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Sunday Mailbag: The Traveling Edition

June 10, 2012 · 0 comments

Occasionally my mind is blown by what we can do with technology. Today is totally one of those days. I’m currently on a USAirways flight headed for Las Vegas where I’ll be speaking and mingling with about 1,400 other tax professionals at the Practitioners Symposium and TECH+ Conference in partnership with the Association for Accounting Marketing Summit (if you’re interested in what we’re up to this week, you can follow the conference on twitter using the hashtag #pstech – or follow me @taxgirl – but be forewarned that I will, of course, also be whining about missing my kiddos). I say “currently” because I’m really, truly online, on an airplane – a new experience for me. I can report, from my perch above the clouds, that we’re cruising at about 500 mph and are more than 30,000 feet in the air. Check out the details here:

Crazy, right? All of that means, of course, that I have a little bit of time to dig through the “Ask the taxgirl” mailbag and answer the more non-tax related questions that I’ve gotten since the last time I looked. Here you go, enjoy!

Taxpayer asks:

How’s your mom?

taxgirl says:

This is the most popular non-tax question that I’ve gotten over the past month (my readers are the best).

She is doing well, thank you for asking! For those of you who don’t know, my mom had emergency heart surgery in the spring and then, apparently since she doesn’t see me as much as she could, she had a stroke a few weeks ago to get me back home again (kidding, Mom!). She is doing terrific – as close to normal as she ever was (even a little bossy if her directions at my aunt’s funeral are to be believed). I am very thankful for your collective thoughts and prayers. My mom is awfully special and it would stink if anything happened to her. She even taught me a thing or two about tax – you can read all about it here.

Taxpayer asks:

My question is what material did you use to study for the IRS exam?

taxgirl says:

I didn’t. I know this is going to roil some tax pros (yes, Bob, I mean you and these folks who have sued) but lawyers, like CPAs and EAs (enrolled agents) don’t have to take the IRS exam and are exempt from the ongoing education requirements. The theory is that those professionals are already required to take a professional exam to demonstrate competency and are subject to ongoing licensing requirements which include continuing education. You can find out more about testing here and schedule your test online with the IRS by visiting irs.gov/ptin.

Taxpayer asks:

I just graduated from college and I can’t find a job. Should I go to law school?

taxgirl says:

Um, do you want to be a lawyer? Because that’s kind of the determining factor here.

I realize that people go to law school all of the time for all kinds of reasons. One of my good friends went because he intended to open a real estate company with his family and wanted to be able to read and draft contracts; he never had any intention of actually practicing law in a law office. So, I get that it’s not an automatic that law school degree = working lawyer.

But in this market, however, I don’t know what a law degree gets you – other than a considerable amount of debt – if you don’t have plans to work in some kind of legal capacity (and even then, law jobs are difficult to come by these days – just ask the law school grads who applied to a Boston law firm for a law job with a $10,000 annual salary). According to a recent survey, only 65% of law school grads are working in a job that requires you to pass the bar and the NALP (The Association for Legal Career Professionals) executive director has said, about the current climate, “The entry-level job market can only be described as brutal.” So, I don’t know that it makes sense to go to law school unless working in the profession in some capacity is on your radar.

If you’re looking for ways to make yourself more marketable, I would argue that there are other, better ways to do it. Look for internships and volunteer opportunities, for example, that can lend themselves to boosting your resume. Learn a language or skill that’s in demand. Network and introduce yourself at local business organizations or alumni events; don’t forget about online opportunities to get your name “out there.”

All that said, if you’re not sure if law school is for you, contact a lawyer or two in your town (you should have some kind of connection – the same alma mater, church or circle of friends) and have a cup of coffee. Ask what they think about the profession and the market. Find out if they liked law school. And make sure that you can afford it: law school is significantly more expensive than college. If you must borrow (like me), be aware that the loan process is, in my opinion, quite abusive as compared to undergraduate loans. Additionally, there are restrictions on your ability to work if you are a full-time at an ABA-accredited law school so your visions of paying as you go might not be realistic.

For the record, I’m glad that I went to law school. I met terrific friends there (including my husband) and wonderful mentors. I loved most of my classes and my internship at IRS was invaluable. And I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone who has their heart set on going. Just make sure it’s what you want – and not merely an expensive stop gap.

Taxpayer asks:

I currently live in State A, but will be starting a job in State B. I want to move closer to my new job and I’m looking at both states. From an income tax standpoint, which state is better to live in where I will pay less income tax? I have to consider everything when choosing where to move, like commuting costs and state income taxes since I’ll be working in State B.

taxgirl says:

I get a lot of these kinds of questions and I wish, wish, wish I could answer them but I can’t. I don’t know enough about you (!) and the specific filing requirements of the states involved to advise either way in any kind of intelligent fashion. But I will say this: with a life decision this big – and those like this – you really should seek out the advice of a professional. Find a tax professional near you who can help. Here are some tips to keep in mind when looking for one.

Taxpayer asks:

Did I read that you were writing a book?

taxgirl says:

Yes, you did! I am currently working with Forbes and Hyperink to release an e-book for parents about tax. It’s kind of a mash-up of updated tax information for parents together with some related “best of ask the taxgirl” from over the years. I’m really excited about it… It’s coming out soon (and by soon, I mean like this month) so you’ll definitely hear more about it. I’m also planning to do a follow-up that focuses on education.

I have two more non-fiction pieces in the hopper. One is a collaboration that I hope to be able to announce (dramatic pause) some day. The lawyers are still hashing out the details: yes, lawyers have lawyers. The other is a book on the history of tax. I’m writing as fast as my tired little fingers can type.

I have a print piece appearing in the upcoming edition of Forbes’ Investment Guide (on newsstands on June 25 and yes, I will sign your copy, cousin Teresa). You can sneak a peek here.

I also write fiction for fun. I have one completed and as of now, still unsold, (*clears throat and peers around*) novel and a couple more in progress. I have more fun writing than almost anything else. Almost – a mad pedicab ride through Time Square with my kiddos and a cocktail hour on a cruise ship with my husband are also on the list… and of course, I’m on my way to Vegas right now so that could still change!

Well, that’s a wrap for this edition of the Sunday mailbag. Thanks so much for reading! I love getting mail from my readers. But there are rules – there are always rules. Be sure to read my disclaimer… Remember, I’m a lawyer and we love disclaimers. But you know who loves them more? My malpractice carrier. Consider yourself warned.

If you still have a question, check out these tips before you “ask the taxgirl.”

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