New clients 2022

Below is the intro information I’ve been sending out to new clients this year. Please let me know if you have questions about anything.

While there’s nothing I need you to sign up front, you should look over the Income Tax Preparation Engagement Letter before sending any of your tax information to me. “Engagement Letter” is the accounting industry lingo for what is essentially just a description of services. It explains in some detail what I do and don’t do as part of the income tax preparation service, and which parts of the process remain your responsibility. I’ve tried to keep the language as clear and simple as possible.

The professional engagement begins when you send your tax information to me, for me to use in preparing your income tax returns.

To put it another way, “Step 0” is to make sure that you’ve read the Engagement Letter and that you’re comfortable with the arrangement. Once you’re ready to move forward, “Step 1” would be putting your tax documents and other information together and sending them over to me. The following information may be of help to you in that process:

  • You don’t need to set up an appointment or schedule a time slot. If you’ve been assembling all of your tax documents as they come in (typically Jan-Feb), and you’re fairly confident that there’s nothing else that you’re waiting on, then you can send things over to me whenever you’d like. You’ll get added to the ‘queue’ at that point.
  • I do tend to get flooded with incoming information between mid-February and mid-March — but the gears are really turning for me at that point, and it’s typically not more than 2 weeks (or 3 weeks at worst) before I’ll crack open your file and start working on it. If you’re in any particular hurry, please let me know in advance so that I can try to accommodate that.
  • The most efficient way to share your tax info with me is electronically, using a file sharing service such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, iCloud, or something of that sort. Create a folder, add all of your files, and then send me a link to view the folder. If you prefer, I can send you a link to a folder in my own Dropbox that you can dump your files into.
  • If the preceding bullet point is gibberish to you, then it’s perfectly ok to ignore it and send me your files via email instead. I just find that email can get a bit cluttered, which is why I initially recommend using a file-sharing service. (Email used to be insecure “in transit”, but that’s really not the case any more.)
  • If you’re using a file-sharing service, I’d prefer if you didn’t try to organize files into sub-folders, since that can make it more difficult for me to see if/when anything new has been added. Just throw everything into one main folder. You can name the files whatever you want; I’ll know what they are once I see them.
  • Photos, scans, downloaded pdfs, spreadsheets, etc. — these are all perfectly acceptable. It doesn’t matter if things are crooked, stained, torn, etc. as long as I can read it.
  • If for some reason I need something presented to me in a different format, I will let you know.
  • I will definitely need a copy of your 2020 tax return, federal & state, preferably not on paper. If all you have is a paper copy, we can start with images (photos are fine) of pp1-2 of the federal 1040 and pp1-3 of the Oregon 40.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what else to send me. I have a long list here, and I’d encourage you to give that a thorough read, but for some people it’s going to be an inscrutable wall of text — in which case, we’ll find another way to make it work.
  • If nothing else, I’ll compare what you’ve given me for 2021 against what’s shown on your 2020 tax return, and will let you know if anything appears to be missing.
  • After you’ve shared your tax information with me, subsequent steps should proceed roughly according to the process I’ve outlined here.

That’s about it. If I had to boil it down to one sentence, it’s “You get the ball rolling, and I’ll take it from there.” There’s a degree of informality here, and that’s intentional. What I’m trying to do is reduce tax-related anxiety. If something looks “off” to me, I’ll let you know. You’re not going to mess things up; I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen.

(And if it does happen, tax messes are a lot easier to clean up than you might think. Taxes induce fear in a lot of people, but unless you’re doing something fraudulent, there’s really nothing to worry about. Mistakes happen, and there are fairly simple procedures in place to fix them.)

Some people are of course going to prefer a more rigid process than what I provide. If you read this and think “The tone of this doesn’t feel right, I don’t think this is going to work for me,” then — that’s absolutely fine, and it’s good that we figured that out in advance.

The last thing I’ll mention is that nearly all of my communication with clients is done via email. Having a complete written record of my communications has proven to be very helpful to me, time and time again. If you’d like to chat over the phone about general processes, I can certainly do that, but when it comes to providing tax guidance or advice, I prefer to stick with email. (I do like talking with clients! But it can be more time-consuming than I can afford during tax seasons, especially when I have to make extensive notes of the conversation after the fact.)

Please do let me know if you have questions about anything — even if you think it’s a silly question, or something that you think you should already know the answer to. I like answering those kinds of things. :)