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Agreeable tax lady

The Baltimore Sun

Sue Ryan

Tax professional

H&R; Block, Glen Burnie

Salary --$62,000

Age --48

Years on the job --24

How she got started --Ryan worked the night shift as a cook in a 24-hour restaurant when she decided to earn extra money by working at H&R; Block during tax season. To get the job, she had to complete a training class offered by H&R; Block. She continued to work tax seasons up until 1993, when she switched to full-time employment with the company. She said it was a good fit. "I like numbers and I've always liked working with the public."

Typical day --During tax season she works from about 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday preparing taxes. She books clients for one-hour sessions and says about 75 percent of her business is repeat customers. She also takes walk-ins and some people will drop taxes off for her to complete. While she's preparing taxes for clients, questions about retirement savings, new job implications and college savings routinely come up.

After April, most of her time is spent preparing for the next tax season, filing quarterly taxes, completing tax extensions and setting up training classes. Ryan is a tax training school instructor for H&R; Block, so during much of August and September her time is spent teaching and updating other tax professionals.

Certification --Ryan is a tax professional and not an enrolled agent or a certified public accountant. If an audit before the Internal Revenue Service is required, Ryan can explain the information on the return. However, she cannot represent the taxpayer before the IRS. Annual training classes are required for H&R; Block employees. Rehires must complete 24 hours of training, and new employees are required to take 30 hours in courses for certification.

Electronic returns --When Ryan first started, everything was done by hand with a pencil and calculator. Now everything is computerized and electronic returns are encouraged and routinely used. However, there are still some people who file by mail. "Like anything that's new, it was a little scary and things didn't always work out. But it improves every year. Electronic filing is a lot easier and helps us get the returns processed faster."

Do-it-yourself --A lot of people are using software - including one offered by H&R; Block - that makes it easy to prepare taxes at home. Although Ryan says she thinks it has taken away some business, she said people who are not familiar with tax laws will ask for help on a specific form or to check their work. "They want the peace of mind that a professional is doing it."

Best advice --Keep track of all deductions no matter how trivial. And save for retirement, says Ryan.

Fees --H&R; Block charges by the complexity of the return. A simple tax return involving one W2 would start at about $80 and go up from there. During tax season, Ryan is paid on commission but the rest of the year she earns an hourly wage.

Nothing boring about it --Ryan says she loves her work and finds taxes interesting, "With taxes, something is always changing."

The good --Helping people. Ryan says people come in and she can tell they are upset and worried. She finds satisfaction in advising them. Even if money is owed, Ryan said her job is to get them back on track and plan for next year. "They like it because I make it seem so easy versus them trying to figure it out."

The bad --When the Internal Revenue Service makes changes to the tax law that are not in the taxpayers' favor.

Philosophy on the job --"I'm here for the client."

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest

Special to The Sun

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