If your answer to all of the following questions is no, then that would strike me as a good indicator that we’ll work well together.
- Do you need a formal office setting to talk about financial matters? I work from home and communicate almost entirely by email. It is immensely helpful to me to have a written record of all communications, and email accomplishes that automatically.
- Will you be dissatisfied with the job I’ve done if you end up with a smaller refund than ever before? (Or if you end up owing, when you’ve never owed before?) There are certain things that are largely predetermined, before you send me any of your tax information — things like whether you’ll end up owing, or whether you’ll get a refund, and how much. I can’t change the numbers, but I can help you make sure they’re complete, and fill in gaps that you may not know are there. And I can analyze the numbers, and help you understand why things have ended up the way they have.
- Are you interested in “tax optimization strategies”, “tax minimization strategies”, or something along those lines? If you want to feel as though you’re actively managing your tax situation, then you’d probably prefer working with someone who enjoys that kind of thing more than I do. My interest is in helping you take care of a basic, necessary task – annual income tax filing – that perhaps you don’t enjoy, or don’t feel comfortable doing on your own, or just don’t have time for. Those are the clients I work well with. If you’re looking to somehow get an edge or an advantage, I can almost guarantee that you’ll be happier working with a tax professional who is more geared towards that kind of thing. (To put it another way: I do take very seriously my obligation to make sure my clients aren’t overpaying their taxes. What I’m not interested in is helping clients find strategies to underpay. Might there be perfectly legal ways to structure your finances so that you end up paying a lower tax rate? Quite possibly. But I don’t enjoy thinking about those kinds of things.)
- Are you looking for a tax preparer who will tell you “I guarantee you’ll get your maximum refund“? If you’re at all taken in by the ads you see on TV for Turbotax and HR Block and the like, then we’re probably not going to see eye-to-eye on exactly what I’m able to achieve for you. (To be fair, those ads can be powerfully misleading to anyone who isn’t a tax professional.) I work best with clients who have at least a basic sense that a tax refund happens when you’ve already paid the IRS too much, typically via paycheck withholding. What would it even mean to claim that I can maximize that? … If the government owes you money, because you’ve overpaid or because you’re eligible for this/that tax credit, I’ll make sure that money gets back to you. That’s what I do, and that’s what you have every right to expect of me. But if you think you’ll have a nagging sense that perhaps I haven’t maximized something for you, then … well, I can’t quite do anything about that. Sorry. I don’t fault you at all; we’re all susceptible to misinformation campaigns. (They’re smart, and they know how to drill down to the fear centers.)
- Are you very worried about the security of services such as Gmail, Dropbox, and Google Drive? If you don’t feel comfortable using these kinds of services to communicate with me and share your tax information, then there’s going to be some friction. I make sure I’m using strong, unique passwords and two-factor authentication on all of my accounts. I expect you to do the same. My goal is to be sufficiently secure, and I’m happy to explain my methods and reasoning, if you want more information. My file backups and software exist both locally and somewhere in the Amazon/Google/Dropbox server-cloud-world, and if that makes you jittery, then … chances are good that we won’t have the smoothest channels of communication.