Mr. Search is looking for a tax preparer. When he asked his friends and business connections for recommendations, they suggested: Mr. Cheap, Ms. Expensive, Ms. Slow, and Mr. DIY. (See the insert for descriptions of each.)
How should Mr. Search decide whom to hire? By deciding why he needs a tax preparer.
What about you? Are you looking for a tax preparer for the first time? Or are you contemplating changing preparers? Over the last 10 years of preparing tax returns, I learned that clients seek a tax preparer to meet specific needs, like these.
- Peace of mind since their tax return is prepared correctly.
- Confidence that they are fully taking advantage of allowable business deductions.
- Time to focus on other business demands.
- Access to someone who will answer their tax questions.
- Personal business relationship through good communication and positive interactions.
- Low costs that don’t exceed their budget.
Maybe you are looking and can resonate with some of these. First, decide what is most important to you, then rank your needs. One need is not more important than the others, but keep your expectations realistic.
For instance, if you rank low costs as your most important need, then you are probably looking for a Mr. Cheap to prepare your tax return. I have seen many of Mr. Cheap’s tax returns. Some were well done; others required amended returns because of misstatements.
On the other hand, if you rank access as most important, you would likely seek a Ms. Expensive. When you and your business are at a stage where you need routine guidance, Ms. Expensive may end up saving you time and money.
If you rank peace of mind, confidence, and time as your needs, you’re probably not a Mr. DIY. Don’t let anyone pressure you either way. I am a firm believer in hiring someone with more expertise than yourself (if you can afford it).
I would not have said this when I began as a tax preparer, but now I think finding Mr. or Ms. Right has a lot to do with a compatible personality. Do you want someone who is patient with all of your questions? Someone to tell you what to do and not to do? Someone who shows an interest in your business, or who talks with you only at tax time? There may not be much joy in taxes, so get your taxes done by someone you like. Trust me! You won’t regret a perfect match.
- Mr. Cheap, Ms. Expensive, Ms. Slow, and Mr. DIY are fictional tax-preparer characters, exaggerations from various clients’ comments of certain preparers.
- If you work with a larger tax preparation firm, you may not communicate with the same person at all times. It’s okay to ask about this and to find out whom your contact is.
- Sometimes it takes a few tax seasons to know you’re with a Mr. or Ms. Right, because good business relationships take time to build on both sides. Unless there is a drastic issue, try to stay with your tax preparer for longer than one tax year.