Breaking bad news this tax season
This tax season has been brutal. Along with all the confusion, we have clients who are surprised and shocked that their refunds have turned into balances due. Here are some suggestions on how to handle distraught clients.
Candy lessens the pain
One of our seminar attendees, CPA Dan Herron of San Luis Obispo, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying that he has a big bowl of candy in his office.1 He offers his clients a piece of candy before sharing the bad news. He's had people say they haven't had a Milky Way in years and when people eat candy, it takes the edge off. They get a little happier.
He says he's considered offering ice cream, or maybe even beer and wine.
Speaking of beer
When I was in practice, I had a client who always came to the tax interview with a brown paper bag. Inside were two cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. If I told him he was getting a refund, he'd give me a can. If I said he owed money, he would drink one himself and take the other one home. Finally after three or four years of this, his wife got mad and brought her own beer: Michelob. But none for me.
One year I decided to buy fortune cookies to tell my clients whether they owed or got a refund. I had two baskets of fortune cookies wrapped in plastic. The inside of the cookies in one basket said, "Congratulations, you will get a refund. Ask Lynn for an estimate." The other said, "Sorry, you owe money. Here's a free play. Better luck next year."
The clients loved them, but I lost all the leftovers when some mice got into the cupboard where I had them and I never did it again!
Let us know what you did to "lessen the pain" for your clients this year by responding to the Tribune e-mail.