Luke Frye and Anne Chan of Timber Tax Accounting help small business owners focus on what they do best by taking the stress of tax accounting off their hands. But it took a partnership with Bench—a bookkeeper designed for tax professionals—to help the Timber Tax team focus on what they do best.
Timber Tax specializes in compliance and tax planning for sole proprietors, single-member LLCs, and S-Corporations. Not only do they help small business owners file on time, they optimize tax bills. “Our clients tend to be individuals who just started something because they’re passionate and good at a skill,” Luke explains.
Luke and Anne are passionate about making life easier for these small businesses. It’s a change from their early careers at large corporations PwC and Morgan Stanley. “In a large public accounting firm, you might never speak to a client—clients in those situations are often corporations themselves, not an individual or family you’re helping out,” says Luke.
Knowing I don’t have to educate clients on bookkeeping, I can focus on giving people power over their tax bill.
Timber Tax focuses specifically on income tax, helping small businesses take control of their tax expenditure. Luke explains that they approach tax with “a level of mindfulness and intentionality that enables you to plan, and stay in control.” To do that, Timber Tax offers proactive planning, including annual tax returns and quarterly estimates, which are used to leverage planning opportunities. “We look at things like, how does health insurance, or a big asset purchase affect your tax bill? How do your plans for retirement affect you? These are things that we can’t really look at if you just come to see us once a year, so instead we build an ongoing relationship with clients.
But they can’t start solving tax problems until the client has their bookkeeping sorted out.
“If you have poor-quality books, you’ll have a poor-quality tax filing,” Luke explains. “Most clients were coming to me without bookkeeping, so I would set them up with software, and tell them to do their own books. I was setting them up for failure. They’re not bookkeepers—they’re photographers, or architects, or writers. The chances they did their books correctly were probably one in ten. So then I felt obliged to do their books myself.”
All this unfinished bookkeeping is a huge hassle for an income tax specialist to take on, and hiring in-house bookkeepers felt like a distraction from Timber Tax’s core cause. “Most of our successful clients already work with a bookkeeper, which helps us plan better, so we decided to partner with Bench.”
Timber Tax works with multiple bookkeepers because many clients come with a bookkeeper already in place. It means there is a lack of consistency in quality and process with how books are prepared, depending on the bookkeeper. Bench introduces a new level of standardization and quality control that has totally streamlined Luke and Anne’s work.
“It helps to have a shared vocabulary. Accounting isn’t as black and white as people think,” Luke explains. “Everyone prepares forms slightly differently, as almost every bookkeeper will—even little things might vary, like how to name the ledger, how we deduct something, or what recommendations are made. Individual bookkeepers, might not understand the entities we work with. Do they understand that IRS payments for federal income tax will almost always be an owner draw? Or do they put it in as an expense item? If we’re working with one bookkeeper, it makes it a lot easier to create a shared understanding of what we need to communicate through the books.”
In the next year, I expect at least 50% of our growth will be thanks to Bench.
That consistency is a huge time-saver for the Timber Tax team. So is the intuitive ease of the Bench platform. According to Luke: “Bench is ideal—I know I can ask questions directly to the platform, without having to remember the individual bookkeeper’s email. I have one login to all of those client’s accounts.”
It’s not just Luke and Anne that benefit from efficiencies—so do their clients. “The difference with a Bench client is we’re able to file within a week,” says Luke. “I don’t waste time reviewing books a client did themselves or chasing an unresponsive CPA. For a client who would already be spending $30 to $50 on software and at least four hours a month to do it themselves, it makes more sense to spend an extra $30 to $50 to have those books done professionally, and spend the saved time on something else—like finishing a client project, or spending time with their family.”
It all adds up so that Timber Tax can focus on their own growth potential. “Knowing I don’t have to educate clients on bookkeeping, I can focus on giving people power over their tax bill. We doubled our service level last year. This year, we’re on track to do the same. In the next year, I expect at least 50% of our growth will be thanks to Bench.”
Learn more about how Bench works with accountants.