My accountant, Marc Asher, (www.asher-simons.com) sent me a postcard with this Jeopardy!-like question: What are the good, the bad, and the ugly? The answer? The holiday season, tax season, and seeing your accountant.
He informed me of his firm's ungodly work schedule over the next three months and said that "operators are standing by" just waiting to schedule my annual appointment with him. Which leads me to my accountant's #2 pet peeve: being late for your tax appointment.
Marc told me that his firm literally schedules back-to-back appointments over the course of those three months. Everyone's taxes are due on the same day. Getting behind schedule is simply not an option. When you are late for your appointment, you shortchange yourself in the amount of time you can spend with your accountant. When you (and he or she) have to rush, there is a greater likelihood that you will overlook something – maybe something that could cost you money or could have saved you money.
NOW do I have your attention? Good.
Some organization prior to your appointment will help keep you on schedule this year:
· If you do not already have an appointment calendar or a planner that you use consistently, now is the time to get one – and start using it consistently. That means that you need to write down EVERY APPOINTMENT in it. Paper or plastic? It doesn't matter. A paper calendar is just as reliable as an electronic one. Whichever you choose, choose only one, and remember to use it!
· You also need to remember to CHECK YOUR CALENDAR at the beginning and end of every day to remind yourself of your scheduled appointments. Stop relying on your memory to remember appointments. Capture them all in a system you trust, and get into the habit of checking it daily.
· If your accountant is nice enough to provide you with a tax organizer booklet, then use it! In the days prior to your appointment (don't even think about waiting until the last minute) answer the questions in it, gather the relevant documents, and fill in the blanks with your 2007 income and deductible expense figures. Yes, it does take some preparation time to do this, but it will save you some of that billable time with your accountant. And you're going to have to give him the information anyway, so you might as well go ahead and do it now.
· Put your tax documents in an envelope or file folder and put them next to the door the night before your appointment.
· Do a Mapquest search to calculate how long it will take you to drive to your accountant's office. Add extra time if you'll be traveling during rush hour or will need time to find a parking place. If your appointment is at 11:00, for example, and it will take you 45 minutes to get there and to park, then you need to leave your home by 10:15.
With some advance preparation, your tax appointment won't be quite so ugly this year.
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