Helping others understand tax-code complexities for more than two decades
July 28, 2022
Of the MNCPA’s nearly 8,000 members, 15% are sole practitioners. Among them is Peggy Benson, who, since 1999, has owned and operated Margaret M. Benson, LLC in Eagan.
But Peggy’s path didn’t start as a sole proprietor. She entered accounting through the corporate world and eventually joined a small public accounting firm. Before long, she found herself looking for more variety in the role and determined it wasn’t a great fit.
“You’ve got to do what you’re best at and what’s fun for you because if you don’t make it fun, it’s a chore and you’re not going to want to do it,” she said.
Upon parting ways with the firm, Peggy inherited her first client and started her practice. She has gone on to curate a clientele that includes mom and pop businesses, tax clients and full bookkeeping and tax services for homeowners’ associations. This setup keeps her busy year-round.
“It’s a lot of diversity and I like to do a lot of different things, so it works out well for me,” Peggy said. “I’m not one who wants to sit back from July to December and not do anything.”
Though her business keeps her busy, Peggy still has time to volunteer her skills and expertise. She’s shared financial advice with students through the BestPrep program, but her main passion was volunteering for Taxline, a joint MNCPA and KARE 11 event.
Each spring, CPA volunteers provided the public with answers to their tax-related questions through a phonebank hosted at the KARE 11 TV studios. During the 10-plus years that Peggy volunteered, she enjoyed watching for trends.
One year, she recounts most of the calls she took were from people trying to navigate the tax return process after a family member, their tax preparer or trustee had died. Another year, she received several calls about the impacts of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
Though Taxline hasn’t happened the past few years because of pandemic-related restrictions at the news station, Peggy is grateful for her time with the program.
“I desperately miss it and hope it comes back,” she said. “I think that it’s just such a good service for the general population.”
Making a solo practice work
As with any business, being a sole practitioner comes with its own pluses and minuses. The biggest challenge, Peggy said, is meeting the needs of clients while singlehandedly managing the workload and paperwork. On the other hand, she does have the freedom to make her schedule and take personal days as needed.
She credits her success to the support of her husband, as well as making referral arrangements with supportive peers, and a willingness to recognize that you can’t be all things to all people.
“Work to your strengths,” she said. “Don’t do everything just because you can.”
Looking ahead, Peggy welcomed Meg Sweetland to her practice, originally as office manager. Meg has since passed the CPA exam and will be stepping up as partner as Peggy looks to scale back and eventually transition into retirement.
“It’s a fun profession, I love it,” Peggy said. “I’m not planning to retire anytime soon but offloading some of the responsibilities of being in management is something I’m looking forward to.”
Topics: Member Profiles