3 MIN READ
Are taxes too taxing? No one likes taxes. I get it. Even though I do taxes for a living, I’ll be the first to admit it’s not always easy or simple. It can be stressful, right? Taxes are a hassle at least and a complete nightmare at worst. None of that sounds like fun. As a result, many people might want to put it off, procrastinate, avoid, ignore, and do all the things that don’t involve dealing with their taxes.
In my line of work, it’s common practice to request additional information from clients. In fact, I would say it happens almost 100% of the time. However, this can feel a bit like a professional minefield. Why? Clients are often slow to respond, don’t provide the requested documents, completely ghost… well, you get the idea. While not everyone avoids taxes, there are a significant number of people who do.
But here’s a hard truth: when your clients avoid their taxes, they are actually making the process more difficult, prolonging the misery, and costing themselves extra money! Yikes!! So, how can we work together to make the process go smoothly? Below are five best practices you can encourage your clients to do to get the most out of our services and reduce tax-time stress this season.
#1: Start early
When it comes to taxes, start early. Do NOT procrastinate. That means not putting off your taxes until the last minute. Starting early will help ensure your clients meet the filing deadline with ease. It also decreases the chances of errors being made. Rushing around at the last minute creates additional stress for both you, your clients, and your tax professional. Keep things calm, cool, and collected by starting now!
#2: Gather as you go
Collect all tax-related information in one place as it arrives. When items are received in the mail, they should immediately be added to that spot. If your clients are technically inclined, they can gather and store their tax documents on their computer or online. Some online storage services include Google Drive or Dropbox. Similarly, start gathering financial statements for taxable interest, business profit and loss, and so on. Go through receipts and any other important papers saved throughout the year to add to the tax pile. Then, provide those early in the season!
#3: Reference your prior year taxes
In most cases, a client’s tax filing this year will be largely similar to the prior year. You and/or your client should reference their previous tax documents to ensure the same items are uploaded. It’s a good reminder of what documents are needed. Many people forget to provide documents because they never came in the mail or were accidentally thrown away. Reviewing their previous tax return and documents will help you and your client notice ahead of time if something is missing. This should give them plenty of time to find the document online or request a hard copy. And, if you or your client knows something is different this year compared to last, communicate that to their tax specialist. If you don’t, expect us to ask about it.
#4: Use the organizer as your guide
Filling out the organizer, or questionnaire, is a good guide for tax preparers… but it’s also a great guide for your clients! As you fill it out, the questions and answers should be a reminder of the documents they need to gather and provide for the preparation of their tax return. For example, if a client selected that they switched jobs, did they provide multiple W-2’s? Or, they selected having a self-employed business—but did they provide their business income and expenses? These are the types of things clients should be looking for when filling out the questionnaire. Each item they select generally corresponds to a tax document. If anyone is unsure what we need for a certain item: Ask! We’re happy to answer questions.
#5: Provide timely correspondence
If your client’s tax specialist reaches out for more information, please provide it in a timely manner and communicate regularly. That goes for both advisors and clients. If there’s any confusion about what is needed, ask questions. If a client is having trouble getting certain documents, communicate that to their tax professional so we can help, or at the very least, be aware that it may take a little longer to locate.
To recap, the five best practices for a stress-free tax season are to start early, gather as you go, reference your prior year taxes, use the questionnaire as your guide, and communicate regularly. So…are taxes too taxing? They don’t need to be! Taxes aren’t meant to cause panic and anxiety. Staying organized, in coordination with professional help from a CPA or EA, can help put your stress to rest.
About the Author
Alli Whittle is a Tax Specialist for XY Tax Solutions. Alli's favorite part about her job is working alongside her rockstar teammates on Team XYTS. The positive environment these tax experts cultivate every day makes it a pleasure to show up for work—even on Mondays. In her free time, you can often find Alli reading personal development books or binge-watching Netflix with her family, including her two kids, Emma and Jamie.