Taxes Chainsaw Massacre - CPA Horror Stories

By Allison Carter, Manager – AICPA Tax Communications

October 27, 2017

Horror movies are big business. With more than $9.29 billion in ticket sales since 1995,1 this genre has a lot of folks heading to the horror stories jack o latern
But it’s not just ticket sales that make horror movies appealing to directors. These films boast high returns due to their low budgets. George Romero produced his cult classic, “Night of the Living Dead,” for an estimated $114,000, and grossed about $30 million worldwide (that’s approximately 150 times the budget). His next three zombie films did even better.
The numbers shouldn’t be surprising. People love a good scare.
But it’s not just horror films that send chills down our collective spines. From missed deadlines to overlooked deductions, life as a CPA can be scarier than any slasher film.
We asked CPAs to share their tax horror stories, and we’re passing these spooky tales on to you. So get yourself in a haunting mood and settle in for a pre-Halloween fright fest.
Jeepers creepers!
On April 12, I was running back and forth from my office to the front desk to answer clients’ questions about tax returns, get checks to include with extensions, and address other general craziness. That’s when I saw EMS workers and a stretcher coming around the corner. My immediate thought was that a client had had a heart attack in the lobby. It turns out a young audit staffer had passed out. Thankfully she was fine, but it certainly added some excitement to a day that already had plenty to spare!
A tale of bad timing
An investment adviser had a client who had sold his business for $10 million in a prior year. The adviser asked me to review the client's tax result. While the client's company qualified for the Sec. 1202 exclusion of gain, this information was missing from the income tax return. As a result, the client had paid $1.2 million more in tax than required, but the amended return statute of limitation had passed two months prior.
Sleeping potion
I was plowing through corporate returns at a big four firm as we approached the Sept. 15 deadline. I was under a lot of stress and working a lot of hours. Then, I came down with a severe head cold and ended up taking way too much cold medicine. Feeling a bit drowsy and physically exhausted, I closed my eyes for just a second. When I opened my eyes, the entire tax department was in my cube laughing. Apparently, I had fallen asleep for a good half hour. Lesson learned here—beware of the drug warnings on the medicine bottle, especially during tax season!
Once upon a midnight dreary
It was the day before the deadline and my first busy season. I handed in my last tax return to my senior manager for review. She planned to review it that evening, then sign and mail the return from home before leaving for vacation. Imagine my surprise when I entered the office the next morning to see her standing at the printer in casual attire. Apparently, I had used the wrong trial balance to prepare the return, so she had no choice but to come into the office during the wee early morning hours to fix my mistakes before leaving for vacation.
The tale of the evil software
It was the day of the deadline. I generated the e-file submission package and found out from the software that there were more than 20 e-filing error diagnostics to clear before I could file the tax forms!
Don’t be alarmed!
I was out on a client’s site as a new staff member. It was after 5 p.m., and the store had closed. The client had asked my senior staff member and me to make sure we locked the door when we left. My senior staff needed to go back in after we left, but he was locked out and his computer was still inside. Instead of trying to see if someone was in the downstairs office or calling the client, he shimmied up the wall to get in through the upstairs window. This, of course, set off the alarm. Thankfully, there were people still downstairs who stopped the police from coming.
Whether you plan on watching a horror movie, trick-or-treating, or hiding under the covers, we hope you have a Happy Halloween!