Six problems you can easily avoid during personal income tax season
The syndic’s column
During the tax season, a large number of taxpayers use CPAs for their expertise and professionalism. This time of year is hectic for many firms as they prepare a high volume of returns. Here are six invaluable tips to help you meet your clients’ expectations.
- Some clients think that because you are a CPA, you know which questions to ask to cover their overall situation. Invite your clients to your office so you can gather information. Take the time to review your clients’ and their family’s tax situation, especially any changes that occurred in their personal life in the last year. Use questionnaires, ask questions and note their answers. Ideally, you should get your clients to confirm some of the information in writing.
- Some clients think that since they are dealing with a CPA, the government cannot amend their tax return. Give your clients a file containing a copy of their income tax returns for their personal archives. Take the opportunity to go over the returns and working assumptions, if necessary, and explain to them how governments review returns.
- Some clients do not contact their professional when they receive a notice of reassessment. Encourage your clients to contact you if the assessments they receive differ from their prepared tax returns, because you may be able to intervene. However, be clear about whether your subsequent involvement will result in additional fees. If you made a mistake, be humble enough to acknowledge it. It can be very frustrating when a CPA tries to defend their actions rather than review the file, apologize for the error and propose a solution.
- Do not accept a mandate that exceeds your competencies. Even if the request comes from a long-time client, you should be wise enough to recognize you are unfamiliar with certain areas (e.g. estates, rental properties outside Canada, excess RRSP contributions, etc.).
- In the course of our inquiries, professionals will sometimes notice, after double-checking, that they did not receive confirmation of a filing, meaning the return was never submitted. This might seem like a no-brainer, but if you file your clients’ returns electronically (e.g. EFILE), make sure you receive a confirmation and add it to their file.
- Some clients say that they cannot reach their professional at other times of the year, or that the latter ignores their issues. If a client calls you, be sure to respond. Just because they are tax clients does not mean they are less important.
Your clients expect their tax returns to include all allowable deductions and to be error-free. They also expect you to be considerate and professional at all times, and they want to feel valued, regardless of the fees you charge them.