Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Accountant's Perspective

As I prepare tax returns, I need to look at all kinds of information about a client. I need to know everything from how much they spent on prescriptions during the year, to whether or not they purchased a hybrid car or solar panels. I must also have info about charitable contributions, income(s), and expenses.

As I work on each individual tax return, I begin to see into a client's life. I can't quite whisk through returns yet, so I have time to actually learn about the clients. I will likely never meet any of the clients whose tax returns I've worked on. Even so, I feel like I can piece together a client's entire life just from the papers in front of me. Sometimes I also develop an image in my mind of what a client looks like, based on their financial activities. If someone does a lot of stock trading-and losing-then this makes an impression on me. Likewise, if a client tries to trick me into double-deducting something, or performs some other, sly move, then this also leaves an impression. My impressions of these clients eventually mold into a shape in my mind which resembles them.

Eventually, I almost feel like I can assess whether or not a client is happy with life. Of course I'm not being paid for psychiatry work, but it's the long metro rides home that give me time to slowly piece things together.

What would you think about a client like this: Limited income, a hefty mortgage, very little interest income and no dividend income, and filing a single return when s/he filed a married-filing-joint return last year. All kinds of things go through my mind. A person's job even gives some indicators about their life in general.

Tax is interesting work, in this respect.

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