Tax accounting. Does it get any more exciting than that? Adjusted gross income. Alternative minimum tax. Standard deduction. So fun!


But a recent experience with my accountant did present a great opportunity for growth. How?

First, the gory details (I’ll be as brief as possible). Bottom line is that I’ve had this guy doing our taxes for around eight years. The problem all along is that he is a high-end accountant who charges $900 an hour and our taxes are pretty simple, something I could probably do myself.

He came recommended by a friend who is a business whipper-snapper, Wall Street finance type who I’m sure does have complicated taxes and needs an expert accountant.

My high-flying, high-charging accountant

I pay way more than I need to, year after year. And year after year I’ve tried to find a lower end accountant. And couldn’t. Friends and family kept telling me, “I can’t stand my accountant. If you find one you like, please let me know.”

I finally found one a few months ago and she’s charging me one-third what my current guy does. She came recommended by another friend of mine who has significant wealth and likely somewhat complex taxes.

So I do my break up email and he subsequently sends me the final bill. On it are the tax prep fees (roughly 350% more than what my new person charges) and a several hundred-dollar charge for a rudimentary inquiry to the IRS about a notice we got. It was something that, had I known I was being charged for it, I would have just called the IRS myself.

A fair deal

So I told him we’d pay all of the inflated tax prep bill and not the bogus IRS inquiry fee (BTW, something I’ve never been charged for in thirty-ish years of having my taxes done). He wanted both. Lots of back and forth was involved.

So there’s your setup. Hope that wasn’t too painful.

The only pertinent matter is how I responded. The short answer is that I didn’t do well. I thought about it way too much. I worried. Ruminated. Dwelled.

My ego gets in the way again

It was such a classic case of ego getting in the way. “I am not paying that guy hundreds of bucks for barely lifting a finger with the IRS. No way!” In other words, I got my back up.

Sounds pretty normal, right? And it is.

The problem is that I knew better. I’m into this stuff. Dealing with the ego is probably the topic I write about most.

Lesson #1: Don’t get down on yourself for overreacting

From that came the first lesson learned from this matter. I was getting down on myself, this supposedly spiritually advanced guy, for letting this thing get me all riled up.

And that, dear friends, is a big mistake. Why? Because I reacted how I reacted. That was the reality. And it is NEVER healthy to resist reality.

As Mickey Singer would counsel on this, all you do is tell yourself that you’ll try to do better next time. Period. Don’t lament any perceived failures.

Did I think I was further along the spiritual path than getting all twisted up in knots over a stupid accounting bill? Yes. Well, that wasn’t the reality.

So the next time some controversy riles me up, I’ll try again to watch my thoughts and feelings rather than dive in and engage with them. I’ll try to let them go.

Lesson #2: Look in, not out

Another, more important, opportunity this situation presents for us is how it clarifies so clearly the spiritual path. It provides a quintessential example of working on the inside rather than the outside.

Here’s how. When this whole imbroglio went down, it quickly became apparent that I could work on it in two ways: the inner and the outer.

The outer way to “fix” the problem is what most people on planet Earth would do. The inner dialogue would look like this:

“I’m really upset about this accounting charge thing. To remedy this angry, upset feeling I have, I need to figure out the best email to send explaining why I shouldn’t be charged for the IRS thing. I need to get advice from my smart financial friends on how I can most effectively handle this.”

In other words, I look to the outside world to get what I want inside. This is how most people operate their lives. Look to the outside world to fix how we feel inside.

But this overlooks a massive opportunity that these situations present. Because the healthiest thing we can do is ask:

“What is it about this situation that has me so riled up inside? Whatever it is, I will be best served by relaxing behind these feelings and letting them go.”

In other words, we go inside to remedy what ails us inside. “Winning” the argument against my accountant places a distant, distant second in the pecking order of what I need to focus on. That is the most important lesson this scenario offers us.

Putting this into action

How to use this? Let’s say you see your girlfriend talking to another guy at a party and he keeps making her laugh. Smoke starts coming out of your ears you’re so madly jealous. You could:

1. Respond to those jealous feelings by storming out of the party without a word. Or by walking over to them and saying, “Hey, pal, just so you know, this is my girlfriend.” Or by sulking silently the whole drive home.


2. You could say to yourself, “Wow, I am hyper, hyper jealous right now. Like way beyond normal and way beyond what is actually going on. What is that all about? Time to chill and just watch these feelings for a bit.”

The takeaway

Next time you find yourself freaking out about something like an inflated bill from your accountant, consider watching your reaction. Do it from a place of non-judgment.

Then see if you can flip your attention from the external (“I need to figure out how to win this battle over the bill!”) to the internal (“Wow, I’m having a major reaction to this event. Let’s relax and see what this is all about”).

And look at these situations as opportunities for spiritual growth. Because they are.