How was my tax season?
Better than ever before in terms of volume and billings. I was about 40% busier this year than last year. I also have about 40% more tax returns on extension compared to last year. Again, yay!
And yet, I’m really starting to not like what I’m doing. I used “hate” in the headline but I’m not sure hate is the right word. “Tired” is probably the better word.
I’m tired of a variety of things:
One: Being a Perfectionist is Not an Asset in this Field
I constantly worry if I checked the wrong box, or forgot to include something, or included something that I shouldn’t have included, on the tax returns I prepared. No joke, I wake up between 1:30 a.m. and 3 a.m. (the exact time varies night to night) every single night, my mind racing and worrying about the returns I’ve prepared.
I just know there’s “something” out there that I did wrong, and I never know when it’s going to rear its ugly head.
Yes, I have E&O insurance and yes I’m only human.
But I’m a perfectionist, and I’m finding that, surprisingly, this profession is actually not a good one for a neurotic perfectionist.
Two: I’m Tired of Being Held Responsible for Client’s Crap
- I despise the child tax credit and Form 8332 and Form 8867. “Oh, you’re not the custodial parent? Wait, last year you said you were. And oh, you don’t have a signed Form 8332? Oh, you’ve never gotten a signed Form 8332 from your ex even though you’ve been claiming that child since 2011? That’s just awesome!” And knowing that if I don’t verify the intricacies of sordid family arrangements, not only will the client get in trouble but the IRS will fine me $510 for not properly “certifying” the credit claim.
- With each passing year, I find that clients are taking less responsibility for the contents of their return and are instead expecting me to make all the decisions, and then they get mad when I push back and make them decide.
- There are so many landmines with tax law, especially with businesses. And most of the time, people don’t give us complete information, so I’m left playing the role of detective. And if I don’t ask the right questions, something will get reported wrong on the return … and then guess who gets thrown under the bus if the client gets audited? Example: S-corp buys a pickup in the corporate name. Big tax write off, the client says! But wait! The owner sometimes uses the truck for personal purposes. Ugh. “Oh, you don’t have a mileage log to break out business use vs. personal use of the truck? And oh, you didn’t include the value of the personal use in your W-2 last year? And I’m just finding out about this in April of the following freaking year? And you’re expecting a massive tax writeoff, when in actuality it’s probably going to be half or less of what you anticipated, thus making me the bad guy? That’s just awesome!”
Three: “How are Things Coming?” Makes Me Angrier and Angrier
I am finding I don’t handle the question from clients of “how are things coming?” very well anymore. Mainly because, it always seems to be a loaded question.
People are asking “just to check in.” So they say.
But reading between the lines, the real question is “why the hell aren’t you done yet, and why the hell is it taking so long?”
Well let me tell you why it takes 3-6 weeks (sometimes longer) for your precious-snowflake tax return to get finished: there’s not a single tax return on my desk that I can just sit down and “do” right this instant.
Every. Single. Tax. Return. — Every single one, has a complication that I have to research or ponder, or run a calculation on. And then I have to review it. And then I have to consider all the landmines, as mentioned above. And then I have to feel comfortable that I’m signing my name to something that resembles reality.
People with simple returns don’t use my services anymore. They “get their taxes won!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” by H&R Block or Turbo Tax. (And really, H&R Block, what the hell does “Get Your Taxes Won” even mean?)
And so I’m left with a batch of complicated tax returns, and I have to find time to navigate through the minefield without blowing myself or my client to smithereens.
And clients don’t seem to appreciate that I’m trying to protect them, and that’s the reason why “it takes so long” for your tax return to get finished.
Re-reading what I’ve written here, it sounds to me like I need to do what my wife recommended: turn off the computer, turn off my phone, and disappear for awhile. Because as it stands now, this past tax season fried me good and proper.