By Stephanie Morton, Special to MCIN

With his extensive education in accounting, Rich Douglas, comptroller for Mt. Grant General Hospital, was often helping friends and acquaintances with financial advice. In 2001, Douglas opened an office in his home to accommodate the burgeoning requests.

“I was working full time I have had people approach me. It started as an after-hours project at my house, and in 2008, I set up an office,” said Douglas, owner of Hawthorne Bookkeeping & Tax Service. The business now has three employees and has been at the same location on E Street since 2008.

Assisting Douglas are Sachi Thornton, office manager, and Cylissia Cervantes, who is in the process of becoming a registered tax preparer. Hawthorne Bookkeeping & Tax Service also has a student trainee, Sheena Douglas, who just happens to be Douglas’ daughter.

“When she is not at school, she’s learning the trade,” he said.

Douglas is proud of his team as they’re capable of meeting the needs of the community in financial planning and monthly/quarterly taxes. “I have to have good people here,” Douglas said. Each of his employees undergoes a rigorous training and certification process. “They do the hard work, and I personally review and sign off on each client.”

Throughout the year, Hawthorne Bookkeeping & Tax Service offers business-to-business services such as bookkeeping, payroll services, financial planning and quarterly taxes. This time of year, with tax day approaching, Douglas and his team offer individual tax preparation and filing.

Tax preparation and filing certainly cause anxiety, but not to worry, according to Douglas. He said the best thing people can do to help themselves with their taxes is to save receipts. “We’ve seen a lot of boxes, bags and coffee tins of receipts. But that is what we do. We help our clients and get them organized.”

The worst thing, said Douglas, is to not save important documents.

Douglas said he understands certain small business owners like contractors are not necessarily trained to do paperwork, but he certainly is. He said he liked how his work allowed his clients to focus on their true talents.

Douglas said his company offers good quality tax preparation for about 20 percent less than competitors such as H&R Block or Liberty Tax Service. “We are locally owned and operated and we don’t pay licensing or franchising fees.”

The company also offers a guarantee that individuals who make the switch to Hawthorne Bookkeeping will pay at least $50 less than what they paid for professional tax preparation last year.

“If your cousin or brother did your taxes, obviously the guarantee wouldn’t apply,” said Douglas.

Some diehards still attempt to file their taxes on paper forms, and popular programs like TurboTax allow individuals to file their taxes themselves online. Douglas cautions a professional versed in the Federal Tax Code can spot deductions on certain types of expenses, which a program or untrained person wouldn’t recognize. More importantly, perhaps, is a skilled accountant can help keep people avoid the wrath of the Internal Revenue Service.

“The main benefit in coming to us is that we get our clients more deductions and keep them out of trouble. There are a lot of changes to the tax code this year, and health care is just a part of that. With so many changes, we know whether to, how to, and on what form and what line,” said Douglas.

With the April 15 tax filing deadline about two months away, Douglas advises people should not wait until the last minute to seek their professional services.

“Most people will get a refund, and the sooner they see us, the sooner that money will be received. There is no extra charge for electronic filing, and within about eight days, the refund could be in their account. It is a huge incentive,” Douglas said. “People who owe money tend to wait, but those procrastinators should see us as soon as possible. We need the time to prepare, and to help them.”