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David A. Townsend, CPA, CFP Professional Corporation

"When To Hire A Bookkeeper"   an article by David A. Townsend

As per my previous article, "Do It Yourself" Accounting works fine for many people. However, if you are doing your own accounting, but getting busier and not spending your time as productively as you would like, ask yourself the following:

  1. Could someone else do the accounting better or more efficiently?
  2. What is it costing me in productive time to do the accounting myself?
  3. Do I know my current financial position?
  4. Are my GST and income tax filings up to date?
  5. Can my business support a bookkeeping fee?

After going through the above, you should have a good idea of whether it is time to consider hiring a bookkeeper. I work with several bookkeepers that keep my clients up to date and on track. The Yellow Pages and Internet are full of "qualified" bookkeepers, but I have seen some not so good ones. It is best if you have a referral from someone you know.

Currently in Calgary, good reliable bookkeepers are difficult to find and therefore they are expensive. It will of course depend on the complexity of your company but budget at least $200 monthly for bookkeeping.

This can be money well spent if it reduces the stress of GST and employer remittance filings and year-end accounting. A good bookkeeper can also handle supplier payments, monthly financial statements, and tracking accounts receivable and accounts payable.

You must also spend the time to set up a workable system. A good bookkeeper should be able to help with this. However, don't expect a new bookkeeper to take a mass of financial information and magically produce accurate financial statements and government reports. It is probably best to start out with the basics — new duties can be added later if necessary. If you give the bookkeeper clear directions on your requirements, then he or she should provide a list of what information is needed to do the job. It is a good idea if you both commit your requirements to writing.

I have several clients who have taken it a step further. They rely on me for all their accounting, GST, income tax, and financial advice. These are private companies that have reached a level where they need a part-time Chief Financial Officer and I provide this service for them. I have bookkeepers who help me do the detailed record keeping and I provide and review monthly financial statements with the owner/managers.

These are clients who want to concentrate on their professional and business responsibilities — they entrust me with the financial part of things. I am willing to discuss this arrangement with anyone who believes that they are at this stage.

Contributing Editor to Canadian Money Saver Magazine