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  Choosing A Tax Preparer                                                             

What To Look For In A Tax Preparer

There is a slew of large na​tionwide retail tax outlets who promise fast turn-around times by professional tax preparers. Some offer guarantees knowing full well that in most cases they are able to shift liability back to the client and escape them. Have you ever investigated the qualifications of their so called pros? The turnover rate at many of these retail offices is so high that every year over 50% of their employees are brand new, many only learning about taxes for their first time ever. Once employed, most only have cursory knowledge of Canada's tax laws since these retail outlets have a larger focus on teaching them speed and data input. In fact, the majority of the tax preparers hired by these retail outlets have no real formal credentials at all (see below).

Do your research before selecting a tax preparer or some of the deductions and credits that you are eligible for may be overlooked, or you may get hit with fines, fees and interest for missing required information or entering inapproriate deductions. The Better Business Bureau cautions against tax preparers who claim that they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers. If your return is prepared correctly, every preparer should derive similar numbers.

The Better Business Bureau reminds taxpayers that they are legally responsible for what is on their own tax return, regardless of who prepared it for them. Therefore, it is important to know the background of the individual preparer as well as their qualifications.

Look for Credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should be either a Certified Financial Planner, a Chartered Professional Accountant or a Tax Attorney. These individuals know what questions to ask clients and how to "probe" in order to find out relevant information that you may not have considered. They also know how to "integrate" your tax situation with many aspects of your financial life in order to advise and help plan your finances and obtain the best strategy for you. Be sure to find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides or requires members to pursue continuing education and which hold them accountable to a code of ethics.

Investigate whether the preparer has any questionable history with their member organizations. Member websites publish any disciplinary measures that have been taken against a preparer. Remember, do not deal with a preparer who is not a member of an overseeing body. Should they make an error on your return that would normally result in disciplinary action from a member overseeing body, you will have no method of recourse.

Be wary of any tax return preparation service that promises larger refunds than the competition . . . and be wary of any company that bases their fees on a percentage of your refund (with the exception of government regulated cashback services).

Think about year round accessibility and availabiliy. Over 40% of electronically filed tax returns require some sort of follow-up action. Be sure that you are able to access your tax advisor should you require assistance after your return has been filed. Many large firms offer follow-up assistance, but this is often done by a clerk who has little knowledge of your tax situation after the tax season is over. A tax preparer who has seen you year-after-year and who is available year round will be able to provide you with more knowledgeable and personal service.


A CFP is required to obtain and maintain minimum standards by their member organization, the Financial Planners Standards Council of Canada. A CFP professional is trained to develop, implement and monitor comprehensive financial plans for individuals and their families. They have the skill to objectively assess their client's current financial status, identify problem areas, and recommend appropriate solutions. These professionals have demonstrated expertise in multiple areas of financial planning including income tax and estate tax, investment planning, risk management, and retirement planning.

A CPA is a professional accountant licensed by the province. CPAs are highly trained in corporate and business accounting, audit, forensics and business consulting. Some CPAs also specialize as a Professional Financial Planner.

Tax Preparers as an occupation are not regulated by any official body. Some are less trained than others. Therfore, a general rule of thumb is to insist on someone who has a minimum of three years experience having completed at least 900 tax returns.

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