Those of you who have followed my years-long “adventure/nightmare/bad romance” with the accounting profession know that I’m not especially fond of this industry. In fact, most accountants who have encountered me would characterize my attitude as aggressively…, uhhh BAD. And really, who can blame them? I’ve built an entire business around the services that accountants don’t give their clients, and I haven’t been shy about faulting them for it.
ACCOUNTANTS OF THE WORLD, I AM REALLY, REALLY SORRY!!!!
So, I now set out to defend them. WHY?!? Well, now that I’ve experienced my first real tax season, “I feel your pain!” (said with full Bill Clinton accent).
First, a big-time mea culpa. You might think this is pain full for me, but it isn’t. A great friend said of me that “the most disconcerting part of your personality is that your passionately fight for a position, but when confronted with a logical counter point, you unceremoniously, and immediately acquiesce.“
With that . . .
ACCOUNTANTS OF THE WORLD, I AM REALLY, REALLY SORRY!!!!
How you have managed to earn the respect you enjoy with the disaster that is your client base, is truly spectacular.
This year, I’ve focused much of my time and attention on creating and documenting standardized procedures for Financial Gravity’s Tax Operating System® service that includes annual tax preparation. This has meant I’ve come dangerously close to day-to-day tax-prep work. And boy has it been eye-opening! Let me just highlight some of the “greatest hits” I personally experienced this year. Names have been changed to protect the “innocent” – but I assure you it all really happened.
“You have all my information.” (Or “you should just know.”)
- We should know the social security number, birth date ,and name from a post-it note, that was posted to a random 1099, for a client’s child. Also, we should know that it was a new child.
- “I talked to you a couple hours ago about the difference of $195 and $200 on ‘ABC’ (something that affects nothing as far as the IRS is concerned and makes a whopping $1 difference either way), was it changed?” I searched 45 minutes through multiple files averaging multiple pages each to find “ABC,” then called the client who berated me on our process and told me a word was spelled wrong and other things I personally fixed, but had zero impact on anything that was relevant. Also, “ABC” was the initials for something else, which I fixed in a couple of minutes while on the phone.
- CLIENT: “Why didn’t you include my estimated payments?” ME: “Did we do your books?” CLIENT: “No.” ME: ‘”did we do last year’s returns?” CLIENT: “No.” ME: “When did you become a client?” CLIENT: “Last month, on 3/15.” ME: “On the day business tax returns are due?” CLIENT: “Yes.”This client expected us to do the extension, clean up last year’s return, do this year’s return on a multi-million dollar business, ignore all the clients that came before him who have been loyal for years, and do it for the $300 he just paid us?” He fired us after a herculean effort, but we missed the “deadline.”Then he asked us to refund his $300!
- “You have it all, why isn’t it done yet?” Well, we just spent 2 hours reading everything, and hand keying it to double check. But there’s no 1099 for X, Y and Z. That form that had a number in it last year has no docs this year. I check again, I check the files, I check the everything. I send a letter, they give me a hand-written note and insist that it is everything. Except, of course, it isn’t and they insist I file it. I obviously documented everything but this will come back with “you should have known.”
Selective Amnesia, or “All you do is . . .”
- “I want a refund for the last year, because I’m not happy for this year and all you do is my taxes.” After research we found out that we set up multiple entities for free, creating thousands in savings. We did the tax returns for those multiple entities every year, when the contract called for one entity and one personal return. We delivered tens of thousands of dollars of savings every year due to the Tax Blueprint®, when the client claimed he never saw the Tax Blueprint®. We sent him over 40 files worth of information on all the stuff “we didn’t do.” And we did it all for less than an average CPA would have charged for just his tax returns every year.
- “This isn’t what I was expecting,” or some variation. Expectations are a funny thing: it doesn’t matter what we discussed or put in the contract, people fill in what they were hoping for. This shows up in any number of ways. They expect that they are the only client and so we can remember every detail about their situation. They expected something we don’t do and no firm does. They expect no taxes at all from our tax planning.
- “I thought you were supposed to save me taxes?” They triple their income and their taxes go up double – which is a HUGE win. But, the expectation is their taxes will go down no matter what the circumstances.
I have many more examples where tax professionals are undervalued, or they come to us with expectations straight out of the new Avengers: Infinity War movie. If you’re an accountant and you can relate to the stories above, share them! Don’t give us real names, of course (unless they really deserve to be doxed). But we want everyone to know what it is you deal with this time of year. If you have a story that “makes it all worth it” or you have a horror story that make what I outlined above look like child’s play, we want to hear it. We’ll compile the best for your amusement!
P.S. Some of the illustrations above actually illustrate the holes in our process that we’ve set out to fill. I will deal with those successes in another post!