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Discussion:Businesses-How do you tell your clients what to bring you

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Discussion Forum Index --> Business Growth Community --> Businesses-How do you tell your clients what to bring you


Mark Eason (talk|edits) said:

9 January 2007
In prior years, I have done PBC or request for information letters with specifice detail for each of my non-individual clients. For old clients I can generate the letter in 5 minutes. This detailed request keeps me from having to run the client down with a question on 3/10. Some of these letters have only 5 items, while others will have upto 20 items.

I have heard of one suggestion of coming up with one standard letter. My concerns is that 1. client will not feel good about receiving a standardized letter (even my 1040 organizers are tailored to fit each client); 2. If over half of the items don't pertain, the client will not pay attention to it any more or they will try to comply with items that don't pertain; 3. I have some clients that strongly dislike QB. Do I say in the standardized letter, "I will need a backup copy of your QB"? 4. I have some clients that have simple bookkeeping (They give me on a hand written sheet begining bank balance, list of their transactions (15 or so), ending cash balance, ending note balances, and that's it). I don't want to mention QB to these clients because of the fear they might want to change to QB.

Any suggestions for a good yet easy system?

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

9 January 2007
Tough question. After they've come to you for a few years, your clients should have a good idea of what you'll need. You may not need to send a letter to these at all. Those clients using some type of accounting program probably feel that they're more "professional" than those using pencil and paper. (Not necessarily so) How about putting "if applicable" at the end of each line? How about not specifying software by name - "I'll need a backup of your accounting software file, if applicable". I always get them to give me hard copies of their P&L, B/S and FA list just in case they changed a password and forgot to tell me and it's midnight on 3/14!

Dsmith53 (talk|edits) said:

9 January 2007
Your system is much better than what I do: wait until I start doing the return, see what I need from them, call them, and put their return up until I get the info, then get it all back out again. Not very efficient. I have tried to the standardized letter and they don't respond to it because it contains items that don't pertain to them, even if it says "if applicable" so they ignore the whole thing. I've tried the individual letter but that takes more time and also requires me to get all their "stuff" out and look through it, then put it back up while I'm waiting for them to respond. So, I would appreciate more input on this, too, to see what works for everybody else.

Mark, I'm curious as to what you mean that you don't want to mention QB to certain clients because "of the fear they might want to change to QB." Just wondering.

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

9 January 2007
What is really discouraging is when the clients send their stuff and there is your year end letter, sent just after Thanksgiving, unopened in its envelope with its "How to Help Me Prepare Your Taxes. They threw it into the 'Death & Taxes" pile to send to me. Most important advice: tell clients to save any envelope with "Important Tax Information" on it, and second most important advice, "Open the darn envelope. I hate paper cuts."

PJLCPA (talk|edits) said:

9 January 2007
Most of our clients use some sort of software, so we ask them to bring in a backup copy, along with the standard printed reports. Most of the time we have this put into excel, as client balances, adjustments, ending balance. If they don't have any software, we do have an excel worksheet that they can use to enter their information on. This sheet keeps monthly balances, and YTD. If you use Lacerte, they have a "missing information request" that works great. On the return you just right click the line item and it highlights it, and then you print a "missing information" report and you get a nice letter requesting this information...

PJLCPA (talk|edits) said:

9 January 2007
D&T didn't see your post before I responded. I'm glad that I'm not the only one with clients like these....(I didn't fill out the information on your form because you're so much better at that than me) Same client gets most of his missing information off of my ceiling! I keep looking up but I can't see any numbers up there. (Did you have any supplies? Yes they were $2,345.26!) Gotta get those cleaning people to do a better job!

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 9, 2007
I take clients' records however they bring them to me (except in boxes and grocery sacks). It would be way too time-consuming for me to try to have them all come up with the same system. Some of my small business clients bring computer printouts, some use ledger sheets, and some list their expense categories and totals on regular sheets of paper. When they forget to include something, I call them to let them know what I need to complete their returns. Yes, DT, I also get back a lot of the unopened letters I mail out just after Thanksgiving, and I also get a lot of unopened mail (W-2s, 1099s).


I think what bothers me the most is when clients show up 10 to 20 minutes early for their appointments (and most of them do, it seems). I have a separate waiting room (yes, it's used exclusively for waiting), but when I'm in-between appointments and think I have 10 or 15 minutes to eat real quick, have a quick cigarette, or go to the bathroom, it's inevitable that the next client will walk in 10 to 20 minutes early. And when they see me sitting at my desk with no client sitting in front of my desk, they think they can walk right in without going to the waiting room first. This might go on for hours during the day, so breaks are hard to come by, especially in February.

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

10 January 2007
Deb: I am 63 so I don't want to sound as an agist, but it is old people who are the worst at coming early. They have nothing to do so 15 minutes into my 11am appointment, the intercom buzzes and the person at the reception desk says "Mrs. Campbell is here for her Noon appointment." When she comes in, out pops "I guess this is your busy season, David." "No Mrs. Campbell, I was sitting back here playing solitaire."

Then there are the ones, men I admit, who after we are done and I have a check, follow me to the bathroom to ask more questions. I 'graze' while I work, and nothing healthy either. All these are reasons why I only visit my office in Philly ten days a season, unlike before 1999 when I was there from 9am until 10pm. I rent space from a consumer bankruptcy lawyer. In my room people are making 200K; in the next room they are staving off eviction.

Worst gripe are those who insist on a physical appointment and then forget half of their information, wasting an hour of mine. It's always the same people: "Oh, here comes Stuart Abbott to do half a tax return." "Not this year, David. I'm ready," but of course they never are. "W-2, now where's my W-2?"

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 10, 2007
I love your sense of humor, DT! Wouldn't it be nice if there was a chat area here, where we could talk about these more important things, rather than just tax questions all the time?

You're right about the older people being the worst at coming early. I think all of my older clients come at least 10 minutes early and usually 20 minutes. The excuse here is always the same: "I didn't know how long it would take me to get here." And this is from the same people who have been coming here for years. I want to tell them to just leave 10 minutes later, but I don't. And I've thought about setting my clock ahead 10 minutes, so I'll be on everyone else's schedule.

The most common items forgotten here are their property tax bills. On the Michigan return, if they qualify for a homestead property tax credit, the taxable value has to be entered. Can't efile without it. I always want to say, "I have this listed on the first page of the letter that I send you every year, with the word "NOTE:" in capital letters, so that you'll know what you need to bring." But, I don't. Sometimes, I love it when clients don't bring everything, because I might get 15 minutes before the next person shows up. (But, that's when the next client arrives 20 minutes early.)

By the way, I make appointments every half hour between 1 and 7 pm, so I don't have much time to chit-chat with clients. Many of those returns will be completed while they wait (in Jan and Feb only), but when someone yaks constantly, I politely tell them they'll have to pick up their completed returns later.

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

10 January 2007
PJ: I love ceiling people, or like the young IBMer who would read the number off a sheet of paper when I would ask for something, but when I got a gander I noted the sheet was blank. Then there are the ten-percenters; they bring in last year's copy and as you ask, they raise each number ten percent. Doing 2005 one guy brought in 2003 without knowing it! For once 10% failed him! Other classics: "Customer Entertainment? I spent $19,676" "Hmmm, do you still have your liver?"

Deb: I don't wear a watch or have a clock in my room. I can't avoid the one on my laptop but try not to look at it. I do think Mark is searching for the promised land which will never exist. I think you have the right approach, Deb. Go with the flow and learn to work with what they give you. Many will even ask if they can organize it better. I tell them all is fine, but had they ever considered .....

Here are two pictures of tax season around here: http://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/402856 http://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/376970

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 10, 2007
I didn't mention that, when I send out my letter in early December, it includes a letter and a checklist. These are forms I created in MS Publisher about 17 years ago (copied from the typed forms I used for 13 years before that), and I just edit them each year. The checklist has three columns and uses small text, so I have a lot of things listed, including many of the new tax laws. For my business, rental, and farm clients, I have another list (with three columns, one column for each) that I hand out when they're here, or I'll send them the list after they call asking me if I have such a list.

Will (talk|edits) said:

10 January 2007
Those were both good reads D&T, I LOL at Bedside Manner, what a jerk that guy was.


Will

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 10, 2007
Will - There are seven good reads there. I'm starting the 4th now.

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

January 10, 2007
I enjoyed all seven - great work, D&T!

- Tim Doyle, TaxAlmanac Moderator - Talk to me 21:09, 9 January 2007 (CST)

Deback (talk|edits) said:

January 10, 2007
Yes, I agree. David is a great writer. I found a several more stories that he wrote--by clicking on the little blue box with question marks inside, to the right of his name and the (52).

PJLCPA (talk|edits) said:

10 January 2007
GREAT stories D&T! It would be great to have a chat area, or a place to vent after you deal with one of these clients from hell. Every year I have at least one or two horror stories, that I always think I should be writing down, and publishing some day! Keep up the great work!! Thanks

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

10 January 2007
Thanks to all: But for the most fascinating potential client I ever had, you have to struggle thru an article I wrote for a Mystery Newsletter: it contains three or four little stories but I swear it is all true and it is about taxes. http://www.ezine.com/ezine/579803/view/332325.html

If we had a chat area, we'd never get anything done.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

12 January 2007
There's a reason why I don't do any "while you wait" tax returns - I don't want the "help", stupid questions, and conversation. When I don't have everything I need, I write a list of everything missing and put it on top of their paperwork (for future easy reference). I then call the client with the list (after I've asked if they have something to write with and write on). Their return stays on the top of my pile for 24 hours. If they get their info to me within 24 hours, I'll complete the return and call them for pick up. After that, it goes to the bottom of the pile which delays it another 2-3 weeks after they've gotten their stuff to me. The question I hate is "What does it look like?" followed by "Is there a problem?" Answers - "It looks like a pile of paper" and "yes there's a problem - there's only so many hours a day and you have called me twice a day since you gave me your papers four days ago!"

Mdwtax (talk|edits) said:

30 January 2008
Is it too early in the season to vent? Just got off the phone with a client who brought me W2s, mortgage statement, and basically said 'everything else should be the same.' She said that was good enough for her old preparer.

Now she's upset that she forgot to tell me her bank account had changed and they'll have to wait an additional week for the paper check to arrive in the mail. And by the way, why didn't I claim all of the charitable contributions that they put on their return last year? Now they aren't getting the refund they expected and have to wait a little longer to get it.

Rgtaxservice (talk|edits) said:

30 January 2008
Md - You should create an interview checklist to go query your clients. Your clients know their finances and you know taxes. The interview draws the info that you need. This way nothing gets missed.

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

30 January 2008
One question: what did you base the charity on? You did not mention that she brought anything. And did she sign the 8879 without looking at the return first? It can be frustrating and it is never too early to vent.

Mdwtax (talk|edits) said:

30 January 2008
I bought the practice in July and from the clients I've talked to already, and for as much as the seller and I worked on making the transition seamless, this may be a frustrating season. He did a lot of these people's returns for about 15 years, and got to be somewhat lax on the backup that he requested.

This particular client claimed $3000 in charitable contributions for 2006, but brought me nothing but one of those tags that Goodwill drops off when they pick up your items. No cash contribution receipts, or even a self-recorded list of who and how much. Just thought I should take my numbers from the previous year.

I've been using the organizer as an interview checklist, and was having people verify bank account information, but I probably should make a separate checklist to make sure and capture everything like this.

Rgtaxservice (talk|edits) said:

30 January 2008
Dealing with clients that have gotten comfortable with the way the 'old preparer' used to do them can be trying. Especially if the former preparer was lax with client recording and generous with undocumented deductions.

Do yourself a big favor; educate and get to know your returning clients. Be gentle but firm - There's A New Sheriff In Town.

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

30 January 2008
Seems to me your predecessor might help by co-signing a letter with you explaining the changes in laws and requirements.....probably should have been done earlier. My thought is that if it comes from him, old clients might get the message better than if this new 'whippersnapper' keeps changing things.

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