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MNP Business Corner: Are you asking the right questions of your accountant?


Historically, an accountant was thought of as a math whiz who sat at a desk all day and pumped out tax returns. Usually these folks were comfortable talking about what went on last year with a client’s business but less so talking about the future goals and objectives of their clients. However, times have changed and accountants have had to evolve and become forward-looking advisors.

As a client it is your responsibility to ask the right questions of your accountant to ensure they are forward thinking and focusing on the right parts of your business. Yes, you need to ensure they can cover off your tax compliance and financial reporting. But truly successful businesses draw far more value from their accountant than a set of financial statements. Here are key questions to ask your accountant next time you meet:

What is your experience?

Ask about their experience in the real estate and construction industry. Do they know the difference between an excavator and a backhoe? Are they actively involved with local construction associations and are a member of the NRCA? The more in tune your advisor is with the industry, the better they will be able to serve you and your needs.

How much time will you focus on my business and how often can we meet?

Good accountants will have lots of clients, but they should always have time for the forward-looking ones who want to meet regularly to go over where the business is headed and how to get there. They should always make the time to come out and see you to discuss your plans.

If you were in my shoes, what would you do differently?

Accountants work with business owners in a variety of enterprises and are a wealth of knowledge to tap into when looking for insights on how different styles and approaches could help you in your business. You can learn a lot from your accountant if they are willing to give honest, no-holds-barred business advice. They also might be able to connect you to new suppliers or customers via connections they have.

Is there anything I can do to help you do a better job?

Accountants enjoy working with clients who are well organized and on time. By asking this question you are ensuring your records are presented in a method that helps your accountant and allows them to focus on the big picture rather than getting bogged down in a shoebox full of information.

How can this tax season be better than the last season?

Ask these three questions:

  1. What tax changes impact my business this year?
  2. Is there anything else I can do to minimize my taxes?
  3. Is there anything I could have done better last year?

Are there any industry-specific tax changes I should know about this year?

An accountant who understands your industry should be able to answer this easily. And a truly proactive accountant will have been in contact with you throughout the year with any changes that may impact you.

Is there a business structure that could work better?

As a business grows, the optimal structure may change over time. A trusted business advisor should proactively address this, but it is always good to ask the question. Depending on the stage of your business in its life cycle, some structures minimize tax, some help with liability protection and others help when winding a business down or selling. Asking this question too late could cost you.

Am I taking money from my business in the most tax-efficient manner?

Your accountant should be able to help you to minimize the tax on funds you take out of your business. There are more ways than just dividend or salary these days, depending on the amounts you draw from you company. Ask you accountant if you have needs for large amounts of funds from your company.

How can I exit my business successfully and on my terms?

As time goes on, this becomes one of the greatest concerns for business owners and often times accountants fail to address the issue head on. You should be discussing this with your accountant from day one. You never know when the day will come that it is time to hang up the hard hat and boots and find a beach somewhere. By planning ahead, you can ensure this is done with as few headaches—and as tax efficiently—as possible.

Your accountant can be your most trusted business advisor and an integral part of your team; not just someone you go to visit once a year to go over your tax returns and financial statements. By having a strong business relationship with your advisor, you will maximize the advice you get and the benefit to your business will be substantial.

It’s equally important to choose an accountant whose values align with yours and someone who will always deliver you the truth no matter how tough it is to hear. By choosing wisely and acting on good solid advice, you and your business can reap the rewards.

About MNP’s Real Estate and Construction Services

At MNP, we believe in being your partner in business. That’s why all sectors of the real estate and construction industry across northern B.C. rely on MNP for industry-specific expertise and services that go beyond traditional accounting and tax. From project structuring and tax minimization to asset protection and succession, our Real Estate and Construction team looks at your operation from all angles and develops personalized strategies to help you succeed.

Prince George and Vanderhoof
Andrew Adams, CPA, CA
Partner, Private Enterprise
T: 250.596.8311
E:[email protected]​​​

Michael Johnson, CPA, CA
Partner, Private Enterprise
T: 250.635.4925
E:[email protected]​​​

Fort St. John
Peta Best, CPA CA
Partner, Private Enterprise
T: 250.794.5105
E:[email protected]​​​