Smith Brothers Restaurants
HomeCommunity NewsAndy Lippman: Tax Season Brings on Another Kind of March Madness

Andy Lippman: Tax Season Brings on Another Kind of March Madness

March Madness has an alternative meaning for Robert Santana.
The month of March is when the South Pasadena businessman is working 12-15 hour days, six days a week, preparing taxes for individuals and businesses prior to the April 15 tax deadline.
“It’s an intense marathon,” Santana said. “It’s long hours and hard work, but you’re satisfied at the end of the season because of the good work that you did.”
There’s a reason that Santana called it a marathon because the race starts in January, and slows down after April 15, and then continues on while helping clients who file extensions through September and October.
Sixty percent of Santana’s clients currently are businesses, and the rest are individuals.
Santana began working as a tax preparer from home in 2008, and began a virtual service in 2011. He now operates his company Voltstax, which stands for Virtual Online Tax and Services, from both his home and an office at 1445 Huntington Drive, Suite 250, in South Pasadena.
I know a lot of people procrastinate over getting their taxes done. They don’t want to face the possibility that they may owe money, or they can’t figure out the tax forms they are filling out. Many people use nationally known tax preparation services, and they accept the results.
I wrote last week about why certain times of year contribute extra amounts of stress. Tax time certainly stresses out a lot of people.
Santana said that the reason many people are extra uptight during tax season is they just don’t understand why they owe as much as they do. Some wonder how they can improve their situation in the future.
“I try to educate my clients,” he said. “The industry can be very transactional. I want to be relational. I tell them (my clients) what I expect from them and what they can expect from me.
“What sets me apart is that I also offer tax advice. Most people in the industry are paid to prepare people’s taxes, but not to give advice.
“What I try to do is get people to know what is expected of them. There are systems in place where you can upload documents into tax portals. Then, we have Zoom meetings, or we can meet in the office.”
Santana said that many people don’t realize that what they have been doing is sometimes incorrect. This is often true with people who file joint returns, and they often don’t understand changes in allowances.
“I say ‘Let’s look at what’s going on, and at strategies,’” he said. “I try to tell them why they owe what they owe.”
People are having to deal with new tax laws and new business opportunities, which force them to look at their finances in different ways.
“People are looking for ways to make income in ways that they didn’t have before. There’s day traders and social influencers, Uber drivers and people who do reviews on Amazon,” Santana explained.
“Since COVID, there are a lot of stay-at-home entrepreneurs who have started businesses, and they don’t know how to get started. They don’t know what these new businesses mean in terms of taxes and how to set themselves up.”
People who have done their taxes by themselves have nothing to fear by scanning in their documents and doing Zoom meetings.
“A lot of older people within my clientele are very open to it,” Santana said. “It’s just that no one has ever taken the time to show them how technology can help them. It used to be they kept records in filing cabinets. Now, you can do the same thing electronically. It’s just a digitized version of the file cabinet.”
Santana admitted there are pros and cons to working with someone like him, who can be both a tax preparer and a tax adviser. If someone has just one W-2 tax form and little paperwork to be done, sometimes tax software, or national tax preparation brand may be the right fit.
But, he added, once people get married, start having children and acquiring more assets, that’s when it might be time to consider a tax professional and to start looking for advice on a tax strategy.
You hear all the time from politicians who want to reduce the tax form to the size of a postcard, or a single sheet of paper, but Santana said that there are too many variables when it comes to taxes.
“Taxes are very intimate,” Santana said, “and you can’t necessarily compare what you are doing with someone else who might seem to be in the same situation.”
Santana said that he can be particularly helpful to small businesses.
“It’s like they are going to a general practitioner and they need a specialist,” he said. “I have a particular expertise in corporate and small businesses. I give them advice as whether they should be a sole proprietor or go as an LLC, or go into a different tax structure.”
The cost of Santana’s service depends on the complexity of the situation, but he told me that a short form fee would be around $160 plus fees, while long forms might be about $300 plus fees. Independent contractors or sole proprietors could cost about $500 plus fees.
Santana said that he gives an estimate after he sees the tax forms.
Tax advice is by the hour or with a monthly subscription. The monthly subscription is based on frequency, and it would normally run about $150 per hour.
A good percentage of his tax clients use him after they file their taxes. Some of them get letters for audits and call him in a panic mode.
“We tell them how to get through it,” Santana said. “Our role is to use the law to avoid taxes, but not to evade paying taxes.”
For more information on Santana’s tax service, go online to or call (626) 399-0259.
When tax season is over, Santana moves into another mode. He acts as a broker to help businesses and corporations arrange travel at wholesale prices.
He offers memberships in various levels, which help individuals and businesses offer benefits to their employees. Santana can help arrange benefits that might range from a weekend getaway to a 14-day cruise.
Through the Wellness Benefits Group Santana also offers ways to raise funds for nonprofits and educational organizations.
“In our country we tend to live to work. Other countries work to live. The important thing is we shouldn’t wait to do things,” Santana said.
“Life is now. We’ve got to live in the present. We’re not meant to be professional bill-payers.”
The travel membership has a premier and basic plan. Premier costs $400 for a one-time initiation fee and $65 monthly for a one-year contract; basic costs $200 initiation and $45 monthly.
You can get more information on the Wellness Benefits Group at

Before I close for the week, I wanted to wish a happy 100th birthday this Sunday to longtime South Pasadena resident Joan Kurtz Moffet. I featured Joan in a Veterans Day column last fall for her service as a nurse in World War II.
Also, to all who celebrate the holiday, a blessed Easter.
And, for those who are celebrating the holiday through April 8, a blessed Ramadan.

First published in the March 29 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Most Popular

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=3]