In the Spotlight: Stoker Tax & Accounting, LLC
Taxes. Sure as death, said Ben Franklin.
April showers may bring May flowers but not without friendly reminders — W2 and 1099 forms, et al — that April 15 is less than four months away.
No pressure. Local accountant Duane Stoker, owner of Stoker Tax & Accounting, works in a taxing profession. A primary task in his line of work is to prepare tax returns, corporate and personal, and examine financial records for hundreds of clients in Grass Lake, Jackson County, and across state lines. Apart from professionals who prepare returns from their homes Stoker has the only brick and mortar accounting firm in town.
In October he moved his business from a room at Grass Lake Chiropractic Center to his current location at 219 East Michigan Avenue. With more than 20 years of experience he wanted more exposure to draw in more clients.
“The move to our own office has given our practice more visibility,” Stoker says. “Now we have signage that allows the general public to see us everyday, which has given us more walk-in business.”.
“Public support has been great,” Stoker adds. “The support has been really good and greatly appreciated in Grass Lake and the surrounding area.”
Like other accountants Stoker started out by preparing tax returns while he was a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University, where he earned a Master of Science degree in Accounting. He says that, though they were formative years, he didn’t have a crystal ball that indicated he’d be where he is in his career today.
“I can’t say that I had a vision of where I would be back when I started out preparing taxes. I just used it as a means to pay for graduate school and it just continued to grow a little bit each year.”
Age 50, Stoker recalls his high school years when he studied Trigonometry, a prerequisite to Calculus. He says that the instructor introduced to the class accounting in addition to the regular course material.
Stoker says that prior to going into private practice earlier jobs in his field helped him to build a strong foundation in the financial aspects of local businesses and corporations. “It helped me to develop skills required to interpret financial statements and in turn explain them to users.”
But is it a bad idea to prepare your own tax returns or am I just thinking of a friendly word of caution delivered by actor Rick Moranis in a scene in Ghostbusters?
Not necessarily. Stoker has no direct competition from other accounting firms but nowadays taxpayers can prepare their own tax returns with computer programs like TurboTax and Quickbooks.
“Individuals that self prepare their own returns have a number of software packages to rely on,” he acknowledges. “But it’s important to understand what information is required and how it applies to one’s particular situation. Also, it’s important to know the requirements per the IRS code.”
In Michigan the individual income tax is 4.25 percent, “middle of the road” compared with other states. Corporate taxes amount to six percent. “Businesses are different because you have different issues,” Stoker explains. “Businesses have employees, fixed assets. There are also different business entity types which can require different types of tax returns.
“A majority of my client base is located in Michigan,” he adds, “but I do have clients that are out of state.”
The IRS and income taxes were created during the era of Prohibition, from 1919 to 1933, with the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, signed into law on the “Thirst of July.” Prior to that, taxes on alcohol funded the government but when the country went dry the Fed needed a substitute cash flow and implemented the income tax. Talk about biting off your nose to spite your face.
Congress approved the Volstead Act, the popular name for prohibition, by overriding President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. But with the passage of the Twenty First Amendment, which repealed the law, the government began to tax both income and alcohol.
Accounting is not unlike Law, Medicine, IT or other professions. Professional development in Stoker’s field requires him to renew his license every three years. Each year he earns 24 credits through continuing education, two of which credits must be in ethics. There is no additional licensing to practice out of state, he says.
A lifelong Grass Laker, Stoker and his wife, Annette, have been married for 19 years. Before and after tax season stoker enjoys hunting and belongs to a men’s golf league at Calderone Golf Club.
By now the W-2 and 1099 forms and assorted tax love letters are sliding surreptitiously into mailboxes from Portland, Maine to Portland Oregon, the first snowfall heralding financial winter sure to arrive by April.
Numbers don’t lie. You can argue opinions but you can’t argue figures. But the right type of professional, someone like Duane Stoker, possesses the ways and means to advocate on behalf of the taxpayer with the kinder, gentler IRS.
As for Benjamin Franklin, he originally wrote the aforementioned statement (see paragraph one) in a letter to a French diplomat in 1789. However, the Kite Flyer who loved roast turkey so much that he advocated for it over the bald eagle purloined the maxim from novelist Daniel Defoe, whose prose exerted more dramatic imagery: “This as certain as Death and Taxes can be more firmly believed than the Devil.”
219 E Michigan Ave