Why Being a Virtual Tax Expert Wasn't for Me

Craig W. Smalley, EA
Founder/CEO
CWSEAPA LLP
Columnist
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I am always looking for different streams of revenue, if I were to stick to the usual script of a tax accountant, I wouldn’t eat in July. So when I came across Intuit’s Virtual Tax Expert Network, I was intrigued.

I recently saw an ad that Intuit was looking to hire enrolled agents, CPAs, and practicing attorneys to join its virtual tax expert team on a seasonal basis. These virtual tax experts will help TurboTax customers with tax advice, return preparation, and tax calculations via a live video platform.

I initially became interested because I work all the time anyway and what is another 20 hours a week in the grand scheme of things? So, I sent an email inquiry to Intuit.

The representative from Intuit was interested in interviewing me first, but I didn’t want to waste my time with that until I knew how much I was being compensated. I told him about my professional experience and finally just asked him to Google my name.

I can assure you that I am not full of myself. I am the most humble person you will ever meet. My wife sits in on every appointment I have because I am not comfortable talking myself up. In this case, my wife told me to say that.

In 24 years, my fee to do a tax return is about triple of what most accountants charge. The reason for that is I am licensed, have a Master’s degree and after speaking with me, most clients don’t mind the fee. I get very few people who push back. 

I presumed the Intuit representative Googled my name because about 20 minutes later, he emailed me back and asked what state I live in. I told him Florida. He came back with an offer that made me laugh. 

He said that the compensation was $17 an hour and $22 an hour if I had to prepare a tax return. Then at the end of tax season I would get a $3,000 bonus if I worked more than 20 hours a week. I sent an email back, again stating my experience and credentials and he responded that compensation was based on where you live.

Frankly, I was a bit offended and carefully constructed my response. I told him that my hourly rate was $225 an hour. I then mentioned my range of fees for doing tax returns and finished by saying even with your bonus, I would make in four months with you what I make in less than a week during tax season.

The point is that it seems this program Intuit is starting is more for those with no experience or no client base. I had 20 clients my first tax season out of college, so I inquired what H&R Block would pay.

At the time, the company paid minimum wage and gave you a five percent bonus at the end of tax season based on what you produced. That was too low for me then, so you can imagine why I thought Intuit’s offer was insulting.

In conclusion, if you are just starting out, want to gain some experience, or you just don’t value your time, then this program is for you. For me, it was a hard pass. 

Editor’s note: This post, as with all of our content, is meant to spark conversation as AccountingWEB is a community of professionals. Your feedback is most welcome.

About Craig W. Smalley, EA

Craig Smalley

Craig W. Smalley, MST, EA, has been in practice for almost 23 years. He has been admitted to practice before the IRS as an enrolled agent and has a master's in taxation. He is well-versed in US tax law and US Tax Court cases. He specializes in taxation, entity structuring and restructuring, corporations, partnerships, and individual taxation, as well as representation before the IRS regarding negotiations, audits, and appeals. In his many years of practice, he has been exposed to a variety of businesses and has an excellent knowledge of most industries. He is the CEO and co-founder of CWSEAPA PLLC and Tax Crisis Center LLC; both business have locations in Florida, Delaware, and Nevada. Craig is the current Google small business accounting advisor for the Google Small Business Community. He is a contributor to AccountingWEB and Accounting Today, and has had 12 books published on various topics in taxation. His articles have also been featured in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, and several other newspapers, periodicals, and magazines. He has been interviewed and been a featured guest on many radio shows and podcasts. Finally, he is the co-host of Tax Avoidance is Legal, which is a nationally broadcast weekly Internet radio show.

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Oct 18th 2017 19:46

Excellent discussion of Intuit's virtual tax expert program. I've been tempted to check them out, but reviews like yours convince me otherwise. The program might actually make sense for a retired practitioner who wanted to keep some skills up to date.
I'm sure Turbo is aware that there are platforms actually offering free tax prep. What they don't tell the customer is that their name becomes part of lists sold everywhere.
Nowhere in any of the DIY tax platforms is the concept of tax planning even remotely broached. Guess it's true that you get what you pay for.

Best Regards,

Ray Wasser CPA

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Oct 23rd 2017 17:58

So basically, a waste of time. Its interesting that Intuit charges a large fee for its tax preparation software, but wants to pay pennies on the dollar in having licensed, certified tax professionals help taxpayers. I guess if they contact me, I'll be doing the same thing....laughing at their compensation structure.

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By bltaxes
Oct 23rd 2017 19:28

Agreed compensation is low. However, it is an option for a retired tax person to keep skills current and provide help to society at large. If Intuit makes some margin, so be it. Intuit's only obligation is to set a price that gives them enough resources to satisfy their demand. No billing hassles, nobody coming after your personal assets, no commute. Some interaction with clients... Nothing is perfect.

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