Look, we get it. The IRS sucks and the whole idea of taxes is already stressful. Why is your accountant stressing you out more, sending emails about documents and deadlines? The whole reason you hired an accountant was so you could hand over a shoebox and not think about it again until next year in order to reduce tax stress. If only it were that simple!
Below are some tips on how to make it less stressful when working with a tax professional. This advice is good for everyone, whether you’re a client of Incite Tax or you use another firm. And keep in mind that it’s a mutual relationship. If you completely abdicate the responsibility to your accountant, it adds unnecessary stress for both of you.
Don’t Rely on Your Tax Pro to Know what Documents They Need
I’m not kidding about the shoebox, it has happened. One year a client literally came in and dropped off a shoebox full of receipts and unopened mail. One of the assistants had to go through each envelope to determine what was junk and what was tax relevant.
You can help the process by keeping a list of what you sent the previous year. Chances are, it will be about the same this year. A good accountant will send you a list of needed documents and ask if you had any major changes during the year like buying a house or having a baby. It’s up to you to inform your accountant of these or any other changes that could possibly change the outcome of your return. If you aren’t sure if something is relevant or not, just ask. Your accountant can’t maximize your deductions if he doesn’t have all the information.
Keep a folder, or fine, you can use your shoebox, to store your documents as they come in. That way, when your tax professional sends you a list of what he needs it’s all right there in one place. This also helps if you are ever audited by the IRS. The easiest way to a stress-free tax season is to stay organized and keep good records. If you’d like some tips on organization for the unorganized business owner, click here to check out our blog from a few weeks ago.
Understand the Level of Service You are Paying For
Is it possible the reason you’re stressed is because your tax professional isn’t providing a service you feel they should be?
We try hard to clearly define what our clients are paying for. But sometimes they get really frustrated because they thought they should receive a service that they’re not actually paying for. Take another look at your engagement contract. Does it list the service you thought was provided?
Sometimes adding an additional service would actually reduce tax stress. We see a lot of clients trying to save money by doing their books themselves. But if you don’t have adequate bookkeeping knowledge, that could cause a lot of extra stress. Leveraging your money to reduce stress would give you a great return on your investment.
There’s a Good Reason Your Tax Pro Gave You that Deadline
Schedule time on your calendar to do whatever it is you need to do in order to hit that deadline. It’s the best way to ensure your accountant can do what you’re paying them to do.
We see it all the time. Every year we start sending out emails in January to remind our clients that the deadline to file a business return is March 15, so please send us your documents by the 1st. But our clients are human, and humans are perpetual procrastinators. Please don’t be mad at your tax professional if you sent in your documents at 5:00 pm on March 1, and your returns aren’t completed by 8:00 am on the 15th. Accountants are human too, and they’re going as quickly as they can while still providing the best quality of work. If you really want to reduce tax stress, try sending in your documents before the deadline.
Get an Estimate on Next Year’s Taxes
One of the biggest stressors we see in our clients is the stress of not knowing how much they may owe in taxes. In any situation, the unknown is a huge stress trigger. So, even an estimate can reduce tax stress, because it eliminates most of that unknown.
Schedule a year-end planning session with your tax pro to get a fairly accurate estimate of what you will owe. We suggest scheduling these sometime after Halloween, which gives you almost 6 months before the April deadline to make changes. Maybe you’ll even get lucky and your accountant projects you’ll only owe about $10,000. Now you have $2,000 to play with. (I like family trips to Disneyland or a romantic cruise with my hubby.)
Set Aside Some Cash in Case You have to Pay
One of the easiest ways to avoid the stress of having to pay taxes is to plan ahead.
I know, you’re human and I just asked you to stop procrastinating, and now I’m asking you to actually plan ahead! But didn’t we just discuss how procrastinating makes everything more stressful? Just trust me. Think about how much you owed last year and start setting aside a little bit every month for your tax bill. Isn’t it a little easier to set aside $1,000 a month than coming up with $12,000 all at once? Talk about stressful!
One of the best ways to set aside cash for income tax is following Profit First. It’s a simple system for healthy cashflow. If you’re unfamiliar with Profit First you can get John’s book “Profit First for Microgyms” on Amazon or for some more in depth training you can purchase one of our courses.
Keep in Touch
There’s no reason to wait until next April to reach out to your tax professional. Keep in touch with them throughout the year. The better your relationship with them the more comfortable you’ll feel once it’s time to hand over all your personal information. Ask a few simple questions as they come up (instead of procrastinating) and you’ll significantly reduce tax stress, because you’re more prepared when tax season arrives.
We also have plenty of free resources about Profit First, tax strategies, bookkeeping and more you can access by clicking the button below. Taking advantage of these resources will help with the stress of taxes and make working with your tax pro that much less stressful.
Check out our…
Follow us on…