You thought about it for a long time. You talked about it for weeks. There were letters and emails and maybe even the occasional phone call. You were counting down the days.
And then it happened. You filed your taxes. You got your copies (and maybe a little refund on the side) but now that’s it’s over, maybe you’re feeling a little let down. You haven’t heard from your tax professional in a while. And you’re getting the sense that maybe she wants to move on.
Spoiler alert: She probably does.
Let me break it down for you: taxes may be complicated but tax professionals are not. Tax professionals don’t send mixed messages. When it comes to yours, the truth may be that she’s just not that into you.
Here are 11 reasons why:
You lie about what you’ve been doing. I don’t care what you told IRS or your mother or your wife. You need to tell your tax professional the truth no matter how ugly it is. Those of us who have been in the business for awhile are pretty quick to spot a lie. Those fake receipts? Those suspicious looking tip logs that are remarkably all in the same color of ink? The way you break out into a little sweat every time we ask about freelance income? We’ve got it all figured out. And we’ve seen and heard worse. But you looking us in the eye and telling us a lie? It’s insulting. And it doesn’t get you anywhere.
You don’t call like you said you would. These days, it’s so easy to call or send a quick email at almost any time of day. But when you’re taking days – or weeks – to return calls or emails, your tax professional know something’s up. And she doesn’t have the time and energy to keep chasing you. She’s got other clients who will treat her better.
You call too often. If, on the other hand, you have your tax professional on speed dial, you might want to rethink things. It’s good to check in – once in awhile. But you don’t need to call in the middle of the night because you’re worried about the state of your depreciation schedule. If your tax professional said she’d have something for you on Friday, don’t call on Tuesday to see how it’s going (it’s fine). If the IRS hasn’t called about an audit, that’s a good sign. And no, your tax professional can’t make your refund come any faster.
You always stand her up. Nobody wants to talk about taxes… Well, except maybe tax professionals. But when you set an appointment to talk, your tax professional expects you to show up. And you’re expected to bring all of the things you were asked to bring. Surprisingly, it’s impossible to talk about an audit reconsideration for a denial of mileage when your tax professional still hasn’t see your mileage logs. And that Power of Attorney you were supposed to sign? If you don’t sign it, your tax professional can’t talk to IRS on your behalf. And those deadlines in those IRS letters? Those are real. They’re not suggestions. So if you’re thinking that you can try again next week, you’re wrong. Your tax professional doesn’t want to talk about it next week, she wants to talk about it now.
You’re cheap (a/k/a You don’t pay your bills). Your tax professional has likely seen your books and she knows about your income. She also knows about your spending habits. She knows you just paid $250 for a steak dinner at Capital Grille. She knows that you showed up for your audit discussion in a Lexus . She knows that you just had your house re-roofed (it’s a capital improvement). Tax professionals aren’t nonprofits: they’re professionals. So pay your bills.
You complain about your bills. When your tax professional took you on as a client, she should have outlined exactly what the fee structure would be. It might be a flat fee for a project or it might be hourly. But you knew what the scoop would be. So don’t complain about it after the fact. If the work is done, then it’s time to pay up. Don’t explain that you could get the same work done cheaper down the street. And don’t try to bargain down the bill after the fact. You don’t walk into the Gap and ask to pay $19 for $48 jeans. Again, see #5.
You complain about your tax bills. Paying taxes can be painful. And it’s the job of your tax professional to help you pay the right amount: not too much, not too little. But tax professionals aren’t magicians or miracle workers. Nobody can (honestly) turn a $10k tax liability into a refund. The very best tax professional can only do what she can with the information you’ve provided. If you’ve underpaid during the year, if you lost your receipts, if you’ve made other mistakes? It happens. But those tax penalties are yours. And that liability is yours. It’s not the end of the world and it can be fixed. But first, you have to stop complaining.
You’re sloppy. Ugh. I know you’ve been doing this on your own for awhile but there comes a time when your financial records should not resemble the contents of a junior high locker. No one expects perfection but there has to be a line. And that line is somewhere between a neat Quickbooks file and wading through fast food liners and Christmas letters in an effort to find business receipts. It’s not unusual to find “interesting” items while plucking through records (including the gold tooth a fellow tax professional found in a client’s forms this year) but it’s not fun. Show a little bit of self-respect and clean your records up a bit.
You’re too needy. Relationships can be tough. And it’s natural that during the course of preparing your taxes, you’re going to share some pretty personal stuff with your tax professional. But it’s a pretty big jump from “Here’s a copy of my receipt for my charitable contributions” to “I’m cheating on my wife.” Your tax professional is not your therapist or your marriage counselor. Your tax professional is not your priest, your doctor or your fortune teller. Don’t make things awkward by saying too much. We need to be able to look you in the eye after the fact.
You live by your own rules. I know. You like to keep things exciting. It’s fun to step out on your own. But here’s the thing: tax professionals like rules. We don’t like to color (or print) outside the lines. When we’re offering you professional advice, we expect that you’re going to follow it unless you tell us different. And those “sign here” stickies are there for a reason. Use them.
You sneak around. Don’t think we don’t know what you’re up to… When you’re on the phone with IRS, we hear about it. All of those promises you made to IRS? Those eventually come back to haunt you. Those whispered conversations when you said you could arrange your own installment agreement (when really you couldn’t)? Yeah, we know. The powers granted to your tax professional under a federal form 2848 (Power of Attorney) are fairly broad and unless specifically excluded on the form, include the right to receive and inspect confidential tax information and to talk to the IRS about your tax matters. So if you’re talking to both of us at the same time – but you’re not sharing – we’re going to find out about it.
(And don’t think we don’t know when you’ve been fooling around with TurboTax. We can smell the laser jet ink on you.)
Listen, I get it. It’s tough to find the one. You know, the one that you can imagine spending the rest of your financial life with. But don’t force it. Sometimes, it’s just not going to happen.
Relationships – of all kinds – are a two way street. If you, as the client, realize that things aren’t working out, it’s time to walk away.
But be kind.
After all, tax professionals have feelings, too.
With no disrespect meant to my male tax professional colleagues for the use of the feminine pronoun: they’re just as eager to break up with you as the ladies…