CORALVILLE- Not many of us look forward to visiting our accountant at tax time.
As owners Jesse Jans and John Phillips of Kuhl, Phillips and Jans, Inc. watched their business grow, they realized their waiting room wasn't keeping up.
"You could fit five people in there," Jans noted.
With no tax code changes expected during the lame duck session of Congress, 2016 ended up being a good year to go hunting for new digs.
In October, the firm said goodbye to its home of over 25 years and opened the doors of its new location at 2401 Coral Ct. Ste. 2 in Coralville, just south of Oakdale Boulevard off Highway 965.
"Just the location itself is easier access for our clients in the corridor," Jans said.
There's more parking, a larger lobby with an adjacent waiting room, and other behind-the scenes upgrades aimed at making the client comfortable and the process of getting your taxes done efficient.
As the number of clients at Kuhl, Phillips and Jans increased over the last five years, so did needs for storage and staff. The new location has a dedicated conference room, better accommodations for staff, updated technology, improved security and a redesigned workspace that isolates the assembly of returns.
"You've got more room to breathe here," Phillips said, noting the new office can accommodate future staff. "You've got more space, you're not sitting on top of each other."
For Jans and Phillips, it's all about maintaining the relationship they've worked to build over years with their clients.
The two have 38 years of experience between them, and their additional staff bring even more knowledge and expertise to the table. Eric Otte is another of the firm's CPAs, and tax accountants Stephanie Nelson and Kevin Hasler joined the staff in 2014.
"As professional accountants, we have the competency you need," said Phillips. "We are a licensed CPA firm, so we are required to maintain our level of education with 40 hours a year of training."
It helps ensure that one of the most crucial records a client will sign each year is done right, Jans said.
"Your tax return is one of the most important financial documents you will construct the entire year. How do you want it prepared?" he asked. "You want it so that if you take it the bank to get a loan or apply for a mortgage, it's accurate."
There aren't a lot of changes to the tax code this year, but you can expect some will be coming soon.
"There could be some major changes for 2017," Jans said.
Tax bracket changes, itemized deduction changes, the possible elimination of the Affordable Care Act- there are lot of ideas being floated out there right now.
The firm's staff stays abreast of tax regulations and advises their clients accordingly, but always with an eye to what might be waiting down the road.
"We can't dwell on what could happen. We have to deal with facts and circumstances as they relate to our taxpayers today," Jans said.
The federal government has the habit of adopting changes to the tax code at the end of the year and making it effective retroactively to Jan. 1, so as tax professionals, the two have come to expect the unexpected.
After years of learning about the Affordable Care Act and its provisions, Jans and Phillips understand they have to learn about whatever might take its place.
"It's amazing to me they expect the citizen to keep up with how fast they change the law," he said.
On the other side of the tax equation is getting to know you- to earn your trust so you will feel comfortable sharing the details of your personal financial information.
"If we don't give them a reason to come back, clients can go anywhere and get numbers added," Jans said. "I tell our staff that we have to serve a purpose in the client's life."
Clients who trust their tax preparer are honest about what happened to them financially during the year, Jans said, and that's key to preparing an accurate return.
While online tax preparation has become more commonplace, Jans warns they aren't always as reliable as the commercials claim.
"A lot of times, you see on television the online tax preparation sites that say their calculations are guaranteed, said Jans. "That doesn't mean it's right; it has no bearing on the accuracy of the return."
It really only means the software calculations are guaranteed; that the addition, multiplication and subtraction for the numbers a person plugs into the software is correct.
"What if you didn't answer the questions correctly? What if they didn't ask the right questions?" Jans posed. "And with the tax code changing all the time, it's really important to ask the right questions."
Though Jans warns about the potential drawbacks to filing returns with online software, it doesn't mean Kuhl, Phillips and Jans clients have to bypass the convenience of electronic communication. The website at kpjinc.com has many interactive features that provide additional resources and information when clients have questions. Clients can upload documents on a secure system and maintain contact via their computers.
"I think we care about our clients and go that extra mile," said Phillips. "I've heard some clients say that at some of the bigger firms, they may not ever see or talk to their preparers. Here, people will always have a chance to meet with us if they care to."
And not just between January and April. The firm works year-round to provide services such as accounting, bookkeeping, payroll services, tax consultation, QuickBooks set up and support, small business consultations and estate planning.
"Our philosophy is to learn about and make our clients successful. We work to understand their businesses and them as individuals, so we can do what it takes, within the tax laws, to help them be successful," Jans said.
It's a personal touch that both Jans and Phillips believe set their firm apart from the crowd.