- Be nice. It's a tough job.
- Submit your information as soon as possible. Don't procrastinate!
- Send clear and complete emails to communicate.
- Set up periodic reminders to check in with your Tax Preparer.
- Lean on your ISC Team for help with tax planning and communication with your accountant.
There certainly has been a lot of drama in the tax planning world over the last couple of years. It's made for a stressful period for accountants.
I have a set of best practices when working with my Tax Preparer. These strategies are useful for anyone. They can benefit you and the relationship you have with your accountant. These tactics weren't formed just from my own experiences; I honed them through helping others coordinate their tax work.
- It's not an easy job, so please be courteous.
Put yourself in your Tax Preparer's shoes: You have hundreds of clients to service, and it's your goal to minimize each family's long-term tax burden. The business is cyclical, and things are incredibly busy as year-end approaches and all the way through April. Tax Preparers go from busy season to busy season, and constant law changes make their job even tougher.
My tip: Practice the golden rule and have patience. (I must remind myself of this frequently!)
- Send your tax information promptly.
Avoid contributing to the tax season chaos and emergency-like conditions when filings come due. It's not fun pulling an all-nighter due to getting information late and unprofessional in the eyes of a Tax Preparer.
Remember that big term paper in college? Imagine you had to wait on another student to provide you with critical information for your final paper, but instead of just one project with a hard deadline, you had hundreds!
When there are hundreds of clients to help, even just a handful of them waiting until the last minute, makes it hectic for a tax professional.
My tip: I recommend providing your accountant with the tax documents they request as soon as possible.
If you later get corrected documents from any sources, promptly send them in and communicate regarding the draft return and e-file forms.
"The most efficient we help have come prepared and have their information orderly and on time. They may still have questions, but they are always thoughtful and on point. We like those questions."
- Communicate clearly and completely with emails.
I believe emailing is the best communication method. I strive to send clear and concise messages. I will even highlight action items.
Phone calls are great for some requests, but not during your Tax Preparer's busy season. They must triage and prioritize their workload, and they are not likely to have all your information immediately in front of them when you call. Plus this way, they can research your question and get back to you when they have the complete answer.
My tip: Send emails that are professional and to the point. Please don't send multiple emails with charitable contributions you made throughout the year; send them all at once together.
- Go for the mid-year check-in.
Another technique that can go a long way is simply letting your Tax Preparer know how your finances are shaping up during the year. Around June, I pass along my year-to-date tax withholding figures. This way, they can determine if I should adjust anything before year-end approaches. Over-withholding tax means giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan, while under-withholding can lead to a penalty.
By touching base with your Tax Preparer, it's easy to ensure your tax liability is in the sweet spot (even if you have fluctuating income). After providing a recent mid-year check-in, my previous tax return was right on point. The difference in what I owed versus what I paid was just 1%. I would prefer to owe a little bit rather than get a fat refund because I always want my capital working for me.
My tip: Put reminders on your calendar to check in with your Tax Preparer. Use emails and copy yourself on important emails. These actions help me to avoid forgetting. If I don't hear back, I will check in with them while keeping my calendar reminders active until the items are resolved.
- There is no "I" in Team!
We would be delighted to assist in coordinating your tax planning with your preparer. We can help you with collecting and sharing tax documents, tax withholding planning, Roth IRA conversions, backdoor Roth IRA contributions, workplace retirement plans, and the list goes on!
My tip: Let your ISC Team be your tax planning captain so that you can rest easy knowing your tax return is done right and on time.
Bottom line: Mistakes and misunderstandings can be hard to avoid, but using these simple strategies will not only help you be a more appreciated client, but I also believe you will set yourself up for better results. You will have fewer unpleasant surprises, less financial anxiety, and reduced last-minute rushing to get things done. It will just be a better overall experience for you and your Tax Preparer.
Thanks for taking a look!