Online Accountants In Canada: Who Are They and How Are They Different?

Guide to Online Accountants in Canada

This guide will explain how online accountants are different from traditional, bricks and mortar accounting firms.  It will also list and compare some of the well known online accounting firms in Canada.

You might be wondering why a firm of online accountants are writing about other accountants! We want to be the first to recognize that we aren't going to be a perfect fit for every single business owner, but we still want to be of help to everyone. Part of that involves pointing out how accountants are different, and even going so far as to point out which firms (besides us) we think are great!

Online Accountants Vs. Bricks and Mortar Accountants

The majority of accountants in Canada still operate out of bricks and mortar offices, but the popularity of online accountants is on the rise.  Online accountants embrace technology to work more efficiently and to make accounting services more convenient for their clients.

Let’s look at some of the differences and similarities between online accountants and their more traditional bricks and mortar cousins.

Services Provided

Generally speaking, online accountants offer the same types of services as bricks and mortar accountants.  This includes services such as:

  • Corporate and personal tax returns

  • Preparation of financial statements

  • Advisory services

  • Audit and review of financial statements

  • Bookkeeping services

  • Accounting systems setup and training

Not all of these services are offered at every firm.  If you’re looking for an accountant, you can check out their “services” page or just inquire.  You may also learn a bit about the responsiveness of your potential next accountant by reaching out through their website.

Accounting Credentials

You’ll find a variety of people offering bookkeeping and accounting services both through bricks and mortar offices or online.  One does not need to be a designated Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) to offer accounting services in Canada.

Check out your potential accountant’s “about us” page or LinkedIn profile to determine whether they are designated CPAs or have other experience and training.

Office Location

B&M - Bricks and Mortar based accountants are just that: based out of a bricks and mortar office.  These typically have cubicles or “bullpens” for lower level employees and small offices for senior accountants and managers.  Common sights at these offices also include waiting rooms with magazines you can read while you wait for your appointment.

Online - Online accountants tend to have either no physical office location, or will have a small office or coworking space that clients can come to.  Workers usually work from home offices or from a coworking space like Club Kwench.

Meetings

B&M - Meetings are most often held either in a boardroom at the accountant’s office or in one of the smaller private offices for senior staff members.

Online - Most meetings will be held via video conferencing software such as Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts.  Video conferencing allows accountants to share their computer screen to help explain financial reports and tax returns.  It also allows clients to join meetings from anywhere without having to travel to see their accountant. Find out why we love video calls.

Technology Used

B&M - You’ll see a wide variety in technology usage with traditional accounting firms.  Some have adopted cloud-based, paperless accounting systems while others are firmly planted in decades old software and filing cabinets full of paper.

Online - Most online accounting firms will emphasize the use of cloud-based accounting software and paperless technology. It’s nearly impossible to operate an online firm without doing so.  The goal is to use technology that makes clients’ lives easier, improves accounting processes and increases efficiency.

Fee Structure

B&M - The traditional hourly billing method is the standard for most bricks and mortar accounting firms.  All staff members have a specific hourly charge-out rate and they keep track of their time on your file in six minute increments (0.1 of an hour).  You are sent a bill based on the time it took them to complete the work.

Online - Most online accounting firms use a flat monthly fee structure based on the services that you need.  This tends to reduce your fear of being billed by the minute every time you want to ask your accountant a question.  It also helps everyone agree on the cost up-front and avoids surprise bills showing up in the mail.

You can also check out our article on how much bookkeeping and accounting will cost. It lists the costs under both pricing methods and explains why we prefer the fixed monthly fee pricing method.

Location of Client Base

B&M - Traditional accounting firms and their clients are typically located in the same city.  This is because most of the meetings happen at the accountant’s office. It also helps to be nearby when you have to drop off and pick up paper copies of your tax documents.

Online - Because client meetings are held online and the work is done using cloud-based technology, online accounting firms work with clients located across the country.  You might own a painting business in Winnipeg and jump on a call with your accountant in Vancouver to get tax advice.

List of Online Accounting Firms in Canada

Now that you have a better understanding of the difference between online and traditional accountants, we’re going to list some of the most well known online accounting firms in Canada.  We’ll also provide some background for each of them including pricing method, services provided, and size of firm.

Live CA

Live CA is one of the largest strictly online accounting firms in Canada with over 50 team members appearing on their website at the time of this writing.

Location

Staff members are located throughout Canada, but the firm’s address is in Toronto, Ontario.

Services

Services listed on Live CA’s website include:

  • Financial statement compilations

  • Corporate tax filings

  • Tax planning

  • Review engagements

  • Budgeting and cash flow planning

  • Loans, grants and funding

  • Unincorporated tax filings

  • Partnership tax filings

  • Bookkeeping

  • Sales Tax

  • Payroll

  • Technology system implementations

  • Software training

Pricing

I didn’t find a list of pricing on their website, but they do use up-front, fixed-fee pricing.  

Connect CPA

Connect CPA is another of the early adopters of online accounting technology in Canada.  They are currently showing more than 20 team members on their website.

Location

Connect CPA’s team members work from various locations across Canada.  The firm’s home address is located in Toronto, Ontario.

Services

Services listed on Connect CPA’s website include:

  • Notice to reader financial statements

  • Corporate tax returns

  • Review engagements

  • Payroll

  • Online bookkeeping services

  • Buying or selling a business (advisory)

  • Grants and financing work

  • Board and investor requirements

  • Personal taxes

  • Technology and system onboarding, design and support

Pricing

I didn’t find pricing examples on their website, but they do offer fixed monthly fee packages instead of hourly billing.

Xen Accounting

Xen Accounting is another of the well known online accounting firms in Canada.  They have 12 team members currently appearing on their website.

Location

Xen Accounting’s team members are located across Canada.  The firm’s home address is located in Montreal, Quebec.

Services

Services listed on Xen Accounting’s website include:

  • Systems design (analysis, implementation, setup, training)

  • Tax planning

  • Bookkeeping

  • Accounting support

  • Business consulting

Pricing

I didn’t find a price listing on their website, but they do offer 100% fixed fee priced plans.  The website includes a chart showing examples of different service levels and a form that you can fill out to inquire about pricing.

Hawkins and Co. Accounting

Hawkins and Co. Accounting is a modern accounting firm mainly based in Windsor, Ontario.  They have a bricks and mortar office and also deal with cloud-based accounting technology.  Their website is currently showing 10 team members.

Location

The firm is based out of Windsor, Ontario with a staff member working remotely in Vancouver.

Services

I didn’t find a specific list of services on their website, but there were sections discussing:

  • Creating a system for record keeping

  • Choosing the right business structure

  • Deciding on the right way to involve others

  • Government obligations (such as payroll or HST)

  • Tax returns

  • Setting targets and analysing results

  • Helping you run your accounting system

  • Working with non profit organizations

Pricing

I didn’t find any pricing examples on their website, but their mission statement says that they use transparent pricing with no surprise bills.

Ledgers Online

Ledgers Online is an accounting firm providing accounting and bookkeeping services to clients across Canada.  Their website currently displays more than 20 team members.

Location

Ledgers Online has a home base in North Vancouver, British Columbia but they advertise services for clients across Canada.

Services

Services listed on Ledgers Online’s website include:

  • Bookkeeping services

  • Notice to reader financial statements

  • Income tax returns

  • Tax planning

  • Document hosting and management

  • QuickBooks hosting

Pricing

Ledgers Online notes that they use fixed pricing.  I didn’t find pricing examples for bookkeeping and accounting services listed on their site, but there is a form to fill out to receive a pricing quote.  

QuickBooks hosting prices were listed on the site.  They range from $119 to $299 per month.

Bench

Bench is a large online bookkeeping firm.  They provide bookkeeping services to businesses across the United States and Canada.  Their website notes that they launched in 2013 and have 350 employees.

Location

Bench services clients throughout the United States and Canada.  They have an office in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Services

Bench is a bit different than the other firms on this list.  Their Canadian website shows that they provide bookkeeping services only (no accounting or tax).

Pricing

Bench uses fixed fee pricing based on the volume of your monthly expenses.  It is currently listed on their website as:

  • $145/month - your business has less monthly expenses less than $1k

  • $175/month - your business has monthly expenses from $1k to $7.5k

  • $245/month - your business has monthly expenses from $7.5k to $20k

  • $345/month - your business has monthly expenses from $20k to $60k

  • $445 to $645/month - your business has monthly expenses from $60k to $1M

Summary

Since the advent of cloud technology, the popularity of online accounting firms has been growing.  With a quick Google search, you’ll find that it’s easy to find both traditional and online accountants to help with your small business bookkeeping and accounting.

Online firms typically embrace technology to make accounting more efficient and convenient.  They also tend to use fixed fee pricing compared to traditional hourly billing.

We’ve also listed some the most well known firms based on our experience, but you’ll certainly find more through a Google search.

Avalon Accounting

Avalon Accounting is an online accounting firm and we would love to earn your business.  Have a look around our site and see if our services fit your needs and if our values align with your own. You can also check out some of our pricing examples to get an idea of the costs involved.

Reach out and Joe or Paul will be happy to answer your questions and provide feedback on how we may be able to help.