. We understand that if you're running a business you may only be available for a call in the evenings or weekends. Or if you're in a different time zone, we may have to be available at an uncivilized hour. Our primary concern is to make sure the work progresses and doesn't get held up.

What if I don't know how to use an accounting program?

This isn't a problem. Our preferred bookkeeping software is Xero and it's made to be used by non-accountants. We can set it up for you, along with any other business apps you need, and train you to use it to the extent that you need to (ie. Invoicing, approving payroll). We can handle the rest.

What if I've been with my accountant for 20 years or my accountant is my dad's accountant?

Well, this is a tough one. We want our own clients to be with us for 20+ years because we think it creates a special relationship that's hard to find in the business world. On the other hand, not every CPA is right for every small business. If you want to leverage technology in your business or need more in-depth business and tax advice, we might be a better fit. If that's the case, we can help you transition over.