Friday, September 11, 2009

7 Reasons Why...

NYT bestselling author, John Scalzi, has a wonderful post on his blog explaining why he doesn't read unpublished writers. Yesterday, he outlined how Oscar-nominated screenwriter Josh Olson won't read your screenplay either.

My focus today covers professionals in all service industries. Below is my Top 7 list of reasons why I don't give free tax advice. I think it applies to all professional service providers.

  1. I have a family. Would you love being the child of a man that works long hours for free? Spouse? Walking into my office and demanding I drop everything to deal with an IRS letter resulting from your self-prepared tax return, sits poorly with me. If I say I'll fix it for $100, don't say, "That much!" Charging you $100 is already a gift; don't make me take it back. Also, if I offer to fix a problem you created, be flexible in scheduling. Saying you are only available after hours makes me more inclined to choose more family time over your issue.
  2. The IRS has a free hotline. Yes, I know the IRS hotline is wrong half the time. But it is free. Before I give advice, I need to know my client. Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice. Get it. If you have a tax question, I am more than happy to help you. Set an appointment where we can sit down and review your full tax situation. Without seeing a previous tax return, I cannot give accurate tax advice. And I do charge for my time. Hence the term, professional.
  3. Word travels. In the old days, when I was hungry for a client, any client, I answered tax questions rapid fire for anyone, anytime. I sounded like a radio call-in show. The advice was about as sound, too. Once I started giving free advice, word spread that I was the sucker to call for free tax help. Do-it-yourselfers loved the free, over the phone, tax preparation service: professional help without a fee. In short order I reviewed my policy and refused tax advice over the phone.
  4. Finals hurt. Remember final exams from your college days? You studied your heart out preparing for a full week of grueling tests. Accountants consider those the good 'ol days. I study every day, year round, to keep up with the changing tax climate. I spend around $20,000 per year training staff and myself, including research services. I field 15-20 tax-help requests a day, triple that on Monday; higher during tax season. I have people call me at home, some visit me at home, for an answer to a "quick question." All this for free, as if my time isn't valuable. My final exams extend year round. It does get exhausting.
  5. Liability. Answering the quick question for free leads to another dilemma: liability. If I answer a question without reviewing the involved documents, I am open to lawsuit for bad advice. Think about this for a moment. I get zero income and unlimited liability. Should you trust advice from someone dumb enough to take unlimited liability without any gain? This is why you must sit down with me. I must review all relevant documents before giving tax advice.
  6. I am not paid. By now you should see the underlying issue. I want to get paid for my time. That is why I spend twenty grand a year training and why I leave my family for 10-12 hours a day. I really want to be home with my wife and kids, I really do. I work to give them nice things. Then, I want to be at home with them, enjoying life together, as a real family.
  7. I choose who I work for pro bono. I help several people a year for free or nearly so, including tax preparation. Sometimes, a long-term client, now retired, is deserving of my gratitude, so I do their taxes gratis. I take a limited number of low-income people off the street and help them without a fee. Don't call me up and say, "You did mom and dad's return for ten bucks, why do I pay $***?" The answer: I would go broke if that is all I charged. Don't ask me to charge your parent's more. I've have this request several times over the years. I give back to the community, but I need to survive.

I like new clients; love them, in fact. They are the lifeblood of my company. Use the above information to see the world from the service providers perspective. I have a lot of clients that need work done by a deadline; they come first. I am selective in who I choose to serve. Respect my decision. At the end of the day, all I want to do is go home and hug my girls. No more quick questions. Set an appointment so I can really help you. I want to get paid for my effort and talents; same as you.

No comments:

Post a Comment