In 1973, an Orders Clerk with the 130th Station Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany, broke the cardinal rule of serving in the Army – he volunteered. This landed him in a two-week army course to learn how to prepare tax returns. Forty years later, Ben Tallman and his family operate a thriving tax preparation business in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I guess you would refer to our business as a ‘Mom & Pop’ operation,” Tallman says. “My wife manages all the administrative work and I handle the tax preparation. We have a residential office that services over 700 tax returns each year. We handle whatever comes our way – exempt-organizations, corporations, trusts, estates, partnerships, homeowners associations, rentals, small businesses, non-residents, foreign returns, individuals, consultations, and representation work.”
“Drake has been instrumental in the growth and success of our business,” he asserts. “The wide variety of returns they offer and the coordination of multi-state filings continues to ensure accurate and credible tax returns for the clients who have placed their trust in us. In addition, the knowledge of the support staff and the free web site are only superseded by the fastest telephone response time in the industry.”
When he left the Army in 1974, Tallman took the US Civil Service Exam, and took a position a year later as an IRS Auditor. He later worked as a Mortgage Underwriter for the Veterans Administration, helping Vietnam-era veterans make use of their GI Bill housing benefits. Beginning in 1977, he was preparing tax returns on the side for about 30 people. By the time he retired from government service in 2002, he had more than 600 clients, and Tallman’s Tax Service was in full operation.
Active in his community, he stays involved with Atlanta Community Food Bank and the Central Presbyterian Night Shelter. At the same time, he finds time to contribute his talents to the tax preparation industry. An NTPI Fellow, he has taught as an instructor of local, state, and national organizations for the past decade. He served on the NAEA National Board as an Educational Foundation Trustee, as a member of the IRS Regional Liaison Committee, and as Educational Director for GAEA. He recently appeared on Tax Talk Today in a discussion on the Affordable Care Act.
“I believe my career path has been under God’s control for most of my life, but the greatest surprises have come in the last 10 years. Becoming an instructor, writing, serving on the national board, and TV appearances were not planned or expected. The blessings that opened were beyond my dreams. I have been humbled by the new opportunities and acquaintances that God has brought into my life,” he says.
Managing a small tax preparation firm isn’t without its challenges. Rapid changes in technology, combined with threats to computer security and client data, make it necessary to have a qualified IT professional available at all times.
And the demands of clients can at times put the firm at odds with its values.
“No matter how much you want to serve and please your customer, you must remain true to yourself. Your trustworthiness, your credibility, your ethical values, and even your survival in this business depend on you doing the right thing, regardless of what the customer demands,” Tallman says.
Tallman says he also relies on – and recommends – tax preparation software from Drake, which he has used since 2001.
“Not only would I recommend Drake Software to my peers,” he notes, “but in many of the classes I teach, the Drake Program becomes part of the discussion for solving problems. The commitment among management and staff at Drake, the attitude to keep improving the program, is alive and well. “
There are benefits to operating a family tax preparation business. Tallman prepares and files the returns, his wife Barbara handles the administrative side of the business, and his mother-in-law handles the filing. It has become a thriving business that today services people from all walks of life, including doctors, lawyers, entertainment personalities and executives.
That still leaves time, however, to take walks with the dog and play with their grandsons. In the evenings, he enjoys an occasional game of spider solitaire on the computer and ending the day with devotional reading time.
Tallman sums it up simply: “I’ve been blessed with this family, this knowledge, these clients, and with a future that is still unfolding.”
About Tallman Tax Service LLC
Tallman Tax Service was started by Ben Tallman, an ex-IRS Auditor, in 1977. He started in the basement of the family’s Doraville, Georgia, home with 30 clients. Today, the firm has grown to over 700 clients with a residential office in Brookhaven, Georgia. It offers preparation in all tax areas by an Enrolled Agent, as well as On-Line Filing for those who prefer to prepare their own return.