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My CPA said this….

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    My CPA said this….

    OK, we’ve all had them…client comes in with some screwball idea about a deduction his CPA said he could take that isn’t true. You go, why don’t you have your CPA do your taxes?

    This latest one takes the cake. I’ve been doing their return for over 10 years. Last October, the husband died, and the wife, who is in her late 50s, comes in last week to finish the extension we filed. I had never dealt with her before because her husband always came in to do their taxes. She gives me this 1099R from her husband’s 401(k) plan showing a distribution of over $35,000, code 4, distribution due to death, no penalty. She tells me it isn’t taxable because he died and they had to distribute it because he no longer worked there. I said it was taxable and that the only thing the code 4 meant was that there was no penalty for early withdrawal. It was too late for her to roll it over because I didn’t know about her taking the distribution until last week. I figured the tax and told her she owed over $5,000, all due to the 1099R. Of course she didn’t have any of the money left because he didn’t have life insurance, and it all got eaten up paying bills and stuff after his death.

    To make a long story short, I get a call this morning from her saying her CPA said I shouldn’t have taxed all of that $35,000 because there is a death benefit exclusion for pension money, and I didn’t know what I was talking about when I said she had to pay all of that tax. I said who is this CPA; I need to have a talk with him. She gave me his number, and as it turns out, it is a nephew of hers who works as a financial analyst for a local brokerage firm. He is a CPA but hasn’t worked with taxes for 10 years. I said the death benefit exclusion hasn’t been around since 1996. He wasn’t sure he believed me, but he’d get back to me.

    Why do people always think they can give tax advice when they aren’t in the business???

    Erstwhile Tax Professionals

    We've all heard it - A CPA told me this, A lawyer told me that, my banker says...

    And we're supposed to succomb our own expertise because the client places their intelligence level above ours. Especially lawyers - we are supposed to tremble in our
    boots and kneel at their altar of knowledge.

    What a joke. Some CPAs are in audit and other financial fields and are not in tax practice. Those who are in practice are normally quite knowledgeable, and I guess I would give them a call to see if they know something I don't - it's possible they have been given more facts, and possible also that they know tax law better than myself.

    MOST lawyers are not in tax practice. Again, those who are in tax practice are normally quite knowledgeable and if that is the case I would also heed what they have to say.

    The problem is the perception the clients have that some of these professionals can trump the ace of spades because they're supposed to be smarter than unadorned tax practitioners. I often respond by telling these folks that these people (and not myself) should be doing their taxes.


      $5,000 Exclusion

      Had a similar client in 1997, spouse deceased in late 1996. I stated also that the death benefit exclusion was repealed for dates of death after August 20, 1996. I prepared the return without the exclusion, then subsequently she found someone else who amended the return and applied the $5,000 exclusion, and applied for a refund and she received it. Taxpayer sent me a copy of the 1040x and the refund check. Figure that one out! Lost that client! and I do not know if IRS ever requested the money back later.



        Can you blame the client when somebody else tells them something they want to hear?

        I had a divorce decree, written by one attorney and accepted by the other, and approved by a judge, that gave Head of Household filing status to the noncustodial parent. I told the client it wouldn't work. Why should he believe me? Two lawyers and a court said otherwise.

        All you can do is your best.