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Just curious as to how your accountant conducts your meetings.

DBF went to H and R block last year and he told me they entered his information directly into a computer. His was a simple 1040ez and it took 20 minutes. He efiled and had his refund in a week or two.
The accountant I've been seeing for the past two years also types in my information onto a computer at the time of our meeting. It takes roughly 1.5 hours. A large part of that time was watching him plug numbers into his computer since he can't talk and work at the same time. A long visit, but at the end I had a rough idea of how much I owed. The final and preliminary numbers were never exactly the same, but in the same ball park.
I switched accountants this year. We met this last weekend and we talked over a pad of paper and pencil. It was a much more fluent conversation. I gave him my information with a short description. I asked questions, he asked questions. And I was outta there in about 35 minutes. Of course, I don't know what my bottom line is just yet. A minor nuisance I think compared to the time saved.

So which is more efficient, crunching the numbers during the meeting or aftter?
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So which is more efficient, crunching the numbers during the meeting or aftter?

The only return prep I do, other than for a couple of friends, is the free VITA program. We prepare and e-file the return during the client's one visit to the site. I'll leave it to the pros to answer your question.

I have a question for DBF. Why in the world is he paying Block to file an EZ? He could sit down online and do it himself for free in 10 minutes. Do him a favor and wake him up.

Phil
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So which is more efficient, crunching the numbers during the meeting or aftter?

I do both, depending on the client. My goal is to minimize the number of times we have to go back and forth looking for missing information. The better organized the client, the more likely that I'll do the data entry outside of the meeting.

Ira
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I do both, depending on the client and the return.

Most of my return clients are fairly well prepared, and it doesn't take that long to do the data entry while they are in my office. (I can talk and work at the same time.) A few take some further research but I usually do as much of the data entry while they are there as I can, and skip over the things that they need to get more info for me, or that I need to research myself. That way they leave with an idea of where they are, and a specific list of things that I still need. I really hate to ask them for something and then have to call back and ask for something else after I get the first thing.
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I'm with Rose and Ira. I do some of both.

Often, I'll crunch the numbers and send the clients off with a finished tax return. Sometimes, we'll find something missing and they'll have to get back to me. I am able to mostly carry on a conversation while inputting the numbers, so hopefully it isn't too painful to sit there.

I prefer to touch the work as few times as possible. Every time you set it aside and pick it up again later, it takes a while to get your head back around the return. And that is an ineffeciency that either makes the return more expensive than it should be, or costs me in time I can't bill to the client.

I also have some clients who just can't sit still long enough to do anything. They just want to drop off their stuff and run. For them, I'll make a quick pass through the info they provided to look for obvious missing info or things that need further explanation, then send them on their way.

In terms of overall efficiency, I prefer to have the client there while I input the numbers and just get the return done. For most folks, I can get them in and out in about an hour. That's enough time to handle a basic return with itemized deductions and a well-organized schedule C or E.

Another model I've heard about but never seen is one more like a doctor's office. The client goes into an interview room and meets first with a paraprofessional who takes care of much of the basic work - address changes, W-2s, interest and dividends, itemized deductions, things like that. Then they leave and let the preparer come in to finish the interview and the return. The preparer gets all of the technical questions (is this person really a dependent?) and reviews the work of the paraprofessional. If everything is in order, they finish up the return and send the client back out to the waiting room while a secretary assembles the return and collects the fee.

Has anyone been in that kind of setting? Either as a client or a tax preparer?

--Peter
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Another model I've heard about but never seen is one more like a doctor's office. The client goes into an interview room and meets first with a paraprofessional who takes care of much of the basic work - address changes, W-2s, interest and dividends, itemized deductions, things like that. Then they leave and let the preparer come in to finish the interview and the return. The preparer gets all of the technical questions (is this person really a dependent?) and reviews the work of the paraprofessional. If everything is in order, they finish up the return and send the client back out to the waiting room while a secretary assembles the return and collects the fee.

Has anyone been in that kind of setting? Either as a client or a tax preparer?


This is basically the way my VITA site operates, absent the fee.

The client first deals with the receptionist, who gives them forms to fill out.

The client next deals with a screener who makes sure that the client has all the necessary documents and meets income limitations. They go over the intake forms to make sure everything's been completed.

The preparer then deals with technical issues and creates the return.

Once the return has been through quality review it's printed and the paperwork processed.

All this is terrific, in theory, if there are sufficient volunteers and everything's working right. Last Saturday we were short-handed, and we couldn't get the network up. I wound up preparing only two returns, spending the rest of my 4 hours doing quality review, helping people with the software, and waiting for someone to come take the data off my machine so the return could be printed.

Here's hoping next Saturday will be more productive.

Phil
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Another model I've heard about but never seen is one more like a doctor's office. The client goes into an interview room and meets first with a paraprofessional who takes care of much of the basic work - address changes, W-2s, interest and dividends, itemized deductions, things like that. Then they leave and let the preparer come in to finish the interview and the return. The preparer gets all of the technical questions (is this person really a dependent?) and reviews the work of the paraprofessional. If everything is in order, they finish up the return and send the client back out to the waiting room while a secretary assembles the return and collects the fee.

Has anyone been in that kind of setting? Either as a client or a tax preparer?


This is basically the way my VITA site operates, absent the fee.


Mine too, only our screeners are supposed to be checking whether the clients qualify for any of several other programs designed to help low income people in various categories. Our screeners will also help clients get their free credit report.

All this is terrific, in theory, if there are sufficient volunteers and everything's working right. Last Saturday we were short-handed, and we couldn't get the network up. I wound up preparing only two returns, spending the rest of my 4 hours doing quality review, helping people with the software, and waiting for someone to come take the data off my machine so the return could be printed.

Ah, the joys of volunteer work using donated resources! If the network is totally down, tax returns aren't going to get done at our site. We have one computer that wasn't seeing the network last Saturday or last Monday; I'll look to see if this has been fixed when I go in this evening.

OTOH, I feel like I'm very productive when most of my time is spent doing quality review and helping other preparers with the software. This is something I can do that frees up the site manager for other tasks, and the site manager position is clearly our most scarce resource.

Patzer

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