whose error is it this late in the game?
by ed mendlowitz
how to review tax returns: the field-tested update
the reviewer needs to conduct their own top-side review before the return gets passed on to be printed (either paper, digital or pdf) and assembled to be sent to the partner to sign and be released to the client.
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the partner will do their own top-side review before signing it – so why shouldn’t the reviewer do it first to catch any error that might have slipped through?
very little effort is needed to compare the return to the previous year looking for big differences. rather than this, i find using the tax prep software or excel tax comparison worksheet to compare the return to last year’s return and the projection, if one was done, a highly effective way of reviewing the final results.
the last thing a reviewer should do is to look at every page of the return and make sure nothing jumps out. many mistakes – sometimes large ones such as not treating a pension distribution as a tax-free rollover, not annualizing the penalty on form 2210, not picking up basis for a sale of restricted stock, picking up a state tax refund as income where there was no tax benefit the previous year, not picking up an amt credit, or not telling a client to set up a sep for income reported on a schedule c – are discovered this way.
it’s a form of speed reading and it’s a highly effective way for the brain to process information.
partner review when signing
the return is reviewed once again possibly by the tax partner, but finally by the partner who signs it. the tax projection would be reviewed as well to determine if the return is on target with the projection and information that was given to the client. notes also should be made then about planning opportunities for the client.
experienced partners easily uncover many errors by simply looking at the output and comparing it with the previous year’s return. the prep software or excel comparison is a tool to assist in this, speeds it up and provides an amazing amount of information to the partner in an instant of time.
other errors spotted can include incorrect social security numbers, addresses, and spelling of clients’ names and wrong or old mailing addresses.
having the preparer look for these types of errors beforehand would raise the quality of the finished product passed on to the reviewer (and partner) and reduce reviewer’s time, error correction time and total processing and handling time … and redos if partner finds an error, and would avoid having an upset partner.
any error that gets through to the partner is the reviewer’s error, not the preparer’s.
one response to “the last thing a tax reviewer does”
yep – you can find 90% of the errors on a return by just doing the year to year comparison and never actually looking at the doc file.