When you think of taxes, you probably don’t think of creativity, fun and openness. But SmartSpot just might change your mind.
Its Prairie Village office at 3520 W. 75th Street is fun and colorful, with brightly painted walls and modern furnishings. Adding to the friendly atmosphere are Asta, a Basenji mix, and Li’l Guy, a Shih-Tzu terrier mix, who may greet you when you walk in. And co-owners and partners Kathy Burlison and Eileen Brewer put you at ease with their welcoming, affable personalities.
Burlison and Brewer started SmartSpot five years ago (although they count the time in tax seasons). They’re both enrolled agents, a designation they earned by passing IRS tests, and Burlison says they “want to help people make sense of their finances and really understand what their numbers say about themselves and their situation, to avoid problem spots.”
Brewer adds that “one of our taglines is ‘understand your taxes … REALLY.’” You can tell they mean it, and they each have almost 30 years of tax experience, with the knowledge to match.
Burlison lights up when talking about the new tax requirements resulting from the United States v. Windsor Supreme Court decision, a landmark case that held that restricting the federal interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse” to apply only to heterosexual unions was unconstitutional. The ruling can have implications about how you (and your employer) file your taxes. It may even result in refunded money from the IRS.
Brewer and Burlinson talk about this in more detail on their website (smartspotkc.com) and have also offered classes to help explain the changes. “Same-sex spouses weren’t considered family, but they are now. We’re doing everything we can to get the community educated around that,” Burlinson says.
Besides offering specialized advice to married LGBT couples, SmartSpot also offers expertise in individual tax preparation and can help businesses large and small.
“There’s a lot of ways to structure your business. We help you understand those [tax designations] and choose the one that makes sense for you. What makes sense now might not make sense in five years, so we keep an eye on that,” Burlinson says.
SmartSpot is a President’s Circle member of the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and does the group’s accounting. “They are a blast to work with,” Burlinson says, adding that the firm has been happy to receive business directly from the Chamber.
“It has brought some awareness for people who are looking for a service provider that they know will accept them, and where they’ll be comfortable. … [Our membership] allows us to say to the gay community, we understand your situation, we love you, we want you to be here, and we’ll pretty much talk about anything!” Burlinson says with a big smile.
When they’re not crunching numbers at SmartSpot, you can find Burlinson and Brewer at soccer games across the city. “We stood through all three of the [Sporting KC] playoff games,” Brewer notes proudly. But Burlinson blushes as she admits that she has been known to read the tax code before bed.
When Burlinson laughingly says that “it’s non-stop tax excitement around here,” she means it as a joke. But the reality is, SmartSpot seems to have done what many might deem impossible — made accounting fun.
Photo: Landon Vonderschmidt
The Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (MAGLCC) is an organization that advocates, promotes and facilitates the success of the LGBT business community and its allies. Learn more at MAGLCC.org.