How do you give back after a rewarding 40-year career as a CPA? For Stephen Gubler, CPA, the answer was simple: he continued to share his expertise with those who needed it most, in exchange for donations to charity.
Stephen’s story, describing his post-retirement venture Senior Tax on Wheels, was selected as one of the grand prize-winning entries in our Meet the Difference Makers Contest this year.
“I retired from active practice in April 2014,” writes Stephen in his entry. “Five months later, I decided to invite a number of my former clients over the age of 65 to join me in the venture.”
In lieu of receiving a fee, he asked each client to make a charitable donation approximately equal to the tax preparation fee. But, the goodwill didn’t stop there. There was also the “wheels” part of the equation.
“Several clients were either homebound, in nursing homes or relied on caregivers,” explains Stephen. “For any of those clients, I personally came to their home and prepared their returns there, gave them their copy, and later, e-filed from home.”
In total, he filed some 110 returns for his senior clients and raised approximately $25,000 for charity. And, he’s not done yet.
“In 2016, I am establishing a non-profit tax service for any senior below a certain income level, and enlisting some fellow retired CPAs to assist with this undertaking,” he reports.
Over a long career that began at Price Waterhouse in St. Louis, continued at a regional firm (where he served as director of corporate tax) and culminated in his personal practice, Stephen developed a compelling customer service motto: “For me, CPA stands for close personal attention,” he explains. “There’s no such thing as a small taxpayer.”
Looking back, he appreciates the opportunities he had to help people as a CPA.
“It’s a good way to make a living,” he says. “I got real joy from being on my own, solving problems, but mostly helping people start businesses, getting people off to the right start.”
And, the most rewarding thing of all? “Knowing that I did a good job and got the trust of the client,” explains Stephen. “What better compliment can you get than someone saying, ‘I want you to do my tax return’? It’s personal to them – and I appreciated their trust.”
Senior Tax on Wheels allowed Stephen to continue making a difference for clients, a few of whom stand out for him.
“Marilyn had been my client for about 25 years,” he recalls. “She never married. About a year and a half ago, she got dementia and needed to move into a home. She was always organized with her taxes, but this time she had nothing prepared. I worked with her family and led them through the process.”
Another client – who was also Stephen’s attorney – was struggling with diabetes.
“He took a personal interest in me, so now I’ve got to take care of him,” Stephen explains. “He was housebound, but he enjoyed our working together. He felt like he was still part of the process.”
Stephen finds that seniors, in particular, are thankful for tax preparation assistance because they often continue to be wary of the IRS.
“Today’s generation don’t have it, but the older generation still have that fear,” he says. “They [the IRS] are like the big bad monster.”
Still committed to making a difference, Stephen is happy to be a contest winner, but for him, the giving is an end in itself.
“I really just wanted to share the story,” he concludes. “I’ve had a blessed life. I hope to pass it along to other people. There is no better feeling in the world than to give, without fanfare.”