Liberty did good on the $750 advance, it's bringing in new clients but most of them are going on hold for missing paperwork. Software sucks, very time consuming to view all the paperwork, which takes a lot of mouse clicking, and then doing it a 2nd time for signatures. Once is enough! We can explain and get signature on the first time around. Half the time explaining what they're signing their eyes glaze over. They only want to hear how much their refund is and how fast they can get it. Another week and it'll be "no time for lunch" days, remember to bring finger food for the break-room! Good luck all.
It's here. The start of a new tax season. Hope everyone has finished all their classes, passed the tests, renewed their pin #, and can squeeze in the time to get those practice problems done before clients show up. January is a great time to get to know the newbies, and be their mentors, and catch up with coworkers they haven't seem in 8 months. Not much new to deal with this year, mostly getting used to the new numbers for mileage and limitations on varies forms. I still to this day remember reading Block's policy and procedure manual 20+ years ago and the one item of "do not wear P.J.'s in the office" and it still makes me laugh that it had to be a written rule. Who were they hiring that needed to be told?
Yes, you are right about not all Block offices having the software for higher end returns, but they always have a Premium office near by to refer clients to, and if there is experienced pro's in any office capable of doing partnership, corps, and estates they are allowed to meet the client at the Premium office, or ask for the software to be put in their office. Block did that for me.
Any predictions for the upcoming tax season? I don't see any major changes, but must confess I haven't done much more than read IRS' email newsletters, and searched to find how many 2015 forms were out. I like reading the forms to see if there are any line changes, and it's odd that the 2015 1040 form is not available yet.
SO, now they're office leaders and no longer managers? Did the pay go up with the new title? Are they the most knowledgeable in tax prep? Or are they still 1st and 2nd year employees? As you say yourself doing the leader's work when they're not available, some like it, some don't. The reason some don't is because there is NO compensation for extra duties, plus there isn't that strong loyalty to the company because the company keeps playing with pay, giving more priority to share holders than those who actually do the work that brings those dollars in. ANY professional in any field, who can do an hour's worth of work and charge $300-400, yet only gets paid $10-20 an hour is way below what they're worth.
You nailed it Wishful. If only those in today's management had worked under Richard & Henry they would have known why Block became a top brand in tax prep. Training, training, training was Block's highest achievement, and team work was a must. District Managers were "cheer leaders" for Block, always available and approachable. Some thing happened in the 90's, when computers came in. Then end of the quality control department, (computer diagnostic replaced them) and more work for the preparer, as we had to print & assemble and give the client the return before they left, the end of DM's knowing taxes and being hired from the outside, and then the worst part was Managers with nothing more than the basis course who had no idea how depreciation worked, or when to use 4797 and had no idea how to handle an IRS letter. All this plus lower pay, and selling products, and being judged on how many POM's were sold.
And John will be supplying gift wrap paper, ribbons, and wages for all that marketing? Funny how he thinks people who do taxes must be good at gift wrapping and it's just what they've been wanting to do to gain client trust!!!! Insurance agents to call and pester people, GREAT marketing idea!!! Forget competition, pick one agent and hope he's good?
25 years with Block, 12 years with Liberty, both offering the same service of tax prep and are in competition with each other. Offices come and offices go. Mostly location and prices have a lot to do with success or failure. Both need high quality tax preparers and training, training, training is the key. Opening a franchise with 1st year preparers was OK when we had the RAL crowds, but with RAL gone, what is Liberty doing to advertise offices that can do partnerships, corps, estates and complex returns? AND, why isn't every Liberty franchise offering that service? That's where Liberty needs to go now that software is cheap and easy to use at home. This old saying that "anyone can do taxes" is a big lie, and I spend a lot of off season time doing amendments and explaining IRS letters. I would seriously like to see Liberty demand franchises hire MORE experienced pros. They don't have Block's volume that has 6-20 workers in an office at the same time blending both pro and newbie. Older Liberty's can do this, but new franchises don't, and one failing franchise is a reputation killer to the rest. Competition should mean MORE and better service than the other guy.
Not only did Block stop paying preparers for returns paid for after April 15th, but they pay min. wage to the off season help who did finish them. Talk about a company win-win, this is it. When I think of how many years I worked in the off season, my mindset was on the learning experience and gaining new clients, and getting in my 1,000 hours a year to keep my 401K active. Only once did off season min. wage pay bother me. It was when I lost my paycheck stub and thought: "what if a $400-500 client finds it?" Would they still have confident in me, when I was worth so little to the company?
Is there any software that has ALL the forms? I doubt it. As I'm sure many of us have done the 8919 (taxpayer claiming they are not an independent contractor when they have a 1099) I finally got to see the "other side", when an employer now has to reclassify workers as employees due to the 8919.
Form 8952, plus correcting 1099's and issuing W2's, plus having to do quarterlies, (both federal and state) and year end 940 (federal unemployment). Luckily we do have payroll software, (Quick books), but it would only print current year quarterlies. Had to go to IRS.gov and they do have printable forms for past years, but of course there is no way to save them, meaning I had to print 3 copies. One to mail, one for client, and one for us. Client needed to go back 2 years. After seeing the work involved to reclassify workers as employees, I wonder how often this happens because an employer doesn't understand the difference between employee & independent contractor. Getting "caught" is not only time consuming but expensive!
Long before I heard of Karl Marx, I had a conversation with a guy about everyone should make the same pay, as everyone on the "team" was needed. He was a sailor and said without the janitor or the cook, the Captain wouldn't have the time to run the ship, making the janitor and cook as important as the Captain. While I could see his point, logic told me everyone would "settle" for being a janitor/cook as it came with less responsibility. I asked him how he would get people to want to be the Captain? His theory was that after years of swabbing decks, people would naturally want a better profession and would go for it. I often wondered if college kids go to college to "follow their dream profession", or just to earn more money. Do they have a heart felt need to be a teacher, doctor, lawyer, or do they pick a profession that has the higher pay? I read some where, there is only about 10% of any profession that is tops in their field of work. If that is true 90% are mediocre, and that would be sad if they're only in it for the paycheck. I guess the answer would be "would I do this job for free if I didn't need money?".
Luckily most people need and want more, and because of it, most will reach their potential in the work force and climb the ladder soon as they get tired of swabbing decks because of the reward of more pay.
Then you were very lucky that you had employers that saw your value, making you feel good about your paycheck. There are many employers (look at illegal immigration) that rather have cheap labor.
Your $12 may be more realistic than my $15, since it's a seasonal part time job. I just see how much more people need today than my generation did. SO much more mandatory expenses (car, health, renters/home insurance) and having a cell phone, Internet and cable TV shouldn't be considered a luxury in our current way of life. I never saw $4 a loaf of bread coming, nor $4.99 for a pound of grapes, or $12 pound for a steak. (just replaced my 4 year old refrigerator, as replacement part and labor wanted over $700) I couldn't imagine $10 movie ticket prices, or $7 for a bucket of popcorn, where a family of 4 could easily spend 50-60 bucks to see a movie, not even a double feature for that price. It does cost money to work, from transportation to having the right clothes, and for some folks child care. For the folks that ONLY have this part time seasonal job, let's face it, you and I will subsidize their income with food stamps and free health care, and EIC because of the current cost of living! AND these are people ready, willing and wanting to work.
With many Block and Ex-Block workers posting here, out of curiosity, and just for the fun of it, what do you think a fair hourly wage should be for 1st year preparers, and how would you recommend raises? Based on seniority, or on how many tax courses one takes (and passes the test)? Would you also include a "bonus" if they passed a goal of number of returns expected (by number of hours worked) or do you see that as another piece meal payment that would tempt them to take on returns over their head? Personally I think $15 should be the starting wage after 66+ hours of unpaid training, and they should be considered "still in training" their 1st and 2nd year.
I must give Block credit, that they did come up with "special niches" for their experienced pros. They did make us aware of who was best at doing the more complex returns, and any one getting such a return should pass the client on and not struggle with it. It was an excellent idea except for the commission based pay. Giving up the return COST the preparer money, when they already had time into the interview, and there was NO clients in the waiting room, the temptation to just do it and ask for help later made sense, OR just selling POM knowing any error would be covered gave them a sense of security that if they did screw up, it wouldn't cost the client. Working for "piece meal" pay it was just too easy to justify taking on returns "over their heads", hoping the diagnostic would tell them what they might have missed. PAY checks do matter, it's the one thing Block keeps getting wrong and why they have such a large turnover.
While I agree Block's 50% off promotion lowered pay, I'm sure management looked at it as $75 beats zero to get a new customer in the door, that would not have come in without the promotion. "In the old days", Block would give the client a certificate for 50% off, yet base the commission on the full price, where they took the hit, and not the workers, and that's how it should have been done!
One of the first things you HAVE to do to increase pay is learning when to be available. ALL tax services have what is called "dead time", until you build your own clientele and fill your working hours with clients that ask for you. Knowing what office to work at also helps. Some are higher volume than others. If you haven't filled your calendar with repeat clients in March, when there are fewer walk-ins, you're sitting there lowering the hourly pay you already earned during peak, as you're "drawing" hourly pay against it. It does take years to build a following, and years to train a client to ask for you, as many are loyal to Block, but believe all preparers are the same and it doesn't matter who they sit with. The best way to build a client base is letting them talk about themselves and being a good listener. Learning to type and talk at the same time also helps, as they're not sitting there staring at the walls, getting bored. Next is to recognize which clients ONLY want the bottom line and want it in 10 minutes, and what clients expect more time and attention, and expect you to explain every line and question they have. Taking the time to ask them about "next year's expected income" and changing their W4 if needed, they'll almost always come back to you. I had a 98% retention rate when I left Block, and many of these clients found me and are still with me today 11 years after leaving Block. My hourly pay was $41 when I left. The money is there once you know when to work, and how to built your client base.
Block did screw itself on making a "bucket" payroll IMHO. I remember the first 3 hour class when they ended 1% of volume for each year up to 10%, plus 20% of everything over 3K, where we all left totally confused as they sold this as a pay raise! It was comical as they were talking to people that are good at math, and realized NOT collecting on 100% of volume (went down to 93%, then down to 89%) was a pay decrease. They said the new higher prices would work in our favor. Well how does that work, when they give FREE 1040EZ's, or offer 50% off last year's price? Block has been very lucky, most pro's love the job, love and have loyalty to their clients, and Block has used that loyalty to built that fancy building in K.C., paying dividends on their stocks, and keeping shareholders happy. Having to give a class to explain pay should shame them all.
Tax prep should be more professional than getting paid piece-meal.
CF don't know why you got a thumbs down for that statement. I may not work for HRB any more, yet realize there is NO other tax prep company that is even near their output. They have the name recognition and plenty of 10-20-30 year preparers & EA's coming back every year. Their classes are what I miss the most. I know for a fact their marketing this year of doing new client returns for 50% of last year's price did take a few of my clients away, since they called me and asked me if I would match it. I said NO, it was apparent I didn't have client loyalty and I didn't want to price haggle every year thereafter. It should be interesting to see if they return next year when they see how much higher Block charges. Since my numbers were UP, it was worth the risk.
Valid points, wishful. Back when I started off season, my main job was housewife with kids in school. Its why I taught every class they would let me. After 1,000 hours I was included in profit sharing (went away before I was vested) and allowed me to sign up for the 401K, and had vacation pay too. I didn't want to take another job as I knew I would be back season after season, and working off season was one of the best ways to gain new loyal clients. It also gave me promotions, to Processing Supervisor, then a year at Bookkeeping till I realized I missed the client contact and became an Office Supervisor. (which paid 1-2% of the store's volume) and was a nice pay raise, since I had the main office which was high volume.
I felt I NEEDED off season, to be aware of the kinds of errors we were making, and taking on more complex returns, that made me a better instructor. I would have worked for free for what I was getting out of it. Same with instructor pay (which was low), but so rewarding to watch students advance, get hired, and come back for more. Block had exactly what I was looking for with the every changing tax codes, and the constant learning of new stuff. Under Henry and Richard it was the perfect job, where I felt valued.
11 years ago, I had to wake up that it was NOT Henry & Richard's way any more, it was just another big company that only valued money, and would short change its workers and offices and wanted a "sell rate" to be a valued employee. I gave up off season work when they started to hire District Managers that had NO tax experience, never ran an office, and told us to sell POM or be fired.