Monday, January 3, 2011

A well-crafted question gets a better answer.

An article that I wrote recently for brought me many requests from psychologists for my expense list. Some also sent questions. The most frequently-asked question was this one, as expressed here by Dr. David from Santa Clara, CA.

How do I know if I'm paying too much year after year? Thank you.

Hello David,

Your question is similar to my asking you, how do I know if I handle personal relationships well? You wouldn't have enough information to give me an answer.

Am I referring to my relationship with my mother, my kids, my husband, my friends? Do we fight a lot? Have other people noticed and commented? What specific things are on my mind about this? Do I just feel that things aren't right? How long have I felt this way?

With taxes, as in any situation, you need to know the particulars in order to make the right choices, or give correct answers.

I would start by looking at David's last three tax returns. If they were not available, I'd ask what his gross income was last year and what was his net income for that year. Based on his answer I'd ask the next question and then the next.

Dr. David's question is often asked by indies in all professions. You might want to check out this on my website -- How To Ask A Question.



Anonymous said...

Since therapy fees are mostly set, no matter the quality of your relationship(s), your analogy was not applicable to Dr. David's question. A better answer would have documented a range of accountant fees in this doctor's area, including the additional fees per tax schedule, and some examples of the level of education needed to do a tax return. Your was answer 'canned', and it showed.

June Walker said...

Hello Anon,

Your comment makes my point better than I did.

You assumed that David was asking whether he paid too much in accounting fees every year. I thought he was asking whether he was paying too much tax every year.

Now you see the need for a clear, specific question.

If you are asking about fees, as far as I know it's H&R Block that charges by the form. Call them for their fee schedule. Professional accountants' hourly fees vary widely. I would guess the lowest may be about $40 per hour. The higher end at about $280 to $300. Depends where you live, the experience of the pro, what kind of tax work you need.

I wish I did have "canned" responses. Sure would make my work easier.

-- June