Every accountant is different. We hope this page provides some clarity and transparency about us, our services, and our workflow to help you evaluate if we are the right fit for you. If you don’t see your question answered below, send us a message!
Where is your phone number?
We do not take unscheduled calls, so we don’t publish a phone number for clients or prospects to “just call” when you have a question. Karl and Meg are each parents of their respective young kids, and we each work from home. To help serve you better and do our best work, we don’t always work standard or regularly scheduled hours. Asynchronous work is a core value in our firm. So we are HAPPY to make time to answer your questions, but meetings must be scheduled. Or you can send an email clearly describing your issue. Do NOT email documents, those MUST be uploaded to TaxDome.
Will you put my returns on extension? Doesn’t an extension increase my risk of audit?
First, the belief that extensions correlate to audits is a myth. I put my own returns on extension solely so that I can say “would I do that if I knew it increased my risk of audit?”
Second, if you provide all your forms and answer all of our questions timely (note: “timely” is a few weeks before the filing deadline, not the day before), there is a very low likelihood your returns will go on extension. I prefer to get tax returns done–not to spread work out through the year.
If you receive a Form K-1 from a partnership or S-Corporation that you have an ownership stake in, or from a trust or estate of which you are a beneficiary, we must wait for that K-1 to file your returns. If we don’t have that at least a couple weeks before the individual filing deadline, your individual returns are likely going on extension. To reduce your odds of that and to get your K-1 faster, make sure whoever is in charge of the financial records for the entity that is giving you that K-1 is getting those financial records to that tax pro early.
My last accountant fired me, will you do the same?
Our ideal clients:
- Follow our process and don’t ask for exceptions (e.g., sending paper documents, asking for phone calls instead of booking appointments, emailing documents instead of uploading to TaxDome).
- Don’t make us their babysitter: they take ownership to go FIND all of their tax forms without reminders from us.
- Upload documents to our portal and make sure they are readable.
- Communicate with courtesy and curiosity, rather than presuming negatively upon us.
- Don’t make us their secretary:
- Retaining copies of past documents and tax returns is the CLIENT’S responsibility–access to past documents via our portal is intended, but not guaranteed.
- Set their own reminders when we give instructions of what taxes to pay when.
- Watch our Loom videos timely.
- Respond to our emails timely without reminders.
We don’t fire clients that fit the above criteria. Every client we’ve fired has failed to meet one or more of the criteria above. We love to find great-fit clients and to keep working with them for years. We hope you will be one of them!
What happens if I get an IRS letter, or I think there’s a mistake in my tax returns? Do you stand by your work?
First, if you get a letter from the IRS or state taxing authority, don’t panic. The IRS logo naturally strikes fear into the hearts of taxpayers. Take a deep breath.
Second, upload EVERY page to TaxDome (many government letters are double-sided, so don’t miss the even-numbered pages).
Third, yes, we stand by our work. IRS, etc., letters come for one of three general reasons:
- We made a mistake. It’s rare, but it happens. If it does happen, we make it right for no additional fees from us, and we cover any interest and penalties. If more tax is owed, taxes are always the client’s responsibility to pay.
- The client failed to provide ALL tax forms or thorough information to our inquiries. We charge to either amend returns or send a reply to the letter. All taxes, interest and penalties are the client’s responsibility.
- Random chance. The IRS and states just send inquiry or investigation letters sometimes. We cannot control this. We charge to either amend returns or send a reply to the letter. All taxes, interest and penalties are the client’s responsibility.
Do you outsource any of my information overseas?
No, at this time we do not outsource. Karl (and Meg, to some extent, with Karl’s review) does all client work. We have no current plans to outsource. If that changes in the future, this FAQ will be updated and it will be properly disclosed in our engagement letters.
Do you use ChatGPT or other AI?
No client data (tax returns, bookkeeping info, PII) goes into ChatGPT or any other AI tool. Security and privacy of your data is paramount. We DO use ChatGPT to help with fine-tuning emails and other writing materials. We are excited yet cautious about the possibilities AI offers and will continue to offer in the future.
I don’t have a business. Will you still take me as a client to just do my personal tax returns?
Yes. The tax industry often calls those tax returns and clients “orphan 1040s” or “standalone 1040s.” Many tax pros now only want to do business tax returns and/or recurring bookkeeping/accounting work. Those firms will only do an individual (1040) tax return for an owner or partner of a business when the firm handles that business’ accounting/tax needs as well.
That is not our model. We like and welcome “orphan/standalone 1040s.” Our smaller firm size (one CPA and one admin) accommodates those well.
Why can’t I email or text documents to you?
It’s not secure. Email and text messages are easily hackable. The IRS recommends against sending PII through email or text. As a result, our professional liability insurance company does not want us accepting documents via email or text either.
I struggle with technology. Can I mail my forms or drop-off my documents in-person?
We do want to be compassionate to people who have anxiety over uploading documents to our portal. Meg is available for scheduled Zoom calls and tutorials on uploading documents to TaxDome. We also have a guide available.
If uploading is still not possible, we need to have boundaries to serve all our clients–and our families–because every exception to our process takes more time. At this time, we cannot accept paper documents and would recommend you seek out another accountant or tax pro.
How soon can I expect a reply to my email to you?
The standard accountant’s answer applies here: it depends. We do not currently promise specific response times. We have a soft goal to respond within 2-3 business days, and we put up out-of-office messages if we are away for more than one business day so you know when to expect delays.
But here are some ways for you to proactively reduce delays in our response time:
- Closer to a tax deadline (usually March 15, April 15, September 15 and October 15, but there are others), it’ll take longer. You will curry a lot of favor if you use the “scheduled/delayed send” feature in your email or just sit on it in your outbox until at least five days after the deadline.
- If you are asking about a document that you have, that I do not have, upload it to TaxDome before emailing about it.
- If you are asking about how to use TaxDome or find a document in TaxDome, you should email Meg: hello AT strubecpa DOT com.
- If you just have a “quick question,” we do charge for those, either one-off or through an annual subscription. You should describe your entire situation / question and upload relevant documents.
- If you are asking a question that involves tax projections or calculations, you should probably schedule a planning meeting.
- Consider when emailing: “what additional follow-up questions is Karl going to have for me to be able to answer my question(s)?” If you can think of anything and address those in your initial message, we can get you an answer faster with fewer back-and-forth emails. And doesn’t the world need fewer emails? 😉
Which is better for taxes: an EA or a CPA?
That’s an apples and oranges question. We know many brilliant EAs and CPAs, and we know too many incompetent EAs and CPAs. 😉
EAs only do tax work, but there are subtypes of tax work, so not all of them file individual tax returns, offer tax planning, etc. A CPA is a much broader license that lets you do multiple areas of accounting: so, while many do taxes, many also do not.
Ask your potential tax pro:
- How long have they been doing tax work?
- Do they do the type of tax work you’re looking for (e.g., individual tax prep/compliance, entity tax prep/compliance, tax planning, trust & estate tax)?
- Will they put their name on your tax returns? Note: we don’t often actually sign the actual tax returns anymore, but you should be able to find your preparer’s name somewhere on your tax return file they provide (usually the Form 8879 at minimum), or you probably have a ghost preparer.
- Do they have a PTIN (you can actually look this up yourself here) to be allowed to prepare returns for compensation?
There are other less common designations besides the CPA and EA. The key is whether or not they have a PTIN (see last bullet point above).
I uploaded most of my documents. When will my returns be done?
We do not usually start work on returns until we have ALL of your tax documents, unless we are preparing a draft to put returns on extension. A few analogies to help illustrate working on taxes with incomplete documents:
- buying a house but not being able to see the living room first
- working on a 1,000-piece puzzle but only having 800 pieces in the box
There are due diligence checks that must be done once everything is in. So “waiting on one last form” is not usually just a quick switch to flip, and issue tax returns. Thank you for partnering with us to help us complete your tax returns accurately.
What if I can’t find all of my tax forms?
First, you should try to contact any issuers (employers, etc.) for another copy, or log into any financial accounts to download any tax forms (or confirm that you don’t have any from that institution). Not all forms get mailed anymore, many require you to log in and look for them.
Alternatively, you can create an account with the IRS to download your tax transcripts. This is a one-person account, so if married, each spouse needs to register for an account. Keep in mind that the “wage & income transcript,” which shows all tax forms issued to your SSN, isn’t available until May or June at the earliest. So if you know a tax form is missing, plan to file an extension.
Most states with an income have similar processes and access. Since the majority of our clients are in California (but we file for clients all over), MyFTB is the website to create an account.
Are you “on my side” or on the IRS’s side when preparing taxes and advising me?
This is a misconception perpetuated by social media, that some tax pros implicitly work for the IRS to try and get clients to pay more taxes than needed. This is false. Every tax professional should work to prepare accurate tax returns to help you pay the least amount of tax you owe. Many tax laws are subject to nuance and interpretation. The best way to legally pay the least amount of taxes is to:
- Book a planning meeting before the year ends.
- Write down your questions and fact patterns of the tax minimization ideas and questions you have. Details matter!
- Ask if there are any legal adjustments you can make to help your proposed business activity or rental fit the required criteria for lower taxes. No lies or misrepresentation of facts, sometimes there are slight changes you can make in your business or rental that will drastically affect your tax bill.
There are some tax pros who are more conservative or aggressive in their tax positions than other tax pros. Some will allow a deduction that others won’t. Sometimes that’s a matter of interpretation, but other times it’s a matter of tax evasion. Don’t dismiss a tax pro that says something isn’t deductible; he or she might be trying to help you avoid committing tax fraud or filing an inaccurate return.
How do I know if something is a tax scam or a legitimate aggressive tax planning strategy?
Admittedly, it can be hard to tell without experience in this industry or reading through a lot of complex tax code. We offer these two metrics as a starting point:
- Are you being encouraged to lie about or misrepresent how your business or rental is owned or actually runs?
- Is the tax idea on any of the annual IRS published lists of “dirty dozen” tax scams?
How do I know if I need or would benefit from tax planning?
The truth is that not everyone needs tax planning. If your only income is from a W-2 job as an employee with no equity compensation, and you aren’t charitably inclined (note: high four figures or more of annual giving); tax planning may not be as helpful for you.
But if you have a business, a rental, and/or a brokerage account; there would likely be value in a tax planning session. It’s difficult to know without all of your tax and financial documents and information.