Choosing a Tax Preparer

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax


Halloween is considered the scariest time of the year, but April 30th is a close second.  The tax season can induce nightmares in even the bravest of Canadian citizens.  You can ease your tax fears by working with a tax preparer.  Qualified preparers are up-to-date on recent tax changes, and they can potentially save you money.  But if you want your tax return to be fully legal, you need to choose your preparer wisely.

First, never trust a tax preparer who “knows a guy” at CRA.  If a preparer claims he has a contact in CRA who can overlook your tax indiscretions, he is lying.  Also, be wary of any preparer who guarantees you a generous refund without knowing your financial information.  A qualified preparer will never guarantee anything without first looking at your financial documents.

The tax preparer you choose should have a complete understanding of all tax matters. If you are trying to find a preparer, ask for a referral from trusted friends and coworkers.  The best way to determine a preparer’s qualifications is to ask her a few questions regarding your specific financial situation.  Can she answer all of your questions?  Are you comfortable with her fee structure?  Does she know about recent tax changes?  And most importantly, do you feel at ease telling her personal information?  You need to trust your tax preparer; if you have any doubts about her skills or qualifications, keep searching for a preparer you can trust.

Before hiring a preparer, ensure that you will be able to contact him after he finishes your return.  CRA may examine your tax return in detail; if any problems arise, CRA will need to question your tax preparer.  Make sure to keep a record of your preparer’s full name, address, and business phone number.

A preparer must complete section 490 of the T1 General return, which includes their name, email address, and Efile® number.  Even though your preparer signs the forms, you are the one held accountable for the truthfulness of your return.  If your preparer makes false claims on your return, CRA could hold you responsible; this could lead to serious financial and legal problems.  Always review every page of your return before you sign the T183.  Ensure that all information – your name, address, and social security number – is correct.  And it never hurts to double check the numbers, either.  If you make $50,000 a year, you don’t want your tax return to state your salary as $500,000.

It is a good idea to give your tax preparer consent authorization to talk to CRA on your behalf. If there are any errors, or questions, then they can talk to CRA, and deal with the issue.

Once your preparer has completed all the forms, she will present you with a copy of your return; this is required by law, digital copies are acceptable. You are required to sign the T183 Efile® form, however, the return itself no longer has to be signed, even if it’s paper filed.

Note that a tax preparer that is registered for Efile® must electronically file your return, unless otherwise directed by CRA, even if you request it be paper filed.

If you are unwilling to spend your time pouring over T-slips, RRSP slips and other receipts, hire a qualified tax preparer.  You will never fear April 30th again.

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