So, that was a bit awkward ...

Members share their cringe-worthy moments with clients

Corey Butler, MNCPA communications coordinator | February/March 2017 Footnote

We've all had them -- an unreasonable demand, an ultra-tight deadline. Those are the moments that make your eyeballs pop out of your head and your insides cringe.

For public practitioners, the cringe-worthy moments come in the form of quirky clients: the ones who are unorganized, difficult to work with and constantly calling.

In the annual MNCPA Tax Survey, we asked public practitioners to share their awkward encounters with clients. We figured it couldn't get much worse than when clients show up with shoeboxes full of receipts. Boy, were we wrong!

We outline the good, the bad and the smelly below. It just proves, once again, how amazing our members are.

Enjoy reading these uncomfortable moments, and take comfort in knowing you're not the only one.

You store those receipts where?

Compared to some responses, the shoebox-filing system may be welcomed! Here are some "record-keeping" doozies:

  • Picnic baskets, each one containing records for a separate property.
  • Grocery bags stored inside a barn (the chicken feathers and manure smell were not properly substantiated).
  • An old computer box with Quickbooks 2004 data -- no monitor, no drive, just headaches.
  • Kitty litter pans (brand new, but still).
  • Boxes of checkbooks to recreate five-years' worth of records.
  • Wheeling a two-drawer filing cabinet into the office

Wasn't expecting that one

Papers, receipts and records are expected. But members have come across some strange items as well:

  • A tooth found among the receipts in a shoebox.
  • An envelope containing client documents and Cheez-It crackers.
  • Having a client's Quickbooks password be, ahem, a four-letter word.
  • Wanting to pay with products. (Fresh eggs, anyone?)
  • Showing up in revealing gym attire after a strenuous workout.

Wake me from this nightmare

Some quirks are tolerable. Then there are the clients who do things that make you want to scream!

  • Calling just before the deadline and expecting the return to be filed without an extension.
  • Going off the grid for weeks leading up to the tax deadline.
  • Showing up at your home office at odd hours of the day.
  • Claiming to know more about tax law than you.
  • Expecting numbers to be made up when they don't have records.
  • Saying, "If you do your job right, I don't have to write any checks on April 15."
  • Starting a new S Corporation without telling you.

Is this in the job description?

Good relationships with clients are key. But, maybe some things just cross a line.

  • Clients asking for feedback on their plastic surgery and whether it can be deducted.
  • Being a marriage counselor when spouses start to argue in your office.
  • Being asked to appear in court on a custody and support case.

C'mere, let's hug it out

You may cringe when it happens, but nothing stops you from helping a client in need.

  • When clients show up who haven't filed for 10-20 years.
  • A divorced client comes to you and has no idea about the tax preparation process.
  • Clients who lose all their records due to a flood.

When you find adjustments on clients' tax returns that don't agree with the books, and the client doesn't know why their former preparer made the changes.

Tax Survey answers play a part in the MNCPA's annual public relations campaign, Tax Campaign. The feedback is modified into educational media stories to promote the CPA profession, and position CPAs as the most trusted experts in tax planning services and beyond. If you have questions about the MNCPA's Tax Survey or Tax Campaign, contact MNCPA Communications Manager Carolyn LaViolette at claviolette@mncpa.org.