Just Remember That It’s Tax Season for Me, Too

Mar 29th 2018
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We’ve got just a little more than two weeks left before the April 17 tax filing deadline.

It’s very hard for me to sit still.

Not to rub it in to Northerners, but we are in Florida. Like many Floridaians, we have a pool in the backyard. My wife likes to go in the pool and float on her back. Her body just goes limp, and she can float on her back for several minutes. I would watch her from the house and she looked so relaxed. A few summers ago, I decided to try my hand at floating. My wife’s instructions were: “Just let your body go limp.”

Obviously, it wasn’t my first time trying to float, but I hadn’t tried it in many years. I proceeded to just let my body go limp and float on the water. I tried several times. My wife began to giggle at me, stating “you’re just too tense. Loosen up.” Long story short, I just couldn’t let my body go limp.

Interestingly enough, my tax season started very early. In mid-December, I had surgery. I thought that the surgical timeline was perfect. I would be recovering from surgery, when the new tax law was passed. I told myself that I would have nothing but time to pour through the entire law. In fact, I was able to do just that, pour through the new code. I figured I would be so far ahead of everyone else, which I was.

However, something happened that I didn’t account for. There was still some patchwork that Congress didn’t address in the new law. I knew that another patch was coming. At the beginning of January, I decided, against doctor’s orders, to go back to work. This caused me to have a major setback. I had no choice but to retreat back to my house to fully recover. I instructed my staff to hold off on anything tax related, and I would handle it when I got back in the office.

With all of that going on, a comedy of errors began. First, my laptop stopped working. My mother used to describe me as a “bull in a China cabinet.” That means exactly what you think it means. I am very clumsy. I don’t think the word clumsy fully describes my issues. I am just awkward, I guess. I buy a laptop every year. I’ll either drop it, throw it, or something boneheaded. I fully believe that extended warranties are a sucker’s bets, but the last time I bought a computer, my wife made me buy one.

I’ve had my laptop now for two years, and it has been back to the store three times, before the last time. In short, I got my money’s worth out of that warranty. This last time it went in, I asked the lady behind the counter what would happen if it cost the store more money to fix my laptop than it was worth. She stated that they would just give me the depreciable value of the laptop, and call it a day. I knew that this fourth time of being in repair, I would get that call from the store stating that they would just give me credit toward a new laptop.

It was toward the end of January that my laptop had to be repaired, leaving me with my iPad Pro as my main device. Anyone with an iPad Pro will tell you that, despite commercials saying otherwise, it is not ready to overtake computers. Yes, you can do most things, but the apps are limited as to what they can do. For instance, I get about 250 emails a day in the offseason and about 400 a day during the season. I am OCD. To get that many emails in a day, I have to sort them into separate folders denoting essential and nonessential emails. This was never a problem with the desktop version of Microsoft Outlook, but six years ago we switched to Office 365. The rules that I set for my email sometimes work and, other times, don’t. I queried Microsoft as to why this was happening, and I was told that my email folders were just too large.

Somewhere along the way, Microsoft and Apple decided to play nice, and you can download all of the Office apps for the iPad. However, they are just apps, meaning they are stripped-down versions of the actual program and some features of the program are not available with the app. One of those is that you can’t define rules for your email. Of course, all of my rules decide to reset, and every single email is clogging my inbox, during tax season. Without my laptop, I am left to slowly go insane, as my inbox fills up day after day.

The first day of efile comes, and I’m feeling much better, but I don’t have my computer. The work starts to pile up. One morning while getting dressed for work, I hear the news, which my wife is watching in the bedroom. There appears to be a government shutdown looming.

This is both good and bad news for me, I think. This is when Congress has to address the patches from the old tax code that didn’t get fixed with the new tax law. The first shutdown comes, and nothing happens. The second one comes and nothing as well. It is starting to get late in the season, but the last thing I want to do is working on a client’s return and have to amend it. So, I continue waiting. Finally, February 9 comes, and with it the patch that I was waiting for. My computer is back from the shop, and I am ready to go.

I literally spend my first three days back at the office, sorting email, returning calls, meeting with my staff, and anything else that is nonbillable. I look at all the returns that are ready for me to do, all of the unanswered emails, and just bury myself in work.

It is absolutely impossible for me to get any work done at the office during tax season. Between the calls, emails and, now, text messages. I try my hardest to only take appointments on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and to leave Tuesdays and Thursdays as workdays, However, I always seem to get dragged into something that I want no part of. Usually this is a client emergency, a family emergency, or something that is out of my control.

I admit that I write a lot. However, I have absolutely no control on when something is published. From the time I write an article, to the time that it is published, a couple of months may have gone by. All of this notoriety has brought with it everything from trolls, to professionals reaching out to me usually with a tax question.

The email usually starts with, "I saw your article (usually not saying which one), and I have a question..." Some professionals will call the office, hoping to get me on the phone. Not to mention the requests to be interviewed by this publication or that one. I will admit that all of the attention I get is very flattering. However, during this time of year, if you have contacted me and I haven’t responded, I’m not being rude or a jerk. It’s just tax season for me, too. Rest assured that I received your email, so please don’t follow up on it. I will respond to every email that I receive. However, let me tell you why you might have had to wait if you contact me during tax season.

I have staff, just like everyone else. However, the only people who are allowed to talk to clients are my wife, my son, or myself. I am the only one who can answer tax questions. This can create a logjam at times. Not to mention 80 percent of our clients that are S Corporations benefited from revoking their S Election. The revocation had to be done by March 15 for it to be good for 2018. That gave me a 30-day timeframe to get all of the S Corporation returns done in time. I couldn’t file extensions for those clients.

This led to 20-hour days of just doing tax returns and my wife checking my email and taking calls for me. She would alert me when there was something that couldn’t wait. I would literally fall asleep in my chair with my laptop on my lap. I usually don’t use an alarm to wake up, but my wife would tell our Amazon Echo to wake me four hours after I fell asleep. When that alarm went off, I would make a cup of coffee and, like a machine, pour myself back into work. My wife would have to stop me so that I could eat, go to the office, go home from the office, and everything else.

When I get into work, I have no concept of time, hunger, tiredness, or anything else. Finally the 15th came and went, and things slowed down a little. This allowed me time to catch up on all of those emails that professionals and media publications had sent me during that time. What I wasn’t prepared for was how I was treated by professionals.

As I was answering all of these emails, almost instantly, as if the person that sent me the email had been anxiously awaiting my reply, the return emails were flooding in. I began noticing an alarming trend. The professionals that had sent the original email acted almost like a jilted lover. They were taking potshots at me. You would think that this would be the exception to the rule. However, at least seven out of ten responses that came back to me addressed in an angry tone that the person had been waiting so long and I must think I am better than that person.

Again, it’s tax season for me, too. If you had a tax question and I didn’t get back to you, maybe you should have asked someone else or done some research. I’m not the Master Tax Guide. I certainly wasn’t expecting angry retorts. It was so bad that I just quit answering those emails.

This is my 24th tax season, and it definitely has had its challenges. I know that right this moment and most of next week will be the quiet before the storm. After Easter, all bets are off, and I know we will get extremely busy again.  

The point is, I’m a professional just like you. I specialize in taxation. If you do, too, and you are busy, then I’m probably busy, too. I am always very nice, and don’t mind helping another professional out. Just understand that writing is a hobby. My practice comes first. This time of year, it is screaming at me.

Just be patient, and I will get back to you eventually. If it can’t wait, look it up. What do you think I do? Just remember that it’s tax season for me, too.

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