Accountants Expect Boom in Tax Business

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LOS ANGELES -- Taxpayers won't be the only ones with fatter wallets as a result of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997.

Local accountants expect business to jump during the coming tax season as puzzled taxpayers turn to them for help in deciphering the complex new rules and regulations. From individual taxpayers to businesses, all are expected to flock in greater-than-usual numbers to professionals.

"The bottom line is I think absolutely you'll see more activity in (Certified Public Accountants') offices as a result of the tax act," said Robert Pearlman, a partner with the accounting and management consulting firm Grant Thornton. Though most accountants won't hazard to guess how much more business will flow their way, others like independent CPA Carolyn Fox already have some pretty solid expectations. Fox, who has a practice in Encino, 16 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, said business typically jumps about 10 percent during the tax season. This time, she expects to see an approximately 20 percent increase during the season that generally lasts from about late January to the end of April. And she couldn't be happier. "I really enjoy meeting people and helping people with tax problems, so I'm really looking forward to it," said Fox, a past president of the Los Angeles chapter of the California Society of Certified Public Accountants. The new tax law, signed by President Clinton and Congress last month but mostly not in effect until next year, reduces the tax bite for some Americans and provides for some tax credits or incentives for others. It changed tax law on capital gains, Individual Retirement Accounts, home office deductions, estate and gift taxes, child tax credits, education incentives, and the sale of a primary residence. Stephen Rousso, head of Los Angeles-based Stephen M. …