The National Association of Enrolled Agents asked its tax experts the best practices clients should follow when working with a tax professional, and gave some helpful advice from an online survey whose results were released Monday.

Twenty percent of the enrolled agents surveyed by the NAEA strongly agreed with the notion that all clients should sort their documents using an organizer or organizing system provided by their tax professional, while 21 percent agreed with the statement that “it is impractical to expect new clients to organize their materials using the system with which I am most comfortable.”

However, 47 percent strongly agreed with the statement, “I work more effectively with clients who are willing to learn and adjust the way they organize their documents so that I can serve them better.” In addition, 51 percent strongly agree that taxpayers should schedule an appointment with tax professionals early in the filing season to avoid undesirable outcomes.

NAEA survey on tax pro tips for clients

“Your willingness to adapt the way you organize your tax documents will help you get the best result from your work with a tax professional, often at a lower cost,” said NAEA President James Adelman in a statement. “Have a conversation with your tax professional at the outset to clarify expectations and preferences on all sides.”

Eighty-three percent of tax pros said clients should use separate bank accounts for business and personal funds, while 81 percent recommended clients should keep their receipts in case their tax returns are examined, and 75 percent said clients should use a mileage log or smartphone app to record the business miles they have driven.

Identifying preferred communication channels and technologies is crucial, along with respecting deadlines and sharing time-sensitive information promptly are also essential. Ninety-six percent of the enrolled agents polled said clients should notify tax pros as soon as they receive a letter or notice from the IRS, while 82 percent said they should tell tax pros about significant life changes such as a retirement or divorce. Eighty percent said clients should consult with tax pros before starting a side job, while 78 percent said clients shouldn’t respond to notices from the IRS without consulting a tax pro.

Enrolled agents prefer to maintain a professional relationship with clients. The survey found 83 percent of the enrolled agents polled agreeing with the statement that advice from tax pros may be quite different from the tips that clients get from friends. Seventy percent of tax pros said their clients should not expect to get the same refund that a neighbor or coworker told them they had received, while 69 percent said “same as last year” is not an acceptable answer to questions from tax pros. In addition, 60 percent said tax pros cannot tell clients how the new tax bill impact their 2018 taxes until they run the numbers, while 52 percent agreed that a “quick question” a client asks a tax pro rarely has a quick or simple answer.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access

Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn, editor-in-chief of AccountingToday.com, has been covering business and technology for a variety of publications since 1985.