Friday, April 22, 2011


The return of this popular series begins with CPA Joseph Arsenault from Tempe, Arizona. Joe works for Shurwest Financial Group, a financial marketing firm, as an expert in retirement taxation with a focus on pension and estate law.

Joe writes the CAFÉ TAX blog (“Business Java in Today’s World”), which features a regular BUZZ-like series called “BlogRoll Beans”, which often recognizes TWTP posts.

1) How did you become interested/involved in preparing tax returns or teaching taxes?

Actually, I became interested and involved in tax preparation on accident. I thought I was bound for the financial accounting world as an auditor. I decided that I did not want to move to LA or NY to work as an auditor, so I stayed with a local/regional firm that prepared taxes and performed audit engagements. I got cornered into preparing taxes and the rest is history. I never thought I would enjoy taxes the way I do.

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

How do you say it - "trial by fire"? I had little training. Tax returns were dumped on my desk and I prepared them. They were always returned with notes and I learned by making mistakes. I actually learned more after I left and started working in a consulting role, as well as preparing taxes on my own and with other individual CPAs. Once I was out of the public accounting firm, my accountability increased and it forced me to really learn how to discern tax issues, not just prepare taxes. Understanding how to get answers and make determinations; accurate ones, is more valuable then the preparation part.

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

I decided to start writing a blog about a year ago. I love being creative, even if I am not always so good at it. I created some literature and material for the organization I consult with and realized I was capable of helping others understand taxes. Blogging is a new addiction. I have also started writing my first book, and sometimes I feel like I am drowning in the difficulty, but I don't mind.

4) How has blogging helped your business?

Blogging helps me network more than anything. Many clients visit the blog regularly and I try to be as helpful as possible. I have met CPAs, EAs, attorneys and other tax professionals all over the country through my blog. It also forces me to stay current on issues I write about, which adds to my competency in dealing with applicable tax issues.

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

The best tax advice I can give someone? That is like asking someone what the most important part on a car is. Can a car run with a missing part? If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to maintain a high level of proactive behavior with their tax preparer and everything in-between. The more proactive someone is relative to tax matters, the more likely they are to achieve favorable, efficient tax results year after year. Tax law changes frequently, it is one of the most convoluted legal systems that exists, and there are few absolutes (until you end up in court).

6) Do you think the regulation of tax return preparers is a good thing?

I do think regulation of tax preparers is a good thing. I am not sure what level of regulation is effective without costing the consumer more money (I feel ultimate value is the end goal). That is my main concern. For example, attorneys, EAs and CPAs are all exempt from the new tax preparer requirements (except the PTIN requirement). The reality is that not all of these professionals have performed tax work or have a background in taxation. Does this regulate "tax preparers" or just the non-designated professionals? I am in favor of taxpayer regulation. I would like to think anyone preparing taxes should be required to have a proper level of aptitude and experience so customers and clients are not deceived. My only problem, I don't have a concrete opinion or argument on how to really achieve proper tax preparer regulation.

7) Do you think CPAs and attorneys should be exempt from testing and required CPEs in taxation?

I guess I touched on this question in the last question. I think CPAs and attorneys should only be exempt if they can prove that they operate as a tax professional prior to regulation. For example, if you already have a PTIN and sign tax returns, or have an interest in a registered firm, you are "more likely than not" to be qualified. As far as timing, if someone becoming a CPA or attorney works under a registered tax preparer who signs the returns, this would give them the experience they need when they become a CPA or attorney, effectively allowing that exempt status. Otherwise, how do you know a CPA or attorney actually knows how to prepare a tax return?

8) What is your favorite Broadway musical – and why?

Can I plead the fifth here? I don't have one. Perhaps I am too young to appreciate the art in Broadway musicals?

Trial by fire is a great way to learn taxes.

And Joe, you are never too young! I saw my first Broadway musical (THE MUSIC MAN with Robert Preston), and learned to appreciate the art, at age 5.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think I am missing out on those musicals.

Thanks for the post Robert!