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BBB: How to choose a tax preparer in Canada

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has listed some tips to consider ahead of the April 30 personal income tax deadline.
Canadian tax documents.

As tax season approaches, find someone you can trust with your finances and sensitive personal information.

The personal income tax filing deadline for Canadians is April 30 each year. 

You have until June 15 to file your return if you or your spouse or common law-partner are self-employed. If you have a payment owing, the payment is still due on April 30. Corporations must file their tax returns within six months of the end of their fiscal tax year.

Be sure to check with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) annually for an updated list of key tax due dates and payment deadlines.

It is important to know when choosing a tax preparer that not all tax preparers are created equally. There are several different types of tax preparers in Canada, each with different training, knowledge, skills and fee structure.

The three most common types of tax preparers are:

Independent tax consultants

  • Independent tax consultants are able to help clients fill out tax forms and answer basic questions about filing taxes. Independent tax consultants do not require any formal training, but should have a strong understanding of book-keeping, basic accounting methods, Canadian tax requirements and tax filing processes. Independent tax consultants can provide you with assistance and advice related to your tax filings, but they cannot represent you to CRA if you are audited.

Chartered Professional Accountants (CPAs)

  • CPA’s are professionally trained and certified accounts that can help you with a wide range of tax related services. CPA’s are qualified to represent clients to the CRA if there are questions about a client's tax return or if they are audited.

Tax lawyers

  • Tax lawyers are professionally trained lawyers that specialize in tax law. Tax lawyers can assist with tax preparation and may represent you if you are audited, need to proceed to tax court, or have a dispute with CRA.

How to choose the right tax preparer

When it comes to choosing the right tax preparer, much will depend on the complexity of your tax situation.

Do you have multiple streams of income, do you have back taxes to file, are you operating a business in multiple tax jurisdictions, are you up to date on the ever changing tax laws?

After you’ve decided what qualifications your tax preparer needs, the following tips will help you choose someone who is trustworthy and competent:

Review the tax preparer’s credentials

  • Don’t be afraid to ask about the qualifications and experience of your tax preparer before you hire someone. It is important that you know what type of tax preparer you need, what services they are trained and qualified to provide and what their experience is.

Get referrals from friends and family

  • One of the best ways to find a trustworthy tax preparer is to ask your loved ones for recommendations. Once you have a few options, check, paying careful attention to other consumers’ reviews or complaint details. This will give you a clear view about what you can expect.

Think about availability

  • If the CRA finds errors in your tax forms or decides to perform an audit, will your tax preparer be available to help you with the details? Find out whether you can contact the tax preparer all year long or only during tax season.

Ask about fees ahead of time

  • Before you agree to any services, read contracts carefully and understand how much the tax preparer charges for their services. Ask about extra fees for any unexpected complications. Get pricing from different tax preparers with similar qualifications to make sure you are paying a reasonable industry rate.

If things don’t add up, find someone else

  • If a tax preparer can’t verify their credentials, has a record of bad reviews from previous clients, or their business practices don’t seem convincing, don’t do business with them. Keep in mind that if you hire them, this individual will handle your sensitive personal information – information you need to keep safe from corrupt or fraudulent tax preparers.