Pro Spotlight: Mary Klippel On Becoming An IRS Enrolled Agent And Starting A Tax Practice


Pro Spotlight: Mary Klippel On Becoming An IRS Enrolled Agent And Starting A Tax Practice

Discover the journey of Mary Klippel, an experienced IRS Enrolled Agent, as she shares her path to success in the tax industry. From her career beginnings to becoming a thriving tax practitioner, Mary's story offers valuable insights for IRS enrolled agents. Learn how she became an enrolled agent, founded her own tax business, and mastered the art of work-life balance. 

Q: Mary, you didn’t have the average path to becoming a tax practitioner. Can you describe what your career has been like? 

Klippel: Yes, so my career has been all over the place, but finally feels more specialized. I started after college working in a nonprofit setting, and I was working with financial services and educational services. And I was able to get into taxes doing the VITA tax preparation program as a volunteer. And I was able to do that for three years, which really was eye-opening to me about how much I loved working with clients. I then segwayed into technology, still working with numbers with payment processing software, but I found I was missing the client experience. So I switched back into financial services working for some larger firms, and found that financial planning, tax preparation, and all things related to accounting were really where I was most wanting to focus my attention and energy. So I became an IRS enrolled agent. And I started working on taxes and was able to launch my own business this past fall. 

Q: How did you start in finances before you became an IRS enrolled agent? 

Klippel: I started as a client service associate working at one of the largest financial firms in the country. And from there, I found that I really enjoyed working with clients, I enjoyed spending time on everything related to their entire financial picture. And when I learned the different avenues, you can go with fine financial services, taxes, accounting, and such, I found that taxes is what really spoke to me from the puzzle that it is the way that you can direct clients into different avenues with their finances as a result of what you find within their tax return. And I just really enjoyed the experience of working in taxes.

Q: Initially, when you began working with finances, what aspects of that were you gravitated toward? 

Klippel: When I first started working in finance, I was gravitating toward customer-client relations and financial planning. So I was focusing a lot more on retirement accounts, insurance policies, looking at your entire financial picture from a holistic point of view. And I thought that it was really the avenue I was going to explore. But what I often found was that clients who came in to these financial services, what I found was clients who came in to get financial planning done or speak about all these different options they had, taxes were often a conversation that was left out where they weren't looking at the whole picture. And so that's where I went inside financial services, as I was doing financial planning, I was spending more time looking at tax saving strategies, and how taxes could be a larger conversation within financial planning.

Q: What was the moment that made you consider taxes as a career? 

Klippel: So when I was working with financial planning clients, and I was seeing that they were not contributing to accounts that could provide tax-saving strategies to them. And when I was seeing other clients who had been doing it since day one because they got the right advisement from the beginning. I knew that I wanted to be on the other side of that process. I wanted to be the tax preparer that looked at everything that was coming in on paper at the end of the year, saying, “How are we actually managing our finances here? And how can we make next tax season a lot better?” And so when I realized that I could be on the other side of that conversation, that's when I made the pivot.

Q: What encouraged you to get your enrolled agent credential? 

Klippel: I was highly encouraged by a previous employer. I didn't even realize that it was something I could do until I explored it with a previous employer. And when I was able to see that it was a three-part exam, you got direct access into the IRS’ website and there were plenty of options for enrolled agents to be a better resource to clients. As a result of getting the IRS anrolled agent [sic]. I knew that it was a necessary step.

Q: Once you made the decision to get your EA credential, how did you prepare for the exam? 

Klippel: I was able to work with a previous employer to spend some of my working time studying, but otherwise it was a lot of study at home. It was using programs that were available online. I did use a boot camp program as well to make sure that I wasn't missing anything going into these tests. So I did space them out, there were three exams, and I took one per month, and I studied at least four weeks for each test to make sure that I was fully prepared.

Q: How was the exam compared to what you experienced previously during your academic career? 

Klippel: So the exam was was rigorous, you had to know the ins and outs of tax law to really be able to pass the exams. I enjoyed the structure because of the way that they break up the exams into the first one being about individuals. The second one being more focused on businesses. And the third one being more about ethics, and how you should act as an IRS enrolled agent. Compared to other exams I've taken it was a lot more methodical, a lot more focused on the drill down law, and regulations that you needed to follow in those industries, rather than suitability and theory.

Q: What are the ethics that an IRS enrolled agent would have to abide by? 

Klippel: So there's a circular with the IRS, it's the Circular 210. And inside that circular is where you have to follow all the guidelines of the IRS, you have to act in the best interest of your tax client. And you need to make sure that you're following the principles of the IRS. Otherwise, they could have some sort of negative effect on your enrolled agent certification, when you go to reapply, they could look at some of the returns that you've done and see that you cheated the system and opt to not renew it. 

Q: Once you got your credential, what happened next? 

Klippel: Once I got my license, I did feel more empowered. I felt as though I was more prepared to properly work with the IRS to be in the best interest of the clients that I was working with. I went through two tax seasons with this IRS enrolled agent and then I was able to join Taxfyle as an independent IRS enrolled agent. So I found that having the certification really gave me a lot more insight on what I should be looking for what I should be asking better questions, different forms that I could request, and it really taught me how to dive further into a client's financial story.

Q: What was it like making the decision to shift your career toward taxes?
Klippel: At first, it was a little scary. It's it's always hard to pivot from something that you originally thought your plan was going to be. And all of a sudden, you're doing something different. But once I got into it, I became excited to be fully focused on this particular industry, and take it as far as I could go.

Q: What was the moment when you realized the decision you made to go into the tax industry was the right fit for what you wanted in life?
Klippel: Um, actually right away. I didn't feel the impact as much as I thought but it was during that tax season right after I had finished that I got to spend time with an LLC owner. And it was the first time I got to use some of that enrolled agent experience in a way where I felt as though my credentials matched what I was suggesting to this tax client. And it was in that moment that I realized it was worth every every hour spent studying and such, because I could see that the LLC owners were just feeling so much more calm and feeling better about their tax situation and felt more prepared going into the next tax year. 

Q: What was that first tax season as an enrolled agent like for you? 

Klippel: The first tax season as an enrolled agent was really eye opening. It made me think back to previous seasons, wondering if there were things that I missed. But thankfully, I felt confident I felt really secure. I felt, you know, once again empowered to take on some of the more complicated measures inside of a tax return, knowing that I had been fully prepared with this exam.

Q: Now that you have a couple of seasons as an enrolled agent under your belt, how has it been? 

Klippel: My career has completely shifted to where I am now on my own. I was working for other companies. I was focused on being a full-time employee, making sure that I had job security in that regard. But now I feel that I've been able to take my credential land move it into a direction where I work with companies like Taxfyle where I can, you know, work with other firms and other CPAs and such and provide the best outcomes for clients. So going from one season to the next, and now, pivoting into this new career of being my own business owner and working independently as an IRS enrolled agent, it's been a dream.

Q: What went into your decision to venture off on your own and start your own business? 

Klippel: The biggest part was a difference of viewpoint with a company that I was working for. And when I took everything that was in front of me, and I had to say to myself, “What am I going to do in this situation?” it was either stay where I was and be complacent or branch off and do something different. When I decided to branch off from the company I was working with, it was really to make sure that I always felt that I was working in the best interest of the tax clients that I was working with. And I wasn't always feeling that way, with the company I was with prior. So I took a bad situation, and I turned it into something positive, and I made it into what my life's mission is now is to do this long term, and maintain my business.

Q: When you were starting your own business, what factors did you keep in mind? 

Klippel: So some of the biggest pieces are the finances that go into securing all the beginning steps of opening a business. So making sure you have a tax ID number, register with your state, all of the different steps that you need to do that. The second part is having a reserve in the event your business is not taking off as fast as you need it to to maintain an income. Knowing that you you have that capital to secure yourself and anyone else, you know, in your family during that time that may rely on that income. And the last thing is making sure that you have mentors or support from other areas outside of just your close family and friends who can help you walk through some of the more difficult steps in owning a business like you know, not getting the client that you thought you would secure or getting into a position where you think a grant is a really great idea. But you need some advice on how to write that proposal. Just having those mentors and resources available to you, it's good to know where they are before you even start your business.

Q: How fulfilling has it been to have more autonomy and control? 

Klippel: It has been incredibly fulfilling, I feel as though I am in charge of my schedule and my life and how much I want to grow and scale my business with without having to worry about the rules and regulations of a company I work for. Instead, it's the rules and regulations that I've generated and have to follow based on the type of business I have. So having that flexibility, having that ability to run my business as I see fit is really powerful and really exciting.

Q: How did you hear about Taxfyle? 

Klippel: I heard about a Taxfyle at the end of the year last year, so it must have been October or November of 2022. And I saw an advertisement on LinkedIn for Taxfyle, and I was super impressed with the structure of the company as well as the website and everything that I was able to read about.

Q: Why did you think Taxfyle would have been beneficial for you? 

Klippel: So there are plenty of CPA firms and other tax practices that are just at capacity. They have so many clients that they work with and may not have the ability to handle all of the tax returns that come in every year, maybe because there are leads maybe because there's generational sets of tax returns that come in that just increased their workload. And I thought why not, you know, be more of a consultant be more of someone that can take on those outsourcing contracts and such and structure my business in that style. I felt it would provide a faster growth as well as more of a learning experience moving into a business. It almost mitigated my risk in some way. Because I was able to rely on those types of contracts. And Taxfyle was structured in such a way where I could take on some of that opportunity. Learn more aspects of running a tax business from people who were already established professionals and develop new relationships that could maintain long lasting, you know, tax seasons moving forward. 

Q: What are some of the biggest benefits of being a Taxfyle Pro? 

Klippel: So as a Taxfyle Pro, I really see benefit in learning from industry professionals, and having the opportunity to work with more than one company at a time with different software specialties that you may have and also getting to experience different types of returns that you may not have had the opportunity to be in front of, because of the clientele that you may have on your own. Additionally, the flexible flexible hours, the ability to pick up opportunities as much as you can, or as little as you can, is really, really amazing to have as an opportunity with Taxfyle.

Q: How has being a Taxfyle Pro helped your financial goals? 

Klippel: So being a Taxfyle Pro really helped me stay driven during tax season when there were big walls. You know, for my personal business, as I was still growing it, you know, people had to learn to trust moving from a tax professional they were with for 10, 15, 20 years over to me. And as I'm still growing my personal business. Taxfyle has helped me reach the financial goals that I needed to maintain my business as I was doing that personally. So it really helped keep me afloat for quite a while during tax season. 

Q: How do you balance your work as a Taxfyle Pro with your business? 

Klippel: So I found that at Taxfyle a lot of the clients I focused on the timezone that they were in, so they can be anywhere in the country. And I'm being you know, I'm on one coast, and I might be working with people who are on a different coast. So I would make sure to prioritize my time where I was working during their working hours a bit more, to make sure that I was available at a time that they were actually open. So I would work around that being that I'm on the East Coast, I'm, you know, up first, no matter where my other, you know where my clients are. So I would focus on my clients more often in the morning. And I found that that worked, I found that that was helpful, it made sense. And, you know, I just adapted based on where people were and when I found that communicated the most. 

Q: How can enrolled agents benefit from Taxfyle? 

Klippel: So Taxfyle allows so much flexibility that once you're on boarded, you really can make it as much of your own as possible. So if you're someone who's working for another company, or firm, and you're thinking about the idea of branching out, and doing your own thing, connecting with Taxfyle, and getting on their platform can really provide you that opportunity. Because you can work for an hour a day, you can work for seven hours a day if you want to. But ultimately, it will give you the insight on how to actually become an enrolled agent on your own or how to consider other options. 

Q: What does flexibility mean for you? 

Klippel: Flexibility to me means I'm not punching a clock flexibility means that I know when I work best, I know when my clients are available. And I want to make sure that that's when I can be available to either do my best work or to be present for clients. So having the opportunity to work the hours that are best for me and best for the individuals that I'm working with, is ultimately what flexibility means to me and how much it matters.

Q: What do you do to decompress from the tax season? 

Klippel: Yeah, so I enjoy taking walks when I can, you know, getting out in the middle of tax season and just taking 10 or 15 minute walk is always helpful. I love decompressing in the evening watching some TV relaxing, you know, taking my mind off of what's on my computer. And you know, just taking a few minutes to kind of stop so that when I'm moving on to the next day, I'm refreshed. And I always make sure to eat well, and hydrate and sleep. If you don't sleep, it's not a good not a good move.

Q: And during the offseason, what are your favorite things to do outside of work? 

Klippel: So I love traveling whenever I can, whether it's a road trip, whether we go far, I really enjoy traveling. I love exploring new places and such. I very much enjoy cooking, you know, trying new recipes, things like that. In terms of the business side of things, I'm really enjoying finding opportunities to grow my business and other ways, joining with the extension season and being able to put a hand into that. And just continuing that work life balance has been really nice in the offseason.

Q: How valuable is it to have control over your work-life balance? 

Klippel: I think every individual should have control over their work life balance, it is beyond valuable. It is priceless. If I didn't have control over it, I think I would feel very unhealthy. And I wouldn't be living a life that I want to. So I would hope that anyone in a working place feels as though they have the opportunity to live the life that they want to live and work, you know in an industry that makes them happy. 

Q: Where were some of the places you had the opportunity to travel to? 

Klippel: I most recently traveled to Hawaii and I traveled to Alaska a few years ago and both of those places were are just breathtaking. So it was, it was really great to be able to explore those different parts of the country. If you ever get a chance to go to Alaska, you should really go because it looks untouched. It's unbelievable.

Q: What did you do while you were there?
Klippel: We went to a number of cities, we did some sea tours, you know, we went out and we saw like the sea otters and we tried to spot whales and all that, we got to see moose, we went to a glacier. You know, it was it was just amazing. We went to Denali. And we got to see that. And that's only visible 30% of the time. So it was amazing to be in that 30% window, being able to actually see it, and we got to see some sled dogs, and some of the national parks, which was really cool.

Q: How do you market your business?
Klippel: So at this point, I've used a little bit of paper advertising, I actually had the opportunity to be on a few different sponsorships in this area, I'm in a small town. So you know, it's nice to work with clients who are local. So I've used some paper advertisements, but otherwise, I just post on social media, I share it to my own profile, I opt to share those things with friends and family. And in terms of advertising, otherwise, a lot of word of mouth and referrals.

Q: What was your learning curve when trying to market your business to gain new clients? 

Klippel: I feel I'm still in that learning curve. I think it's just ongoing, where there's always ways to advertise. And sometimes you're really good at one way, but it ends up not working out for the long term. It's just really successful for a short period of time. So I I feel as though the learning curve is ongoing. I'll always be learning new ways to advertise. But there's definitely opportunities for growth there. I intend to continue with social media, I hope to be better about it in the future. But I'm sure there are plenty of other ways that I could be advertising too. And I look forward to figuring all that out as I still feel so new.

Q: What was the moment you realized having your own business was the right choice?
Klippel: In November of this past year, as I was developing my business to be larger I, I had started as a notary doing a part time business as a notary, and I wanted to expand that business to include my tax servicing. And when I was in the process of figuring out how to do that, I had put myself as available for hire on LinkedIn. And in doing so in those few weeks that I had that available, I had four or five different individuals, companies and such reach out about this idea of doing the outsourcing, you know, model where I would take on contract work for them. And it was in that moment that I looked at my family and I said I'm doing this, this is it. This is my sign that the opportunities there, I have the skill sets that are needed for it. And it felt amazing. It felt incredible to say I've worked hard enough that I have all the credentials that people are looking for. And I have the experience that's needed to do this well. So it was a great lightbulb moment for me when I was looking at all those consulting roles saying you know what, I can do this. 

Q: Is there anything else you would like add?
Klippel: I think you hit a lot of the main points in terms of the success of an IRS Enrolled Agent on the platform. I would say if you're looking to go off on your own or if you're looking to just do something part time to figure out what works best for you. Taxfyle is one of the best platforms for that. So I would highly recommend it to any enrolled agent that is considering it. 

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