“You’ll know what to do.”
Terry and her mother had always been close. After Barbara Durkin was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003, Terry decided to come home and help with her mother’s tax practice. When talking about their relationship, Terry reminisces, “I can’t describe my mother in just one word: She was my role model, my friend, my mentor, and so much more. She was influential in every part of my life.”
Terry, now president of the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA), grew up in Peabody, Massachusetts. Even at an early age, she demonstrated a deep interest in technology. Following high school, Terry attended Yale University, earning a B.S. degree in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science. She then went on to earn an MBA from New York University before entering the software industry, where she worked for 19 years before receiving the call from her mother.
“At the time, I had been thinking about a career change,” Terry says, “I was thinking about getting my EA license, but learning about my mother’s illness accelerated my decision to return home and switch careers.” After working with her mother for two tax seasons and getting her EA license in 2005, she took over the practice full time in 2006. “Those were two of the most challenging yet rewarding seasons for me. Believe it or not, we also had a lot of fun in the process.”
Today, Terry’s practice has two locations – one in Burlington, MA and one in Marlborough, MA – serving roughly 350 clients annually. She now accepts new clients via referrals from her network of professional colleagues: clients, lawyers, CFPs, CPAs, and other EAs. When discussing the types of returns she prepares, Terry explains, “I specialize in individual, small business, trust, and estate tax returns, as well as tax planning and representation services.”
“Currently, I employ two part-time administrative assistants and one part-time enrolled agent,” she says. It can be difficult to train new staff in any industry, and tax preparation is certainly no different. “I have standard operating procedures for the office,” Terry says, “Which I walk through with new hires using a sample tax client. I also use the Drake Training Center for tutorials; between the various online tools and customer service calls being answered after just a few rings, I’ve happily recommended Drake to my peers.”
When Terry decided to convert to a paperless office, she once again turned to her tax preparation software for a solution. “I really like the Drake Document Manager,” she says. “It played a large role in going paperless and making the office more efficient. The client portal is another tool to communicate with my clients more efficiently, and I plan to take full advantage of it this next tax season.” When asked about other ways she has improved her office’s workflow, she states, “I used GruntWorx this past year and may look to use it again next season.”
Terry enjoys tackling challenges, whether in her professional or personal life. While in college, she captained both the basketball and softball teams her senior year. That passion for basketball led her to coach a girls’ community league basketball team for twelve years, and she can still be found shooting hoops on the basketball court. Terry also enjoys running – having completed nine marathons, six of which were the Boston Marathon – and playing golf. “I grew up playing sports: running cross country and playing basketball and softball; I even played Little League Baseball the first year they allowed girls to sign up. I just like being active.” Though tax season puts a significant dent in her spare time, she still makes time for a workout.
Terry and her husband have been married since 2001. “He is my rock,” Terry smiles, “he is so supportive.” She admits that her husband is the cook of the family. “I wouldn’t have anything to eat during tax season if it weren’t for him,” she laughs. Sharing a love of the outdoors, they often play golf together, but their true passion is traveling.
“My husband and I sat down before we were married and each of us listed five places that we would like to go,” she says, “and every few years we cross one off our list. The last one we crossed off was Italy.” While staying in a Tuscan villa, they took in the Mediterranean sights at a leisurely pace, visiting picturesque towns, including Pienza, Montepulciano, and Montalcino. When discussing the cuisine, Terry said, “We loved the food. We were also on a quest for the best tiramisu, but they were all so delicious!”
Reflecting on her past ten years – from working at IBM to submitting returns to the IRS – Terry remembers the bittersweet moment her resolve crystallized, changing her life forever: “In one of the last conversations I had with my mother, I remember asking how I should handle a particular situation. My mom turned to me, smiled, and simply said, ‘You’ll know what to do.’”