Author Topic: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer? (Read 11531 times)

Angie55

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Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« on: August 20, 2014, 02:32:58 PM »
This is an idea I've toyed around with every year but have never taken action. Becoming a seasonal tax preparer for one of the big corporate companies. I don't have an accounting background but am pretty good at math. I'd hate to pay to take the class and spend the 100hours or so and have nothing come out of it. Mainly I'm interested to gain some extra cash in a time when I'm not typically apt to take vacation (Jan-April). I pretty much hibernate during that time so finding a job that only lasts those few months would be great. I do work full-time in engineering but there is rarely a day where I travel or don't leave the office by 4:30. As a bonus, I see this as an option to continue to gather income if I am ever able to "retire" early from my day job.

Mostly I'm interested in the following:
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
What is the average pay?
What would be the typical hours per week?
After taking the course what percentage of people are hired on with the company?
General experience, advice, etc.

Gone Fishing

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2014, 02:38:09 PM »
I asked this in another forum and got pretty negative responses. I still think it would be perfect timing as the bulk of tax season falls in the winter/early spring months when the kids are in school, the weather is bad and social events are slow. I'll be interested to see what others say.

senecando

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2014, 03:06:14 PM »
I've thought about this as well. (Commenting for notifications.)

solon

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2014, 03:08:01 PM »
Happy Birthday, senecando!

Trudie

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2014, 03:09:25 PM »
I would look into taking the training class offered by H&R Block.

Maigahane

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2014, 03:21:51 PM »
I worked for a big box tax prep company (think the biggest one...) for a few years.

I think their tax prep class is $100, runs from Sept to Nov. If you know taxes you can take a test to avoid this but it doesn't sound like you would be a good fit for that. Most people who pass the class get a job, and if you're remotely intelligent and put forth the effort it's easy to pass. You're basically hired right after the class, then you have to do some paid training a couple nights a week through December.

Pros:
They are very good at working around a full time job schedule.
You can usually work as many or as few hours as you want and they'll probably beg you to work more
They will pay you extra if you take vacation time from your regular job to work extra during peak

Cons:
They are very much in sales and want you to push their products. I never pushed them and didn't get yelled at for it but it's hammered into you at every training, meeting, and email
It might be my area but I worked with a lot of people who were very vocally political. Plus the customers will bitch about how this or that political subject is screwing them over
You might get frustrated and the unfairness of both the tax law and the companies pricing on different income ranges but you can't do anything about either
You have to take continuing education classes the rest of the year to get hired on again the next year. You can do these in a very small amount of time if you're not trying to maximize you knowledge/earning ability

The pay:
Good and bad, depending. You start out not much above minimum wage, around $8/hour probably. The first year that's the best you get. But you earn commission based on the value of the tax returns you prepare (not the refund amount, but how much the customer pays to get the taxes done) and how much of the products you sell. Then at the end of tax season you get a bonus if you earned more in commission than they paid you. Training wages don't count against this but you don't get it the first year. If you get a bonus then they'll probably give you a raise so you earn the money through the season instead of a big bonus check.
They also have skill levels (12-15 maybe) and as you increase in levels you increase what you can earn in commission. You take classes on new subjects, then take a test to increase levels. There's no limit to how many you can do in a year. If you take and pass the Enrolled Agent exam (kind of a mini-CPA exam specifically for taxes) then you immediately bump up to the highest level. I had a coworker do that between her first and second seasons. I ended at $12.50/hour but probably would have bumped up again if I had gone back
You also get extra commissions based on the number of years working there and how good you are at getting return clients

If you want more details feel free to PM me. I worked there this last tax season (though I don't plan on going back next) so my experience is current

usmarine1975

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2014, 03:28:22 PM »
Interesting. Not sure I am interested, I know a CPA that has a side business doing this but not through a big company on his own.

dragoncar

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2014, 03:34:56 PM »
I've seen positive comments on this here... commenting to follow the answer! Plot twist: could this be a place where being a lawyer isn't a detriment on my resume?

LipFoliage303

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2014, 04:11:23 PM »
Plot twist: could this be a place where being a lawyer isn't a detriment on my resume?

Fantastic! Love the JD/attorney jokes :)

I'm posting to follow the thread as well. Always been interested in this as a side gig.

Cheddar Stacker

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2014, 05:28:05 PM »
Our CPA firm is always in the market for quality seasonal help but we rarely find it. We had a long, long time tax season only employee that retired. We've had 2 or 3 others but they didn't fit well.

We hire a couple interns for tax season each year for seasonal help but also to consider for long-term employment. The interns are paid about $15/hr and the seasonal help was in the $25-40/hr range depending on experience.

We don't sell anything to customers, and anyone in an intern or seasonal position would likely have almost zero client interaction. Return complexity would increase along with experience.

I think it's a realistic possibility for this to work well for both sides, you'd just have to find the right firm to take a chance on you.
Indecision may or may not be my problem.

senecando

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2014, 06:03:28 PM »
Happy Birthday, senecando!

Thank you!

Maigahane

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2014, 07:22:24 AM »
Our CPA firm is always in the market for quality seasonal help but we rarely find it. We had a long, long time tax season only employee that retired. We've had 2 or 3 others but they didn't fit well.

We hire a couple interns for tax season each year for seasonal help but also to consider for long-term employment. The interns are paid about $15/hr and the seasonal help was in the $25-40/hr range depending on experience.

We don't sell anything to customers, and anyone in an intern or seasonal position would likely have almost zero client interaction. Return complexity would increase along with experience.

I think it's a realistic possibility for this to work well for both sides, you'd just have to find the right firm to take a chance on you.
Can the temps work just evenings/weekends around a regular full time job? I'd much rather work for a firm than for a big box company but I didn't think firms really hired off shifts

JustTrying

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2014, 07:46:26 AM »
I have a friend who went to a free class offered at H&R Block. I think the class was marketed just as something for an average Joe who wanted to learn more about taxes. Then H&R Block offered jobs to the people in the class who seemed most competent, including my friend. She was absolutely fascinated by taxes and how they work, so gladly took the job as a part-time gig during tax season, just for fun.


MooseOutFront

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2014, 07:49:52 AM »
I could see doing this for H&R block to get experience and learn the business. I'm honestly surprised at how low the pay is as reported here though.

The seasonal nature of this puts it on my radar as an option to explore for part time work in early retirement. Or even as a side hustle first.

Timmmy

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2014, 07:52:30 AM »
Another option is to volunteer at a place that does free tax prep for low income households. They train you for free and you can basically set your hours.

Here in Michigan the Accounting Aid Society is the biggest but I'm sure there are others.

While it isn't paid it can be very rewarding. I did this for a couple of seasons and while getting my accounting degree. Great experience if you want to someday be paid to do it or just rewarding to help people out that really need it.

Cheddar Stacker

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2014, 08:18:10 AM »
Can the temps work just evenings/weekends around a regular full time job? I'd much rather work for a firm than for a big box company but I didn't think firms really hired off shifts

We've never had one do that but would be open to the idea. We work on the weekends as well so there's always that.

Timmmy raises a good point above. If anyone is thinking about doing this, spending a tax season volunteering for VITA would be a good thing to put on a resume.
Indecision may or may not be my problem.

mlipps

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2014, 09:54:28 AM »
Another option is to volunteer at a place that does free tax prep for low income households. They train you for free and you can basically set your hours.

Here in Michigan the Accounting Aid Society is the biggest but I'm sure there are others.

While it isn't paid it can be very rewarding. I did this for a couple of seasons and while getting my accounting degree. Great experience if you want to someday be paid to do it or just rewarding to help people out that really need it.

Last year I was an assistant manager (paid, $12/hour) at our VITA site after a season as a volunteer in 2012. Based on the number of amendments we do for things that are completely wrong from H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt and (the worst offender) Liberty Tax, I would never work for them. I don't know what kind of training their associates go through, but they're lacking something in quality review or initial training because I see a lot of absurd mistakes and I haven't even been doing it that long.

Your location & the sponsoring organization for your VITA program will determine a lot about what kind of returns you see and level of complexity you take on. VITA has some overarching rules, like no rental property except for military members, no adoption credits, no energy credits, etc. At my site in Chicago, which is one of the busiest in the country, we do just about anything else, including depreciation (we were a pilot site for this last year) amendments, Schedule C's, etc. A lot of the other tax sites from our suburbs refer clients to our site when they encounter something "complicated" like an amendment. I put that in quotes because a 1040X is not rocket science by any means.

But what I'm getting at is that I'm lucky to work somewhere where we get to see all kinds of clients, but it's probably not quite as interesting in most places. And of course, you can expect to spend your first year doing pretty basic returns and slowly build up to doing more complicated ones. I personally spent a lot of time my first year just watching our experienced volunteers do complicated returns & a lot of time in the off-season reading the IRS pubs & sites like Bogleheads to learn the ins & outs and was able to get certified as an advanced tax preparer for my second year. If you want to see what tax prep is like, VITA is a great (and free) way to get started.

COlady

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2014, 11:59:36 AM »
Cheddar Stacker -

What is your position in public accounting? I'm a CPA and worked in public accounting for 7 years (2006-2013). My first 3 years of experience were in audit and the last 4 were in tax. I now work for a private corporation in their tax department. I'm 9 weeks pregnant with twins and thinking I'm most likely going to need to quite my full time gig when they're born as it's too demanding for small children. I was thinking maybe I could do contract work for CPA firms in the area after the first year (I'm in a major metro area so this shouldn't be a problem). I looked online for reasonable contract hourly rates for a CPA with my level of experience and I can't find anything. I know we pay our contractor at my current job $75/hour because I see the invoices. What do you think I could realistically make hourly on a contract basis? I have great software experience - Prosystem, OneSource, Corptax, BNA fixed assets.

jennifers

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2014, 12:15:41 PM »
I was also considering doing this next year. The low pay is the only thing deterring me. 9$/hour taxed at 25% minus all the other stuff will be like nothing right?


JoJo

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2014, 12:41:05 PM »
Another option is to volunteer at a place that does free tax prep for low income households. They train you for free and you can basically set your hours.

Here in Michigan the Accounting Aid Society is the biggest but I'm sure there are others.

While it isn't paid it can be very rewarding. I did this for a couple of seasons and while getting my accounting degree. Great experience if you want to someday be paid to do it or just rewarding to help people out that really need it.

I did this in 2014 and it was really rewarding! I worked 4 hours a week for 10 weeks + 1.5 days of training (weekends). My "clients" earned well over 100,000 in tax refunds and credits and they were from all over the world. It was satisfying for doing it for free for these low income earners and them thanking me for the 100's of dollars they save from going to H&R block.

Cheddar Stacker

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #20 on: August 21, 2014, 12:52:37 PM »
Cheddar Stacker -

What is your position in public accounting? I'm a CPA and worked in public accounting for 7 years (2006-2013). My first 3 years of experience were in audit and the last 4 were in tax. I now work for a private corporation in their tax department. I'm 9 weeks pregnant with twins and thinking I'm most likely going to need to quite my full time gig when they're born as it's too demanding for small children. I was thinking maybe I could do contract work for CPA firms in the area after the first year (I'm in a major metro area so this shouldn't be a problem). I looked online for reasonable contract hourly rates for a CPA with my level of experience and I can't find anything. I know we pay our contractor at my current job $75/hour because I see the invoices. What do you think I could realistically make hourly on a contract basis? I have great software experience - Prosystem, OneSource, Corptax, BNA fixed assets.

Partner. Salary would depend on experience, city, size of firm, demand for the position. You might even be able to negotiate pay per return rather than pay per hour since you will be pre-occupied with young babies?? But, in all honesty, if you can find the right place and you want to work 3 months a year for the next 15 years doing this, most firms would be crazy not to do it for someone with your experience.

I would start an email campaign to mid level firms in your area with 10-40 employees as I think they would have more of a need. Make it clear you have multiple years tax prep experience at a CPA firm, and that you want seasonal only work in the body of the email, and attach a resume.

And now is the time to start. We're starting to make staffing decisions for January already.
Indecision may or may not be my problem.

COlady

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #21 on: August 21, 2014, 02:24:44 PM »
Thanks for the response Cheddar Stacker. I won't be ready to move in that direction until tax season 2016 but I'll remember that I need to get on it late summer 2015 in order to have something in place by January.

Cheddar Stacker

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #22 on: August 21, 2014, 02:26:09 PM »
Wouldn't hurt to send out a few emails this year planting the seed for 2016 if you really want to go this route.
Indecision may or may not be my problem.

COlady

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #23 on: August 21, 2014, 02:46:59 PM »
I wish I could say that I could get it now but I am so overwhelmed with life right now. I'm trying to get the tax return for my current position done before 12/31 (we usually get done around 2/15) and we're remodeling our basement. I know that it would be helpful to get on it this year but it's just not a top priority for me right now.

mak1277

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #24 on: August 21, 2014, 03:08:10 PM »
I looked online for reasonable contract hourly rates for a CPA with my level of experience and I can't find anything. I know we pay our contractor at my current job $75/hour because I see the invoices. What do you think I could realistically make hourly on a contract basis? I have great software experience - Prosystem, OneSource, Corptax, BNA fixed assets.

Do you pay the contractor $75/hr or is that the fee you pay the recruiting firm? I know in the DC area, a reasonable hourly rate for a CPA with approximately your experience is ~$50/hr...but that the recruiting firm gets nearly twice that amount. It may be more for tax-specific skills...my area of reference is more general accounting or SEC reporting.

COlady

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #25 on: August 21, 2014, 03:23:06 PM »
We pay the contractor directly. We use the same person/contractor every year for specific projects so there is no need to go through an agency. I thought she was pretty well compensated too.

TheSimpleLife

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #26 on: August 21, 2014, 03:48:48 PM »
+1 to everything Cheddar Stacker said.

I personally would recommend exhausting all options with local CPA firms / EA firms before going the chain route. A few reasons:

-Potentially much better pay
-Should be a better learning environment (obviously highly dependent on the firm)
-Potential to learn a "better" skill by learning more complex returns (most franchise clients are basic W-2 folks that you could teach a monkey to input).

As a CPA in the small biz / 1040 market, my ultimate plan is to turn my tax experience into a extremely demanding 10 week job, and 1 or 2 days a week the rest of the year. Sort of a part time job instead of fully RE, as I like the stimulation and think I could get pretty bored with complete "retirement" (whatever that means).

After gaining some experience, it wouldn't be unheard of to make $50K + per tax season only working 3 months or so.

Take Cheddar's advice, he speaks from experience and I can confirm what he says.

JustTrying

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #27 on: August 24, 2014, 08:04:00 PM »
This conversation has me considering whether I should take a tax prep course so that I can save money by preparing my own taxes! I don't think that I'd ever want to work preparing taxes for others, given the low pay, but I'd like to save money by not paying others to do my taxes! Hubs is self-employed and I found that to be too complicated for us to keep doing taxes ourselves with TurboTax. Last year, H&R Block charged us $800 to do our taxes! I know I could probably shop around and find a lower-priced tax prep place, but now I'm considering DIYing it!

usmarine1975

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #28 on: August 24, 2014, 08:16:04 PM »
I am not a fan of the seasonal companies. I use a CPA that charges a rate per form or job. I can actually get a price sheet if I ask. Used a quote CPA for a couple years. My bill kept rising and I would get periodic bills for who knows what. If I called they would most times cancel them.

Money Bags

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #29 on: August 25, 2014, 06:00:22 AM »
Interesting. Not sure I am interested, I know a CPA that has a side business doing this but not through a big company on his own.

That's what I do. I am a CPA, MBA & CISA with prior income tax audit experience. I have a 9-5 with flex schedule so I can have my business and a full time job. If you go independent it will take 10 years to make any worthwhile money. Independent it is all about word of mouth, so you have to be a shameless self promoter.
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MooseOutFront

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #30 on: August 25, 2014, 06:49:30 AM »
What would the annual software costs look like for an independent? I don't doubt it would be tough to make a go of it if you needed to make $100,000, but as your chosen part time work after retirement I could see it being worth your time. Potentially.

Jack

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Re: Experience as Seasonal Tax Preparer?
« Reply #31 on: August 25, 2014, 08:32:03 AM »
What would the annual software costs look like for an independent?

LibreOffice Calc is free.

IRS Fillable Forms are free for individuals; I don't know if there is a cost for electronic submission for paid tax preparers.