My approach, as briefly as it can be stated, is probably this: I try to keep things simple and use clear language. I’m not interested in making my work seem more complicated than it really is.
I believe I provide value primarily in the following ways:
- I’ll take care of a necessary task – preparing your annual tax return – that you may not want to do, or may not feel particularly comfortable doing on your own. (It’s like hiring someone to clean your gutters every year. Some people don’t like the mess. Others aren’t comfortable on ladders. So they’ll pay someone else to do that chore.)
- I’m familiar enough with the filing process that I’ll recognize when there’s a situation that’s unusual and worth worrying about, as opposed to a situation that’s not uncommon and not worth worrying about.
- I do my best to make the whole process relatively fluid and relatively easy. And it should get a little easier every year, as we get used to working with each other.
- I can help you avoid wasting time, by letting you know not to bother adding up numbers or digging up receipts that aren’t going to have any impact on the bottom line.
- I’ll share little insights, tips, or rules of thumb that can help to clarify and simplify the (often convoluted) world of income taxes.
It is, however, no surprise at all that I’m not the best fit for many people! If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, it may be a good indicator that we won’t work well together:
- Do you need a formal office setting to talk about financial matters? I work from home and meet clients in coffee shops. Definitely not formal!
- Do you need or want “tax optimization strategies”, “tax minimization strategies”, or something along those lines? I can help you think about and understand your tax situation. But my inclination is always to simplify, not complicate. If you want to feel as though you’re actively managing your tax situation, then you’d probably prefer working with someone who enjoys that kind of thing more than I do! (And who will downplay the costs, and the many ways that these kinds of strategies can backfire.)
- Are you looking for someone who will tell you, “I guarantee you’ll get your maximum refund“? Your “maximum refund” is in almost all cases the same as your “minimum refund”, also known simply as your “refund”. If you try two different tax preparation options and one of them gives you a higher refund than the other, it’s because there’s a mistake somewhere. There’s very little (legal) monkeying around that can be done with most tax returns. And when there is, it’s often true that opting for a smaller refund now will get you a bigger payoff down the road.
- Would you say that you are extremely concerned about information security? Like any tax preparer (or DIY tax preparation software), I have to collect personal information and keep copies of your tax returns. I store a backup copy of these records in the cloud. I believe that common cloud storage providers (Dropbox, Google, OneDrive, etc) provide a more secure and reliable service than anything I could possibly devise on my own. I take what I believe are very reasonable steps to safeguard your information and to keep my computer systems clean. But a degree of user-friendliness is necessary. If you need end-to-end encryption of all documents and communications, then I’m not the right tax preparer for you! I rely instead on: 1) encryption of data-at-rest as assured by all common cloud storage providers; 2) encryption of data-in-transit (email communications and online sessions) via TLS, SSL, etc.; and 3) your ability to prevent unauthorized access to your own email account. Password-protection of individual files is optional, at your request.