Not the Judge or Jury

We are living in times where controversy swirls all around us. Every day, there’s another breaking story that spreads like wildfire on the news and on social media. After just glancing at the surface, sometimes without even looking past the headline, people decide they know everything about a situation and are ready to cast judgment on a stranger. What we all need is a little more empathy for each other. This concept also applies to clients who have major tax problems.

One of the things that attracted clients to hire me was my ability to find common ground with them. I never judged or looked down on them. I made sure each new prospect knew I saw them as someone who wanted help and to have their finances back on track, and not for the mistakes they made in the past. I’ve had my own trials and tribulations in life and got a second chance — why shouldn’t I offer that same help to someone else who could use a second chance?

Some CPAs, EAs, and attorneys find themselves judging their own clients. Luckily, I’ve found that most people I know who specialize in IRS representation are drawn to this industry because of the intrinsic value they get in helping people, which is awesome. But if you are new to the industry, or one of those in the tax resolution industry who have found themselves feeling less empathic lately, you might want to be more aware of being compassionate toward your client. People who owe money to the IRS are already struggling with the shame and guilt of owing money and feeling like everyone is thinking, “If someone owes money to the IRS, they must be bad a bad person.” It’s important to remember that 99.9 percent of people who haven’t filed in a few years or who owe back taxes are not the sort you would read about in one of our IRS Terror Tale stories. They aren’t bad people who tried to pull one over on Uncle Sam. The reality is that many of them have suffered from some unfortunate life events that knocked them off their feet.

They might have been let go from a job or a longtime career, had a business go south, suffered a serious illness. They may be dealing with the wreckage of alcoholism or substance abuse or the death of a loved one. Some might have needed to raid their 401(k) just to make ends meet, fully intending to put the money back before early withdrawal penalties hit after 60 days. However, their situation didn’t get any better within the two-month time frame, and in addition to owing early withdrawal penalties, the extra income knocked them into a higher tax bracket. After this, their life starts to spiral out of control.

The point is this: Everyone has a story; everyone has a secret; and everyone has struggled with their own obstacles. If someone comes to us for help, we shouldn’t add to their struggles by deciding at a glance what kind of person they are. When people owe money to the IRS, there’s a lot of shame and stigma around it.

I teach a lot about how to market to clients and how to close the client, but the fact of the matter is, being compassionate and empathetic toward a client is probably the best thing you can do to build trust and rapport. Prospects hire you, not your firm. People do business with people, not companies. People do business with you because they feel like they know you, like you, and trust you. I’ve shared many times that I left the corporate world and started my own tax resolution business because I hated working in the corporate world, and then my company grew so large I found myself back in the corporate world, involved with the operations and politics of the business, which is my least favorite part. The last months there, I ended up how I started, working with cases one-on-one with clients, because helping someone have a second chance is the most rewarding part of tax resolution.

michael rozbruch tax and business solutions academy