Ben Raygor, CPA
An esteemed certified public accountant and real estate tax strategist, Ben Raygor holds an accounting degree from the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, along with a decade of first-hand experience. As the owner of Raygor Tax, LLC in Rochester, MN, he has built a reputation for going the extra mile for his clients, who have now reached well over 150 in number. Due to Ben’s personable manner and superior service, the firm boasts an impressive retention rate of over 97% and has doubled its revenue every year since its founding in 2015, with more than 95% of that business growth resulting from client referrals. We recently had the honor of speaking with Ben to learn more about his journey to success as well as the services his firm provides for real estate investors, agents, and brokers.
Let’s begin with more about your role as owner. What are your primary responsibilities?
First, I manage our client roster to make sure we are working with investors who a) are growing and b) want to learn. For all clients, this means checking in and evaluating the relationship to make sure we are delivering a lot of value to them. Second, I am deeply involved in the tax strategy and education of our clients. I love to teach and relish those opportunities to help others see how they can joyfully reduce their tax liabilities now and in the future. Annual strategy calls are a requirement for most of our clients. I have more interactions with my clients as their portfolio and businesses grow. Third, I oversee the annual tax return filings form start to finish and the necessary training of our team members to accomplish this massive project together each year.
What interests you the most about the real estate industry?
It’s not a one-size-fits-all investment for tax purposes. The tax results of a real estate deal can vary greatly depending on a client’s personal financial circumstances, how they spend their time, and the specific order of events. The tax code is huge when it comes to real estate taxation.
How would you describe the firm’s typical clientele?
We work exclusively with real estate investors and agents in over 25 states with our clients ranging from small rental property owners and flippers to real estate developers and brokerages. The majority of them buy and hold rental properties and want to grow their family’s wealth in the most tax efficient way possible. Many are thriving real estate professionals who are simply sick of paying the IRS and are ready to slash their current year tax bill by thousands of dollars. They all want the IRS off their backs and value the attention that a real estate focused CPA can provide.
What other services are offered at Raygor Tax?
Aside from making sure our clients stay compliant through tax return preparation and that tax savings are happening through our strategy conversations, Quickbooks Online (QBO) support is the one I haven’t mentioned. While most of our clients are good at maintaining their own books, we bring a lot of investors to the next level by setting up the books properly in QBO. This increase in organization and collaboration is powerful when you have multiple rental properties and projects happening at the same time. Everybody ends up saving a lot of time and our firm can then help out with additional QBO support on an as-needed basis. To elaborate further on the tax strategy part of my client relationships, this is where they get the highest return on their investment. For many, my goal is to help them save enough in tax savings to entirely cover their engagement price. We are frequently discussing things such as tax efficient renovations, cost segregation studies, 1031 exchanges, installment sales, S-Corp planning and retirement account strategies.
How does your approach to tax strategy differ from your competitors?
I work with clients to save them taxes in a way that aligns with their investing, cash flow and time goals. For example, I’m not going to pat myself on the back simply for telling someone to maximize their 401K contributions, take on high-interest debt, buy a new vehicle and give all of their money to charities for the tax benefits. They may grab some sweet tax savings, but will these strategies always serve them best in the long run? Probably not. Also, a lot of CPA’s who learn the basics of real estate taxation stop too early in the strategy conversations. With real estate transactions, there is more than one way to get into and out of a deal with varying tax results. So, I often ask my clients something like this, “Would you be able to consider selling this property differently? If so, we could save tax dollars in the following way...” CPA’s who don’t specialize in real estate miss out on key tax opportunities, and many who do focus on real estate miss out on delivering those great experiences to their smaller clients.
So, how did Raygor Tax come to be and get to where it is today?
In 2012, I began my journey of working for local regional CPA firms. While there were a lot of great things happening, I wanted a different type of relationship with my clients and more control over my work life. In 2015, I thought that the grass wasn’t going to be any greener by switching to a different local CPA firm, so I launched my own tax business. I started out by networking with others in the real estate industry and ended up joining the team of a like-minded CPA who is a pioneer for virtual tax firms, despite being physically separated by more than 1,000 miles. He taught me how to provide top-notch services to ideal clients nationwide. After working with him for a few years, and two additional children later, I loved my job but still desired more family time. In 2019, I made the switch to running Raygor Tax full-time so that I could create the right balance between work and family. My wife and I have four children, and when our youngest daughter was born with cerebral palsy in 2019, it solidified this direction for my career. I now have the flexibility my family greatly needs, and our firm has grown tremendously.
What is involved in running a virtual firm?
Utilizing technology well. We work with people from Alaska to Florida and from California to Maine. Our strategy sessions are done via video conferencing and phone calls. For document transfer and storage, we use secure online portals to safely share sensitive information. Our clients enjoy this benefit because it saves them tons of time and frustration from having to rearrange their schedules to meet in person. Although we do serve some local clients, most live far from Minnesota and have investments and projects happening in multiple states. For our team, it means we use tools that make communication and accountability possible. While in-person interactions are infrequent, the flexibility we have for getting work done allows everyone to thrive.
In what other ways is Raygor Tax unique from other firms?
As a specialized firm, we work exclusively with people in real estate. Our expertise in real estate taxation alone sets us apart from the vast majority of other CPA firms, who are generalists and don’t intentionally hone in on one industry quite like we do. Also, I work directly with my clients instead of handing the relationship off to a subordinate. Although I may have support from team members, I am the point of contact for all of our clients and oversee all tax deliverables. This allows for more familiarity with the client and greater accuracy in tax returns, so my clients feel more confident because they know they will be working with an expert who understands their goals.
What inspired you to focus on the real estate industry and work with real estate investors?
I grew up around real estate deals. My father began investing in real estate when I was young. When my brothers and I got into our teenage years, he roped us into various flip projects he had going on. Eventually, one of my brothers began buying and holding a bunch of rental properties. As a result of that family involvement in real estate, I knew that this was the industry I most wanted to be working with as a CPA. Early on in my career, I began to realize that “the riches are in the niches,” and the quickest way to establish and grow a CPA firm was going to be to focus on one specific industry. Since swinging the hammer is not my strong suit, I figured that getting into the real estate game primarily through providing professional and financial services would be the way to go. It also helps that people will always need a place to live. I don’t see the residential real estate industry, whether rental or flipping or developing, being truly disrupted anytime soon.
Ben Raygor, CPA
Raygor Tax, LLC