MEET DAVE SCHWARTZ
My Mentor in the Tax Trade
I first met Dave Schwartz in 1999 when I was just starting to learn the tools of the tax trade at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. He was a guest lecturer there — Professor Schwartz to me — and when I walked into his Tax 101 class that fall, I had no idea it would change my life for good. Right from the start, Dave was an excellent teacher. He had instant credibility with the students because he had his own tax preparation business at that time. But what really had an impact on me was his partnership with the university and the IRS on a program called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). Through VITA, Dave and a team of student volunteers prepared tax returns free for people with low incomes, people with disabilities, the elderly, and others who had difficulty doing them alone. As soon as I heard about the program, I put my name on the volunteer list. Along with the other volunteers, I was dispatched to the Kenosha Public Library for three-hour shifts on Saturday mornings and two days during the week. While we were there, our tax know-how was available to anyone who came through the doors. They could sit with us one-on-one and ask questions while we completed their tax returns by hand with pen and paper. We graduated to using laptop computers in future years. Dave was there supervising us the whole time, available to answer any questions we might have had during the preparation process. I thought it was an awesome program because it gave students like me an opportunity to get firsthand experience with tax preparation, work on interview skills, and practice building client
process because he did not have a Ph.D. The university brought in a Ph.D. with no practical experience in taxation. I stayed in touch with a couple students after this happened, and they were extremely disappointed with the change, especially because the VITA program was put on hold. Dave works out of his home just like I do. He provided me with invaluable experience when I started my own tax and accounting business back in 2004. During the first several years of my business, I helped Dave prepare tax returns for his diverse client base a couple times a week during the tax season. I could call him any time, day or night, to bounce a problem or question I had off of him, and he could do the same with me. It has been really cool to have that back- and-forth and level of trust with someone else in the business. Over the years, Dave gradually pared down his clients and passed a number of them on to me. After over 30 years in the business, he’s now semi-retired and only does tax returns for family and close friends. I just dropped in a few weeks ago to visit Dave and his wife Terry at their home in Whitefish Bay and met their 8-week-old Goldendoodle puppy named Stella. I’m always happy to talk to Dave, and I know I’ll treasure him as a mentor for the rest of my career — and as a friend for the rest of my life.
relationships, all while helping people in need. Usually, that kind of experience is hard to come by until you leave school because accounting interns are typically relegated to bookkeeping work and preparing financial statements. I signed up for the next year after my Tax 201 class and helped Dave coordinate the program for two years after I graduated.
Unfortunately, the university had to let Dave go after it went through a reaccreditation
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