A client just picked up her info. The completed return has been sitting here for 6 weeks but I guess she just decided that she wanted to "take a look at it" before she lets it be filed. (In tax preparer parlance, that means she wants to do it herself based on the return I have done. She may or may not use all the info she gave me.) The problem was she didn't want to pay me the full preparation charge. She just wanted to pay a "consultation fee." She thought that entitled her to the return. Not in my book.
If a client wants to pick up their materials, I have to give them back. And I can't charge them for it. That is the IRS's rule - see Circular 230. But they are not entitled to my work for free or even for a reduced price. I try to price fairly and will work with people on the cost of my services. But just because you don't like the returns results doesn't give you the right to pay me less. I have no problem with people coming back with issues with a return. And if I made a mistake, I will redo the return and refund part of the cost. But I know that once a return leaves here, I have no collateral to get paid. Online filing makes it too easy to copy numbers and save my fee.
The idea of paying a "consultation fee" is more to cover her guilty feelings for costing me my fee than a sense of fair pay. If she calls it a consultation, she didn't waste my time and stiff me for my fees. The truth is she is ripping me off and I am not going to make it easier for her. I hope she doesn't do something stupid to get the refund she wants. But I doubt that I will see her again.