Monday, January 25, 2010


As the tax filing season is fast approaching (I consider February 1st to be the beginning), and recent posts have discussed choosing a tax professional, I just want to make it perfectly clear that, as I said in my annual January mailing to clients, READ MY LIPS – NO NEW CLIENTS!

I do not write THE WANDERING TAX PRO in the hopes of soliciting new 1040 clients.

While I will write a column or articles for your newsletter, magazine or website, for a fee of course, I will not prepare your 1040 or 1040A – or your 706, 990, 1041, 1065, 1120, or 1120-S for that matter.

When I comment on the tax preparation industry here at TWTP I do it to present the truth as I see it based on 38 years of experience, and dispel common myths and misconceptions to help you to be able to make a proper and educated choice when seeking a professional to prepare your income tax returns. I also feel the need to defend my fellow qualified and competent “unenrolled” preparers from outrageous statements made by offending bloggers.

I obviously do not believe that price should be the only consideration when choosing a tax preparer – just as it should not be the only consideration when choosing just about anything. Although in today’s economy price is undoubtedly a serious consideration.

What you should consider when making your choice is the relative value. What are you getting for the price you pay and just what are you paying for anyway?

Let me tell a story about John Q and Mary Public and their lawn.

John and Mary have a large front lawn. Being a busy man, John Q does not want to take the time to mow the lawn himself. Besides, he hates the task. So John and Mary must hire someone to mow their lawn.

Tom mows lawns. He does not plant trees or bushes or anything else. He just mows lawns. He does it by himself with his own equipment. He does not have any helpers or assistants. He has been mowing lawns for a long time now, and does an excellent job. He pays attention to details, like edging and spotting, and when he leaves the lawn is picture perfect, as has been attested by his many clients. He does not advertise much, relying on “word of mouth” from satisfied customers. While Tom may recommend specific products to his clients, like grass seed or weed killer and the like, he does not sell these items himself. He also provides advice on lawn maintenance. Henry will charge $50.00 to mow John and Mary’s lawn.

Arthur is a landscape architect. He has the appropriate licenses and credentials needed to “practice” as a landscape architect. He designs yards and landscapes, plants trees, flowers, and bushes, and maintains elaborate landscapes. He also provides lawn mowing services, although he usually has one of his many helpers do the actual mowing. He has a large office and warehouse where he keeps all his equipment and supplies. He advertises all over town in all kinds of media. Because of the large potential for liability resulting from his landscape design services he has expensive liability insurance. Arthur’s company does a competent and serviceable job mowing lawns, although it does not pay as much close attention to detail as Tom does. Arthur will charge $100.00 to mow John and Mary’s lawn.

Henry and his brother Robert have a chain business that offers lawn mowing services. They are more interested in quantity than quality. They hire high school and college kids and, it has been rumored, illegal aliens to mow the lawns, with the emphasis on getting it done quickly. Henry and Robert advertise all over creation. They also instruct their employees to push Henry’s Fine Grass Seed and Robert’s Great Weed Killer, and various other probably unnecessary but certainly expensive products on their lawn mowing clients, as they make just as much money, if not more, selling these products then they do mowing lawns. The work done by Henry’s mowers is erratic and inconsistent, with minimum attention to detail. Henry and Robert will charge $84.75 to mow John and Mary’s lawn.

So who do you think John and Mary should choose to mow their lawn?