Since my first job, I’ve always done my own taxes. Honestly for the average, straight forward return I can’t imagine why anyone would ever pay someone else to do it. This year however we has the first big change with me claiming freelance income. It took me a few weeks to gather all the info I thought I would need, and quite a few emails with fellow Canadian bloggers, but I finally gathered all the info I thought I would need.
Lesson #1, keep good records!
I opted to use a trusted tax software and after inputting all the information I had gathered, it came out with a net owe for our family. My husbands refund slightly offsetting my balance to pay. Though I was satisfied with my information, I decided at this point to find a CGA and get them to take a look at everything, confirming what I had done is right. I won’t lie. I had also heard of dream stories where the person brings the return to a CGA with a balance owing and with a few magic numbers being added, leave with a refund instead. I was somewhat hopeful…
Lesson #2, the yellow pages aren’t a dead commodity yet!
I have quite a few friends who work in different aspects of the finance industry but no general accountants. I didn’t have the first sweet clue where to start looking. At work one day during lunch I pulled out our yellow pages and just started calling. The first place I called (a larger firm) left me frustrated telling me help with returns starts at $375 and an hourly rate of $175 on top of that. Not what we were looking for. We wanted advice more than anything and weren’t interested in spending that much money especially since we already owed money!
I didn’t give up and called a few smaller places until I came across the guy we ended up going with. I instantly liked him on the phone, quickly explained what we were looking for and he was more than willing to help, bonus being could meet us after hours! He would charge us a rate if $75 for the hour and help us in any way we needed.
Lesson #3, spending money on professional advice is never a waste of money.
I have to be honest I went into the meeting thinking I knew everything and he was just going to confirm this, allowing me to sleep at night knowing I had done it right. The meeting was so much more than that! Though I was right with all the information I had gathered, some of my percentages were off. He was able to give us the confidence to increase some of the percentages (I was being too conservative with some things) and explain the reasons why. An example being internet. I was only claiming 50% of our internet bill saying 50% was for blogging related stuff and 50% being used for personal. He explained while we may use internet 50% of the time for personal usage that doesn’t matter because without any internet I couldn’t blog at all and therefore can claim 100% of internet.
He also explained that I shouldn’t worry as much about tiny details. I’m being honest about claiming my freelance income and trying to pay CRA money. So many people in my situation would try to get away with not claiming at all. He went over benefits of claiming our home office too, something I hadn’t even considered. The calculations we did regarding the home office were very respectable and within reasonable norms. All of this is info I wouldn’t have known unless I talked to someone who has done this as many times as a CGA.
We chatted for almost two hours and he charged us for 1.5 hours total. $130 later and we left his office feeling much better about our situation.
I input the changes we discussed in the meeting when I got home and we both came out with a refund! It’s nothing like refunds I’ve received in the past (some years upwards of 8k with student rebates) but it’s something, I don’t owe which is enough for me! Especially since we weren’t expecting a refund at all, we’ve decided to put it towards a few things we need for the house (maintenance) rather than debt, a decision I’ll explain in another post
Though this was the most money I’ve ever spent to do taxes ($130 for CGA plus $30 for tax software) I learned so much! It was money well spent!
Has a CGA ever helped you with taxes? Did it help?