Life Would be Easier If Our Clients Understood These Things

Gina Deveney
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For many accountants, tax season is the busiest time of the year. Unfortunately, it's also the most stressful. Clients are worried about owing state and federal taxes, or they're wondering when they're going to get their refunds. Professionals in the accounting industry often wish their clients understood more about tax season and its complexities. Here are some of the most common complaints.

Clients expecting refunds want to be among the first to get their money back, but they wait until the last minute to file their returns. Some clients don't even look for tax-related receipts or W-2 forms until a few days before the filing deadline. Clients who want speedy refunds should be proactive about gathering tax forms and making sure they are ready before tax season comes to a close.

Some clients get angry with their accountants if they owe money to the IRS or get back less money than they expected. Clients should understand that accountants do not have any control over the tax laws. Accountants simply apply the rules as they are written by the IRS or state revenue agencies. People who expect refunds and end up owing money may also have a shoot-the-messenger mentality. During tax season, it's not unusual to hear about an accountant or a tax preparer being accused of making a mistake that reduces a taxpayer's refund amount.

Many taxpayers believe they can deduct certain items from their tax returns, but professionals in the accounting industry know these deductions are not allowed. This is especially true of tax deductions for clothing. In most cases, the cost of clothing purchased for work cannot be deducted from a tax return, especially if it can be worn elsewhere. A business suit does not count because the taxpayer could presumably wear the suit to a wedding or special event. Clients need to understand that they can only deduct specialized clothing that cannot be worn outside of work.

During tax season, the toll-free IRS line is backed up with calls from taxpayers who need help. Accountants wish their clients knew that the IRS is not the best place to turn for assistance preparing a tax return. Many IRS agents are not accountants, so they can't provide advice tailored to individual tax situations.

Finally, many accountants wish their clients would stop thinking of them as tax experts. Although some accountants choose to focus on taxes, many spend their time working with budgets or doing other corporate accounting work. The same thing applies to medical professionals. Some doctors specialize in neurosurgery, but not every doctor is qualified to perform surgery on the brain or spinal cord.

If your clients have unrealistic expectations during tax season, there's a chance your working relationship will suffer. Do your best to adjust those expectations at the start of the process so that you don't lose a client or place an undue amount of stress on yourself.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at



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