With the pandemic many CPA's are changing the way they do things. For the most part I don't need to make adjustments because most of my clients are located in other states or other countries and we have done things virtually for many years. In a previous post, I wrote that I would require clients that come to my office to wear a mask this year. Now with the pandemic getting increasingly worse, I am now planning not to see any clients face to face this tax season. So the question then is - how will that work?
For most of my clients things will remain the same as they already send me their stuff virtually and we communicate via phone, Zoom, Whatsapp, or email. This year all my interactions with clients will be without face to face in person contact.
Having a casual attitude about the pandemic can be costly. The scriptures wisely point out at Proverbs 22:3:
"The shrewd one sees the danger and conceals himself. But the inexperienced keep right on going and suffer the consequences."
So here are some options for my local clients.
Virtually or Electronically Exchanging Documents
Follow the same procedure my other clients follow and send me their information virtually and we can communicate via phone, Zoom, Whatsapp, or email. I use an online file sharing program to exchange documents and tax returns with my clients. Additionally my clients pay me electronically.
Using the Postal Service
Another option that a couple of my Texas clients use is to mail their documents to me. I then prepare their returns and send them back to them electronically via an online shared file or by email. I can also send them a digital copy of the information that they sent me. However, it is risky to mail original documents to me. They really should make and send me copies but they don't. After all, if they would make copies, they could scan electronic copies and send them digitally rather than through the mail. But I get it, they don't want to make copies or scan. But I also charge more when I receive paper that I have to scan. And then if I have to mail them back to the client that will be another up charge. I prefer my clients send everything to me digitally. But if you don't want to you can mail it to me and pay for the extra cost and time.
A Drop Box at My Office
Finally, my local clients can use a real drop box. Weather permitting I can put a box outside my office door and clients can drop off their tax information. When I am done I can send their tax returns to them via a file sharing service or by email. If they have to have a paper copy I can for an extra charge print their returns and setup a time for my clients to pick up their returns and their documents and then I can leave them in the drop box for them to pickup. I will keep my door locked but they can waive to me if they want. Additionally, the conversation about their taxes can then take place over the phone when they have their returns to look at. I don't like this option because it involves printing paper copies and that is not what I normally do for my clients. Even my Texas clients that mail their stuff to me don't mind receiving electronic copies of their returns.
So I am not planning to see clients in person this year. However, I will still have conversations with my clients about their situations and their returns. Nothing is changing for most of my clients. For my local clients I will be interested to see their response to this new procedure for them. I am sure some will love it and some won't like it, and that is OK. I am sure there will some local preparers that will offer the in person option for them. They will probably have to drive a half hour or so each way to drop off their stuff and then go back to pick up their returns.
When it comes to paying me I prefer to be paid electronically as well but I can take a check if necessary. When it comes to electronic payments I prefer to be paid via Zelle or Venmo but I can also send an invoice electronically that can be paid via a credit or debit card.
Safety Precautions For Handling Paper Documents and Paper Returns
To add some value for my clients that will receive copies of their tax returns by mail, here are some suggestions I found in a WebMD article.
When receiving paper documents either sent through the mail or picked up at my office there are recommendations to provide a level of protection against the pandemic. But first note this observation from the article:
"Keep in mind that researchers still have a lot to learn about the new coronavirus. But you’re probably more likely to catch it from being around someone who has it than from touching a contaminated surface."
Here is another observation about paper:
"Examples: mail, newspaper
The length of time varies. Some strains of coronavirus live for only a few minutes on paper, while others live for up to 5 days."
Here is another one about a delivered newspaper which would seem to apply to delivered paper documents as well:
"Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after you visit the drugstore or supermarket or bring in takeout food or a delivered newspaper."
And finally here is a suggestion about receiving things in the mail:
"The virus probably won’t survive the time it takes for mail or other shipped items to be delivered. The highest risk comes from the person delivering them. Limit your contact with delivery people as much as you can. You might also leave packages outside for a few hours or spray them with a disinfectant before bringing them in. Wash your hands after you handle mail or a package."
I am looking out for the best interests of my clients, myself and my family, and my community. This will mean some inconvenience but we value life and act accordingly.
If you want my help in preparing your tax returns this year then contact me using my email address below to arrange a conversation via the phone, Zoom, or Whatsapp.
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Be careful when reading about tax law and its application, including my articles, because the wording and definitions are such a challenge and are influenced by writers perspective, specifically his own clients situations that he is mindful of and other situations the writer is not thinking of. The point is talk to your CPA about your situation and circumstances and don't rely on or make conclusions based on articles you read, including articles form irs.gov, because concepts and definitions are not very clear, and of course, they are subject to change. Now is the time to be having discussions about your situation and developing strategies for you and your business. Again, contact me using my information above to discuss your situation. I help business owners all over the U.S. and in foreign countries with their tax returns.