Persistence – the Key to Success

You have your goal set before you.  You know what you want and how to get there.  You’ve laid your plans, you set deadline and you’ve started on your way.  Excited about your expected success you enthusiastically take action toward your goal.  Things seem to be going very well for you when suddenly progress comes to a screeching halt.  What now?  What happened?  What went wrong?  What should I do?

You stop.  But, what you do next will determine whether you actually see your goal become reality.  When times get tough, it’s easy to question the reality of a goal.  You may ask, “Is this what I should be doing?  Am I doing the right thing?”  If you determine for yourself that you goal was wrong, you will quit and move on to something else.  Then when tough times come again, you will repeat the process, and will never see a dream come true.  Your life will be spent as a perpetual beginner.  You will become unsatisfied with life and begin to live with a victim’s mentality as you live your life continually tossed by the ever changing waves of circumstance.

This does not have to be your story.  What if you decide that your stop will be a brief pause?  You use this pause to determine how you will overcome the obstacle that you are facing.  You move ahead, only to find another obstacle.  You pause, you overcome, you move forward, but this time a little faster.  You move forward, you meet another obstacle, you overcome, this time you realize this is just a part of the path.  You move forward, by the time you realize there’s another obstacle, you’ve already overcome it.  You move forward.  You reach your prize.

You can never reach a destination if you stop in the middle of the journey.  Persistence is the key.

Declare what you want.

Determine how you’re going to get it.

Decide that nothing is going to stop you.

Take action.


Take action.


Get up.

Take action.

Get there.

Michael Jordan said “If you’re trying to achieve, there will be road blocks.  I’ve had them; everybody had them.  But obstacles don’t have to stop you.  If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up.  Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

Henry Ford said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t-you’re right.”

Proverbs 24:16 says “For a just man falls seven times, and rises up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”

Whether you are working to get out of debt, obtaining additional training or education, opening a new business; whatever you decide to do, do it.  Don’t stop.  Problems, setbacks and even failure are a part of the road to success.  Learn the lessons in every experience and move forward.

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Vice or Victory

“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou may prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers”.  3 John 1:2.

I was absolutely startled when I heard the statistics; how much one man spent on his smoking habit per day.  Funny thing is I wasn’t looking for information on this topic.  The program I was watching wasn’t even about smoking.  The presenter was talking about living a healthy lifestyle and just mentioned this habit he once had.  I’ve never been a smoker and I’ve never lived closely enough to one to pay much attention to the cost of this habit, so when I heard the numbers I was flabbergasted.  The cost was the catalyst to help the speaker stop.

It is our mission to help people; especially business owners keep better record of their finances so they can make informed decisions about how to use their resources to get the best return.  When I heard the numbers about the cost of smoking cigarettes I had to talk about it.

According to the Center for Disease Control about 18%, 42 million, Americans over the age of 18 smoke cigarettes.  Of that number, less than half of them smoke less than one pack per day.  That means the majority of smokers smoke more than one pack per day.  In the state of Alabama, the average price of a pack of cigarettes is $5.51.  Assuming that a person limits himself (most smokers are men) to one pack per day, he will spend $2,011 per year.  Over 40 years, he will spend $40,223; assuming he only smokes one pack per day.

I took that figure and plugged it into a Roth IRA calculator at and figured that if that same $2011 was invested each month for 40 years at 6% interest, net 3% for inflation, also assuming a 25% tax rate, our smoker could earn $230,786.31 in interest on his money.  That may not be a lot to have a dream retirement, however, how many people attempt to retire on much less than that?

Another figure I was curious about is the cost in lost productivity due to death or injury related to smoking.  According to the CDC, the average smoker dies 10 years earlier than a non-smoker.  Current figures are 480,000 deaths per year related directly to smoking, and 41,000 related to second hand smoke.

The average American household makes $52,000 per year.  The average household is defined as a family of four.  For the simplicity, we’ll assume that two of those people are working adults, bringing in equal salary; $26,000 per year.  (Statistics however show that men are consistently paid on average 33% more than women for the same job, but that is another discussion for another time.)  One day one of our adults dies from a smoking related illness.  Instantly that family is now living dangerously close to national the poverty level ($24,000).  That individuals earning potential is lost; $260,000 over 10 years.  As a nation, it’s estimated that we lose $156 BILLION due to premature death related to smoking.

Of those who do not die, 61 million people live with a smoking related illness.  For every smoker that dies, 30 live with illness.  How many of those people are on disability?  How much is spent on health care?  What is the true cost of a cigarette?

I’m not here to shame smokers or put them on blast.  Everyone has the God given right to make their own choices about how they take care of their bodies.  I really do wonder though, how many people really understand what this habit costs them in dollars and cents.  Many people are looking for money to make it to the end of the month, many people retire without adequate savings, and many families are left to “figure it out” after a loved one is disabled or dies due to a smoking related illness.  What is the real cost?

We started out with the scripture from 3 John 1:2 which states I wish above all things that you prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers.  Truth is health is wealth.  Everyone needs a measure of health to create wealth.  Almost every person who has sacrificed health for material wealth would change their priorities if give a second chance.  Why not use the gift of life that each of us has been given to use your talents and abilities the best you can for as long as you can? God has given the body the amazing ability to heal itself.  The moment you stop smoking you begin to regain the time that was lost.  After 20 years, it’s possible that you can function as though you never had the habit.

The is a smoking cessation clinic this week, starting today , Monday July 13, 2015 at 6:00 at the Richard Showers Center here in Huntsville, AL.  There are several others going on around the country on a consistent basis.  Check out the internet to find on near you.  Get the victory over your vice.  Get your money back!

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To Claim or Not to Claim

Let me share with you a situation that I have seen more than once in my tax practice.  As children age into adulthood this situation occurs more and more frequently and can cause a huge headache for parents.  What do you do when you have filed a tax return claiming your child as a dependent only to find out that the child has filed her own tax return claiming her own personal exemption?

In the July issue of TaxPro Monthly, contributing author Kevin Brown, EA recounts a situation where a mother had to prove she filed a valid tax return. Leticia’s daughter and grandchild lived with her from January through August and she provided most of their living expenses for that same period.  In August the daughter and the grandchild moved out of Leticia’s home to live with the daughter’s boyfriend.  Because both the daughter and the grandchild met the tests to be considered as qualifying dependents, Leticia filed her return as head of household and claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Unknown to Leticia, after the daughter and the grandchild moved out, the daughter and the boyfriend filed a joint tax return also claiming the Earned income tax credit.

Leticia received one of those dreaded letters from the IRS denying all of the tax benefits of claiming the daughter and grandchild as dependents. In short, Leticia owed the IRS a lot of money.

In the end it was found that Leticia did file a valid tax return.  Several factors helped the IRS come to this conclusion.  One of most significant of these findings was that the daughter did not file a valid tax return because she and the boyfriend did not meet the tests necessary to file a joint return.

What about college students?  This can be tricky.  Let’s throw in a child of the college student, and things really get rowdy.  Who is a dependent of whom? Who claims what?  One of my clients had an 18 year old college student file her own tax return claiming a personal exemption.  Because the parents were still taking care of the majority of the students living expenses and she met several other tests, they were able to claim her as a dependent and file an amended return for the student before it became a big issue.  It’s nice when problems can be solved so easily.

There are several things to consider before claiming someone as a dependent.  Basically you will need to consider the following:

  • Marital status of the dependent
  • Your relationship to the dependent
  • The amount of support you provide to the dependent
  • Your income
  • The dependents income
  • Any support agreements as in the case of separation or divorce

The list goes on.  The IRS has a wonderful tool online to help sort through these questions.  The quickest way to find it is go to and enter “Who Can I Claim as a Dependent” in the search box.  The tool will ask a series of specific questions and give the answer at the end.  It takes about 15 minutes to complete.  It’s worth the time, to not have to deal with cleaning up the mess if you’ve erroneously claimed a non-qualifying person as a dependent on your return.

Also, if you have dependents who may feel entitled to claim their own exemptions on their tax returns, talk about it.  Most people do not understand the implications of the information in a tax return, so make sure that your expectations are the same.


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Disaster Strikes! Do You Have a Plan?

Stuff happens.  If there is one thing we can count on it is change.  Some changes are good; other changes are not so good.  A few things that determine whether change is perceived as good or bad are whether the change is beneficial to us, our level of expectancy, and our level of preparedness.

One change that most business owners would consider as negative would be a natural or man-made disaster.  The amount of time, energy and money business owners invest into their businesses could never be recovered without proper planning.  According to the SBA website, twenty-five percent of businesses never re-open after a major disaster.  Think back on the major events that have happened in the U.S. alone in the last ten to fifteen years; the 911 tragedies, the Gulf oil spill, the tornado outbreaks of 2011, and Hurricane Katrina, just to name a few.  One out of every four businesses affected by those events never re-opened afterwards.  Those losses not only affect the business owners, their families and employees, but the local communities also.

The unexpected loss of a business has long lasting effects.  If the owner decides to try to recover, they must do so without the benefit of the income from the business.  There are so many things to consider during an already stressful time.  Does your business have ongoing bills to pay regardless of whether or not the business is operating?  What about your personal expenses?  For many business owners, the business is the sole source of their personal income.  What about your employees?  They still need to make a living.  Will they be available to help you in the recovery process?

The best strategy to help your business recover after a disaster is to plan ahead.  Start thinking about what you will do if tragedy strikes.  But don’t just think about it, come up with a solid plan and put it in writing.  After that, test the plan out to find those “bugs” that may stop you in your tracks.  Test, re-test and improve on the plan until you get it right.  Have an inventory of all of your business assets including the descriptions, purchase prices and current value of those assets.  A video or picture log is great for this purpose.  Have a list of your customers and vendors stored in a safe place so you can stay in contact with them.   Have a back-up of all data bases, documents, and other important information stored off-site.  Once you have these things in place, store them in the cloud, a safe deposit box, or with a trusted friend or family member in an area not likely to be affected by the same disaster at the same time.  Have adequate amounts of the proper insurance in place.  Have an emergency fund to cover deductibles and other immediate cash based needs.

Does all of this sound overwhelming?  I’m writing about it thinking the exact same thing.  Worse than that, these are only a few suggestions.  The good news is that there are resources to help you with the planning process. is a wonderful resource to find information and tools to help you put your disaster plan in place.

Are you still thinking, “there’s no way ’ll ever get that done”.  Linda Putnam at Restore Your Niche ( can help walk you through the process or do it for you.  Linda is in the business of helping business owners plan ahead and recover after disasters.  Her moto is “it’s not a disaster if you have a plan”.

Whatever you do, do something.  We work way too hard as business owners to let it all be swept away without a plan for recovery.

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Collaboration vs. DIY – It May Cost More Than You Think

What do Home Depot, Turbo Tax and Web MD have in common?  Besides sounding like the beginning of a bad joke, they are all brands that appeal to the Do It Yourselfer (yes, I just created a word).  With some exceptions, the Do-it-yourselfer is the proverbial jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none who would rather spend his precious time dabbling in a little bit of this and a little bit of that rather than paying the perceived obnoxious fees the experts charge.  While learning new things and having a general understanding of what is going on around you is a good thing, this mind-set can often do more harm than good.  I have a few examples to illustrate.

My husband is a very intelligent man.  I’m amazed at some of the things I’ve seen him accomplish over the years we’ve know each other.  I am also amazed that he has self-diagnosed no less than a dozen medical conditions all with the help of Web MD.  It’s kind of a running joke in our house now; “what condition does dad have today?”  While Web MD can be very helpful in many cases, it’s advisable that one consult an actual physician or other health care provider to diagnose and treat a medical condition.

Another example I heard recently was a new parent telling a story about filing their personal tax return to include a dependent for the first time.  He remarked how excited he was to see the numbers rolling up like a lottery jackpot while at the same time having no idea why.

Finally, I’m sure you’ve seen the leaning fence, the tilted storage shed, or the obscurely placed ramp all obviously built by the neighbor down the street.

Each of these cases demonstrate the DIY mentality of many who embark on projects with just enough knowledge to be dangerous.  In other words, having just enough knowledge to create a bigger problem than the solution they are seeking.  A person can spend countless hours worrying about a medical condition that may not actually exist, or worse not treat a condition that could be fatal.  Every contractor will tell you that it is much more expensive to correct a problem than to have a project done right the first time.  Finally, there is a good reason why the IRS has agents to audit tax returns and it’s not because the public at large has a thorough understanding of the US tax code.  The general lack of knowledge has led to an average of over 1.5 million math errors reported on tax returns for the past two filing seasons.  That number does not include other errors made on tax returns; only the average number of math errors.

Proverbs 15:22 in the New Living Translation says “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.”  There is a greater chance of success in any endeavor when collaborating with experts.  In his book Business Secrets from the Bible, Rabbi Daniel Lapin describes business as the “most effective process of specialization”.  People go into business with a specific product or service to offer to a particular group of people.  Good business people become experts in whatever it is they are offering.  It is this specialization that allows them to become profitable.  Specialization decreases the amount of time and effort needed to accomplish a task.  It increases the value of the offering and therefore, specialization also increases the profitability of the enterprise.  From the customers’ point of view, specialization increases the credibility of the offer, it increases the perceived value of the offer and decreases the amount of time and effort needed to accomplish a task.  Specialization benefits the business person and the customer in the same way.

So why do so many people use the DIY approach?  There are some people who just like to try their hand at new things.  There is nothing wrong with that.  There are others who genuinely cannot afford to pay someone else to handle a particular project for them.  The latter, in reality, is the minority.  The truth is that people generally find a way to afford anything they really value.  Truth is they do not value the expert’s education or experience enough to part with the money necessary to get that same experience and advice to work on their behalf.  They feel like they have just enough knowledge, experience and education to do as good a job and save some money at the same time.  The truth is this devaluation of the expert is often much more costly.  Again referencing Rabbi Lapin’s book, he states that you will almost never see Jews in the driveway fixing their own cars or mowing their own lawns.   Why?  Because they understand the power of specialization.  He goes on to say that if he employs the trained mechanic to perform maintenance on his vehicle and the ambitious young person down the street to mow his lawn, he has purchased his own valuable time to practice and perfect his own craft or trade.  He also states that because of this he will certainly earn more money working in his own trade than he will trying to save a little here and there tinkering around in someone else’s space.  Specialization adds to his wealth.  It also adds to the wealth of the mechanic.  Everybody wins.

There is a place for do-it-yourself projects.  The truth is, that place is not in the area of true savings.  When you hire a professional, you employ that professional’s knowledge, education, and experience for a fraction of the time and money it took them to obtain it.  What the professional gives in return for your money is all of this, plus the value of your time.  Time has value.  What is yours worth?


Lapin, D. (2014). Introduction. In <i>Business secrets from the bible: Spiritual success strategies for financial abundance</i>. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

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15 Way to Make 2015 Your Best Year

How was 2014 for you?  However this year ends for you 2015 can be an even better year.  The truth is, it’s really up to you.  Here are 15 things you can do to make 2015 your best year.

  1. PLAN AHEAD – It’s been said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Planning ahead and preparing for the things we want increases the likelihood that those things will actually happen.  Set some specific goals for the coming year and plan how to reach those goals.  Execute your plans and watch “luck” happen.
  2. SAVE – I read a statement that was so simple and true that it was profound. People are poor because they spend everything they have.  Tired of being broke and missing opportunities because you didn’t have the money available?  Set some money aside every pay period for emergencies and those unexpected opportunities you want to take advantage of.  Once you get in the habit of saving and start seeing the benefits, it will become easier to do.
  3. SPEND LESS THAN YOU MAKE – This is the key to getting and staying out of debt. Honestly, most people use debt because there is not enough money available to do whatever it is they want or need to do.  They also enter debt with the mindset that “I will pay the balance next pay period”.  The balance is carried forward, next month the same thing happens and presto, “suddenly” there is a mountain of debt.  Spend less than you make every month and you’ll be able to avoid debt, get out of debt and begin to accumulate wealth.
  4. SPEND MORE TIME WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS – We spend a lot of time working and generally not as much time with the people we love doing the things we love. When life comes to a close, no one ever says “I wish I spent more time working”.  Be very specific with the allocation of your time.  Work when it’s time to work.  When that time is over’ stop working and spend focused time with your family and friends.  Truly engage with them and feel the love.
  5. GIVE OF YOUR SELF FOR THE BENEFIT OF OTHERS – So much of our time is used to get the things we need that we often miss the benefit of doing something for someone else. Giving of you can come in many forms.  You can make something special for someone; spend time visiting a neighbor, volunteer at church.  Look around you for opportunities to share your talents and expertise with others.
  6. MAKE A LIST OF 100 THINGS YOU WANT TO DO IN YOUR LIFETIME – Begin to dream again. What are some things you’ve always wanted to do?  Write them down.  Don’t worry about whether or not you think it’s possible for you to do them.   This will help you remember how to dream, an art we tend to lose as adults.
  7. PICK AT LEAST THREE THINGS FROM YOUR LIST AND DO THEM – Start with three of the most attainable items on your list and do them in 2015. Once you begin to see some of your dreams come to life you’ll begin to dream bigger and find ways to make those dreams come to life.
  8. INVEST IN YOURSELF – You are your best and most valuable asset. You’ve got one life to live and one body to live it in.  Learn something new.  Reach your fitness goals.  Get a regular massage.  Get your nails done.  Get some quite time.  You don’t have to do some grand thing or spend a ton of money, but you do need to take care of you.  This is especially important if you are in a position that requires you to care for someone else.  Investing time and other resources in yourself will keep you energized and in a frame of mind that allows you to be more effective in all areas of your life.
  9. LET GO OF FEAR – Fear causes some people to run, some people fight, others to be paralyzed. None of fears effects are positive.  Fear is the anticipation of an outcome of something that has not even happened yet.  Don’t live the consequences of imaginary events.  Do something.  If it turns out good, great!  If not, that’s OK too.  It’s a learning experience either way.  Truth is, the worst thing that could happen in most cases is usually the least likely, or not really as bad as you image it will be.
  10. READ A BOOK-So many things can be found in books. Not salacious novels.  Really good inspirational books, biographies, autobiographies, etc.  Books that help open your mind to new experiences and information.  You could find the courage to start a new business, tools to cope with difficult situations, the permission to live life out loud.  The right book can change your life.
  11. CELEBRATE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS-When you reach a milestone or accomplish a goal, celebrate. Celebration not only brings resolution allowing you to move forward with the next goal, but it also gives you something to look forward to while you’re pushing through.
  12. APPRECIATE THE “LITTLE” THINGS YOU DO- Appreciate yourself for the things you do every day. We often feel like we are only doing certain things because it’s the responsible thing to do and therefore it’s no big deal.  Consider how many people there are with the same responsibilities that do not do what is necessary to take care of them.  You chose everyday how you will spend your time and resources.  Appreciate the fact that you make and act on good decisions.
  13. REACH OUT TO AN OLD FRIEND AND MEET A NEW ONE- staying connected with other people is one way to build your support network. Whether your network is for business, pleasure, or your general well-being the more people you know the better off you’ll be.
  14. GET AND STAY PHYSICALLY ACTIVE-Physical activity energizes the mind and the body. It gets the blood flowing and helps you stay more focused during the day.  It also helps you to sleep better at night.
  15. KEEP A GRATITUDE JOURNAL-write down five things you are grateful for everyday. This keeps your mind focused on the good in life.  Regardless of what happens in a day, there is always something to be thankful for.  You’ll be surprised how your general outlook will change for the better.

The decisions we make every day shape our futures.  Make a conscious effort to make decisions that will shape the future you want.  It really is up to you.

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When 1+1 Doesn’t Equal 2

Mary Kay Cosmetics provides extensive training for consultants in many areas that help them to work with integrity and professionalism.


I’ve referred to myself at times as a serial entrepreneur.  Since becoming self-employed I have tried my and at a few things.  Some have been successful; some not so much.  One business that I have really enjoyed besides Storehouse is Mary Kay.  Yes, I did say Mary Kay.  “How in the world do you reconcile that?”  I’ve had to answer that question more times than you know.  It used to bother me to explain why I became an Independent Beauty Consultant for Mary Kay.  People just didn’t get it.  The truth is that Mary Kay appeals to other sides of my personality that accounting just doesn’t reach.  What I’ve found over the years however, is that they are not as foreign to one another as you might think.  Many of the values I have learned from one business readily transfer to the other.  One of those values is the habit of consistency.


In a recent Mary Kay success meeting, the unit director was explaining to the consultants in the group how little things done consistently could help them reach a big goal.  The lesson was regarding sales and production.  What she was teaching them is how placing a minimum order of a certain amount each week can easily get them to a certain goal by the end of the fiscal quarter.  Some of the consultants bucked at the idea because making a minimum order every week will increase shipping cost over the long run.  The point that they were missing is that placing a minimum order each week establishes a habit of consistency.  Having a goal to place an order each week means you need to have minimum sales each week.  Having a sales minimum each week means you need to contact or acquire a certain number of customers each week to meet that goal.  Being intentional about and consistent with the sales process will get you where you want to be.  Every week you have a win.  Every week you have accomplished a goal making the entire sales process a lot easier and a lot less intimidating.  Just a little effort can go a long way.



Success comes, not by knowing, but by doing what needs to be done.

This is the same process we use when helping families and businesses reach their financial goals.  Whether establishing an emergency fund, saving for retirement, or getting out of debt, the process is the same.  Somewhere in time we lost the value of consistent effort.  We have become accustomed to instant gratification, and therefore we look for instant results in everything we do.  This leads to frustration and a feeling of failure when things don’t work out as we expected, when we expected.  Some of our financial goals are so big that it seems we’ll never reach them.  I’ve heard it said, however that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  Consistently putting money away in a saving account will increase the chance that you’ll actually have money in that account when you need it.  Consistently making additional payments on that debt will guarantee that it will get paid off.  Consistently sending money to your financial adviser will guarantee that one day you will be able to retire.  How much money you’ll have in savings, or retirement or how quickly that debt will be paid will depend on how much you contribute to those causes.  The truth is, however, that whatever your effort is, it will pay off if you’re consistent.


We tend to look at finance and money matters as though it’s a simple math equation.  Obviously if you add money to an account, you’ll have more of it.  That’s only partially true.  The problem is that the solution is not in knowing what to do.  The solution is in doing what needs to be done and that’s where most people fail.  They know what to do, but they fail to do it.  The thought process is often that because they do not have a significant amount of money to contribute toward debt payment or savings, they don’t do anything.  Sometime later they find that they are no closer to reaching to their goal and frustration sets in.  Success is found in the day-to-day activity of doing little things along the way.

Sprinters Crossing Finish Line

Crossing the finish line one step at a time.


If you’re finding that you have goals you’re not reaching, start developing the habit of consistency.  No matter what happens make at least the minimum effort required to get you where you want to be on a consistent basis.  Once you start seeing those small wins, you’ll find ways to achieve bigger ones.

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Let Me Tell You a Little Secret


  The Secret Revealed

I have a secret that I’m about to reveal that may shock and disturb you.  It’s a little known fact, but it is very true.  This secret is so serious that is costs untold millions of dollars in lost revenue every year; possibly even billions.  Few speak of it and even fewer know about it.  Did you know that the IRS does not have the authority to regulate tax preparers?  Shocking isn’t it?  What’s more shocking to me is that their attempt to regulate tax preparers has been overturned in a Supreme Court ruling.  What that means to you as a tax payer is that in many states without regulations regarding this industry, there is no consumer protection against unqualified tax preparers.

A Little History

When I decided to open Storehouse Financial Management Services, LLC, I was surprised at how easy it was to do.  My plan was to take my accounting degree and put it to use to help support my family outside of the traditional work model.  My plan was to provide bookkeeping and tax services to small businesses and some financial coaching to individuals needing help with the family budget.  I had been doing these same things for years for my employer and friends so I had the experience.  What I didn’t have was a license to do it on my own.  I researched the web for information on what licenses were needed and actually found very little.  So little, in fact, that I actually called the state and institutions who I determined should be responsible for such licensing.  I wanted to be sure I was not missing anything and they assured me that I was not.  With that information I obtained the licenses that were required and went to work.

The End of the Beginning

A few years later I started receiving information from the IRS that there would be a continuing education requirement and that a test of basic skills would have to be passed for everyone preparing form 1040 for the general public who was not a CPA or an EA.  I thought to myself, this is great!  We finally have something to bring credibility to the industry at large.  Something that would let tax payers know that the tax preparers they are using who are not CPA’s and EA’s are qualified to prepare their returns.  It’s the RTRP designation!  I’m going to be a Registered Tax Return Preparer.  That’s a good thing, right?

Well apparently not to some tax preparers.  Not long after I paid for, took and passed the RTRP exam,
received and framed my certificate, the IRS was sued and told that they did not have the authority to regulate tax return preparers.  Persons who had paid for, but had not taken the test were issued refunds for the testing fees and many of us were left shocked and amazed.  Yes, the IRS was sued by tax return preparers in Loving vs. IRS and lost.  Wow!

The problem was that Congress never gave the IRS authority to regulate tax preparers and by making the attempt to require a license of sorts, the IRS over stepped its authority.  OK, that’s fair.  We should all play by the rules, the IRS included.  So what now?

Returns of the Wild, Wild West

Back to square one.  There are no federal regulations for tax preparers and the same is true in many states.  So at any given time, any given person, for any given reason can begin preparing tax returns regardless of their ability, experience, knowledge or education.  There’s almost no way to know who you’re dealing with.

The problem with this is the tax payer, many of whom do not know or understand what is on the return, is responsible for whatever the return contains once they sign and authorize it to be submitted to the IRS.  Since many tax payers are looking for a refund, some tax preparers will enter fraudulent information in a return to create or enlarge the refund amount which makes the tax payer very happy.  They come back year after year because they’ve received such “great” service.  Years later, they receive a letter from the IRS regarding the inconsistencies that were found in the tax returns along with an adjustment to tax due.  On average these letters are received two to three years after the return is filed so the tax payer now has interest and penalties due on the amounts owed from the time the return was filed until the time the last cent is paid.  Many of them don’t understand why.  Many of the preparers responsible are not available to help sort out the mess.

My personal opinion is that it’s unfortunate and a disservice to the general public to have an industry this large and important to go unregulated.  There is so much at stake for the tax payers personally.  Fines, penalties, possible jail time, and the sheer aggravation experienced once the fraud is discovered could be mostly avoided.  Then there are the claims of a whole new industry promising a quick and easy fix to the IRS problem that preys on unsuspecting tax payers and often leaves them worse off than they were before.   The situation for the federal and local governments in terms of losses in income and the services dependent on that income isn’t much better.  Government spokespersons are often speaking of budget shortfalls.  Ever wonder how much of that money is lost due to taxpayer (preparer) fraud?

Don’t get me wrong, there are many very honest and credible tax preparers in the industry.  They’re the ones who aim to prepare a correct tax return with the information they have regardless of whether a refund is due or how much it is.  They’re the ones I see at the continuing education courses every year, even though they are not required to be there.  They are the one’s supporting the idea of regulating the industry for the protection of their livelihood and the people they serve.  They’re the ones who need you to let Congress know that mandatory regulation of the tax preparation industry is long overdue.


Want to know more?  Check out these resources.


The Ruling

United States Court of Appeals – District of Columbia Circuit



Appellate Court Delivers Blow to IRS and Taxpayers Nixing Tax Return Preparer Regs



Institute for Justice – Loveing vs. IRS

Challenging the IRS’s Authority to License Tax Return Preparers

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Almost that time again!

9965427Well folks it’s almost that time.  April 15th is this coming Tuesday!  Tax time can be stressful for some people especially when you have an unexpected tax bill.  Due to the constantly changing tax laws, every year more tax filers are owing tax at the end of the year.

I usually find that tax filers who have had a change in dependents, who are newly married or divorced, those who have had significant changes in income during the tax year and the self employed are most often the ones who run into this issue.

Fortunately there are some simple things you can do now to help lower or eliminate your tax bill.

1.  Keep the information on your W-4 current.  If you have a child graduate from college, move out of the house, or if you have another person was your dependent who dies or has a change in their dependency status, you need to make changes to your W-4 to reflect the differences.  It’s not something most people think about, but it does make a difference.  The withholding amounts on your paycheck need to accurately reflect your life.  If you take more exemptions on your W-4 than you can claim on your 1040, you will most likely have a tax bill.

2.  Self employed persons should keep track their net income through out the year.  If you see you are making a profit (which is why you’re in business), start making tax deposit through out the year.  This is most easily done through  On average you should deposit 10-25% of your net profit to avoid a large tax bill and underpayment penalties at the end of the year.

3.  If you are self-employed you need to keep a written record of all of your business expenses.  This should include some kind of ledger, receipts, bank statements and any other source documents that will verify your income and expenses.  Don’t leave money on the table because of sloppy or non-existent financial records in your business.  Mileage is one of the most common deductions I see business owners miss out on.  You must keep written records of your business mileage and vehicle expense.  No records = no deduction.

4.  The same advice goes for employees who have unreimbursed job expenses including mileage.  Keep your records.  If your employer has a program that reimburses you for job related expenses, use that.  If they do not, keep records and deduct these on your tax return.

5.  Help yourself by helping someone else.  Charitable contributions to churches and other qualified non-profit organizations are also tax deductible.  Again, you generally must have written records of your donation in the form of a receipt from that organization.  Be aware that donations to non-qualified organizations and individuals are non-tax deductible gifts.

6.  Pay yourself.  There are deductions and credits available for saving for the future.  The future may include college or retirement.  Either way, savers are rewarded for their efforts, provided they use the right instruments.

These are some of the most commonly missed opportunities I see that can reduce or eliminate that dreaded end of the year tax bill.  It just takes some awareness and a little effort to make it happen.

Call me for help implementing a plan for this year.


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Did You Know? – IRS Approved Delivery Services

postal vehicles

See for shipping information.

Did you know that correspondences, returns, payments and other time sensitive mailings sent to the IRS can be considered as timely filed as of the date mailed even if the IRS will not receive them until a few days after the expiration of the filing period?  The IRS considers an item as being receive timely if the date of the US postmark stamped on the envelope is within the filing period.

However, be careful to use the United States Postal Service or another private delivery service specifically designated by the IRS, otherwise it could cost you.

The following is a list of private delivery services (PDS) specifically designated under Notice 2004-83.  This list can be found on the IRS website at

Effective January 1, 2005, the list of designated PDSs is as follows:

1. DHL Express (DHL): DHL Same Day Service; DHL Next Day 10:30 am; DHL Next Day 12:00 pm; DHL Next Day 3:00 pm; and DHL 2nd Day Service;

FedEx vehicles

See for shipping information

2. Federal Express (FedEx): FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx 2 Day, FedEx International Priority, and FedEx International First; and

3. United Parcel Service (UPS): UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Saver, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS Worldwide Express Plus, and UPS Worldwide Express.

UPS airplane

See for shipping information

Be sure to use only the services listed in Notice 2004-83.  For example, because UPS ground is not specifically mentioned in this list, your mailing will not be considered as timely filed unless the IRS actually receives it before the deadline.  Of course it’s always better to respond to notices from the IRS or complete time sensitive documents  as soon as possible so that you have enough time to deliver the items prior to the expiration of the filing period.  It’s also a good idea to send items using a traceable service such as certified mail or deliver confirmation.  It’s also usually less expensive.  We all know that life happens and sometimes we need a little extra time.  It’s good to know these services are available when we need them.

Storehouse Financial Management Services, LLCJanuary 2013

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