On this edition of Pro Spotlight, we get to meet Amie Blackburn, an EA from South Jordan, Utah. Amie is a seasoned accountant with over 12 years of experience. From her beginnings helping her father manage his auto body shop's finances to becoming an Enrolled Agent, Amie's journey showcases her dedication to unraveling financial puzzles. Beyond her professional endeavors, she finds solace in outdoor adventures with her family. Join us as Amie shares insights on tax preparation, the benefits of working with an Enrolled Agent, and the joys of balancing career demands with family time.
Q: How long have you been an accountant?
Amie: 12 plus years.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue the career?
Amie: All right, well, I graduated from college with accounting and business degree. At that time I had little kids at home so I worked for H&R Block. That allowed flexibility for me to work evenings. While my husband was home, I, the thing that got me to study accounting and business is that my dad owned a small business, auto body shop, I work for him in his taxes and books were just a mess. So I started researching it and decided that that's something that I wanted to learn. During H&R Block for the next 10 years, I worked myself up through tests and certifications, I worked up to senior Tax Analysts, which is the highest position besides an Enrolled Agent. I then wanted to work out more so I took the Enrolled Agent exams and pass them. And at that time, my kids were back in school. So I wanted to expand my experience and knowledge out of H&R Block. So I started working for firms, family, friends, referrals, and it just went on from there.
Q: How old were you when you started helping your father out with his business's finances?
Amie: It was a mess. He had an accountant that didn't necessarily know what they're doing and somebody running the books that didn't know what they're doing. So I enjoyed working there, it was a lot of effort to put everything back together. And I was hired as a customer service like the front desk, and I hadn't been familiar with books and taxes. So that's when I started learning it so I can help the business out. And then I just decided to make it into a career.
Q: When you're cleaning up someone's books, what is the process like because I feel like a lot of people don't really understand the full scope of what a cleanup would entail.
Amie: It takes quite a long time. There's a lot of things that you have to contact your clients about to figure out what group they go into. And the hardest part is the year end. When things are in the correct spot, so it doesn't tell a lot of work. A lot of research, a lot of Excel spreadsheets, things like that to piece everything together depending on what the books look like.
Q: How did you learn the right ways to do it?
Amie: I studied QuickBooks I had back then I had a CD on my computer. So I went through the tutorials and the QuickBooks education classes. And I kind of taught myself when I was when I moved on from my dad's business, that's when I went back to college and completed the education.
Q: And when you're working in public accounting, what was it like when it came to managing stress?
Amie: it's stressful, but I mean you just take a breath and figure it out step by step until you got everything together. Like I said, it's like a puzzle and it feels really good once he pieced every piece together.
Q: What are some of the methods that you use to help alleviate the stress during the busiest times of the year?
Amie: Just stay calm, stay calm and focused. And I do like figuring things out so that helps a lot because I felt good once I figured things out. So knowing that I will reach the end and it will all come together helps a lot to manage stress.
Q: Eearlier you mentioned that you like going out you know to nature spending time in the outdoors. When did you first develop that habit of going out you know hiking and enjoying the various activities that you can do in Utah?
Amie: Well as a kid, I always I was raised, brought up on boats camping fishing, going into the nature that's kind of what we did as a family when I was kid. And it's just something that I really enjoy doing getting out of seems like getting out of the real world and taking a break from life. And enjoying nature is one of my passions. We have a Bronco that we might add, since he owns a body shop, he cut the top off the Bronco and it's kind of like a side by side but it's a custom Bronco. So we go for wheeling in that we like to shoot guns go on height. Just really explore on fish, well, anything like that.
Q: What are some of your favorite things to do when you're outdoors?
Amie: So I really enjoy adventures and sometimes when we go out, it turns into adventure because you never know what's going to happen in nature when you're back in the woods. And recently, we went to Josh's Valley, and it was muddy riding quarry. We drove a motor home up the mountain and got stuck buried in mud. Got it out, went back and drove the Bronco round. All my kids my husband and me were covered in mud from head to toe. And it was a little bit scary. But like I said, it's something that I'll always remember and it was an adventure so we really did the best of it and had a great time.
Q: What are some of your fondest memories of when you were younger or as an adult of being able to go outdoors and escape from the hustle and bustle of regular life?
Amie: When it's an adventure, when it's not when nothing doesn't happen, nothing doesn't happen then you don't remember so, I mean our stuff breaks down. We have to figure it out or we get caught in storms. Or one time we were camping we were riding motorcycles actually. And a cow was herded right through our campground. So cows everywhere, I mean just anything out of the norm that happens makes it an adventure.
Q: Amy, why do you think it's so valuable that you live in a region where you're able to access the outdoors as well as you do?
Amie: It’s very valuable because it gets you out of your house out of technology. You just get to sit back and really enjoy nature enjoy what the world has to offer. here in Utah we have a variety of places we can go to we have like the desert, that mountains, the lakes, the sand dunes, I'm just getting out and experiencing a world than what technology and computers and everybody is used to so it's a kind of a break from reality in a way.
Q: How do you feel that be having the same opportunity to take your family out and let them enjoy what you enjoy?
Amie: it is really good for them. They get off their electronics. They get to experience nnature actually have some Airbnbs and Florida, Destin, Florida, I take them to and they get to experience the beach. And so a lot of times they just want to sit home on their technology and do nothing so it gets them out and exploring and learning new things and seeing the world for how it is.
Q: How did you first hear about Taxfyle?
Amie: I found it searching on the website I believe so I can't quite recall but I think that's how I found it.
Q: What was it that prompted you to search for our platform?
Amie: Well I was; after H&R Block lists like I had mentioned I started doing taxes at home. I just had a few people, friends family, but I wanted more of a clientele. So I started searching and I found Taxfyle and I really enjoy it. I like the fact that there is flexibility in your schedule and you have a variety of firms that you work with a variety of people. And everything seems to be like it's a puzzle. Everything seems to be different. And I wanted to build clientele and I wanted to build a lifetime of trust and friendship with my clients.
Q: When you first landed on Taxfyle’s website, what was it about what our platform was offering that you thought was worth giving it a shot?
Amie: Flexibility, and I like how you can take on as much or as little as your schedule allows.
Q: Now that you've had some more experience with our platform, looking back, what are some of the other benefits that you've been able to experience by being a Pro?
Amie: I get to learn a lot of new software, how different firms work in different environments, I enjoy the firm's have all been great, they have great communication. I'm just learning and expanding my knowledge and getting to know people and clients really makes it enjoyable.
Q: How have you been able to help customers that are using Taxfyle’s platform for their tax filing needs?
Amie: Well, I have been able to help by completing a fast accurate job, communicating with the clients, letting them know why their taxes are the way they are, and what they can change from year to year to have a better tax situation, explain how it works and kind of what like I said what they can do to improve their tax situation.
Q: And there's a lot of DIY or free filing services but compared to what you're able to offer, why can customers benefit from using an Enrolled Agent like yourself rather than doing the work themselves?
Amie: Because there's a lot of benefits and experience that you can see things. With my experience, I can help save clients a lot of money by knowing the deductions and the way that they work and what they can do to better their tax situation.
Q: For the people who question whether having an accountant is worth the cost, why do you think having that expertise at their side is a worthy investment?
Amie: It is very worth investment. Because we are experienced in all different levels. We've seen variety of tax situations, we know how to maximize your deductions and credits. There are certain things that a general tax professional does not see does not realize what the education helps you with tax strategy. And making sure that your tax return is simply and you're getting all the benefits that you can take.
Q: How can somebody benefit from filing with an Enrolled Agent?
Amie: Well, first of all I can I'm able to talk to the IRS. So if somebody has questions about their previous tax returns, or future tax returns, if they get a letter from the IRS, an Enrolled Agent or attorney is able to help them with that a normal tax prep person would not be able to help with that. Plus just continuing educations in order to keep up your Enrolled Agent. You go through everything year by year, and you get a lot of things that a normal taxpayer would not learn.
Q: How do you think somebody can benefit from scheduling a meeting with you before they file their taxes?
Amie: They can benefit scheduling a meeting with me to go over their situation, make sure that they have all their paperwork, all their things put together that they need in order to file their tax returns and to know kind of where they're at and what we need to get in order to maximize their tax return.
Q: Have you had any moments in your career as an Enrolled Agent where somebody came to you for tax advice and you've been able to help them out and make the complexities of taxes a little bit easier to understand for them?
Amie: Yes, so I had an investment tax return S Corp. He had somebody file US tax returns from year to year and then got in touch with me and he had a Schedule E which is rental income, and it was completed incorrectly it was counted as ordinary income. So I was able to recategorize the income and help his tax situation turn out a lot better than any of the previous years he’s filed.
Q: What is it like having the knowledge and experience to be able to help these people that need their finding?
Amie: It's great, it's a feeling of accomplishment. I am very happy to make my clients happy. It's a great feeling when you can surprise them with extra benefits and tax deductions and get it right. It's just a great feeling on both ends
Q: Earlier when you're talking about getting your EA look credentials why did you think of that was necessary to advance your career?
Amie: Well, it's credible with the IRS and you need to be able to talk to the IRS in certain circumstances and you learn a lot more with your Enrolled Agent also more opportunities more experience more education
Q: Was there anybody or anything that specifically inspired you to get that or did you just naturally know that it was going to be the right progression for your career?
Amie: Well, like I said working for H&R Block, I had moved up to the highest level that I could without the Enrolled Agent and I am motivated and always have an attitude to succeed so I wanted to become more then because within H&R Block it's just their software, their education. So I wanted to become more educated and advanced outside of H&R Block. So that's kind of what it's what helped me decide to get my own Enrolled Agent to grow and succeed.
Q: Because being an Enrolled Agent requires you to get continuing education credits to maintain your credential is there anything new that you've learned since you've initially received your EA credential that has helped expand your career and how you're able to help tax filers?
Amie: Um, yes, of course, I learn new stuff. Every year, I learned new stuff every day filing tax returns. So the biggest thing that I've been able to learn is more on the business side and how they're put together. Also the deductions that businesses can take. I've learned a lot about partnerships and S corpse. Before that I did not have the experience because H&R Block is mostly individual tax returns. So I have learned quite a bit in the years that I've had my Enrolled Agent and it has given me an opportunity to improve myself and improve my education and tax return.
Q: What is it like being able to continuously develop yourself and find new ways to hone your skills as a tax preparer?
Amie: It's beneficial to the client, it's beneficial to me, I within taxes, I feel like you're always learning something everybody's always learning something. You're always expanding your knowledge, no person situation with taxes is the same. So it's helped learn and it gets proceed with complicated tax returns.
Q: And how do you balance having to learn new topics and new deductions and everything you know that's new about taxes with the demands of your current professional career?
Amie: Well, tax season is as as you know, in certain times of the year so during the offseason, when I have some spare time, that's when I do all my study. And I study throughout the summer, every year so I can improve my knowledge and learn new things.
Q: Considering how stressful tax season can be do you do anything with your family to celebrate it at coming to an end?
Amie: Yes, so after April, we got out to our condo that we have in Florida, and we spent a week on the beach. So that's something that we look forward to after the tax season just getting a break and spending time with the family because tax season can be very demanding. And within that time, I don't get to spend as much time with my family. So I'd make it up by going on vacation after tax season.
Q: And you mentioned that you really appreciate Taxfyle’s flexibility and how it lets you manage your hours effectively during tax season, how do you balance the commitments that you have on the platform with the commitments you have in your own firm?
Amie: I work a lot of hours. And I know that it's coming and so I try to get everything in place before tax season and I just work through it. Work a lot of hours spent as much time as I need in order to get things done. I'm also taking my time so that things I've done correctly, but I plan ahead for it. So I make sure everything's in line before I start my busy tax season.