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Rick Telberg
Rick Telberg
  Recession Stalks Tax Season 09

CPAs react to tough times. How are firms planning to celebrate April 15th? Join the Busy Season 2009 survey; see the results.

March 23, 2009
by Rick Telberg/On Careers

As Tax Season 2009 rumbles toward its climax on April 15, practitioners are suddenly reporting a mounting list of problems — most them stemming from an uncertain and increasingly grim economy.

Tax accountants are scrambling to keep up with skittish clients and tardy forms and information. Many are making allowances and concessions to economically-strapped customers by delaying or extending payment terms. Others are requiring some clients to pay up-front.

In Lithonia, Ga., for example, soloist Sabrina M. Batts at the Batts Tax Service Center tells me that this season is marked by “clients having a lack of money to pay for fees,” adding, “This the slowest season I have every seen.” As a result, she’s “making clients leave post-dated checks.”

HOW WILL YOU CELEBRATE THE END OF BUSY SEASON?

After a tough year, CPAs plan a little rest and recreation.
What are your plans?

Join the Busy Season 2009 survey; see the results.

(Free. Confidential.)

For the second year in a row, CPA C.J. Spady has been giving a 10-percent discount to clients bringing their information prior to February 13.  It worked great last year. But this year it took more “hustle,” Spady says, to get their information.

CPA Patricia A. Beckwith has been offering a 10 percent early-bird discount for clients who scheduled their appointment before March 1 this year, to help spread out the work. “I was very surprised how many clients took advantage of the offer,” she says.

Meanwhile, she is monitoring expenditures continuously. “Before I spend I ask myself, ‘Is this expense necessary and beneficial?’ ” Also, at the conclusion of each tax appointment, she says, “I look my client right in the eye, thank them and tell them how much I appreciate their business. And it's true!”

Nancy Livingston at N.A. Livingston Co. in Mesa, Ariz., says people are coming in sooner than in previous years. But she’s telling them that “due to the economic situation, I will not e-file the return until I get paid.” She reports no problems with that approach so far.

In Eden Prairie, Minn., Michael L. Puklich feels lucky to have more new clients than last year. And his best advice to colleagues is simply: “Give your clients the best service possible in order for then to have faith in you.”

But Bill Fitch at Fitch Green & Associates, Grand Junction, Colo., is reporting some collections problems on old accounts receivable. He senses “an ‘atmosphere of gloom’ and a fear of ‘higher taxes coming’.” He’s not giving clients the option of paying later. They need to pay now and pay monthly or he stops stop working on the returns.

In Severn, Md., Katrina Geety is worried about outright client failures. They’re dealing with the complexity of canceled debt issues personally and going concern issues for privately-owned companies.

She’s “praying that the economy turns around and there is some relief for privately-owned businesses.” Her advice: “Collect your fees in advance for companies and individuals that are financially challenged no matter how close a relationship you have with them.” Your $1,000 bill could be someone’s paycheck for a week.

Indeed, in this tax season, prayer may help. But in cash we trust.

HOW WILL YOU CELEBRATE THE END OF BUSY SEASON? Join the Busy Season 2009 survey; see the results.

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Copyright © 2009 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. First published by the AICPA.