Reach out early. Get in touch with your accountant sooner rather than later. The tax deadline is in April, but you should never wait until April to call your accountant. You have to remember that they have several tax returns to file every year, so the earlier you give them your financial documents, the better. If you wait too long to get in touch, they may be all booked up for the season. The more complicated your return this year, the more important it is to give them an adequate amount of time to prepare it.
Be proactive – Make sure your accountant knows about any major (or even minor) changes in your life and finances. Don’t wait for them to ask questions, because they don’t know what they don’t know. Be proactive instead of reactive by keeping them abreast of important info before they need to ask. Did you get married or divorced, buy or sell a home, start or close a business, make any big investments, etc? This is something you should tell your accountant sooner instead of later.
Be patient – Remember that you aren’t their only client and that they have a ton of tax returns to deal with every year. Don’t expect your tax return to be completed and filed the day after you give them your documents. If an issue isn’t urgent, don’t expect an immediate response. Communication and trust between you and your accountant is important, so if you feel like they’re blowing you off or not taking you seriously or doing something shady, that’s another story. But if you’re just frustrated that they’re taking more than 20 minutes to respond to an email, remember that they’ve probably got a full inbox to deal with every day. If something is really important, make an appointment to discuss it so they can give you their undivided attention.
Get organized – If you want to save your accountant some aggravation, try to keep your financial docs in order every year. Whether you want to deal with paper or go totally digital, make sure you work out an organization system that works for you. You’ll definitely have to keep track of your income and expenses but might also need to set up a phone log or mileage log depending on how you do business. Who knows how many deductions or credits you might have missed out on because you didn’t have the proper documentation? If you make an effort to stick to your system at the beginning of the year, then you won’t have to stress next April looking for receipts and pay stubs. Also make sure you save your last tax return somewhere safe. You might need to refer back to it when preparing your return for next year.
Pay your bill – It should go without saying, but if you want to stay on good terms with your accountant, pay your bill on time! April can be a stressful month for everyone, especially if you were hit with a larger-than-expected tax bill from the IRS instead of a refund. But that’s not your accountant’s fault and the price of filing your return isn’t included in that total. They worked hard to get your tax return filed correctly, so don’t forget to pay your invoice for their services in a timely manner.
Joshua Zimmelman, is president of Westwood Tax & Consulting in Rockville Centre. Always excited to share his tax knowledge, Josh has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Newsday, USA Today, The Huffington Post, and US News & World Report.