Horror stories from my starting year

I’ve submitted this story a number of times, but it’s never been approved, so i’m submitting it to the forums.

In many ways it’s deeply personal, so i’d prefer the anonymity of posting to the main site.

I’m a tax preparer. I’ve been doing this for about fifteen years. My first year was… pretty dicy.

I got bullied by my coworkers, but in many ways I was too autistic to understand, and I didn’t figure it out until later. It was a small franchise owned office. There were six offices owned by the franchise owner, and this office was the smallest of the six. There were all of four desks, including the secretary desk, and one server in the back.

There were six tax pros who regularly worked the office, but most of us were not fulltime. I was fulltime. For some reason the franchise owner thought it was cute to schedule me for 12 hour days, so instead of 5x8 I worked 3x12 and 1x4.

I would often have 12 clients, one every hour, one day and then none the next day due to the franchise owner’s weird scheduling fetish for putting all the appointments in one day on one person. It was hard.

In a bit I’ll be back to actually tell the stories, this is just background.

6 Likes

From one potato to another, I salute you and am looking forward to some of the stories.

3 Likes

Alright. Here’s the first story: No desks.

One day when I’m scheduled to come in, I see that all four desks are occupied, all four computers are in use.

This isn’t a huge deal because I brought a book, so I go sit in the corner and read. It’s not like there’s anything I can do without clients, and no clients are in.

A client comes in. We check the schedule, and I’m told that the client is scheduled with me. Noone else has any clients.

I ask each of my coworkers if I can use their desk, and take a client. They each reply that they are busy with something and I cannot use their desk. I don’t see any clients anywhere. They could be doing drop-offs, or something? But if so, good customer service says a client physically in the office needs to be seen to in a reasonable amount of time.

They tell me to use the server computer in the back. I try it. The tax software is not installed on the server computer in the back.

I go around the office asking again. I tell them that the server in the back is not usable. They don’t believe me and insist again that I use it. Once more, it does not work.

Finally, I convince one of them to go back to check the server in the back. I sit at her desk, log out the computer, log back in as me, and have the client sit with me. She gets back, upset that I didn’t follow her into the back.

If I was clever I would have said something like ‘not my problem, you can use the computer in the back to work, I’ve got a client’, but I just shrugged and kept working on the client until she was done.

After the client left the coworker yelled at me a bit and made me promise never to do that again. Fortunately, one of the other workers left before the next client came in, so there was finally a free desk.

8 Likes

This was, by the way, much more emotional for me than I make it sound with this telling. It’s just hard to bare my emotions I’ll probably rewrite later with the emotions more included.

4 Likes

What rude coworkers jeez. If I ignored someone with a client to keep doing my own thing I would’ve gotten in SOOOO much trouble. (when I was “customer facing”)

4 Likes

1120-H

This was the incident that almost ended my career before it could start.

I was a first year tax pro. I was barely trained enough to do a simple 1040. All year I’d had much more complex clients than I had trained for. The other tax pros in the office got fed up with me and started telling me to call the irs instead of answering my questions.

That’s another story involving a long hold that i’ll tell later.

I had gotten to the point where I was just reading the irs website and doing my own research to figure out clients taxes.

And then I got a really weird one: a homeowners association. The client wanted to do taxes, not for himself, but for his homeowners association.

A hoa files an 1120-H. I have no goddamn clue how to put one together, but our software can handle it.

I ask all of my coworkers, even the most experienced. None of them even want to help me a little bit.

So I tell the client to give me his documentation and go home and i’ll work on it tonight.

I burn the midnight oil, working all night long. i even call the irs first thing in the morning for confirmation of details.

I get it put together for the client. I call him in. We filled it.

Two days later I have five clients in a row who all wanted hoa’s done. They were referred by my prior client. I did them all to the best of my ability without outside help. Then I break down crying.

I’m freaked out, not sure I did anything correctly, and on the verge of tears when I drove to mrs. B, the franchise owner’s house, to quit.

She talked me into staying. Offered me a raise. I had been working for 7.25 an hour, after the raise I was making 8.50 an hour.

5 Likes

Staples
The manager of the office was named Aubry. Mrs B was the franchise owner. They had a weird disagreement about the correct way to staple client documentation.

One of them wanted a single staple in the right hand corner. The other wanted two staples across the top, with client documentation under the rightmost staple between the cover sheet and the 8879.

Mrs B and Aubry would both come into the office after hours to unstaple everything in the storage and restaple it ‘correctly’.

I started stapling everything across the bottom just to tease them.

5 Likes

Long hold
When I first started, if I had a question or a client who was beyond me, I asked a coworker.

They got fed up with this pretty fast.

they started having me call the IRS to answer my questions. This usually meant waiting on hold for about 2 hours.

One day I’m waiting on hold for a specific question. The phone holds for 6 hours the abruptly cuts out. Then when I call back, I have to hold for 2 more hours.

After that I went back to mostly asking my coworkers for advice, not the irs

4 Likes

I’ve got more stories, but I’m going to take a break for now. Right now I’m restricting myself to my first year.

4 Likes

Hotshot:
OK so this story is why my coworkers hated me.

In Iowa (at the time), the Iowa Schedule A triggered at about $1,250, unlike the federal which (at the time) triggered at about 4,750.

Because of this most clients were ‘schedule A’ clients.

I was fresh out of training, and not jaded like my coworkers, so I asked every. Single. Question. I asked about car tabs. I asked about work tools. I asked about medical, dental, psychological, chiropractic, modifying your house to be more accessible to disabled family members, moving more than fifty miles… the whole kit and kaboodle. The whole shebang.

This got my clients slightly better results than my coworkers… at the cost of me charging them much more because we charge more for a schedule A. I was essentially charging my clients an extra $100 for an extra $65 of savings, but I didn’t really care about that. It was my job to save my client as much as possible on their taxes without breaking the law, and the way my company charged was none of my business.

This impressed my clients. A lot. They would tell me ‘I’ve never been asked all of these questions before’ ‘I… I don’t see why not. It’s what we’re trained to do?’

‘But really… I’ve never been asked this before!’

‘I mean… we can go back to your last year’s and see if it has an effect on those taxes as well, if you’d like? some typing Oh! It does have an effect. Well, that’s our error for not asking, so I’ll do a free amend’

‘I’m going to you from now on, may I have one of your cards’

‘ok’

This was a common conversation. My coworkers didn’t appreciate that. They saw it as me badmouthing them. They tried to tell me not to ask the schedule A questions, but for several clients they actually saved significant amounts of money!

My coworkers started referring to me as a ‘hotshot’, and directing their problem clients to me, and their clients with more difficult tax situations… not because I was mature enough nor good enough to handle them, but in an effort to take me down a peg.

I wasn’t trained to do small businesses, but pretty soon I was inundated with them. I was ‘The hotshot’. And naïve little asshole I was, I thought that was a compliment.

5 Likes

@PotatoPercy so… What do you think so far?

3 Likes

I’m glad you got out of there! Have you submitted the one about your unhelpful coworkers???

I can’t believe they refused to help you. Who does that?!?!?!

4 Likes

I’ve submitted all of these at least once, most in 2020 when I first discovered the site, some in 2021 <3

3 Likes

Hi, Valiant Potato. I have a lot of sympathy for your predicament as I worked in Tax for almost 35 years (both in public accounting and industry). In many ways, it’s like being an attorney, but with a CPA or other training. The job requires interpretation of the tax law, related regulations and other guidance (such as private letter rulings or case law).
The most helpful things I found were in research sites, such as RIA or BNA - but I’m guessing that your firm didn’t subscribe to those sites. IRS guidance is pretty decent- while you aren’t at your former employer any more, the IRS LBI (large business and international) guidance have sections where they tell you how they audit certain issues. That gives you guidance on how the IRS views certain issues - doesn’t mean you have to look at it the same way, but it tells you risks your clients might have to deal with.
I’m sorry you were bullied by your co-workers - that’s awful.

2 Likes

Ha - this one on how to staple resonated with me. I worked at Arthur Andersen early in my career. They required two staples on the left-hand side, and the staples had better be parallel! I actually had to restaple certain documents when the staples weren’t exactly parallel.
Sheesh.

3 Likes

Mrs B owned four offices. I was typically located in the smallest office, but occasionally I was placed in a bigger office when they were short handed.

One such short-handing was rather unusual in nature. Mr. C ran the largest of Mrs. B’s offices.

One day he requested me. Or rather he requested ‘all of our first years who look good in a suit’ and that included me. Why? To pretend to be lawyers.

See, one of his senior workers had made a very serious error in the tax return: Somehow not only was the money directed to the wrong bank, but when the IRS sent the money, said wrong bank kept the money and put it into the account of an unrelated third party.

This created an enormous legal mess. The IRS is NOT supposed to put money in an account without your name on it. There’s a lot that went wrong here.

This turned into meetings of clusters of lawyers… lawyers for the client, for the bank that actually got the money, for the bank that was supposed to get the money, and for the US government.

Mr. C felt… underrepresented. So he had all of the first years who looked good in suits dress up like lawyers and hold empty briefcases. There were three of us that he selected, two men and one woman. We were told to stand next to him and keep our mouths shut.

In truth, we didn’t have to do anything. Mr. C had almost no part to play in the event, simply answering about five questions while everyone else argued. But that was the time I pretended to be a fake lawyer for my employer.

2 Likes

OMG That’s the craziest company ever what in the world.

Also that sounds like an absolute disaster, what in the heck was that bank thinking? They get in TONS of trouble from the US govt doing things like that!

4 Likes

So this story happened in Mr. C’s office. I didn’t work there very often, I was primaried to Aubry’s office, but I happened to work there on this particular day.

In my hometown the sales tax is… very high. We have a state sales tax, a city sales tax, a county sales tax, a school district sales tax, and a number of ‘penny taxes’ that charged you a single penny per transaction, totaling about 17 cents per transaction, and another set of penny taxes that were per item, totaling about 4 cents per item on your receipt.

What this meant was that your total sales tax was consistently higher than your state income tax for just about everybody. This was back when a schedule A only had to beat about a $5,000 threshold instead of the current $12,000, so beating the schedule A threshold basically just required mortgage payments or a single medical event.

What that means is that every single client brought in shoeboxes full of receipts so we could claim their sales tax instead of their income tax on their federal schedule A.

Well. One client came in and he had a pickup truck full of shoeboxes. He was doing 3 years of taxes and he had 52 shoe boxes per year for a total of 156 shoeboxes (he actually had 157, but the 7th shoebox didn’t contain receipts, it contained recipes cut out of magazines). That was too much for one person to do, so all of us first years were told to crawl among the receipts and collect together the sales tax figures and to get each year added together.

There were five of us. It took four hours. That’s twenty manpower hours, and our company charged the client $12 per manpower hour.

The client was annoyed at the $240 surcharge for extra labor, but in the end he paid it.

4 Likes

… He. was mad that you had to go through literally hundreds of boxes and he ONLY got charged 200$?! Lord.
Also the taxes are insane!

3 Likes

This story isn’t from my first year: I’m doing a client’s taxes and he, offhandedly, asks me “By the way, my neighbor hunts, and every time I mow his lawn he gives me a cut of venison. What should I be doing about that?”

I replied “Well, first, you shouldn’t be telling your tax preparer, because now I’m legally required to report the barter income on your taxes, so thanks for that.”

After that bit of snark, we got the income put onto his taxes correctly.

1 Like