Overcoming Barriers: My Experience with Ultimate Tax and My Next Steps to Becoming an Enrolled Agent
Episode 6 – Transcription
Intro: Welcome to BookSight, a weekly podcast dedicated to accounting, bookkeeping, and small business tasks. Here's your host, Taylor Arndt.
Hello everyone, welcome to Episode 6 of the BookSight podcast. I hope everyone is having a great week. It's almost the new year, super exciting. But unfortunately, with a new year comes tax season, because everyone who prepares taxes is probably trying to get ready for the upcoming busy season. And I know that you're probably not wanting to think about that. But of course, me as a bookkeeper trying to get all my ducks in a row, I am thinking about that actively. And I'm also trying to think about how I can be more of an asset for my client.
So, I'm going to go ahead and explain that, but: Taylor's Financial Services. So, if you need a reliable bookkeeper, or your CPA firm needs a little bit more help during tax season and you're not sure what to do, well there's a solution. Taylor's Financial Services. I'm a certified QuickBooks Pro Advisor, and I've been doing bookkeeping in some form for over five years. From managing my own business’ books, managing my boyfriend's business’ books, to now managing my own books and my clients’ books. So, if you need a dedicated person who will work with your clients and who will work with you and get the job done, Taylor's Financial Services is probably where you guys should go. Also, if you want a firm who really understands the technology and who makes sure that your clients have the best experience possible, Taylor's Financial Services is where you want to look. So, tayfinance.com.
I've had a lot of developments come up this week, and if you are in the tax Twitter community, either on Facebook or Twitter, you may have seen some posts that I have been putting out there. And also, some comments that have got stirred up a little bit. I kind of stirred up the pot today, but I'll explain more about that later. So go ahead and stay tuned for the rest of that. But either way, I had a lot of updates and things that have happened. So let me go ahead and recap what went on. Yesterday evening, I got this tip from someone that I should try a different tax software. Because if you recall, a couple of weeks ago I did this episode where I talked about the state of the tax software, and how none of it was accessible for people who are blind like myself. And I got this tip from this person talking about a software called Ultimate Tax. It's something that I really haven't heard of before, and I was going to go ahead and check it out. So, I had some time yesterday to kill after I got done with work, and I decided that I was going to try out Ultimate Tax.
Ultimate Tax is another one of those software like Drake or ProConnect or Lacer, all of those things. But it is a cloud-based software for one, so it's not a local desktop install (which is always the best thing ever). And it is available for all platforms because you can use it online. They even have a mobile app where clients can be able to upload documents and things. But I decided I was going to give it a try because why not? You know, I guess it would just mean I would get more salespeople calling my business phone on a daily basis. Who doesn't want that? Right? Of course, every time I try one of these software, I get the salesperson (usually calls me the next day). And I have to explain to them that I am a blind bookkeeper (slash going to be tax-prepared). And oh boy, what kind of reactions do I get from these salespeople? From: “Why are you doing this?” – to some of these software's to – “ You're absolutely crazy!” – to some of the other ones to – “Oh my gosh, I can't believe you're actually going to be doing this”. And “Why are you doing it because we know it's not accessible for others”. And finally, to one that basically says, “Oh, our software is accessible. Well, we want to keep it that way. We want to work with you, and we want to talk to our developers to make sure that it is more usable for everyone”. And that was Ultimate Tax's response.
So let me go ahead and talk about what happened. I went ahead and signed up for the free demo. Not a bad process whatsoever. I put in some information, I hit the submit button and boom. It was just a pro model filter. I just hit one button and oh, there we go. I just put in my business phone, email, business address and yada yada yada. So of course, well, I don't know, maybe let's say 30 minutes later, I get a call on my business phone. Of course, I'm probably pretty sure it's going to be Ultimate Tax. And I started talking to them. Of course, I had a little bit of time to mess with the demo since then. They didn't really realize that I had been messing with the demo for the last 30 minutes. But I talked to them, and they were super impressed that me, someone who is blind, is actually going to want to prepare taxes professionally and that their software was very accessible in letting me do so. So, the software was so accessible that all the fields were pretty much labeled. And I prepared a couple fake tax returns yesterday just to practice. I prepared a tax return that looked like my tax return last year when I had my 1099 income and about, I don't know, $10,000 to $20,000 of W-2. And I also had two states that I was dealing with. So, I had Michigan and Texas. And I finally had to deal with some education credits because I was a full-time student and a whole bunch of other stuff. Either way, I was able to prepare it like a charm.
I did have a couple issues, but it was not anything major. I mean, I couldn't figure out how to add the schedule C. But I was able to figure that out eventually. I don't think I have it fully figured out, but I can always ask the team. Either way, I was playing around with this. I’ve prepared a few tax returns. It worked out really well. And I went ahead and did a YouTube video demonstrating it because I was going to demonstrate it on the podcast and I realized that, well, I already have a ton of other things that are going on in the podcast. And I'm like, you know what? This would be better in a video form. So, I went ahead and recorded a video of me today demonstrating how I was able to use Ultimate Tax. And I actually prepared a fake tax return live on YouTube with the screen reader on. They heard the entire thing. So basically, I prepared a tax return live. Of course, again, it was fake data. It was just one of these practice returns. But I showed them exactly what was wrong, what went well, and things that they could improve on. But it was not only for Ultimate Tax’s benefit, but it was also for the wide tax Twitter benefit and others because I wanted to tell them that look, I can prepare tax returns if the software that I'm going to be using is accessible. And I think that that's super important. And so, I'm going to be getting that video out hopefully soon.
Because of the nature of this video, I decided that I was going to get a video editor on Fiverr. So, I just went ahead and secured that. I just bought that gig and hopefully that'll be out the beginning of the new year. So I'm excited for this video. And if it comes out before this podcast, I'll go ahead and put a link in the show notes. You guys can check it out. But it's going to be a super cool demonstration. And it's just going to be a really great thing to show off what Ultimate Tax does. Of course, it really doesn't show off everything because I'd be there for hours. And I frankly didn't have all that time. But I really wanted to show off the main functionality of how to prepare tax returns. And the other thing I liked about that is that they had an interview mode where basically it would ask you questions. Kind of an interview format just like TurboTax. Of course, you still had to be a tax professional with Ultimate Tax to understand what they were asking you. I find the interview mode to be a lot more accessible because it presents one question or so on a page, instead of the form mode where it has all the different boxes of a 1040 on one page that I have to try to figure out what's what. And especially if nothing's labeled, that's just an absolute nightmare. So, I find that the 1040 interview modes work a lot better for accessibility. And of course, they try to market it for new prepares, right? They find the interview mode a lot more helpful. But I also think that the interview mode is a lot better for blind or otherwise to say, well, taxed prepares as well because it has everything more spread out. And everything is much, much, much more accessible. I mean like a hundred times. So, whereas the form fields were not even labeled, right? And then the interview mode was completely accessible. Now there were a couple areas in terms of the student loan payments as well as the education payments that weren't accessible and they just had a bunch of edit fields that were not labeled. But these things are very easy to fix.
So, I'm super excited about Ultimate Tax. Now why am I excited about Ultimate Tax? I'm excited about Ultimate Tax because this opens up a door that I never thought I'd be able to go down. And that is becoming an enrolled agent. So let me explain. So obviously I love taxes. You all know that. If you've been listening to this podcast for who knows how long now, you all know that I love doing taxes. I don't like paying them, but I love helping people with their taxes. Here's the issue. Again, like I talked about in that other episode, in order to prepare taxes, you need to have professionals tax software. For one, that's actually accessible, very important. For two, that actually cares about their tax preparers, also very important. And for three, who actually wants to update their stuff and wants to make the experience better for us professionals. Because if they make the experience better for us professionals, then we're going to generate more revenue for them. But we're also going to get more revenue for ourselves, but it's going to help us all around. And I think that's where Ultimate Tax really shines. They care about me, they care about you and me as a one-person preparer, who has never done tax preparation at all before. Except doing TurboTax returns, right? But I've never done it professionally. But they still care about me and they still want my interest in mind. So, the whole thing of being an enrolled agent also because, you know, I never thought that I'd be able to do that. But again, thanks to Ultimate Tax, it makes a lot of doors open.
So let me talk about what happened on tax Twitter, because you probably are wondering what the hack happened on tax Twitter. So here's the deal. I went ahead and posted a tweet last night that basically talked about Ultimate Tax and how I finally found an accessible tax preparation software that was going to be accessible. And that I could finally prepare tax returns professionally. Okay, great. Then I went ahead and posted it on the Facebook group. And this is where things got a little bit dicey y'all. So, I posted it on the Facebook group, and I swear my Facebook comments were blowing up all afternoon. I was in a work meeting today and I had to shut my phone off because Facebook was blowing up, and it almost seems like the apocalypse happened because of how many Facebook notifications I got. I went out of a meeting, it was an hour-long meeting for work, and I had 10 or 20 Facebook notifications. I'm like, oh my gosh, what happened? But they were all related to one thing. It said so and so commented on your post. So and so commented on your post. I'm like, what did I start? Basically, it was the same post that I put on Twitter. It was just like, “Hey, Ultimate Tax is accessible. I finally found a preparation software that will actually work for me. I'm super excited about that”. And everyone kept commenting and they're like, “I want to switch to Ultimate Tax because Drake is giving me a whole bunch of crap”. And “I want to switch to Ultimate Tax because Drake is nickeling and diming me”. And “I want to switch to Ultimate Tax because the software is accessible, and I care about that. While I might not be blind myself, I care that this company wants to make their things inclusive for everyone”. And I'm kind of thinking, oh no. Did I just really stir up a bunch of stuff on tax Twitter, or in this case, tax Facebook? Did I really just do this now? And was this really a result of my post that basically said that I'm going with Ultimate Tax because they're accessible?
And now I basically heard a whole bunch of problems from people who are talking about other software manufacturers like Drake, especially. I can't believe this is actually happening. And I also can't believe that people are actually going to take my advice. Well, not really my advice, but the advice of my accessibility testing. And they are actually going to want to look into this software and switch their whole entire tax firms that they've been building for years on these other software platforms. And they want to switch to Ultimate Tax all because of me, who basically talked about my experience being blind. Is that really what we've come to? Am I really making waves in terms of being blind in the tax slash accounting and bookkeeping field? Because if that's the case, then there's going to be a lot more walls to break down, including becoming an enrolled agent. So, let me talk about becoming an enrolled agent, right? I've kind of hinted at it. An enrolled agent is a tax professional who is deemed by the IRS to be able to represent their clients in front of the IRS, and who has the same representation rights in front of the IRS as in CPA. So basically, an enrolled agent is someone who is not a CPA. They only really do tax, right? So, a CPA can do audit and other things. Personally, I don't really like audit or those other things. So, I really just want to do tax in the first place. But who basically takes a series of exams and who can be an enrolled agent. Basically, being able to represent their clients and also who doesn't have to deal with all those huge requirements every year for the annual filing season stuff, with all the ethics and all that kind of fun stuff. But either way, an enrolled agent is a very highly esteemed credential and having it will help you definitely stand out.
Now, I wasn't sure that I was going to get this until I had an accessible tax preparation software, because why would I get an EA credential and spend a whole bunch of money if I didn't have an accessible tax preparation software? Or for that matter, why would I even spend $600 on a tax course if I didn't even have a tax software that I could use to make money to get that money back? That wasn't going to make any sense. So, here's the deal. There's been a lot of developments over the past days. So, I'm going to try to break this all down. The first thing is that the enrolled agent is something that I want to do because obviously I could always just do it as a non-credential tax preparer, right? But if I do that route, then I have to go through 10 hours of ethics and then take a 100-question exam every year for the new tax laws. And I have to do all this continuing education. Whereas my thing is, I want to be able to do this once and get the EA designation. It will also help me in the long term because if I want to create a full-time tax and bookkeeping practice, which is obviously my goal, I want to make sure that I have the best credentials that I can and I want to be able to get it all done now while I have a full-time day job, so that way I don't have to try to fund this later on when maybe I'm doing this full-time freelance. So, I want to go ahead and get this all done now, like I said, and that way I can get a firm foundation of getting my tax background right from the beginning and that way I don't have to buy many different courses and hope they're all cobbled together. So that's kind of why I want to be an enrolled agent and I want to start off with that way and that way I can also get more opportunities down the line.
So, there's a lot of different variables to this, right? We've got a lot of different things we’ve got to figure out. Number one, how am I going to study for this exam? Well, that's a huge thing itself. So, I was browsing on the internet like any person would do and I went on my YouTube feed because I just was figuring out, well, I might as well go on my YouTube feed because it was about before work, right? It was about, I don't know, 8 a.m. this morning and Michael was going to be going into a meeting and I'm like, you know what, I got some time to kill before my 9 a.m. meeting. I went ahead and searched for the enrolled agent on YouTube and the first result that came up was from a channel called Tax Mama. And at first, I'm like, ah, this is a little sketchy name. What the heck is Tax Mama? It was to our video. I'm like, I'm going to click on this thing because you know what, why not? So I listened to the video. It was very well put together. So then I went ahead and went on their site. Okay, here's where things got a little bit interesting, y'all. I went ahead and looked at everything. All of a sudden I was about halfway down the page and I saw this section, ADA information. I'm thinking, well, I'm sure she's just going to say that this course is not meant for people with disabilities, right? Because that's what everyone says. Well, unfortunately that was the opposite. She was basically like, “If you are blind, all lectures are available for you to download in MP3 format. If you are deaf, all lectures have a transcript. And any other handouts will be made accessible with your screen reader”, and I'm like, okay. So this person knows what a screen reader is. Awesome. They know about accessibility practices. Awesome. And holy crap, that's crazy. That was my third thought. Wow.
So then I try to look at other prep courses. Because I'm like, man, this prep course is expensive. I think it was like $1,400. That's what it is right now for the live. You could also do the on demand, but I think I'll go with the live option. But unfortunately, nothing else seemed to match, right? Everything else either had accessibility overlays on their site, Surgent Income Tax School, or just was plainly inaccessible, Fast Forward Academy. Now, Glaim or Glime, I'm not sure how to pronounce their name. Well, it's pretty accessible, but I just found that they're more of a test bank. I don't really know. I try to watch their lectures and it was kind of hard to follow. And not a fan. So then I'm like, well, okay. Looks like I'm going to be saving up $1,400 to take this Tax Mama prep course. So I'm pretty excited. And of course, I’ve tried to post on the Facebook group. I'm like, y'all, have you guys heard of Tax Mama? What do you guys think? Unfortunately, the tax Twitter did nothing to try to detract me from buying this product. In fact, they just did the opposite. They were like, “Oh, Tax Mama basically saved my button, made me pass the EA first try. Like well, crap. Okay. It wasn't that I wasn't trying to buy the product, right? I wasn't trying to get out of buying the product. I was just trying to find a reason maybe I shouldn't, right? Because it's pretty expensive. It's $1400. But unfortunately, I couldn't find a reason why I shouldn't. Of course, again, her stuff is fully accessible, which is just crazy. I mean, it's unheard of. And when I actually contacted her, she responded to me instantly. She's like, what, a blind tax preparer? I'd love to have you in my class because I think you'd make a great asset. Oh, of course, I was just like, okay. Well, this is going to be fun, y'all, because this means that I'm going to have class three days a week in May. I think. So that's going to be fun. It's also going to mean that I'm going to have class in Pacific time instead of central, because she's in California. It looks like this is going to be an adventure for 2023 that I won't want to forget.
So now the other problem, I need to figure out how the heck I'm going to take this test, because they usually use the Prometric testing centers. And so, what I need to try to figure out, and I haven't figured this out yet, is accommodations because obviously, they have to make this test accessible for the blind. It's kind of a requirement. And of course, it's the IRS because, you know, they're a federal agency. They have to make this thing accessible. Now, here's the thing with Tax Mama. If Prometric or the IRS gives you a whole bunch of shenanigans and they don't want to listen to you, Tax Mama will literally go after them. Not really go after them, but be like, hey, y'all, get your stuff together. So basically, fight on your behalf if something isn't right. And she'll do that for any of her students. And that really makes me happy because she even has a contact, or at least she did at the IRS. And so if something's not right, she talks to her contact. Like, “Hey, you really need to do this”. And she's made significant changes for the EA exam as a whole in terms of different things at the testing centers and everything else. So it's really, really crazy. And I think that Tax Mama is going to be a great partner in my journey. Again, once I figure out the accommodations, obviously, then I can go ahead and, you know, get everything situated.
But I am just absolutely over the moon that I found someone like Tax Mama to be able to help me in my journey to becoming an EA. Where then I can help prepare clients tax returns, because here's the other thing; I was at the American Council of the Blind Taxes Convention in August. And when I told people that I'm doing finances and bookkeeping, I got one question, “Can you prepare my taxes? Can you prepare my taxes?”. I got into about five or six times I'm thinking, y'all, I can't prepare taxes. Well, what if I could tell all these blind people that, “Hey, I am a blind tax preparer, and I can prepare your taxes”. Because I was told by a lot of blind people at this convention repeatedly that a lot of blind people don't trust the system. And if they can find a tax preparer who is also blind, then they will feel a lot more comfortable. And even though I'm in Texas, and some of these clients may be in other places, it doesn't matter because my credential will be in US as a whole. It's going to be a federal government credential. So it doesn't really matter where my EA license is or is not, right? Because it's not like a CPA. And so I could prepare taxes anywhere. I mean, just let's take an example. My grandmother told me that she has a CPA that prepares her taxes because she's got a farm and everything. Well, her CPA is so old fashioned, again, I don't even know her name or his name, but they literally send a packet at the beginning of the year by paper and pencil that they have to fill out. Of course, my firm is going to be all tech-based, of course. No paper and pencil here. But the point is that I'm going to be a modern EA and tax firm, you know. And that I'm going to specialize in helping individuals who may be underrepresented, you know, with their taxes. But the whole thing is, if I can tell people that I can prepare their taxes, then they're going to be very happy because they're going to have someone who they can trust. And so I think that's really what got this whole train started.
And so I think right now, the biggest thing for 2023, because really this episode is about my goals for 2023, is I'm going to try to become an EA and I'm going to try to prepare taxes next season, y'all. So obviously this season, I'm not. I'm going to get ready. I'm going to study. I'm going to do everything I need to. But next season, if everything goes according to plan, which I sure hope so, then I will be a enroll agent and I will be able to prepare tax returns and hopefully have Ultimate Tax on my side. And I'm super again, really stoked about that because that will be a really great achievement because I've always wanted to prepare taxes professionally. But I've just never had the ability to do it before. And I think we're coming to a new journey where I'm able to do that. So basically, that's kind of the scoop about tax software and how Ultimate Tax fit into this whole equation. And I think right now what we need to do is we just need to see how this all plays out because I think that when I start this Tax Mama course, if I decide to actually buy it, which I'm pretty stoked about. Once I get done with this podcast, she actually has a sample lesson that I'm going to go ahead and listen to. So, if I really feel like it's going to be the best fit for me, I'm going to go ahead and buy it probably not tonight, but who knows when. But I think that that's probably going to be my best path forward. And that way I can communicate with people live in the classroom and be able to have that interaction and ask her questions and things that I don't understand.
Those are some of the things that happened this week. And of course, hopefully in January, we're going to have our business series where we talk about how to form a business and how to, you know, be a successful business owner in 2023. But I just had to talk about this because it's kind of a breaking news topic. So again, I'm going to be talking about this a whole lot more in the podcast episodes to come. But I feel like this was kind of a really good starting point. And a lot more doors have opened. It's been a very great week and I've hit a lot of breakthroughs. And a couple of notes about the podcast. I'm going to go ahead and talk about some announcements real quick because I've done that in a little while. So last week we had my interview with my grandmother. And I talked about her business, she does Aloette, like skincare. And the purpose of that interview was to talk about who in my family really influenced me because she's been a business owner for a while and she's kind of been a mentor. So over the next few months, I'm going to be doing more interviews with my family. Especially when I go up to Michigan. I'm hoping to go up to Michigan in June. Although who knows what's going to happen. That's what I want to do. But I'm going to try to go up to Michigan in June. And I'm going to be doing a whole heck of a lot more interviews with a bunch of people in my family. So that's going to be really exciting. And I'm super, really excited about that because I want to be able to share with people how I got started and kind of the people in my life who helped me because without them, I would not be in the place that I am. I mean, I've had to fight for a lot of different things in my life from dealing with high school and beyond. And without my family's support, especially those who run businesses, I would not be in the position where I am because I know a lot because they've taught me. I asked them several questions. I’d be like, “Hey, do I need to file an annual report? How do I do this? How do I do that?”. You know, be annoying at times. But I would ask them different questions and that's how I would learn. And now I'm trying to pass it on to y'all. So I'm going to be excited to reveal those interviews once they come up. Of course, most of those are going to be in person, which is exciting. And yes, those are kind of some things.
Also, if you like this podcast, go ahead and donate. I've got a donation form on my website. It just really helps with the podcast production costs. Of course, producing a podcast isn't cheap, so it's always great to have more support. Oh, wait, we’ve got one more thing. I talked about the breakup with CPA Site Solutions. Right? Talked about that. Well, unfortunately, everything has kind of gone South from there. So they kind of got mad that I broke up with them. And you know, it's kind of like a bad relationship. Unfortunately, I found a new partner, I think. Build Your Firm. Now, I was going to do a WordPress website until I realized that I needed a customer portal. And to just buy a customer portal on its own is going to be about $75 to $90 a month extra. And I was like, no. So, Build Your Firm is just like CPA Site Solutions. Although they do have an accessibility policy on their website. So that's a promising sign. So I'm in the beginning stages of my Build Your Firm relationship. And I will let you know how that all goes. But either way, Tay Finance is still under construction. So that's just a little bit of an update. But otherwise, y'all, that will do it for today.
Outro: Thank you for tuning in to the BookSight Podcast. You can find show notes, transcripts, and ways to support the show at @booksight.net. Let's get social. Follow us on Twitter at BookSightPod and like us on Facebook at BookSightPodcast. You can also connect with us on Mastodon at accounting.social. Our host Taylor Arndt is on Twitter as Tayardnt and her website is at tayfinance.com. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review, and let us know what you thought. We'll be back next week with more tips and insights on accounting, bookkeeping, and small business tasks.