Originally published October 7, 2013
“I crossed that intersection
Truck came in my direction
Crashed – then the driver said:
“Look out, can’t you see that light is red?”
Now he tells me
Now he tells me
People wait until it’s much too late
Now he tells me”
Now He Tells Me” – The Nat King Cole Trio
I think we all know someone who gives advice (or worse yet – criticism) after the fact. Their wisdom is uncannily correct…after the situations have already played out. There was actually a TV character dubbed Captain Hindsight whose superpower was 20/20 hindsight vision. These words of counsel are of little use to us. As Adam Sandler said in The Wedding Singer: “Once again: things that could have been brought to my attention YESTERDAY!”
All right, enough with my pop culture references. The point being, these things are at best not helpful, and at worst irritating and damaging – even in personal situations. Where they become somewhat unforgiveable are in professional situations. In my practice I have heard two main complaints from clients about the accounting firms they had previously used:
- Their CPAs were not personable, spoke to them in jargon and legalese, and were often rude and condescending when the client asked a question.
- All of the advice was given after the fact. The accountants would berate them for things that were done wrong but had offered no help beforehand on how to correct or avoid the situation.
The first is extremely unfortunate, but you can almost understand it for a profession that is centered on technical expertise – not interpersonal skills. Some stereotypes can have a degree of basis in truth and accountants are consistently depicted as awkward, pocket protector-wearing nerds. Having had great relationships with many very outgoing and affable CPAs, I know that is not always be the case.
But let’s say for the sake of argument (and…to be perfectly honest about it) that perhaps on the average accountants are not those with the most dynamic or dazzling of demeanors.
But what I find more inexcusable is the second point – the “after the fact” fault-finding. As CPAs, we are often looked to as trusted business advisors – providing guidance in very technical, difficult-to-understand areas. The clients are fantastic at the core of their own business and area of expertise – and merely need some assistance with the financial side of the business. Simple.
And yet, this is the complaint I get more than any other: CPAs chastise their clients for their errors come tax time, but offered no help or planning beforehand to avoid these mistakes. Worse yet – they sometimes offer no advice at all!
I am the opposite. My favorite things to do are tax planning and business advisory services. Iwant to help my clients to succeed. I want to help them plan and strategize. I want to do anything I can to help their businesses thrive and assist them in making the most informed decisions possible. A comprehensive cash projection before making a major financial decision can avoid catastrophe in the future. Proper payroll administration can avoid massive penalties. And from a tax standpoint the possibilities are endless! Strategic entity formation, tactical asset acquisition and depreciation, industry specific deductions and credits, making sure no legitimate expenses are missed, etc. – there are countless things that can be done to legally reduce tax burden if you take the proper steps beforehand.
That’s I why I always try to stress the importance of getting the proper advice throughout the year. Most of my business/corporate clients are on a monthly and (generally) one hour review of their records. I do financial and ratio analysis, tax planning, look for IRS red flags, and just examine the general health of the company. And I do this at my already affordable rates. (And not to boast, but if there were ever a business expense that paid for itself many times over – this is it. No kidding.)\
I view myself as a part of my clients’ companies. I view their success as my own and will do anything that I reasonably can to help them succeed. And giving timely advice is one of the most important ways to help them in that manner. Furthermore, I do it with the understanding that these are complicated issues. These are difficult things to understand. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be in business! There are no stupid questions. I give my clients all of the help they need and speak to them as the people they are – intelligent people who simply happen to not be trained in the intricacies of accountancy!
Please visit me online at FraimCPA.com or call me at (540) 314-0345 if you have any questions or would like to schedule your free consultation.
IRS Circular 230 Notice: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code.