7 Questions Rich People Ask Their Accountant

A year ago I started tracking the questions clients asked me. Clients were put into three categories: those with income below $50,000; those with income over $400,000; and everyone else in between in the final category.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder isn’t the reason for my behavior. I noticed questions frequently were based upon wealth. I needed to track data for a period of time to verify what I suspected was true.

Clients (and potential clients) with low income and or net worth almost always asked the same question: How much does it cost? That’s all they wanted to know. I hated the question too. It whores my professional service. Is price the only thing that matters to these people?

The lower income/net worth crowd focused questions around: How fast? How cheap? What’s my refund? and, When does my refund arrive? None of these questions helps clients one bit.

Tax preparation is glorified data processing. (Sorry, tax professionals. I have to call’em like I see’em.) Tax season isn’t the time to tax plan or to engage your accountant at a high level. His/her mind is preoccupied with a million things due yesterday. If the only issues with your accountant are cheap and fast, then you need to reconsider your relationship with your accountant!

The middle group was a mix. Some clients from this group asked the same questions as the poor. There were some who asked many questions similar to the wealthy. The lower end of the middle looked a lot like the low income/low net worth group. The upper end of the middle group had at least some questions similar to the high income/high net worth crowd.

What interested me the most was the wealthiest clients. How these people utilized my services was telling. Price was at most an afterthought; quality was demanded over speed; and the wealthy could care less about a refund. They were only interested in their actual tax liability.

Today I want to share the seven most common questions my wealthy clients have asked me over the last year. I think you will find the information valuable. You might also want to start asking better questions, questions the richest people are interested in hearing the answers to. Better questions lead to better answers and the possibility of more income and net worth.

1.) Is there anything I can do to optimize my tax return? This is by far the number one question my wealthy clients ask me. Wealthy people know an experienced tax professional can tell a lot from a tax return.

 A tax return can be accurate without resulting in the lowest tax. Wealthy clients want me to use this information to build tax reducing strategies that fund their goals. Some clients want ideas to improve the efficiency of their charitable giving. Others want to maximize the benefits of their business or investments. A completed tax return is a wealth of knowledge for an experienced tax professional. With the tax return as a starting point serious wealth can be created with a few simple actions.

2.) I want a consulting session? The richest people in my practice want to speak to me at least once or twice outside tax season. They know I am under the gun in spring as the deadline looms so they want a summer or autumn appointment where the stress level for me is lower. (Wealthy clients actually say it this way, too.)

 It is common for wealthy clients to remind me to charge them for the consulting session. (I always charge for consulting!) Rich people don’t want a barroom conversation. They want a deep analysis of their situation. They come armed with pages of handwritten notes they want covered. This is serious business. A thousand dollars of consulting can put $10,000 or more in the pocket of the client. That is a heck of a return on your investment and the wealthy are well aware of it.

3.) Can you review an investment for me? Of course, I can! A good accountant with decades of experience under the belt knows a few tricks when uncovering value. When wealthy clients want me to review an investment they want the bad news! They already convinced themselves it’s a good investment. Now they want me to punch holes in it. When they get my opinion, including the risks, they can make a better and more informed decision.

There are a variety of investments to review. Stocks and bonds are common. Real estate and businesses are also things I review on a regular basis. I run the numbers through the eyes of an accountant, looking for irregularities. In nearly every case I uncover something the client didn’t notice. Years of training will do that for you.

Seven or eight years ago a client working for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections came to me with an investment in concierge portals for hotels. The company selling the investment made a good story. It sounded good and early investors were getting paid. But! Something wasn’t right. The idea was these machines would make money from Google ads. Having websites and blogs on the internet I knew what profit potential these ads could bring. Quick math told me there was no way this worked. It was a Ponzi scheme.

I expressed my concern to the client and outlined why I felt the investment must be wrong. An internet search and background check of the business’s owner turned up nothing. I ventured a guess these machines were never produced or placed in hotels. I was part wrong. The schemer had a few machine made and placed in hotels to cover their tail if a crazy accountant asked to see one of their product in action.

Against my advice the client invested anyway. Over half of the officers in a local county sheriff’s department were invested in this thing and the thinking was nobody would scam a group of police officers. Think again! Who better to scam? It’s the perfect cover to keep the scam going.

A year and a half later the house of cards collapsed as the FBI came in and raided the company. As suspected, it was a complete fabrication. Tens of millions of investor’s money was lost. I help several people in law enforcement recover as much as possible on their tax return. It was still bad.

Wealthy clients want my advice and in situations like this defer to my judgment. Another opportunity is always around the next corner.

4.) What am I worth? At first this sounds like one of those stupid questions. It isn’t. Wealthy people own assets that are hard to value. Stocks and index funds are easy, but what about a coal mine? As I write I am busting tail on valuing a coal mine and it’s harder than you think. There is more than one way to value an asset. I must consider all valuation methods. Usually this question arises due to the death of a family member or a transfer of an asset as a gift within the family. A solid valuation keeps the IRS at bay.

5.) How much more can I tax defer? Wealthy people know taxes will take more than any other item in their budget if unchecked. Frugal people who say they don’t care about taxes are either lying or not as frugal as they want you to think. Overpaying taxes is still spending!

 Retirement accounts are a powerful first line of defense against taxes. The tax code offers multiple opportunities to tax shelter wealth. Not all of the best tax strategies are basic retirement accounts you hear about in the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) blogosphere. I am working with several retirement specialists in building several future blog posts to hyper-charge your tax efficiency using retirement plans within the tax code. (Something to whet your appetite: You never need a solo 401(k)! You can get the same deal as a solo 401(k) with a regular 401(k) if structured properly and at a very low cost. Now anyone can stash $100,000 or more every year into tax advantaged vehicles.)

6.) Is this a wise expense? Rich people have rich people problems and the only way to solve these problems is with a brutally honest accountant. I’ve had clients ask me if they could afford a yacht. I always tell them a story. The second happiest day of a rich person’s life is the day they buy their yacht. The happiest day is when they sell it.

Wealth sometimes puts stars in a young man’s heart. (The ladies are better at avoiding these kinds of rich-person spending pitfalls.) The veeeeery expensive car, boat, vacation home, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, looks like such a good idea when you are loaded. A smart wealthy person—one who will remain rich—knows to ask the accountant before signing the check. Accountants are deal busters. Sorry. That great idea will evaporate like the morning dew when the accountant looks over the top of his glasses at you.

7.) Can you negotiate a deal for me? Yes, I can. Over the years I have negotiated tens of millions of dollars of deals. I’ve had clients tell me after they were in a room with me while I negotiated their deal they were biting their tongue so hard they drew blood. Negotiating can be that way at times. If it’s a BS deal I’ll say it and will walk whenever it suits me.

 Most people don’t negotiate often enough to be good at it. An accountant (attorneys are good at this too) with experience closing large deals can do things you can’t. I can say things in a negotiation a client cannot.

My understanding of how money works, limited legal knowledge and how much total money a certain agreement will yield is a massive advantage. I’ve gotten deals done everybody had already lost hope in. I can be brutal. But it’s a good brutal. There are clients out there more than a million dollars richer because I did one single deal for them. It makes a difference.

Seven questions. They aren’t the only ones rich people ask me, but they are the most common ones I heard over the last year. The difference between people who have money and those who don’t involves determining value. Wealthy people value my advice and work because it profits them. They know my work and trust my experience to solve difficult situations.

Of course, these questions take more time than: What’s it gonna cost? Good accountants are busy all year round. The best accountants are known within a community. They are known by other professionals: real estate agents, attorneys, doctors, title companies, et cetera. The best way to find an accountant who can answer these questions for you is to ask professionals in other fields. They work with these people all the time.

So, I heard you have a question for me?

Keith Taxguy


  1. Mrs. Picky Pincher on October 4, 2017 at 8:02 am

    Oh, my guess was right! Pretty much everyone wants to (legally) minimize their tax liability; why not ask your accountant for tips? 🙂 My mom was an accountant and she would always roll her eyes when people asked how to pay less taxes (she got asked all the time). Finally she resorted to saying, “Well, have you thought about making less money?” 😛

    • Keith Schroeder on October 4, 2017 at 8:44 am

      Actually, Pincher, that is not exactly how the question is asked by wealthy people. They usually say something along the lines of: Do you see anything on my return I can change to become more tax efficient?

      But I disagree with you mom (no offense intended). If a client wants to pay less, don’t earn less; structure your taxes so it makes you “look” like you make less. You still get to keep all the money. Maxing out retirement accounts is a good start. There are numerous other ways to reduce a tax liability. Nobody uses them all; there is always room to legally reduce your taxes. Personal circumstances dictate what will work. Example: My clients save on average well over $1,000 for every hour they consult with me. Many times a few hours of consulting can generate $50,000 or more in tax saving and net worth accumulation.

      • Kristine on November 8, 2017 at 2:11 pm

        I agree! You don’t need to earn less to pay less in taxes. My CPA and I meet up and talk throughout the year to ensure we’re reducing my tax liability as much as possible, and we have definitely saved a lot of money by connecting regularly. I consult with him before every major financial decision to make sure it’s the most tax efficient route and have held off on buying/selling per his recommendations. He’s the most important player on the team! (Well, maybe second to the furry four-legged mascot who’s always there when you need her… 🙂 )

        This post is one of my favorites.

  2. Andy on October 4, 2017 at 8:16 am

    We did our first Roth conversion this year. Based on my research I think we did it right. 🙂

    • Keith Schroeder on October 4, 2017 at 8:39 am

      Is that a question, Andy? 😛

  3. Maria on October 4, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Great post Ketih.
    Looking forward to the post on “hyper charging your tax efficiency using retirement plans within the tax code.” Keep up the great work.

  4. Robert on October 4, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Good article. I’m scratching my head a little on #5…”anyone can stash $100k in tax advantaged vehicles every year.” Are you thinking of expanding the “how to” on this sometime in the future? Is it just for self employed folks? Working couples only? In my mind I can’t get there using 401k, IRAs, HSAs.

    • Keith Schroeder on October 4, 2017 at 10:42 am

      I knew somebody would eventually bring up this point, Robert. I’m alluding to a few different things. First, a husband and wife can max out deferred comp at $54k each or $60k if 50 or older. You can also fund a 457 plan to the same level, plus fund an IRA (including a SIMPLE). Limitations apply. The second thing is the biggie. In certain cases massive amounts—hundreds of thousands—can be deferred. It needs a longer blog post to flesh out, but the short version is you can use a defined benefit plan as you get older and the deductions can be massive with lots of guaranteed income down the road. There are a few more things I’m working on, but I have to keep you coming back so all I offer is the teaser. (RETURN FOR NEXT WEEKS EXCITING EPISODE OF . . . !!!)

      For readers who wander to the comments, I will not address these issues until probably November. I am planning for FinCon and the posts while I am there are scheduled posts where I don’t anticipate much attention. But when I get back, get reaaaaady to rumble!!!

      • Robert on October 4, 2017 at 11:16 am

        Ok, I’ll wait then. I’m not in that much of a hurry. I don’t make financials decisions, (or, any decisions, if you ask my wife) quickly. Have fun at FinCon. Thx.

      • thehappywayfarer on October 4, 2017 at 4:05 pm

        Defined benefit plans? I didn’t know those still existed except for the handful of union employees still out there.

        • Keith Schroeder on October 4, 2017 at 4:09 pm

          Happywayfarer, you are going to be really surprised. Some readers using the cash balance concept will be able to deduct up to $316,000 per year. I’m going to get serious now; not gentle like before. There is also a better option than the solo 401(k) many people will benefit from. Looks like next week Wednesday or Friday this will be live.

          • Ted on October 5, 2017 at 8:20 am

            Are these ideas that a typical wage earner can use? Both me and my wife work, max out our 401(k)s, HSAs, Roth conversions and I’m desperately looking for more tax free space.

          • Keith Schroeder on October 5, 2017 at 8:28 am

            Let me get the post written, Ted. It might be slightly delayed because I am writing and editing the post this weekend and I have specialists reviewing and commenting before I go live. If extra work is needed to write a quality post then extra time I will take. As to your question, there will be limitations. Not everyone will benefit. I will throw as many ideas as I possibly can and I’ll provide links to facilitate the process. Typical wage earners are at a disadvantage unfortunately.

          • David Ann Arbor on October 5, 2017 at 10:54 am

            And you’re going to be paying an actuary $6,000 a year to do the math. Pension accounting is extremely complicated, involves calculation of expected date of death, changes to the value of the Pension fund, and may require adding to the pension fund if the value drops below expected (think 2008-2009).

          • Keith Schroeder on October 5, 2017 at 10:59 am

            Nope! The cost is negligible and the tax benefits significant. No need to see the farm receive value, David. The caveat is that no one idea fits everyone. Many will find this information of value while others can’t use the strategy. All that means is I roll up my sleeves and find more opportunities.

          • David Ann Arbor on October 5, 2017 at 11:06 am

            I guess I don’t agree with you on this. The IRS has some strict rules regarding Defined Benefit Pensions. Many of these are spelled out in the New York Times article, “Save for Retirement in Just 10 Years? It’s Doable, but Risky,” written by Paul Sullivan. Unless you have some kind of an IRS letter declaring that yet a different defined benefit pension fits with their definition, I’m really skeptical of what you are suggesting.

        • Jeff on October 7, 2017 at 7:20 am

          Regardless of how many pensions are still around (and there are still many), the laws and regulations are still on the books and new plans can be created anytime. A plan can be a small as one person.

          (Source: me, a pension actuary, FSA, EA)

          • thehappywayfarer on October 7, 2017 at 8:13 am

            Where would I go to learn more? As a CPA, I audited a few many years ago but I’ve forgotten most of what I knew. Thanks.

          • Jeff on October 7, 2017 at 8:58 am

            If you Google “single person pension plan” there are some decent results. Apparently Schwab has an offering. The downside is fees, as these plans require annual actuarial valuations. Schwab charges $1500/year.

            For regulations, see:


  5. Shannon on October 4, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Great stuff, Keith!! I have been following your blog a little over a year now. I am also an Accountant (Financial Auditor). I’ve been in the profession as an auditor for 10 years and I am still learning something new in the profession all the time. I like to describe an accountant from the movie Taken as…’ a person with a unique set of skills.’ I am reading a lot in the FIRE community but your blogs hit home for me and provide a lot of thought to what am I doing in my professional and personal life.

    • Keith Schroeder on October 4, 2017 at 10:44 am

      From the movie The Chronicles of Riddick: “They don’t know what to do with one of me.”

      Thanks for reading, Shannon. My hope is I find more ideas and ways to get people, including professionals, to think more broadly. It’s a great profession.

  6. Jason@WinningPersonalFinance on October 4, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Your list got me thinking. I’ve always been a DIY turbo tax tax preparer. My return is fairly straight forward. At what point do you think it makes sense to hire a professional vs. going at it alone. Obviously a professional can add value but as your lower income clients point out come with significantly more costs. Is there a certain income or complexity threshold you can point to where hiring a professional can lead to a greater ROI?

    • Keith Schroeder on October 4, 2017 at 10:50 am

      Jason, many people can and should do their own return. Simple returns don’t need a tax pro plugging numbers. The real value of a tax pro is the consulting. That is where the money is made.

      When you should opt for professional tax help depends on the person. When you feel uncomfortable it is time to seek help. Some people are very versed in tax theory and can handle most issues, others, not so much. You know when you are crossing the line into the unknown. If you see something here or in the news bring it up with a tax pro. Maybe you need a consult, maybe you need one year of professional help to clean up the file, maybe you need professional prep work every year. It all depends. Find a good accountant (one who listens and answers your questions without an attitude). You’ll know when it is time to move from consulting to professional preparation.

      • Mr. FWP on October 4, 2017 at 12:56 pm

        Love it, Keith! Looking forward to the tax optimization posts too. I learned today about a new option for me that allow me to shelter far more each year – more than I can even shelter at this point.

        I couldn’t agree more re professional advice and value. For my financial planning clients, I’m almost always able to immediately offer them input that saves them (or even better, makes them!) some large multiple of the small fee they pay me. It’s a win-win for both of us.

        On the last one, we saved *thousands* within minutes. You just know what to look for if you do it all the time.

        As to the question asked, I switched when I found myself doing hours of research per year. I found it becoming a hassle and knew I could deploy my time better elsewhere. For instance, I could do two planning sessions with my own clients and come out ahead – without all the concern and research through the year, and with far more confidence about tax issues. It’s invaluable to be able to call my accountant on off months re quick things that arise, where she knows answers off the top of her head. As our situation becomes more complex, she adds increasing value. Once you reach a certain amount or level of complexity, the accountant can add a lot of value – and I imagine it only increases from there. I know that’s true for me.

        See you at FinCon!

  7. Lance on October 4, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Keith – LOVE IT. My dad always said the poor think about their next meal, the rich think about the next generation.

    Here’s my question: this is the first year I’m fully FIRE and I’m trying to optimize between Capital Gains Harvesting, Roth Conversion Ladder, and Affordable Care Act subsidies – what’s the optimum between these three strategies for a single guy living in Colorado with about $5000/yr in earned income and about $22k/yr in taxable long term capital gains? I believe Capital Gain income is not “Earned Income” so it doesn’t count against your Roth Conversion, but converting a traditional IRA to Roth does count as earned income, and both count against the ACA subsidies. Do I have this right?

    I’d be happy to hire you to delve into this but if you are too busy can you recommend someone?


  8. Tom @ Dividends Diversify on October 4, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Another accountant chiming in here. Fortunately FI has helped me out of the Corporate World and into the academic world teaching future accountants. Anyway, I totally agree with one of the points/conclusions. I would much rather pay more (even overpay – ouch) for a good or service of high and lasting durable value that pay any amount of money for fast and cheap. Looking forward to those future posts on super charging tax efficiency. I can be as frugal as the next guy or gal and look at my expenses and see taxes as one of if not the biggest line item. Great post. Thanks.

  9. Bill @ wealth well done on October 4, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Good article. When I first started out collecting money, I thought a good financial advisor was more important than a good accountant. Because all an accountant can do is file my taxes, right? Wrong! Now that I am becoming wealthy, I realize that I fired my financial advisor years ago because I realize I can do most of his work myself, but my skilled accountant can help me navigate through my financial ambitions that I couldn’t have done myself. By the way, thanks for reminding me to email my accountant a question about how to organize my reciepts for a recent renovation on an investment property before he gets too busy. I dig your trade.

  10. Heidi on October 4, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Great post! I asked my CPA the last few years, “How much does my employer (me, I’m self –employed) have to contribute to my Solo 401k to keep my AGI below $18,000?” 😉

    • Keith Schroeder on October 4, 2017 at 3:11 pm

      Heidi, I am working on a post that will blow your mind away. Hoping I can have it ready next week. It will deal with solo 401(k)s and other options. I am working with a specialist on this and feel excited we will knock it out of the part. This is next level stuff readers will really benefit from.

  11. Jana on October 4, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    I need this. We need to tax shelter more of our income. help please.

  12. Danny on October 5, 2017 at 8:25 am

    “Tax preparation is glorified data processing.” – As an EA, I laughed so hard at this I had to clean off the coffee from my monitor 🙂 Very well written post, and as someone who is lucky enough to work with wealthy clients, I can attest all the questions you presented above are 100% true. From discussing different strategies on how to represent built-in-gain for descendants, or having quarterly meetings with an entire family to buy/sell stocks or AIV’s that are considered PFIC’s are some of the examples I can think of off the top of my head. It’s really a whole different world at that level of income and net worth.

    • Keith Schroeder on October 5, 2017 at 8:32 am

      As an EA, Danny, I want you to return here for Friday’s post. All tax professionals reading this blog will want to attend and all the people contacting me for services I don’t have time to take on will love what I present. My hope is this blog can leverage the accounting industry and benefit the fine readers here with quality tax help they need. I can’t do everyone’s return and I haven’t figured out how to clone a bunch on mini-me’s. But tomorrow I will take a step closer and you want to be there, Danny.

      • Danny on October 5, 2017 at 9:24 am

        Yeah, definitely! Of the posts I’ve read of yours, you always put out quality information. Looking forward to reading tomorrow.

  13. Anonymous on October 5, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Obviously you’ve never had a family and make less than $50,000 living paycheck to paycheck in today’s economic climate. The reason they ask how much, is guess what, they can either afford it or they can’t. Simple as that. No point wasting their time or yours if they can’t pay for your services no matter how wonderful you are.

    • Jover on October 5, 2017 at 2:09 pm

      Obviously, you’re one of the people that looks at the world and sees problems. Keith looks at the world and sees solutions. And before you make huge assumptions about him, you might want to read more than one blog post… He’s got a family of 4 and he’s living on a fraction of that $50,000 you reference!

  14. Danielle @ Follow My Gut on October 5, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    I love that you have this list because it’s so helpful for the person like me who wants to grow my finances and learn how to make a solid future for myself. Thank you for this!!!

    Danielle | FollowMyGut.com <3

  15. Ten Factorial Rocks on October 6, 2017 at 1:08 am

    Good article, Keith. I believe in the value a good accountant offers, because it’s impossible for busy professionals or entrepreneurs to keep track of all the complexities of the tax code and get the optimal structuring going. Now I know who to hire in case I need help in the future!

  16. Jim @ Route To Retire on October 6, 2017 at 10:22 am

    Hey, Keith – I’m newer to your site, but I’m loving what I see! Posts like this are very helpful. It’s definitely a reality that the rich know that spending a small amount of time and money up front will payout much higher over the long term.

    So here’s a question for you. We’re going to be pulling the trigger on FIRE in the next couple of years. It’s going to involve doing a Roth IRA Conversion Ladder and other fun stuff. I’m pretty confident in my game plan to do everything needed. However, this is one of those situations where it can really hurt to not be right on any piece of things. I’m thinking I should sit down with someone to ensure that I have the right order of events, that I’ll be pulling from the right buckets at the right time, optimizing taxes, etc.

    Who would be better to sit down and discuss this with – a certified financial planner or a smart accountant? Or both?

    Thanks for the great post!

    — Jim

    • Keith Schroeder on October 6, 2017 at 10:32 am

      Either an accountant or CFP is fine as long as they know what they’re talking about, Jim. The accountant may serve you better if your tax return is reviewed at the same time, but there is a strong chance I might be biased here. I’m working on a post for Monday which will cover some of these issues. It’s important any professional you consult fully understands your personal facts and circumstances. It affects the answer.

  17. Charles on October 7, 2017 at 9:47 am

    I enjoy your blog tremendously and love the information you provide. I’m really hoping you reveal new tax saving strategies that I might have over looked but as a W2 earner, I’m guessing much of your next anticipated post will apply to the self-employed.

    We max out all retirement plans at work which consist of a 457 for me and a 403b and 457 for her, we invest the max in our Roth’s and lastly funnel additional money in index funds-in our taxable accounts.

    Can’t wait to read it Keith, I hope I find a nugget of tax saving advice we can use!


  18. Keith "Shin" Schindler on October 9, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Great post.

    I remember myself and my wife being in the group that was worried about the tax refund, back when we were early married. We’re now in the upper-middle group and ask our CPA many of the questions that the wealthy ask.

    Right now, where looking to get a hold of our investment advisor to talk about my wife’s recent inheritence. I also want to talk to our CPA about reducing our tax liability.

    As for tax preparation, I gladly pay our CPA to take care of it. We’re in too complicated a position for me to try to do it myself.

    Sure enjoyed your piece and will looking into more of your stuff. I just discovered you at Rockstar Finance.

  19. Lyn on October 11, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    Good accountants are a gem! When I was 17, my dad hired an accountant because he was his cousin, and the firm tax estimation was in the range of 25-30%, much higher than what a kid who wants some education fund can take. I thought, if freelancing are taxed that terribly, who wants to be self-employed? So I read the whole taxation law and had to “convince” the accountant that in fact, the whole income is under tax exemption. Good news? I won. Bad news? My dad still hires him because it’s his cousin and I had to read taxation law all the way thru an engineering college.

  20. Cubert on October 12, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Great post, Keith. I’m going to set up a consult with our accountant today!

  21. […] to ask questions for everything that is burning in your mind. In this blog post you’ll read 7 Important Questions that Rich People Ask Their Accountant. It’s amazing how many people don’t ask about how to optimize the money they […]

  22. Susan on October 14, 2017 at 9:26 am

    I am also an accountant who was in private practice for just over a decade. I think your post really highlights the planning vs the filing. By the time it’s filing time, it’s too late to fix a lot of things because you are filing for last year. The value is in the planning. As for people asking “how much do you charge” I was always amazed at how few people understand filing a basic tax return. For most people they don’t need an accountant or a tax preparer for this. Especially in this day of tax software for the masses. And how few people understand that a tax refund is a bad thing. (Side note: am I the only one who cringes every time some says “Im waiting to get my tax return”? It’s a tax REFUND.)

    • Keith Schroeder on October 14, 2017 at 9:30 am

      I agree, Susan. Tax refunds are waaaaaaay over-rated. Taxes are bad enough without giving the government an interest free loan.

  23. […] 7 Questions Rich People Ask Their Accountant – Wealthy […]

  24. AnnieG on October 20, 2017 at 7:38 am

    “Tax preparation is glorified data processing.”

    Which is probably the reason I have had to amend so many returns originally done by CPAs!

    • Keith Schroeder on October 20, 2017 at 7:56 am

      Agreed, Annie. But even yours truly has screwed up a time or three as well. The tax code is complex and the hours grueling. Mistakes happen. The goal is to minimize errors to as low as possible. I’m never satisfied in my office. I want fewer errors by staff and me. If you are just a data processor you end up with a lot more mistakes. Professionalism is tantamount. I try to live to those high values every day to the best of my ability.

  25. Lorne on October 20, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    Great article, and valuable advice. Can you recommend someone in the Vancouver area in Canada that can provide this service to Canadians?

  26. […] 4. 7 Questions Rich People Ask Their Accountant by The Wealthy Accountant […]

  27. […] to The Wealthy Accountant’s post, “7 Questions Rich People Ask Their Accountant,” I was also inspired to setup a consultation/planning session with the Black Sheep Family’s […]

  28. Sophie on March 5, 2018 at 5:37 am

    Keith, in your future post can you include tax reduction strategies for those making around $500k a year? Appreciate your blog!

  29. Robert on March 9, 2018 at 11:04 am

    This was really helpful and thoughtful. Thanks!

    I especially enjoyed reading your replies to some of the comments on deferrals and when to seek a professional accountant.

    I had never considered an accountant as a negotiator, but I will now. Thanks!

    Are there any habits for the people in the middle category that aspire or expect to graduate into the top category that improve their chances of staying there?

  30. BSM on June 12, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    This is one of my favorite posts… I immediately setup a consultation session w/ my accountant last year upon reading this and just setup another mid-year review for 2018. Thanks for the great advice as always!

  31. Chris on December 30, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    Keith, I am a CPA myself, albeit in Canada, and I think that this post is not fair in that it portrays a typical middle class person in a very negative light.

    Your typical middle class person is not going to have a complex tax return. Now granted, it has been a couple of years since I have practiced in public (I work in private industry now), but I don’t see how this would have changed.

    1. They have their wage, which is their main source of income and perhaps they may be self-employed
    2. They may have some deductions for savings such as for retirement
    3. They may be eligible for certain tax credits
    4. For most people, there isn’t going to be as much tax on issues like capital gains because ordinary middle class people do not have that level of income (perhaps the most common time a middle class person has to deal with that is during the sale of a house – keep in mind that a middle class person is just going to have a lot less financial investment than a well of person)

    Wealthy clients are simply going to have a larger source of income and different assets with various different tax implications.

    Over the past few decades, the middle class has seen its real wages stagnate, which the well off have taken nearly all of the gains for themselves. That’s why people who are less well off tend to lean towards the short term. Options like trying to defer tax are often not possible for the less well off and they are less likely to engage in business deals.

    Here is a good read about the working class:

    That isn’t to say that a CPA might not be able to help the working and middle class (actually my province – or our equal of a state has a service where the CPA organization provides taxes for low income citizens that CPAs can volunteer for), but it’s not nearly as night and day as this post implies. There isn’t as much room for tax planning and optimization for most people who are wage earners. The opportunities for deals and tax savings are just a lot lower.

    From my experience, about the most valuable thing that might be useful is financial advice. Even there, I think there’s less opportunity for a middle class person simply because their needs are a lot simpler and the potential for savings a lot more modest.

  32. Vins on July 6, 2020 at 2:16 am

    This article is spot on! I remember when I started my business, this is actually the first question that I have asked my accountant – ” Is there anything I can do to optimize my tax return?”

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