Why on earth, you may ask yourself, would I care about being a good client to my tax prep professional? I mean, you are a paying client, and aside from treating them with the same decency and respect that you would show any other random person, who cares – right? Wrong!
What’s in it for me?
Honestly, it’s simply in your own best interest to be a good client. Maintaining a positive relationship with your tax professional can benefit you in numerous ways. Your tax preparer bills you in one of three ways: a flat fee (guaranteed); hourly; or a hybrid with a basic flat fee that they’ll only add to if out-of-scope issues/problems come up. Let’s look at each approach in more detail.
First, a scenario where you have a guaranteed flat fee no matter what. In this case, it’s pretty obvious to see that one of a tax preparer’s main incentives is to perform the work correctly and up to professional standards, but as fast as possible; less time equals more money. Here, being a good client means that you give your tax professional more room to be thoughtful about your tax return and even perform some planning/optimizing for the current year or next year. If you can help them prepare your return efficiently, there’s room to spare in providing you with value-added advice.
Second, when you engage a tax pro on a strictly hourly basis, saving them time on the administrative side of the return prep will equate to direct savings in your pocket. When you pay by the hour, you are paying regardless of whether they are calculating or reviewing your return, providing advice, planning, or chasing you down for missing info, open items, questions, etc.
Third, we have the scenario where you have a flat fixed fee unless you add services out of scope or things really go sideways. Here, while most tax preparers will eat a little bit of time, if you cause delays in the preparation process due to incomplete or unorganized information or you are late to respond to questions, there is a good chance you’ll get billed for that time as it wasn’t planned for and was unnecessary.
Finally, making your tax professional’s life easy will simply make you more likable as a client. And we all know that we treat people we like better.
How do I become a great client?
So, at this point, you are asking, how do I become my tax professional’s favorite client? There are a few main areas to consider if you want to establish a good working relationship and make life easier for everyone.
- Be Organized – The more organized you can be in gathering and submitting your underlying tax documents (W-2, 1099s, etc.) and other necessary information, the better. Many tax preparers will send a tax organizer to help you fill out and organize what you send over. Following this is the best way, but any method that is clear, logical, and complete is best.
- Submit All Your Information at Once – While it’s not always possible, don’t submit your information until you have everything. Sending over documents piecemeal is a surefire way to cause confusion and delays and makes the process rife for errors. In fact, many CPAs won’t even start a return until they have everything. Again, this isn’t always possible because sometimes a K-1, for example, is not yet available – but that should be an exception to the rule.
- Be Responsive – To the degree that you can be responsive to follow-up questions from your tax preparer or their staff. This will ensure your return keeps moving, saving time (and therefore billable hours) that stopping and starting creates.
Following these tips will not only help you develop a great relationship with your tax preparer for years to come, but it also will ensure the most accurate and efficient preparation of your return possible.