Frequently Asked Questions
- Do you charge for “Meet-n-Greet” appointments?
- Do you charge for tax consultation appointments?
- How much do you charge for tax return preparation?
- Will you quote the cost to prepare my income tax return in advance?
- Do you prepare tax returns while we wait?
- Do you review the completed tax return with your clients?
- Do you require payment for preparing a tax return when a client drops off their information?
- What do you charge for representing a taxpayer before a government agency?
- What government agencies do you represent clients before?
- How do you charge for financial services?
- Do you provide guidance on Social Security?
- Do you provide guidance on Medicare?
Do you charge for “Meet-n-Greet” appointments?
No, we do not. You can anticipate the content of such meetings to be:
- If tax related, what is the difference between Enrolled Agents and other tax professionals?
- What is our background and/or credentials?
- What has your prior experience been with other professionals for the services you are inquiring about?
- What is your situation and therefore what expertise do you need?
- Do we think that our competency aligns well with the needs of your situation?
Note that at such an appointment we will not delve into the specifics of your situation, what the resolutions might be, what the outcomes would be, etc.? (If you desire such an appointment, please make it clear that it is a “meet-n-greet” appointment so that we are both on the same page.)
Do you charge for tax consultation appointments?
Yes. We usually spend over a thousand dollars each year on education to endeavor to be current on changes in the tax law and knowledgeable in our targeted range of tax topics. A tax consultation is the opportunity to surgically extract applicable information from that training and our experience and to apply it to your specific situation. Like other professionals, we charge for applying our knowledge to your situation.
We offer different preparation packages for individual returns that include varying amounts of consultation and representation. Our gold package includes monitoring your account at the IRS to spot any problem in advance of a notification. We can then address the issue before the IRS does and usually avoid penalties.
How much do you charge for tax return preparation?
Common questions, but difficult to answer. It is akin to calling and asking the cost to repair a car when it makes an odd noise.
The cost for preparation of a tax return can vary widely based on the complexity and breadth of the tax return. In general, we first calculate the cost of the tax return by which forms are used, and in some cases, how much information is needed for the form in your situation. We at times adjust that price based on other issues related to the tax return such as needed research for uncommon situations.
Will you quote the cost to prepare my income tax return in advance?
This is a great question, and we certainly identify with the anxiety of engaging a service from a new firm. But we also find it very difficult to estimate the cost of a return very accurately; there are too often surprises that appear once we get into the details.
What we will do is rough in your prior year’s income tax return and give you an idea of what we would have charged for that return (based on the assumption that it was correctly prepared). Then you have an idea of what the likely cost is based on your own knowledge of how much your tax situation changed.
Do you prepare tax returns while we wait?
Generally, we prefer to collect your information, then after you leave we prepare the return, have the other EA in our office review the return, then have you pick it up. We think this gives us the best opportunity to thoroughly look at all the issues of your return and have a second set of eyes review the return before we declare it “Done.” That also means you’re not sitting in our office while we work on your return. For very basic tax returns we will occasionally prepare the return while you wait.
Do you review the completed tax return with your clients?
Some tax return preparation services do not provide this service. It is always available from us if you desire the review. In some cases, a client’s tax situation is very similar to the prior year and the client will opt to just stop by to sign and pay for the return with our receptionist. But in some cases, we insist on a review if we see something that merits a conversation.
We have numerous clients that are not local to our area. Most make use of our secure portal to exchange documents. The review provisions are the same except we use a computer screen sharing technology.
Do you require payment for preparing a tax return when a client drops off their information?
When preparing prior or multiple years for a new client we require prepayment toward the cost of the tax return preparation. Returning clients pay for our tax return preparation when the return is completed. For new clients on a current year tax return it will vary depending on a number of factors.
Payment for services is due when the tax return is complete, i.e., we expect you to pay for our service when you pick up the return. We do not facilitate the high-cost refund loans that enable us to collect our fee from your refund.
What do you charge for representing a taxpayer before a government agency?
In general, we bill for representation work at our current hourly rate. Some situations merit a “fishing expedition” to collect information from the IRS that better frames your current situation. That is done at a fixed price, but it does not include any resolution work. For representation work we do require payment in advance.
Each representation engagement begins with a short discussion about the situation, reviewing government letters received, etc. to see if it is a situation where we can help. This generally requires about 20 minutes and there is no charge for that time if we do not take the engagement.
How do you charge for financial services?
Financial professionals may be compensated in at least four different models. Some financial professionals will offer an hourly consultation service to provide guidance for what you should do. In those cases, the investor is responsible for implementing whatever action is needed.
Some financial planners will offer a complete thorough financial plan for a fixed fee. That plan examines your complete financial situation and makes recommendations on what you should do to improve your situation or protect against your financial vulnerabilities. Then you are responsible to take the needed action.
Both of these models suffer from the fact that life happens. Not long after an investor gets their "answer," their situation changes and the guidance they received may no longer be applicable. This is a significant reason that we do not offer either of those services.
Another compensation model is based on commissions for the sale of specific products. In some cases the regulations do not permit any other business model (e.g., insurance product, 529 Plans). Often these financial professionals are called "brokers" as they broker a transaction involving a financial product, and in some cases they make recommendations on what to purchase. A broker may not have fiduciary responsibilities for your investments. We offer services in this model where required.
A fourth compensation model is a periodic fee as a percentage of the invested amount being managed. In this capacity the proper title is "financial advisor" and the advisor does have full fiduciary responsibility. Very little of the service relates to choosing specific stocks, bonds, or funds, but rather to ensure that the volatility of the portfolio is matched well to the risk tolerance of the investor (including managing the susceptibility to bear market moves). This type of brokerage account often has access to better investments than can be purchased in a standard brokerage account. The relationship requires meeting to review current objectives at least annually. This model represents the bulk of our financial business and we include the review and maintenance of a financial plan for those clients who have co-developed one as well as advice on Social Security.
Do you provide guidance on Social Security?
We do provide Social Security assistance in multiple ways. Richard is a National Social Security Adviser Certificate Holder and delivers this service. Twice a year (non-COVID) Richard teaches a class at the Santa Rosa Junior College through their Continuing Education Program. He also provides private consultation for a fee. (Individuals who have taken his Social Security class at SRJC receive a discount for this consultation.) Such consultation is included with the services Richard provides to clients with Advisory accounts as an important part of the overall retirement planning process.
Do you provide guidance on Medicare?
Sorry, but we don’t know how to spell Medicare.
You can get dependable information from the local Senior Advocacy Services "HICAP" - https://senioradvocacyservices.org/hicap/. They also provide seminars to help you learn about the program. The government also provides a booklet that explains the program.
Alternatively, we recommend you work with an agent that brokers health insurance. You may want to speak to more than one in an effort to ensure you are working with someone who will take the time to communicate effectively with you.