We all deal with expectations every day. The problem is we are not very good at communicating those expectations. When you go out for date night with your spouse you are not expecting to end up at McDonalds. So how can you be the best client for your CPA?

  • Communication is a two way street. I have personally had clients show up at my house at midnight because the phone was busy. Believe me that is not the best way to ask questions of me. I know I am not the only accounting professional this has happened to. The best way to communicate with me is through Skype – a quick instant message to make sure I am not in a meeting will get a faster response than calling 5 times in a row. I have even been known to answer at 1 in the morning (which is what time it is now) but I am rarely available before 10 in the morning. Ask your CPA what is the best way to contact them and use it – if you find you are not getting a response ask again,
  • Schedule an appointment – even if you think you only have a quick question just  schedule an appointment, I have Skype appointments, phone appointments, in-person appointments and will even do a live screen share with you to fix something on your computer. You can even ask for a midnight apt and you might get it but I guarantee your 1 minute question will lead to more questions. If I have you scheduled for a meeting then I can devote my time to you instead of wondering if I am missing the call that was already scheduled.
  • Don’t expect your CPA to read your mind – if you don’t let them know you bought a new semi-truck they can’t give you the best strategies to save taxes on it and they won’t be able to warn you to file special forms every year and sometimes more often for over the road fuel taxes.
  • Remember your CPA is human – they have emergencies with family and health happens just like you do – I was recently in the hospital and had a client tell my husband she was finding a new CPA because I couldn’t return her call that day. If your tax situation requires constant contact with your CPA you should consider hiring one of the large firms that have at least 4 people on staff at all times.
  • Your CPA does not know when you get a notice from a taxing authority. The best way to handle these is to immediately send it to your accountant – don’t wait until the 2nd or 3rd notice this will only increase the problem and make it harder for them to help you with the situation.
  • Keep deadlines in mind – if you don’t have your tax information ready let your CPA know so they can get an extension ready for you. Don’t expect them to be able to finish your work if they either don’t have all the information or if you bring it in to them really close to the deadline. In my practice I have a deadline of 3 weeks before the return is due to ensure it is timely filed  – I have had people call on the 15th of April and expect the return to be done that day. If your return is simple enough to complete in one day then you don’t need a CPA and should consider one of the franchise tax services.
  • Be truthful – if you have a question ask. If you are not sure ask. Your CPA needs to know what is happening in your life in order to give you the best tax strategy.  I have had clients sell houses and forgot to tell me. If you had to pay money for it or received money I need to know it happened. Even if it is not a taxable event it will affect your cash flow and your CPA can help you get control over that as well as your taxes.

The bottom line is to know what you expect of your CPA and what they expect of you.  When in doubt ask.  I would rather you ask than have an unexpected tax situation.  I also need your feedback.