Friday, April 29, 2016


It seems a bit funny, and sometimes bothersome, that the public often thinks that just because a person - say a tax preparer - is trained and experienced in one set of government forms – say preparation of federal and state individual income tax returns – he or she automatically knows how to fill out every other federal and state government form.

A client recently asked me if he should report his sideline business, a loss-generator, on a Financial Disclosure Statement.  How do I know?  I have never seen, let alone filled out, a Financial Disclosure Statement.  Back in “the day”, when I was an apprentice preparer with JP Gill at his storefront office near Journal Square in Jersey City, clients would bring their census forms to us.

I am trained and experienced in preparing tax returns.  I have no clue when it comes to census forms, immigration forms or applications, FHA or other mortgage or loan applications (I have never had a mortgage), prescription drug or utility discount applications, FBAR or FinCen filings, college financial aid applications (I have never had a child), etc, etc, etc.

If it does not have anything to do with the proper and complete preparation of a 1040, or 1040A, I don’t know it – and I do not want to know it.  Homey don’t play that! 

While other tax preparers may want to establish a post-season side-practice preparing college financial aid applications or something similar, I certainly do not – especially at this point in my career as I am winding down 1040 preparation.

It is not that I do not sincerely want to help my clients if I can – but I do not know anything more about these forms and applications than they do.  And often less than they do.  There is nothing I can do that they cannot do themselves – and there is no special “insight” or “trick” on completing the form that I can provide.

It is somewhat bothersome if I am asked to fill out these forms during the tax filing season.  From February 1 through April 14th I barely have time to relieve myself, let alone do anything that does not involve preparing a 1040 or 1040A.

What I do tell my clients is that I can provide them with any information from their tax returns that is applicable to the form.  For example, NJ has a “Property Tax Reimbursement” program for senior and disabled homeowners.  While I will not prepare the application in full, I will complete the section of the form that asks for income, based on the information used in preparing their tax return.  But this I will not do until May.

So, clients, do not assume that just because your tax preparer knows all about individual income tax returns that he or she knows anything about any other government form or application.

And tax preparers, don’t be afraid to tell your clients, nicely of course, that “Homey Don’t Play That” when they ask you to fill out non-tax forms and applications that you know nothing about. 


1 comment:

Chris Johnson, EA said...

I've had clients ask me about how to refinance their home, how to pay off a small claims judgment against them and what to do in a custody dispute. Nor did they seem to want to pay me anything to help them in these situations. Where did they get the idea I was a mortgage broker, debt negotiator, or a family law expert and why would they expect me to work for free?

Fortunately, the other 99% of my clientele know my limitations and what they pay me for. It's just this particular 1% that really wears me out sometimes.