How to Review Tax Returns

By Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, ABV, PFS, and Andrew D. Mendlowitz

The No-Hassle Super-Simplified Seven-Step Tax Return Review System. With illustrative examples, step-by-step guidance, and practice-ready checklists.


Learn more about the Tax Season Checklists here.



Reviewers are not born complete and ready to go, they must be developed.

Part of the problem has been that there has been no information or training specifically for reviewers, until now.

Learn how to speed workflows, eliminate bottlenecks, find and train the best person for the job, distinguish between content and issues reviews, and identify specific trouble spots.

Produce better returns, smarter staffers, happier clients, and more profit.

"Reviewing tax returns is a key part of tax preparation. It also is an area vulnerable to major bottlenecks and backlogs. Inevitably, firms have more preparers than reviewers. The latter are highly skilled professionals who are more difficult to train or find. Therefore, you must consider ways to reduce review time, even at the expense of adding preparer time." – Ed Mendlowitz, CPA, author

"In this book Ed is offering original ideas and sage advice about the entire tax return process. Read it closely and adapt it to your practice. You will be happier, more relaxed and richer for doing so." – Peter A. Weitsen, CPA, PFS, Partner, WithumSmith+Brown, PC


Ed Mendlowitz
Ed Mendlowitz


CHAPTER 1: Nature of Tax Return Preparation
CHAPTER 2: Review Procedures = Quality Control
CHAPTER 3: Why Checklists Are Critical
– Nine truths about tax season management
CHAPTER 4: Content Review Versus Issue Review
CHAPTER 5: Effectiveness and Purpose of Review
– Three questions for you to consider when you decide on a method of reviewing returns
– Methods to reduce review time
– Seven best practices
CHAPTER 6: Reviewer’s Checklists
– Reviewer’s checklist for individual tax returns
– Reviewer’s checklist for business tax returns
– Top 12 Tax Return Preparation Errors
CHAPTER 7: Good Preparer Procedures Will Reduce Review Time
– Preparer’s pre-review procedural checklist
CHAPTER 8: Effective Self-Reviews Improve Efficiency
CHAPTER 9: Reviewing Outsourced Returns
– Eight typical errors to watch out for
CHAPTER 10: Review of Complicated Transactions
CHAPTER 11: Training and Assigning Reviewers
– The 10-question reviewer qualification test
CHAPTER 12: The MBWA Big Picture
CHAPTER 13: Accountability
– Post Tax Season Performance Metrics
– Eight more ways to evaluate staff and tax season
CHAPTER 14: Administrative Procedures
CHAPTER 15: Reviewers’ Last Thing
CHAPTER 16: Partner Review When Signing
CHAPTER 17: Post Tax Season Assessment and Follow-up
– Tax season follow up sheet
CHAPTER 18: Ed’s Super-Simplified Seven-Step Tax Return Review System

Ed’s Excel® method
Excel® tax comparison worksheets as a review, training, planning, and user-friendly tool
What it is
Using the Excel® worksheets in the review process
Cross-selling opportunities
A rebuttal to the skeptics
Seven Sample Excel® Worksheets
Sample 1. Basic Worksheet (page 1)
Sample 1. Basic Worksheets (page 2)
Sample 2 (a). K-1 Schedules – Interest
Sample 2 (b). K-1 Schedules – Dividends
Sample 3. 1099 Interest and Dividend Detail
Sample 4. Schedule C Multiyear Comparison
Sample 5. Schedule E Rental Property Multiyear Comparison
Sample 6. 1099B Reconciliation Worksheet
Sample 7. Tax Payments Worksheet
Answers to the 10-Question Reviewer Qualification Test
10 more issues that you can test

FREE INSTANT DOWNLOAD: Click here to preview sample pages from How to Review Tax Returns (PDF, 30 pages)

Plus, PDF with 29 Checklists:

  1. CPA Firm Business Model
  2. Advantages of Tax Season
  3. Goals of Tax Season
  4. Preparer’s Pre-Review Procedural Checklist
  5. Reviewer’s 47-Item Checklist for Individual Tax Returns
  6. Reviewer’s 44-Item Checklist for Business Tax Returns
  7. Tax Season Follow Up Form
  8. Top 12 Tax Return Preparation Errors
  9. Checklist Of 36 Tax Filing Errors Clients Should Avoid
  10. Top 10 Client Pet Peeves
  11. 10-Question Reviewer Qualification Test
  12. Answers to 10-Question Reviewer Qualification Test
  13. What Makes a Good Client – 18 Items
  14. 9 Things to Consider When Accepting a New Tax Client and Establishing A Fee Arrangement
  15. 18 Ways to Make Tax Season Better and More Fun for You and Your Staff
  16. 9 Additional Ways to Excite Staff
  17. 18 Things to Consider While Training Staff
  18. Staff Development and Growth Checklist – 13 Items
  19. 10 Ways to Evaluate Staff Tax Season Performance
  20. Checklist Of 21 Questions to Ask a Non-­Filer Who Wants To File Their Delinquent Returns
  21. Sample Bill for a Tax Return and Additional Services
  22. 16-Item Additional Services Checklist for Clients
  23. Sample Listing of 40 Additional Services To Tax Clients
  24. 50 Ways to Make More Money During Tax Season
  25. 21 Top Reasons for Lack of Client Retention
  26. 10 Ways to Stay in Control
  27. Why Should This Client Choose You for Their Tax Return?
  28. The Answers: 13 Reasons the Client Should Choose You
  29. The 23 Advantages of A CPA Preparing Tax Returns

GET EVERYTHING: THE EXCEL WORKBOOK with TEMPLATES, and the COMPLETE 66 BONUS TAX SEASON CHECKLISTS with purchase of the PDF eBook add-on, when you buy the print version

  1. Key For A Successful Tax Season - Can Be Posted On Your Wall
  2. Accounting Firm Business Model – Can Be Posted
  3. Advantages Of Tax Season – Chart Can Be Reproduced And Distributed To Staff Or Posted
  4. Goals Of Tax Season
  5. Preparer’s Pre-Review Procedural Checklist
  6. Reviewer’s Checklist For Individual Tax Returns
  7. Reviewer’s Checklist For Business Tax Returns
  8. Tax Season Follow Up Form
  9. Reviewer’s Pre-Review Of Complicated Transactions
  10. Top 12 Tax Return Preparation Errors
  11. Checklist Of 45 Tax Filing Errors Clients Should Avoid
  12. Top 10 Client Pet Peeves
  13. Reviewer Qualification Test
  14. Answers
  15. What Makes A Good Client
  16. Things To Consider When Accepting A New Client And Establishing A Fee Arrangement
  17. Ways To Make Tax Season Better And More Fun For You And Your Staff
  18. Additional Ways To Excite Staff That Are Not During Tax Season
  19. Things To Consider While Training Staff
  20. Staff Development And Growth Checklist
  21. Ways To Evaluate Staff Tax Season Performance
  22. Checklist Of Questions To Ask A Non-Filer Who Wants To File Their Delinquent Returns
  23. Preparing Bills For Tax Returns
  24. Additional Services Checklist For Clients
  25. Sample Listing Of Additional Services To Tax Clients
  26. 50 Ways To Make More Money During Tax Season Including Increasing And Improving Productivity
  27. 21 Top Reasons For Lack of Tax Client Retention
  28. 10 Ways To Stay In Control
  29. Why Should A Client Use You To Prepare Their Tax Return?
  30. Why A Client Should Use You To Prepare Their Tax Return
  31. Advantages Of A CPA Preparing Tax Returns
  32. Tax Department Services
  33. Tax Research Request
  34. Checklist Of Items To Put In Permanent File
  35. Organization Minutes Checklist
  36. Elder Care And Family Bill Paying And Planning Checklist Or For Family Office Services
  37. Ways To Get Additional Tax Clients
  38. Ways To Get Additional Business Clients
  39. Checklist For Change Projects
  40. Preliminary Document Request For A Business Valuation Or For A Consultation Engagement
  41. Financial Planning Engagement
  42. Ira Required Minimum Distribution “Kit”
  43. Buy-Sell Agreement Issues To Consider Checklist
  44. Sample Term Sheet Descriptions For Bank Loan
  45. Checklist For Starting A Business
  46. Checklist Of Services For A Client Buying Or Selling A Business
  47. Questions For Interviewing A Bookkeeper
  48. Controller’s Checklist
  49. Daily Flash Numbers’ Report
  50. Checklist Of Reasons For A CPA Firm Merger Or Acquisition
  51. Credit Card Authorization To Accounting Firm
  52. Sample Tax Notice Service Letter
  53. Bill Accompanying The Tax Notice Service Described In The Letter
  54. Letter To Inform A Client Of A Fee Increase For The Coming Year
  55. Letter To Inform A Client Of A Minimum Fee That Is Higher Than They Should Pay
  56. Post Tax Season Retrospective Checklist
  57. Getting Rid Of Tax Preparation Clutter
  58. Ways To Reduce Tax Preparation Fees
  59. Getting Marries Financial Planning Issues
  60. 18 Reasons For Obtaining Extensions
  61. Obituary Questionnaire
  62. Sample Employment Policies
  63. Year-End Dates That May Affect Your Company (Withum Chart Sent To Clients)
  64. Tax Season Readiness: Workflow Checklist (Used With Permission Of Doc.It)
  65. Withum “Dress For Your Day” Manual (Internal Withum Booklet)
  66. Minimum Fee Schedule



This book will discuss methods to reduce review time, establish who should do the review, distinguish between content and issues review, identify specific items for the reviewer to check, and offer administrative procedures to facilitate the review process.

Reviewers are not born complete and ready to go, they are developed. The problem that I see with many firms is that they take a reasonably good tax return preparer, with above-average tax knowledge and they make them a reviewer, either on purpose or by default. In many firms a partner doubles as a reviewer. In some cases, this partner does not even have what I would consider reasonable tax knowledge, but they do the job because it needs to get done. This is not acceptable and does not assure a good product. Part of the problem is that there is no information or training specifically for reviewers, until now.

Being highly involved in managing tax season programs (since 1980 I have presented tax season management programs to over 5,000 CPAs through many organizations nationwide).

Actually, until December 2010, I have never heard of a program dedicated to tax return reviewers when I created a webinar. In preparing, I wanted to include a reviewer’s checklist. In all my travels and experience in this area not only have I never seen one, but I reached out to many colleagues in other firms and no one had one. I decided to create one, with Peter Weitsen’s assistance (as he did with most of the checklists I’ve posted), to include in the webinar. I posted a comment on the New Jersey Society of CPA’s Open Forum that I had one and would send it to anyone requesting it. The first day I had 200 requests and within three days there were over 500 requests and downloads. The webinar ended up being presented five times from the end of December through mid-March 2011 with most of the programs sold out. I’ve also had many attendees call me with comments and questions.

This shows that there is a need and hunger for information on how to more effectively review returns, and this book is the response. Read the book, reread sections, use it as a reference source and email or call me if you have any questions or want to discuss anything about your review process. Your comments will be appreciated. Good luck with making your review process more effective.



Edward Mendlowitz - CPA, ABV, PFS
Partner, WithumSmith+Brown

Edward Mendlowitz is a partner in Withum Smith + Brown’s New Brunswick, NJ, office and has over 40 years of public accounting experience. He is a licensed certified public accountant in the states of New Jersey and New York and is accredited by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) in business valuation (ABV), certified in financial forensics (CFF) and as a personal financial specialist (PFS). Ed is also admitted to practice before the United States Tax Court and has testified as an expert witness in federal and state court regarding business valuations, and twice at the House Ways and Means Committee on tax reform, fairness, and reduction

A graduate of City College of New York, Ed earned his bachelor of business administration degree. He is a member of the AICPA, the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJSCPA) and the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA). In addition, Ed was a founding partner of Mendlowitz Weitsen, LLP, CPAs, which merged with WS+B in 2005. Currently, he serves on the NYSSCPA Estate Planning Committee and was chairman of the committee that planned the NYSSCPA’s 100th Anniversary. The author of 19 books, Ed has also written hundreds of articles for business and professional journals and newsletters. He is the contributing editor to the Practitioners Publishing Company’s 706/709 Deskbook, and the AICPA’s Management of an Accounting Practice Handbook, Corporate Controller’s Handbook and Wiley’s Handbook on Budgeting and is on the editorial board of Bottom Line/Personal newsletter and the Journal of Accountancy Member Panel on Business Valuation. Appearing regularly on television news programs, Ed has also been quoted in numerous major newspapers and periodicals in the United States. He is the recipient of the Lawler Award for the best article published during 2001 in the Journal of Accountancy.

Ed is a frequent speaker to many professional and business groups, including the AICPA, NJSCPA, NYSSCPA, American Management Association, the National Committee for Monetary Reform, University of Medicine and Dentistry in NJ and many more. For 11 years, he taught courses on financial analysis, corporate financial policy and theory, monetary and fiscal policy and managerial accounting in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University.


FREE INSTANT DOWNLOAD: Click here to preview sample pages from How to Review Tax Returns (PDF, 30 pages)

How to Review Tax Returns