Tax season is working season for those who can decipher the tax code. And the area’s high unemployment rate has brought a more diverse crowd of applicants for the rash of part-time tax preparer jobs popping up in the area. “We get them from all walks of life,” said Mark Lundvall, owner of one of Rockford’s Liberty Tax Service locations.
Job prospects are grim across the Rock River Valley, but if you know how to navigate the tax code, there’s hope for some work.
This time of year marks the annual hiring spree by dozens of tax-preparer firms in the area. Although the jobs tend to attract some of the same people year after year, there’s always some turnover — and demand for those jobs has been up.
At Liberty Tax Service, owner Mark Lundvall said requests for his free tax classes were up last year as the employment situation got worse.
“We get them from all walks of life,” he said. “We’re seeing some real estate people who, because the market is slow, are looking to supplement their income. We had an overwhelming response this year because of the unemployment situation.”
Lundvall hires 10 to 20 part-time tax workers each year. He’s hired about 10 more for marketing, which include the hardy souls who stand outside dressed like the Statue of Liberty.
The basic qualifications to be a tax preparer include passing a free course that’s offered in the summer and winter, Lundvall said.
“We train as many people as we can train to net the best of the best,” he said. “We like to hire the ones that can provide customer service as well as tax analysis. That’s the most difficult to identify.”
H&R Block alone brings in 1,200 part-time employees to staff its 15 regional offices, said Brian Hazelwood, office manager of the Belvidere location.
“It’s a lot of the same people coming back,” he said. “Of course, we try to make the job attractive for tax professionals. In each year, it gets a little bit better for everyone. The first-year professionals, the compensation isn’t phenomenal, but they’re still building a client base and getting the client to want to come back to that person.”
Pay varies widely depending on years of experience. According to PayScale Data, the average first-year wage is $10.08 an hour. Preparers with 20 years or more report an average hourly rate of $20.36. The median wage for a tax preparer in Illinois is $10.33 an hour.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 100,000 tax preparer jobs in the country, with a projected 118,000 jobs by 2016.
Sean F. Driscoll can be reached at (815) 987-1346 or firstname.lastname@example.org.