Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals around the world. This week’s Spotlight is on enrolled agent Morris Armstrong, who owns and runs a tax firm in Cheshire, Conn.
Armstrong is a former currency and bond trader who entered the world of financial services in 2001, when he formed an investment advisory firm. He expanded it in 2007 by adding tax preparation and, later, tax resolution to the firm’s services.
“It is rewarding to help people and, whenever I feel down, I think about the notes people have sent, thanking me for taking care of their family, relieving their stress levels or simply for checking in on them,” Armstrong said. “It is a smaller practice, and we take the time to supply personal service. I disliked being just a number and set up my business with that in mind.”
Armstrong has given several webinars on the Pathful (formerly Nepris), a career exploration platform for high school students, saying he is “committed to helping younger people” and wants “to give back.”
What’s your official title and what does it mean? Founder of Morris Armstrong EA LLC, a firm that engages in tax preparation and tax resolution. I know what I am not—and that is an accountant. I ask prospects and new clients not to refer to me as an accountant. My focus is on tax law and the areas where I am comfortable and proficient.
Free time: book, audiobook, or podcast? When I read non-work-related material, I enjoy taking courses on platforms like Coursera. I’ve taken many, but the one that has made the most impact on my thinking was from Penn State, about protecting the innocent. It opened my eyes to the world of wrongful convictions and severe shortcomings in the legal system. I don’t think that I ever took any other course, anywhere, that has had a greater impact.
Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest? I enjoy working with individual clients. While getting the tax return right is crucial, I love working with representation clients. There is something emotionally rewarding in getting people into compliance and off the hook!
What’s the last movie or show that you watched and loved (DVD, Netflix, or in the theater)? “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” on Netflix, a Korean series about a brilliant attorney who is autistic and beginning a new job. She manages many challenges with grace and humor. The show has an innocence about it, and that’s what I find so appealing. Our world could use a bit more innocence.
What college did you attend and what did you study? I went to Pace University and was a banking major. I was in banking at the time! I did some graduate work at St. John’s University but didn’t complete the MBA. I was too busy being a hot-shot currency trader. I should have made time.
Go to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea? Pure black coffee without cream or sugar. I’m amazed when I ask for pure black coffee, I’m asked if I want cream and sugar.
What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you? Best financial advice is a toss-up. I always encourage younger people to begin investing because time is their ally. I also believe in living within your means or just a tad below. Create a budget that empowers you and never make it so draconian that you will simply give up.
If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be? If I weren’t doing what I’m doing, and if I were younger, I think I would have been a great public defender. Something about helping the less fortunate is appealing.
If you had the opportunity to make one change in the tax world - an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever - what would it be? How about two? I would increase the standard deductions by 25% and, for SALT purposes, double the limit for married couples. There must be fundamental fairness.
Favorite food, snack, or candy during tax season or other busy time? I’m currently in love with Nick’s keto bars, which are low-carb protein bars.
What tax news or move made the most impact on your practice or clients this past year? By far, the economic incentive payments were the most impactful for many clients. I have never filed as many married-filing-separately returns as I did in 2020 and 2021. The strategies that the government employed to supply funding during the Covid-19 crisis were massive and far-reaching.
If you received a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? If I were to get a big refund check, I would wonder how my tax planning went so far astray! Of course, I may ponder that question while on the beach in Hawaii.
You can find out more about Armstrong on LinkedIn.
You can learn more about Armstrong’s firm here.
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