What you need to know before you hire an accountant or bookkeeper.

What you need to know before you hire an accountant or bookkeeper.

What you need to know before hiring your next accountant

Unlike many other professionals, anyone can call themselves an accountant or bookkeeper. The term accountant is not reserved or in any way restricted. This does not mean that a non-designated accountant is not competent, it only means that they do not have to adhere to the standards of professional accountants.

Only Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) are recognised in Canada as Professional accountants. CPAs study for many years and are required to pass rigorous examinations before they can use their designations. Additionally, professional accountants are required to keep their knowledge up to date, which is closely monitored by the respective associations. Public accountants must go one step further and attend additional training and all CPAS are required to carry insurance. Every three years, a mandatory practice review is conducted by the associations to ensure the quality of the work performed meets the high standards that you have come to expect.

Looking for a qualified bookkeeper? Then you want a Certified Professional Bookkeeper or CPB. Like CPAs, CPB’s go through an extensive training process before they are recognised as Professional Bookkeepers. Both CPAs and CPBs require annual professional development and carry insurance. Additionally, they are bound to adhere to the standards and Ethical requirements of their respective associations.

Currently market demand for accountant and bookkeepers significantly exceeds the supply. While CPAs and CPB are regulated with what they can say and do, non designated accountant and bookkeepers are not.
With limited barriers to entry for non designated accountants and bookkeepers and high market demand for accounting services it is easy for anyone with any level of experience to start an accounting or bookkeeping company.


As a small business owner there is limited protection for you if you decide to work with someone other than a CPA/CPB.

Please take a look at the links below to find qualfiied accountants and bookkeepers in Canada.

Find a Qualified Bookkeeper

I am behind in my bookkeeping

Stressed out from being behind in bookkeeping

Behind in your bookkeeping? A CPA's guide to getting caught up.

When you started your business you likely had some really big plans. Provide great customer service make lots of money and have more time to spend with friends and family.

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Perhaps you ‘fell’ into your business as a result of a great opportunity or maybe you had a plan. In any case you didn’t intend for your accounting to get behind. After all, you aren’t an accountant. Maybe you even had someone helping you but they are long gone.

At first it wasn’t too bad, maybe one GST return was missed. Clients were paying and your suppliers were getting paid, so nothing that caused you worry.

Now fast forward to today and suddenly the books are way behind. You might be getting letters and phone calls from CRA. Maybe you aren’t getting letters and phone calls yet, but you know they will be coming soon.

Where to start?

  1. Set up your CRA online business account to see what has been filed and what is missing.
  2. Collect your business documents and receipts. Click HERE for a list of what you need
  3. Connect with a professional. Make sure who ever you work with is qualified. In Canada this would be a CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant) or a CPB (Certified Professional Bookkeeper).

How long does it take?

The next question on your mind might be how long will it take? Once CRA starts calling there is pressure to have things caught up quickly. A lot of that depends on you and how organized you are and how far behind things are. Getting all of your receipts together and organised BEFORE you connect with an accountant or bookkeeper will speed up the process. At my firm one year of bookkeeping and taxes can be completed in as little as 4 -6 weeks as long as we have all the information.

How much does it cost?

There are a lot of variables that affect the cost of your bookkeeping and taxes.

  • How many years you are behind
  • The state of completeness or organization of your documents
  • The volume of transactions
  • The number of bank and credit cards
  • Are items purchased with cash vs credit/debit cards or PayPal
  • Do you use industry software (BuilderTrend, MindBody etc)
  • Whether the information is provided electronically or via paper
  • Did someone else already do some of the accounting or is it a fresh start?

Can I go to jail?

This question does come up a lot. On occasion taxpayers do end up in jail. It just isn’t going to be the first conversation CRA has with you so be wary of any ‘CRA’ calls that suggest you are going to jail. Please check this link at the Canada Revenue Agency Website . CRA – Slam the scam.

 If you still aren’t sure, call your CPA if you get any suspicious calls from people claiming to be from CRA.

What information do I need to get started?

What information do I need to get started?

This list is a starting point, your specific situation may differ.

Business bank and credit card statements.
  • Many banks and credit companies provide this information online and can go back as far as seven years
  • Copies of cheques (often these are on your bank statements)
  • Listing of e-transfers sent and received
Documents that support your business transactions
  • Invoices that you have sent out to clients
  • Documentation for purchases you have made. Receipts, bills from vendors.
  • Loans that you have in the business name
  • Agreements that you have made that result in a financial obligation.
  • Lease, rental agreements etc.

Business Registration and incorporation documents.

Most recently filed Annual return (this is not your tax return)
Incorporation documents
Including:

  • List of shareholders and directors
  • business articles
  • Share structure and ownership
  • shareholder agreements.
Business registration and incorporation documents will be available from your lawyer.  If you self-incorporated you likely do not have all of these documents.
Previously filed tax and information returns
  • If incorporated your last filed Corporate tax return (T2)
  • If self-employed your last filed personal tax return with the T2125
  • Statement of Business activities.
  • Copies of GST/HST/PST returns filed
  • Copies of T4 Summary and T4s filed if you have payroll
  • Copies of any T5018 (contractor payments) filed
  • Copies of any T5 Summary and T5s filed for shareholder (if incorporated)
  • Copies of any correspondence received from the Canada Revenue Agency
  • Copies of any correspondence received from your province (if you are
  • subject to PST).

Note that some of this information may be available online at CRA or your Province.

It may take a while to collect all of this information, but the best place to start is to connect with a professional who can provide more guidance on what information is required for your situation and what to do if some information is missing.