It was 35 years ago this coming February (I do not remember the exact date) that I, a college freshman at St Peter’s College, first walked into 59 Sip Avenue, the office of my uncle’s accountant James Patrick Gill. I had absolutely no knowledge of tax returns, and had never prepared even my own before that night (Jim always said he wanted to get a student before he had taken the college tax course, with no preconceived ideas about taxes).
After introductions, Jim brought me to a desk. He gave me an attaché case with a client’s current year “stuff” and a copy of the prior year’s return and said, “Jump in and swim!” I recall that the client was one of several insurance agents working for Allstate, all clients of Jim, who shared an office around the corner from us. I still prepare the returns for one of the agents from that office.
I learned how to prepare 1040s the absolute best way possible – by preparing them. When I had a question about a return I would ask Jim and he would stop what he was doing and explain the tax issue or concept to me.
We obviously did not have computers back then, and prepared all returns by hand. For the first few years, before we had a copy machine, we did the returns on carbonized forms purchased from Accountant’s Supply House. To this day I have never prepared a tax return using computer software!
I learned everything I know about taxes, and most of what I know about life, from Jim Gill. While I eventually started my own tax practice in the 1980s, I still worked with Jim on Sundays and during the last two weeks of each season.
James Patrick Gill went on to his final audit in October of 2000, after having turned over his tax practice to me two years earlier (he still came in during the last weeks to help me) and only a few months before what would have been our 30th tax season together.
I have Jim’s picture, hard at work, hanging in my home office. I am sure that he is somewhere “up there” looking down on me from February through April while enjoying a “perfect” Bourbon Manhattan.