Director, Tax Assistance Program,
Accounting Aid Society Detroit
I direct the Tax Assistance Program of the Accounting Aid Society of Detroit. We partner with the IRS VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program and are one of the oldest free tax preparation programs in the nation. We return millions of dollars to the local economy each year, but our real story is in the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty that a tax refund can provide to a low-income family. We had a great tax season this year, serving more than 12,000 clients.
I retired from a 34-year career with the IRS, where my last position was territory manager covering heavy manufacturing in the Large and Mid-Size Business Division. I managed compliance activities relating to large corporate taxpayers in Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky.
I enjoyed the technical challenges involved with corporate tax but really enjoyed my volunteer experience with the Accounting Aid Society, which goes back over 25 years. The tax law applicable to lower-income taxpayers has its own technical challenges, and in many cases they can’t afford the assistance they need. Most of our clients receive refunds, but even if they owe tax, we’ve provided valuable assistance.
In early 2001 I was looking at retirement options. Working for the Accounting Aid Society as a staff member was always a thought, but they had staff in place. Then the organization’s president called and explained that they needed a new tax director and asked if I knew of anyone interested in the position. As I recall, my response was, “I believe I do.”
We have a small but hard-working staff and leverage our volunteer resources as much as possible. This past tax season we operated 26 tax sites staffed by 700 volunteers, so training and scheduling present challenges.
I also was recently named to the IRS Advisory Council, where I’m on the Wage and Investment subgroup. Some of the issues we are looking at for 2008 are refund communications strategy and enhancements to the Web site, www.irs.gov.
I grew up in Dearborn, Mich. My dad worked for General Motors. I thought I would also be an automotive engineer. I was taking preparatory courses at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn but happened to take an accounting course as an elective. The concepts made sense, and I really enjoyed the course. I realized there were many opportunities in accounting.
Since 1986 I have been an adjunct lecturer in federal income tax at the University of Michigan–Dearborn. I enjoy teaching tax concepts, and it helps me stay current with ever-changing tax laws. It’s also very satisfying to see my former students do well in their careers, and a number of them volunteer with us.
I enjoy skiing, but that’s not easy to do with tax season demands. I used to run a lot, but now I try to work out at a local health club and ride a mountain bike, although not as frequently as I should. I enjoy the challenge of playing the clarinet but don’t play enough to be any good, and even less so since my instructor retired late last year.
I also tinker with a 1976 Lancia Scorpion car. I’m the second owner and have had it about three years. I liked the styling of the Scorpion, so I found this one on the Internet. I take it to some local shows. It’s a relatively rare car but not expensive; however, finding certain parts can be difficult. I also have a Vespa scooter that I enjoy riding. I have a wife, Nancy, and a stepson, who now lives a couple of blocks away with his own family.
I’ve found volunteer tax assistance to be a great way to use my skills to give back to the community. When I write a check to a charity, I know it will be put to good use; but when I help a client receive a tax refund, I know I’ve directly helped them to improve their economic situation. It’s very satisfying. I encourage other CPAs to share that experience.