Business and Sales Diversity Career Stories

Tax preparer finds personal reward in helping clients save money

This tax preparation specialist of 12 years got her start in a beginners tax class, trying to learn how to do her own taxes. Now a seasoned pro, she finds great satisfaction helping others get back the tax money to which they are entitled.

What is your job title? How many years of experience do you have in that field?
I’ve been a tax preparer for 12 years.

Would you describe what you do on a typical day?
I prepare tax returns for clients by appointment or walk-in. I ask several questions during the interview so that I can prepare an accurate tax return for that client, and file the return with federal and state agencies.

I also review previous tax returns and check to see if there are any errors or omissions. If there are, the tax return may be amended to correct the mistakes.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What would it take to increase that rating?
I would rate my job satisfaction as an 8. There are many different tax situations that we have to deal with on a daily basis. My satisfaction rating would increase if we had more information available in the office concerning specific scenarios that may arise.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that happen?
I’ve learned that no matter how well you follow the interview script and ask all the questions you are taught to ask, and even ask additional questions, there are still cases where the client has not given you all the information you need to file an accurate tax return. I have learned to make preparer notes and to make copies of all information received and keep the information with our copy of the tax return.

What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?
Every situation is different and you have to be professional in all cases.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I started taking tax classes to help me prepare my own tax returns, and I hoped to learn how to do it for my friends and family. If I had to go back, I would have done it sooner.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?
I had a couple come in to have their taxes prepared and they fought the whole time they were at my desk. The wife even walked out a few times and then came back. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to complete the return because it was hard asking questions to people who were in the middle of a fight.

On a good day, when things are going well, what’s happening and what do you like about it?
On a good day, clients will come in with all their information for the tax year and we can complete their tax return and file it before they leave the office. I like to have things done in a timely manner.

When nothing seems to go right, what kind of snafus do you handle and what do you dislike the most?
The things that can go wrong in my office are usually when a tax return is already filed, and then the client will come in and show that they received additional information concerning more income or a credit or deduction they did not take, or an error on a return for this year or a previous year. You just need to take the time to amend the tax return to show all corrections and explain them, and explain to the client how you have corrected the return and then notify them if they are to receive a refund or if there is a balance due.

I dislike the most when a problem is out of my hands and nothing can be done. This happens when a client receives a letter from the IRS or state and they don’t answer it or bring it in. After a period of time, it is more difficult to resolve the problem if it has been ignored for a long time.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?
There is some stress involved, but not enough to affect my personal life.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?
Tax preparers make between $9-25 per hour and I think the pay rate should be more given the level of responsibility.

What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?
On one occasion, I was able to amend someone’s tax returns for the past three years and she received more than $20,000 in refunds for those years.

I was able to take the enrolled agent exam and pass it after studying for it on my own, without help from the company.

What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?
The most challenging but rewarding moments we experience come when we are able to prepare a complicated tax return accurately for a client.

I would prefer to learn from my previous mistakes and then forget that I made them. But, I do learn from my mistakes, so I guess it is better that I remember them.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
I first started by taking a basic tax class that gave me the knowledge that I needed to start easy tax returns. I take several different tax classes every year to review and learn how to prepare different, and more involved tax returns.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
I work from January through April. May and June are free months, and then I start taking classes again in July. I work part time at another job also.

Are there any common myths you want to correct about what you do?
I enjoy this line of work because I enjoy working with people and I believe that I am helping them. Many people do not understand all the tax laws and it can be a difficult situation for them. I think that they appreciate having their return prepared and that it is accurate.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
I would like to teach tax classes to others.