A 15-year Intuit veteran on the TurboTax team, Reschly travels to taxpayer assistance events across California, helping scores of people meet deadlines and get the biggest refund possible.
While Intuit’s development teams strive to make products that are easy to use, it never hurts to have some personal, on-the-spot expert help. And that’s where volunteers like Reschly and Intuit’s Free File public awareness and taxpayer assistance events come in.
Sitting side-by-side with underprivileged or low-income folks, Reschly and others work to save them money by finding missed deductions or correcting other filing mistakes. And in the process, Reschly said, Intuit learns a lot about its products by watching how people use them in real-life situations.
At a recent event in Fresno, Calif., Reschly saw that a family had failed to check a box signifying that they were eligible for an earned income tax credit. By fixing their error, Reschly saved the family $4,600 on the spot.
An informal exit survey found that at least a third of the 700-plus people who attended one of the events found similar savings, totaling more than $220,000 in state and federal refunds, child tax credits and other categories.
“A fair percentage of our customers have very little financial experience,” said Reschly. “They work very hard, but this stuff [tax information] is very difficult to grasp.”
That’s where Reschly and other Intuit employee volunteers make a difference. His tax-assistance endeavors started three years ago, when a manager in his department sent out an email saying that an event might be canceled if enough volunteers didn’t sign up.
“I thought, there’s no way we’re canceling these events,” said Reschly, who has attended every event across the state since then – even when it meant renting a big sport-utility vehicle to shuttle San Diego employees north to Fresno. “It saves money to drive,” he said, showing his good financial sense in action.
Seriously, it’s the ability to give back to the community by doing what he knows best – providing financial know-how – that makes the 20-year CPA happiest at heart.
“To be able to help people who really need assistance at something I’m really good at is a natural fit for me,” Reschly said. “When you can help explain taxes and teach people to be more financially independent, that’s a great thing.”
And it’s also a good experience for Intuit, as the company gets to see real-life experiences of people interacting with its software, perhaps in a way that can’t be replicated in a laboratory situation. Reschly recalled watching a participant recoil when she was informed she had to pay back a portion of a homebuyers credit and the “good news,” was that only $7,000 more was due with her current year tax return.
“She told us that anytime you have to pay even $10 more on your return, that’s not ‘good news,’ ” Reschly said. “So we took that back to the team and we changed the way that screen looks.”
In usability lab testing, Reschly said, participants are asked to prepare their taxes with employees watching over them, but they rarely capture all the quirks and details that happen in real-life return preparation.
“We have usability labs, but there you see a lot of people with nothing more than a W-2 form,” Reschly said. “Coming to these events is the real deal. I see the product used first hand, and I always bring back ‘aha’s’ that we didn’t consider, and it increases my own tax knowledge.”