Should Joe Do Your Taxes?

Joe, what’s your specialty?
Tax preparation, tax planning, tax reduction, tax representation, taxes, taxes, taxes. It’s what I’m passionate about. When I’m not actually doing returns for clients, I’m probably thinking about tax-related issues or doing research that can either benefit my clients or that will be useful when I am traveling around the country speaking before groups of tax professionals.

Isn’t this where you should have a mission statement?
I’m not the corporate type, but here goes: I want my clients to file everything that’s needed, pay as little tax as required, and sleep well at night.

Great. What else can you do for me?
Look, tax preparation shouldn’t be separated from the rest of your financial life. For that matter, your taxes should be looked at in the context of your personal life as well. Getting married, getting divorced, having kids, starting a business, buying a home, losing a parent, moving for a job, going back to school — lots of things that go on in your life have potential tax consequences. So when something’s happening, I want you as my client to contact me so we can discuss what’s going on and what it might mean for you from a tax perspective.

So you do more than just take my W-2s and prepare a return?
You betcha. I don’t think I can be a good tax pro if I’m just banging out 1040s between January and April and disappearing the rest of the year. Besides, understanding what is happening in my clients’ lives isn’t just good business practice — it’s part of what makes the work interesting. Some of the best work I do comes with my feet up on my desk, chatting with clients and thinking about how what’s happening in their lives may affect their taxes.

Who pays you, Joe?
You, the client, and only you. I don’t sell financial products like insurance or investments to my clients. Because I am compensated only for my time and expertise, I have no conflicts of interest and can be an independent sounding board whose only concern is your interests.

And how much do we pay you?
I don’t quote hourly rates for tax preparation, because part of your reason for hiring me is my years of experience and expertise. You want a professional who works smarter rather than one who gets bogged down in billable research time that may or may not benefit you. I spend a lot of money on technology and research materials every year so I can give clients the best possible service at a reasonable price.

After our initial conversation, I can usually give you a pretty good estimate of how much my fee will be.

The only work I do “on the clock” is audit representation, because when it comes to audits, the amount of time we have to spend tends to be determined by the auditor and not by us. I do a significant amount of work representing taxpayers who come to me for help when they’re audited after either doing their own returns or using another tax pro. Very few of my own clients are audited (nope, I won’t tell you how few — that’s confidential, like everything directly related to my clients), which I believe is due at least in part to communicating effectively with clients.

And how come you’re qualified to do all this?
I’ve had my own tax practice since 1996. I am an Enrolled Agent and am also a Licensed Tax Consultant in Oregon and a Fellow of the National Tax Practice Institute, which is comprised of tax pros who also specialize in tax audits and other representation of clients before the IRS. Although it’s not all that relevant, I have a Bachelor of Arts (BA) from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and a Master of Arts (MA) in Public Policy Studies from Ohio State University, where I was a Kiplinger Fellow.

Anything else I should know?
I was a journalist for many years, writing for The New York Times, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, National Geographic Traveler, MSN.com, and many other outlets. So clear communication matters to me. Choose a tax pro whom you understand, and who also is able to hear what you are saying. Taxes aren’t just about crunching numbers—they’re also about acknowledging human emotions and issues.

What’s the next step if I am interested in working with you?
Call me at 503-281-2264 or email me. I try to respond to all client communications within 48 hours (except, of course, when on vacation.).