Kathy Marthaler has been employed at the Sauk Centre location of H&R Block since 1993, Marthaler was straight out of high school and looking for work. 

Kathy Marthaler has been employed at the Sauk Centre location of H&R Block since 1993, fresh out of high school. She had always liked math and had been looking at some kind of business schooling. She jumped right into the “business scene” when a job at H&R Block opened.

“It was straight out of high school. I was married and looking for work. My aunt, Rita Toenies, owned the company,” said Marthaler. “She trained me.”

The office had first opened in Toenies’ home in 1972. About 10 years later, it moved two doors down, where it stayed until 2015. The current location is 1800 Second St. S., on the west edge of Sauk Centre.

“Rita started out with one other employee —another of my aunts,” Marthaler said. “The position also involved a bit of house cleaning, some child care, making copies and talking with clients.”

By 1993, there were five employees and Toenies. Marthaler took over the business in 2009, after Toenies suffered a debilitating stroke. There are now eight employees and Marthaler, but that is definitely “not enough” during tax season.

 “It was up to 14 at one time, but within the last two years I can’t find people,” she said. “People might be opting not to return to work yet.”

 A contributing factor may well be the many changes in tax laws during the past couple years. Tax law changes are not a rare thing, but they were implemented very late in the year in both 2020 and 2021.

“In 2021, major changes were made in March and July, both were retroactive to January. It was right in the middle of the tax season,” she said.

Many returns had to be done again. In 2020, the tax changes were made in July and were also retroactive to January.

“A lot of those changes had to do with COVID grants and COVID money received. Fewer employees means we can’t help as many clients as we would like to, as we did in the past,” Marthaler said. 

Marthaler thinks back on a tax year in the 2010s, when farmers’ tax filing date was pushed back not only because of changes in the law during the season, but the forms to complete the returns were not ready.

Demand is somewhat higher this year for help with taxes, as some area senior centers are not offering tax preparation services.

On average, Marthaler’s office completes 1,700 to 1,800 tax returns each year. 

During the office’s 50th anniversary year, Marthaler thinks back over the 29 years she has been involved in tax preparation. There have been significant changes from her first year as a receptionist, taking the tax training she needed to actually complete returns herself to now when she owns the business.

Back in 1993, returns were still completed by hand with pencils and paper and they were filed via U.S. Postal Service. In about 1994, she recalls that the first returns were done on computer, but they were still mailed in. 

 “Now, everything is completed and filed electronically,” she said. Gradually, the old file cabinets in the office are being emptied, as information is transferred to computer.

There was an open house in January to mark the beginning of the company’s 50th anniversary year. It was simply the calm before the storm of tax season. Life goes on and there are always more tax appointments and new returns to file.

“This tax season is going as well as it can, being short-staffed,” Marthaler said. “We make it through as we do every year — one day at a time.”

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