Tax season opens with a ‘new’ player

This coming Tuesday, Jan. 19, is a day that few people have marked on their calendars — unless they enjoy being way early, or they happen to work for the Internal Revenue Service.

It’s the day the IRS officially begins accepting tax returns in 2016

“Our goal is to have them pay the least tax that they have to pay.”

It’s no secret that most business owners dread tax season. They are legally obligated to pay taxes, but the government, by and large, does not appear legally obligated to make the process clear and easy.

The Affordable Care Act has only made things more complicated, as businesses and individuals must prove for the first time this year that they are complying with the law.

New forms and new requirements are a pain for businesses, but they’re an opportunity for tax preparers like William J. Garver, who serves as office manager for Block Advisors in Lower Paxton Township.

If the firm’s name sounds familiar, it should. Block Advisors is a new brand unveiled last week by tax-preparation giant H&R Block Inc. in a bid to win more business from small businesses.

The Lower Paxton Township office is the only H&R Block outlet in Central Pennsylvania that has been rebranded as Block Advisors, Garver said.

The office, which employs 10 people, underwent a makeover last summer to get ready. The space, featuring offices with glass walls, is modern and inviting.

The interior is not the only thing that was revamped. In something of a departure from H&R Block’s focus on tax returns, Block Advisors seeks to offer year-round advice to business owners interested in how daily decisions might affect their tax bills (Block also will provide back-office services like payroll and bookkeeping).

“Our goal is to have them pay the least tax that they have to pay,” said Garver, who retired from AMP Inc. in 1999 before finding a second career with H&R Block in 2003.

CPA shuffle

Of course, a lower tax bill is the goal of every U.S. accountant and tax preparer between now and April 18. But with the accounting industry in the throes of mergers and acquisitions, it’s probably not a bad time for a venture like Block Advisors.

I know from my own experience that accountants may stay the same but the names on the letterhead change.

I began going to a tax preparer in 2005 soon after I started freelancing. My tax returns got more complicated than I was comfortable handling.

I eventually ended up with a full-blown accountant that I kept visiting year after year. The firm’s name has changed twice over the last decade. And the cost? It has gone up.

Many small-business owners likely can tell similar stories. And just as people start looking around at their options following mergers in banking, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re doing the same when it comes to accounting and tax preparation.

Garver and his colleagues at Block Advisors won’t be the only ones rolling out a red carpet over the next three months.

The week ahead

Compared to the news coming out of the stock market, tax season doesn’t sound so bad. The markets will take a break Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but trading resumes Tuesday. Keep your seat belt buckled.

Or head for the woods. If that’s your destination, you might want to check out a story in this week’s issue by staff reporter Jason Scott. He visited a family-owned business in Hummelstown that is helping to distribute a new line of outdoors products.

Staff reporter Dave O’Connor, meanwhile, found out what the York Revolution is planning beyond the baseball diamond.

Our Inside Business section focuses on banking, finance and investments. Staff reporter Lenay Ruhl talked to local bankers to learn how rising interest rates may affect business loans.

The lists cover banks, asset managers and SBA loans.

Find the week’s networking opportunities here.

Joel Berg
Joel Berg is editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. Born in Philadelphia, raised in Northern Virginia and now living in York, he's a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College and the University of Maryland. Have a question or story idea? Email him at jberg@cpbj.com.

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