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#1
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An acquaintance of mine shared that they have a son in his early 20s who is bright but has not yet found a direction, professionally speaking.

“Would you recommend himdoing taxes?” was the question she asked.

I paused and I’m embarrassed to admit that I did not have a ready answer. Do you think this profession has another 10, 20, 30 years ahead? Will it continue to be a reliable avenue to a middle class life for future accountants and preparers, in your opinion?
 

#2
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I see a strong likelihood of the profession continuing. Individuals do not like to manage their own money, and as long as the US tax system continues to funnel money throughout the economy, I don’t see tax preparation going away. At least not for complex situations, which most of the people on this forum deal with on a daily basis.

But how many of us could also transition to accounting positions if needed? For someone who is in a straight 1040 shop, not an easy transition, but anyone who deals with businesses would likely be able to make the transition I would think.
 

#3
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I don't see it going away any time soon. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the IRS created a portal where you log into your account each year, look at the income from W-2s and 1099s, then see a preliminary return pop up. You'll be able to edit the address, bank account information, dependents, and a few other items , then press "Ok" to have it filed. No preparer needed.

That's not our bread and butter so I don't see our tax business being in dire jeopardy in the next 20 years. The tax-chain preparers might in more trouble.
 

#4
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Ultimately the kid will need to play to his strengths and passions if he wants to be successful and happy.

That's going to require more information than you shared in the OP.

The value add tax side will probably be fine. TurboTax et al will always control the commodity type, simple tax returns.

I've always shared with anyone who will listen -- there's a tremendous under supply of skilled trades in this country currently. College is pushed as the only path to success and that's partially to blame here. It's insane that kids are able to take out $100k of debt to major in liberal arts studies when they could have gotten that same education with self-determination and a library card.

Most small business plumbers, electricians, etc are older and retiring soon. Anyone who doesn't want to drop $100k on education and who has an aptitude for business, customer service, and is not afraid to get dirty could do very well for themselves, relatively speaking, going that route.

Start as an apprentice as $15-20/hour, within 10 years you're a master at your trade and hang your own shingle. No college debt along the way. Probably savings if you start at age 18 and live with the rents for the first few years.
 

#5
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ManVsTax wrote:Ultimately the kid will need to play to his strengths and passions if he wants to be successful and happy.

That's going to require more information than you shared in the OP.

The value add tax side will probably be fine. TurboTax et al will always control the commodity type, simple tax returns.

I've always shared with anyone who will listen -- there's a tremendous under supply of skilled trades in this country currently. College is pushed as the only path to success and that's partially to blame here. It's insane that kids are able to take out $100k of debt to major in liberal arts studies when they could have gotten that same education with self-determination and a library card.

Most small business plumbers, electricians, etc are older and retiring soon. Anyone who doesn't want to drop $100k on education and who has an aptitude for business, customer service, and is not afraid to get dirty could do very well for themselves, relatively speaking, going that route.

Start as an apprentice as $15-20/hour, within 10 years you're a master at your trade and hang your own shingle. No college debt along the way. Probably savings if you start at age 18 and live with the rents for the first few years.


This is so spot-on. We live in a school district where if a kid doesn't go to college, he's viewed as a failure, and that's a shame. I have a business client who's a steel fabricator back where I grew up (about 85 miles north of here), and when I was up there last summer we walked around the new addition, and met a couple of the kids working there (one 20, one 17). Both hard workers, like their jobs, and care about doing a good job. They view the machines they work with as theirs, so they take ownership of their work. These kids are learning on the job, getting a steady paycheck, and don't have any student debt. The manager of the facility loves them and wants to hire more kids from the career center like them when work increases.
 

#6
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OP, the changing world we live in means that the skills needed to be a successful tax preparer are constantly evolving. If nothing else, I would argue that a background in accounting will serve him or her well no matter where the world takes us. 1040-only prep, less so. That said, I would encourage anyone in our business to be conservative with our finances to make any potential pivot or early retirement less financially ruinous. That advice would go for a lot of careers, actually.

ManVsTax wrote:I've always shared with anyone who will listen -- there's a tremendous under supply of skilled trades in this country currently. College is pushed as the only path to success and that's partially to blame here.


I feel that this view is largely outdated. The economic changes of the 1980s led to a prevailing belief in 1990s education that the only way for long-term "success" in adulthood was a college degree. I was a student of that time in an admittedly largely-white, middle class school district and my school was 100% in that mindset. Computers and white-collar work were the future, so they cut shop classes and replaced them with additional AP courses while I was in high school. These days, they've walked back some of their focus, offering more apprenticeship opportunities and classes in things like construction. I now live in a different school district, and they have been very aggressive in providing an education to all according to their abilities to prepare them for adulthood. So, I would agree that in the past, 4-year college was taught as the only way to success, but that as a whole education has been evolving away from that view.

Based on what your definition of "success" is, those promoting college really weren't as wrong as they might seem. I agree that they were wrong to downplay the trades, and I even felt as a high school student that my school's decision to close down the shop was foolish. Before the '08 recession a lot of businesses were hunting white collar workers were definitely preferring a 4 year college degree in their requirements -- and it didn't matter what your college degree was in. Partly it was a class issue, but partly it was because there weren't college classes for the new jobs. Only after a lot of people went back to (or stayed longer at) college in the recession has the sparkle of a 4 year degree been tarnished a bit, although it still doesn't hurt to have a degree in the job market.

Ultimately the kid will need to play to his strengths and passions if he wants to be successful and happy.


This I agree with 100%.
 

#7
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missingdonut wrote:I feel that this view is largely outdated.


All any of us can do is give anecdotal evidence, which will vary based on age and geographical area of the country.

I've met way too many college grads with "careers" in the food service industry and retail to believe that the view is anywhere near outdated. Your mileage may vary...
 

#8
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Someone mentioned students taking out $100k in student loans for a liberal arts degree. I wholeheartedly agree it is asinine that so many "useless" degrees allow someone to take out loans they will deeply struggle to repay. I walked away from college with a BS and MS in Accounting and $80k of debt, but I am making six figures, at least, and have the ability to pay my obligations.

I agree there is HUGE opportunity within trades without having to go to college and rack up tens or hundreds of thousands in debt. Follow Mike Rowe, pay attention to the trade industries, and you realize it is all very real. I have worked with plumbers, electricians, welders, etc., that earn VERY nice livings, even if their work is not exactly glamorous. And you know what? They typically really enjoy their work, certainly relative to the average college graduate working a job they hate.

As to tax prep, unless something dramatically changes with our tax code, there will always be lucrative work for the more complex matters. Wealthier individuals and/or those that are self-employed typically do not want anything to do with preparing their taxes. I think it is critical for accountants, CPAs, etc., to remain well rounded by also remaining involved in businesses (controllership, advisory) or having other service offerings, such as financial and investment advisory at individual level. Simple 1040s will not be an avenue to earn a decent living, IMO, because the market is already flooded with consumer software and retail tax prep offices that cater to these very basic returns. I also agree the IRS will eventually have a portal to file the average 1040 and plenty of states will likely adopt such technology. My state already allows quite a few forms to be filed through their portal, though a lot of people are not comfortable doing anything that involves taxation.
 

#9
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ManVsTax wrote:All any of us can do is give anecdotal evidence, which will vary based on age and geographical area of the country.


Of course some places of the country are less current in their education focus and I wouldn't claim otherwise. But I can say that your statement of "College is pushed as the only path to success" is false just with just one piece of anecdotal evidence. If you don't want anecdotal evidence, I would suggest talking with real K-12 educators and guidance counselors about how education curricula and focus has changed over the years.

One thing you also need to be aware of is that it takes a long time between implementing a revised curriculum and actually seeing results. You have to implement changes in curricula at the lower school levels before they carry into high school years. And then it's only good for the students who grew up under that; it won't do anything for those who have already graduated. Remember all that uproar about common core math six or seven years ago that seems to have been largely forgotten? Those students haven't even finished high school yet!

I've met way too many college grads with "careers" in the food service industry and retail to believe that the view is anywhere near outdated. Your mileage may vary...


I used to teach a Accounting 101 type class for the culinary arts department of the local community college. While we did basic accounting, we had a special focus on reading and interpreting financial statements and the tax responsibilities of business owners, among other things.

Honestly, I'm very happy to find out that my former students got a college degree and have a career in the food service industry.
 

#10
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There is still very much so a belief that a college degree is required for success, or to demonstrate competency and drive. Look at how many businesses seeking admin and labor positions want the candidates to have a four year degree, if not a masters! It is ridiculous. I get the logic, but the business world has not begun the shift that has started in the K-12 environment. Yes, there is SOME shift, but it is not yet major or widespread--my wife is a high school math teacher and they continue to not offer shop classes, for example. Everything is university oriented, at least for the students WILL actually move onto attending a university. Counselors pay suggest trades, but honestly they still very heavily push the university path...and this is in a school where less than half of the students actually move onto higher education or any sort of trade training.
 

#11
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missingdonut wrote:But I can say that your statement of "College is pushed as the only path to success" is false just with just one piece of anecdotal evidence. If you don't want anecdotal evidence, I would suggest talking with real K-12 educators and guidance counselors about how education curricula and focus has changed over the years.


I served on the local school board for some time and will disagree that MvT's statement is false. That said, school districts are free to implement their own vision and curriculum. So, in WA state for example, there's the possibility for 295 different ways to approach and implement this message. I discussed this dynamic with other school board members across our state and found the same dynamics to exist.
IMO, the biggest barrier is that all educators are college graduates and unwilling or unable to well articulate a different path to success despite administration or board level direction. The "get into college or you fail" culture is alive and well in primary/secondary education. I don't see that changing soon.
~Captcook
 

#12
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CaptCook wrote:I served on the local school board for some time and will disagree that MvT's statement is false.


All that it takes for MvT's statement to be false is for there to be one contrary school district that doesn't do what he claims. It's so ridiculously broad to make the statement nonsensical on its face, even if it represents a view that may seem appealing to others. Maybe I'm just lucky that the school districts in my life have endeavored to stay modern, and certainly it is unfortunate that you live in school districts that seem to be staying behind the times, and it's even more unfortunate for your children.

It's amazing how long bad theories take to fully stamp out. We have this in the business world, too. There are still companies that have stack ranking, annual performance reviews, top-down leadership, limiting focus to the bottom line one month or quarter at a time, motivating staff only by money, and forcing knowledge workers to spend too much time a week at work. Even though we know that they really don't work, we still keep doing them because people get stuck in a rut and resist change.
 

#13
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missingdonut wrote:All that it takes for MvT's statement to be false is for there to be one contrary school district that doesn't do what he claims. It's so ridiculously broad to make the statement nonsensical on its face, even if it represents a view that may seem appealing to others.


I guess we could have an interesting discussion of how broad the "college is the only path to success" approach is out there, but you seem to be stuck on a semantic interpretation of the statement, which pretty much sinks that discussion.

If there are only 30% of districts in our country that push this approach, it's too many. It's going to take a very mature 18yo, to overcome having experienced 4yrs of messaging that you've failed because a path to a university is not in your future.

That's not the preparation for success any secondary education system should tolerate.
~Captcook
 

#14
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When someone claims, as a matter of fact, that "college is pushed as the only path to success" then the statement is either right or wrong. It's not a matter of semantics. Of course there are some school districts where this view is pushed -- I never claimed otherwise -- but it is simply untrue to state outright that this is education in 2021. I would agree 100% that any school board allowing this mentality to exist is doing their students a disservice.

If I had to hazard a guess, I would imagine that a higher median income of the school district would tend to correlate to a higher prevalence of a pushing students to college, while lower income school districts would focus more on getting a diploma and technical or community colleges. It would also make sense to me that as a group, members of this forum would be more likely to live in higher income school districts and that this sort of perceived attitude would be overly represented here.
 

#15
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When someone tells you "XYZ donuts in Donutland, WI have the best donuts!", do you interpret their statement as:

"XYZ donuts in Donutland, WI have the absolute best donuts, not just on planet Earth, but the whole universe! This is an incontrovertible, objective fact. These donuts are in the 100% percentile."

or:

"In my own necessarily limited life experience, I have found that XYZ donuts in Donutland, WI to have the best donuts!"
 

#16
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As a practical matter, the average school has employees/teachers who all went to college. I highly doubt any of them would offer to their students the idea that they can have a successful working career without going to college, because their own experience required college. Maybe the shop teacher can comment on “shop” careers, but I don’t see much outside of that. I don’t know any teachers who hang out with auto mechanics and construction workers, so they have no (or a limited) idea what a tradesperson can earn ...and they have zero input on job satisfaction.

Unfortunately, a huge portion of education on such matters happens outside the classroom...either negatively or positively.
 

#17
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As distressing as it is to see my initial query as to the future of the profession go sideways, I feel obligated to offer my opinion on the whole white collar vs. blue collar debate.

First, I acknowledge that there is significant upside to tradesmen who go out on their own and hang a shingle. Plumbers have a captured market not unlike physicians, and that’s impressive.

However, let’s talk about the “downside.”

Allow me to give you an example of a plumber-pipefitter I was acquainted with. PP worked a union job at a local industrial plant—the kind of “good” job that you needed to be born into a certain, albeit blue collar, social network to even be aware that there was an opening. The kind of cradle-to-the-grave job plumbers salivate over.

This PP had the misfortune of opening up the wrong pipe and having a torrent of hydrochloric acid engulf him. I can’t even imagine what the paramedics found—they are probably still in therapy for that.

Every trade has their own example of these catastrophic accidents. Look up industrial arc flash fatality surveillance footage. Wood worker amputations. While these are all gruesome in their own right, the most common career-ending accidents likely involve a 12-foot ladder, the same as you’d find at Home Depot.

These are the lucky ones.

Imagine spending your best years forced to expose yourself to solvents, dust, whatever chemicals our building suppliers are cramming into their product for their own expediency. Imagine a scenario where you’ve been in your trade, being exposed to these teratogens for decades, but don’t own your own firm. Uh-oh. I imagine that is going to be a rough transition as still a fairly youngish old person in their 40s/50s with COPD, intractable asthma, organic brain syndrome, and other neurological damage. Will you retrain in a less physically demanding line of work? Will you go on disability? Or will you keep pressing on as your line of work slowly kills you?

I would much rather be an anxious white collar worker than battle the uncertainty that a pipe will burst and instantaneously melt half my body, and—if it doesn’t—I’ll be in the hospital with chronic health issues for the latter half of my life.

Also, this garbage about how sitting is the silent killer doesn’t seem to take into account that professions that require constant standing and moving create other issues such as arthritis and joint problems, and those—unlike the problem of sitting—are irrefutably related to the activity in question.

In a word, there is tremendous value and dignity in the trades, but I wouldn’t recommend them to my own children for this reason. I certainly wouldn’t call them an apples-to-apples alternative to professional services work.
 

#18
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That’s a long post from quietAccountant1 (not a knock, I was amused because of the username) - arguably the world needs plumbers and pipe fitters (certainly physicians) more than it needs tax accountants. My days don’t often end with me thinking I really “helped” anyone, or thinking that I helped make / create something beautiful (to anyone other than tax accountants).

Which leaves us in the unfortunate (or fortunate) position of finding there is no “right” (at least universally right) answer. The ability to choose makes us human... it’s nice to know (all) the options before choosing , ideally kids would have the fortune of knowing what’s available...before making career choices...or wasting 10s (100s?) of thousands of dollars on worthless higher education ...

And if the goal is just to work hard and make a lot of money, tax accounting (imo) will remain viable for decades.
 

#19
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ManVsTax wrote:When someone tells you "XYZ donuts in Donutland, WI have the best donuts!", do you interpret their statement as: [...]


I view advertising as paid lying, which is quite different from how I view posts on a forum of tax professionals. Is that a mistake?

HenryDavid wrote:Which leaves us in the unfortunate (or fortunate) position of finding there is no “right” (at least universally right) answer. The ability to choose makes us human... it’s nice to know (all) the options before choosing , ideally kids would have the fortune of knowing what’s available...before making career choices...or wasting 10s (100s?) of thousands of dollars on worthless higher education ...


Pretty much this. For the students with the skills and aptitudes to do the trades, it is important to ensure that those students have a baseline education and leave high school with a outline toward those goals. It may require one or two years at a community or technical college but putting them in the pipeline (pun not intended) will do what's best for them and for society as a whole. Of course there are students with the skills and aptitudes for the bachelor's degree track, and it's important to ensure that their education prepares them for it so that they can succeed later in life, too.

quietAccountant1 wrote:I would much rather be an anxious white collar worker than battle the uncertainty that a pipe will burst and instantaneously melt half my body, and—if it doesn’t—I’ll be in the hospital with chronic health issues for the latter half of my life.


I don't disagree. Safety is an evolving practice, and it's important that safety protocols are constantly improved and respected.
 


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