5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Healthcare Accountant

Hiring the right accountant will impact not only your bottom line – but also your peace of mind.

Healthcare professionals have unique and specific needs, so if your accountant has a broad-based general practice then they may not be familiar with the issues or ongoing developments in your profession.

Tax may very well be your largest expense, so hiring an accountant with expertise in tax is critical. Below are five key questions to help you make an informed decision.

 

1.  What certifications, training, continuing education, and memberships do you hold?

The field of tax is always changing. There are two preeminent programs that CPAs complete which are recognized for their rigor and breadth of technical knowledge. They are the multi-year CPA In-Depth Tax Program (IDTP) and [the CPA] In-Depth GST/HST Course. These are the industry standard for training according to CPA Canada.

  • Ask what programs a prospective accountant has completed and when they completed them to help assess their current knowledge and experience.

 

2. What can you expect from your accountant?

You have studied long and hard to become proficient in your knowledge area, yet during that time you have received little or no training in the business side of medicine. You should expect that your accountant will bring you up to speed immediately on the issues facing you regardless of what stage you are at in your career. Issues like how much money will be needed for retirement, incorporation, debt repayment vs investing, salary vs dividend considerations to name just a few.

  • Try this question when interviewing a prospective accountant: What is your plan for my file for the next five years and beyond?

 

3. What are the most innovative ways you leverage technology in your practice and how will that help me?

Harnessing technology to our mutual advantage means reducing or eliminating duplication of work where possible, minimizing your time commitment while allowing us access to the financial information we need to map out your financial future.


A couple of examples include:

  • Creating personalized recorded videos to communicate complicated tax matters and provide you with solutions for you to review at your convenience. 
  • Using existing banking and credit card online functionality to reduce the time you spend filling out spreadsheets.

 

4. What is your plan for my finances for the next five years and beyond?

It’s common for physicians to hire an accountant simply based on a referral of a colleague or their proximity to your practice. But, like any professional you consider working with, you need to carefully assess their competence, creativity, and abilities. Let me give you my best advice.

First, ask a prospective accountant for an hour of their time at no charge.

Then, start the conversation with this open-ended question: What is your plan for my finances for the next five years and beyond?

What questions do they ask? What recommendations do they make taking into account your unique financial situation?

For reference, this initial discussion with a potential accountant should address the following points:

  • Have your financial goals for the next 3-5 years been identified?
  • Have they helped you calculate your monthly living expenses for purposes of incorporation and as well as retirement planning? 
  • Have they explained the quantitative and qualitative considerations between salary and dividends?
  • Have they explained the role that RRSPs play in your future?

 

5. How much do you charge?

By now, answers obtained to the previous questions will have quantified the value that can be expected from each candidate. And at this point, you should ask for a listing of partner and staff rates, potential additional charges and any other fees that could appear on your bill.

I recommend that these fees be measured against expected outcomes.  By the end of each discussion, you should be able to quantify some of the potential savings in support of the fees quoted.

Our approach to fees is a blend of fixed and value pricing.  That’s because each client’s needs and circumstances are unique.  No two clients are the same just as no two patients are.  But, regardless of your needs and circumstances a fixed-fee quote seeing out the scope, terms and conditions of the engagement will be prepared for your consideration.  And the fee quoted will remain in place for the duration of the engagement.  So, no unexpected fees to worry about. 

 

Finally (and perhaps most importantly) consider if you can picture yourself working with this person? Are they likable and trustworthy?

 

To learn more about the benefits of working with a healthcare accountant, contact Jonathan Tucker at 1-800-845-0540 or email jtucker@tuckerspc.ca.

Jonathan Tucker, CPA, CA, LPA, is Managing Director of Tucker Professional Corporation, a practice that provides tax, accounting, and advisory services for health professionals.

Jonathan Tucker

Jonathan Tucker

CPA, CA, LPA