Tax preparers are a hot commodity this time of year, but sometimes their clients drive them crazy with habits they say are over the line. Here are a few ways you can be less taxing to your tax pro.
Don't wait until March to make an appointment
Why it’s annoying: When February’s over, it’s go time in the tax world. “There's something about March 1st … March just gets crazy,” says Anil Melwani, a certified public accountant and president of 212 Tax & Accounting Services in New York City. And it’s not just him. The National Association of Enrolled Agents recently surveyed more than 1,400 of the federally licensed tax pros it represents, and it found that more than half (51%) “strongly agree” you should book time with your tax preparer early in the filing season.
Do this instead: Get on your tax pro’s calendar before the end of February. “The dream situation is for someone to come in between January 25th and February 25th with all their information and paperwork,” Melwani says.
Don't leave a bunch of documents at home
Why it’s annoying: Tax preparers aren’t magicians, time travelers or mind readers. “It doesn't really make sense for us to start a return if we don't have everything,” Melwani says. “It would usually just lead to double or unnecessary additional work.” That could cost you, too: 71% of tax preparers charge extra for disorganized or incomplete files, according to the National Society of Accountants, and the average cost is $117.
Also, not having stuff can arouse suspicion, and good tax preparers want nothing to do with fraudulent returns. “If they aren't providing all the information that I'm asking for, that's the hardest to deal with because it's hard to know if they're not doing it because they’re hiding something,” says Sallie Mullins Thompson, a CPA in New York City.
Do this instead: Be organized. Much of the information you need to complete your tax return (W-2s and 1099s, for example) is mailed to you by the end of January, and your return from last year can help fill in any gaps. Tax pros also especially want clients to do three things, according to the NAEA survey: Use separate bank accounts for personal and business funds, keep your receipts in case you’re audited and track those business miles.
Don't blame the preparer for your tax bill
Why it’s annoying: Your tax preparer didn't write the tax code; that's the government's job. Also, everybody’s tax situation is different, which is probably why a whopping 70% of the tax pros in the NAEA survey said they wish people would stop expecting to the get the same refund that a neighbor, cousin or colleague received.
Do this instead: Ask your tax pro to explain your situation, and avoid trying to self-diagnose. “People can go on the internet and get answers to questions, which may not always be correct information,” Thompson says. “It makes them think they have a certain amount of knowledge on the subject, and maybe they don't.”
Here’s some other stuff tax pros want people to know, according to the NAEA survey:
Advice from your tax pro may be very different from tips you get from friends (83% of the respondents agreed with this statement).
You should consult with your tax pro before you start a side gig (80% agreed).
“Same as last year” isn’t an acceptable answer to questions from your tax pro about your charitable deductions (69% agreed).
Your tax pro can’t tell you how the new tax laws will affect next year’s taxes until they run the numbers (60% agreed).
That “quick question” you have for your tax pro rarely has a quick or simple answer (52% agreed).