About CGA Firms
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a CGA public practice firm?
A: CGA public practice firms provide accounting, auditing and tax services for clients. Firms may also provide other services such as computer and management consulting. All owners of CGA firms:
- maintain their firm's registration with the CGA-BC Association,
- maintain professional liability insurance,
- have completed continuous professional development courses in areas such as accounting, auditing, tax, research and practice management, and
- undergo continual practice reviews by CGA-BC.
Q: What are the benefits of choosing a CGA public practice firm?
A: Your CGA firm is able to help you meet the challenge and succeed in business. CGA public practice firms act as advisors for individuals, businesses, financial institutions and nonprofit organizations. The following are several key benefits of choosing a CGA public practice firm:
- Trust - Certified General Accountants are British Columbia's most highly trusted professionals. In fact, a recent survey of British Columbians showed that an overwhelming 92% of BC residents polled, trusted CGAs more than any other professional group including teachers, police officers, judges and other professional accountants.
- Ethics - The CGA Association of British Columbia has been established in legislation as a self-regulating body. The Association and its members recognize this obligation and work to protect the public interest. A strict and far-reaching code of ethical principles and rules of conduct governs CGA members.
- Full Audit Rights - Under the BC Business Corporations Act, CGA-BC public practitioners have full rights to audit reporting companies. This is the highest authority granted to any professional accounting designation. CGA public practice firms are qualified to perform any and all aspects of the accounting profession.
- Management Training - The CGA designation is well respected in the business community. This respect is based in part on the strength and integrity of the Association's education program. After being designated, CGAs who register as a public practice firm must undergo additional courses in practice management, accounting, auditing, tax and research. We are also the only accounting body in the province that requires individuals that do not have public practice experience to engage a mentor to ensure that the public is being properly serviced.
- Mandatory Practice Reviews - All CGA public practitioners in the province are subject to mandatory practice reviews to ensure that they are meeting the acknowledged standards of the profession. The practice review process, first of its kind in British Columbia, is an integral component in maintaining the integrity and prominence of CGAs in the province.
- Commitment to Lifelong Learning - The integrity of the CGA designation is based on the Association's commitment to the highest standards of professional development and ongoing education for all members. Your CGA public practitioner is required to continuously maintain their knowledge by attending approved professional development courses.
Q: Who can be a public accountant in British Columbia?
A: In conducting your search for an accountant, please be aware that anyone can call themselves an "accountant" or "public accountant," even if they have had little or no formal training. Those individuals may not have the skills essential to provide you with the best service. They also may not protect you with professional liability insurance. In British Columbia, in fact in all of Canada, there are only three professional accounting designations:
- Certified General Accountants (CGAs)
- Chartered Accountants (CAs)
- Certified Management Accountants (CMAs).
CGAs are the largest accounting body in the province. We were the first in BC to require our members to take professional development courses. And we were the first to require our public practice firms have professional liability insurance to ensure the protection of the public.
The CGA designation is an important factor in choosing your accountant. Remember, those three letters are awarded only to those individuals who have successfully completed the very demanding CGA program of studies including practical experience and rigorous examinations.
Q: What should I look for in selecting a CGA public practice firm?
A: Most people engage their accountants for many years. Keep in mind that a long-term working relationship between you and your CGA can help you take an informed, consistent approach to personal, financial and business problems and to help you meet your financial goals.
Before you begin this relationship, consider the following questions:
- Are your needs compatible with the CGA's character traits and personality?
Compatibility, an important qualification to look for in a CGA, is difficult to define. Before making any decisions, meet with your prospective accountant. Ask questions that are important to you. How comfortable are you with the answers given? You would never buy a car without first looking around and asking a lot of questions. People often have their accountants a lot longer than they have their cars. Take the time to find one that suits you.
- What previous experience does the CGA have to meet your requirements? Although all CGAs meet essentially the same education, training, and licensing requirements, each has individual areas and niches in which they prefer to practice. Ask if the CGA has experience in your industry to ensure that the firm understands your type of business.
Do not be quick to judge that a relatively young person does not have extensive experience or that an older member is not up to date. All of our public practitioners must meet approved standards and meet ongoing professional development requirements to maintain their public practice firm.
Q: What types of services may your CGA public practitioner provide?
A: Here are just a few of the services a CGA firm may be able to offer you:
- Acquiring a franchise
- Advice on personal inheritance financial matters
- Auditing services and reports
- Business valuation
- Computer consulting
- Eldercare services
- Estate planning
- Financial statements to assist you in making business decisions
- Helping your business grow
- Information systems design and management
- Investing to earn satisfactory yields
- Investment planning
- Management consulting and advisory services
- Non-resident taxation
- Obtaining and securing financing
- Payroll services
- Planning and budget preparation
- Planning compensation programs
- Problem analysis and profitability improvement
- Representing clients in tax matters
- Retirement planning
- Risk assessment and insurance planning
- Sales tax consulting (HST)
- Small business management consulting
- Solving business problems
- Starting a new business
- Tax planning and consulting
- Tax return preparation (personal and corporate)
Q: How can you get the most value for your accounting fees?
A: CGAs themselves have some suggestions on how you can make the best use of accounting services and get the most value for their fee:
- Gather information about business or personal financial decisions under consideration so you can ask the CGA specific questions.
- Save yourself unnecessary fees by maintaining good financial records and not using your professional's time for organizing your paper work.
- Be prepared to openly discuss your plans and objectives. CGAs are in the best position to advise you and serve your interests when they understand your goals.
- Be open to advice and suggestions to improve your financial situation. CGAs have vast experience and are able to assist you with your problems and concerns. Your CGA can be part of your management team. Their objective advice may directly improve your financial stability and cash flow.
- Clearly explain what you expect from the CGA's services. Focusing directly at the outset saves time and money.
- Keep your CGA informed of changes in your personal and professional life. A recent marriage or divorce, the birth of a child, a career change, or an especially generous bonus can all have a significant impact on your personal financial goals and taxes.
Q: What do firms charge for their services?
A: Please note that CGA-BC does not set a fee structure for CGA firms. A CGA firm normally bases its fees on the time required to perform the services you request.
Fees depend on the type of services you require and the quality of the information that you supply to the CGA firm. The CGA will seek to minimize your fees by having different rates or delegating the simpler aspects of the job to staff, common procedure in the accounting profession. Please keep in mind that the owner of the firm will maintain supervision of your engagement and will review and finalize the job prior to their presentation to you.
Q: How does CGA-BC protect the public?
A: The CGA Association, a self-governing regulatory body for CGAs, takes its commitment to protect the public interest very seriously. Each CGA must comply with the Association's Act, Bylaws, Code of Ethical Principles and Rules of Conduct and Public Practice Policies. Enquiries concerning a CGA's professional conduct are thoroughly investigated and dealt with. In some cases this may lead to a fine, suspension of membership, and/or the complete loss of the right to use the CGA designation.
All CGA public practitioners are subject to a practice review to ensure that they are meeting the acknowledged standards of the profession. The practice review process, first of its kind in British Columbia, is an integral component in maintaining the integrity and prominence of CGAs in the province. Each CGA public practice firm is required to maintain professional liability insurance to ensure the ultimate protection of the public.