Demand for tax-preparation services: An exploratory examination of client versus tax-preparer expectation gaps

Teresa Stephenson, Gary Fleischman, Mark Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research explores the expectation gap between tax clients' motivations to hire tax preparers versus tax preparers' perceptions of those client motivations. The study builds on limited previous research by examining preparers primarily from local firms rather than focusing solely on large international firms. The Gaps Model of Service Quality provides the theoretical lens for the paper. We employ the recently developed Taxpayer Motivation Scale (TMS) to measure four client motivations to hire a preparer: (1) saving money, (2) saving time, (3) legal compliance, and (4) protection from the IRS. We measure expectation gaps for those four motivations using matched tax preparer-tax client dyads. We employ statistical sub-group analyses to investigate the effects of both clients' and preparers' demographic characteristics that influence taxexpectation gaps. Results suggest client gender plays a noteworthy role in predicting many of the gaps. In addition, complexity of tax returns, children in the home, and client perceptions of tax-preparer advocacy help explain gaps. Finally, female preparers appear to be relatively more sensitive to client needs. We conclude that tax preparers need to (1) better understand their clients' motivations for hiring them and (2) reexamine marketing efforts to educate clients about preparer credentials and potential strategy options for tax preparation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-233
Number of pages35
JournalAdvances in Taxation
StatePublished - 2017


  • Gaps Model of Service Quality
  • Perceptions of tax-preparer advocacy
  • Tax client expectations
  • Tax clients
  • Tax preparation expectation gaps
  • Tax preparers
  • Tax-preparer perceptions
  • Taxpayer Motivation Scale (TMS)


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