Tax accountants might work with numbers, but we are in a people business. You will run into good and bad clients in all professions. But the following professions tend to cause CPA firms more grief on average than others. If you are assigned a client in one of these area then look at the prior year files to see if the client tends to cause a problem for the firm.
The nice thing about working with doctors is that they do not pretend to know anything about taxes. They are accustomed to delegating tasks outside of their specialty and having the issue handled. The problem with doctor clients is that they have become used to being the center of attention in their medical practice. Therefore, many of them expect you to move their project to the top of the list because that is how it works in their profession. I was once working with a doctor who was annoyed the IRS was not moving fast enough in approving his organization’s nonprofit application. Therefore, he had me give him the IRS’ phone number so that he could have his congressman call to make the IRS rush the application. I doubt the IRS agent changed his timeline on the project. But you get the idea.
Unlike doctors, there are many engineers who have decided that being an engineer also makes them a CPA. They will be happy to tell you their interpretation of the Internal Revenue Code and decide to tell you what they think are technical errors on the return you prepared. I had a former coworker tell me a story of an engineer that called to complain to him that every number on his tax return was wrong because the numbers on the tax return were rounded to dollars instead of including the pennies.
Construction clients tend to be a problem because CPAs try to negotiate from a reasonable position instead of an extreme position. However, construction contractors are accustomed to heated discussions with subcontractors and clients on a regular basis. They operate in a business in which the final contract is merely the “opening offer”. As a result, many of them will argue over the tax due and the bill regardless of whether they understand the tax law or appreciate the time you spent on the return. They are used to giving and receiving discounts, so they will expect the same from you.
As with doctors, these clients can be a problem because they are used to getting their way. The difference in sole proprietors from doctors is that sole proprietors will be happy to tell you how to do your job. Unlike engineers, sole proprietors will only give you grief when they think that you have made them pay too much tax. They will never tell you to do anything that will increase their tax liability. If you get stuck doing their personal estimated taxes then make them pay the safe harbor amount or get in writing that they understand that they are responsible for any interest and penalties.
Let me know in the comments section which professions cause you grief in your practice and any other topics you think I should cover in this area.
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