Interview with a small business owner

I think it’s great when I come across a small business owner that is doing good things for the environment. In a paper driven industry, Liz Thomas has found a way to “go green.” Although the changes were prompted by necessity, her business has flourished and customers are happier.

I have always hated the amount of paper accumulated in the tax preparation process. But more and more I find that employers (including LIFE) are providing employees with electronic W-2’s and electronic filing with the IRS is easier than ever. My goal this year is to have a paperless tax return. Through scanning and email I’ll try to see if I can do everything electronically. Wish me luck!

If you know of a small business owner doing great things for the environment contact the Office of Sustainability. We’d love to share their story!

 Tell me about your business:

Thomas Tax Management Service is an online tax service for individuals and small business. I started the business inCaliforniain 1987 after owing the IRS a large sum of money due to an inexperienced tax preparation services I used.  I have clients all over theUnited States, many that I have never met face to face. I advertise very little so my business feeds on referrals.

This year Thomas Tax Management Service has gone paper free. Tax preparation has traditionally been a very paper laden industry….as a small business owner what prompted you to go green? 

Thanks to modern technology, Thomas Tax management Services (TTMS )went paper free in 2011.  I have been gradually taking the business to less and less paper over the past 4 years. A move toNorth Carolinain 2006 had me considering closing my small tax business, since my clientele was inCalifornia. When I realized that 90% of myCaliforniaclients were more than willing to “snail mail” and email me their tax documents, I decided to keep the business open. Since then myNorth Carolina,South CarolinaandGeorgiaclientele has grown as well as myCaliforniabase. For the local clients, I may meet with them initially face to face, with the majority of their documentation being sent to me via email. For clients that are too far to meet with, a consultation is done on the phone, a tax organizer is sent to the clients (via email), and then all the info is returned to me completed with tax documents (via email).

With the IRS encouraging taxpayers to file electronically and in some case making the practice mandatory, my paper usage was cut down by 65%.  I am able to file a tax return electronically and send a copy to clients via email.  So not only is going green helping the environment, I am saving money on paper, printer ink, and postage. This past tax year a few of my clients insisted on filing paper returns, so I updated my fee schedule to include e-filing in the price of preparation. . .  so for the first time since 1987 all 100% of my clients filed electronically.

What challenges did you face in making the transition to be “paper-free”?

Very few challenges were faced outside of clients wanting paper returns. It’s been a win-win situation over all.

Have you always been eco-conscious, for example do you recycle/compost at home? 

I have become more eco conscious since moving toNorth Carolina. . . While inCaliforniaI can’t say that I did much recycling.

What type of feedback have you been receiving from your customers?

Many times customers don’t comment on how smooth a process is (it’s almost expected). . . my customer base continues to grow, so I take that as my feedback. . . all positive.

Change is not always easy….or convenient….what tips do you have for other companies that would like to “go green”?

Many times change equates to spending money. . . I think if small changes are considered first, many times you will find you are saving money.

Do you have plans to implement other “eco-friendly” policies? 

I’m looking into seeing what else I can do as an internet business

How has going green improved your business? 

I have been able to save money in regards to postage, paper and printer ink.

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