In general, March and April are the worst time of year to be searching for a new #taxpro. At Tax Therapy, the needs of existing clients always come first and if I don’t feel that I can provide them the service they deserve, I will not accept new clients mid season, especially new business clients. That doesn’t mean I won’t do your taxes, it just means if you’re coming in during the height of season, please understand that I will definitely seem pressed for time—because I am pressed for time! Also, if I do accept your return, I may require you to go on extension, especially if you are business client. I want to make sure I have the time and focus to give your tax return the attention it deserves. I love talking to potential clients in summer and fall, so if you are simply “considering” making a change I encourage you to contact me between June and October when we will have plenty of time to talk.
This post provides an overview of how tax season “works” in the office. It is for new and existing clients.
If you are a returning client or if I have “onboarded” you during the summer or fall, you will receive a reminder postcard in the mail sometime after January 10th. This lets you know that we are ready to send out our “organizer” paperwork. Many taxpros bulk mail their organizer to all of their clients all at the same time. We prefer to ensure that you are returning before we send you your preliminary paperwork. When you get the postcard, call or e-mail and we will send you an organizer via USPS or e-mail. Don’t worry if you are a new client and missed the postcard. Just call the office and Cat or I will take some preliminary contact information and get you an organizer.
The organizer also contains our client interview (which must be completed each year) and supplemental worksheets that apply to your specific situation (rental property, self-employed, etc.). The interview is designed to remind you of the documents you need to include with your return and to provide prompts about questions you may have had (but not asked) during the year. Review and complete the client interview and any additional worksheets. Be sure to review/update ID and banking information, healthcare coverage information, and foreign accounts/interests, information. Collect your other tax documents (W2s, 1099s, etc.) and return your organizer and your documents to the office.
Returning Your Organizer
Returning clients—You can mail (or courier), upload, or bring your documents to the office. Please do not e-mail your documents; it is not secure. Also, if you happen to have my cell number please do not text me pictures of your documents.
New clients—Once you have everything together, please call or e-mail Cat to schedule an intake appointment. Bring your completed package to your intake appointment along with your photo ID and Social Security card (and your spouse’s if filing jointly). Bring birth certificates and Social Security cards for anyone you are claiming as a dependent on your return. If I do not already have them, please bring at least one and up to three prior years’ tax returns. If you think your IDs and dependent IDs have already been verified (for example at an appointment this summer), let Cat know. If we have already verified your ID, your intake appointment is optional. If you live “far far away” I can verify your ID and do your intake appointment using Skype and you can use the secure portal or US Mail (or another carrier) to provide your documents. Remind Cat that you need a Skype appointment rather than an in office appointment. She will let me know and I will be in touch with more details.
What Happens Next
I do not do returns “while you wait.” If you want to know why, you can read more about that here. Once you have submitted your information, it goes into our “queue.” In general, returns are processed first in, first out. Cat scans documents, does the data entry, and notes any items that may be missing. I review the data entry, review any questions noted in your organizer, review the entire tax return and compare it to last year’s return, and prepare a list of follow up questions and missing items. I will either call or e-mail you to get any additional information I need to finish your return. Usually I e-mail because then my questions and your answers are easily saved into your work file. While I’m waiting for your response, I move on to the next return in the queue. Responding to my questions quickly, thoroughly, and accurately will ensure that your return is done as quickly as possible. Sometimes I block out an entire day simply to “close out” returns with missing information.
When your return is finished and depending on your situation and location—1) Cat will call you to schedule a review & signature appointment, 2) I will upload a review copy of your return to the secure portal, or 3) I will use USPS Priority Mail with tracking to send you your return and signature documents. If you prefer a courier other than USPS (FedEx or UPS, for example) we are happy to comply but we will bill you for the difference in price. If we are working remote, once you have had an opportunity to look at your return you may call (505-352-0058) or e-mail for an appointment to discuss the results before you sign.
Reviewing and Signing Your Return
Paying for Your Return
Other Important Information
The answer to the “What do you charge” question is available here, but as with most things tax-related, the answer is “it depends.” I encourage you to request a quote for the most accurate answer. That said, we try to keep our prices in line with national averages and a certain amount of “during the year” Q&A is included in our return preparation fee. I will always let you know when you are straying into billable territory and you can choose whether or not to proceed.
New clients coming in during tax season are required to pay the base price of their return (1040 or entity) when they submit their organizer paperwork. I don’t like having to do this, but last year too many clients came on board during tax season, had me do their returns, decided they either didn’t like my follow up questions or didn’t like the results, and then did not want to pay for the work. Requiring base price of the return ensures that I get paid at the minimum level for work done on a tax return. We will not accept your paperwork until payment is made.
I use Constant Contact e-mail to keep clients informed during tax season. I provide updates about the steps in the process frequently. For example, I send an e-mail when the postcards “drop”; then another one about what to do with your organizer when you get it and the most common errors clients make when completing their organizers. I sometimes send an e-mail if I find many clients are calling with the same question or problem or if I am seeing the same error over and over in returned tax packets. I always send e-mails if there are issues in the office that interfere with our work (power outages, internet outages, illness, staff emergencies, etc.). I also always send e-mails when I feel like I am running behind in processing returns. I will let you know how far “back in the drawer” I am. I sometimes get behind on individual returns around the deadline for entity (partnership & S-corp) returns. If that happens I send out an e-mail letting you know, for example, that I am currently two weeks behind—meaning if you submitted your packet two weeks ago, I’m just getting to it now.
Our goal is to provide a reasonably personalized experience while still keeping our prices within reach of the average taxpayer. Yes, we do cost more than a DIY option. I discuss the reasons for that in this post. No, we cannot tailor our office processes to match your previous preparer’s or your individual expectations. I try to be as flexible as possible, nevertheless, my office processes are designed to ensure that our work flows smoothly, we don’t miss important details or deadlines, and that, in general, the office runs efficiently for staff and clients.