This may be more of a sign of the tough economic times than anything else, but it is something that has really caught my attention the past couple of years. For one reason or another, people have gotten it in their heads that it is standard practice to wait for their tax refund and use that money to pay the person who prepared their tax return. Don’t ask me how this way of thinking came about, or why they think it’s standard operating procedure, but I can assure you that it’s not ok, and in fact it’s somewhat disrespectful and very annoying.
Think about all of the services you purchase in your daily life. How many of them allow you to wait weeks or even months to get paid? I’m willing to bet that not many come to mind. If you go to the doctor, you don’t say “Well, I’ll pay you when I’m fully healed.” You don’t go to the salon or hairdresser and say “I’ll send you a check when I get everyone’s opinions about how much they like what you did”. You don’t go to the mechanic and say “I’ll drive the car a while and pay you if I don’t have the problem any longer.” So, how can you in good conscience tell your accountant or tax preparer that you will pay them after your refund comes in? They did their job in preparing your tax return, so they earned the right to be paid for it upon presenting it to you or filing it on your behalf, didn’t they?
Or, you can look at it with the shoe on the other foot. Imagine that you did your job in whatever profession you are in, and gave a bill for your services. A week goes by and you don’t get paid. Then another. And another. By now, you would be pretty peeved I would guess. And no, this isn’t one of those “what would you do” scenarios in which you wouldn’t really know unless you were actually placed in that situation. You know good and well that you would be sending out second notices, late notice reminders, and making phone calls to get your money.
Never mind that, let’s look at it in an even simpler, more relevant way. When you bring your documents in to your tax preparer, you expect to have the completed tax return either on the spot (if that is the arrangement) or within a day or two, if not sooner. Well, if you can expect to be serviced right away, why can’t the tax preparer expect to be paid for those services rendered right away as well?
The bottom line is that you are paying for the service not the result (unless you are dealing with some shady tax preparer, and my advice there would be not to deal with anyone like that ever). After all, if you ended up owing money would you be saying that since you didn’t get a refund you don’t have to pay for the service?