How long have you worked in the tax field?
How did you get started?
“I came in one time with my girlfriend. She wanted to do her taxes at H&R Block, and I actually thought it was funny she wanted to pay someone to come and do it. We came in to the old Astoria office and the old owner John was preparing her taxes and I was complaining about the prices, I don’t know why. And then he said, “Well, this is how much she’s getting back.” It was a lot more than we ever got back. He said, “If you want to take the class and figure out how to do it...” Well, I worked for him until last year, when I bought the business.”
Will your role change now that you own the business?
“No, I’ll just be here a little more often, but I pretty much live here anyways (ha-ha).”
Where are you from originally?
“I was born in Gresham, Oregon. I spent five or six years down in Arizona. Then I’ve been back here since 1992.”
When is peak season for filing taxes?
“Right now, the first week of February is really busy.”
How many people do you see on a typical day?
“It averages about 15, sometimes more. I try to do about 15 a day.”
Why should someone come see a tax professional instead of using software like TurboTax?
“The main thing is you just want to make sure you’re doing it right. It can also save you time and frustration from having to do it yourself.”
Are there any customer stories that resonate with you?
“One time I had a guy come in. His wife was upset because they kept getting letters from the IRS each year wanting more money. He came in and the IRS wanted about $30,000 and Oregon wanted another $7,000. I looked at his tax return and found out he was paying taxes on his personal home that he had sold. I re-did his taxes for him and he didn’t owe anything on it and he got back a refund of almost $60,000 plus interest. So he comes and gets his taxes done here every year.”
How much is it to file?
“$69 for the federal and $59 for any states we have to file. If it’s more complicated it goes up.”
Who are your typical customers?
“We get all kinds of customers from students to businesses — a little of everything.”
What’s your favorite part?
“Just getting to help people. Most people leave pretty happy knowing it’s done right.”
What’s the most common mistake people make with their taxes?
“The most common mistake is not making sure they get all the credits or deductions they’re entitled to.”
Is there any part of the business that’s surprised you?
“Actually, yes, when I came into the business I was surprised by how many people file their taxes late. My first month someone came in and needed to file seven years of taxes.”
How far back can you file?
“To get a refund, you can only file back three years. If you wait too long, then you just lose your refunds. If you owe, the IRS can make you file back as far as they want.”
What’s the most common question you get?
“The most common question is, ‘How long does it take to get my refund back?’ (Ha-ha). We have the option for some customers to get an advance on the refund without any fees. Now they can get some of it for free. That was one of the reasons I was excited about buying H&R Block because they have a few things that help take care of customers.”
What are the benefits of having professional tax professional help?
“You can be confident and have the peace of mind that they’re done correctly.”
Are there any common misconceptions you encounter?
“The idea that people can claim their boyfriend or girlfriend’s kids as their own, when in reality, until you’re married, they’re not yours unless they’re blood. They’ll try to get extra credits that way and come in here and find out they’re not allowed.”
What should people bring (when filing)?
“They should just make sure they’ve waited for all their documents in the mail. Employers are required to mail them out by Jan. 31. If they have any questions they can call and we can make sure they have everything.”
Are there any particular changes this year that people should be aware of?
“One of my favorite parts this year is there is no longer a penalty for not having health insurance. They took away the mandate that it’s required and if not you got penalized on your taxes. I hated that part because I had to tell people “You would get a refund but you owe for insurance or you owe this. It wasn’t fair. They’ve also changed the W-4, they have one for Oregon and one for federal. It helps people limit their tax liability a little bit.”
Now at the start of 2020, are there things you recommend people do to limit their tax liability in the new year?
“They should make sure they get that new W-4 filled out. That way, it’s correct for Oregon and federal, now that we have a form for each.”