Monday, March 6, 2023

It’s Personal Tax Time – How to Get on Your Accountant’s Good Side

Many readers of this blog use accountants to prepare their personal income tax returns. You can take three approaches in working with your accountant. You can provide them with:

  1. all the detailed information they request

  2. most of the information, without overly exerting yourself

  3. the minimum information, since you pay good fees
From a client perspective, all these approaches are reasonable to some degree. However, as a retired public accountant of 35 or so tax seasons, I suggest you lean towards approach number one, to the greatest extent you can.

I say this for two reasons. The first reason is simply the better organized you are, the more time your accountant can spend dealing with minimizing your taxes. The second reason is that many Canadians invest in mutual funds (T3 slip) and limited partnerships (T5013 slip). Both these investments have March 31st deadlines for issuing the T3’s and T5013’s, so clients often have to wait until late March and early April to receive their slips.

Consequently, your accountant’s workload has likely changed substantially over the last five to seven years, such that 45-60% of the client information comes in after say April 7th. In the good old days, that number was likely only 25-35%.

I am not expecting you to shed too many tears about your accountant’s working conditions given the fees you pay them. I am telling you this because the easier you make it for them to work on your return (rather than chase information), the better it is for you.

So, with the theme of be nice to your accountant, I list below some do's and don'ts for providing your tax season information to your accountant. 

I will start with the things you want to avoid doing.

Tax Season Don'ts

  1. Do not hand your accountant all your tax slips in the original envelopes 

  2. Do not send your accountant PDF’s of each tax slip as they arrive. If you prefer to use email or your accountant has a portal (in lieu of paper copies), try to send a first batch of as many initial slips as possible. Then make a list of what you think is missing (such as T3’s, T5013’s, straggler donation slips) and send a second batch all these slips. Once that is done, it is fine to send amended or straggler slips one by one 

  3. Do not provide your prior years tax returns and tax slips to your accountant. All tax programs have prior year information carried forward if required and most accountants have paperless systems of prior years slips if a past tax slip is required for any reason 

Tax Season Do's

  1. Provide your accountant any investment, capital gains and foreign reporting information provided by your investment advisor

  2. Have your children download their tuition receipts from their University portal

  3. Ensure your have official donation slips for all your donations. If you only have a confirmation of your payment from the internet, that is not an official receipt and you will need to request an official receipt from the organization. If you want to earn a gold star, summarize the donations for your accountant so they have a total to compare against their total. This is definitely more than expected, but it acts as an excellent check and balance, as I have had many variances over the years and a summary provides a quick way to see if the client’s total was off or the accountants total was off.

  4. If you made a donation of marketable securities (see this blog for more detail), make a note for your accountant. This is something they will likely pick-up, but it can be missed sometimes as the notation on the donation slip is sometimes small or in a corner somewhere and easy to miss.

  5. For any medical expenses, where possible get one summary receipt, such as for a chiropractor or physio etc. Some pharmacies also provide a yearly summary, so you don’t have to provide 34 individual receipts.  

  6. Still with medical receipts, if you are audited by the CRA, they will want to see a medical receipt that reflects payment. I often received the invoice for medical purchases, but not an invoice reflecting payment. You may need to follow-up with the medical practitioner to request a paid receipt (again, if you have several expenses with the same practitioner, get them to do one summary receipt reflecting the services and reflecting payment for those services)

  7. If you have a line of credit with the bank for investment purposes (especially for professionals to fund their capital entitlement), see if your banker can provide a simple summary letter on the financial institution’s letterhead of the total interest expense for 2022

  8.  If you have rental income, summarize your rental income and expenses for the year. Also provide any invoices for any large repair bills so your accountant can determine whether the expense is currently deductible or must be capitalized.

  9. If you sold your home in 2022, provide your accountant the sale information. Also provide the date you purchased your home and the original cost information (although it may not be needed depending upon the circumstances). The above information must be reported to claim the principal residence exemption, or the exemption may be denied, or a substantial penalty levied.

  10. Let your accountant know if anyone in your family has become a non-resident in the current year.

  11. Review your return before it is filed. You know your affairs better than anyone. Do a quick overview of your return to ensure what you expect to be reported and deducted has been reflected accurately. In most cases everything will check-out, but sometimes things are missed or when reviewing your return, you realize you forgot to inform your accountant about some income or deduction for the year.
The above information will cover off much of your return. Many accountants make this easier by providing a checklist for you to organize your tax information. 

While all this organizing may seem like a lot of work when you are paying someone to prepare your return, you want those dollars spent having your accountant working on minimizing your taxes, not chasing down information.

This site provides general information on various tax issues and other matters. The information is not intended to constitute professional advice and may not be appropriate for a specific individual or fact situation. It is written by the author solely in their personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which they are affiliated. It is not intended to constitute professional advice, and neither the author nor the firm with which the author is associated shall accept any liability in respect of any reliance on the information contained herein. Readers should always consult with their professional advisors in respect of their particular situation. Please note the blog post is time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

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