DEAR ABBY: I am an accountant. Now that tax season is again in full swing, several staff members from our office have compiled a list of "considerations" for Dear Abby readers in compiling their tax returns:
(1) Do not just "drop in" to leave your tax records. Even if we don't have an office full of clients waiting to be seen (and sometimes we do), we are probably knee-deep in preparing someone else's return. Being distracted from our work for a visit can be very disruptive.
(2) Because we see you only once a year, many clients feel the need to share how their children are doing. We try to be polite and listen. But if you spend up to an hour sharing how wonderful/smart -- or even worthless -- your children are, we'll be trading daylight for darkness trying to catch up. Multiply that by how many clients come through our doors, and it's overwhelming.
(3) Please pay your accountant in a timely fashion. I wish I had a nickel for every client who told me he/she thought his/her spouse had already written the check. However, it has never once occurred that both actually paid the bill. It may seem like we're rolling in money during tax season, but when the deadline rolls around, we have taxes to pay, too.
(4) Please do not call your accountant and ask a question for your neighbor's second cousin or anyone else other than yourself. This work is our livelihood, and giving advice for someone else often entails research, but it is not billable time for our firm.
(5) And last, if you call your accountant requesting information about the tax consequences of a decision you are trying to make, please do not have a fit when you receive a bill for the time spent doing this research. Many times we have spent a lot of time researching real estate transactions, etc. along with current tax laws to determine how a sale might cause increased tax liability for clients, and they are shocked to receive a statement for this time. -- SLEEPLESS IN TEXAS
DEAR SLEEPLESS: I'll bet most people don't recognize how any of the points you mentioned could possibly be an inconvenience, but I'm sure it happens every tax season. In case anyone has forgotten, accountants and tax preparers are human beings who need care, feeding and consideration. They're not robots with endless energy. So, when you go, be aware that this is one of their most pressured times of the year, and be as organized, prepared and businesslike as possible. Your accountant may love you, but it ain't a social call.