Etiquette for Accountants' Intelligent Clients:
What is Smart and Not Smart? Please Review.
SMART: (Thank you, Smart People with common sense, I appreciate you!)
1. Telephone: Call at a time when you have some peace & quiet, secure land-line phone connection, full size pad of paper & pencil, and reading glasses, all ready for action. Your accountant will probably say something valuable enough to write down.
2. Call on January 3 to schedule an appointment for January or early February.
February is much better than March. May is clearly better than April.
April will only get you an extension.
Reduce Stress - Plan ahead.
3. Carefully & systematically prepare in advance for your one-hour tax interview or prepare thoroughly the envelope you send, including all documents and all information summarized and totaled from your checking account, credit cards and receipts. You know that you will be rewarded at least $500 per hour for your preparation.
4. Bring extra information to the tax interview, or include in envelope, just to be safe.
5. Turn your CELL PHONE OFF, so you can concentrate-without interruption. See Smart#6.
6. You understand that the tax interview, when necessary, or phone call, is, financially speaking, the single most valuable one hour of the 8,760 hours of the entire year!
7. If your address changes, let us know! If different from addresses listed on forms and letters, let us know! Phone number and e-mail changes, let us know! If you have more than 1 address, and prefer the correspondence from our office sent to a specific address,you MUST let us know EXACTLY where you want things sent. If you receive IRS letters and forward them to us - you MUST note whether the address on the letter IS the address where you are now residing.
8. Don't do any of the items listed below as "Not Smart." Your accountant will like you!
A. Telephone Communication:
1. Call on a cell phone, while in transit, or cooking, in a noisy environment, your beloved dog barking, your baby/child screaming into the phone, your cell phone playing tunes loudly, poor connection, with no paper and pencil ready to take notes. Obviously, it's impossible to concentrate or communicate intelligently.
Please: See "Smart" #1 above.
2. Multiple phone calls on the same issue. Let's resolve the issue once, and write it down.
3. Call on the phone, and start reading numbers off and expect us to take dictation.
This is a golden opportunity for human mistakes. No way! We need a paper trail.
Please: Fax the paper you are reading from, or send an email, then confirm receipt.
4. Leave your cell phone ON during the tax interview. Get interrupted repeatedly. See "Smart" #5 above.
7. Schedule an appointment, call to cancel and reschedule, then call to cancel and reschedule, then call to cancel and reschedule. If that is your situation, please, forget about a face-to-face meeting, and just send an envelope. Then we can talk on the phone at a mutually convenient time, if necessary.
8. Don't write down your appointment, call to ask, Twice! Better idea: Write it down.
9. Schedule appointment, don't show up / cancel on the morning or afternoon of the appointment. Please give 2 days' notice, if possible. Thank you.
Better idea: Keep the appointment.
10. Schedule an appointment, then don't show up because you can't find the office, forgot where it is.
Hint: all 3 office addresses, with complete directions, are on the website 24/7.
Please, just to be safe, review in advance, print it out and bring with you. See "Smart" #6.
11. Schedule an appointment in late March, say "I'm going on vacation in April, and I don't want an extension." This creates needless pressure on your accountant. See "Smart" #2.
12. Wait until the first week of April, expect your return quickly, say it is pretty Simple, "cut and dried." Expect to encounter a tired and busy accountant, (and what accountant isn't tired and busy in April?) who will charge an extra $30 for 1 day express mail, $150 expediting fee, and wants to put you on extension if you are missing information. An extension may be a wise idea! (Yes, Mom, this means you, too.) See "Smart" #2.
13. Receive your tax return, wait weeks to open the envelope until the second week of April, then call frantically with last minute questions & concerns, asking can he add some more deductions into the return? No problem! Just pay an extra $200 and - poof!- it will be done! Found more deductions you forgot? No problem! Just pay another $200 and we'll revise it again! Better idea: open your envelope immediately and review your return, well before April. See "Smart" #3, above.
14. If you need to file for FAFSA, Star Programs or loans, you know this ahead of time. DO NOT expect the return done Immediately/NOW so you can file for these purposes. It is not fair to us, or to our other clients.
Please Plan accordingly!
It's best to schedule to be completely finished and filed BEFORE April.
Why not start the process in January?
15. Don't send or bring in a column of numbers / mass of receipts without making a totaled list.
How much does it add up to? Who knows? See "Smart" #3 above.
16. Don't provide a page of handwritten numbers I need an interpreter to decipher.
(Handwriting does not fax or copy clearly.)
Please: Use a word processor or spreadsheet.
17. Don't send tax data in a piecemeal fragmented way on multiple occasions,
with conflicting revisions and corrections, not dated or labeled. See "Smart" #3.
18. If additional information is requested, which is necessary to complete the return, our reasonable time frame is: One Week - Maximum. We do not even start working on a return when additional information is needed. Better idea: send information early and promptly, without unnecessary delay.
Let's not talk in April!
19. Tell your accountant the "check is in the mail," when it isn't. Then send it later and figure he won't notice the postmark, or don't send it at all. Of course, the savvy accountant will not even start the return without full payment. He has been there and done that. He makes clear to all clients, in advance and on the website, that he has no time for accounts receivable record keeping or debt collection activities.
(Sorry, Mom, this means you, too.)
4 Better Ideas:
1) send a check in the mail with your information,
2) overnight it,
3) put the fee on a credit card, or
4) simply discuss your situation candidly.
Take Home Message Regarding your most important annual financial document:
Let's all think how we can work intelligently in an efficient and effective manner.
Maybe there is some room for improvement?
To summarize the various items above, we see 4 common issues:
1) telephone communication,
3) documentation, and
Let's not waste our valuable time and energy.
Thank you, sensible Smart People, I appreciate you!
Let's work together smoothly to reduce your taxes -and- increase your refunds!
Copyright 2005 Robert Greene CPA CMA, Tax Strategies Inc. Revised 03/18/15