Every few years I re-post my advice for those who are starting out in the tax preparation business – lessons I have learned from my many decades as a tax professional.
My advice involves a song lyric and two advertising slogans –
* “You See You Can’t Please Everyone, So You Got to Please Yourself” (no jokes about pleasuring oneself now)
* “Only Sherwin Williams Can Cover the Earth”
* “Just Say No!”
1) Rick Nelson was spouting real wisdom when he sang “You see you can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself”. Do not choose your career, or run your life or business, because it is what you think your family, friends, clients, etc. would want you to do. Follow your own dreams, and make your own decisions, and your own mistakes in the process, based on what you want.
2) When I first began my own practice, many, many, many years ago, I thought that I should offer, either personally or via relationships with consultants in other fields, all kinds of financial services to clients, not just 1040 preparation, so that their tax business could not be stolen away by their insurance agent or broker or another financial professional.
Then I remembered what a wise old Texan (my boss at the Summit YWCA) once told me – “Only Sherwin Williams can cover the earth”. You can’t be all things to all people. Don’t spread yourself too thin and try to offer the world to your clients.
Along the same lines, remember that the Tax Code is humongous and you cannot be an expert in all Sections. Choose the areas of tax that you enjoy most and are best at and limit your practice to that area.
3) The hardest lesson I have learned, and one I still find difficult to follow, is, in my case, not becoming an “Addo Robert” – especially with friends and loyal clients. You must learn to just say “no” to clients. Regardless of how much you would sincerely like to help them with items and issues, tax-related or otherwise, other than those in which you are educated and experienced, realize your limitations and learn to tell a client “I don’t do that”.
Over the years, clients have brought me census forms and loan, financial aid, discount program, and rebate applications asking for help. I clearly state that I do 1040s and nothing else, because that is where my education and experience lies. I tell them that I know nothing more about these forms and applications then they do, and that I do not have time during the tax season to do anything that does not involve a 1040.
You should also learn to just say no to accepting a new client. If you feel you are already overworked during the tax season, or that a client has tax issues you are not trained or experienced in or comfortable with or shows a potential for agita and aggravation, learn how to say that you are not accepting any new clients.
And lastly learn how to say “no” to a client when they ask you to do something that is “shaky” or “shady” – such as to claim a deduction that you know, or strongly suspect, is not legitimate or appropriate or not to claim income that you know they received. It is better to lose the client than to gain the potential problems.
While these three pieces of advice have been written for new tax preparers, they are valid regardless of your choice of trade or profession, and each one has many applications.
And one more thing – he said “Columbo-like”. If you are interested in becoming a paid tax preparer I suggest you read my book “So You Want To Be A Tax Preperer”. Click here to learn about this book.