“This year marks my 36th filing season,” Snow Williams says with an infectious smile before heading back into the auditorium to hear the next session of the Drake Software update school. “And it’s been a wonderful 11 years with Drake!” Even in casual conversation, her enthusiasm for tax preparation and – perhaps more importantly – meeting new people is evident. Though she has served as president of the Georgia Association of Enrolled Agents (GAEA) for two years, director of the Education Foundation for five years, and is presently on the board of directors of the GAEA, Snow didn’t always plan on being a tax professional.
Snow grew up off the coast of Southeast China in Taiwan. The second-oldest of five daughters, she fondly remembers being the tomboy of her family. “I don’t recall ever wearing skirts before I started Middle School, where they were a mandatory part of the girls’ uniform. I was always playing outside, climbing trees, catching frogs (and other critters), and” – a mischievous grin plays across her face – “occasionally getting into fights with the boys.” Needless to say, her mother often complained about torn slips.
When you ask children what they want to be when they grow up, you often get the usual suspects: firefighter, police officer, doctor, astronaut, or movie star. Snow was different: “I always wanted to be an attorney when I grew up, but Mom insisted that nursing or teaching were ‘ideal professions for women and future mothers.’” With trepidation, she followed her mother’s advice and enrolled in a nursing college. Unfortunately, she soon discovered a major roadblock in her newly chosen career: The sight of blood made her faint. “The room started spinning the first time I saw blood while working as an intern. Initially, I thought it was a one-time thing, but it kept happening. As a result, I never graduated.”
In 1977 Snow came to the United States, met and married her husband in 1978, and took a job as an administrative assistant at Oakland Naval Base in Oakland, California later that year. She didn’t know it at the time, but it was when they later moved to Fort Dix in New Jersey that she would close another chapter in her life: “I worked for the Department of Defense for about three years,” she says. “After our first son was born I decided not to return to full-time employment.” While she may have taken a step back, Snow wasn’t out of the workforce for very long.
That same year she saw a commercial advertising a free income tax prep class offering possible part-time employment with H&R Block if she passed the final exam. “I never really wanted to be a nurse, but I love helping people,” she says. “So, when I saw that ad I had to give it a shot.” After finishing the class, she began work as a three-month employee, where she learned that tax preparation married two of her passions: numbers and people.
That part time employment turned into a 25-year career with H&R Block. When her husband was transferred to Atlanta, Snow moved to a Georgia branch to keep preparing taxes. She became an Enrolled Agent and Certified Senior Advisor and joined numerous professional organizations: the National Society of Tax Professionals (NSTP), the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NATP), and GAEA. Before retiring in 2005, she served as an office manager, premium tax consultant, and advanced income tax instructor – teaching tax classes of her own. “Life is funny,” she laughs. “Mom thought I should become a teacher. And eventually I did.”
As soon as she retired from H&R Block, she became an adjunct professor teaching tax planning courses at Oglethorpe University and started a private tax practice that she has operated out of her home for 11 years. “I’m lucky to be able to work from home,” she says. “My daily commute consists of 13 steps down to the basement office. We even built a separate entrance and driveway for the business.” She serves 300 clients, filing a mix of personal and business tax returns. In addition to tax prep, Snow offers e-file and simple payroll. When her husband retired from flying commercial airliners after 37 years, he earned a designation as a Certified Financial Planner and now provides limited advice for Snow’s tax clients.
“Most of my 300 clients have been with me for more than 15 years, and some are going on 30,” she says. “Because of our close relationship, I am invited to birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, and funerals. I like to think of clients as part of my extended family. And even though the majority of my business comes from the surrounding area, I also have clients
in 21 other states, Paris, and Kenya.” She may not have become a nurse like her mother wanted, but Snow does occasionally makes house calls: “Some of my clients, due to age or medical issues, are unable to make their way to my office, so I visit them at home.”
“We have lived in the same area in Atlanta for close to 32 years and are grateful to have established deep roots in the community.” Snow and her husband have been ushers, communion coordinators, and trustees in their church, and they have worked with Habitat for Humanity, volunteered at local homeless shelters, and delivered food to shut-ins. “Since we love staying active, we have volunteered for numerous Atlanta Athletic Club events, like the Atlanta Marathon and the Peachtree Road Race,” she says. They also regularly play tennis, walk the dog, and – once winter arrives – hit the ski slopes. “We also like to volunteer as bartenders at Shakespeare’s Tavern here in Atlanta. We love watching the plays, and the people here are so much fun!”
To offset the hectic January to April schedule, she and her husband travel extensively during the off season: “We visit our sons in St. Petersburg, Florida and San Francisco, California and love traveling abroad. There’s nothing quite like taking lunch at a sidewalk café on the Champs-Élysées, sipping wine and watching people meander through the city with a casual sense of purpose that’s unique to Parisians.”
“By staying healthy I guarantee my clients receive the highest quality service; so, aside from making sure you’re organized, disciplined, and engaged, staying healthy is the best advice I can give to new tax professionals,” she says. “During tax season I make an extra effort to stay in shape and eat a healthy diet since, as all tax professionals know, you spend a lot of time sitting in a chair. There isn’t much time for going to a gym or taking a jog on the busier days, but I do get some cardio by fetching papers from our upstairs office printer and fax machine.” Another piece of advice from Snow: “Don’t undervalue yourself and be sure to constantly learn about the industry.”
Though she still loves preparing taxes, Snow has begun thinking about the end of the road: “As long as I enjoy what I’m doing, I’ll continue preparing tax returns. But I am a new grandmother of twin grandbabies, a boy and a girl, and they are the most precious things in my life. Unfortunately, none of my children are interested in tax prep: Our older son is a cardiothoracic surgeon and our second son works in Silicon Valley. Hopefully, someone will purchase my business when I am ready to finally retire. It would just be so difficult to leave the business I have enjoyed so much.”
“While I love my clients, my favorite part of the day is seeing my husband waiting for me at the top of the stairs to hand me a cocktail for ‘Happy Hour.’”