Couple of thoughts on expectations of accountant:
First, perfection costs money. Getting a 1% detail right can, in certain cases, cost much more than the other 99%. This is especially the case when a client hands you raw data with little order to it - we can get the details right, but it means going through EVERYTHING, ONE piece at a time AND triple checking to ensure NOTHING was missed. For example, let’s assume a client has heavy meals out, with some being personal, and some being business. We can track those meals by going through EVERY receipt, matching EACH one and making multiple phone calls to the client to clarify what was what, because receipts and bank accounts together often do not convey all of the necessary information. As you can imagine, this type of sorting runs up the billable hours in a serious way. Now multiply that ONE issue by…some larger number. Bottom line: a perfect set of books can become VERY expensive, especially if the underlying data are imperfect. And with entrepreneurs (go do a deal NOW, backroom work can wait, and wait…and wait!), the underlying data are almost always imperfect. Do not underestimate the cost of perfection, especially that 5% or so increment between “perfect” and “very good”. That last 5% can cost as much as the 95% that preceded it - which is where we get the saying “the perfect is the enemy of the good”…meaning a quest for perfection can become too expensive, or takes enough time and resources to keep other big things hanging.
Second, depends strongly on the client. There are several types:
We have clients who apply the Pareto Principle to the nth degree. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that principle, it means that the first 80% of the result comes from 20% of the work, and the remaining 20% of the result would require 80% of the work (i.e. diminishing returns). These sorts of clients will absolutely NOT pay for perfection. They are willing to pay $100 for 95% (good), but not $200 for 100% perfect. In fact, such clients often need to be pushed by us to the 95% line, because they will be happy with 80%, while we are not willing to sign an 80% return or prepare 80% books. This describes most of our client base - they will do the minimum possible to get to 95%, and they absolutely will not pay to get from 95% to 100%. Such clients are entrepreneurs to the core, maximize results, minimize cost, and seek perfection only when it is efficient for it to happen. These types of clients love us, because all too many accountants demand perfection AND not coincidentally, dramatically run up the cost of services with such a demand.
Some of our clients are consistently detail-oriented (which is much better than inconsistently so). They want 100% perfection, know what 100% perfection costs and are willing to pay for it. Typically, but not always, such clients also assemble very useable raw data (meaning that they are consistently detail oriented), which helps reduce the cost of getting from 95% to 100%. These clients are fairly rare in REI or small business, and almost always come from an engineering or software background. As long as they recognize and pay the cost of perfection, they work out fine.
The worst category are the GOTCHA clients - the ones who want perfection, but will not pay for it ("a set of books should cost “this much” even though the client took tons of time on the most excruciatingly detailed or subjective [that should be a repair, not a utility!] items). This is the sort of client who will DEMAND a detailed legal explanation if they disagree with a return item (with a cut and paste of the statutes, rulings and cases in question) and then be upset when billed for the time it took to show or argue the law (though I will not bill for the time if the client has a better interpretation