Richard Carpenter has more than four decades of experience as a professional tax preparer, but he wants to remain ready to meet the extensive needs of his clients.
So in 2014, at the age of 69, Carpenter enrolled in the University of Cincinnati's online Master of Science in Taxation program. He will graduate in summer 2017, a mere 33 years after he earned a master's degree in counseling and psychology from Northwest Missouri State University.
"We've done income tax since 1972," Carpenter said. "I'm a part-time employee of my wife [Eloise]. There are some clients and their families I've had the whole time. You get to the point where you wonder, 'Am I really up to it? Am I able to keep up and do things I need to be doing and know this subject well enough to actually serve as I should and take care of their tax needs?' That's why I started this degree in summer 2014."
Carpenter, who has never been to the city of Cincinnati, is extremely pleased with every aspect of the online degree program as he heads into the home stretch. He also has a lofty 3.98 grade-point average with two classes left.
"It's been great," he said. "I am so pleased with the way it has worked. My GPA is good. I'm just amazed because this is the first time I've ever done anything online; I'm so impressed with how it works. The instructions are quite clear. The instructors are very helpful. Not just the regular instructors but also the adjunct instructors — they know their stuff. It's such a blessing for me, because I want to meet the needs of my clients, and now I feel very confident I can do that."
Carpenter was born and raised in Missouri, although he has done an extensive amount of world travel. He met his wife on the school bus when they were kids. The couple got married in 1973, but the tax business they own, Carpenter Tax Service, in Burlington Junction, Missouri, dates back to 1965.
"I grew up right where I'm at now," he said. "We're on a farm in the very northwest corner of Missouri. It's dangerously close to Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. The ground I'm on has been in the family since 1857."
Before acquiring the business, Carpenter began his first stint in the Army. He served in Vietnam for two years. After he finished his three-year enlistment in 1968, he was commissioned back to the service in 1983. He continued to serve until his mandatory retirement date on his 60th birthday. He retired as a lieutenant colonel.
"I had deployments to Kosovo and Afghanistan during that time, so my wife had to pick up the slack on the tax business," he said. "Then, I went back to Afghanistan as a contractor for another two-and-a-half years. We had a lot of tax stuff going over email so I could check the returns."
When Carpenter found out about his first deployment to Kosovo, the Carpenters thought it would be the end of their business.
"We sent letters to all of our clients to tell them we were going out of business because I would be gone," he said. "It was a very tough decision. Some of the locals came to my wife and told her, 'You can't do that.' We'd been dealing with their families for two or three generations. She said, 'Well, he'll be gone.' They said, 'Extend us until he gets back.' That's what she did. My total workload dropped to extensions. When I came back, it built back up. A lot of what I do is based on what I feel like I owe the community."
Back to School
Carpenter initially planned to just take a few of the MS in Taxation courses but decided to go ahead and earn the degree.
"I was going to take some business courses because we deal with more limited liability companies than we used to," he said. "At one time, we didn't have any. I started taxes before they even started LLCs. Because of the expanded business returns I do, that was really where I had the most concern. The program was exactly what I was looking for."
The thorough curriculum has provided Carpenter with the broad-based knowledge he needs to continue preparing taxes.
"All of the corporation courses have been extremely helpful," he said. "The research courses will apply for everything, so they have been important. The partnership courses, which cover LLCs, have all been helpful. I can't say that any of the courses were not helpful. There's not a class on the whole list that will not in some way, shape or form help me."
One day after he completes his final course, Carpenter will head to Washington, D.C., to maintain his enrolled agent status with the Internal Revenue Service, but he is still excited about completing the program.
"The program has been great," he said. "I'm 100 percent happy with it. It's just amazing."
The Good Life
When Carpenter is not working on taxes or his degree, he enjoys spending time and traveling with his two sons and nine grandchildren. Nine!
"It's unbelievable," he said. "We've always had a small family. [But now] one of our sons has five children; the other has four with one on the way. We travel all over the world with them."
Their travel destinations so far include Turkey, Dubai, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
Carpenter also enjoys the relationships he has with his clients and the reaction he gets when he tells them he is a college student once again.
"This is a return after quite a long hiatus," he said. "When we have our tax interviews, my clients think that's pretty interesting."
Carpenter stressed that making studies a top priority and applying oneself are essential to success in an online degree program.
"I would say, 'You need to be able to do online courses. You need to be able to have the discipline, the energy and some pretty doggone creative thought because a lot of it is the writing,'" he said. "A lot of it is writing answers and papers and so forth."
Carpenter said he absolutely believes the MS in Taxation program will provide an ample return for anybody who is fully committed.
Learn more about the UC online MS in Taxation program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.