Careers & Education

The tax man

Sunday, July 01, 2012    

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NEED advice on filing your taxes? You may want to talk to Jamaican Garnett Richards.

The 58-year-old is a tax specialist with H&R Block out of the United States.

It is on him that Career & Education relies this week for insight into the work of a tax pro.

A certified tax advisor from the H&R Block Tax Institute, he also holds a certificate in public accounting from the Management Institute for National Development and a certificate in managerial accounting from the University of the West Indies.

Prior to securing employment with H&R Block, Richards worked for 17 years in the public sector. He was the financial comptroller at Cornwall Regional Hospital (1979/80), the financial controller with Ministry of Agriculture (1986/88) and a financial analyst with the Ministry of Finance (1989).

He also served 15 years with the National Water Commission "in various middle management positions", including chief budget analyst (1989/90), manager of purchasing and manager of transport (2002/04).

Who is a tax specialist?

This is a certification-level position attained by a tax professional with H&R Block, the USA's largest tax preparation company. The levels are from the lowest tax associate to tax specialist to tax advisor to master tax advisor to enrolled agent.

What is the value of the work that you do?

A tax pro provides a valuable service of preparing the annual tax returns for the US resident as is required by the IRS [Internal Revenue Service] and some states. This industry/activity relates to over 100 million Americans annually.

What prompted your entry into the field?

This was a natural fit upon migrating, with my financial background and the mandatory nature of having to file annual tax returns.

What are the academic requirements for entry into the field?

Beyond a formal education at a diploma/first degree level, there is the need for a minimum of 90 hours of formal specific tax training courses to become a tax pro (tax associate with block) and being able to prepare basic tax return for an individual.

What other skills and/or competences are required for entry into the field?

A financial/accounting background as well as being a person of high integrity [are imperative]; background checks are done to ensure this. Being bilingual is also an advantage in the US community.

What do your duties as tax specialists with H&R Block entail?

Duties entail the preparation of annual tax returns for US citizens/residents. [They also] include the interviewing of clients, reviewing their documents of earnings/expenses, calculating and completing the relevant IRS and States Tax Returns for submissions.

Trained as a tax specialist, what sort of employment options are open to you?

A trained tax professional has employment opportunities anywhere in the US after being registered by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).

What do you most enjoy about your work as a tax pro?

The expressed joy of my clients when a tax return is completed and a significant saving and/or refund is obtained beyond their expectations.

What are the challenges you face on the job?

Some notable challenges are when one has to explain a tax obligation to a client who was expecting a tax refund. Also, adjusting to the annual changes by the IRS as well as the company's protocols and varying marketing strategies.

How much can one earn as a tax specialist on an annual basis?

Provide a range. Earnings vary considerably based on certification level, duration of work period [years of experience] , and [whether] working with an organisation or self-employed. Average earnings range from US$8,000 to US$35,000 a year.

Why would you advise anyone to get into that line of work?

It is a very dynamic and rewarding vocation, meeting a wide range of individuals/families, offering financial economic and sometimes social advise to clients. One is entrusted with so much personal information on individuals.

Have an interesting career option you want to share? E-mail williamsp@jamaicaobserver.com.

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