Perspectives Online

Extension’s Taxman: Guido van der Hoeven

CALS’ Guido van der Hoeven researches, writes about and provides statewide training related to income taxes, estate planning and farm financial management.

Photo by Marc Hall

You could call him North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s taxman.

But unlike the taxman made famous by the Beatles, Guido van der Hoeven doesn’t tax streets, seats, heat, feet – or anything else, for that matter. But he does spend most of his working days helping others understand income and estate tax rules and how they relate to people’s lives and businesses.

For the first four months of the year, right up until April 15, van der Hoeven fields a steady stream of income-tax-related questions by phone and email. And throughout the year, he researches, writes about and provides statewide training related to income taxes, estate planning and farm financial management.

Right now, the agricultural and resource economist is serving a two-year term as president of the Land-Grant University Tax Education Foundation. That organization is a partnership of 26 universities to develop educational materials useful across state lines.

The foundation recently won a grant to create a tax guide for operators of small- to medium-size farms, and every year it publishes about 26,000 copies of the annual National Income Tax Workbook. The well-regarded 600- to 700-page book is used by the participating universities in tax schools and institutes around the country.

University faculty members who are part of the foundation create the book’s contents anew every year, focusing on changes to the tax code as well as rules about timely tax topics. For example, given 2009’s economic downturn, the latest book includes a chapter on net operating losses.

The book comes packaged with a searchable CD that contains the entire workbook contents since 2003.

In North Carolina, the workbook, which van der Hoeven helps write, is used in intermediate and advanced income tax schools he directs for the Office of Professional Development in N.C. State University’s McKimmon Center. These schools are targeted at accountants and others who help people prepare their income tax returns.

The two-day schools, which take place in the weeks after Thanksgiving every year, draw about 1,200 to 1,300 people. The schools are held in Winston-Salem, Wilmington, Asheville, Greenville, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Charlotte and Raleigh.

A former professional tax preparer himself, van der Hoeven teaches the intermediate classes for four of the locations, and he also created and teaches an introductory income tax workshop offered through the McKimmon Center. His curriculum for the introductory course has also been adopted in seven other states.

In addition van der Hoeven has for 11 years offered workshops around the state on income-tax issues specifically related to agriculture and forestry. Extension specialist Mark Megalos, in N.C. State’s College of Natural Resources, also participates in those workshops.

Van der Hoeven says he also conducts county Extension meetings related to taxes for farmers and others, but he finds it more beneficial to focus on income-tax professionals.

 “Almost 90 percent of the people that I talk to at county meetings say, ‘I use a professional tax preparer.’ So what I quickly learned was I could leverage my time and my efforts by educating the practitioners,” he says.

And that’s especially important now, he adds, because recent new rules mean that all tax preparers will need to be registered with the Internal Revenue Service and will need to meet continuing education requirements. The tax schools van der Hoeven offers lead to continuing education credits.

As a tax educator, van der Hoeven says that, “at the end of the day, my goal is that the tax returns are done accurately and completely, and that the taxpayer pays the minimal amount of tax that he or she owes -- and the federal government and state government is reported the maximum amount of income that is owed and due to them.”

In his tax schools, van der Hoeven places a premium on clarity and precision – with an occasional dash of humor.

”Just remember,” he says, “taxes and birthdays are like television commercials; the more you see them, the less you like them.” -- Dee  Shore