by Lee Pierre
Suffering from TAXiety? Stella M. Carpenter, owner of three Liberty Tax offices in the local area offers a better experience. She takes the worry out of filing taxes.
Stella understands how each tax situation is different thereby running her offices like a family business as well as understanding the intricate characteristics of her employees
. Occasionally her regular clientele comes by just to say hello bearing gifts and treats. Her staff also feels strongly appreciative that she is always available to them both during tax season and after it ends.
She feels that her mother, Ola McRay, provided her with the foundation of who she is today. Stella grew up in Rex, NC on a farm, working tobacco and picking cotton. Her mother was a proud independent woman and refused to accept help for her family. She insisted “you work for what you get.”
“My mother never allowed pinto beans in her house. My mother equated (pinto beans) with people on welfare and she never wanted anyone to think she was on welfare. So, I never had pinto beans until I went to college. Mother worked and cared for all of us on her own.”
In high school, her band director noticed her intellectual potential and suggested she apply for college. Even though she was the youngest of four siblings, she was the first to attend college.
“My band director and his wife, a graduate from Barber-Scotia, took me to the school telling me that was where he wanted me to go.”After high school, with her director’s guidance, she enrolled in Barber-Scotia College, a private Presbyterian college located in Concord, NC.
After graduating, she found employment in corporate America, working as a Human Resource Director/Manager at such companies as Blue Ridge Behavior Healthcare, Advance Auto Parts Corporate Office, and Shenandoah Life Insurance Company.
In 2007, she invested in ownership of a tax office, and in 2008 op
ened her first office located at 1701 Williamson Road NW.
She trained through Liberty Tax Corporation whose policy states for new offices to continue the entity must file 1,000 annually within five years of operation in order to develop a productive level of clientele. Stella did over 1,000 returns her first year. Banking on this success, in 2010 she then purchased her next office at 3223 Cove Road NW mainly because she wanted to better serve the Black community as well as help them out.
Working with clients on an individual basis is highly important because very few people understand taxes or what needs to be done. Stella helps those, whether they are clients or not, to complete government documents for verification of identity, which can be very frustrating for clients to complete on their own.
“My goal is to provide excellent customer service trying not to be just a tax preparation business. I don’t just file taxes. I try to help people understand how to fill out W-4 and VA-4 so that they do not continue to owe each year,” she said. “I talk with them about planning so that they are not faced with the same situation each year.”
In 2020 during the pandemic, Stella contacted the homeless shelters, Salvation Army, and other places seeking the homeless as well as those with low incomes to help them file the proper forms so they could receive their stimulus checks. She did this pro bono the first year and for reduced fees the following year.
“The first five years I was open, we did a minimum of 200 free returns a year for people in the community.”
Stella hires people from all walks of life. “My wavers are people that others won’t hire. I hire them to give them a chance of getting back into the workforce. After working with me for a couple of years, most of them can move and get a job from places that would not have hired them at first,” commented Stella.
She spoke of one waver who she saw riding a bike decorated with flags. She ‘chased’ him down Williamson Road and asked him if he wanted to be a waver. He accepted the job and has been with her for14 years.
As for the tax preparers, she says, “personality is important.” Also, tax preparers do not need to know how to do taxes because Liberty Tax offers training. “But they must be friendly and caring. We can’t teach them to have a great attitude, they have to come with that.”
One of her tax preparers, Renee, said she met Stella in a store while she was running errands. “She (Stella) asked me if I wanted to learn how to do taxes. I said no. She handed me her business card and told me to call her if I change my mind,” said Renee. “I called a few days later and I’ve been here for four years.”
That is the story of most of her tax prep team. They have worked for her for several years because she is always there for them. “If you don’t know something she prefers you to ask,” Renee added.
Stella’s idea of success is ‘to be able to meet my goal of serving and educating the community and of course, keeping the lights on.’ With such a strong upbringing and caring personality, Stella will surely successfully handle any obstacle she encounters.