Do-overs are the daydream gumdrops of careers after you work for a while. This holds especially true in an evolving and increasingly complex arena like tax prep.

Whether sighing in resignation or planning to make changes in their career time that remains, preparers offer many opinions on what they’d do differently in their practice — from 1120s to real estate — if they had it all to do over.

Forms and fees

“I would limit my practice to 1040s — period,” said Robert Flach, a practitioner in Hawley, Pa., and author of the blog The Wandering Tax Pro. “No 1065s. No 1120s. No 1041s. Why? To limit my need to keep up to date to 1040 issues only. I also would not accept clients with certain specialized 1040 issues: I’d avoid DPAD, FBAR, and other more complex areas.”

“And, because of the relatively new excessive due-diligence requirements, I would not accept 1040 clients with EITC claims. I would probably have to, as I have done, also provide year-round bookkeeping and accounting services for additional income,” Flach added.

“I would not accept any clients that collected and remitted state and local sales tax, or any other kind of tax other than payroll taxes,” he said, “and I’d limit my involvement to keeping the books and preparing payroll and payroll tax returns and reports, but I would not prepare the corporate income tax returns.”

“I would have charged more for the RAL and PERCS (cumulative stock) during the super-hot times in the 1980s and 1990s,” said James Christenberry, an Enrolled Agent with 1040 Rapid Tax & Properties in San Antonio.

Staff

“I’d do at least two things differently,” said Sandy Barrett, an EA at Red Rock Taxes in Sedona, Ariz. “First, I’d attempt to join with another preparer in the area who had similar amounts of experience. Being a sole practitioner when taxes have become so complex is difficult and I miss being able to bounce situations off other preparers. The Internet has helped — I belong to several groups who will readily answer questions — but I’d still like the face-to-face interaction. It’s also beneficial to have someone else look over your work.”

“I’d recruit and train at the high school level for future team members,” said EA Steven Pargo, of CSL Tax Advisors in St. Charles, Mo. “This would expand their developing minds and earn them some extra cash, and add value to my firm.”

Marketing

“I’d market myself from the beginning as being a tax professional — not a ‘preparer’ — and not take clients who were unwilling to pay the rates a true professional can command,” said Martha Nest, an EA at Westview Tax Services in Bardstown, Ky. “I solicited tax returns in the beginning; I should have been soliciting a certain caliber of clientele. I’ve slowly worked towards this, but I lost 10 years in the beginning by not taking this approach the first day.”

‘Very satisfied’

“I would have purchased a building instead of rented,” Barrett added. “Why pay rent to someone when you can pay rent to yourself? 

“Overall,” she added, “I’ve been very satisfied being a sole practitioner. It’s great to steer your own ship. Being in business for myself allowed me to take extended vacations that I wouldn’t have been allowed as an employee.”

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