From the August 2008 Issue
To say that the Internet has greatly changed the way tax professionals work is, of course, an understatement. From online research systems, client collaboration tools, paperless capabilities and even fully online professional tax preparation suites, virtually every aspect of the profession has undergone a continuing revolution over the past two decades. Eva Rosenberg has certainly had her career transformed by these changes in technology, but in a much different and profound way. Over her career, she’s moved from running a traditional tax practice into an educational role. Known as TaxMama (www.TaxMama.com), Eva teaches the EA exam review to students across the country via Internet at www.irsexams.com, and is also an IRS-accredited provider (#36) of continuing education for EAs.
But before anyone tries to apply that old adage, “Those who can’t do, teach,” keep in mind that this TaxMama not only can do and has done, but still does professional tax compliance. Eva continues to hold her EA credential and is active in the California Society of EAs and the national society. She also provides services to a small client base, but her primary focus and goals for the future are on educating other tax pros and consumers. And just like any good mama, her alter ego TaxMama rarely lacks for having advice to give. “I prefer teaching,” Eva says, “because in the time it takes to help one client who keeps doing the same thing wrong every year, I can help 1,000 professionals learn how to solve these problems for their clients.
“And there’s just so much demand for professional tax teaching and writing work that client work often gets in the way of this other area.” Many of her students are even overseas — American ex-Pats and foreign tax professionals looking to provide services to fellow citizens in their areas who have U.S. tax obligations. The education market for professionals is booming because, despite all of the automation in professional programs and the deluge of do-it-yourself tax programs for consumers on the market, the services of a well-trained tax professional are still highly valued and in demand. It takes more than just computer proficiency to be a “well-trained tax professional” and not just a data-entry person. To reach this level, pros still need to know a thing or two about something called the tax code.
That’s where Eva steps up in the role of TaxMama where, in addition to providing education to tax pros, she is also widely called upon as an expert on taxes by Small Business TV and by the mainstream media, having been a resource in articles by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, INC., NPR, ABC News and dozens of other outlets. In addition to tax services, education and media punditry, Eva has also penned several columns and hundreds of articles on small business and personal finance, and is the author of several books, including Small Business Taxes Made Easy, which was named one of the top tax books of 2005 by Entrepreneur Magazine. Her purpose in reaching out to tax payers and business entities directly ties into her work of educating professionals: More knowledgeable tax clients are more prepared and are better able to help their professional tax advisor.
While Eva loves the writing and educational components of her career and is concentrating on building herself professionally in these areas, the life-long Southern California resident hasn’t totally been able to remove actual tax practice from her portfolio. She’s tried, having sold her practice three times over the years, but some clients cling to her expertise and friendship, while other new ones come to her by referral. “I am in the enviable position of trying not to build a client base,” she says,” so I can free up my time to write and teach.” Eva notes that she refers out at least one client a day (sometimes several) and is in the process of building a website of screened tax professionals to automate the referral process.
She maintains her professional practice, TaxAnxiety.com, Inc. (www.taxanxiety.com) in Northridge, California, with two full-time EAs, and remotely manages several instructors and technical freelancers who assist with her educational and writing offerings. Business and individual tax services now account for only about 40 percent of her revenues, while writing and teaching make up the remainder. Her tech hobbyist husband Rick builds each of their workstations and is “the expert on hardware,” while Eva is the software guru for the business, which scored a 200 on the Productivity Survey, a free technology assessment tool for tax and accounting practices (available online at www.cpatechadvisor.com/productivity).
Oddly enough, TaxMama admits she “has always hated taxes; they are confusing, irritating and annoying.” But she felt drawn to providing the services as a way of helping her clients make their way through this potential minefield. After about 30 years in the profession, she still looks at it as a temporary thing. She originally found her way into the profession while working toward her MBA in International Business; while still a student, her goal was to end up as Vice President of International Marketing for IBM or another large company. Instead, after completing her BA in accounting and her MBA, she worked as a temp at a tech company in L.A. and later for CompuTax in the service bureau days, before ending up with the large accounting firm of SD Leidesdorf in Newport Beach, Calif., which was acquired by Ernst & Ernst while she was on staff. She would soon after strike out on her own. Likewise, her current entry into the educational and writing business was somewhat by chance.
A college had approached her about offering EA exam review courses online through their institution. (She had previously set up the course for UCLA Extension in the early 1990s.) Eva lined up teachers, prospective students and course materials, but the college backed out, so Eva continued on her own.
Outside of the world of tax education, Eva is active in several business and nonprofit organizations, including the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the California Association of Enrolled Agents, which she gives credit for giving her the confidence she needed to be successful in her career. She also notes that she “used to be on the board of everything, and even started or helped friends set up the nonprofit status for a few organizations,” including an animal group for seniors and SPAWN, the Small Publishing Authors & Writers Network. Another group helped local children write their own books. Eva and her husband enjoy traveling, having recently visited Portugal, and will soon be heading to Honduras. They also like spending time camping in the local mountains. Rick was able to re-build a motor home from nothing using spare parts — an astonishing feat — so the couple will likely be on the road and in the woods in the near future. But home is also close to the wild, since the couple lives in Northridge on land graciously allowed them by local squirrels, possums and a raccoon. As for the serendipitous course of her career, she’s enjoyed it all. The most important thing she teaches her students: “Nothing’s impossible and everything is fun.”