Taxes on your own or with accountant?

We’ve had three accountants over the last 9 years, and this year I’m doing our own taxes!

The first one was a referral, which unfortunately didn’t make him any less crazy and unpredictable. Long story short, he charged very little ($70!), did an OK job but he made me spend an entire day with him. I mean 8-10 hours out of which he spent about 40 minutes actually doing taxes. I had a feeling he liked my company a tad too much.

Then, one year he just disappeared with all our paperwork. He got divorced, moved out of his house, and the only means of communication with him was a Hotmail address. He responded to my emails just once, saying that he was ill but would soon return to his accounting duties.

After trying to pry our papers out of this nutjob for 2 years, I finally gave up and decided we needed a change. By then, we’d been making installment payments just in case, so even though we didn’t file formal returns, once we did file them, we ended up getting a small return and didn’t get penalized.

We got a “cold” letter from this freelance accountant/bookkeeper, that I kept for about 3 years. We’ve had cold calls from accountants before, but I kept the letter, and never wrote down information from the cold callers (hey, here’s a marketing tip right here – direct mail YES, cold calls NO). We contacted the lady, and she turned out to be a pretty nice and hard-working person. She was the only one that made me feel like she looked out for our interests. Unfortunately, she just didn’t have enough experience to continue working with us after we incorporated. She charged about $250 for a 2-person return (partnership and personal returns).

The last one was also a referral. He was not just the most expensive, but also the laziest and least helpful of the three. Basically, I believe we wasted with him anywhere from $1,200 to $5,000 with him in extra fees and re-assessments from CRA which he was too lazy to dispute, not to mention that he made the mistakes in the first place.

Except for the 2 years with the freelance lady accountant, filing taxes has been a total nightmare for me, and a huge stress.

In our experience finding an accountant who would actually be helpful has been impossible so far. Referrals are no guarantee that it’ll be a good experience.

Last year at a Christmas party I started talking to this guy who turned out to be an accountant. He was giving everyone free tax advice with enthusiasm. We started chatting. I was still in shock at how much we paid in accounting fees (right after filing our first corporate return). The guy asked, “Why are you even using an accountant? Your tax situation is not so complicated that you can’t buy QuickTax and file your own returns, including corporate”.

What a great idea! See, it didn’t even occur to me before that moment that I CAN DO OUR OWN TAXES! I think for most people it goes the other way around – they do their own taxes first, then maybe graduate to using an accountant. But for me the first years in Canada and first years of business were hard and stressful enough, I wasn’t up to learning this too at the time.

This year we bought QuickTax Unincorporated Business edition and I did our own taxes. Filed them today and very anxious to find out what happens.