The Top 5 Questions Business Owners Should Ask Their Accountant
How to spur on an informative conversation that will save you money
When the government hits the floor with a big-budget bill, it’s nerve-wracking – and not just for the governing party. With just a couple of lines, the minister of finance can change how you’re investing in your future, your child, or your business. And when you’re counting on income-splitting to lower your tax burden, or on the childcare incentive to ease that financial burden, it’s worth finding the time to read each doorstop budget.
Even if you haven’t been interested in the past few budgets, this year’s is certainly one to watch. It’s an election year, and that means Bill Morneau just dropped a budget with all kinds of goodies designed to woo voters. Of course, news agencies covered it, but they don’t know your story, or what you’re looking for in this year’s bill.
The top 5 questions to ask your accountant
You may not know the ins and out of each finance bill that passes through parliament, but your accountant definitely should. To find out what you should be doing, and to make sure your accountant knows what they're doing, you should be talking to your accountant, and creating a plan that suits your life.
1. How has my tax return changed from last year?
Tax returns are full of details that cause most people to just throw up their hands and push it across the table to an accountant. But don’t let that frustration with taxes cause you to step out of the conversation entirely.
A good accountant should be able to walk you through last year’s taxes and this year’s taxes to show you what’s changed, and how they can help you save money. This not only equips you to determine the best plan for you and your business but keeps you in the loop so that you know your accountant is working for you.
2. How can I maximize my return?
Tax law can often seem like chasing after a moving goal post. Between the changes in your life and your business, and the changes the governments make with each new election, there is never a simple path to ‘tax success.’
However, a good CPA will be able to walk you through the approaches you may want to consider this year to get the most out of your tax return. Just keep in mind this may change with each new budget, each new government, and each new step in your life, so try to stay mentally flexible to avoid frustration down the road.
3. What resources are you using to keep up to date?
With the goal posts always moving, it is vitally important that accountants keep up to date on every change – otherwise, they’re leaving some of your money on the table. Your accountant should have a few resources they utilize to educate themselves, whether they’re part of a big company that send out training packets or pull from a variety of other resources.
4. Do you offer any resources to keep me up to date?
While you don’t need to educate yourself on every new tax development like your accountant does, having a working knowledge of taxes will allow you to work with your accountant to ensure you’re getting the best returns every year.
The best way to stay in step with your accountant is to see if they offer any resources, like a blog, that would keep you up to date enough to join the tax conversation.
5. How can you help me get where I’m going?
You may not consider your accountant as someone you need to have a heart-to-heart with, but the more a good accountant knows about who you are and where you want to go – the better they can help.
When your accountant knows your plans for the future, they can take your goals into consideration and make helpful recommendations on how to prepare for that ideal future.
Start a good conversation with your accountant
There are all kinds of conversations you might consider ‘good’ – a practical ‘birds and the bees’ talk with your kid, an intelligent conversation about politics, or an hour spent catching up with an old friend – but a good conversation with your tax accountant is one that will save you money in the long run.
Remember, this isn’t just about you (though asking these questions can help save you money) – it’s also about making sure your accountant knows the whole picture and in knowing that has answers that satisfy you. Not having good answers to your questions may be an indication that you need to start looking around for an accountant with more solid answers.
If you’ve found your accountant’s answers lacking, we can help. We have referral partners that we trust, who can give you a second opinion and help you find your way again.