CPA has gone silent… what to do?
April 14, 2015 12:29 PM   Subscribe

I am really upset that we’re down to the last minute and my CPA has not finished my taxes or communicated with me since April 3. I haven’t paid him yet. I’m about ready to download Turbo Tax tonight and use his draft to double check. Would I still be obligated to pay him? What if I wait until tomorrow (which is going to make me extremely anxious)?

I never wanted to do my own taxes. I’ve had a CPA do them for years. This year, I called the CPA who’s done our taxes for the past couple of years for an appointment, and he said he was offering an online option. This seemed great, since it’s a pain to get over to his office during the work day. I submitted all my documents to him via a secure portal that he set up, and he sent me a draft of the federal taxes at the beginning of April. We made a few corrections, and he sent a second draft that seemed good. I OK’ed it. That was April 3. I haven’t heard from him since, despite another email and a phone call. What can I do at this point, and what are my obligations?
posted by Kriesa to Work & Money (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it were me, I'd go to his office and see if an in person chat doesn't spur him into explaining himself.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:36 PM on April 14, 2015

I've never used a CPA, so I don't know how these things work. Are you certain that he didn't file on your behalf and not tell you? Two drafts seems like enough to get it right, and maybe there was a missed communication somewhere.

But if not, I would file using the second draft tonight, if you think you possibly can. Giving him one more day isn't likely to do anything other than stress you out more. You really don't want to run afoul of the IRS. "The CPA didn't do his job," isn't an excuse with them. If your CPA does get back to you, you can always file an amended return, if he has some big changes that will help you. But if he doesn't, then I certainly wouldn't offer to pay him at all, and I doubt he will come asking.
posted by backwards compatible at 12:41 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Can you use Where's My Refund? to find out if he submitted the second draft to the IRS and just didn't get back to you after that?

If that doesn't clarify things, I would attempt to make one more call, or even try to visit him at his office. It'd be one thing if you suspected that he hadn't started your taxes, but if you've already gone through two drafts and an approval before the silence, I think there's a chance he may have finished it and is struggling with communication for some reason.

In addition, before rushing to do your full taxes overnight, I would consider filing an extension, which is quick and simple and even available free through TurboTax. Then, do the same thing for your state taxes This sort of thing is what extensions are for. There's unlikely to be a penalty as long as you get things done by October 15th.

If the CPA submitted them previously or comes through today, I would pay him and then not use his services again. If you end up having to do them yourself because he didn't file, I think you have a very strong case for not paying him as his lack of response forced you to duplicate most or all of his work on your own, or pursue the same services from another vendor.
posted by eschatfische at 12:41 PM on April 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

I like the idea of going in person. But, TurboTax is also really easy to use...I've used it in previous years, but this year used it as a first-time freelancer and it took care of all kinds of deductions. I was done in a surprisingly short period of time. Depending on the complexity of your tax situation, it may be much better than you expect. (And yes, you could also just file for an extension).
posted by three_red_balloons at 12:45 PM on April 14, 2015

Our CPA files electronically, and always at the very last possible time. I think it's a professional tactic. We are usually finished with our paperwork a few weeks past his deadline, this year we turned it all in on April 1. He probably works about 20 hours a week during these last ten days or so, and we have to file an extension about half the time, which we completely understand because we just can't seem to get the stuff to him sooner.

It might just be that he's working to make the deadline, or you might have a real problem. I would get the extension forms all ready just in case you don't hear from him in the next 24 hours, and get it postmarked tomorrow evening if you need to. Then you will have until October to work out the details.
posted by raisingsand at 12:48 PM on April 14, 2015

Assuming this is an efiling, the CPA could not have filed without OP's knowledge; you need to sign a form to authorize someone to efile your returns. Of course, even if the guy had efiled with the signed form, it's unprofessional and rude to not answer a client's inquiries.

If you've used him for a couple of years, I wouldn't worry that he's not going to file on time, but I would certainly leave him a voice mail making clear you're displeased and telling him you expect a call or an email back by this evening.

You do have to pay him if he did the return, because after all, he performed the services you contracted for; being a rude lout is not sufficient basis to refuse to pay someone.
posted by holborne at 12:55 PM on April 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you don't file a Tax Return by 4/15, you have to file an Extension. The Extension is a guesstimate of what will be on your final return, and gives you until 10/15 to actually file.

It's likely/possible that your CPA plans to file an Extension for your return - is there an e-file authorization form in your folder next to the draft? Not responding or telling you you're extended is odd & unprofessional, even though he/she is crazy busy this week.

If you can't reach your CPA at all, you don't have to use TurboTax to file your final return.
Use the info in your 'draft' to use TurboTax to electronically file an Extension . That won't cost anything, and it gives you six months to figure out what your CPA has done/will do.
posted by bartleby at 12:59 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To respond to a couple of items, I can’t use “Where’s my Return?” because we’re not expecting a return this year. I am fairly certain that he hasn’t filed, though, because I haven’t signed anything and I haven’t paid him. I seriously doubt there’s a CPA who would submit before being paid himself. Also, there was no information about our state taxes.

Going to his office is at least a 90 minute endeavor (it was near my previous job, and I just stuck with him when I started working elsewhere). I can’t take off work for that long at such short notice.

Thank you for the information on filing an extension. I’ve never had to do that before. It sounds like our best option.
posted by Kriesa at 1:10 PM on April 14, 2015

Our CPA files electronically, and always at the very last possible time. I think it's a professional tactic.

Ours files at the last moment because then we don't have to pay until the last moment. Our taxes have been done for over a month, but we don't have to pay until midnight on 4/15. Technically I don't know if he waits to file at that time, or if there's some way for him to just make the payment wait until 4/15, nut the end result is the same from my end.

However, even if they're waiting to file until the last moment, the lack of communication about that is totally unacceptable.
posted by primethyme at 1:11 PM on April 14, 2015

My accountant also e-files and I receive a packet from him to sign and return to fed and state depts, even if he is impossible to reach by phone or email. It sounds like you might want to file for an extension, which should be fairly straightforward if you already have that second draft for reference.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:13 PM on April 14, 2015

Filing an Extension is easy, costs a stamp, and doesn't hurt anything if he did send in the taxes already.

If you think you owe >$1000, file an extension and don't include the money, there's a small fee on the taxes you owe. It's so unlikely and small that it's not worth worrying about.
posted by flimflam at 1:48 PM on April 14, 2015

I seriously doubt there’s a CPA who would submit before being paid himself.
Doesn't work this way. They can't efile your return without the efile consents, so if you haven't signed them, they can't (legally) efile the returns. But once you've signed the consents, the return must be submitted within 3 days (otherwise it's "stockpiling," which is not allowed).

Thank you for the information on filing an extension.
An extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. If you think you will have a balance due, be sure to send the estimated balance due with your extensions - you'll need to file one for federal and one for your state (and possibly city/county if you have local taxes that are filed on a separate return).

I'm sure he's busy and all, but I would honestly just call him on repeat until he picked up (and I say this as a person who prepares tax returns). It's totally not cool to drop off the map, especially if the client has a balance due and would incur penalties by filing late (there are no federal penalties if you miss the 4/15 deadline and were due a refund; state-level penalties may apply regardless).

If you can't get ahold of him, send him an email instructing him NOT to file the returns and that you will be filing an extension. Then go elsewhere for your return preparation.
posted by melissasaurus at 1:53 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you've only emailed and phoned once since 4/3, I'd start calling and emailing far more aggressively. He could have filed on your behalf already (if he already has your consents on file), but you don't know that for sure. I'd be calling a lot to try to get him on the phone. You know the taxes are completed as you OK'd the final draft already. I'd take that to mean that they'll be filed by the deadline, but I understand that you're nervous at not having heard back from him.

I'd be far, far more concerned if you had received no draft returns by now. I'm 95% sure it's fine based on what you wrote, but start an aggressive email and phone campaign now.
posted by quince at 1:57 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding the checking to see if its already been filed, but filing for an extension is your best option. I just noticed the date (eep!) & did mine for free via TurboTax and then filed another through my state website. As long as you have your W-2s and can estimate your tax, which it sounds like you can, then you should be fine. It took all of 10 minutes. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 2:30 PM on April 14, 2015

> I seriously doubt there’s a CPA who would submit before being paid himself.

This, at least, is not true. We get our bill in May, usually. (And it's a whopper, usually...)

Seconding the comments above: It is not *legal* for your CPA to file or e-file your tax forms before you've reviewed and signed off on them. And if it's after 5:30 PM on April 14th and you haven't signed those forms yet, I'd be worried.

OTOH, if you've reviewed two drafts of your taxes, are you *sure* you didn't already sign an authorization? Because your CPA might have marked your taxes as done and filed. Make sure what the situation is before filing for extensions etc. Remember, you just need an April 15th postmark, so you could, in principle, wait till 3 or 4PM on April 15th...
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:42 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I seriously doubt there’s a CPA who would submit before being paid himself.

Nthing that this is not so. I pay my accountant after he files. It's worked that way with every accountant I've employed.
posted by holborne at 8:16 PM on April 14, 2015

OK, n'thing what everyone else is saying, but with more detail (I use a CPA, I always owe taxes, we always e-file). The consent form everyone is talking about is an IRS form 8879 (e-file signature authorization). It is one page; your state may work differently, but where I live there is also a one page form for e-filing with the state. That would have likely come bundled with your second draft of your taxes. Since you owe, the other thing you should be expecting is a 1040-V payment voucher. That is the thing you send in with your check. Again, there will also be a state equivalent to this for you check to your state tax agency. All of this stuff gets sent via email as well, but they are looking for wet signatures on the authorize to e-file, so that is the one set of docs I have to print out, sign, and then scan back to them.

Besides calling today (I would advise calling or emailing, not dropping in), you might want to go back and check your correspondence for any of this stuff (8879, 1040-V). Also, unless you've lost all faith in your accountant, I would expect him to file the extension for you.

I've had two accountants over the years miss the 4/15 deadline. In one case, the accountant didn't file for an extension (no communication, guy was at end of his career and had already sold off his business, was just doing a couple of returns for clients as a favor and got overwhelmed). In the other case, I was late with some of my documentation, they communicated they were going to file for an extension. It wasn't the end of the world in either case; I owed a small penalty and everything got quickly resolved without me having to talk with the IRS.
posted by kovacs at 3:55 AM on April 15, 2015

I would expect him to file the extension for you.

They also can't e-file the extension without a consent form (Form 8878 for the fed return).

If your CPA filed either the returns or the extensions without the appropriate consent forms, that's a huge no-no and should be reported to the IRS (you can use Forms 14157 and 14157-A).
posted by melissasaurus at 4:36 AM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Visit him and file an extension TODAY.
posted by kschang at 11:38 AM on April 15, 2015

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