April 21, 2016
Holy Cow! We survived another tax season. Somehow, some way, we always do, even when it looks a little bleak with a few weeks to go. Thankful for all of the clients, old and returning, that trusted us with their tax returns this spring!
While the subject of tax season is fresh on my mind, I thought I would write a little post about the things that make for a great tax client. Of course, I strive every year and every day to be a better tax practitioner, both from a technical and client service perspective. I really do love to serve clients all across the spectrum – from those who are pretty savvy about taxes to those that couldn’t feel more lost. However, no matter how much you know, here are a few tips for making yourself a client that your CPA will love working with.
- Be Organized – I know this is a tough one, as some people find this more difficult than others. However, it helps your CPA a ton if you can pull all of your info together, in a reasonably organized and summarized format. Sure, there may be a few things that you didn’t realize she needed, but it makes it much easier to spot missing information when you aren’t sifting through hundreds of Home Depot receipts. As much as possible, group like items together (such as charitable contributions or rental property info) and summarize information in your tax organizer (or even an Excel or Word document).
- Submit Info All At Once – I don’t know about other CPA firms, but we don’t even start working on a return until we have received all information from the client. Submitting your information all at once allows us to know that we have basically everything we need to start on your return (as opposed to those that have information trickling in over weeks or months). Additionally, although we have good systems in place for document intake, it is just common sense that there is a higher likelihood of a document being left out of your file if they are submitted in 15 separate emails/uploads over a period of time than if they are submitted all at once.
- Be Quick to Respond – When your CPA (or their staff) sends you a request for additional information, be quick to respond to them with what they need. We have a LOT of returns to process in tax season, and it makes our lives a lot easier if we can move returns out the door as quickly after we start on them as possible. Quick responses also ensure that you don’t get moved to the back of the line. As I mentioned above, we don’t even start on the return until we have received responses to all of our initial information requests…first come, first serve! If we have 20 clients bring in (complete) information while we are waiting on the info we requested from you, you are going to experience bigger delays on your completed tax return.
- Be Patient – Trust me, I know exactly when the tax deadline is, and it isn’t necessary to remind me. It is really difficult to communicate the pressure CPAs are under in tax season, and I can assure you that everyone is working VERY HARD. It is perfectly fine to check in on the progress on your return or estimated completion date. Just be mindful in your emails or calls that we are managing a lot of clients just like you with similar needs, and we owe each of those clients the same attentiveness and focus…something we take very seriously. We promise to give your return that same attention as soon as we are able. (See Items 1-3 for ways to ensure your return can be prepared as efficiently as possible as well).
- Review Your Return – This may sound obvious to some, but I am always surprised how many people sign their tax returns without even downloading the copy of the return I send them to review. We know you rely on us to have the technical expertise to prepare your return correctly based on the information you submit. However, it is always wise to just glance through the return and make sure we have things like your address or the spelling of your kids’ names accurate. We do our diligent best to interpret the information we are provided and ask questions where clarification is needed, but only you ultimately know how much money you made or spent during a year. For those that feel the return may as well be written in Greek, we are always happy to walk you through the return in detail, whether in person, over the phone, or via Skype (for our international clients). Reviewing the return as thoroughly as possible is the best way to ensure that nothing is missing or appears to be incorrectly represented on the return.
- Don’t Shoot the Messenger – But seriously. If you owe a lot in taxes, don’t take it out on your accountant. We are just the messenger! CPAs don’t make up the tax code, we simply have the skills to implement it. We don’t have a magic wand to make your tax liability go away, nor do we have some special tricks (loopholes!) up our sleeves that we just aren’t sharing with you. While it is frustrating to owe a big tax bill, refrain from responding in anger or defensiveness to your accountant. If you think something is wrong or want a more thorough explanation of what is driving your tax liability, then just ask…nicely. At the end of the day, we are on the same team, and we want you to pay as little in taxes as possible. We work with many of our clients throughout the year to help monitor their tax liability and minimize surprises at tax time, so feel free to ask questions about the best ways to avoid a similar situation in the future.
Honestly, I would say that 75% of my stress during tax season comes from #4 and #6 above. I care deeply about my clients and providing them with good service. Rude emails and phone calls really derail me emotionally, which is difficult on so little sleep. Therefore, even if organization is a chore for you or you feel like you never have everything you need together, if you are pleasant and gracious to work with, you are probably one of your accountant’s favorite clients already! Following these tips will not only ensure a great relationship with your tax preparer for years to come but also ensure the most accurate and efficient preparation of your return possible.
I consider it a privilege to do what I do and to have been successful at it. I derive joy (really!) out of helping people through the unbelievably confusing and intimidating process of filing their taxes, and I consider it my calling to do this while making every client feel important, respected, and confident in the process. I and my team will keep striving each year to meet those goals and improve the ways we serve our clients!