Welcome back to our Expert Series, where we interview people in the personal finance community who are making a difference. Today’s guest is Philip Taylor, founder of the coolest conference for financial nerds everywhere: FinCon. Philip is also a podcaster and the founder of the blog, PT Money.

Today, Philip is sharing some tax wisdom so all of us have an easier time filing our taxes next year. He’s also going to talk about how he grew his business. It started as one small blog and blossomed into a conference with thousands of attendees from all over the world.

Here’s what he had to say:

When did you start your blog and what made you want to?

I started my blog, PT Money (originally called Prime Time Money), in April 2007. I wanted to start my blog because I wanted to become a creator, not just a consumer. After reading personal finance blogs for a couple of years obsessively, I finally decided to join in on the fun myself. I knew it would help hold me accountable to improving my own financial life, allow me to participate in the Internet community, and could even become a life-changing source of income for my family and me.

What gave you the idea to found FinCon?

I became a full-time blogger in 2010. Much of that success was due to other personal finance bloggers sharing ideas and supporting me in my efforts. When I would go to other events – Blog World Expo, Affiliate Summit, or WordCamp – I would love the time I got connecting with other personal finance bloggers. There was a special bond formed between these weird people talking about money online.

I built out a map of all of the personal finance bloggersacross the world to facilitate meet-ups and local connections. As the number of bloggers joining the map grew, the idea of one big meet up started to formulate in my head.

The conference was a result of me simply wanting more time with the people that gave me success. I had just read an article how 2011 was going to be the year of the niche blogging conference or something to that effect. And that piece  – along with my new found free time – gave me the permission I needed to build out the conference website and start inviting people. So in early 2011, I announced the coming event.

Why does your experience and expertise with taxes stand out?

As with anything in personal finance, you set yourself apart by showcasing more of you. I’m no different. I’ve simply shared what I’ve been doing related to taxes for the past 10+ years. I’ve shared how I do my personal taxes myself (most people can and should), how I optimize them, how my retirement savings efforts have affected my taxes and vice versa, and more recently, how my businesses and real estate investing efforts have affected my approach to taxes.

I also try to share more general details about taxes that tend to change from year to year; things like tax law changes, contribution and income limits, and the tax filing calendar. People are always searching for these items and I do my best to keep them all up to date so I remain a relevant resource.

What can people do now to ensure next year is smooth sailing when it comes to their taxes?

If you want to ensure next year is smooth sailing when it comes to your taxes be sure to check out the next tax law changes. Actions taken now could affect how much you owe next April.

Second, review all of the income and contribution limits for tax-advantaged retirement account contributions (or consider opening up a new one) so you’ll know if you’re on track to max them out.

Finally, consider a visit to a CPA this Summer or Fall to see if there are any tax planning strategies you could take advantage of. People who optimize their taxes do so before year-end.

If you have a new business or real estate investment, definitely get yourself a separate banking setup so that you can clearly delineate between the different parts of your life come tax time. I like to use a separate savings account for taxes and put 15% of my income into it each month.

The Publication 334 is also very helpful in getting your business taxes lined out: employer IDs, estimated payments, self-employment taxes, etc.

What is the biggest misconception that people have about their taxes?

By far the biggest misconception that people have about their taxes is that they aren’t capable of filing their own. Too many folks pay to have their taxes filed.

What do you think is better: hiring an accountant to do your taxes or DIY-ing your taxes?

It depends. But regardless of which you choose, you should never divorce yourself from understanding how your taxes work. Using a professional to file your taxes isn’t an excuse to turn a blind eye to the whole thing.

Most people don’t need to go to a tax professional like a CPA to prepare their personal taxes. Online tax software has come a long way and the vast majority of people should plan on using them to prepare their tax return.

The software has the added benefit of teaching you about how taxes work too. If you use them, you gain more confidence as your situation gets more complex through the years (home ownership, kids, etc).

If your tax situation is even more complex – you run a business or have real estate or had a major life change like a death in the family – I would consider enlisting the help of a CPA. Unlike some random “accountant” a CPA is held to a higher standard and stands with you when things go wrong.

What do you credit for the growth of your business and its success?

In part, FinCon has grown because the Internet and the financial digital marketing industry has grown. Both personal finances and media have become DIY-able. Therefore, more people are taking to the Internet to create their own platforms. Financial advisors are also joining our ranks. Now, they see digital marketing as the way they will connect with their clients in the future.

For my part, I’ve intentionally expanded the scope of FinCon – originally known as the Financial Blogger Conference – to include podcasters, vloggers, journalists, financial advisors, educators, non-profits, and corporate media. The point is to include anyone using digital marketing to reach consumers to help them with their money. We all have a lot to learn from each other. Individual attendees are constantly moving between two or more of these groups. And, while the FinCon community was around long before our event existed, I think I’ve done a decent job of fostering this community. I enjoy giving them a place to meet throughout the year at FinCon Locals and in our FinCon Facebook Group.

I’ve also tried to encourage attendees to do business at FinCon. Our Expo Hall and Pro Networking opportunity are filled with financial and digital marketing brands (like AARP, Vanguard, and Mediavine) that attendees want to partner with. Deals are made at FinCon, and attendees plan their year around the deals made at our event. When you’re making money from an event, you tend to come back year after year.

Finally, I’ve encouraged attendees to make media while at the event. They create podcast interviews, video interviews, vlogs, blog recaps, and social sharing. This results in hundreds of mentions of the conference all over the personal finance Internet throughout the year. We’re everywhere, all the time. No PR needed.

What are your plans for the future of PT Money & FinCon?

I’d like to continue to grow both businesses well into the future. PT Money is a lot of fun to work on. I enjoy the challenge and spend two days a week on it. I try to create at least one piece of new content each week. The rest of my time, I spend cleaning up old content, talking with advertisers, and doing promotion. Even though it’s the smaller business now – FinCon eclipsed it in 2014 – working on PT Money regularly keeps me an active part of the FinCon Community. It also helps me keep FinCon headed in the right direction.

With FinCon we’re at somewhat of a crossroads. We could either expand the scope of the event again – welcoming in the general public – to become the “Comicon of Money.” Or, we could simply find more ways to serve our core audience of financial influencers. I see us providing additional opportunities to connect through more live events, online education, and even advertising/content networks. We’re trying to focus on our values as a company and determine what we’re really best at. Then we’ll get headed in one direction or another.

Where can we learn more about you and your work?

Learn more about FinCon at FinConExpo.com. We also have a show called The Money & Media Podcast where we interview different influencers and speakers from the FinCon Community. It’s a great way to up your digital marketing game.

See my story with money over at PTMoney.com. I also have a podcast there called Masters of Money, where I interview the people of FinCon about their personal finance journey. It’s a great way to learn from the “masters” and discover that most made the same mistakes we all do.

What’s one question I didn’t ask you but should have?

I suppose it would be helpful to address how couponing affects your taxes? First, the money you save or get back in the form of cash back through your couponing efforts is never taxable. Yay! Second, pay attention to tax-free weekend shopping to increase how much you save when couponing. Finally, when it’s time to file your taxes next year, be sure to search for a tax software coupon to save more on your tax filing expenses.

Thanks so much, PT, for taking the time to share your tax expertise with us! Also, congratulations on the success of your business. I look forward to seeing you and the rest of my friends in the personal finance community at FinCon!

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