I’m An Accountant, Not a Miracle Worker

Image courtesy of user “Brett_Hondow” on Pixabay.com

Something I wish clients understood: I am not a miracle worker.

Here’s how it usually plays out:

Business Clients

Business clients will ignore my requests to have them send me their financial data during the year so I can keep on top of what their tax liability will be and I can offer suggestions on ways to get their tax liability down. Instead, they dump their (usually disastrous) records on me in March. Then the following two things happen:

  1. They get mad that I put them on extension
  2. They get mad when the return is done and they end up owing more in taxes than they expected, and they assume that I obviously did something wrong.

Individual Clients

With individual clients, it usually goes something like this:

  1. They changed jobs and are getting paid significantly more than in their prior job. They didn’t understand how to fill out their Form W-4 for withholding at the new job, and now they owe a bunch of money on their tax return when they’ve been used to getting refunds in the past, and of course it’s all my fault.

Miracle Worker

In both of these scenarios, clients are shocked and offended that I can’t just magically make the taxes go away.

I’m the bad guy because they are unhappy with how the tax return turned out.

Here’s the thing: I ain’t the miracle man. Once December 31st comes and goes, there’s virtually nothing I can suggest that will reduce your tax burden. Once the year ends, whatever happened happened.

For business clients, I can offer some suggestions on deductions, such as “figure out how many business miles you drove and we can take a mileage deduction,” but I’ve found it’s very rare for me to find “extra deductions” that change the world as far as how the tax return turns out.

Can Anybody Hear Me?

No matter how many times I try to explain this to clients, the message doesn’t sink in.

Every year, I start following up with my business clients in MAY. I try to make it as simple as possible for them. I try not to suggest meetings because meetings take time and it’s easy for people to say no because they don’t have time. So I usually just ask people to send me their P&L from Quickbooks so I can see how things are going.

My requests are met with either silence or people will say “oh yeah, I’ll get that to you right away.” And of course, “right away” becomes “never happens.”

My follow-ups are either ignored or similarly brushed off, and soon enough the year ends.

And once the year ends, it’s too late for me to work a miracle.

Yet I, and 100% of accountants and tax preparers who work with real clients in the real world, end up getting blamed and accused of not being “proactive” enough when the client is inevitably unhappy with the results of their tax return.

The moral is, accountants and tax preparers aren’t miracle workers. Once the year ends, we can’t change what happened; things are basically set in stone and the numbers play out how they play out.

So if you want your accountant to be “proactive,” as I’ve said before, YOU the client need to be proactive too, and work with me. It’s a two-way street.