How does a tax firm provide a quality product? Here are a few of my answers.
Acquiring good information. The more information supported by documentation the more accurate and “audit proof” the return can be. The preparer may need to ask questions to confirm history and source of documents or request more documents to clarify the client’s verbal or written statements.
Research and discussion. A firm that encourages preparers to discuss particular tax situation with each other or supervisors and to research unusual items or treatments, will have a more knowledgeable staff. Annual training is an important part of this process.
Review. Even the most experienced and accurate preparers make errors. Whether a typing error or misunderstanding of information or law, a second set of eyes, is always important. Even a sole practitioner can improve accuracy by reviewing their own work a day or two later.
Providing the client with what they need. A quality product includes not only a neatly assembled client copy of the tax return but also other information and instruction necessary to help the client file the returns. Worksheets may be added on an as needed basis depending on the interest of the client. Instructions should be clear and usually include envelopes correctly addressed. Information on how to better prepare for the next tax year can be helpful.
Confidentiality. Tax return preparers, whether a CPA, EA or other preparer, are required by the I.R.S. to maintain a clients confidentiality. The office staff should not be heard discussing other clients by name or description. Everyone’s social security number must be protected. A client’s tax documents should be securely stored and conveyed.
Observing laws. In this electronic age, more and more rules are necessary to prevent fraud and theft. Your tax preparation firm should be following the laws for your benefit and theirs. While preparers are now required to offer efiling, this process has many rules to be followed. A preparer should never ask you to sign a blank form or offer to file your return without getting your signature first. Even though inconvenient, it helps to protect you as a taxpayer. Dishonesty in one area of work can carryover to other acts.
As I said, everyone makes mistakes. At Brown Tax Accounting, this year we are concentrating on minimizing the errors. Sometimes this takes longer that you might like or it may cost more than someone else charges, but we hope to have more satisfied clients in the long run.
Julie K. Brown CPA, EA January 13, 2012