Our CPA is in prison and yesterday his firm accidentally shredded our taxes. There was a “miscommunication” and our returns sat on a computer, never got filed, and “sorry for the inconvenience” and can we come back down and “re-sign”?
Sure Doug and I have a spare moment to just traipse down for the fourth time in two weeks. We don’t have a choice our taxes due in five days.
Technically, our imprisoned CPA doesn’t own the firm anymore, he sold it to the new owners who promised the same quality of service. And technically it wasn’t all of our taxes that were accidentally shredded, it was the signature form.
I miss Crooked CPA. He was incredibly efficient. Did excellent work. And we rarely had any errors. And this is the part I want to highlight, take note of the words, ‘efficient’ and ‘few errors’.
After this hit the news, the firm assured us there was no data breach with our returns and they begged us to stay.
“What do you think?” Doug asked.
I shrugged. “It’s all software. How hard is it? We go in for 15 minutes and hand them our earnings, tell them our deductions, and they plug in numbers. We go back in and review. Pay them. They e-file.”
That’s not what Doug was asking. “So, you would be comfortable staying?”
I shrug. “I guarantee ten black markets already have pieces of the same information. Are you worried about our address hitting some underground database? Our grand kids can find that using their iPads…” And of course I rambled on.
And with a smidge of hesitation he called the firm, “They gave us Tax Man #1. We meet with him next week.”
Tax Man #1 was’meh-blasé, but he got the job done. We were together tax two seasons. We call to set up an appointment for the third season and the firm says, “Oh Tax Man #1 isn’t here anymore…”
“Where did he go?” Doug asked.
“We can’t disclose that information. But we do have Tax Man #2 set up for you.”
Doug hates change. We’d just gotten used to Tax Man #1, and now they were throwing #2 at us.
He asked me, “Do you think we should be concerned?”
“Nah”, I said. But that didn’t stop me from searching all the free crime databases for Tax Man #1. He wasn’t there. But Doug found him, not in the crime database, but on a random search.
Tax Man #1 hung a shingle on his door and set up a desk in his basement as a one man band tax man. Uh. No Thanks. We kept our appointment with Tax Man #2.
Tax Man #2 immediately had my approval. He walked in the room carrying two thick folders which held our previous two years returns and he had pencils clipped in his pocket.
He was efficient like Crooked CPA. He was knowledgeable and we settled in with him. He did our returns for two seasons, and we call to see him for what would be our third season.
The receptionist-of-this-tax-season says, “#2 is no longer with us, but we do have a Tax Lady ready for you.”
This was getting tiresome. Google told us #2 went the same way as #1, and if we wanted to drive 40 miles, he too had a desk set up in his basement and was filing taxes.
Growing weary of this cycle Doug said, “Tax Lady will really have to sell us her value. This will be our third tax preparer since Crooked CPA started his side duty with the federal government.”
We walk in to meet Tax Lady and before we get to the receptionist we are assaulted by a cheap ass WalMart Vanilla plug-in. My nose begins to run. My eyes start to water and I grab a kleenex from my purse as the receptionist-of-this-tax-season ushers us back to our same room. The same one we always get, the one with the fluorescent lights and dull beige walls.
Tax Lady walks in. Although my eyes were watering from the WalMart plug-in I could tell she needed some wardrobe counseling. But, to her credit, she like #2 walked in with the previous two years returns in hard copy folders (because you know we wouldn’t want to invest in an iPad or maybe even a Toshiba laptop). She smiled and did the business person greeting opener, “Hi I’m Tax Lady, I’ve reviewed your returns and I am familiar with them.”
Ok. I was sold. She reviewed! She read! This lady was prepared. Forget the allergy attack from the plug-in. Forget the need for wardrobe counseling. I was all in, but I knew Doug wanted to interview her.
He says, “So Tax Lady, tell us your experience and why we should keep our business here.”
And to Tax Lady’s credit (again) she was not a CPA, but she highlighted her 15 years of experience and the accreditation she did have. She finished with, “I really have a passion for this. I enjoy it.”
No response from Doug. Silence.
This is something salespeople do. I don’t know the name for it. But it’s a psych move. It makes the talker person uncomfortable giving the edge to the person who is negotiating. I wasn’t real clear on what we were negotiating. I thought we were either gonna stay or go. It’s not like a car place where there’s wiggle room to discuss price point.
She broke the silence and said, “I’ll let you two talk,” and she got up and closed the door.
“I like her.” Doug didn’t have any argument against her so he said, “Ok.”
Tax Lady had our returns ready for review a week later. We smile say hi, and ask the pain pinch, “How much do we owe?”
It was bad. Like we owed the federal government half car as far as the dollar dent to our pocket book. She said, “Take them home. Review them. And when you’re ready come in and sign the form to e-file.”
Ugh. Half a car. That was going to be a painful check to write. A couple hours later I pull out the return and and look at the very first page.
There’s a line item where you thank God for all the children you bore, because this is the time you get money back. Not from God. From the government. In tax-talk, this is where you claim your dependents.
I yell from the kitchen to Doug’s office, “She has Madison listed as a dependent!”
Madison was twenty three.
Silence from Doug’s office.
If you aren’t with me, let me help. YOU CAN’T CLAIM A TWENTY THREE YEAR OLD AS A DEPENDENT! These are grown ass adults out on their own. They don’t depend on you anymore
Obviously, this was copied over from some ancient tax return and applied erroneously to this year’s return. What this meant was we were gonna OWE the government MORE money, like $1600.00 MORE. It was like adding nice rims to the half-car we were already in the hole for.
A pause. And then Doug yells back, “Ok, I’ll call Tax Lady and let her know.”
She verbally apologized. She email apologized. And that’s because unlike United Airlines, she felt responsible, and she took the blame for her actions. She even brought us a bottle of wine as a peace offering.
This year arrives. We call the firm to book an appointment, “Oh Tax Lady isn’t here anymore, but we have Mr Tax Man who used to work for the IRS.”
Ok, our seventh tax season. Our fifth tax person. But what’s to worry about? I mean, it’s all software, right? What could possibly go awry?
We arrive to meet Mr IRS Tax Man. Same WalMart vanilla plug in. Same room with beige walls and fluorescent lights.
Mr IRS Tax Man walks in. But wait. Stop. What’s the difference? He wasn’t carrying two thick folders with our previous year’s returns. He didn’t have paper and there were no pencils clipped in his pocket. Instead of shaking our hand and introducing himself, he sits down. And smiles. Pause. He looks at us. Pause. Says nothing.
Doug breaks the silence, “Hi, I’m Doug, this is my wife, Lisa”
What does he say? Not “Hello, I’m IRS Tax Man.” (It was like he was afraid of his own name.) Instead he says, “I know who you are.” And then he chuckled and looked at us, waiting for us to like maybe read him a story.
He fiddles with his fingers. Doug says, “We have our papers here.”
This was like a first date. An awkward baaaad first date.
Doug talks through our documentation and after he completes the paper presentation he politely asks, “Do you need to go get our files or write this down?”
“No. I got it all back there.”
“Back there?” Very ambiguous. Is back there your office? Maybe it’s a cavern. Maybe it’s a pit that swallowed all the pencils and papers. Back there sounded ominous, like something that ate things.
I walked out feeling uneasy but comforted myself with, it’s all software, just plug in numbers, what could possibly go wrong?
Review day arrives with Mr IRS Tax Man.
First page. Again. The dependent part.
“Uh, Mr. IRS Tax Man, you have a dependent in here, Doug’s son. He’s twenty years old.” Again, this is not the line to claim your adult children.
“Ok” And he walks off to his cavern “back there” to make a quick change. When he returns I found a big one.
“Uh. Mr IRS Tax Man, you are missing a $3800 deduction we talked about last week. The HSA contribution.” And I literally had to explain THREE times this was a contribution, not a disbursement, mentally calculating that his miss would have cost us roughly an extra $800 to the federal government, the price of an average set of tires that could go on the half car with new rims we gave them last year.
“Oh, I don’t know how I missed that.”
“I do. You didn’t bring a paper or pencil with you when we went over this,” I said in my brain.
Doug stepped in, “Why don’t we take these home and review them.”
IRS Tax Man smiles, “I’ll fix the things you just talked about, and if you find any thing else just email me.”
“So basically we are doing our own taxes and paying you. Is that how it works?” I said to my brain really loud hoping he could sense my irritation.
Yeah, there was more stuff. There four things I had questions about. He made some modifications and emailed, “….come back anytime to pick them up.”
I don’t know about you but, ‘anytime’ is not a word that I have on my work calendar. I have little slots of thirty minutes that might be available right now, but don’t blink, they may not be there when you open your eyes. But hey, if he had ‘anytime’ available, I’m taking AFTER work, before traffic begins. “Ok, we’ll do 4:30 on Monday.”
On the ride over we agreed, this was the absolute last year we were dealing with this firm. We were done!
I was relieved when we walked in the office. It was the last time to be assaulted by the WalMart Vanilla plug-in. We stood at the ticky-tacky welcome desk of painted paneling and wrote our last check for preparation fees, and signed the form giving the firm our permission to e-file the returns. As I’m signing my last curly que of my name, the receptionist reminded us , “We don’t file this electronically until 48 hours, so if you see something let us know.”
I heard her say it, but couldn’t imagine there would be anything to “see”. I just thought, “Ok, I hear you. Bye. See Ya. Never coming back” And I smiled, nodded my head, and walked out feeling like a 400 pound bar bell was lifted off my shoulders.
We arrived home I took out the forms and stood at the kitchen counter. And you don’t want to know….
‘DOUG!’ I yelled (mighta been a scream).
“Yeah,” he hesitantly yells back from the other room.
“He didn’t add the net profit from my websites, like we talked about. Bottom line we owe like $200 more in taxes. I’m scared to ask him to go fix it. Cause he could break something else.”
Still yelling, “We can can modify next year’s return. You ok with that?”
“Ok, and you know that potentially in the interim the IRS could require us to pay the tax, the hitch means they’rd be a 10% penalty on top. You ok with that?”
I just couldn’t bare one more conversation with those people. But yesterday happened.
I get a voice mail from a number I don’t recognize…”Hi it’s receptionist at the tax firm, I sent you and “Douglas” an email…”
I open the email:
’……there was a miscommunication between Mr IRS Tax Man and the filing lady. She SHREDDED the forms you signed thinking they were last years…..” and “we need you to sign them again…” then, then, wait, how did she close out?
“…have a nice day.”
I am not having a very nice day.