What’s the Best Course of Action When Your Client Starts Sobbing Over Their Tax Bill?
Tax professionals require many traits: good with numbers; explaining complex issues; the ability to forego adequate sleep regularly; borderline insanity, among others. One talent that some tax gurus, certainly not all, possess is that of makeshift therapist. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense, since Americans hate taxes and the IRS.
This passionate resentment obviously leads to strong emotions and sometimes actions; emotions that have to be addressed by tax professionals. Many situations that CPA, EA, or tax attorney encounter necessitate the phrase “calm your ass down.”
From the San Francisco Chronicle, a few examples include, marital relations “My actual designation is enrolled agent, but it should be marriage and family counselor…Sometimes I know about a divorce before the spouse. Or I’ll get a call after a couple has just had a hellacious fight, and she or he wants to have the tax refund put in another account.”
Then of course, the overall warped fear of the IRS that no amount of Xanax will help subside:
“People have had it drilled into their heads that the IRS is as close as we can get to the secret police,” says Stephen Graves, a CPA in downtown San Francisco who has been preparing tax returns for more than 40 years.
“The IRS (audit) is the adult equivalent of being called into the office — it’s a very interesting, basic emotion,” he adds. “Twenty to 30 percent of my job is kind of like being a shrink, and guiding them through that fear.”
However, the biggest common denominator that tax pros report is the weeping. All clients have personal problems of some sort but when you break the news to them that they owe the Feds a grip of cash, that can be too much to bear.
Your inclination may be to roll your eyes and drum your fingers on your desk until they get it out or to point at them accusingly and shout, “Jesus! Pull yourself together man!” but this would not be the advised course of action. The most effective? Nod, listen and don’t get all judge-y:
[T]heir techniques are decidedly un-quantitative. “I listen…I try not to patronize them and say, ‘Everything will be OK.’ I try and be a good listener. A lot of times people just need to get it off their chest and get on with it.”
“I try to be empathetic…Nobody leaves my office without a hug.”
There’s the answer friends. Hugs. More hugs.
Tears and taxes: Meet my therapist, the accountant [SF Chronicle]