BlockStar: Kwame Matthews is a team leader and H&R Block tax expert
Kwame Matthews was outside his New York office one weekday this summer, when a confused client approached him.
“Taxes already? The office is already open?” she asked Matthews.
Matthews, a senior tax specialist at a Manhattan H&R Block office, told her, “Taxes are every single day.”
The seasons of the tax office
Matthews and his team of tax professionals work year-round at H&R Block tax offices. The hustle of the office and serving clients never stops.
“I don’t see the deadline as an end to our work. But we do slow down in May and June to get rested up and recharge,” said Matthews, who can work 11 hours in a typical day in season.
But starting in July, he starts gearing up for tax season with a focus on continuing education requirements for himself and his team of tax pros. To be re-hired, H&R tax professionals must complete at least 18 hours of continuing education annually.
By fall, the tax office is busy studying tax law changes and completing an additional 10 to 20 hours of training on H&R Block skill development and processes. Then is the extension deadline, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“Ten days after Christmas we are walking in the door for tax season,” said Matthews. “There is no stopping for our tax offices.”
Advice to get clients ready for tax season
But it’s not just those working as tax preparers who need to think about taxes as an everyday thing. Matthews encourages taxpayers to get prepared for the tax season by thinking about recent life changes and those that are on the horizon.
“Ask your tax professional how the new tax law is going to affect you,” Matthews said. “The new tax law is going to affect everybody. Even in the last month of the year, you may want to make some W-4 changes to those last paychecks.”
Matthews doesn’t stop there. He advises clients to consider life changes like shifting careers, retiring, or anything else happening in life.
“The little things you may not think of as tax events do impact taxes. Getting married, having a kid, retiring, getting a new job, changing careers, changing income all that stuff melds into taxes,” said Matthews.
Working for H&R Block
Matthews first got to know his way around a tax office more than 12 years ago. But he wasn’t working for H&R Block, his mom was. A few years later, during his senior year of college, Matthews started answering the phones and scheduling clients in the office. Nine years later, he oversees a group of tax professionals, is responsible for staffing and client care at two offices and is an expert at taxes and taking care of people.
After college graduation, Matthews stayed with H&R Block. He liked the office atmosphere and the people.
“After my third year as a receptionist, my district manager, Lynette Deiss said, ‘Hey, you know, you’re a great client service professional. You actually ran the office last year. Are you interested in becoming an office manager?’” recalled Matthews.
He accepted the challenge. He was already taking the income tax course with the goal of transitioning to a tax professional.
Matthews credits good people skills for his success leading tax professionals.
“If you don’t have good people skills, working for H&R Block in a tax office wouldn’t be a good job for you,” Matthews said.
He describes his skill as the ability to apply finesse to working with tax professionals and with clients.
Matthews is passionate about supporting his team of tax professionals.
“I give them kudos, if I hear a good story or if I get good feedback from a client. If I see an improvement in them, if they added tax certification, or are seeing new clients, I congratulate them,” said Matthews.
He also doesn’t miss acknowledging their life accomplishments from graduations to new family members.
He describes his team as strong and supportive. For example, last tax season, one of his tax professionals got sick and was unable to work for a few weeks.
“It was kind of hectic, but I supported her and our team supported her through her illness. We stepped in and worked her clients into the schedules of other tax professionals,” Matthews said. “She wanted her clients taken care of and we were able to do that.”
He credits the cohesiveness and strength of his team in helping him improve his management style too.
To follow Matthews’ advice and learn about the impact of tax reform, check out H&R Block’s tax refund and tax reform calculator to help understand the specific impact tax reform has on a personal tax situation.
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