On Mike Holmes and Going Cheap

“Cheap tax help is often the most expensive.”

-Joe Kristan at the Tax Update Blog, quoted from this blog post.

My wife and I recently downgraded our satellite package in an effort to save money. The downgrade took away all the sports channels that I used to watch but of course left all the channels my wife likes to watch (HGTV and Food Network, mainly). So I get to watch a lot of HGTV these days.

I do enjoy the various Mike Holmes shows that air on HGTV. I appreciate his insane attention to detail, and I like to think that I have a little bit of Mike Holmes in me when it comes to my work as a tax accountant.

All of the “Holmes” shows center around the premise that homeowners got taken advantage of, either by contractors or by home inspectors, and Mike Holmes has to come in and fix the work of incompetent and unethical professionals.

But as I watch these shows, I can’t help but wonder, especially in regards to the problems people have with contractors: how many of those homeowners went with the “cheap alternative” instead of paying a little more to get a competent contractor?

I’m not trying to excuse contractors who do shoddy work. But perhaps many of the homeowners Mike Holmes helps simply got what they paid for?

I see it frequently with new clients who bring me their old tax returns from the “cheap alternative” (oddly, the cheap alternative is usually not an unlicensed preparer but rather, it’s usually old CPAs in rural towns) who prepared the person’s reasonably complex tax return for a ridiculously cheap price and ended up massively botching it.

As Joe Kristan at the Tax Update Blog says in the opening quote to this story: cheap help (of any kind) is often the most expensive.