By: RYAN L. GRUENEWALD
Google a professor. Have another drink. Re-watch the full series of Breaking Bad (this time with commentary). When all the best ways to procrastinate have been exhausted, it’s time to do taxes.
It’s time to gather the 1098-T, the W-2 and those receipts for textbooks that should be stashed somewhere safe. Tuesday, April 15, is Tax Day, just around the corner, and Levi Miller, owner of LBJ’s Tax Café in River Park, offers a local alternative to the national tax preparation chains.
“I’ve had people come to me from H&R Block,” Miller said.
One young lady was a student and had been led to believe by a commercial that filing her taxes would be free.
“They got through all of her forms and it was going to be $150,” Miller said.
He believes the business models that H&R Block and similar businesses use are too deceiving.
“I can’t compete with some of those shenanigans, but I try to compete with an honest, upfront approach,” Miller said.
The tax café charges a flat rate of $45 for students and $90 for non-student first time customers.
Miller is a graduate of Manchester University with a degree in accounting. His unassuming office stands where a garage had been, behind his house, and is decorated with navy high-back chairs and a small cart for brewing tea (hence café in the name).
With a customer-friendly approach, LBJ’s is poised to help those unsatisfied by the big-name tax preparers.
Nevertheless, IU South Bend student Melissa Walkowiak spoke positively about H&R Block.
“It’s worth it. It saves me a lot of time,” Walkowiak said. “I was given a hug.”
Walkowiak filed taxes last year for the first time after a divorce, paid more than $300 for the service and will return this year.
Holly Hirschy-Hurd, a student at IUSB, swears by doing taxes online.
“I used taxact.com. It only took a few hours. I didn’t understand some of the sections and had to Google some of the terms,” Hirschy-Hurd said. “I was able to do my federal for free and only had to pay about $20 for the state to be filed.”
Miller acknowledged that the happiness of the client is priority, and doesn’t begrudge H&R Block any business. But he asserted that LBJ’s philosophy focuses on the total well-being of the tax-payer.
“I try to set my clients up to have a good foundation for the tax law,” Miller said. “I try to understand their situation. If they’re saying, ‘I’m looking to buy a house next year’, I’ll tell them, ‘Here are some steps you can take.’ I try to more than just prepare their tax return. I try to give them some advice and my 2 cents of wisdom.”
To set up an appointment Miller can be contacted by calling 226-9801 or by email at levi@LBJsTaxCafe.com. LBJ’s Tax Café is located at 809 South Ironwood Drive, South Bend.