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BulldogTom

I am CRAP sometimes - I should be fired

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I feel awful today.   Client sends me a notice he got from the IRS asking for taxes of 100K and penalties and interest of 25K on the 2016 return I prepared for his trust.   So I go through the letter, and there is a 1099B that was not included in the return that I filed for the client.   Had a quarter million in trades on it.   So I go looking through the documents the client provided to me.   And sure enough, it is in the file.   I totally missed the form when I prepared the return.

How in the F do you miss a quarter million dollars in trades!

The client should fire me.    This is totally unacceptable behavior from a supposed professional preparer.   I suck.

Of course, I have prepared the amended returns and the IRS did not take the basis into consideration, nor did they see the two other trades on the 1099B that produced a loss, so the impact is no where near the bill they sent.   But it still does not excuse me for my crappy work.

I have no idea how I missed that trade when I filed the return.   This is one of the pitfalls of not being in a firm where you have someone checking your work.   I don't make a lot of mistakes, but damn, this is a doosy.    A QUARTER MILLION DOLLARS! 

Rita, I give you permission to hug me and put me in the back 40.  

Tom
Modesto, CA

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Don't be so hard on yourself - it was just another piece of paper.  It is a wonder that we all have systems in place that prevents this type thing happening on a regular basis.  But I do understand your feelings - that punch in the gut feeling when you find you cannot blame the client for not giving you the info.  But alas, you, me and the rest of us, are just mere humans - irrespective of what some of our clients think of us.

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Tom,

Stuff happens, the only people that are mistake free are six feet under ground.

A motivational speaker that  I listened to years ago said, "I give myself 10 mistakes  a day and if I don't use them all

I carry them forward to the next day."

The only way forward is to say, If I make a mistake, I will fix it and make right to the best of my ability."

 

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Alas, we all are human and do make mistakes.  And the longer we are in the field the higher the risk of one happening.  I also suspect that most of us here prepare rather complicated returns (otherwise clients might use TT) and often under the most trying of circumstances. 

It is additionally challenging when, like me, we are sole practitioners.  We try very hard to do and review the best we can.  But it is also incumbent on the taxpayer to review the returns before they sign.  How could that client miss this without questioning?

This is also why we have insurance.  And, frankly, I do offer to pay any penalties - not tax - for any errors I make.  To date I've been fortunate to pay just $25 or so, a credit on the following year returns.

We support you.

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Just now, cbslee said:

Tom,

Stuff happens, the only people that are mistake free are six feet under ground.

A motivational speaker that  I listened to years ago said, "I give myself 10 mistakes  a day and if I don't use them all

I carry them forward to the next day."

The only way forward is to say, If I make a mistake, I will fix it and make right to the best of my ability."

 

I am working on perfection, but it is still a long way off.  The only advice I can give you is to look at what happened and try to come up with a way to prevent this particular mistake from happening again.  If you are the only one in the office you can;t have someone else check behind you, but can you look over returns a second time several hours after they are prepared?  Or list all the documents when they are brought in, and then check them off by comparing to the return?  Or something more brilliant I did not think of?  I have someone in the office to check on my work, and believe me that is a very good thing!  Especially this late in the year. 

Even with all that, mistakes occasionally go out the door and I totally agree with rfasset - it feels like a punch in the gut!

 

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... and the client should have some skin in this.  He/she signed it as a complete and accurate return

classic example of client signing  without even giving it a look.  With even a cursory exam, you'd think he would have noted:  Hey! what about all of that investment activity???

 

 

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6 minutes ago, rfassett said:

Don't be so hard on yourself - it was just another piece of paper.  It is a wonder that we all have systems in place that prevents this type thing happening on a regular basis.  But I do understand your feelings - that punch in the gut feeling when you find you cannot blame the client for not giving you the info.  But alas, you, me and the rest of us, are just mere humans - irrespective of what some of our clients think of us.

This.  It's a piece of paper.  We've all done it.  I can't wait to see what I did this season.

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We're all human and make mistakes.  There was only one perfect human, and we crucified him.  You owned your mistake, and that's the human thing to do.  Then, forgive yourself.  But, yeah, it really hurts.  Been there; done that.  We still respect your work, under deadlines and pressure and lack of sleep and almost perfection.  When college visiting with my son, I saw a poster on a professor's door:  Strive for excellence, not perfection.  So true for so many reasons.  And, you, Tom, are excellent.

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I'm sorry it happened, Tom, but please don't beat yourself up over this.  Even with the best practices in place, we are humans working under pressure and all of us make mistakes.

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Tom:

You are not Crap.  Ship happens.  Maybe the client fires you.  Maybe they don't.  I tell folks I get hired and fired everyday.  I can not control all of that.

We all have to adopt procedures to make sure things like this do not happen.  If you are a one person shop, then you procedures might be different than someplace with a number of employee's.  This is one of the reasons I will not input with the client here.  I take the info, sort it, and let someone else input it, so that two sets of eyes look at every return.  Does not mean that mistakes will not happen, but it reduces the missed document errors quite a lot.  If it is just you, do the work, and then set it aside and come back to it the next day.

Rich

,  

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Don't be so hard on yourself Bulldog, it happens to all of us.  You fixed  it.  Pay any added costs.  Give him a free return next year, if he's understanding with your explanation he'll stay with you, especially if he knows how good you are.  I've been there and have lost sleep, how could I miss that, but the next day I get over it because I addressed the problem immediately.

Too bad it wasn't for 2012, you could have blamed ATX. 

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As a one man shop I'm always fearful of missing something so I developed my triple check procedure that works really well.  I sort everything and after inputting each item I highlight each one.  Then I go back to beginning and check each item and  put a check mark next to it.  Close it up and go back to it in the morning for final review of each item again that only takes a few minutes depending on size of the return.  I also look at the back of each page. 

I have a situation now that is my fault.  My assistant (wife) assembles the return and checks mailing label against address on return.  This particular client usually is in Florida for the winter but not this year.  I forgot to tell my assistant that she was in NY.  Client calls, where's my return?  Oh ship, I bet it went to FL, sure enough the NY label was still there.  So I explained to client and she was OK with it, I got another package out to her.  But now I am worried that the original may not be returned to me and I'm of course worried about ID theft (NY returns have date of birth on them).   Because the tenant in the condo in FL is unknown to me, could be a drug addict or something, my mind wandered that I said to myself, hold on, you're not in control right now so why think the worst, could be no problem.  I just wish the PO was faster in returning undeliverable mail.  They take over a month.

 

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6 minutes ago, Roberts said:

I remember that time I made a mistake. :wacko:

 

Should be a whistling in the wind emoticon.

You mean you thought you were wrong, but were mistaken?

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I sort through the paperwork and separate out the crap from data entry work. Then, I arrange the work papers according to my input screens.  Then, I enter it all.  Then, it goes in a To Review pile. Then, I review it the next day.  This has worked for all of the years I’ve done it this way.  That one I made the big error on was because the client was waiting and had to rush out to catch a plane for their vacation.  Never let that happen again. 

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We all screw up sometimes, and clients usually understand because they screw up too!  If you have decent relationship with them, they shouldn't fire you.  I made a costly mistake on a business sale one time, oy, that was a nightmare.

This year I had a new guy come in, one of those that enjoys trading.  Lots of 1099s, some K1s I think, big stack of paper.  I was so paranoid about checking everything multiple times to be sure i didn't miss anything, and in the end he took the finished return back to do it himself in TurboTax (as he had in previous years).  He said I missed something, but I don't think so; from the questions he asked I think he just wanted to learn more about how to do it himself.  Paid me my whole fee, so no whatever.  I had a feeling about him.

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You are not CRAP. You are human and we are not perfect. That was something large enough that the client should have noticed. I work on my own and I have made a few mistakes over 39 years. I always try to learn from them, so that I make a different mistake the next time. :lol: I really hope that none of my self employed health insurance ACA returns come back to bite me.  I have definitely tried to slow down and not rush through the return and I never prepare them in front of the client. When I screw up, I admit it, give the client a break and pay penalty and maybe interest. You are doing good and among friends.

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Tom, you are a great preparer.  I usually find that if I own up to my mistakes with clients and pay any additional penalty/interest my error caused, they are very gracious.  

To make you feel better, I prepped a Schedule C for a long-term client this year and left off COGS (after I calculated it, no less).  My proofer ALSO missed it.  Client caught it AFTER signing the 8879 and I had already efiled.  I quickly amended as the difference was several thousand in tax.  I apologized to the client and simply said, 'I have no way to explain myself.  I just blew it."  The Client said, "I could never have a different accountant, because you are straight with me and don't get upset when I question something on the return.  I really want to understand this."  I felt like a loser for a few days given it was such a huge, stupid error, and I told my proofer that we are NEVER allowed to make the same mistake . . . right.

We are human, and the working conditions from 15 February to 17 April are something no one who hasn't lived it could possibly understand.  

You 'da bomb.  I know you just want a space in Rita's back 40 so you can get a bit of uninterrupted sleep! :)

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picky client called as we had to tell her the refund was lower for state as the sales tax was put in as estimates - I missed it But the catch is - she only wants me to touch her return.. how do you explain someone else put it in wrong and I missed it..  No one wanted to take her call - so the boss does - right!  I finally said I messed up, totally my fault and she was fine!

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Tom, every single one of us remembers the first mistake we made in the profession.  I often wondered why that is, and why we fail to recognize all the good we've done--the clients who left our offices with tears of joy and brought back gifts because they had feared the worst but we knew about that exception to the penalty or whatever.  So you made one mistake.  You also did perhaps thousands of returns over the years that were perfect.  Pretty good odds if you ask me.

Like BHoffman, does anyone else have lots of clients going on vacation in April and have to have their returns done by then?  Who but college students goes on vacation in April?  This week I moved at least a dozen clients up in the queue because they were going away.  The only place I want to go is To Sleep.

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Tom,

You've already received very good responses from everyone of your friends and colleagues here. Anything additional I would add would not be anything different that what others have already said. My dad always told me, that a time will come when you screw-up. You're human and it will happen. But....beat yourself up for a little while and then get up off the ground, brush your pants off and go again. Never count yourself as a failure nor accept failure as an option. 

I am willing to be that your client will understand. Offer to pay any interest/penalties, not tax, offer next year for free or at a sizeable discount. Remember, we've all been there. Pick your chin up and be proud you've done the right thing to correct the mistake.

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Tom you are NOT crap, and you should NOT be fired.

Mistakes happen.  We ALL make them.  Yours was a bit more spectacular than a bunch, but I would bet if we all dredged our memories we could come up with some pretty spectacular fails.  (The mind eventually hides memories that are that painful.)  You may find that this client - because you fessed up - will stick to you like glue.  Or not.  Either way, it says NOTHING about your worth.  

We love you and we respect you and we value you.  If you *were* crap, you wouldn't care about a mistake.  The level of your upset proves the level of your skills and your ethics.

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Thanks to you all for allowing me to have a personal pity party at your expense.   I appreciate you all.

On to the next return.

Tom
Modesto, CA

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