As a new small business owner, when first approached by FBC I was intrigued at their sales pitch. We were new to the combination small town hotel/tavern/restaurant business (had run restaurants before, but none like this combination and in larger centers) and were now more than 3 hours away from our previous business accountant. My wife had always done the books the old fashioned way but we were concerned that with the addition of hotel rooms and the fact that we were also living on-site, would have affects on how we categorize expenses and our personal use of the business property, etc.
FBC sales person said he personally wasn't an accountant, just the sales guy but promised they would send someone qualified out to take a look at our current books and make suggestions on how we could improve things and see if there was anything we were doing wrong. We assumed this would at the very least be a book keeper if not an accountant and we waited for him to arrive having already paid our fee for our new service provider to begin helping us.
We specifically specified that we were looking for business income tax and book keeping assistance and they promised they could certainly help us, they could make recommendations, take a look at our current system and help us set up a good, if not better system to use and would be there to help us along the way with any suggestions and prepare and file our tax returns for us.
They never showed. NO ONE ever showed up to review our system, recommend specific ways we should claim certain expenses, etc. Not once. Whether or not this is something they normally do, this is what was promised up upon signing up with them and the ONLY reason we picked them. We asked multiple times, meetings were scheduled but their people just couldn't keep an appointment.
The only people we ever saw from the FBC were those who either a) collected the money or b) showed us the prepared company statement and proposed tax return.
The first year we had to send the proposed return and statement back twice for changes because multiple lines were incorrect and did not match the numbers we provided them. The second year, it was the same story. There were figures that just weren't matching up and we were offered no explanations. The guy who brought us the paperwork to review, when we asked him if he was an accountant or book keeper, he said "Me? no, I'm just the guy who reviews the paperwork. Any questions I can take back to the office and get back to you." This is the line we repeatedly got leading us to believe that they had accountants back at the office who did the actual paperwork. The answers they sent back were never directly from any accountant but came from the same guy who came out before.
When we were audited for 2008 and 2009 Income Taxes, which were the two years we had hired FBC for we decided it could not be a coincidence. There is obviously something wrong with the way they were preparing and filing our taxes. They insisted that in order to continue to have them working on our case with the audit, we had to continue paying them through 2010.
So we did, because we were in our 3rd year of business, getting busier, still doing renovations and did not have the time to find someone else to take care of this for us, plus we'd already paid them in advance. They originally told us that for the years they prepared and filed our taxes, they would also defend those taxes against audit. Neither ourselves or the CRA auditor had very much faith in FBC's experience and could not comprehend many of their methods.
We continued with them for 2010 against our better judgement, but in 2011 when they still had not filed our 2010 tax return, had been paid for 2010, and now were asking us to pay for 2011 as well, told them we refused to pay anything else until they completed the 2010 income tax return that they had already been paid for. However, come June of 2011, the 2010 return had still not been filed for 2010 and we got excuse after excuse from their offices, and still more demands for money.
In fall of 2011 we got a letter from the CRA wondering why our 2010 tax return had not been filed. FBC's excuse was that he was waiting for the 2008-2009 audit to be completed before the filing 2010 tax return. Which is ridiculous if your consider how long a tax audit can take. We told them to forget about waiting and demanded they simply file the 2010 income taxes as they have been paid to do. He said he would.
In December 2011 we were given a copy of our 2010 tax return to review FINALLY! However, again, there were some lines that were incorrect. They recognized that and we said to simply fix those problems as discussed and then go ahead and file them.
We sent emails and phone calls in January requesting the return of our paperwork that they still had on hand. The guy said he would bring it by. February, we were still waiting. Now our emails were being ignored and not returned as were our phone calls and messages.
At this time we also started getting notices from the CRA that our 2010 taxes had not been filed. We tried contacting FBC again to no avail.
Finally, we decided that enough was enough. We fired FBC as our tax preparer and removed them from our CRA accounts as authorized representatives. We then prepared our 2010 and 2011 taxes ourselves and sent them in. ON doing so discovered that many of the expense categories FBC had said were "fine" didn't even fit in any tax return slot and needed to be combined together into other expense lines under different names. After this we were able to re-adjust our expense categories we use to reflect the actual income tax return lines. If the CRA wanted things under different headings, we think they would list those options. Best to just list things the way the CRA wants them listed. Can't see why that was so difficult for the FBC to understand.
Still, we did not receive the paperwork FBC had of ours back. We literally had to demand its return in writing, twice. The second time we were allowed to go in and get it from their office, they knew what day we were coming., but when we went, the guy who worked on our account was not there, and apparently does not have a company cell phone, a personal cell phone, or a home phone they could call him on to ask him where the boxes were.
We had finally had it. The third time we sent a demand for the files return in writing and threatened to bring the sheriff to recover our now stolen property.
Still, we have had to complete an audit appeal on our own which in the end reflected an over $18,000 error on FBC's part in how they filed our 2008 & 2009 income tax returns. The CRA specifically said that what they did was NOT the correct way to allow for that income/expense and what they did basically added $18,000 to our net income. At least the appeals officer was smart enough to see it and correct it. Its amazing how incompetent the FBC really is.
We were promised that THEY were the income tax professionals and that they knew what they were doing so we didn't have to worry about it. We had tried contacting the manager there as well and could never get a response. The only real communication they ever sent us was when they were demanding money.
And to be clear, when you are a small business hotel/tavern/restaurant in a small town of 265, paying over $2000 per year just to watch it go down the drain to these people IS A BIG DEAL, especially when they pretend to be tax accountants and they ARE NOT !
Now we are still out the fees we paid them in 2010 (over $2,000), because since they did not accurately PREPARE our tax return AND they also DID NOT FILE IT, we feel we should be refunded those fees since we had to go ahead and prepare and file our 2010 return ourselves after paying them to do so. However, we simply do not have the money or more importantly the time to take them to small claims court over it. Our only hope is that our experience will somehow help someone else from being ripped off by these people who make false promises and pretend they are something that they aren't.
In addition we also paid them extra on top of our regular yearly fees to handle a 2004/2005 GST audit which had popped up as a random audit. They took the money to work the audit and then did nothing whatsoever to handle it. So now are we not only out that money, but because of that cannot afford to pay someone else to handle that audit and appeal, and are simply forced to just pay the amount owing without appeal.
The FBC implied to us that they had accountants and book keepers who handled the income tax files. They never once revealed to us, even when we mentioned accountants, that they did not employ them or use them. It was finally the CRA, after we fired FBC, who are the ones who told us that FBC are not accountants, and are in no way tax professionals that anyone should be using for tax advice. This was SHOCK to us. So please beware, FBC ARE NOT proper bookkeepers, ARE NOT accountants and ARE NOT tax professionals. They are not even able to CONSULT properly on recommending a good approach on business income taxes or good business practices in general.
We have not had our concerns dealt with AT ALL and thus are no longer their clients. We recommend to everyone who is a client to take a long hard look at what they ARE doing for you for the price you are paying them, considering they are NOT accountants or tax professionals in any way. They not not even have actual accountants on staff to consult. When in doubt, ask an accountant.