A.L. Tax Service does more than file returns

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 22, 2006

Tax Service will have new location on Broadway

By Mike Simmons, staff writer

If there was only one thing Bob Smith, owner of Albert Lea Tax Service, could tell you about his business, it would be that they do a whole lot more than tax returns.

&8220;It&8217;s basically on the verge of financial planning, but we don&8217;t sell a product,&8221; Smith said. &8220;We don&8217;t sell insurance, we don&8217;t sell mutual funds, we just help you find the best options that you have available to you to invest your money.&8221;

Smith has been doing taxes and giving financial advice in Albert Lea for a long time. He has lived in Albert Lea since 1970 with his wife and four children. Bob attended Minnesota Business College and then went on to an independent study program through Mankato State University.

After Lois Peterson retired in 1991, Smith bought the tax business and renamed it Albert Lea Tax Service, but kept the Peterson name to prevent someone else from using it and causing confusion.

&8220;I actually run two separate companies now, Albert Lea Tax Service and Success Systems Institute,&8221; Smith said. &8220;I have been teaching insurance since 1981, we pre-license and do continuing education.

&8220;The tax season today though is never ending. Extensions push the filing date back as far as October and about 15 percent of people do that now. Then there are audits, people just need help, or they don&8217;t know how to respond to letters they have received, it&8217;s a year round job.&8221;

Smith said one thing people don&8217;t typically expect them to do is tax planning, but that&8217;s a big part of the services that are offered.

&8220;My motto is make your own tax cuts; don&8217;t wait for the government to do it for you,&8221; he said.

Some people go years without filing a tax return and actually have money coming to them, they just fail to do it. If that happens, there is one thing Smith wants people to know.

&8220;They only go back three years if they owe you money, but don&8217;t forget, if you owe them, you have to pay it all,&8221; he said. &8220;People that do their own taxes can make a lot of expensive mistakes. You can sit down and do some planning to reduce your taxes and it&8217;s really not that difficult to do. Not everyone can do that, but I would say that 60 to 70 percent of the people could cut their taxes if they just made better decisions.&8221;

The increased traffic should be aided by the business&8217; impending move.

Albert Lea Tax Service is currently located at 220 W. Clark Street, but it has new accommodations on the way. When the Dairy Queen on Broadway changed locations, Smith jumped at the chance to move to a place with better parking.

&8220;Ten to 15 years ago, when they removed the parking meters, they decided that there would be an extra assessment charge for business owners and that this extra money would be used for parking enforcement,&8221; Smith said. &8220;Unfortunately, that hasn&8217;t happened in a long time. When the meter maid retired, they refused to use police to enforce downtown parking regulations, but they continued to collect the extra tax dollars.&8221;

Enforcement of two hour parking hasn&8217;t happened in probably seven years, he said.

&8220;It&8217;s really frustrating, with Human Services across the street, during bad weather my customers have no where to park,&8221; Smith said. &8220;At least at the new site, we have 14 parking spaces and we got to do the layout of the building the way we want it.&8221;

Smith said that he and his seven full-time employees would like to be in their new offices by January, but he isn&8217;t sure yet if that will happen.

&8220;I&8217;m thinking about leaving the sliding window for walk-up business, that might be the only thing we don&8217;t change about the place,&8221; Smith said.