Tuesday, August 12, 2008
What’s it like to be a….Tax Preparer?
My job title is:
Enrolled Agent-Enrolled to practice before the IRS. The IRS gives two days of exams to certify a tax preparer knows the tax laws well enough to appear for clients before the Internal Revenue Service on the same basis as Attorneys. I also have a Masters in Tax from Golden Gate University, a business school in San Francisco.
My actual position is:
Tax Consultant, Tax Preparer
What does a normal day look like?
I meet with clients who want tax returns prepared and consult with clients who have tax issues. I organize the tax information that clients bring me according to tax accounting rules, prepare tax returns, give tax advice and contact the state and federal taxing authorities on my client’s behalf.
Is it consistent throughout the year?
From January through April 15th I work seven days a week to prepare my clients’ tax returns for the previous year. The majority of my income comes from those four months work, although I do earn a substantial part of my income from consulting, tax preparation, and client issues with tax authorities during the rest of year.
If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
Computerization and the increasing complexity of the tax laws have worked hand in hand. Complex computer programs for professional tax preparation, review and tax planning are used by all professionals. Online research, scanning of documents and computerized document filing systems have taken over.
What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job?
I’ve only worked for someone in college and for short times once or twice after. I have owned and operated different retail businesses in Berkeley, CA for 40 years: women’s clothing, lunch and gourmet sandwich shop, a mailbox rental business.
How did you get to where you are now?
I went back to school for my Masters in Tax, passed the Enrolled Agents exam, and purchased an acquaintance’s tax preparation business.
What kind of training/education did you have? What would you suggest? What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?
In accounting/tax preparation you need to be very accurate, and efficient in your work, and enjoy working with numbers. You need to like working with people and have the ability to make your clients feel comfortable with you. You need to understand what your clients are coming to you for and limit your services to your field of expertise.
What are the rewards in your position? Challenges? What makes a good day for you?
It is enjoyable for me to get to know my clients, their personalities, and special tax issues. Like accounting in general, the tax laws are a closed system, like a game in a way, in which there are always exceptions. There are a lot of opportunities to investigate and figure things out to help your clients reduce their taxes.
What trends or changes do you foresee in the next 5-10 years?
There is an endless need for tax preparation as Congress continues to make tax laws more complicated, people have more money to spend and save, and their needs and wants become more costly. People will increasingly need help with planning their financial futures and reducing their tax burden as much as the law will allow. If you can keep up with Congress and know the tax laws well enough, you will be able to help people do that. I believe more and more tax preparation will depend on the internet, meeting clients online, sending their tax returns over secure online connections, etc.
How could a person find out more about your field?
Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. It would be best to learn by talking to tax preparers and getting an accounting background.
When you were growing up, did you have any interests that you have built into your work?
I’ve always enjoyed figuring out ways to do things better and more efficiently, and I liked working with numbers.
What obstacles have you overcome to get to where you are today?
I believe I’ve just taken one step at a time, and things have worked out. I don’t believe that trying to get rich or succeed quickly is a good idea.
What was your first job like after college?
My women’s clothing business with my ex-wife.
Are there any web sites you would suggest for more information about your field?
The Enrolled Agent society in your state might be the best place to start. CSEA, California Society of Enrolled Agents, for my state. Also the the NAEA, the National Association of Enrolled Agents. Their are also a few colleges around the country that have programs in tax law which will offer counseling services.
How do your beliefs and values or worldview perspectives impact what you do at work?
I believe that most people want to be honest, good citizens, and pay a fair amount of taxes. We have a mostly voluntary system of taxation with which most people comply. On the average the government does very little auditing of tax returns. I have believed for a long time that a good political and economic system makes good people, and bad systems make bad people. I believe that although the tax system is overly complex and should be reformed, I don’t think it is an unfair system.