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Category: Finance
Satisfied Customers: 4438
Experience:  Tax professional and business consultant for 35 years.
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My elderly mother (who can't remember or process numbers)

Customer Question

My elderly mother (who can't remember or process numbers) had an accountant she adored, who became gravely ill in 2013 and passed away in 2014. The firm is in Portland, Oregon, and my mother has fairly simple taxes: a bank account (no other investments), social security income, steady income from one trust, a small amount of income from her writing (and thus deductions), and two personal assistants.
Alarmed by a recent high bill I happened to see from his successors at the firm, I emailed, asking them to tell me what they had charged her for the past five years. I got no response to my first three emails. After I finally left several messages, I received the following email:
"Here is the recent history of your mother’s accounting fees:
2009 returns $ 500
2010 returns $ 525
2011 returns $ 525
2012 returns $4,000
2013 returns $4,350
The 2012 returns involved the sale of her residence and reconstructing the cost basis of her residence from various records. It was also the first year in which the Forms 1099 needed to be filed. The 2013 returns data was not at all organized which is why that fee was so high (in addition to the Forms 1099). If the information is well organized (i.e. the Tax Organizer is completed accurately), then we can prepare her returns (and the 1099s) for $1,500 or less."
This looks to me like a gross attempt to exploit a confused elderly woman as soon as her accountant friend was too ill to notice. But perhaps I'm wrong and it's reasonable? How would you proceed if this were your elderly mother? (I'm only asking for an opinion and won't quote you!) Thank you!
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Finance
Expert:  PDtax replied 1 year ago.

Hi from just answer. I'm PDtax, a CPA. We have a higher standard of ethical behavior, and I can advise.

First, it is possible that the recreation of basis takes time. It should not take that kind of time.

I would ask, in writing, for an itemized bill. I would address the letter to the managing partner of the CPA firm, and separately to the state society of CPA's in your state. Give them ten days to respond, and send the letter certified, with a return receipt. You can expect an itemized bill quickly.

Once you have that, review the time spent, and the billing rate charged. That will guide your next step.

Expert:  PDtax replied 1 year ago.

That will give you the basis for a complaint with the starter if there really is an issue. This is normally all that will be needed to resolve things. The CPA firm will not want to have to defend its billing to the state.

Thanks for asking at just answer, and good luck with your inquiry. Positive feedback is appreciated. I'm PDtax.