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Shop Talk

January 29, 2011

Shop Talk: Creative Tax Planning Associates

Creative Tax Planning Associates 118 Main St., Delhi Owner: Thomas F. Kelley, certified public accountant Established: 2002 Employees: Three

Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Thomas F. Kelley, a certified public accountant based in Delhi.

How long have you lived in the area?

It's been eight years now _ we moved here permanently in 2003.

Tell me about your business:

We do tax preparation for individuals, partnerships and corporations. Along with this we work on trusts and estate taxes, bookkeeping, write-up work, financial statements, as well as payroll and sales tax preparation for businesses.

Describe a typical day in your business:

I'm not sure there is a such thing as a typical day in this business. Our year starts out with a focus on organizing our current 70 corporate and 20 partnership business clients' taxes, because those are much more time-intensive and they are due a month earlier than individual tax returns. My wife says that tax time is all year for my business because after the tax deadlines, there are individuals and businesses that have an extension on their tax due date; there is tax planning for the coming year; payroll and quarterly tax work; continuing education training; and maintaining relationships with our clients.

How did you get started in this line of work?

In college I was very good at accounting; it came very easily, and I liked it. I began work with the largest accounting firm in the world and learned a great deal there. In the midst of this corporate life, friends would ask me for help with their individual income taxes. Word spread and I developed a side business while staying with the corporation until I reached a point where I was doing enough tax work after hours that I decided to try a venture on my own.

Where do you see this business in five years?

Tax preparation work is technologically fairly well advanced and I see more and more work being done over the Internet. We have clients from all over the country and I foresee that we will become even more global. In five years I would hope that we are still quite small so we can continue to offer our personalized service. This is a business that involves a lot of trust in order for us to give the best possible service.

Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:

There is one particularly memorable moment, a day that set this business in motion. I was still working for the accounting corporation when I spotted miswording on one of our client's contracts. What I discovered saved the client from a staggering financial loss but there was no reaction from client or corporation. After the day's work, I met with one of my own tax clients and told her about how I was able to save her $500 on her return. She was overjoyed and threw her arms around me, thanking me _ she was so happy.

This was the moment where I decided that the greatest joy and satisfaction I could get from my work was not with the mega corporation but working in my own firm with individuals and their businesses.

What have you learned from your work?

I have learned how important it is to treat people's financial needs with respect. Many people are very nervous about their money, so I have learned to convey how important their finances are to me as well. In some ways it is similar to the trust you might put in a doctor _ it is very personal and the business is based on trust and integrity. I have learned to listen carefully and know the importance of strong relationships.

What is the most challenging part of what you do?

A large amount of Creative Tax Planning's work is done over the Internet, and we are vigilant with facing the challenge of making sure that information sent to our clients does not get "lost in the translation." There is a great deal of emphasis we put on trying to make our planning clear to the clients so that they have an informed understanding of what is going on.

The most enjoyable?

Interacting with clients, the whole human aspect of this business. I like talking with people and building relationships _ it is a real joy.

What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?

The advantages are living up here! There are fewer pressures than in the city. The drawbacks are that the economy in this region is less vibrant than the cities', and we have adjusted our rates to fit this area. With our clients in the city and elsewhere, I do not get to meet with them face-to-face as often, but this is a small drawback compared to the joy of being able to live here.

How do you define success for your business?

This business has allowed my family and I to relocate to this beautiful area that we really like into a community with many different people. Success in this line of work is returning customers and saving them money.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

Our focus on personalized service with clients that trust our professionalism. Currently there are some tax services that collect a client's information and send the data to India where it is processed and sent back completed. The tax person may have never even personally reviewed any of the information and they give the impression of having done the work themselves. Creative Tax Planning could not function this way because we believe that financial matters must be handled on a personal level with a relationship of trust.

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

Become aware of the amount of work involved _ it's huge. There is an awfully huge amount of regulations to becoming a CPA, even more than when I got my license. I am not sure that someone with the talent and abilities to become a CPA in this day and age should necessarily become one without thorough knowledge of the business and a passion for doing it. My advice is for them to work with a CPA as an intern before committing the financial resources to that goal.

Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or e-mail

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