Thursday, September 26, 2013


Today we meet Jim Blankenship CFP®, EA of Blankenship Financial Planning, Ltd. (“Excellent Financial Advice for Everyone”) located in New Berlin, Illinois.  Jim writes the interestingly titled blog “Getting Your Financial Ducks In A Row” (something we all should do), which provides “advice on IRA, Social Security, income tax, and all things financial”.

I have found Jim’s advice and information on Social Security topics especially helpful.  He has written two books – “A Social Security Owner's Manual” and “An IRA Owner's Manual” which I recently ordered and look forward to reading.

(1) How did you become interested/involved in preparing tax returns? 

I had started doing my own tax returns in college and then helped others with their returns.  I had a “head” for the work and enjoyed helping others, so I sought training and started taking on other folks’ returns.

(2) How were you educated/trained in preparing tax returns? 

In 1987 I took a correspondence course in tax prep from the National Tax Training School.  Since then my studies to become a CFP® practitioner expanded on that knowledge.

(3)  When and why did you decide to write a blog on tax issues? 

I started blogging about financial issues back in 2004, as a way to communicate with the world about the services that I offer.  Tax issues became a regular part of my blog posts since taxes are a huge, often misunderstood part of everyone’s financial lives.

(4)  How has blogging helped your business?

I think it serves as public education, as well as an attraction to find my blog and website. It gives readers an opportunity to find out more about my business without having to actually meet in person.  I have found that most all of my new clients in the past couple of years have read my blog (or articles from it) before calling for an appointment.

(5) What do you consider the “best tax advice” you can give anyone?

That’s a tough one because everyone has a different set of circumstances.  I guess the one thing that could have helped folks out of big problems is: Don’t ignore the IRS when they send you notices.  They won’t go away – you’re much better off to address the situation, however ugly it is, head on.  Ignoring it will only make it worse.

(6) Do you support the decision in Loving v IRS, or do you support mandatory regulation?

I believe tax preparers need to be regulated.  Taxpayers should know that they have a conscientious professional working for them when preparing their taxes.  It’s a cold enough world out there having to deal with all of the rules and onerous taxes, as a taxpayer you should at least expect the preparer to have your best interests at heart by being fully-trained and subject to a code of ethics.

7)  How would you reform/rewrite the Tax Code?  Under the “clean slate” method of tax reform what tax expenditures (deductions, credits, exclusions) would you keep and why?

I honestly haven’t given this much thought.  I suppose on the one hand a flat tax with no deductions or exclusions seems to be the fair way to go – but the tax code has always been a method to at least try to spur certain types of activities.  If it were a flat tax some activities (such as charitable donations) might suffer. In addition, a lot of preparers would be out of business, but I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing either – we’re a necessary evil in the present course.

(8) Do you think the Tax Code should be used to deliver social welfare benefits?

I don’t think adding more complexity to the Tax Code (beyond the parts that are already in there) to deliver social benefits would help matters, and it likely would introduce additional delays and problems.

(9)  What is your favorite Broadway musical – and why?

This is an area that I know very little about, as I have never seen a musical other than adaptations to movies.  If I had to choose something I’d say either Spamalot (because, you know, Monty Python!), or Mamma Mia! (because, you know, ABBA!).

I, too, took the National Tax Training School correspondence course on 1040s back in the mid-1970s so I could have some kind of tax credential/diploma.

Regarding the need to regulate tax preparers – as you know I believe there is a need to provide a universally accepted non-EA credential for tax preparers to identify to the taxpayer public those who are competent and current in 1040 preparation, but I do not believe in mandatory government regulation other than that which is already in place via preparer penalties.  The credential should be a voluntary program.

I do not agree that a flatter and simpler tax system would put a lot of tax preparers out of business.  At least not me.  As I have often said, if I did nothing but 1040As all day during the tax season I would make more money, experience less agita, and substantially reduce the number of extensions.  And even with a flat tax there will always be the need to calculate business, investment sale, rental, and farming gains and losses on Schedules C, D, E and F and Form 4797.
A flatter and simpler tax system would put unethical tax preparers out of business - there would be less opportunity for fraud (i.e. no refundable tax credits).
Never seen a musical?!?  Jim, get thee to a local regional equity theatre ASAP!  As for his choices – I recently saw SPAMALOT at a regional equity theatre and found it entertaining (I have always enjoyed the songs) and, although it is still running on Broadway, I have never seen the live version of MAMA MIA!, although I did like the movie.

Jim, of the movie adaptations of Broadway musicals you have seen which is your favorite?


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