February 11, 2014 10:30AM
Millions of Americans will turn to Intuit TurboTax this year to file their income tax returns. Those wanting to turn used clothing charitable donations into tax deductions will use TurboTax’s “ItsDeductible” program, which guides users through the deduction process.
And each time they do, they will go through a process developed by a 1975 accounting graduate of Pittsburg State University, William R. Lewis.
Lewis, a certified public accountant who operates his own accounting and financial planning firm in Lincoln, Neb., is the co-author of “MONEY - For Your Used Clothing,” a tax booklet that reshaped how Americans claim used clothing charitable donations on their tax returns.
"My goal was twofold,” Lewis said. “First, I wanted to encourage people to donate their used clothing and household items to charity. Secondly, to provide those donors with the IRS tax-compliant method to ensure that taxpayers were maximizing their donation deduction and not missing out on additional tax savings to which they were entitled."
First published in 1990 with the name “CASH - For Your Used Clothing,” the program received national attention in 1994 after an Associated Press story featuring the booklet, ran in major newspapers across the country, including USA Today, The New York Times, L.A. Times, Houston Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune.
“We were now on the radar and the book sales took off,” Lewis said.
In March 2001, Lewis and the booklet were featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. By that time, Lewis had sold the rights to “CASH” to Income Dynamics, Inc., of Omaha, Neb., which developed the first electronic version. Income Dynamics then reached out to Inuit TurboTax, who in turn bought the rights and renamed it “ItsDeductible.”
“It was the Wall Street Journal article that really sealed the deal with TurboTax,” Lewis said.
After the five-year non-compete agreement with TurboTax expired, Lewis once again published a booklet version of the program, renaming it “MONEY - For Your Used Clothing.”
“There remained a strong interest in the paper version, which offered certified fair market values,” he said, “so we began publishing the booklet version again in 2007.”
Shortly after the launch in 2007, he said, one of TurboTax’s major competitors, TaxACT, expressed interest in an electronic version for their customers, and another deal was struck.
“We are still in a relationship with that tax software company today,” Lewis said.
Lewis said his booklet, co-written by Connie Edmond, has been so well-received because of its universal appeal. Lewis said “MONEY – For Your Used Clothing” is the only publication on the market that “strictly complies” with the IRS guidelines, and offers its users “Audit Protection Guarantee” for valuing their donations.
“What is interesting about our booklet,” he said, “is that everyone in the U.S. who donates used clothing and household goods to charity, and itemizes their deductions on Schedule A of their personal tax return, is a potential user of our booklet.
“Also,” he said, “every CPA firm and professional tax preparer in the country should be purchasing the book to provide to all their tax clients in order to support the proper documentation that is required in order to comply with strict IRS guidelines for claiming non-cash charitable deductions on their clients’ tax returns.”
Lewis earned his bachelor's degree in accounting Pittsburg State University in 1975 and a master’s degree in business administration from Rockhurst College in 1981. He is a licensed investment adviser representative with Transamerica Financial Advisors, Inc., and he has more than 30 years of experience in tax, financial and investment planning.
Lewis is a member of the Nebraska Society of CPAs, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, National Association of Tax Practitioners and Financial Planners Association of Nebraska.
Lewis credits his education from Pittsburg State with helping him launch and maintain his entrepreneurial spirit.
“My experience at Pittsburg State taught me a lot not only about accounting and finance, but also about life in general,” he said. “It taught me how to believe in myself and gave me the tools and knowledge to be successful in my business career.”
For more information about his national-acclaimed “MONEY” booklet, visit www.2013moneybook.com.