Meet the Difference Makers
What does making a difference mean to you? It could be reducing a tax burden,
advising on planned giving or helping a client manage his or her finances.
Previous week's winners continued...
Guiding an accident victim to a healthier financial recovery
"I had a client involved in an auto accident. This client was building a self-employed massage therapy business. She sustained injuries including neck/vertebrae injuries, which made her unable to go back to work for almost a year. The insurance company for the other, at-fault driver, offered her $35,000 as a settlement for lost income and damages. I had been assisting with quarterly sales and expenses, as well as filing her tax return, for several years. I was able to provide numbers to prove the growth of her business over the last 3 years, to project forward. This enabled her to get a settlement of over $430,000. That alleviated all her financial burden and worries, and she is now re-building her dreams and her business."
More about Karen Havens
Experienced tax professionals can add important value for clients by examining the past in order to plan strategies for a brighter future. One great example appears in the story of how Intuit tax pro Karen Haven helped guide a client toward an improved insurance settlement after an automobile accident. The settlement very likely saved the client’s young business, giving renewed life to her career dreams.
“This self-employed client was building a massage therapy business,” writes Karen in her grand prize-winning entry in our Meet the Difference Makers Contest this summer. “She sustained neck and vertebrae injuries that left her unable to go back to work for almost a year.”
Soon after the accident, Karen helped the client with a tax return that led to a $10,000 refund.
“She was in tears because that money was going to help her,” Karen recalls. “That’s when she told us about the accident.”
Although the insurance company for the at-fault driver offered a $35,000 settlement for lost income and damages, “I advised her not to take it,” says Karen. She had calculated that her client was justifiably entitled to considerably more.
“I had been assisting with quarterly sales and expenses and filing her tax return for several years,” she explains. “I was able to provide numbers to prove the growth of her business over the last three years, to project forward. This enabled her to get a settlement of almost $440,000.”
The client’s family members had been buying gift certificates that they didn’t need in order to encourage her and help keep the business afloat. The enhanced settlement, however, alleviated all of the client’s financial burden and worries. She has since rebuilt her business and her aspirations.
“She’s booked solid,” says Karen. “Her business has come back. Her clients have come back.”
A self-employed tax professional since 1985, Karen is family-oriented—both her son and her daughter are employees in her practice—and has always tried to make a difference for people.
“Our philosophy is that we try to do the right thing,” she said. “When this woman recounted her story and we saw that nobody was doing anything for her, we were compelled to help. We thought that there must be something we could do, and we did.”
Although modesty makes her somewhat hesitant about the free advertising included in the contest’s grand prize package, Karen reports that she is proud to be a Meet the Difference Makers winner.
“I was getting caught up on my emails and when I saw the contest I thought, ‘Hey, we do good things too’,” she says.
Karen hopes that professional peers might be inspired by the difference she made: “It was very rewarding to us. We didn’t help just a little. We invested time and effort where others didn’t.”
A dedicated user of Intuit EasyACCT before it even became an Intuit product, Karen is recently becoming more proficient in QuickBooks. She particularly appreciates how Intuit ProSeries software integrates well with both EasyACCT and QuickBooks.
“We get greater efficiencies by having them all work together,” she explains.
Assisting folks who live chiefly in rural areas, Karen is accustomed to clients who need personal tax services as well as support for their side businesses such as farms and daycares. For many of these clients, taxes are intimidating and sometimes an obstacle. Karen sees that as an opportunity to be a difference maker.
“We help them through it,” she says. “I like helping people get to their end dreams.”
Helping a non-profit animal rescue group get up and running.
"My wife and I are active in the animal rescue world when I am not studying or working. One of our associates started her own rescue organization, forming the corporation in the state but was having difficulty understanding the IRS rules and forms to be recognized as a nonprofit organization. Knowing that that can be daunting, and having some experience with nonprofits I met the CEO at her home and walked her through the filing. Later that year, when she discovered what a 990 tax filing would cost she reached out to me again. At this time the rescue hadn't even really started growing and hadn't even received the average price of a 990 filing in donations. It was literally her and her volunteers covering the costs. After researching the situation they were in I helped her file the postcard 990 short for herself. I have since offered limited services free until her rescue is fully funded."
More about Terry Stephens
Even while seeking to build his tax practice into a full-time occupation, Terry Stephens found time to help a fledgling animal rescue group comply with IRS requirements and get on its feet.
Terry’s description of how he went above and beyond for a client close to his heart was selected as a grand-prize winning entry in our Meet the Difference Makers Contest this fall.
“My wife and I are active in the animal rescue world when I am not studying or working,” he wrote in his winning submission. “One of our associates started her own rescue organization but had difficulty understanding the IRS rules and forms to be recognized as a non-profit.”
Knowing that this type of IRS compliance can be daunting, Terry drew upon his experience working with non-profits to guide the client through the initial paperwork.
“Later that year, when she discovered what a 990 tax filing would cost, she reached out to me again,” he added. The rescue organization had yet to grow significantly and “hadn’t even received the average cost of a 990 filing in donations.”
“After researching the situation they were in, I helped her file the postcard 990 short for herself. After that I offered limited services for free until her rescue was fully funded.”
A tax professional since 2003, Terry has an even longer history of association with animal rescues. “Anyone who helps animals is a good person in my books,” he said of his motivation to lend a hand and to showcase the non-profit in his contest entry.
Determined to see the rescue group up and running, Terry is happy to report that “I’ve got them to that point now. I believe my assistance made a real difference for the client. She could have lost her non-profit.”
Based in Mesa, Terry began working as a tax professional more than a decade ago to generate a second income; now he wants the practice to be his sole income. He’s finding a niche by working with small businesses and non-profit organizations, many of whom are intimidated by tax requirements and “are not likely to touch a basic tax return.”
“I enjoy taking something complex and demystifying it, making it understandable for the average person,” he explained. He offers accounting, bookkeeping and payroll services in addition to tax preparation.
Terry was pleasantly surprised to come across the Meet the Difference Makers Contest and saw it as a great opportunity to help grow his practice. On being selected as one of the winners, he said, “It’s awesome. I’m really excited, especially about the free advertising for my business.”
An enthusiastic Intuit Tax Online and QuickBooks customer, Terry most appreciates the easy accessibility that he gets with Intuit products: “I can access them from anywhere. I can prepare taxes at a client’s site, if necessary,” he said.
That willingness to go the extra yard for clients made a critical difference for the animal rescue group—and it bodes well for the future of Terry’s growing tax practice.
Cameron, North Carolina
Bringing an overseas veteran back in step with the IRS
"The year before last, a retired vet walked into my free tax center carrying a briefcase full of IRS letters. He had not filed taxes for 10-years. They had garnished his retirement account and we're working their way monthly through his retirement pay. With his wife soon to retire with the year and a debt that was a little over 66k and growing with the IRS - someone needed to help. I was that one. Over the course of the next 9-months, I helped this overseas tax payer figure out his responsibility as a citizen living abroad. We spent hours hand-in-hand, getting those last 10-years filed. That was enough to stop the garnishment of his retirement pay and reward him a substantial refund of the garnished funds."
More about Ivon Valentine
Faithfully serving his country for 23 years didn’t earn him any special treatment from the IRS, but fortunately a United States veteran living in Germany found a guardian angel in Intuit tax professional Ivon Valentine.
Ivon’s story about helping the veteran file more than 10 years’ of returns and receive a $15,000-plus refund was chosen as a grand prize-winning entry in the Intuit Professional Tax Meet the Difference Makers Contest this fall.
While working at a free tax center in Germany a few years back, Ivon watched as the veteran entered the office and set down an old briefcase.
“I’m in trouble,” the veteran told her. “I haven’t filed for 10 years.”
The challenges facing the soon-to-be-retired ex-serviceman didn’t end there. His government post was being closed out and his wife was also set to retire within the year.
“Because he had not filed for more than 10 years, the IRS had garnished his retirement account and was working its way monthly through his retirement pay,” Ivon wrote in her contest entry. “With a tax debt at a little over $66,000 and growing, someone needed to help.”
“He had letters and letters and letters,” recalled Ivon. “It wasn’t easy. I was getting phone calls from the IRS in the middle of the night because of the time difference in Germany. We encountered lots of rough patches, but it got better.”
Over the course of the next nine months, Ivon helped the veteran better understand his responsibilities as a citizen living abroad. “We spent many hours hand-in-hand, getting those last 10-plus years filed,” she said. “That was enough to stop the garnishment and reward him a substantial refund of the seized funds.”
Ivon learned that the veteran’s obstacles to filing his taxes had been two-fold: a lack of tax knowledge and the feeling of being overwhelmed.
“He did not understand his responsibilities as a taxpayer,” she explained. “Ten years ago there was very little information out there to support and educate overseas American workers. Not only did he not know how to pay taxes, but he also didn’t know how to claim for his children. He never put them on his returns.”
Ivon felt that sharing this particular client story in the contest was important because it shows how avoiding tax responsibilities “can bring devastation to your life,” as she put it. “Here is someone who served his country for 23 years, but because he simply didn’t know how to file returns it was ruining his personal and financial life. The associated stress had affected him physically, as well.”
Ivon was happy to bring the required clarity to the veteran’s case. Although her service was free, the veteran was motivated to pay a substantial portion of what her assistance would have cost if billed.
A tax professional for 17 years, Ivon’s main focus is return preparation for individuals but she also offers bookkeeping services (her degree in accounting comes in handy here), as well as tips and advice on tax benefit strategies, or, as she puts it, “the best way to make your refund work for you.”
“I deliver on getting the most for my clients,” she said. “I love that I make a difference in their financial lives. When you help people with debt, it can be life changing.”
Ivon feels that winning one of the grand prize packages in the contest will definitely make a difference for her practice.
“The advertising [designed and paid for by Intuit] is the most exciting part,” she said. “It is a piece that I’ve needed for a while to support my business and bring awareness to my practice.”
Ivon is a longstanding Intuit customer who most appreciates how her software, pre-loaded with client data, makes it easier to prepare each new annual return.
“I like business products that help me save time and be efficient,” she explained. “It’s easy. Clients often ask ‘Do you need my information?’ But I don’t. I don’t need to start over.”
That simplicity allows Ivon to focus on helping clients such as her overseas veteran make a new start.
Rebecca Bambarger, EA
Helping an architect construct her dream job
"I was introduced to an unemployed new architect graduate in 2010 - she was having a difficult time in even getting a job as an architectural assistant due to the economy. Unemployed for two years, she finally landed a position to earn her apprentice hours and complete her licensing requirements to be fully qualified as a licensed architect. Still working her way out of long term debt from the unemployed period, she set up her business and ventured out on her own. We structured a contract for my office to run the administrative side of the business - using Intuit products throughout. We handle her banking, all back-office support, including co-ordination of insurance requirements, business contract reviews, and all business record-keeping in order to have her concentrate on the operational aspects of running the business. Our contract keeps the fees extremely low through the start-up period and grow as the business grows. We share the risk, right along with our client. "
More about Rebecca Bambarger, EA
If you invest in yourself while showing confidence and purpose, others around you may go above and beyond to support your cause.
Intuit Professional Tax customer Rebecca Bambarger is one of those others. The story she submitted about helping a young architect build a career foundation was selected as a winning entry in our Meet the Difference Makers Contest this September.
“I was introduced to an unemployed new architecture graduate in 2010,” shared Rebecca in her contest submission. “Back then she was having a difficult time getting a job even as an architectural assistant due to the economy.”
A new professional herself not too long ago, Rebecca saw something special in her client and was motivated to make a difference. When the architect decided to venture out on her own, “We structured a contract for my office to run the administrative side of her business—using Intuit products throughout. We handle her banking, all back-office support—including coordination of insurance requirements—plus all business contract reviews and record keeping. This enables her to concentrate on the operational aspects of running her business.”
Based in Arcadia with a staff of three, Rebecca’s company mainly provides comprehensive accounting services to businesses in the equine industry, nationwide. She’s also happy to provide tax services to other clients who come her way, including the special case of the promising young architect.
“I saw someone who just needed a break,” said Rebecca of her motivation to assist the client. “And I see that same helpfulness in Intuit. They work closely with big companies and with startups.”
To help the client build early momentum, the structured contract kept Rebecca’s fees extremely low through the startup period.
“The fees grow as the business grows,” Rebecca added, “so we share the risk right along with the client. It’s a long-term agreement and both sides are happy. It really does allow her to grow her business. She was recently awarded her first sizable contract and is hiring her first employee—all within her first year of opening shop.”
“I saw this person who easily could be successful,” Rebecca continued. “I saw the potential. I just needed to make it affordable for her to get over the hump.”
Rebecca is hoping that by sharing her client story, she might inspire her peers to create similar partnerships with clients who have raw potential. In fact, she recalls her own bumpy road on the way to becoming a successful EA.
“Before I took over the family practice in 2008, I was an employee and a victim of the economy. I was told that I wasn’t qualified because I wasn’t bilingual, even though I was more than qualified. I saw that I needed to get to my goal differently. I made a life change and became an entrepreneur.”
A loyal Lacerte customer since 1993, Rebecca was thrilled to be a Meet the Difference Makers Contest winner—in large part because the resulting exposure may in itself make a difference for the young architect featured in the winning story.
“When I saw the opportunity to enter the contest, I thought, ‘Wow, we need that for her. This is what my client really needs.’ ”
For her own professional development, Rebecca is most excited about the free admission to QuickBooks Connect that is included in the contest grand prize package. She sees it as an important training opportunity that will help her offer more value to her clients. The annual event is set for November 2–4 in San Jose.
“I’ve already looked into the conference and planned out what kind of classes I can take,” she said.
Rebecca is one Intuit Difference Maker who has certainly demonstrated the ability to map out a promising future—for herself and for her clients.
Bill Barchilon, CPA
Helping rehab non-profits maintain a lifeline
"I work with several very small non-profits in the drug rehabilitation field. There were 2 in particular that were in desperate need of both simple accounting and tax work. They were having problems finding a CPA who would work with them with reasonable rates. They were turned away by several other CPA's and many others quoted rates which were far in excess of anything they could afford. These particular non-profits are close to my heart as I have had family members who had succumbed to such addictions and found themselves homeless and without resources. These 2 firms bring such addicts into group homes, treat them with a workable 12 step program and provide jobs and job training. Their success has helped thousands of addicts resume a full productive life. I am so happy I was able to provide them with the needed accounting and tax work at a rate which, although only covering my costs, gave me a return on my investment which has been unmatched."
More about Bill Barchilon, CPA
“If you give from your heart, I’m going to give from mine,” said Intuit Difference Maker Bill Barchilon about his motivation to assist two non-profit organizations in the drug rehabilitation field. The small non-profits were in desperate need of professional tax services.
“They were having problems finding a CPA who would work with them at reasonable rates,” wrote Bill in his winning submission to our Meet the Difference Makers Contest. “These particular non-profits are close to my heart, as I have had family members who had succumbed to such addictions and found themselves homeless and without resources.”
A veteran of the tax profession for 30 years, Bill serves some 300 clients in his one-man practice based in Mesa. The majority of his clients are individuals seeking tax return preparation, but Bill’s natural helpfulness means he’s open to assisting people any way he can.
The non-profits—New Day Recovery Center in Mesa and the Phoenix-based Deep Within—don’t have big budgets, but they routinely have a big impact on people’s lives.
“I understand the struggle that people go through, so I appreciate the efforts of these non-profits and their reason for being,” Bill added. “They help strangers. They are helping people who are at the end of their rope.”
Both New Day and Deep Within bring addicts into group homes, treat them with a workable 12-step program, and provide jobs and job training.
When deciding to enter the contest by sharing a story, “It was clear as day that these were the organizations to talk about,” Bill recalled. “Their success has helped thousands of addicts resume a full, productive life. I am so happy I was able to provide them with the needed accounting and tax work at a rate which, although only covering my costs, gave me a return on my investment that has been unmatched.”
Bill became involved with New Day several years ago when the organization was starting out. He helped build a solid foundation and ensured that all accounting practices were IRS-compliant. He made a different kind of a difference with Deep Within when he guided the organization through a challenging tax audit.
During his long and varied career, Bill started out as an economist, taught at Arizona State University and later worked on Wall Street. While employed at a real estate development company, he started helping with taxes and accounting, and eventually went back to school for his CPA designation.
Although his story is a wonderful example of the profound difference that tax professionals can make, Bill prefers that the beneficiaries of his goodwill receive most of the attention.
“I downplay most everything I do,” Bill explained. “To me, that’s no big deal,” he said of his contest success, “but for my family and the non-profits I work with, it’s important that they get the support and attention.”
While Bill appreciates the paid advertising for his practice and the other prizes included in the contest grand prize package, the selfless part of him would rather donate the advertising budget to the non-profits that he assists.
This devoted Intuit Difference Maker also hopes that his story will inspire others in the tax profession and beyond to make a difference in their own way.
“Other companies and associations are doing the right thing,” said Bill. “I hope more do too.”