TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, February 22, 2016

WSJ:  Preparers Work To Make Taxes Cool, Sexy

BrassWall Street Journal, Easing the Pain of Doing Your Taxes:

Shane Mason and Lizzie Falkner sat laughing in a cozy leather booth in the back of Yours Sincerely, a dimly lit cocktail bar in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood. He was sporting shaggy blond hair and artsy spectacles; she wore a tank top and striped leggings. It looked like a date—except for the pile of W-2s stacked beside Mr. Mason’s laptop. He was doing her taxes. ...

This tax season, local accountants who get creative with their marketing—if not their deduction strategies—are coming up with ways to make filing taxes a little more fun. Or at least palatable to folks who might otherwise try to blunder through a Schedule C on their own.

Mr. Mason is a CPA with a day job preparing taxes for high-net-worth clients. But three nights a week, he sets up shop at the bar accompanied by an antique brass lamp and a little framed sign: “Resident Accountant—Get Your Taxes Done.” Consultations, starting at $135, include a free cocktail.

It sounds a bit gimmicky, but clients say it transforms a tedious chore into a bit of a lark. “I’m doing my taxes, and I’m in a bar, and I’m doing it in February,” said Ms. Falkner, who manages a yoga studio. “I’ve never done my taxes this early.” ...

Josh Zimmelman, founder of Westwood Tax & Consulting, said he markets to millennials because he enjoys educating them. But there’s a bonus: “A client that starts with me at 25 will be with me forever.”

He posts self-deprecating ads on Craigslist promising, “Think about how much better you will feel knowing your taxes are in the hands of community-trusted tax nerds who live for this stuff.”

He posts funny videos on YouTube (tax humor, you understand), eliminates paper, communicates via text and Facebook and accepts PayPal for his consultations, which start at $250. He dresses casually and tries to use current slang.

“It’s very difficult to make accounting and taxes sexy,” said Mr. Zimmelman. “We’re trying. We’re trying.”

It’s a fine line. Take things too far, he said, and you risk looking unprofessional in an industry that already has people spooked. ...

The need to reassure mainstream clients explains why the big tax chains have embraced the bland, respectable look of a bank, said Rus Garofalo, founder of Brass Taxes, a Crown Heights, Brooklyn, firm catering to “artists, freelancers and other nice people.”

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