It's in the details: A tax folder wins a new client.

For years, I used a nationally known tax preparation company to prepare my wife and my joint federal and state tax returns. And, while they did what seemed like a decent job, I always left their office feeling like my returns had just been put through an assembly line. Vaguely dissatisfied, but nothing that I could put my finger on. Maybe it was the way that they stuffed our returns and tax forms into a big envelope and handed it to me with an equally large bill for their services. Somehow, they just didn’t seem all that professional.

So a few years ago as tax time rolled around again, I happened to ask my son-in-law whom he used for his tax returns. It turns out that his taxes were prepared by an accountant who was not only a CPA, but also an enrolled agent with the IRS and a professor of tax accounting at a local college. Well, that was good enough for me and I called and made an appointment.

When I arrived for my appointment, I noticed that his office was modestly furnished which threw me off a little until I noticed all of the certificates and diplomas hanging on the wall. And then it was time for my appointment. He greeted me warmly, offered me a cup of coffee and then we got down to business. What a difference between him and my old tax preparer. He asked me question after question, and after about a half an hour, he gave me the good news about a larger-than-expected tax refund that my wife and I would be getting as well as a smaller-than expected bill for his services.

Needless to say, I was impressed. But what happened next impressed me even more. Instead of stuffing our returns and documents into an envelope, he took my copy of my tax returns out of his printer and proceeded to staple them into a very professional tax folder with embossed trim and die cut windows. It seemed that he used tax preparation software that also printed out a cover sheet with the name of his practice as well as my wife and my names on it that showed through the windows of the tax return folder. It also had a pocket to hold our W-2 and 1099 forms, all neatly organized. It was a very professional looking tax return. I asked him if he had the folders made especially for him. He told me that they were stock tax folders for software used by tax preparers to give clients their returns and to organize their documents.

As I said, I was impressed! So much so, that I referred three new clients to him the following year, and in return, he prepared our tax returns that year for free. Needless to say, he’s got a client for life.