Vaive and Associates

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  • The changing career path for CPAs

    27/08/2019

    Becoming a Chartered Professional Accountant traditionally required one to work for several years at a public accounting firm. But in recent years, there’s been several interesting twists in the traditional career path for CPAs. It’s now possible to gain certification through something called an experience verification route (EVR). This track allows aspiring CPAs to gain […]
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    Becoming a Chartered Professional Accountant traditionally required one to work for several years at a public accounting firm. But in recent years, there’s been several interesting twists in the traditional career path for CPAs. It’s now possible to gain certification through something called an experience verification route (EVR). This track allows aspiring CPAs to gain the necessary credentials without working for a public accounting firm; more specifically, to “work in any position that meets the initial pre-assessment requirements” of CPA Ontario. While the EVR has opened up a bevy of new and interesting options for young accountants, the value of gaining experience at a traditional, smaller accounting firm simply can’t be overstated. “You have a very accelerated learning curve working in a smaller firm because of the sheer variety of work you’ll be doing,” says J. Rolland Vaive, the founder of Ottawa-based Vaive and Associates. “You’ll see income tax accounting, corporate tax, personal tax. It’s that variety and the constantly changing nature of it that, if you’ve got the right mindset, allows you to learn a lot more very quickly. “I don’t think the experience you get in a small firm can be beaten,” he says. “I think it’s second to none.” Vaive adds that, even outside of the experiential benefits of working like a firm like his, there are other perks. For one, it’s very interesting and satisfying work. “The work is interesting,” he explains. “In a smaller firm, you’ll get a lot of autonomy in terms of working with clients. You have the opportunity to interact with clients more directly, and I think you can make a more meaningful contribution.” Another benefit of starting out at small accounting firm is that individuals can often look forward to continued employment with the firm once they’ve passed their exam. That’s certainly the case at Vaive and Associates. “That is kind of how we recruit,” Vaive says. “Putting your time in and getting your designation with the firm is a really fantastic honeymoon period. Our hope is that we’ll be able to take people to the stage where they get their designation, they pass their exams, and they truly have a passion for this kind of work and they stay with us long-term. “When we hire people, we’re hoping that they’re with us forever.”

  • Why expertise in U.S. tax yields rewarding challenges for accountants

    12/07/2019

    For the rising accountant, it pays to develop specialities. One of the most rewarding areas to focus on is U.S. tax services. In Canada, a country connected both physically and fiscally to the U.S., there is a huge need for accountants with expertise in this area. However, accountants with this expertise are few and far […]
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    For the rising accountant, it pays to develop specialities. One of the most rewarding areas to focus on is U.S. tax services.

    In Canada, a country connected both physically and fiscally to the U.S., there is a huge need for accountants with expertise in this area. However, accountants with this expertise are few and far between.

    As J. Rolland Vaive, the founder of Ottawa-based Vaive and Associates, puts it, there’s a lot of work available in the field, but not many people qualified to do it.

    “In Canada, it’s a very hot area,” he says. “There’s huge demand, and it’s a case of the demand far outstripping the supply.”

    Part of the reason there are so few accountants specializing in U.S. tax services is that it can be difficult work. Those in the field can anticipate numerous technical challenges. Yet those challenges are also what makes the work interesting.

    “You can’t be complacent if you practice in that area,” says Vaive. “The ever-changing aspect of it makes it challenging, particularly in Canada, where if you’re a U.S. tax specialist, you also have to have a solid understanding of the Canadian system as well.

    “But for the right person, who likes to be stimulated, who likes to work in an area that is growing constantly and requires constant learning, it’s a really interesting challenge.”

    These challenges are also softened by above-average salaries.

    “It’s very lucrative,” explains Vaive. “The profession is a well-paid (sector) to begin with, but these sub-specialities, they pay very well. It leads to higher-than-average salaries compared to what you might get in other areas of the profession.”

    In addition to a solid income, accountants who develop an expertise in U.S. tax services can also anticipate employment for life. The sky-high demand for specialists in this field, coupled with the ever-evolving needs of clients, means that work will never be difficult to find — anywhere in the country. 

    “They are pretty much guaranteed employment for life (by specializing),” says Vaive.

    “U.S. tax expertise also allows you travel. If you look at job postings in the tax and accounting world, it’s very much in demand.”

    The rewards of getting involved in U.S. tax services, of course, extend beyond the life of the accountant personally, and into the life of the client. This is important work, and Vaive has seen firsthand how clients can benefit from it.

    “You can really add value to your client’s lives,” Vaive concludes. “When you get involved in U.S. tax issues, you’re helping them out. You’re making a huge difference.”

  • Why an 80-hour work week doesn’t have to be the norm for accountants

    04/06/2019

    While tax season may be over, some accountants are still finding themselves working long hours. At many firms, it’s common for accountants to put in up to 80 hours a week, working late into the night and on weekends to complete year-end audits or tax returns. The culture of overwork is ingrained in many corners […]
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    While tax season may be over, some accountants are still finding themselves working long hours. At many firms, it’s common for accountants to put in up to 80 hours a week, working late into the night and on weekends to complete year-end audits or tax returns.

    The culture of overwork is ingrained in many corners of the accounting sector, a challenge exacerbated by a tight labour market that’s left some firms short-staffed. But some in the industry feel strongly that it’s time for accounting firms to rethink this model.

    “People don’t want to work to the point of exhaustion and not have the opportunity to enjoy life,” says J. Rolland Vaive, founder of Vaive and Associates.

    “Many firms tell young people to work hard for a couple years and promise that things will eventually settle down. But young people see the long hours at every level and they don’t want that.”

    A 2018 survey by trade publication Accounting Today found that 71 per cent of large firms in the industry are struggling to find talent. That can often mean that the rest of a firm’s team is forced to shoulder a heavier burden.

    However, workplace culture also plays a big role. Vaive remembers working long hours in his early years. He says senior accountants are trapped into thinking that this is normal and subsequently perpetuate a culture where young accountants are encouraged to work long hours. When he launched his own firm, Vaive wanted to create a more sustainable culture in which work-life balance is valued and a predictable 40-hour work week is the norm.

    Of course, the nature of the industry means that a few extra hours are often needed during tax season. To offset this, Vaive closes the office on Fridays during July and August so his staff can enjoy extra long weekends over the summer. Senior staff are also encouraged to monitor the hours that members of their team are logging and offer assistance as needed.

    While Vaive says these policies are a way of treating staff fairly and with respect, he also says it’s good for business. Citing research from Harvard University, Vaive says predictable work hours, combined with time off at night and on weekends, is tied to higher productivity.

    Since introducing the reduced summer schedules some five years ago, Vaive says he’s seen lower turnover and improved morale. “The key word is sustainability,” he says. “We don’t want people to burn out.”

  • Outsourcing

    04/05/2019

    Outsourcing is a growing trend in the accounting profession, as Firms look to take advantage of lower labour costs overseas to complete tax and audit files. However, not all accounting firms are keen to embrace the practice. J. Rolland Vaive, the founder of Ottawa-based Vaive and Associates,  started his career working on individual tax returns […]
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    Outsourcing is a growing trend in the accounting profession, as Firms look to take advantage of lower labour costs overseas to complete tax and audit files. However, not all accounting firms are keen to embrace the practice. J. Rolland Vaive, the founder of Ottawa-based Vaive and Associates,  started his career working on individual tax returns – the same type of work that’s commonly being outsourced. As the head of a growing practice, he says there are immense benefits to keeping the work in-house. “In the short term, outsourcing can result in higher profits,” Vaive says. “But in the long term, you’re depriving young accountants of the opportunity to learn.” Working on personal and corporate tax returns allows younger accountants to gain technical expertise, learn file organization skills, develop comfort working with others and acquire a deeper understanding of various industries. However, the most important benefit is arguably the opportunity for young professionals to uncover a passion for accounting. By working on different files, they are able to discover what specialty area they enjoy working on the most. “For example, we don’t want to rob them the opportunity to fall in love with tax,” he says. Avoiding outsourcing also protects Vaive and Associates from privacy issues that arise from sending tax returns overseas. Some clients may not agree to have their financial information reviewed by third parties. “Outsourcing is not talked about because of client perception,” says Vaive. “I expect that clients would be concerned that their work is not being done here, and there could be repercussions from that.”

  • Vaive and Associates unveils new office space designed for greater productivity

    05/04/2019

    Vaive and Associates went through major office renovations, giving the space more natural light, more opportunities for colleagues to work collaboratively and ways to improve the firm’s environmental footprint. “We are a modern, tech-savvy accounting firm and we wanted a design that matches our brand,” says J. Rolland Vaive, founder of Vaive and Associates. “We […]
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    Vaive and Associates went through major office renovations, giving the space more natural light, more opportunities for colleagues to work collaboratively and ways to improve the firm’s environmental footprint.

    “We are a modern, tech-savvy accounting firm and we wanted a design that matches our brand,” says J. Rolland Vaive, founder of Vaive and Associates. “We understand how important space is in our work and as a recruiting tool. We want our space to be friendly, collaborative and bright.”

    The new office features open ceilings, glass doors and wood tables. Conference rooms equipped with large screens help teams to collaborate and hold professional development sessions.

    Office manager Justine Beneteau is receiving the benefits of professional development. Inspired by her work with her colleagues, which included meeting with clients and learning about bookkeeping, Beneteau will begin her CPA studies this year.

    “The firm cares about our professional growth,” says Beneteau. “They give us every opportunity to advance our careers and work in a great environment. I love the open-concept office and it really makes it easy to see who is available for help.”

    The office has also gone paperless – each new workstation is equipped with a personal scanner and two monitors so that employees are able to scan in new documents and manage them electronically.

    “We have no file room because every file is digital,” says Vaive. “We want everyone to have the tools they need to succeed.”

    One of the key spaces in the office is the kitchen, which features free coffee and kombucha. “We wanted a bright and lively kitchen as a way to entice people away from eating at their desk,” says Vaive. “This space is completely separated from the workspace so that people can have a place to go where they can chat with their colleagues and recharge.”

  • An Accountant’s Guide to Surviving Tax Season

    25/02/2019

    After a long, snowy January, February marks the beginning of tax season. The next three months will be the busiest season for many accountants. Most firms generate a significant portion of their revenues during this period, so staying focused and working efficiently is crucial. For accountants, there are several ways of reducing your stress during […]
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    After a long, snowy January, February marks the beginning of tax season. The next three months will be the busiest season for many accountants. Most firms generate a significant portion of their revenues during this period, so staying focused and working efficiently is crucial.

    For accountants, there are several ways of reducing your stress during tax season. Here are some tips on how to survive the coming months.

    Tip 1: No one works alone

    If you’re a junior accountant, remember that you are part of a team. Senior staff look over tax returns as part of the quality control process. So if you’re unsure about your approach or your work, be assured that there’s a safety net.

    “Every day, remind yourself that you’re not alone,” says J. Rolland Vaive, founder of Vaive and Associates. “The success of the Firm is not riding on any one person’s shoulders.”

    Tip 2: Be organized

    It’s rare to sit down and begin working on a tax return from start to finish, with all the necessary information at hand. It’s far more common to work on various parts of a client’s tax return as the information comes in, and you will have many tax returns in process at any given time. “Understanding your workflow is very important,” says Vaive. “You’re going to have many different balls up in the air at once, so you to have to be organized to keep on top of it. Find a system that works for you.”

    Tip 3: Beware bottlenecks

    In most firms, tax returns are touched by many different people. The returns are prepared, reviewed (sometimes twice), delivered and discussed with clients and efiled. A slow down in any one aspect of the process can pose serious problems. It’s important for Senior accountants to continuously monitor these workflows and eliminate bottlenecks as they arise.

    Tip 4: Compartmentalize your work day

    What is the best time in the day to answer email? How about reviewing a complex tax return?

    Different people work more efficiently during different times of the day.  Tax season will put higher demands on your time and energy, and one way to maximize your efficiency is to determine what time of the day is the most productive for you. If you work best in the morning, work on the most difficult tasks that require your concentration during that time and leave more routine work, such as invoicing and responding to internal emails,  for later in the day. Keep the easy jobs for when you know your energy will be low.

    Tip 5 – Trust your process

    Tax season is a time for your procedures to shine.

    “For nine months of the year, you’re able to work on and refine your workflow process,” says Vaive. “This is the time to believe in your process and follow it. If you’ve done the hard work in the offseason, you will have success during this time and get the efficiency that you’re looking for. In our Firm, we start looking at next year’s tax season on May 2nd. Knowing what worked, didn’t work and almost worked is an important part of making next year better. We do this while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind.”

  • Developing leadership in-house

    30/01/2019

    What is your ideal work environment? For many, working at a growing small business means the opportunity to learn new skills from senior staff and direct contact with clients – and, before long, being able to mentor new staff as well. When Andrew Payeur was starting out as a junior accountant at Vaive and Associates, […]
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    What is your ideal work environment? For many, working at a growing small business means the opportunity to learn new skills from senior staff and direct contact with clients – and, before long, being able to mentor new staff as well.

    When Andrew Payeur was starting out as a junior accountant at Vaive and Associates, he would frequently seek advice from Laurie Beneteau, a 25-year veteran and director at Vaive and Associates.

    Now it’s time for Payeur to pay it forward. This year he was promoted to manager at Vaive and Associates. He is the first employee in the firm to be promoted internally to a management role.

    “We want to help Andrew succeed and advance in his career,” says J. Rolland Vaive, founder of Vaive and Associates. “Through his expertise and delivering value to our clients, Andrew has demonstrated that he’s ready for this position. We value his knowledge and work commitment.”

    Finding the right job, especially after graduating from university, can be difficult. Payeur worked for several firms after completing his accounting degree at Carleton University in 2012 but was still looking for an environment where his work would be valued. He came across Vaive and Associates and was hired as a junior accountant in 2013.

    “I appreciate that my coworkers trusted me and they didn’t micromanage me,” says Payeur. “When you’re a young accountant, you can have people that are always looking over your shoulder. They trusted me to do good work.”

    Payeur is part of the team that’s helped propel his firm’s expansion. When he joined Vaive and Associates, there were only three other accountants on staff. Now the firm has more than 21 employees.

    “Through these past six years I got to know the clients really well,” says Payeur. “I like learning about different business sectors. For example, I learned about construction companies, how they work and what they do, and I learned how different they can be from one another. It really helped me to develop my skills as an accountant.”

    Working as a generalist, Payeur’s files are not only varied in terms of industry but also business size. He says one of the big draws to working at Vaive and Associates is more exposure to clients.

    “At a bigger firm you might get stuck working on one tiny aspect of a huge client’s year-end audit,” says Payeur. “Our clients are generally smaller so one person is able to tackle every aspect of the year-end. Because of this, I was able to quickly gain a big picture understanding of how the process works as well as learn each individual aspect of the year-end process. And bonus, I had a more satisfying feeling at the end of it, knowing that our client is happy because of my work.”

    One of the key responsibilities as manager is overseeing the work of junior accountants. Payeur is using what he learned from senior staff, giving guidance on a variety of topics ranging from  understanding the needs of different clients to how to approach complex files.

    “As a junior accountant, I learned a lot from review notes when I first started and I’m trying to offer the same learning opportunities in my review notes to staff,” says Payeur. “I think that’s such a tangible and satisfying way to tell yourself that you’re learning and improving.”

  • The Paperless Office

    10/10/2018

    Many organizations are looking for ways to reduce waste and consider their impact on the planet. Going paperless in the office is a great way to achieve this. It is an investment that takes a lot of time and effort, but the end result is worth it. Vaive and Associates undertook this initiative several years […]
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    Many organizations are looking for ways to reduce waste and consider their impact on the planet. Going paperless in the office is a great way to achieve this. It is an investment that takes a lot of time and effort, but the end result is worth it. Vaive and Associates undertook this initiative several years ago, and we now enjoy a paperless environment. It’s hard to imagine how we were able to work before we were paperless.

    When it comes to switching to a paperless office, there are some basic things that you need to consider in order to have a successful transition. There is a need for well defined policies and processes on converting paper to electronic files. For example, are old files going to be scanned, or will the process be done on a go forward basis? For new documents, do all documents get scanned, or is there a need for someone to determine what gets scanned, and what does not? Data backup processes are another critical factor when it comes to moving all documents to an electronic system: the organization needs to have complete confidence that all of these files will be kept safe and will be available when needed. Having server security and firewalls from the outside world are another must-have if you are going to keep things secure and safe, and to give your clients the confidence that their information will be kept secure.

    One of the benefits of going paperless is the efficiency that it provides. With the proper systems in place we spend far less time looking for things. A proper system can be a formal document management system or something home grown with a good naming convention for files. In meetings or on client calls, we can access all of our clients’ information almost immediately. Gone are the days of putting your client on hold, walking to the file room, grabbing all the files and flipping through them to find what we need. On those dozen or so snow days that we get every year, our staff are able to work remotely from home and still put in a productive day.

    We have also found that having a paperless office has made for better quality work. Everyone in the firm has their own scanner and multiple monitors, and we are able to create extensive support in all of our working paper files with scanned source documents, spreadsheets and memos. We have found that this saves a significant amount of time after personal tax season, when the CRA does their routine follow-ups. Requests by the CRA for child care receipts, donations and the like are far more easily dealt with all of these documents already scanned in PDF format.

    Despite the cost of implementation (the person hours spent scanning and the cost of hardware), going paperless has saved a significant amount of money. Yes, we use less paper and printer toner. We also save on postage and courier costs as we encourage electronic delivery of our documents. But the biggest savings has come by eliminating the need for a file room. The old school file room took up a significant amount of space in accounting firm offices. With that file room now replaced by a small server closet, we are able to have a more efficient utilization of our space.

    Although it may be hard to quantify the benefit of this, the paperless office also has a “cool factor” to it. When we’re meeting with clients and we have everything on the big monitors in our meeting rooms, it really does speak to a level of efficiency and professionalism that you just can’t get with a paper based office.

  • The Vaive and Associates Co-Op Experience

    14/09/2018

    Labour Day is over, and students have headed back to University. For accounting students entering the Co-Op Programme at both uOttawa and Carleton, the next few weeks will be busier than ever. Even before attention starts to turn to midterms and assignments, the demands of interviewing for those Co-Op positions will kick in. We are […]
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    Labour Day is over, and students have headed back to University. For accounting students entering the Co-Op Programme at both uOttawa and Carleton, the next few weeks will be busier than ever. Even before attention starts to turn to midterms and assignments, the demands of interviewing for those Co-Op positions will kick in.

    We are huge proponents of the Co-Op education programs at our local universities. We have participated by hiring accounting students for 5 years now, and our experience has been nothing short of spectacular.

    A very cynical view of the Co-Op Programme is that it provides Accounting Firms with “cheap labour”. That’s certainly not the case at Vaive and Associates, and we strive to pay our students a fair wage for the work that they do. For us, our students truly are important members of our team. The contributions that they make during the busiest times of our business cycle are precisely what enable us to provide excellent service to our clients. Without the contributions of our students, it is hard to imagine how we could navigate the challenges of “busy season”. What started out as “Let’s hire Co-Op students to see how that might work out”, has now become “How could we ever manage without their contribution”.

    During the Co-Op placement, our students get to see many different areas of taxation. At first, it seems like a mix of different and seemingly irrelevant processes. By the time they have completed their work terms, they will have prepared financial statements and corporate tax returns. At that point, all of those seemingly irrelevant processes will be woven together, and the big picture emerges. It is rewarding to watch as our students grow professionally and learn things that you can’t get from a classroom — no matter how good that classroom is. To excel in Public Accounting requires a mix of theoretical knowledge and practical experience, and the Co-Op program is perfectly suited to provide just that.

    Another benefit of the Co-Op programme is that it provides a path to full time employment. We’ve been lucky to have some great students join us as Co-Op placements, and to join us full time once they graduate. We hope that continues for many years to come.

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