Why We Don’t Make Promises We Can’t Keep

No matter how much you prepare, you can never control the outcome of something. This isn’t to suggest you can’t aim for a certain outcome. We should always do the legwork, putting in the time to prep and research as much as possible. But while you should commit time to preparing, you can’t become married to a certain result. Expectations are resentments under construction.

When I was starting out and only in practice a few months, a new client came to me and asked, “Michael, can you get my wage garnishment resolved?” I took a quick look at his case, and my novice self said, “Yes, I can.” My confidence quickly evaporated when I called the Revenue Officer at the IRS assigned to my client’s case and learned my client had tried to punch him out when the officer visited his residence a few weeks prior.

Needless to say, I did not get my client’s wage garnishment lifted. He was lucky not to be in jail for assaulting a federal officer! I refunded his retainer deposit, withdrew from the case, and wished him “good luck.”

Guarantee great client care and service, that you’ll return phone calls within 24 hours, and that you’ll pursue every single remedy in your power to try to resolve their tax problem. Guarantee that you will be a vigorous advocate for your client. You can also say that, “Generally, our clients never have to meet or speak with the IRS.” Guarantee some measure of support and relief during their trying process. But don’t guarantee certain results when it comes to the IRS, because you really have no control over the result. It’s also considered unethical to guarantee results per IRS Circular 230. When it comes to tax resolution, the IRS gets the final say.

If anyone is hesitant to retain you because you won’t offer them a results-based guarantee, just tell them this: “If you were in trouble with the law, I doubt very highly that your attorney could promise you a guarantee of how your case would work out.”