Business & Finance

Getting the most for tax prep buck

YOUR TAX PREPARATION person could be the most important financial advisor you have. That's not Chris at right.

YOUR TAX PREPARATION professional could be the most important financial advisor you have. Note: That’s not Chris at right.

I just spent five days in Indianapolis with 1200 tax preparers and accountants. The occasion was the annual conference of the National Association of Tax Professionals. That might sound like a prison sentence to some, and by the end of the week I’m sure some of the attendees were happy to be paroled back home. But we all left better for the experience.

Your Money Matters logoI had a triple purpose in being there. First as a student, to get some continuing education. Second as an educator to present a course on tax practice management. Third as an exhibitor showing off our workflow and data management software, SmartCenter.

Because this column is about your money mattering, let me tell you what I learned about your tax preparer. If you are responsible for one of the 68 million professionally e-filed returns this year you should know how to best help yourself by helping your tax pro, after all anything you can do to get more value from that relationship is a good thing.

  • Your tax pro is one of the most reasonably priced financial professionals you employ. I did a 30-year study on consumer prices vs tax pro fees in preparation for my course only to find out that tax pros fees lag significantly behind the consumer price index.
  • Your tax pro is genuinely concerned with the outcome of your return. They work hard to turn the information you give them into the best tax result possible.
  • Your tax pro takes their responsibility to protect you from the IRS very seriously. That can seem in conflict with #2 above, until you recognize their desire to save you from yourself.
  • Your tax pro became one because of their deep need to help people, many times at their own expense. They are teachers, helpers, approval seekers.
  • They are stretched thin – between responding to your needs and requests, answering tax agency inquiries, running a micro business, etc. their time (like yours) is at a premium.

With that understanding, how can you “help them help you”? What tangible things can you do to take better advantage of your tax pro – and by that I mean what can you do to get what you want.

It can all be said in one word- respect. Respect for yourself (and your finances), respect for the game (recordkeeping & deadlines), respect for your enemy (the IRS & Franchise Tax Board), and respect for your team (namely your tax pro).

Be respectful of your finances – don’t ignore your debts while planning a vacation. Respect your need to keep financial records organized and abide by tax deadlines. Respect (don’t fear) the IRS and FTB for the power they have – the rules of the game are clearly stated. Respect your team (your tax pro) by showing up for appointments on time, respond quickly to their emails and requests, and pay their bill on time. Act as interested in your financial well-being as they do.

One of the recurring conversations I had in Indy with tax pros was their willingness to go the extra mile for clients who were making an effort. They readily accept their responsibility as the pro, but they need your cooperation. You have the records, make and spend the money, make the choices and write the checks. Know that your tax pro is on your side.

Yes, during the four days of tax education and tax accountants, strong coffee was always close by. But I left reaffirmed in my decision to practice tax. As a group, we couldn’t have chosen a career better suited to our desire to help others (and our affinity for numbers).

You can contact Chris at .

1 reply »

  1. That is a great idea to transfer everything that is in your bookkeeping into the computer to make sure that you have all of the correct numbers when doing taxes. I had not thought of using a website to see where most of your spending has gone but that seems like a good idea. Once you have all of that done it will be a lot easier to be able to finish with your taxes.

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