To each his own. And all’s fair in love, war and “Behind Closed Doors Wednesdays.”Robert Flach, a Jersey City, N.J., accountant who holds a masters in taxation, has been in the business for 36 years since inheriting the tax prep business of his mentor. He already had a couple of returns completed when I talked to him earlier in the week, and expects to complete around 400 by the time the season is over.
But here are a few of the “Important Reminders” Flach outlines on his Web site, www.robertdflach.net, starting with my personal favorite:
- Every Wednesday in February and March is BEHIND CLOSED DOORS WEDNESDAY. I will be unavailable and inaccessible on Wednesdays during the tax season. My phone and fax will be unplugged on Wednesdays and I will not be checking my email.
- I never answer the telephone without first screening the call via my answering machine -- so don't hang up because I may be listening (except on Wednesdays)!
- Do not attempt to contact me at any other phone number ... This is my only telephone number!
- Returns that are not literally in my hands, with all the necessary information, by March 31, 2007 will be automatically extended.
- I will not be responsible for any late payment penalties on returns that were not literally in my hands, with all the necessary information, by March 31, 2007.
- Before you send me your "stuff" be sure to make and keep a photocopy of all your 2006 Form W-2s.
- When sending me an email be very specific in the "Subject" line. If you need a copy of your W-2 - write "Need Copy of W-2". If you have received additional info -- write "Additional Info."
- If you have a question on a completed return -- write "Question on Finished Return." I do not have the time during the season to read and respond to "Are We There Yet?" emails.
Without a secretary, and still preparing every return by hand, Flach said that it’s necessary to work within those guidelines. By choice, he only works during the roughly 10-week tax season, though we will take on the occasional client outside of those months. He noted that when he’s putting in 12-hour days, he needs to be as efficient as possible.And It’s not that he’s technologically adverse, just that he doesn’t see the need to invest thousands upfront in software costs that he’d have to pass on to his clients -- likely raising his fees by at least 50 percent. Flach has maintained a pair of blogs for the past five years using TypePad -- The Wandering Tax Pro (http://wanderingtaxpro.blogspot.com) and the N.J. Tax Practice Blog (http://njtaxpractice.blogspot.com).
Flach, who promptly returned my non-“Behind-Closed-Doors-Wednesday” call, said he’s yet to receive any pushback from clients about his guidelines. “I have them trained pretty well by now,” he laughed.
It’s a funny little story, but even if a practitioner doesn’t see the need to operate like the Great and Powerful Oz, Flach’s site does serve to highlight a no-nonsense competitive differentiator -- and that there’s nothing wrong with setting client expectations, especially during the most hectic time of year.
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