My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a tax partner and the managing partner of Cunningham LLP in Toronto. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not reflect the position of Cunningham LLP. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humor/sarcasm. You've been warned.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Confessions of a Tax Accountant- Week 9- The Cranky Accountant Edition

My confession today is that I am sick and tired of income tax season and specifically, I have had enough of dealing with late received T5013 and T3 forms. I have a sore back from sitting too many hours at my desk, and my finger tips are going numb from pounding the computer too much. How is that for an accountant’s rant? I bet you never thought of accounting as such a physically demanding job. J

Anyways, enough of my whining. I hope the prior eight confession blogs have provided you with some interesting income tax tidbits.

How could my topic for Friday April 29th be anything other than clients who submit their income tax information late? I have no complaints regarding my own clients - the last return I received for a client who does not have the extended June 15th deadline (for those with self-employment income) was April 21st.

However, the same cannot be said for all my partners, and I have had last second “Charlies” in the past. If you are one of those people who brings in your income tax materials to your accountant and thinks it is amusing that you are always the last person of the year, know this: you will not be on your accountant’s Christmas card list, your fee is most likely higher than if you brought in your return earlier, and the quality of work cannot be as good as for those who brought in their returns earlier. Think of a Doctor working a 24 hour shift... When do you want him to work on you?

So Charlie, for you and for the procrastinators out there, here is my last tip of this tax season: send your return by registered mail, and keep the registered receipt. Or, if mailing, get a photocopy of the postmarked envelope. The Canada Revenue Agency occasionally imposes late filing penalties for returns that are filed on time, but arrive after the deadline, which is May 2nd this year. When there is a dispute, the CRA will actually go back and check the envelope, but you should have your own evidence of timely filing.

Whatever happened to personal service?

In keeping with my cranky disposition, I will also throw in a rant today about the poor customer service I received last weekend. I don’t know about you, but how many times do you walk into a store to find two employees talking, and they don’t even acknowledge your presence until they finish their conversation? Last weekend there was not even an employee to not acknowledge me!

Anyways, last Saturday after working until 5:00, I rushed over to one of the large chain stores for Men's Suits, to pick up two suits for my son (he is out of town finishing the school year) before the store closed at 6:00. To preface my rant, I am categorized as a “red” behavioural style, whenever I take personality tests. This means I have limited patience. The last time we took these tests, I was given a little Lego block to put on my desk that says “Be prepared, Be brief, Be Gone” (as an aside, to reflect my softer side during this rant: the coaching provided by Excel Group Development (http://www.growingcoaches.com/) who are consultants to our firm, has actually taught me to understand that because of my behavioural style, I must be more patient and understand not everyone works in the same manner as myself and I actually now work better with my partners and staff who have more social personality styles). Anyways, I digress. So here I am rushing to the store, an accountant who has worked every day for many weeks and a person of limited patience at the best of times.

So, I arrive at the store and three people are waiting in line to pick up their suits. However, there is nobody at the front cashier where we are all waiting. After 5 minutes and a lot of mumbling and complaining amongst the four of us, the cashier comes back. She has been in the back looking unsuccessfully for a suit promised to a customer. So now I at least understand why there is no service person, which does not make it right, but I understand the situation. However, after speaking to the person whose suit she can’t find, she makes an abrupt turn and goes directly to the back of the store to look for his suit yet again and leaves the rest of us waiting.

The line is now increasing in size with customers who have purchased goods. Finally, after a couple more minutes, one of the salesmen comes to the front to start serving. As he is serving the next customer, the cashier returns to explain to the first customer his suit is not ready as promised because the tailor was sick or something like that. He leaves the store less than pleased. At the same time the salesman prepares to serve me, but I inform him I was fourth in line and the person beside me is next (the line got sort of semi-circleish as we all waited). This person thanked me for my consideration (I may have no patience, but I have a strong sense of right and wrong) and he was then served. Finally, the cashier also starts to serve, but what does she do? She starts to serve the last person in line (who because of the semi-circle waiting line is first in front of her). I, in less than a pleasant tone, let her know they are last in line, I have waited ten minutes and I am next to be served. The salesperson and the cashier start apologizing over each other, but I just get my son’s suits and leave mumbling and grumbling.

This rant is not directed at this chain store specifically; the person who served my son when purchasing the suits was excellent. They are just one example of poor customer service; I could have picked ten stores for this rant. 

My issue is service in general. The larger chain stores employees typically do not respect customers, and/or the staff is not properly trained or supervised. I find this issue far less prevalent in US stores, where they seem to be much more customer oriented in general.

Thus ends the cranky accountant edition. I will return on Monday (the last day of tax season) happy as a lark.

The blogs posted on The Blunt Bean Counter provide information of a general nature. These posts should not be considered specific advice; as each reader's personal financial situation is unique and fact specific. Please contact a professional advisor prior to implementing or acting upon any of the information contained in one of the blogs.

3 comments:

  1. Here's a records question for you... Can clients somehow arrange their affairs such that copies any needed slips are automated submitted to one's accountant?* I imagine many clients would like to have their accountant manage and maintain these records.

    * I suppose this is really a question for banks, brokers and other such organizations but perhaps you're aware of some way of doing it?

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  2. "So Charlie, for you and for the procrastinators out there, here is my last tip of this tax season: send your return by registered mail, and keep the registered receipt. Or, if mailing, get a photocopy of the postmarked envelope. The Canada Revenue Agency occasionally imposes late filing penalties for returns that are filed on time, but arrive after the deadline, which is May 2nd this year. When there is a dispute, the CRA will actually go back and check the envelope, but you should have your own evidence of timely filing."

    Thanks - this was very helpful.

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  3. @Charlie, glad to be of service.

    @Thomas, I think you are asking if tax slips can be sent automatically. We are sent monthly brokerage statements for some clients automatically and for larger accounts, the brokerages or more precisely,the investment advisors send us duplicates of all tax slips. However, as far as I know, there is not a system in place to do such.

    I know some firms pay clients bills on a monthly basis, especially in the US, albeit in most cases by linking to firms that specialize in bill payments systems. My firm is paperless, so if a client you wanted to send slips, we would just PDF it to their file. We have looked a couple times into portals where clients would store important documents and slips etc however, we have not found a portal we are happy with. However, the info. still typically comes from the client. Not sure if I answered your question or not.

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