6 Black Tax Pros to Follow in 2024

Hundreds of people search “Black CPA near me” each month. But according to the latest data from the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, only 2% of CPAs in the U.S. are Black.

This can make it hard for people to find a Black CPA to work with, but the extra effort can be worth it to find a tax pro you’re comfortable with, says Angie Toney, owner and CEO of Oasis Tax Advisory Services.

“Whether perceived or real, you may feel judged by non-Black CPAs,” said Toney. “It’s about trust, approachability and also about supporting our own professionals.”

We talked to some Black tax pros about top questions on taxpayers’ minds this filing season, including when it makes sense to hire a tax preparer and how to maximize your credits and deductions.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Learn more about each financial pro below following the questions.

What are the top things you want taxpayers to be aware of this season?

Nayo Carter-Gray

Nayo Carter-Gray, CEO of 1st Step Accounting and founder of Taking Your Firm Virtual: "The main thing I always want taxpayers to be aware of is who is preparing their tax returns. There is a thing called a ‘ghost preparer,’ and these preparers prey on taxpayers who are unaware that in order to get paid to prepare a tax return, you must have a preparer tax identification number (PTIN). So I encourage you to look up your tax professional on the IRS’ website to verify that they are, in fact, registered to do so. This will ensure that you are working with a tax professional that is held to high ethical standards.” 

Joel Lee

Joel Lee, owner of Thorough Financial Services: “E-filing your tax return is faster and more secure than paper filing. Additionally, when you e-file using IRS-approved software, it often includes step-by-step guidance to ensure accuracy. You can also utilize the IRS Free File program if you meet the income requirements for free tax preparation and e-filing.”

When does it make sense to use tax software vs. a CPA or an accountant?

Calvin Harris

Calvin Harris, CEO of The New York State Society of CPAs: “This is largely dependent on quite a few factors. But, when in doubt (even a tiny bit of doubt), ask a professional for help — you just don’t want to end up on the wrong side of the tracks when dealing with the IRS. Tax software is great in many ways; however, it can be very misleading and lead you to unexpected errors if someone does not know what they are really doing.”

Angie Toney

Angie Toney: “I am a proponent for self-preparation when individuals are young and just starting out with a simple W-2. It will give some basic understanding of how taxes are prepared, and taxpayers should actually read the return after it is completed. They should also download and store it securely in case they need access going forward. The software is not to be used as a permanent storage for tax returns. I used to be a tax expert advising for Intuit TurboTax and spoke with many customers who lost their ID and access to the software, and therefore prior-year returns.

"You know you need a professional to handle your taxes when your tax return gets more complex with sophisticated investments, rental property and especially reporting the results of a small business. Many taxpayers are overpaying taxes by not taking rightful deductions and causing unnecessary penalties by claiming credits for which they are ineligible.”

No one likes big surprise bills at tax time. What are some ways to pay less and maximize credits and deductions?

Julian Davis

Julian Davis, director at Homrich Berg: “Many actions that can reduce tax bills have to be done during the actual tax year, such as charitable giving, paying your mortgage, buying an electric vehicle, etc. However, there are a few things you can do, even after the year has ended, but before you file your tax return, to help save on taxes. Those include making IRA contributions (depending on your income level) and 529 college savings contributions, depending on the state in which you reside.

"Also, make sure that you are aware of the credits that may benefit you when filing your taxes, such as credits for children, for education and for certain environmentally friendly purchases, just to name a few.”

Nayo Carter-Gray: "The best way to minimize surprise bills at tax time is to prepare before the year is over. Generally, these big tax bills arise because of a major bump in income or major life changes (like marriage). But if you talk to a tax professional before the year is over (August to October is a good time), they can help you plan. If you have a profitable business, bookkeeping is going to be your first line of defense. If you sell property, keeping track of all of the expenses will help immensely. If you get married, you could move into a new tax bracket, so seeking tax planning services will help you understand how to minimize any tax implications."

What bad tax advice do you consistently see given?

Laura Tshilumba

Laura Tshilumba, International Practice Leader at HLB Gross Collins: “Bad advice that I see consistently given is that Americans living and/or working overseas do not need to file U.S. tax returns. This could not be further from the truth. I cannot tell you the many tax horror stories I have dealt with because of this advice, and taxpayers had to pay a lot of money to both a tax advisor and a tax attorney to fix their tax mess and help bring them into compliance with their U.S. tax filings.

"There are cases where an American expat may not need to file a U.S. tax return, but don’t take that advice at face value. Even for taxpayers who are technically exempt from filing, it can still be beneficial to file a tax return for many reasons. I always tell people to consult with a qualified tax professional who is well-versed in the field of international taxation to understand their filing obligations.”

Nayo Carter-Gray: “The worst advice I have seen floating around on social media and through conversations is for small-business owners to elect to be taxed as an S corporation. This is blanket advice and unfortunately does not cover all small businesses the same. Most of them don't understand that the owners of the S corporation have to be paid a reasonable salary, and when a business is new and/or just starting out, they don't have the cash on hand to afford the salary or the payroll taxes that come along with it.”

Calvin Harris: “I see far too many people taken advantage of by others who claim they can guarantee you a refund. There are various legitimate ways to maximize a potential refund, but no tax professional will guarantee a result without understanding your situation. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

More about the tax pros

Angie Toney: Toney creates strategies for taxpayers who need to get the IRS off their backs and out of their pockets. She also created The Executive Touch, a platform built to provide continuous education and collaboration for other tax pros.

Nayo Carter-Gray: "Making accounting a little less taxing” is Carter-Gray’s goal as CEO and founder of 1st Step Accounting. Nayo is an enrolled agent, sits on the Maryland Board of Individual Tax Preparers and was named one of the Top 50 Women in Accounting two years in a row.

Joel Lee: Lee is a certified public accountant, tax advisor, and owner of Thorough Financial Services. Thorough Financial Services is a Maryland-based accounting firm specializing in empowering parent entrepreneurs with precision accounting and innovative tax strategies.

Calvin Harris: Harris is the CEO of the New York State Society of CPAs. He has over 30 years of executive-level experience in working with complex organizations. He has devoted much of his career to promoting, enhancing and strengthening the accounting profession.

Julian Davis: Davis is a director at Homrich Berg, a certified financial planner, a certified public accountant, and a member of the Association of African-American Financial Advisors and the Georgia Society of Certified Public Accountants. Davis participates in volunteer events throughout Atlanta, including pro-bono financial planning events.

Laura Tshilumba: Tshilumba is the leader of the international tax practice at HLB Gross Collins. She takes the hassle out of filing U.S. tax returns for American expatriates. She also helps American expats and dual citizens fix their past-due U.S. tax returns with the least amount of pain.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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