Conducting a Thorough Tax Client Interview

Your clients expect and deserve much more than just a correct tax return. That is a given. Clients will only choose you over other options if you provide a positive experience and added value. Making the experience positive and adding value requires making a good first impression, showing genuine concern for the client, being very friendly and courteous, and making the client aware of what you have done to minimize their taxes.

Before the appointment

Send a questionnaire to your client to be completed before they arrive for their appointment.

Smile and welcome your client

First impressions are important. Greet your client warmly, with a smiling face. Help them feel relaxed and comfortable.

Gather personal information

Start with the basics, such as determining the proper filing status, and the taxpayer’s allowable exemptions and dependents. Remember, you determine the taxpayer’s correct filing status options based on the answers to your questions. Filing status can be tricky if you are not familiar with the guidelines. Top things to ask for include:

  • Photo IDs
  • Social Security Cards
  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Dates of Birth
  • Occupations
  • Dependents (children and any others that may qualify)
  • Contact Info

Ask for all possible sources of income, not just W2s

Many taxpayers do not know that some income they receive needs to be reported. A few commonly overlooked sources of income include:

  • State refunds (when taxable)
  • Social security
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Jury Duty

Adjustments to Income

Be sure to ask about all possible Adjustments to Income – tax deductions that someone can take for income earned that can’t be taxed.

Determine to Use Standard or Itemized Deductions

Make sure you have completed all income and adjustments before calculating itemized deductions. Both medical and job expenses and certain miscellaneous deductions deductible amounts will be affected by the AGI (Adjusted Gross Income). Ask questions to determine if itemized deductions will be more beneficial. If in doubt, compete Schedule A to be sure.

Cover all possible deductions on Schedule A. If the taxpayer has qualified work related education. expenses, make sure to check other areas the qualified expense may be used to achieve the most benefit for the taxpayer.

Determine if there are any tax credits

There are many credits a client could qualify for. It’s all about asking the right questions. If a taxpayer has tuition and fees, be sure to check other areas that the qualifying expenses can be used, such as Education Credit, to determine where the most favorable result will be gained.

Ask about possible estimated payments

Many self-employed and retired taxpayers make estimated payments.

Review results and answer questions

Go over the return and explain each area so they know how you approached that number.

Review last year’s tax return

You will want to check their Adjusted Gross Income and ensure that it was filed correctly last year. You should also compare this year’s return with last year’s to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Tax planning

Ask the taxpayer about possible changes in their situation that may affect their tax liability for the upcoming year. If the client owes taxes, you may want to review and advise them on their tax withholding or estimated payments. Review the return and see if any changes are projected due to the “known” changes.

Review any guarantee your company provides

Go over any guarantees and make sure they know about all of the benefits and services. You should always end the interview with questions and comments such as:

  • “Have I answered all of your questions satisfactorily?”
  • “Is there anything else I can assist you with today?”
  • “Please refer your friends and family to us, we would love to help them.”
  • “We look forward to seeing you again next year.”

Thank your clients

You should aim to be known not only for accurate tax returns, but also for your great service, prompt responses, positive attitude, and professional environment. Your clients have lots of options, and they chose you. Make sure that you keep them happy, keep them coming back, and keep them referring new clients to you!