Tax service in 81st year

By Patricia Ann Speelman -

SIDNEY — Laird’s Tax Service Inc. is celebrating its 80th anniversary.

The Springfield-based business opened there in 1937. Its Sidney office opened in 1989.

“We have 10 offices,” said owner Alex Anderson, of Springfield, who bought the firm in 1981 from its founder, Russell Hemry. The Sidney expansion came when Anderson purchased a local practice from Sylvia Bray.

But it all started when Hemry worked at a neighborhood grocery store in Springfield run by the Laird family. When the United States instituted an income tax, the Lairds offered their customers help by collecting and sending in the money. Hemry was in charge of the process. By the next year, the federal government had developed tax forms and methods of collection, so Hemry assisted customers in completing the forms. Eventually, he left the grocery business to do taxes full time, but he kept the name of the store, because everyone was familiar with it.

“There never was a Laird who did taxes,” Anderson said. When he purchased the business, he didn’t change the name.

“If it works, why fix it?” he asked, rhetorically.

Anderson grew up on a farm near Springfield. He took an office-prepartory course of study in high school and was the top student in the program. But there was no money for college. Following graduation, he took a job as a bookkeeper in a law firm.

“The owner said as part of my pay, he would send me to Wittenberg (University), but he picked the first course I would take,” Anderson said. It was Federal Income Tax Returns.

“I’ve been doing them since 1962,” Anderson said. Eventually, he earned an associate degree from Miami Jacobs Business College. He then worked in a certified public accounting firm for several years before becoming assisant to the controller and chief accountant of Yellow Springs Instruments (now YSI Inc.).

“That was a wonderful company,” Anderson remembered. “You couldn’t have had a better job.” Among his duties there was completing tax returns.

“Word got around and all these people started coming to me to do their (individual) returns,” he said. Then, tax accountants at other firms began calling Anderson when they needed information to do their jobs. When he learned that Hemry’s practice was for sale, he decided to go into business for himself. He’s never regretted it. Even after 55 years of figuring out taxes, he still enjoys doing it.

“It’s complicated, loaded with a lot of law. I liked it,” he said. “I could be retired and driving a tractor in a field. I’m still working because I like what I do. You meet great people. The work, if you’re good at it, is very challenging. I think I do the public a great service, knowing the law, and at an affordable price.”

In order to increase his business, he looked for other practices to buy.

“I would send a letter: ‘If you’re interested in selling your practice…’ You don’t hear from them right away. But guess what. They keep the letter. When they’re ready to retire or sell, they call me,” he said. He has also opened offices “from scratch.” Laird’s Tax Service now has agencies in Urbana, Bellefontaine, Piqua, Xenia and Columbus, as well as Springfield and Sidney. It employs 30 people. Anderson makes sure each one is up to speed on current tax regulations.

“I make everyone, including myself, go to tax law-changes seminars. We get books. We talk about them. We discuss over lunch. Someone is assigned each week to read the Wall Street Journal and look for information. We belong to chambers of commerce. Every once in awhile, (information) comes up in those meetings. We go to IRS regional seminars and software company trainings,” he said in describing how his staff keeps abreast of filing changes.

He and some of his employees are also licensed through the U.S. Treasury Department as enrolled agents. That means they can represent their clients in audits and court cases, if necessary.

“I’ve fought many battles with the IRS. Some of those battles are pretty intense involving millions of dollars or someone’s livelihood,” Anderson said. “We give good service. We’ve been doing that for literally decades.”

The Sidney office, at 2451 W. Michigan St., is open for walk-in clients and for those who make appointments in advance. To make an appointment, call 492-1643.

By Patricia Ann Speelman

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.