The New $99 Tax Service for the Masses

Page of calendar showing date of 15th“Taxes should be as easy as ordering a cab.”

By Rick Richardson

The only sure things in this life, according to Ben Franklin, are death and taxes. And a new startup called Visor has just raised $9 million in financing to make one of them as painless as possible.

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Unlike Dr. Jack Kevorkian (remember “Doctor Death”), Visor won’t kill anyone, but it may ring the death knell for the high-end tax advisors that most Americans can’t even access to get help filing and paying their taxes. It’s like having a personalized accountant for the cost of a high-end, do-it-yourself tax-prep service.

The $9 million Visor raised came from the venture capital firm, Defy, with participation from Unusual Ventures, SVB Capital and existing investors like Obvious Ventures, Fika Ventures and Boxgroup, who had put a previous $6.5 million into the company.

The idea for the company had been percolating for co-founder and chief executive Gernot Zacke since he settled in the U.S.

Growing up in Sweden, Zacke was exposed to a much different process for paying taxes. “The experience of filing taxes in Sweden is that you receive a message from the government that stated how much you made and how much you were withholding. That’s it,” he said. “Taxes should be as easy as ordering a cab.”

That’s the service that Visor aims to provide.

“If you think about the market there are two ways to get your taxes done. There’s the DIY space, and then there are other online services, but it requires the taxpayer to fill out the forms, and it leaves the taxpayer with a little bit of anxiety,” said Zacke. “We’re delivering the CPA experience through the convenience of a web app and a mobile app.”

On average, Americans spend about 13 hours each year dealing with taxes, and the average American doesn’t have the benefits of a professional advisor who can help optimize the process. That’s what Visor wants to provide.

“You provide the same amount of information you provide to a CPA or TurboTax … we make sure that that information is filed securely on AWS and shared between the docs and the back end,” said Zacke.

The target customers for Zacke’s services are folks who have had a change to their tax situation – whether moving, buying a home or any other life event – or people who have had a CPA and don’t want to pay the higher fees, he said.

Visor currently has an operations team of around 34 people split between San Francisco and Atlanta.

“Taxpayers spend $20 billion a year to get their taxes prepared and are stuck between spending hours filling out DIY tax software and hiring an expensive CPA,” said Zacke.

7 Responses to “The New $99 Tax Service for the Masses”

  1. Terri D. CPA

    Yes, Tax preparation has become just another cheap commodity that everyone now peddles from unscrupulous preparers to preparers who just churn them out from tax softwares they know nothing about.

    CPAs do more than just tax prepping but also planning, educating, and strategizing on behalf of clients for the best outcome.

    Yes, they’ll always be those crowds for H&R Block and Liberty Tax, but those are the exact crowds that are ideal for their business model.

    Reply
  2. Lenora Krielow

    As a CPA that practices public accounting, there is a market for on line tax services that also employ CPA’s albeit tax experts. But, those tax expert services never include tax planning. My clients love my ability to tax plan and prepare their tax returns. My clients hire me because they expect to pay the least amount of taxes allowable and know they can’t get that elsewhere. There will always be DIY and at least they can get some help. I’m happy not to service the DIY as they normally see no value in my work and complain about fees. Let it go!

    Reply
  3. Paul

    In many major markets today (like Boston), CPAs are refusing to do a personal return, unless it is for the owners/family of a business client. If you have one W2 spouse, and another with a couple 1099s from consulting income and a K1, you should see a CPA. but unless you pay $2000 or more, many CPAs just say no. We need a better solution

    Reply
  4. Tom

    I don’t cut my own hair, I don’t check my own teeth for cavities, I don’t prescribe my own medicines.

    There are things in life which should be outsourced to licensed professionals.

    Taxes are on that list.

    The low cost provider can’t provide the same level of service as the typical taxpayer needs. But the typical taxpayer should be able to do their own taxes – the problem isn’t our industry, the problem is the tax code.

    Reply
  5. PAUL TAROS

    A few years ago I picked up a new 1040 client who had been preparing his return himself for years using Turbo Tax. Upon review his prior years State tax return, I discovered that he had been understating his tax liability, because he was not answering the questions correctly.

    Reply
  6. Mark Conner

    Truth be told (as in one of my blog posts), 85% of the U. S. population doesn’t need a CPA. If you have a W-2 and a 1098, maybe some bank interest, filing taxes should be extremely cheap and easy. For the other 15%, who own businesses, self-employed, rental properties, substantial stock portfolios, mineral rights, etc., you get what you pay for.

    Reply
  7. Raymond Schultheis

    Taxpayers have to be warned that they are not dealing with a CPA and can’t expect the education, training, judgment and ethics that a CPA would provide.

    Practicing CPAs have seen the Garbage In Garbage Out results from Self Prepared returns using popular software programs, not just TurboTax.

    Reply

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