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Tax Preparers

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2011 - 2013 Reviews


Bookkeepers and Tax Preparers

Feb 2013

Can anyone recommend a good bookkeeper and tax preparer? denise


I highly recommend Monty Lee at 1393 Solano Ave., Albany, 94706. His # is (510) 528-1112. Monty is a smart and caring individual. I hope you call him! Maria

Tax preparer for self-employed taxes

May 2012

I'm self-employed and have always done my own taxes but it's getting more confusing. I'd like to find someone who doesn't mind my confusion and is willing to help me through the process of figuring out what information I give them (I'm used to being self-sufficient!) Someone in Alameda or Oakland would be great - someone who I can schedule and ask questions with via email even better. I want to talk to someone long before next April, although my taxes for this year are done - just to know what expenses I should be keeping track of etc., to make next year's taxes easy. Thanks! self-employed taxes


Hi, Jan Zobel literally wrote the book! ''Minding Her Own Business'' tells you what you need to know about taxes for the self-employed. And she gives workshops throughout the year in the Bay area. I have had my taxes done by Jan for years and love her! Pat
[Sept 2014 Editor Note: Jan Zobel is no longer accepting new clients]
Just posted this same response to another tax question - Deborah Fisher Bell at Williams Adley in Oakland is AWESOME! I called her based on BPN reviews and she did a great job with a combo of personal and S Corp taxes. Maggie Harmon mafh

Looking for a Great Tax Preparer

April 2012

I foolishly waited too long to find a new tax preparer and now tax day is around the corner! Mine retired and I have not found someone yet. I have a fairly simple return (one W2 & one 1099). I am single and have one child who is a dependent. I realize it's most likely too late to prepare my return before April 15 so it would be fine to have the tax preparer file an extension and prepare the return at a later date since I know I will get a refund. Anyone out there know a really good tax preparer who doesn't charge an arm and a leg but who is also very competent? Thanks so much for any recommendations! Anonymous


We have used Teresa Kaiser, CPA in Walnut Creek area for about 8 years. Telephone (925) 820-3996. She is super efficient (if you act fast Im sure she can get it done in time). We seem to always have some complicated arrangements that she doesnt see as complicated at all. She wrote a letter for us when we were mistakenly audited over the state's confusion about the new domestic partner tax laws. Her fees are reasonable. She's not the kind of CPA (are there many?) who will accept a mishmash of documents for her to sort out. She sends you a long form to fill out, and you send her your documents. I can't think of any reason not to recommend her. Carey

Tax preparer for new law firm partner

May 2012

I've always done our personal income taxes but this year my husband has become a partner at his law firm and things are getting much more complicated. Can anyone recommend a tax preparer to us? Someone who has experience with K-1 income from a law firm partnership where a large percentage is from states other than California. Preferably located somewhere around Oakland/Berkeley to Walnut Creek. (I had hoped to get a recommendation from his co-workers but no one seems to be very happy with their tax person.) Can't do it myself any more


Deborah Fisher is a CPA at Williams Adley. She used to work for the IRS and is totally on top of tax issues. She's very experienced and committed to helping her clients no matter what it takes. I've worked with her in the past and find her easy to talk with. I'm sure she will not work with you if she doesn't feel she can do what you need. Because there are others in the department, referring to the best person will not be an issue. Her office is in Oakland and her number is 893 8114 X 16. SBM
Deborah Fisher Bell at Williams Adley in Oakland is AWESOME! I called her based on BPN reviews and she did a great job with a combo of personal and S Corp taxes. Maggie
Congratulations on your husband making partner! I am a solo attorney. Eva Konigsberg of Savvy Tax does my personal and law practice taxes. Eva is easy to work with, and local. We drop off documents and handle most issues by email. . http://www.savvytax.com/ . SP

Seeking an amazing tax advisor for a teacher

Jan 2012

I'm hoping BPN can steer my family towards an excellent, and affordable, tax advisor for this year. When we lived in New York we used someone who was fantastic and offered a wonderful discount for teachers. We may have to file in New York again this year as well as filing in California as full time residents and I wasn't super impressed with the person we used last year. Any recommendations? Closer to San Leandro is better but I'm willing to travel for the right person! Thank you, Too much to do ourselves anymore


I love our tax preparer, Karen Gokay! She's over the hills, but comes to your house, first to collect information, then to bring returns. She's reasonably- priced and flexible, and has helped both myself and friends through some tricky tax situations. okaygokay@aol.com satisfied customer
I highly recommend Jerry Howerter, in Richmond, 235-5820. I'm a self- employed music teacher with a somewhat complex tax situation. For decades I was paying top dollar to one fancy accountant after another. Finally, a music teacher friend turned me on to Jerry. I still remember her words: 'He has a mind like a steel trap.'

Well, not only did that turn out to be completely true, but he also charges a fraction of what the other accountants charged me for years, although he is at least as smart and knowledgeable as they were if not more.

The hitch: he's not a CPA. Also, he has an old-fashioned, almost shabby office in downtown Richmond. He has no website or web presence, although he will submit your return electronically if you so desire. Fancy he's not. But he knows what he's doing, he's so good that he still does taxes for many of his clients who have moved out of state, and he is extremely personable as well as efficient. He won't mail your tax return to you, as my past accountants used to (and probably charged me double for the service). You have to go pick it up. But it's worth it. Anon


Tax help for teacher/single parent

May 2011

Hello BPNers. I'm looking for a tax preparer who can help me with fairly simple taxes (but I'm overwhelmed!) I am a high school teacher and a single mom of 2 teenagers. Thanks recently divorced


I've recommended him before, but I'll do it again: We've used Mike Schoenholz of Schoenholz & Associates for more than 10 years now. He is fantastic: smart, friendly, extremely efficient, knowledgable. He has done simple taxes for us and complicated estate and trust taxes for us. I cannot recommend him highly enough. He has moved his office in the last year or so, so here is the most up-to-date contact info for him: Mike Schoenholz Schoenholz & Associates 1350 Treat. Blvd., Ste. 280 Walnut Creek, CA 94597 (925) 939-3200 http://www.schoenholzassoc.com
Mary
In the past I always did my own taxes but realized that there was a reason why come april 18 I had not done o9 and 10 taxes, I'm a single mom too and simply overwhemed. So I googled yelp and found paul thode in the dimond district, and I say it was a good investment. He has a yelp discount so I paid $90 for each year, but then again I saved my sanity and 2 weekends worth of time which I used doing fun stuff with my baby. I will use paul again! Sorry for typos, posting from my phone. C.
Hi, We have been using Bob Stimmel of Cayucos Tax service for 10years. He is thorough, knowledgeableand honest. That is why we don't mind doing everything we need to do by email & snail mail since he lives out of the area. His contact is Bob at cayucosTax.com/ (805) 995-5049. http://www.cayucostax.com/
libby r.
I've had experience with four different accountants since I started filing taxes in CA about 25 years ago, and have been very happy with DeSilva and Holman, who I've used for the past three years. (For the record, the first two accountants retired, and the third was good but too expensive.) DeSilva and Holman is located in Montclair, phone is 510.531.6262

I also starting doing my return myself on TurboTax, simultaneously with putting it together for my tax preparer. This has helped me better understand the impact of various factors, although I always file a professionally prepared return. And every year Bob DeSilva has saved me money over my TurboTax return. optimom


For tax help, go to Dennis Roberts at Check Mate services on Addison (behind Andronico's) in Berkeley. 510-849-1555 He is patient, methodical and very helpful! A few of my teacher friends recommended him. Good luck! Hilary
We've been really pleased with the Financial Fitness Center in Oakland. We've used them the past few years and they seem to know their business well. They are sort of a one-stop shop for all things financial. http://www.financialfitnesscenter.com/new/finfit/
Farewell TurboTax!
I just had an excellent experience with 'Beall & Weil Tax Service' in Albany (on Solano). I used their services for the 1st time this year and had my returns done within a week during the crunch time of tax season. I got more back than I would have doing taxes myself and had the peace of mind knowing they were done correctly. Using their services was a breeze. In the last week, I then took in my previous years tax returns to have them amended and got significant returns for each year. I'm extremely happy with them. 1329 Solano Ave (between Pomona Ave & Ramona Ave) Albany, CA 94706 (510) 524-4820
albanymama

2009 - 2010 Reviews


Oct 2010

We're looking for someone intelligent and well-informed who is easy to talk to and can tell us how we can write off business and household expenses to save money. Jeffry


We have two home offices and Henry Amado at Abacus Tax Service at Cedar and Shattuck has done a great job with our tax returns. (510) 647-9339. Nancy in Berkeley
I have used Peter Morfin (in Kensington) for many years and find him helpful and knowledgeable, with reasonable fees. He can be reached at (510) 525-0814. Susan, Oakland
I like Jong Lee with over 30 years experience. He is wonderful in every way, patient, a teacher for his clients and calm, 836-7400. I have referred clients to him before and everyone is very pleased. I have a small business in Alameda with a retail component which requires a lot of bookkeeping and technical input and he in my opinion is the best. Good luck. Debbie
Five years I had to change tax preparers after many, many years with some one in Marin. I found Rick Naish and have been very happy. He has an office on Ashby, an office in San Francisco and is finishing law school. Rick Naish ricknaish@jv-financial.com david
Call Jim Rigelhaupt in Oakland, 510-893-0921. He is a lawyer by training but has been doing only tax returns and tax accounting for over 15 years. Very friendly, accessible, professional, smart. Uses Turbo Tax software, explains everything. peg
Feb 2010

Seeking a tax person in Berkeley or Oakland who is competent and very aware of tax laws, and also down-to- earth, and able to help a self-employed person utilize ''loopholes'' for deductions, etc. I'm interested in being able to be honest with someone without being advised to rigorously declare every penny of my income, and who can, in fact, offer ideas about ways to deduct generously. Someone who really knows the tax laws and is able to utilize to my advantage. Feel free to tell me something about your work if you're a CPA or about whoever you use, and please no emails saying ''use Mr. Smith. He's great! 510-555-1212.'' I'd like to really hear about what you like, style, sensibility, etc. And fees, please. Thank you! Sarah


Hi Sarah, I highly recommend Deborah Bell Fisher. She is the director of Tax Department of Williams & Adley Co (a CPA firm). She is a CPA for 25 years and worked in IRS in charge of auditing for 18 of those years. So she knows the tax law inside and out. She is thorough, takes initiative and always stays of top of the game. She provides great value by helping you with tax planning and strategy, not just filing tax return. She is very easy to work with and she is always there when you have any questions. Her fees is very reasonable and competitive. She is a wonderful person. Quite a few of my clients work with her and speak highly about her. She offers free consultation upfront. You should give her a call and find out yourself. Deborah's phone# is 510-893-8114 or email: dkbell@wacllp.com
Lan
We've been using Carol Epstein of Taxplus in Berkeley for the last 8 going on 9 nine years. She is fast, down-to-earth and has helped us with some complicated business and personal tax matters. Last year, she finally got us started on planning because of the recession and it has really helped. We recommend her because she has made it easy for us to get it all done on time and get our refunds early. She is located in the Strawberry Creek Design Center at Addison and Bonar Streets. Another small business owner in Berkeley
Jan 2010

I need help from a resonably priced tax preparer for this years taxes. In short I've become a first time homebuyer, become a landlord, have a dependent, and have to negotiate deductions with my wife for our separate federal returns. Help!


There were several requests for a tax person in this newsletter. We've hired Deborah Bell of Williams, Adley and Company in Oakland to help with a challenging tax issue. As someone who had worked for the IRS, she has knowledge of both sides. Deborah is also very easy to talk with and gets the job done. Reach her at 893 8114. Sydney M
Please call Just Taxes at 6327 Fairmount Avenue El Cerrito, CA 94530-3647, (510) 528-8299. Janet Blackburn and John Stephenson are a two person show so it is very relaxed and homey. John handled our taxes for years, including years when I had a home based business. He did an excellent job for us. I was called for two audits (through no fault of his), and he represented us admirably at each one. Kathryn L
I can highly recommend Mike Schoenholz of Schoenholz & Associates. I've recommended him on BPN before, but it has been over a year and he has a new office. I had a couple years of complicated taxes, and he handled it so easily and never made me feel stupid. He is up to date on every single new tax law. His efficiency is really incredible. Also, Mike is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. Here is his info: Mike Schoenholz Schoenholz & Associates (925) 939-3200 http://www.schoenholzassoc.com 1350 Treat. Blvd., Ste. 280 Walnut Creek, CA 94597
Mary
Jan 2010

Hi. It's that season again. My husband and I need tax and financial advice. We would like to work with a comprehensive service that could prepare our taxes as well as advise us on our many new life changes including paying nanny taxes, being new homeowners, possible work related deductions for professors. We really want someone to fine comb and suggest areas for deductions or instruct us how to do things differently so we can qualify for deductions. But we also want someone ethical who won't expose us to risk. Additionally, it would also be nice to have someone review our investments under the same roof. We are new to this so we don't know what to expect. We'd like to find someone in the Berkeley area. thank you.


I have the perfect person for you! She is all you are asking for, plus she's incredibly fun to work with. Her name is Cathy Mu, CPA, CFP, and I've used her services for several years now. I am so certain of her expertise that I have actually relaxed about all of my investments! She has been a miracle worker in regards to finding deductions and having me stay on track about them, plus she has recommended things I never would have known about. She has offices in Walnut Creek and Albany, so she is not far from you. She can be reached at (925) 979-2378. You will rest easy after meeting her! Julie
Nov 2009

Anyone have a tax accountant they can recommend? In Alameda would be fantastic. anon


I've been using Rick Vincent in Alameda for years. He's honest, reliable, reasonably priced, and gives good investment advice if you want it. His phone number is 769 - 9744 A Satisfied Customer
Try Mark Nakamura in Downtown Oakland. He's highly experienced and rates are reasonable: (415) 412-4244. anon
August 2009

I'm looking for a tax preparer who is familiar with the adoption tax credit. Any recommendations? Thanks.


Try Susan Levinkind, J.D. She has well over 20 years exp. Honest, smart, competent, compassionate... She can be reached at taxmomsusan@yahoo.com 510-383-9858 If Susan can't help you she will direct you to the person who can. Good Luck! Ellen G
Iryna Oreshkova is a CPA who could help you. She prepares my taxes and is so thorough. She has many years of experience and for several years, she worked at Deloitte & Touche. She does a wonderful job and explains everything beautifully. Her number is 510-467-9506. Her office is at 1212 Broadway, #616, Oakland 94612. rishida
May 2009

Hello, I have changed occupations recently from SAHM to sole proprietor/independent contractor. I am in need of some basic tax advice and tax filing and am unsure if I need to contact an Accountant or tax professional. My case is pretty straight forward no twists or turns really. I just need advice as to whether I qualify for the home tax credit, how to properly apply/record my expenses and financials for tax time, and what tax benefits I can take advantage of. I am looking for recommendations for someone who works with the ''little guy/gal'' (meaning we don't make very much money). Do you have a reasonably priced, attentive and knowledgeable tax or CPA gurus that can help? s


Hi, We have the BEST tax accountant I have ever seen. Not only is he extremely knowledgable and thorough, but he is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. You can contact Rick Naish at 510-5483200. His office is on Ashby/Shattuck. Good Luck! Vera
I was a sole proprietor/independent contractor for several years. An important tax benefit is the self-employed 401k. I set mine up through Fidelity because they were the only firm at the time that offered them for $0 fees. It is well described here: http://personal.fidelity.com/products/retirement/getstart/newacc/keogh.shtml.cvsr Another important ''benefit'' -- or at least a deduction to be aware of -- is the money you spend on health insurance premiums.

I did my own taxes using Taxact.com and I'm sure the other tax softwares are equally good. You don't need a special ''business'' v. of tax software as an independent contractor. Generally, I found it sufficient to save all my expenses and then follow the software script -- it was all very straightforward including the calculation of allowable home and car expenses related to your business. Not too complicated to DIY


Feb 2009

After two years of H & R Block getting our child care credit wrong on our taxes, my husband and I are looking for a tax preparer who can deal with relatively simple things like that, and other more complex issues like foreclosure/bankruptcy. Any recommendations for affordable, and personable tax preparer appreciated!! Open File


I would highly recommend Lynn Smith of Smith Office Solutions in a beautiful part of Point Richmond (across the street from Hotel Mac). She began this family business with her adult children, who all work there too. She's an enrolled agent (tax specialist) and is incredibly patient and friendly even under a lot of pressure. So I've found she's very easy to work with. She does my family's taxes and we have very complicated taxes because I have a home office and my husband is a minister, getting some of his salary in living expenses. She does a great job and is very professional. Please mention my name when you call her. Her number is 510-231-4787. Sue
I have loved working with John Stephenson of Just Taxes at 6327 Fairmont, just above San Pablo Ave., in El Cerrito. He is just across from the Mechanics Bank, next to the corner store. 510-528-8299. He was good with our real estate, my small business, and representing me through two audits. Go, John! Be sure to tell him I sent you. kathryn l

2007 - 2008 Reviews


April 2008

We've used Turbo Tax for the last five years and ended up owing a lot this year. We thought it would be a good idea to have a real person examine our returns for the last few years. We aren't looking for anyone who would advocate for questionable deductions, we just want to make sure we are overpaying. If it does end up that we've been overpaying, we'd like this person to be able to help us apply for refunds. Our finances are fairly straight forward, it's nothing too complex. Still, we feel it's a good idea to make sure the system we've been using to file our taxes is working in our best interest. Somebody in Oakland would be best, although Berkeley is fine too. Also, we don't have a ton of money to spend, so somebody good that charges a reasonable rate - is that too much to ask? Thanks! Jen


Patrick McDermott is a fabulous CPA- He is extremely knowledgeable. His office is in Berkeley. Ph:(510)841-9801 email: patrickthecpa@comcast.net rachel
I can't recommend Hank Leavy and his team highly enough. They're located on College ave in Oakland. Very thorough and honest. I feel very comfortable with them every year. http://www.execusite.com/hanklevycpa/contact.html Cassie
We have been THRILLED with Mary Canning E.A.,J.D.,LLM (tax) in Piedmont. We had used several tax accountants with horror stories as a result. One (found on BPN)involving putting our completed tax information in the mail (the person lived 2 miles away and never asked if we preferred to pick them up)with NO RETURN ADDRESS. Our taxes along with all of the personal information included were lost.

Mary is a CPA and a certified financial planner. She is the dean of the Golden Gate University MBA Accounting program and she is fantastic! She is thorough, knows the tax code and all of the changes that come each year and makes sure everything is examined. We have used her for the last 2 tax seasons and have been so happy with her professionalism and expertise. Her hourly rates are very much in-line with most CPAs and we feel that she is worth every penny! She can be reached at (510)547-7904 Frank


Two fantastic tax people who really know their stuff:
1. Marvin Tate, CPA, JD
510-271-8512
marvint@mferco.com

Marvin is in Oakland. He was my Real Estate Taxation and 
Exchange teacher. Run to Marvin if you own any investments, 
need to strategize, etc.

2. Herb Yarmo, EA
510-849-0360
hyarmo@herb-yarmo.com

Herb is an Enrolled Agent in Berkeley. Has done our taxes for 
years and saved us buckets-o'-cash.
Jessica
March 2008

In 2007 I rented out what used to be my primary residence, and I need help dealing the income, expense & depreciation reporting on my taxes. If you have personal experience using the services of someone in the east bay who has done a good job with this for a fair price, would you please share the info? Or, if you know of a good, not-too-technical reference book that might make it possible for me to prepare the income tax reports myself, please share. Before I had a rental, I did my own itemized tax reports without being traumatized. Many thanks!


I know an accountant who has lots of experience with this: Iryna Oreshkova, MBA, CPA. You can call her at 510-467-9506 or email her at ioreshkova@hotmail.com. -- Laura K
Jan 2008

We're looking for someone to do our taxes this year --- they should be pretty straightforward and simple. What seems to be the going rate for such work? Has anyone had good success with a particular tax preparer? Thanks for the advice. anon


Our taxes were simple too (so we thought), but we were referred to Nick by our friends -- he is based in Berkeley, email: nicksf@gmail.com). He was very well versed in our situation (working couple) and he knew how to sort through the details we were not aware of, and helped us figure out how to deal with our small investments in the future (proactive tax planning was not in our minds at the time). He was very reasonable in what he charged us last year (around $250) given some tricky items in our return. He was quite busy when we first contacted him, so he asked us a lot of questions, but once he took us on, he also gave us a lot of suggestions on how to improve and streamline our finances, and look at how they affect taxes. I don't know if he is open to taking on new clients - send him an email and he see what he says. anon
Jan 2008

We haven't done our taxes since our youngest was born in 2004 and we need HELP! Up until then we have always taken care of taxes on time. We really want to find someone who can get us back on track without being judgmental or breaking the bank. I have a regular full-time job & my husband has a small business so we need someone that has experience with that and who can provide solid guidance regarding deductions etc. for the future. We are in Berkeley, but would certainly be open to using a "highly recommended" professional anywhere in the Bay Area that could help our situation. It's taxing to do taxes...Procrastinator No More!


I've recommended him on BPN before, and I'll do it again: Call Mike Schoenholz of Schoenholz & Spiegel, LLP 2033 N. Main St.,Ste. 365 Walnut Creek 925-977-4000. His office is right near the 24/680 interchange, so it is easy and quick to get to. He is the nicest, least judgmental person in the world, plus he is a true tax genius. He has helped us with our taxes (my husband has a corporate job, but I am a freelancer). He sorted out extremely messy estate and trust filings after my father died. Then, he helped my father's widow with her taxes. And that was a real mess because she was experiencing the onset of alzheimers and we didn't realize it. Her papers and records were in total disarray. Throughout it all, Mike was patient and on top of every new tax law, code, and detail. I have never been disappointed in anything he's done for us, big or small. I Like Mike
Sept 2007

I work from home and recently switched from W2 to 1099 status. I need to find a knowledgeable tax accountant who can save me money by guiding me on how and what to deduct (office, phone bills, travel, etc). Anyone know a good tax accountant who specializes in 1099 status? Monica


I highly recommend Jan Zobel. She specializes in working with self-employed people and independent contractors and she's been helping me with my 1099s for the past 7 years. My tax returns have been different almost every year for various reasons, but she always makes tax season a breeze for me. She also teaches a really helpful tax seminar for self-employed people that I can't recommend enough.
Caitlin
[Sept 2014 Editor Note: Jan Zobel is no longer accepting new clients]
Sept 2007

I am seeking the answer to a complicated question regarding Mortgage payments and tax claims. I am not sure of who exactly (what profession) would have the best, legally thorough answers. The question: If I am not on the title of the house or a co-signer on the loan, but will be paying the full mortgage payments, property taxes, and contributing to the account set-up for house maintenance, (essentially as a renter) how can I (or can I?) claim this legally for a tax deduction? and what (if anything) would legally need to happen so that I could do this? Does my mom need to set up a legal agreement? Do I need to be on the title? Do I need to be a Co-Signer on the re-financing of the home loan? This is regarding half of my mom's home (she is on title and the full signer for the loan as she had the better credit), She is co-owner of half the house with our upstairs neighbors (who are fully aware of the situation) who also make the other half of the payments. She is retiring next year and leaving the country and we are seeking the recommendations of where and who might be able to help us determine these answers. I am not sure of who exactly would have the legal answers? (what profession? tax lawyer, tax accountant? which is more affordable and recommended?)and is there anyone who has recommendations? Thanks for taking the time to consider our questions.


This is not an uncommon scenario. These particular tax deductions, as a matter of public policy, support home ownership. So you have to be a homeowner, on title, to take these tax deductions - the tax law is clear on this. I recommend that you go to the IRS website - they have a publication (that is designed to be readable by lay people) on home deductions. These publications have FAQs and will probably answer your questions and can be accessed at your convenience. I don't know the local tax professionals but do know that there is a local H&R Block and they'd be able to answer this for you quickly. Anonymous
I highly recommend ''Just Taxes'' in El Cerrito - they are super knowledgeable and have always saved us money and given great advice. Just Taxes is located at 6327 Fairmount Ave in El Cerrito (near the plaza) and their number is 510 528 8299. Audrey
April 2007

I am looking for recommendation for a Tax Advisor. We run one small and one not-so- small business and are looking to make some changes that will have definite fiscal/tax implications and require some practical advice before we do it. The ideal person will be someone with experience in working with Building Contractors & S-Corps. Serena


Cathy Mu is the person to interview for your tax questions. She receives rave reviews from her clients, and is always told she doesn't charge nearly enough for the work she does. She has two offices, one in San Pablo and one in Walnut Creek. (925) 979- 2378. Please be aware it is tax season, but she will respond as quickly as she possibly can. Julie G
Feb 2007

Can anyone recommend a tax preparer on the Walnut Creek side of the tunnel? We've never paid someone to do our taxes, but it's now time. Thank you. Leslie


I think you could not do better than Michael Schoenholz of Schoenholz & Spiegel. He is fantastic. Their office is at 2033 N. Main St. in Walnut Creek. The number is 925-977-4000. We have worked with Michael Schoenholz of Schoenholz & Spiegel for several years now. He also handled my late father's quite complicated trust and estate tax issues. I cannot recommend him highly enough. He is kind, quick, efficient, easy to talk to, and is so completely up to date on even the most arcane new tax laws it is unbelievable. His office is in Walnut Creek, very near the 24/680 interchange.
We use and like Earl Yerina at what used to be AmEx Financial Services in WC; they were bought by H&R Block but nothing has changed. Nicole R.

2005 - 2006 Reviews


May 2006

I need serious financial help. I can't maintain a budget, I owe serious backtaxes, and I am completely disorganized with financial matters--like having my water turned over for not paying the bill, not from lack of funds, just lack of time. I don't have credit card debt, but in my early 40s, I have no money set aside for retirement or my kids' college education. Part of my problems are attributable to being laid off for several years, but more of it has to do with my compulsive spending (which is what I do when I'm not doing compulsive eating!). I am now self-employed and making decent money. I really feel this is the time to make a change, like paying off tax debts (if I can figure out what I actually owe). But I can't do it alone. It seems I need a bookkeeper, a tax preparer, a financial planner, a tax attorney, and even a therapist to help me figure out why I have this problem! Of course, I need to have enough money left over to actually pay debts/save/etc. This is all coupled with my fear of financial experts - I always fear being judged. Help! Can anyone make recommendations about any of the above types of professionals? (And any other words of advice are welcome!)
Financially Incompetent


Hi- We recently started having our taxes done by Lillian Lea, on the recommendation of a close friend who sounds as if he has some of the same challeges you do. She's been doing his taxes for a long time, and we figured if anyone could be skillful and patient enough with his tangled financial mess (including lots of back taxes) we'd be glad to go to her too.

She's very down to earth, human, and extremely saavy in the financial realm. I think she'd be a good starting point - have her help you get the tax part of it under control, and then maybe ask her who to go to for the next step. She has decades of experience doing taxes for all manner of individuals and businesses, in addition to being warm and easy going. Just don't be imtimidated by the piles of paperwork on her desk - she really is very well organized! Her helpers are good too, but if you're concerned, I'd start with Lil herself.

Lillian Lea
1307 Solano (at Key Route)
Albany 526-2220
- anon (for the sake of my friend!)
Jan 2006

We need a tax preparer to do both our 2004 and 2005 taxes. We're pretty sure that we are owed money for 2004, or at least don't owe, but never filed and now need someone to help us deal with the consequences. Any recommendations for a tax preparer who will help us back on track.
ready to clean up this mess


I have used and referred many a soul to Christine Harkinson in Oakland. She is reasonable, takes time to explains things and goes the extra mile. And if your busy like me, she even points out with stickies where to sign things. Silly but really helpful. She has been recommended here as well. Her # is 510 482-9729
Lori
Tax preparer in for late filing or just filing. I highly recommond Mel Lee 510-763-1145. He has saved my family thousands of dollars. He knows the IRS Laws inside and out. He is not the cheapest, but I think he is the best tax person I have every dealt with. Best of luck, If you want more information feel free to email me joanne
I would recommend Diane Tyler of D.L. Tyler and Associates in Oakland. She has been in the business for many years and is committed to getting you the deductions that you are entitled to and doing a professional return. Her website: http://www.dltylerandassociates.com Melanie
If you're looking for a tax preparer I recommend John Paul Cross, very reasonable rates. He will spend a lot of time with you and help you figure out what works best for you. crystal
James Reiglehaupt Oakland Ca 510-893-0921 treesa
Feb 2005

I've looked in the archives, but didn't find what I was looking for. I'd like to find someone to prepare my tax return - and ideally he or she would work near my home in Albany. Does anyone have someone they love in the area? Thanks, Amy


I used to work for myself and my taxes were too complicated for me to handle. I went to Peter Morfin, in Kensington. He is fantastic! He is a wonderful person, and, more to the point, saved me a lot of money. His number is 525-4205. nadja
My husband and I used John Stephenson who co owns Just Taxes on Fairmont Ave. just east of the intersection of San Pablo, on the border between Albany and El Cerrito. He is excellent -- very easy to work with and charges fair prices. We have had quite complex taxes and he did well on them. He also helped me through two audits when I owned my own company. kathryn
I love my tax preparer. She is in Albany right across from Sweet Potatoes on Solano. Her name is Susan Kopman. Her number is (510) 526-8255. She has been doing my taxes for years and is very knowledable and very reasonable. Happy Tax Payer
I know a great tax preparer in Albany (or perhaps Berkeley) on Solano Avenue near the New Pieces/Liu's Kitchen/Barney's intersection. Whe've been using her for about 10 years and she is wonderful! I don't know if she is taking on new clients, but giver her a call and see (if not, I bet she could recommend someone). Her name is April McMahon. She is at 510-528-2312. - Very satisfied customer.
My wonderful tax preparer - Val Waltz - is not in Albany but is in Pinole which is about 15 minutes away. She has gotten me through tax season for about 20 years. She is knowledgeable and has reasonable rates. I highly recommend her. Val Waltz - 741-1737 Amy
For the person lookong for a Tax CPA in the Albany area, try Ruth Rubalcava, CPA. She has been great to work with and has clarified some difficult, sticky tax and planning issues for me. Her tel # is 510/910-3222. Veronica
Jan 2005

I'm looking for a tax preparer, it's that time of year again and my husband is a great procrastinator! Nothing too complex, but someone with experience with stock options would be useful. Previous postings are a bit dated. Thanks, Denise


I've been using Diane Sheilds in Oakland and think she's amazing. She's honest, but we still manage to get a refund every year. She's also a delight to work with. Her number is: 510-451-1926. Good luck! Abby
We are currently working with James Rigelhaupt 510-893-0921 and he is helping us settle an estate. He si doing the accounting and the tax paper work. He has been very helpful explaining what we can do for ourselves and save money or what he can do for us. He has answered my questions promptly and even made copies extra large so that my legally blind mother can see them treesa
I recommend Creighton Lee. email: cleecpa AT pacbell.net phone: 510- 531-6873 We have used him for the past three years. My husband has his own business. He works with a variety of different types of clients (ranging all sectors). He is affordable and fair with his prices (we never ask him what he will charge and never felt that we got the short end of the stick). Karen
Ruth Rubalcava, CPA, has given me really terrific tax advice on a whole range of issues including real estate transactions, rentals, retirement and how my tax status has been affected as a result of having kids and cutting back on work. I recommend her highly. She also has great communication skills. She works independently and does not take on that many clients because she has 1 year old twins. Her tel # is 510/910-3222. She is great if you can get her. Amy

Earlier Reviews


Aug 2004

My husband & I are self employed musicians/artists/technicians with a complex tax return, & we're looking for a good tax preparer. We're in Berkeley, but we'll travel to meet with someone you've had a good experience with. (We've been working with Tax Plus, in Berkeley, for several years now, & while they're very competent, they're pricey, & don't seem to be up on the latest/best info regarding musicians, etc.) Ari


I can highly recommend tax accountant Ron Yee in Berkeley (843- 6511). We have been using him for many, many years to prepare our tax returns and he is great at helping you finds ways to save money, makes the whole process as pleasant as possible, is the nicest person ever, and is very reasonable to boot. He is a CPA that used to work for Bechtel and now has his own business out of his home. We have referred many friends to him and they all love him. karen
Dennis Roberts at CheckMate behind Andronico's on University has been doing my taxes for close to 20 years. I have recommended Dennis to MANY of my friends and they ALL have had nothing but praise for him. He's at 1405 Addison in Berkeley, 510-849-1555. Burr
I highly recommend my accountant/tax preparer Aaron Nakahara in Emeryville (510)653-3757. My husband and I are self-employed in a partnership and Aaron has helped us with our taxes for the past four years. He's extremely knowledgeable (although I don't know how much he knows about musicians specifically), always gives us advice on ways to reduce taxes, and is available by phone to answer questions throughout the year. His fees are reasonable for the excellent value he delivers but he's not cheap. Amy
March 2003

I've read the few recs on tax preparers on the site and find I need add'l ones from a self-emplyed persons perspective (most were for 'simple' returns not for self-employed/complex). I am looking for additional ones -- a a preparer who has enough breadth to handle complex personal returns, organize household employees quarterly filings, and be very proactive on advice about deductions and ways to optimize a self- employed consulting business. I would like someone who has well- developed methods and systems for collecting data, so that I can learn to feed info in to him/her better each year and improve my organization methods. Excellent verbal skills and ability to explain are critical.


Richard Seiden (510-547-0331) is an accountant with a lot of experience and knowledge in dealing with tax returns for self-employed people. He will help you figure out every possible deduction and, being an ex-professor, is an intelligent guy, We have used him for years. It is also handy that he will come to your house to do your returns - and he has a very fast turn around time - usually gets them in the mail the next day. Not sure what his going rate is these da Anon
We use Mark Schisler in Oakland (Pleasant Valley Avenue) Call him at 510-658-5600. He does a great job with our return which this year includes employment, self-employment, household employees, K-1's, adoption, investments and rental properties. Yuck! Plus, he helped me set up my bookkeeping system so that it jibes with tax planning. Good luck! anon
We have a complicated return - because we have a mix of standard employment, various consulting contracts on the side, outside expenses, estimated taxes quarterly etc... This year, I gave up doing it myself and going to HRBlock because I felt that I needed to be more proactive/comprehensive/thorough about what I could do this year and what I needed to think about better for next year. Through another mom's group that I belong to, I found a CPA in Orinda who has been really really wonderful. She once worked at a big firm in the city, but has since hung out her own shingle. She is great and I would highly recommend her. She has suggested things, corrected things, and just been a pleasure to deal with. Her name is Marina Wright, and her phone is 925/253-1445, and her email is MarinaWrightCPA at attbi.com. Maryanne M
December 2002

Does anyone have a recommedation for an East Bay tax preparer? The recommendations on the site are several years old. Someone who can handle preparing personal tax returns, who understands child-related deductions, is honest and reliable. Also, any idea of the going rate for these services?


Mcgee's Tax Service in Lafayette was really great for us. We previously had a less than stellar experience with a CPA, and were therefore hesitant to let someone help us, but tax law is so complicated, we needed expertise. A friend with a small business referred us to Jeff McGee. He really, really helped and was quite reasonable in cost. We're going back for more if you need further endorsement. His number is (925) 299-1442 linda
Try Michael Alef on Vine Street in Berkeley. He's a CPA and has helped us for several years. He's honest and reliable. anon
We've used Peter Abel, on College Ave., the past three or four years. He seems to be quite competent and knows personal income tax laws well. He has typically charged us about $250 depending on how complicated things are. His number is 510-420-8188. Hannah
I highly recommend Maria Ku, C.P.A. (a Haas School High-Honors grad! and my spouse)to assist you with any tax-related matters. She has been doing taxes for many years, and opened her own private practice 2.5 years ago.

Maria is very professional and reliable, has many local East Bay clients with various child- and investments-related issues that she's been successfully advising through the changing tides in the economy. She has a lot of happy clients, and you could talk to them if you wish.

Because Maria's own business still has some openings, her professional rates are very reasonable ($55/hr) for her extensive tax expertise. She is a licensed C.P.A. and a community activist providing her pro bono professional services to her public school and other local organizations. You can visit her web site at www.geocities.com/Maria_Ku_CPA to learn more about her background, services and local client base.

Please call her at (510) 531-6614 or e-mail her at maria.ku AT sbcglobal DOT net Marco


I have recommended several friends to my tax preparer and we all can't say enough about him. I have known him for several years. He is very nice, accomodating, up on the changing tax laws, will explain things to you in a clear manner without making you feel ignorant, and will work hard to make sure you get the most from your return. He will meet with you in person, or in some cases you can just send/fax him all your info and he can prepare your taxes for you without even having to go to his office. Here's his info:
Jim Sparkman, C.P.A
1155 Meridian Ave., Suite 204
San Jose, CA 95125
phone: (408) 265-8400
fax (408) 265-7191
email: sparkmanco AT sbcglobal DOT net
Angelica
January 2003

We're looking for an independent advisor/CPA/tax expert, and nothing on the website seems to quite fit what we need -- or perhaps we simply don't understand what it is that we need... We have several long- and short-term financial goals, including all the usual retirement/school fund/kid #2/travel issues (that is, we have retirement and school funds, but they are likely not the most elegant solutions). We don't necessarily want someone to help us build a portfolio but more to tell us the tax implications of particular investment vehicles. In addition, we need tax advice for various kinds of activity -- *especially* real estate investing (both home and rental property), as well as small business activity. Lastly, we'd like this person to partner with someone who can then take care of all our tax filing -- or if the same person does all of this, then great! So Many Choices, So Few Brain Cells Left


I would highly recommend Ken Rosen in Walnut Creek (with Brockstein and Rosen 925-930-8108) who has been my tax advisor for almost 10 years and my husbands for longer than that. I feel he is quite knowledgeable on a broad base of financial matters and that he has really championed my goals. He is more than capable of doing all that you require. Deborah
I would highly recommend California Accounting Center, Jay R. Shah CPA and Principal for financial advice and tax preperation, he sends out a quarterly newsletter with great tax tips. You can e-mail www.calaccountingcenter.com or call him at Phone # 510-625-7933. Andrea
We've been going to Peggy Hall for our taxes for a number of years. She works out of her house in Moraga and can be reached at halloftaxes at yahoo.com. Feel free to tell her that I recommended her. jamie
February 2000

I heartily recommend Jan Zobel for tax preparation. She is efficient and organized. Her rates are reasonable and she is very flexible given our tax status as "unmarried" parents of two dependents, all in the same household. She works with our individual circumstances to get us the possible outcome. Jan has an office in Montclair and in San Francisco. Seth
[Sept 2014 Editor Note: Jan Zobel is no longer accepting new clients]


I wanted to give you the name of my tax preparer, whom I have been using since 1992. Her business, called "Just Taxes," is located at 6327 Fairmont Avenue, across from the El Cerrito Post Office. Her name is Janet Blackburn. Her telephone number is: 528-8299 or 528-8328.

She has always provided me with fast, accurate, and reliable services. Try her out! I've only had good experiences with her.


To the person looking for a financial services person in the Albany area, I would like to recommend John Stephenson. He is an excellent tax accountant, although I don't know if he does any financial planning. His number is 528-8299. His office is located on Fairmount Avenue, just down from the El Cerrito BART station (almost at San Pablo). (he's at Just Taxes as well). Carl
I can highly recommend Ron Yee, CPA. He lives in Berkeley and makes house calls! I no longer dread tax time. He comes over, and does everything right there on his computer. He is proactive in helping to figure out if there are ways to save money, and he is super nice, and patiently answers questions. I don't know if has any particular expertise in dealing with gay/lesbian families, but you could ask him. His phone # is 510 843-6511. You can tell him that (I also think he's very reasonably priced although I don't have a lot to compare to) Karen
Sheila Khalov in Oakland is recommended for tax returns. Her business is called Many Happy Returns and is on College Ave. Maggie
I highly second the recommendation of Sheila Khalov in Oakland, near the Safeway on College & Claremont. Linda
April 1999

Our tax preparer is great! She's very efficient, and nice besides. My husband used to work with her and can vouch for her high professional standards. Her name is Maria Sohnlein and can be reached at (510) 799-3304 (her home phone, so call at a reasonable hour) or sohnlein at pacbell.net. Laurel


December 1998

My husband and I have gone to Feiner Tax Service in Berkeley (on 6th Street near Dwight) for years, working with Gary Feiner. He's good. Phone 510-549-2226 . Bonnie


Sept 1998

I highly recommend a tax preparer that I have used for years: Peter Morfin, in Kensington, ph: 525-0814. Peter also provides financial consulting. He has been a therapist for years, is intelligent, knowledgeable and funny. My husband and I met with him to plan our financial future and found his unique blend of skills extremely helpful. Kathy


We have a great tax accountant, Valerie Schieber, in Emeryville who also came to us highly recommended. 510-644-1236 Andrea
March 1998

Kelvin Brown & Associates/Brown's Tax Service in Pinole is great! They are a family run buisness and are very friendly, professional and helpful. They are at 1279 San Pablo Ave in Pinole. Their phone number is 724-8787. They also have an office in Concord - 2291 Pacheco Street. phone 685-8500. Heather


IRS Audit

Aug 2010

My Uncle, a self employed person, received a notice from the tax people that they want to audit him and come to his place of work, which is his house. The items are minor but he is quite puzzled. Can anyone recommend a CPA or lawyer? Has anyone gone through this? maude


My husband and I were also audited and the IRS agent came to our house. She told us what documents she needed before she came. I had everything prepared and ready for her. She was actually very nice and it was not difficult at all. We were coached by our tax preparer to just be cordial and not engage the agent in anything unnecessary. She sat at our dining room table for probably an hour and went through all the documents and then told us what more she needed. It all turned out fine. anonymous

I owe back taxes


May 2010

My husband and I have not filed taxes since 2003. I need to resolve this. I had an attorney that did not work out. We have a relatively low income (Less than $70K). We have been having tax deductions so if we filed would probably would have been eligible for a refund. Any recommendations for a way of fixing this situation will be greatly appreciated. Procrastinator


Before you hire an attorney, I suggest you contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service (http://www.irs.gov/advocate/). This is an independent arm of the IRS created by Congress to help taxpayers cut through the non-responsive IRS bureaucracy. We had a minor disagreement with the IRS (I estimated we owed $350, the IRS said $1200) and all of our efforts to contact them as requested by phone, mail, fax and even in person went nowhere for 8 months. Only when the IRS threatened us for inaction did they inform us of the Taxpayer Advocate Service. I then contacted the Taxpayer Advocate -- who responded within 24, called back on the days when she said she would, did what she promised and got the case resolved -- with us paying $325! Best of all, this service is free -- your tax dollars at work! Before you shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for an attorney, try this approach. Taxpayer Advocate Fan
I highly recommend you talk to Deborah Bell Fisher first before work with an attorney. Deborah is the Director of Tax for Williams, Adley and Co., a CPA firm. She has been a CPA for 25 years, and worked at IRS in charge of auditing for 18 of those years. So, she knows the tax law inside and out. Because of her IRS background, she is really good at helping taxpayers get compliant with their back taxes due and in working with IRS and other government authorities to slow down their collection process while she is working on getting you compliant. Once she gets you compliant, she can be of even greater value by helping you with tax planning and strategies, not just filing a tax return. Quite a few of my clients work with Deborah and speak highly about her. She is thorough, takes initiative and always stays on top of the game. She is very easy to work with and is always there when you have any questions. Her fees are very reasonable and competitive. She is a wonderful person, and she offers free consultation upfront. You should give her a call and find out for yourself. Deborah's phone # is 510-893-8114, ext. 16 or email: dkbell@wacllp.com Lan
Dec 2008

I owe taxes to the IRS Since 2004 if some one have been in this situation before, I have heard that there are Lawyers that can help to reduce your debts, can some one recommend me what to do or were to go Please help


You may not like this answer, but, having been there and my partner having been there, bite the bullet and pay it off before you are socked with more penalties. It took several years of negotitation for my partner to work on his last snafu with the IRS and 9 months for me. It totally was not worth the effort. We saved almost nothing in his case, nothing in mine, and it was a mental energy drain. You will pay the attorney in addition, and who will win...the attorney. After you pay it off, breathe a big sigh of relief!! been there, done that

Working for H&R Block

Sept 2008

I'm a former health policy professional who has been out of the work force for almost 8 years. I'm looking for a way to go back to work that will allow me to work part time, without the level of stress and responsibilty I had in my former work world. I like working with numbers and am thinking about taking the H& R Block tax course as a way to get into the tax prep field. Has anyone taken this class? If so what was your experience in terms of being able to get work/ pay rates, etc after the class? Curious about tax prep


I read a very enlightening (and scary) article about what it's REALLY like to work as an H&R Block tax preparer in the East Bay Express. You can search for the article on their web site, or follow this link. http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/PrintFriendly?oid=683547 Lisa in Oakland
I did the class three years ago. My sister is a CPA in Iowa and she has worked part time for H&R Block for years. For her, it has been a nice supplement to her regular salary and she has built up a regular client base.

If you're just starting out, however, my experience is that you will make VERY little money your first year. I ended up just earning minimum wage. If you can do that for a few years, you might build up enough of a client base to do better, but I couldn't afford to do that. After deducting child care expenses, I lost money.

I had a good teacher, and I thought the class itself was good and prepared me well, but I'd want to be sure I could find work someplace else before taking the class again.

I enjoyed the work, I just can't afford to work there again! --Former tax preparer


I didn't see what your exact question was in the original post, but can tell you about my dad's experience with H&R Block. He never worked in tax but is one of those people who ''likes'' doing tax returns, so when he retired he decided to work there. He went through the training and a week or two of work... but he could not stand the way the company operates. In particular he disliked the way they nickel and dime customers so that a very straightforward return can end up costing $300. Anyway he quit and now is a volunteer with AARP, doing returns for seniors and low-income individuals, and is much happier!
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