SPOTLIGHT ON BARRY BOWERS
Barry J. Bowers has lived in Great Bend for 53 years. He and fellow CPA David R. Holste have been business partners for nine years.
Barry and Monica Bowers will celebrate their 35th anniversary this year.
Hobbies and memberships:
A member of the Golden Belt Woodcarvers for 20 years. He’s serving as treasurer of the Great Bend Kiwanis, the Barton County Historical Society and the Great Bend Foundation. The couple are members of Grace Community Church.
What first drew you to this type of work?
I had a small business for nine years and wanted to do something that was a little less physical. I had an interest in working with small business owners. As I went on to get my CPA, I really found that I liked income tax. Now I get to work with small business owners year round.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Working one-on-one with small business owners. It’s fun to watch them grow or expand.
How has it changed since you first began, and what changes do you anticipate in the next 5-10 years?
They called it “business coach” when I began; now I’m called a “consultant.” Obviously tax laws change. Several tax laws approved last December should remain in place for two or three years.
On Feb. 19, one of Barry Bowers’s tax clients received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service. Someone else had attempted to use that person’s name, Social Security number and date of birth to file an income tax return.
This type of fraud is on the rise, said Bowers, a Certified Public Accountant at Holste & Bowers LLC in Great Bend.
“Two tax seasons ago, two of our clients were affected,” he said. “Last season we had eight.”
And that’s just at one firm. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 the U.S. had 68,590 tax preparers.
Anyone who files a return only to learn that someone else has used his or her identity knows how aggravating it can be. The good news is, the real taxpayer hasn’t actually lost anything. “You can verify who you are,” Bowers said.
In fact, the IRS is fighting back against identity thieves. In the latest case cited by Bowers, the would-be thief got nothing. Something in the bogus return raised a red flag, and the letter from the IRS advised the return would not be processed without a response from the taxpayer.
“That was impressive to see,” Bowers said.
The IRS warns taxpayers to watch out for identity theft at tax time. Area residents have reported numerous calls recently from people claiming to be from the IRS. One woman in Otis said the caller became vulgar when she didn’t provide information over the phone.
As part of a security initiative, the IRS has partnered with states and the tax industry to enhance coordination and create a more secure system for taxpayers. It is working with software vendors to add layers of authentication in an attempt to thwart identity thieves. Those who prepare their own returns with tax software will see new log-on standards in 2016.
Starting next year, Social Security numbers on forms such as W2s will be redacted. These and other measures should make things safer for honest citizens.
That being said, Bowers suggests people take proactive steps to avoid identity theft.
“The sooner you file your tax return, the better,” he said.
People should also be careful to protect their private information.
Store records in a safe place, and when it’s time to throw out old documents be sure to shred them. “It’s important to shred things with any kind of identity,” he said.
People should be cautious when contacted by strangers. Emails and letters can appear to come from official sources. Caller ID may even show a phone call is coming from the IRS when it is not.
“If you don’t know who you’re talking to on the phone, hang up,” Bowers said. “Don’t give out your personal or financial information.”