Pro Spotlight Ep. 5: Goran Gmitrovic On Increasing His Income And Accomplishing His Life's Dreams
Attaining your life’s dream is satisfying. Doing so ahead of schedule is easier said than done. But that’s something Goran Gmitrovic, a Taxfyle Pro based in Chicago, can cross off his list.
He’s always wanted to own a property in Croatia to be closer to family. He projected to have that completed by 2030. When he found Taxfyle, he had the ability to increase his income while maintaining the flexibility necessary to focus on his accounting practice. Now, he’s able to reach his dream well ahead of schedule.
Q: How long have you worked in accounting?
Gmitrovic: I've been in the accounting industry for about ten years now. I received my Bachelor of Science from DePaul University with a concentration in accounting and finance. And that kind of led me organically to this industry. Following my graduation from DePaul, you know, I went to a few gigs, and I kind of stuck to accounting, I learned that I was very good at it. And there's some days where, you know, I was a little hesitant, but it made most sense to me.
Q: When you were deciding what your career is going to be what is it about accounting that you landed on?
Gmitrovic: Accounting at the end of the day really only has one right answer. There are certain regulations and laws in place by federal authorities and state authorities that don't that obviously, there are some gray areas in the IRC code. But overall, everything's really black and white. And that always made most sense to me. So looking at your liberal arts looking at sports management, or chemistry or biology, all of those things never really connected to me. I've always been I've always had a very analytical mindset, very complex problem solving from a financial point of view. And that's what really drew me into it. And I understood that, you know, maybe I was born with a more analytical mindset than most people, but that that's really what drove me into this type of industry where I, where I felt that, you know, I could use it to its full potential in a way.
Q: What was the moment that you knew accounting was the right career path for you?
Gmitrovic: That's a great question. So my first job was as a staff accountant with a payroll tax company. And I absolutely despised that. It wasn't a good experience. I didn't enjoy working there. But I soon realized that it was more the company that I didn’t enjoy working with, rather than the actual profession that I didn't enjoy working with. Shortly after the payroll tax company, I went to a lighting company, where I got to expand my accounting knowledge a little bit more, because it was a one-man accounting team. There weren't other team members around me. I was able to expand my knowledge as much as possible. It was all a lot of Google searches, a lot of YouTube searches, a lot of how-to guides. And it really put me in a place where I needed to learn to be able to take care of the health of a major company, a company that I wouldn't call it a startup, but it was definitely in growing pains. And it helped me become who I am today. Following that is where the click really happened. I joined, I was an assistant controller at a school bus company for about a year. And over there, I met some of the nicest people and had great bosses and they really gave me the freedom to connect with accounting the way that I haven’t in the past. And it was impactful to the point where we were taking care of elementary kids, and middle school kids. And you would never think that accounting would have that type of effect, but it had that effect where we were building bids based on our profit and loss, based on our bookkeeping and so forth, and we were able to get more work based off of that, so over there it really click that, ‘Hey, this is the industry for me, I want to continue to move forward, and I want to continue to expand enough.’
Q: How did you hear about Taxfyle?
Gmitrovic: I heard about Taxfyle through a newsletter. I mainly delete most of the newsletters that come to my inbox, but for some odd reason, I clicked on it, I opened it up, I saw a banner that read Taxfyle. And you know, as they say, the rest is history. I went into it, I completed my registration form, there was really too much activity going on the first few months. So I thought, ‘Oh, well spent ten minutes creating a registration form, uploading some documents, not a big deal.’ Until you know, one day I got a call from AJ at Taxfyle, and things just kind of started rolling from there.
Q: When you first saw that newsletter, what was it about Taxfyle that made you think this is an opportunity worth pursuing?
Gmitrovic: So right before I became a full-time, Tax Pro at Taxfyle, I was a tax director at one of the big four. And that really, that was an extremely stressful career, there were a lot of clients and my mind was starting to go to places where I wanted a little more freedom with my scheduling and monetary value. And not to say that I would trade meeting the clients that I knew, those experiences have built me into the person I am, but when I did see Taxfyle’s logo, it showed me an opportunity that, and this was all emphasized in my head at the beginning, it showed me an opportunity where I can create my own schedule, I can drive my own income. And later on, I learned that the people of Taxfile, you know, have been amazing to work with and that that really cemented more of why I wanted to be part of Taxfyle.
Q: What other work outside of being a Taxfyle Pro do you do?
Gmitrovic: I do a bunch of work. So a lot of my services, are wealth management, bookkeeping, I would say there's a lot of student loan counseling that we have with that being as big as it is now. We do everything from payroll administration, budgeting, forecasting, things of that nature. So I did specialize in finance as well when I was in school, and that helped me kind of keep the service of individual wealth management alive for one of my services.
The business, you know, has grown steadily with those services where I can manage it with other commitments. But my main commitment at this point, being a tax practitioner for personal returns and corporate returns anywhere from you know, your partnerships, your single member LLC to your corporations to your S-corps. That's primarily my bread and butter.
Q: Do you run your own individual practice or do you work with other people?
Gmitrovic: I run my own individual practice. I founded Outlook Accounting and Taxes, which is my firm, back in 2014, and have been running it ever since. Like I said, I specialize primarily in corporate and personal taxes. That's really where the number one revenue comes from. But our business has grown steadily with that on the personal client side, but as well on the Taxfyle side. Taxfyle has put me in the position where you know, I needed to make a decision whether it was going to be moving forward with my corporate role or whether it was going to be moving forward with my business. And I decided to dedicate and commit all my time to growing my own personal business.
Q: Why did you decide that your time is better spent on your personal business as opposed to elsewhere?
Gmitrovic: So that's a very loaded question. Two primary things it was the freedom to create my own schedule. And most tax practitioners are going to find that funny because we don't have freedom to create our own tax schedule during the season. Or it gets hectic during that time. But another reason was to create my own monetary value that's based around myself to not have somebody else dictate how valuable I am. To dictate that myself. To not only help my own personal financial goals, but to help the team members that I've worked with. And it was time to give my business a fair chance. I haven't done that, in the past. I've had Outlook now for about eight years. And it's been a fantastic. It's been a fantastic experience. But every year, I would have, you know, an experience where I can manage that with everything else. But once Taxfyle came into the picture, it became apparent to me that, no, there's no way that I can manage the corporate world and my own personal business world. So I decided that with the time that I was in my life, with the goals that I had, and the dreams that I was trying to accomplish, I needed to give my business a fair shake, and see how we'll go out and, and put a little more risk a little more trust in myself and see how it was gonna go after the first year or two.
Q: How does Taxfyle help you balance full-time work with your business along with being a Pro?
Gmitrovic: So I would say Taxfyle at this point is my number one revenue stream. I'm wholly dedicated to Taxfyle and its clients. I have a couple of other team members that helped me with my personal client list. But the revenue stream is very consistent and very stable that comes in from Taxfyle. And I have learned that, you know, it's the 80-20 rule. I pay attention to what's most impactful, and I have my team members pay attention to my personal clients. And not to say that my personal clients aren't impactful, they are just, I gotta dedicate my time to where it makes more sense. So you know, having a team behind me has definitely helped me; not to say that there weren't any growing pains there definitely were. With managing everything at the beginning and understanding the growth patterns and understanding how many people I needed to be in my corner, it has definitely become more of a living breathing organism than anything else. I've learned that if you organize things appropriately, if you document things appropriately, and you have everything in front of you that you need, that you can be successful with it. So balancing it was difficult at the beginning, but now it's more so understanding where I need to split my time, and where it makes more sense.
Q: Earlier you mentioned having this financial vision for yourself that you wanted to reach. How does Taxfyle help you get a little bit closer to your goals?
Gmitrovic: So definitely, my financial and personal goals are really similar to each other. My personal goals, obviously, now, pretty cliche, but I obviously want to spend more time with the people I care about most have more freedom to you know, travel the world; have more freedom to go see my family in Europe and things of that nature. And to do that, you know, you need money to travel and Taxfyle provided me with both of those things. It provided me the fact that I can travel any day in the year and go wherever I please, as long as my work is complete, and have that income when and have that steady revenue stream that's coming in, to allow me to really do the things that I love.
My long-term personal goals are, you know, fairly ambitious. Me and my wife built out long-term personal goals a couple of years ago that we were planning for the year 2030, 2031. But now with Taxfyle’s support, were able to achieve those dreams by 2025, and you know, that's a massive time difference. And you know, it definitely provides me the opportunity to be with the people I care about most. Six years is, you know, looking back at it might not sound like a lot, but being with family for six additional years being where we want to be you know it not only does it drive further, you know, further motivation in me to invest more time into Taxfyle, invest more time into my business, but it also gives me that meaning back and that impact back where I can spend more time with my family, help the community help me you know, be a good neighbor and so forth.
Q: What are those personal goals that Taxfyle helped you accomplish?
Gmitrovic: So my dream has always been build has been to build my dream home in Croatia. I was born in Croatia, and half of my family still lives in Europe. For those people that have traveled to Europe in the past, you know, it's a very different lifestyle than in America, a very, very relaxed lifestyle. My family, my wife, my dog, Bastian, and I are excited about the next chapters of our life. There's really no way to think the extra time this has afforded us to follow our dream. It has always been, you know, point and center for us to be where we want to be in, we always had those five-year goals and ten-year goals. And we always saw each other in specific places. And Taxfyle has made that become more of a reality than a dream.
With Taxfyle’s support, obviously, the steady income stream, the scheduling flexibility, really the geographical flexibility as well, it's afforded us the opportunity to really put our dreams into reality. And we actually did start tangibly, taking care of some things back in Croatia, where we're about to close on our first plot of land, where we plan to build our home and we're extremely excited to start tangibly and tactically being able to take care of that goal, we didn't think that we will be able to but with Taxfyle it, it has become apparent that we're going to make this into a reality.
Q: What is it like knowing that you are that much closer to accomplishing what you've dreamt of?
Gmitrovic: I mean, you can't really put that into words. It's bittersweet, in a way. That's a dream that I've had for an extremely long time. I avidly speak about Croatia, and its beauty and its nature to people I meet, strangers, I mean, that's really the first thing that I go to, when I introduce myself. I don't introduce myself as what I do for a living, I introduce myself as who I am. To know that my retirement dream at one point was to be in Croatia, you know, by the time I'm 50, 55 years old, versus now saying, you know, I'm gonna have a home in Croatia in three years, I'm not even going to be 35 when it happens, well, no, that's not true. I'm not even going to be 36 when it happens. Is astounding, it really puts things into perspective. It's genuinely, the feeling is, it's unreal. I mean, every one of us everywhere, no matter where you're located, no matter what you do has a dream to accomplish something in their future. Everybody wants to have a good, happy future. And a lot of people keep that as a dream.
I never wanted to be the guy that works behind a cubicle. I never want it to be the guy that works for somebody else. I always wanted to give myself the opportunity to be the best version of myself and I think with Taxfyle’s platform with Taxfyle’s people and their resources and their understanding it's really provided me the platform where I can be successful and I can reach my goals and reaching those goals that are you know 15, 20 years ahead of the timeline is that I mean it's astounding. There's no better word for it. It's such a hard thing to really grasp into reality that you know, what you have dreamed up for so long is so close to you, and you're only there because you believe in yourself. You trusted yourself, and you move forward with your own company.
There's all these success stories out there you know going from Mark Cuban to Steve Jobs, and I'm not obviously comparing myself to those people but you always think well how did you know their businesses multimillion-dollar businesses, how do they achieve their dreams? They fell into a great idea this that in the other and I found that in Taxfyle might I might not be a millionaire with Taxfyle, but it provides me the personal freedom and opportunity to be with the people that I love to be with, the people that I care about most, where I care about most, and to be in the lifestyle that is conducive to me.
Q: What kind of qualities do you think someone like you has to have to be able to deliver on their ambitions the way that you have?
Gmitrovic: I would say first and foremost, it's patience. Things aren't going to happen overnight. I have built a practice with Taxfyle over the span of a little more than two years, I've built up a client list of several hundred clients. But that doesn't happen overnight. You have to have the trust of the Taxfyle team that's in your corner, you have to have the trust of your clients, you have to have the trust of your vendors. And with that, you're able to grow such an ecosystem where it all works seamlessly together. You have to be extremely organized. I have I don't think at any one point in time with Taxfyle I've had less than 100 active clients. You have to be organized and you have to stay on top of people. A lot of tax practitioner work is hunting down the right documents. And it takes time to understand all of that. It takes time to see where the numbers flow, to see what you have to request from the client to be able to do a prior to your analysis fairly efficiently. It also requires a lot of knowledge you need to continue to learn you need to continue to read. Tax codes change on a daily basis. And that's something that, you know, is scary for a lot of tax practitioners that get into the practice. Mistakes are going to be made, but if you learn from your experiences, if you learn from the things that you've accomplished, and you're patient with yourself and you're patient with, you know, what the clients and your patient with, you know, your overall company and you stay organized, I think that you'll end up surprising yourself. I think those are the most important parts about being a tax practitioner; always staying ahead of the eight ball and always trying to keep everything as efficient as possible with the client.
You do a quick draft of their tax return and you get the open items, send it over to them, you get the right documents, you finalize it, you close it out. And during that you remain kind, you remain responsive, and you remain at their disposal no matter what they need. Whether it be around taxes or personal wealth questions you always want to be there for your clients and you always want to show them that you care about them.
Q: What do you do to stay up to date and stay informed about all the changing tax codes and different policies that you know kind of make taxes a little complicated for people?
Gmitrovic: So there's a few companies that I subscribe with, for tax practitioners, where they send you emails of a change in tax code or you know the most important things coming up for next year. And I take that information, I synthesize it into something that's readable for your average person. And I include that in my tax organizer that I sent to clients every year. That tax organizer shows you ‘Okay, this is the change in the mileage rate, this is how much you're able to deduct on your itemized deductions, this is where the cap is for this state based on where you live for your property taxes, this is the charity deductions that are above the line this year, this is etc etc, etc.’
So I take the information that I gathered through the year and for the upcoming tax year. I really put it in terms where most people are going to understand that I share that with those people. And I keep the quick a guide for myself during the tax season to understand that, ‘Hey, this year but due to the COVID pandemic 100% of meals and entertainment are deductible. Unlike most years where only 50% of that is deductible.’ Keeping the right resources in your corner the right companies that, you know, solely focused on that, and having them send me that information really makes it more attainable than one would think. I don't go into the IRS website on a daily basis and see what changes came out of their last meeting. I don't have time to do that. Nor do I want to do that. I pay other companies to get that information from me. And then I take that information from there. And it really, it really does provide a much easier process for me. At the end of the day, I don't have to dig around for precedences, I don't have to dig around tax court files and things of that nature. I think having the right resources in your corner definitely helps you grow your business, because ultimately, is to find, for example, that 100% meals deduction to find some time precedences of that to find the code number for that to find the subsection number for that could take maybe two, three hours, and in that time, I could complete a corporate tax return and that pays out a significant amount of money. So to me, it's always about, you need to find where your time is most valuable. And then you need to outsource the rest of it.
Q: How does your background in tax help the customers that you've gained through a Taxfyle?
Gmitrovic: That's a great question. So as I mentioned earlier, I was a tax director at the Big Four. The Big Four, obviously, has hundreds of 1000s of clients. And I had the privilege of meeting some of the best clients in the world and creating relationships and being put in a variety of situations where I needed to, not only, you know specifically learn about the client, but about tax coding, and about how forms flow into each other and so forth. It provided me the opportunity where it really built me into the tax practitioner I am today. I'm grateful and honored to have been in positions where the client has trusted me with the inner workings of their company.
You got to understand that when we are put into those positions, we play a critical role. And the loans that a company gets in the debt restructuring that a company can do in their cap table in the research and development expenses and credits for the company, and to read. And at the most granular case, I had this one client where they were thinking about reorganizing one of their departments, that was in a third-world country, and shutting it down. But we realized that the manufacturing made sense to stay there. So ultimately, our end memo was not to shut it down. And that resulted in I think I remember correctly about 150 people keeping their job.
It's impactful. It plays a large influence on people and people and employees of a major company. And you take it down to the granular level where you're talking about individuals, that you really can synthesize that information into all the workings that you do. So a lot of the clients that I have a Taxfyle, have, you know, large businesses have many employees, and, you know, are looking not only for us to pop in some numbers and do their tax return, but also for financial advice, also for figuring out the best next steps for them, helping them request a PPP loan or helping them restructure their debt or helping them figure out what the best next step is, if it makes sense to open up a brick and mortar location in South Carolina or is it better in North Dakota? What are the tax laws here, what are the tax laws there?
With the experience that I had from being a tax director to this right now, it was pretty seamless transitioning just because I had this wealth of knowledge from the seven years that I was in the big four. And it really provided me with the platform that I needed. The Big Four obviously has many, many, many, many resources that I've worked with on a daily basis. And you know, every day you're learning something new. And that definitely helped me become the practitioner that I I'm today and it helped me translate everything from that experience to what I'm doing now.
Q: There are a lot of free or inexpensive or cheap DIY tax services that basically just get the average individual filer to do the work themselves. What are the benefits of an individual instead using an accountant to file their taxes?
Gmitrovic: So it's, that answer is twofold. If a tax client came to me and they said, ‘I have one W-2, I'm 22 years old, I make $15,000 a year,’ I would by far tell them, ‘Hey, go use a DIY software, it's not going to be difficult. You don't need to spend your money with me. It's gonna, it's gonna break it up for you, you throw in your W-2, you send it in, it's a 30-minute task.’ But when you get to the point where you're talking about capital gains, where you're talking about prior loss carryovers, where you're talking about 1065 bases, where you're talking about how an 1120S can deduct their non-deductible expenses on a personal return, there is no software out there that can manage that.
There's always only going to be tax practitioners like me that can help a client with that. It's understanding the inner workings of a business, it's understanding what the business needs to file, if they have any foreign entities, if they have any foreign partners, if they have any 6198s, so passive loss, passive loss carryovers. If they have any, you know, all different sorts of tax legislation that isn't easily translated into a DIY software. It if you're looking, you know, at your top rate of software, it still doesn't provide you the support that you need.
I think a tax practitioner is obviously somebody who's competent, who has the knowledge, is always going to put the client in a better position because they know the inner workings of a tax return. And software that's really for more than just a W-2 or some stock sales. It's not going to give you that insight, that experience, and that future advice. For example, I had one client a couple months ago who made a good amount of money on their single-member LLC. They can file that through a DIY software, no problem. But they can also talk to a tax preparer who's going to inform them, ‘Hey, you're getting hit with self-employment tax on your single-member LLC. What do you think about restructuring your company to a 1065 or 1120S or converting it to a C-Corp, where you have a flat tax rate?’ Things like that.
You're not going to get from a tax software, you're not gonna get insights, you're not gonna get the experience of us tax practitioners. And you're not gonna have a better and better understanding of your business. At that point, all you're doing is recording, you're not reacting. You got to react to the growth of your business. If you're only there to record it. I would suggest Yep, stick with your software. But if you're there to react to where you are, react, how you want to get to your future than it's always good to have somebody in your corner.