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CH-CHING! : TAXPAYER NIGHTMARES BECOME ACCOUNTANTS' DREAMS.

Byline: Enrique Rivero Daily News Staff Writer

Taxpayers won't be the only ones with fatter wallets as a result of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997.

Local accountants expect business to jump during the coming tax season as puzzled taxpayers turn to them for help in deciphering the complex new rules and regulations. From individual taxpayers to businesses, all are expected to flock in greater-than-usual numbers to professionals.

``The bottom line is I think absolutely you'll see more activity in (Certified Public Accountants') offices as a result of the tax act,'' said Robert Pearlman, a partner with the accounting and management consulting firm Grant Thornton LLP.

Though most accountants won't hazard to guess how much more business will flow their way, others like independent CPA Carolyn F. Fox already have some pretty solid expectations.

Fox, who has a practice in Encino, said business typically jumps about 10 percent during the tax season. This time, she expects to see an approximately 20 percent increase during the season that generally lasts from about late January to the end of April. And she couldn't be happier.

``I really enjoy meeting people and helping people with tax problems, so I'm really looking forward to it,'' said Fox, a past president of the Los Angeles chapter of the California Society of Certified Public Accountants.

The new tax law, signed by President Clinton and Congress last month but mostly not in effect until next year, reduces the tax bite for some Americans and provides for some tax credits or incentives for others. It changed tax law on capital gains, Individual Retirement Accounts, home office deductions, estate and gift taxes, child tax credits, education incentives, and the sale of a primary residence.

Stephen Rousso, head of Sherman Oaks-based Stephen M. Rousso, CPA, & Associates, said the complexity of the new laws will drive many people away from their computer tax software and into the arms of an accountant.

``I think there will be a lower comfort level in doing it yourself, because they vastly increased the difficulty in doing tax returns, by all appearances,'' Rousso said.

But the makers of TurboTax, one of the most popular tax software programs, say they have incorporated all of the changes in the program's latest version.

Also, since the bulk of the tax changes kick in next year, this year's tax forms won't be much different from years past, said Tracy Benelli, a spokeswoman for TurboTax maker Intuit Inc.

The company has worked closely with the Internal Revenue Service and has on staff more than 100 tax analysts who also have their own practices, she said.

``We have been fully prepared for these (changes) and have been working on understanding them and incorporating them into the program,'' Benelli said. ``So when our current or new users turn to them, they will get the same quality of return as if they went to a CPA.''

Still, Elaine Bryant, manager of H&R Block's Van Nuys district office, said she expects to see more taxpayers in her office.

``Personally, I feel more and more taxpayers will be coming for professional help because the new tax changes are complex,'' Bryant said.

And Ron Copher, a tax partner in Grant Thornton's Los Angeles office, also expects to see more clients across the board, including individuals and businesses, and has already added some staff to handle the workload.

In 1996, he said, about half the tax returns were signed by paid preparers, up from about 47 percent in 1987.

``I would predict that for 1997 that figure will move north, easily north, of 50 percent from 1996,'' he said.

CAPTION(S):

Photo, Chart

Photo: (Color) Accountant Carolyn L. Fox expects more taxpayers to seek professional help in the wake of the new tax laws.

Evan Yee/Daily News

Chart: (Color) TAX SOFTWARE BOOM

Bradford Mar/Daily News
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Sep 15, 1997
Words:640
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