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The Neighborhood Accountant

A Productivity in Practice Feature

From the Oct. 2007 Issue

When Tim Miller walks home from work in the evening, he can look up into the
windows of artists’ lofts on the streets around his Portland, Oregon office
and nearby home. And the air starts to fill with eclectic grooves, the sounds
of free spirited artists and the aromas of restaurants drawing in their evening
catch. This collective creative energy, wafting through Portland’s Mississippi
neighborhood, is part of what drew Tim from the East Coast. And its ever-changing
artistic and cultural diversity is what keeps him there, for both personal and
professional reasons.

This enclave of entrepreneurial Bohemians and more traditional businesses
turn to Tim for his tax and accounting expertise. But before you picture a suited
man in the midst of hip urbanites, please understand that he is a part of this
community, too… even if his primary art may be that of a tax professional
with a law degree. For it is through these services that his practice helps
clients be more successful at developing their own crafts, whether oil on canvas,
sculpture, music, culinary or retail in nature. Not that he is lacking in his
own creative artistic abilities, however. Tim and his girlfriend, Anjali LeBoeuf,
study oil painting under the tutelage of their “maestro,” nationally
renowned artist Alexander Rokoff (,
who teaches “a classic Rembrandt style of painting that is subdued yet
strikingly beautiful.” Tim also studies acrylic painting under Daniel
Work and participates in multiple ecstatic dance groups.

an office on the banks of the Willamette River, the practice Tim started in
2000 has developed a core constituency of artists, alternative businesses and
individuals, and other creative types who rely on Affiliated Tax Pros (
and its staff of similarly minded professionals for tax compliance, business
consultation, entity formation and real estate services. Tim is a J.D. (Juris
Doctor), a Licensed Tax Consultant and an Enrolled Agent (EA). Other professionals
in the practice include business partner and office manager Marian Slakie, licensed
tax preparer Jill Ciolli, CPA Vera Jagendorf, and Anjali, who specializes in
real estate investing and mortgages.

But how and why did this Midwestern boy turned East Coast law student become
a tax and accounting practitioner on the West Coast? Certainly not through intent,
and, even more curiously, by way of the IRS. After earning a B.S. at the University
of Indiana and completing legal studies at the D.C. Law School in Washington,
D.C., wanderlust led Tim through Minnesota, Virginia, South America and eventually
to Oregon, where he freelanced as a legal researcher for immigration attorneys
and then joined the IRS where he taught tax law internally for the agency. Tim
received his EA credential while working for the IRS and, with his friends in
the creative community frequently asking for assistance with their tax issues,
he realized there was an opportunity to develop a practice by helping these
non-traditional businesses.

“Artists and musicians have the same compliance issues that other businesses
have, but their work is often so engrossing that they can’t find the time
to properly manage their finances,” Tim says. “We help them take
care of the business aspects of their art so that they can concentrate on their
creative passions.” His services have no doubt helped the March Fourth
Marching Band (,
which is embarking on a national tour this fall. This motley troupe of about
25 musicians and performers includes a full horn section, a bass guitarist,
stilt walkers, fire performers and dancers. Another client, Vermilion Films
recently won the Audience Award at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival for its new
movie, “Hear and Now.”

Tim relied only on word-of-mouth marketing, and the need for his services
was quickly apparent as the practice has grown to serve more than 400 individual
and business clients. Tim says that one of the most beneficial services the
practice offers new clients is a Business 101 consultation. “We have the
best new business startup program in Portland because we guide clients through
everything they need to know,” he said. “People starting up a new
business come in, and we help them establish the appropriate entity, obtain
EINs and all of their licenses, and go over all of the legal requirements they
face, including payroll compliance and bookkeeping issues.”

“Oregon is a great state for small business startups because the various
state and local fees are low and the processes are fast, which makes it really
easy to get a business off the ground quickly.” The state has no sales
tax, which certainly simplifies that process, and it also offers online services
that help streamline other business functions.

Affiliated Tax Pros has also embraced technology internally to enhance client
service, especially virtual collaboration and the move toward a paperless process.
This has been a benefit not only in terms of increasing efficiency, but is also
more environmentally friendly, an aspect greatly appreciated by clients (and
potential clients) in the Pacific Northwest.

The firm earned an “about average” score of 150 on the Productivity
Survey, which is sure to go up as they continue to employ integrated applications
in their practice. The Productivity Survey is a free online tool that helps
tax and accounting practices assess their use of technology and workflow processes
and provides actionable recommendations for improvement. The survey is located

“We’re always looking for ways to be more productive in our business,
but we’re also concerned about our effects on the environment,”
Tim said. “It was obvious to me that we could be more green by not using
tons and tons of paper, so we took a more technological approach, using high-speed
scanners and using electronic media and communication whenever possible.”
Technology also plays an integral role in keeping up with remote clients in
California and Hawaii, whom Tim took over from a retiring practitioner. Tim
hopes that one day the firm’s growth will allow for a satellite office
on the beach in Maui — “an accounting resort,” if you will.

Although he has yet to make it to Hawaii, Tim likes to spend weekends on the
coast crabbing with friends, sailing on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers,
and cooking for dinner parties, a passion that occasionally leads him and friends
out on expeditions for wild culinary mushrooms. In addition to a backyard garden
at home, he and his coworker friends keep potted herb gardens at their office
space, which also includes a full kitchen and a barbeque on their deck over
the Willamette River. The deck also has a sculpted steel hanging basket fire
pit created by an artist in the building.

Tim rents an art studio at the nearby Falcon Art Community (,
which is available to his staff. At Affiliated Tax Pros, creative exploration
is encouraged. The office closes for a week of summer vacation in August every
year so that they can go to Burning Man (,
an annual immersion-based community-building and creativity experience in the
Nevada desert that now draws close to 40,000 people. Just prior to this vacation,
the practice recently hosted its annual client appreciation party, which drew
200 to 300 people to its deck area, with live music from the March Fourth Marching
Band and Solovox (,
“a one man, electronica-funk-groove-keyboard” artist who is also
a client. The neighborhood’s mascot, Napoleon, a wild urban rooster, provided

In an era when many cities are increasingly sprawling outward resulting in
less interpersonal relationships, Tim notes that his home is different. “Portland
is made up of a lot of local and very different communities, so residents can
pick their own town within the city, and each of these neighborhoods has a unique
flavor. Most people who live here are friends, and our businesses are interdependent.
We eat, listen to music, dance and drink together, and celebrate life.”

So it seems that Tim has found much more than his professional niche in Portland;
he has found a home in the city’s Mississippi neighborhood that feeds
his creative needs while also enabling him to help those around him.