Discussion:Taxpayer Anxiety Disorder

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Discussion Forum Index --> General Chat --> Taxpayer Anxiety Disorder


BDorinEsq (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
Do you or your clients have Taxpayer Anxiety Disorder? We see many clients who suffer from behavior related to tax matters including inability to address tax problems (often for many years), avoidance of tax related stimuli (cannot open mail or answer telephone calls), behavioral paralysis with respect to addressing potentially serious matters (which can sometimes lead to criminal prosecution) as well as other anxiety related actions. We can refer a client, when appropriate, for therapy to a qualified psychologist for treatment undertaken at the same time as our tax representation.

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
I think we all have such clients, but I do not feel qualified to tell a person to see a psychologist. I think it is none of my business.

I also have clients with gambling addictions, eating disorders, hoarders, procrastinators, religious anxieties, compulsive spenders, pornography addictions and every other disorder. I also don't refer these people to psychologists. Come to think of it, each and every one of my clients has some sort of behavioral issue that I'm aware of. And probably dozens of issues that I'm not aware of.

However, on a related note, I do tell all of my clients who give me medical expenses containing expenses for psychologists, to refer their psychologist to me to handle their tax problems. I do several psychologists' tax returns. Boy, do those people have issues.

BobTheMobCPA (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
True that. True that.

Trillium (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
Is this an ad or a chat topic? ....part of our post-season wind down perhaps? I know for sure it's not a tax q. The only doubt is where to move it...

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
I think it is a chat. I took the 'we can refer them' to mean 'a tax professional can refer them'. The same as we refer clients to estate planning attorneys or divorce attorneys or bankers or brokers or real estate agents or plumbers or lawn mowing men.

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
I don't think it is an ad, because no one needs to refer to someone else so that the client can find a qualified lawn mowing man.

BDorinEsq (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
This type of client often never gets out of tax trouble due to their anxiety. We feel that filing a few past returns and getting them an installment agreement is only a temporary fix. We try to direct them to professional help that may allow them to overcome their internal barriers and become compliant taxpayers.

Bracket Creep (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
I often want to smack certain clients upside the head with a two-by-four to allow them to overcome their addiction of giving contributions to right-wing causes. Oh, and to allow them to overcome their internal barriers and become decent human beings.

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
Yeah, I can understand that feeling, BC. You do wonder how people could contribute to some of those organizations and then deny they need psychological help.

Ckenefick (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
BDorin is merely suggesting a holistic approach - let's tackle the symptom (tax non-compliance) as it should be tackled, with a qualified tax professional, but let's also tackle the root of the problem (with a psychologist) at the same time, so as to eliminate, if possible, the symptoms...so that they do not recur in the future.

I must say, it's a topic that involves both. This forum is for tax questions, but I don't have any problem with BDorin's post sitting here. It raises lots of interesting questions, like: Can TAD be used as a defense, or at least a mitigating factor, to explain away all, or at least part, of prior tax non-compliance? Fascinating, indeed. I've made the argument before. And quite honestly, it's not all that crazy. I have seen people get "a little behind" with tax obligations, then the next thing you know, the 2-years turns into 10-years. Why is this? Why does it happen?

If you ask the non-compliant taxpayer, you'll find that they often become frozen, in a sense, when it comes to tackling their tax obligations. They never have a real good reason that you or I might understand...

It brings to mind the hoarder - At one point, the guy's house wasn't all that muddled up. All we see on the TV Shows is the end result.

Also, how many times have you seen a real bad thing happen...a bad thing that could have been prevented or mitigated if someone had spoken up? There are nearly always signs that the bad thing was going to occur. Maybe not with the Boston Marathon, but yes with the Connecticut school shooting.

Is this the role of an accountant - to move outside of a client's financial arena? Not really. But it is the role of a person. And I myself have referred someone to a psychologist...I have called family members, etc.

On one occassion, that I don't want to talk about too much, I ran into a client in town, in a personal setting, who wasn't talking right. I didn't like what I was hearing. I put them in my car and drove them over to the mental health unit. This person had a spouse, had family, etc., but I think they had become numb to the behavior. Something bad was going to happen, and I wasn't about to let it happen.

Podolin (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
And quite honestly, it's not all that crazy. A bit of irony, Chris?

Ckenefick (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
Perhaps. IMO, we often attribute (or project) our state of mind onto others. Take the retired client that shows up 30 minutes early for his meeting...or he calls on April 10th saying he has his tax info together. He thinks, perhaps unconsciously, that since he's retired and doesn't have much to do, that everyone else is doesn't have much to do either...It's selfish, in a way, but a "no harm intended" unconscious type.

In other words, in tackling a situation that BDorin describes, I think we need to be careful in attributing our own state of mind, our own sense of urgency, our own sense of logic, our own understanding of right and wrong...onto someone else (the client). Especially when we might be dealing with a mental illness or some form of one.

Our "framework" of understanding is built-in. As such, it's hard to detach yourself from it, to ignore it, and in the end, to totally empathize with the other person. It's a pretty difficult thing to do. But if a situation warrants it, and you can do it, without passing judgment, you might find that you have served the client well.

We all know our initial reaction when a 10-year non-filer comes through the door. "What an idiot!" "How in the world could he do this?" "How could this happen?" "What a bad person." "This is why everyone else's taxes are so high." "He's gaming the system."

But, often, there's more to the story than meets the eye, as BDorin points out.

MWPXYZ (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
The difficult part may be deciding whether our help will be accepted or if the offer of help, or the suggestion to get help, will push a person further in denial or in a more defensive position. And determining whether actions are caused by mental illness or free choice are hard to delineate. I haven't seen anyone noticeably helped by mental health professionals, but I don't know "what could have happened" without professional help, either.

This week it became clear that 2 bookkeepers for 2 separate businesses were not paying payroll taxes to the IRS, one for 6 months; one for a year. This happened to 3 of my clients about 20 years ago, all at about the same time. No fraud, paychecks to employees went out OK, forms filed, just couldn't write the check to the bank, or now, make the EFTPS.

In each case,though, the remainder of each bookkeeper's life seems productive, family, work, etc.

Tracking back to taxes, would the use of a mental health professional provide a "reasonable cause" when requesting the abatement of penalties? A (mere) explanation of the bookkeepers' behaviors worked 2 out of 3 times 20 years ago.

BDorinEsq (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2013
We have had success having penalties abated when we explain the extreme nature of the client's condition, get them into compliance, in an installment agreement and provide proof of ongoing psychological therapy for this issue.

Uncle Sam (talk|edits) said:

19 April 2013
BDorin - are you psychic attorney seeking business from this site?

Just what's your problem?

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

19 April 2013
No, I think he is giving us all a tip of a useful negotiating tactic.

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

19 April 2013
This is an interesting subject because it is often the same people who fall behind again and again, and each time, swear on the proverbial stack of Bibles that it will not happen again, until it does. If they do go on the straight and narrow, they turn the other leaf and become fanatics:

PJ used to file April 13th of the third year after the deadline, just as the statute would be expiring.....pain in the butt to do but he paid for it. He had a high profile job, a secretary who would do most of the grunt work, and me. Then in his mid-forties he married and one day, wife opened a letter from IRS threatening him with the tortures of hell. I don't know what she said to him but ever since, he files on time and he does the grunt work.

Before marriage, I think his problem was arrogance, not fear. He compartmentalized his tax to that one spot of the year.

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

19 April 2013
I have another couple, unmarried, she a college English professor, and he a litigator, and each is a scofflaw. He says he caught it from her, and she says he is the problem. I see extensions for her from 2010-12 and just finished his 2010 in February; she owes money every time.....why no CP2000s is the mystery.

ZL28 (talk|edits) said:

21 April 2013
I wonder what some of the professionals whom we hire think about us.

Does the computer consultant find us annoying for asking so many questions and feeling uneasy about anyone doing anything to our computers w/o giving us a full education on the topic?

Does the internist say what the hell is the matter with that accountant, i've told him/her if he/she doesn't lose weight and/or exercise he/she is going to get sick?

Also, i think a good portion of our business is to ease client's anxiety. Taxes are foreign to them; to us it's our daily job...so people get nervous b/c it's foreign to them...and if we ease that anxiety, they are grateful.

Of course, there's a distinction between some tax anxiety and more extreme psychological issues like the one Chris dealt with.

Actionbsns (talk|edits) said:

21 April 2013
Wow, there are already some who want us to be responsible for policing all sorts of areas of taxes, I don't think I want someone expecting me to determine whether or not they need psychological help because they are afraid of taxes and financial matters. I already have two brothers who daily challenge my knowledge and abilities in that area and tons of people in back of them telling me I have to make decisions RIGHT NOW. But that's family and I can't get away from it. I certainly don't want clients expecting me to fill that roll. However, that said, if I met a client in a similar situation as the one Chris describes, I would react to that similarly.

Dsuh (talk|edits) said:

22 April 2013
I was told before I entered into this profession that the roles are 25% tax professional 75% counselor.

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