A New York City CPA is launching a startup company this tax season that he hopes will become an “Uber for taxes.”
“I’ve been practicing for eight years,” said Taxaroo co-founder Brian Liebert. “Where I’ve seen the business model going is more toward a place where my customers and the customers of my competitors out there are more and more comfortable working online remotely, not actually coming to an office in person and physically dropping off documents.”
Liebert and his co-founder, Tim Sestrich, met at business school at Duke University. He is the CPA, while his partner is the engineer.
“Our classmates were complaining about tax filing, and we wanted to build something that made taxes easy,” he said.
Unlike the traditional model where a client makes an appointment to bring in their paperwork to the tax preparer, Liebert said there is no need to schedule appointments or bring in paperwork. “We’ve made everything work virtually,” he said. “There’s no need to schedule appointments or bring in documents. The way we’ve structured the website is you fill out a couple of questions that help us determine what type of tax return you’ll need to get done, if you’re an expat or a non-U.S. resident, things like that. Then we’ll give you a quote upfront and a set of preparers that match your needs. So you get to pick the pro you want to work with. Then it’s a matter of taking pictures of your documents and uploading them to our secure server. The entire process is done online quickly upfront at a transparent price. We’ve started communicating with a bunch of accountants out there, and we’ve gotten a really great response.”
Taxaroo launched last week for consumers and three weeks ago for tax preparers. Liebert said Monday the site has achieved a 30 percent signup rate so far among those to whom he has marketed the service. The site has a little over 60 users, about 10 of whom have signed up to have their taxes prepared, mostly limited to friends and family for now.
“You can take all these experienced tax people out there,” he said. “Everyone has a neighbor or an uncle who does their taxes, and you can give them a way for them to prepare taxes securely, virtually. They can monetize their time. Instead of just doing them for friends and families for free, they can make a little bit of cash on the side. We think it’s a pretty interesting concept.”
Liebert denied that the service was aimed at amateur tax preparers, though.
“We’re limiting it right now to folks who are enrolled agents or CPAs,” he said. “When I say nonprofessionals, maybe they’re not full-time accountants or in the accounting industry, but they do need right now to have some professional credentials. We’re looking at folks who are either EAs or CPAs. We help set them up with errors and omissions insurance and other things that are sort of prereqs to protect our clients. We don’t want people signing up who aren’t familiar with tax situations. That’s what we’re trying to prevent.”
The company is also looking to add workflow features to the site for small CPA firms like his, Liebert & Associates. “Right now I run a firm with about seven people,” said Liebert. “There is workflow functionality built in, and that’s another angle we’re pursuing. But for now the core experience is to take somebody out there who maybe doesn’t want to do their own taxes this year and has been working with other accountants in the past, and pair them with an experienced tax professional, get them a really competitive rate, and make the whole experience of getting their taxes done really simple.”