Keisha Price: Taking on taxes with the Delaware devotee

Keisha Price: Taking on taxes with the Delaware devotee

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“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”

— Albert Einstein 

Well, Einstein may have had a problem, but this week’s profile, Keisha Price, has it under control. As one of the “Tax Warriors” at Drucker & Scaccetti, Price delights in helping her clients make sense of their money.

PGN: I don’t detect an accent but I understand you’re not from these parts.

KP: I am not. I was born in London, but my parents are from the states; they were both in the military. My dad got stationed in Dover when I was young, so that’s where me and my younger brother grew up. I wish I had an accent!

PGN: You should at least adopt one of those fake Madonna English accents!

KP: I know. When I was younger I had to go to speech therapy. They wanted to make me conform and I remember they had these dolphin puppets helping me pronounce words correctly. Now I look back and I’m like, “I’d be so cool with an accent!” 

PGN: And they made you speak Dover? That’s just criminal!

KP: [Laughs] Is that an accent? And I went to college at University of Delaware for undergrad so I’m all Delaware.

PGN: Fighting Blue Hens!

KP: Exactly! Nobody knows about them! I started my career at PricewaterhouseCoopers, was there for a while and it gave me a taste for city life, which was really exciting, but I continued to commute from Delaware for a while. Finally I said, “No mas,” and I moved here last year. I started working here in 2015.

PGN: Did you travel around a lot as a military brat?

KP: No, my parents traveled. My dad spent the better part of my formative years in South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Virginia while me, my mom and my brother stayed in Delaware.

PGN: Did you get a lot of cool souvenirs?

KP: Oh yeah. South Korea has awesome swag: full-blown customized Nike sweats and jackets, hand-stitched! This was back when FUBU was hot.

PGN: Did you play a lot with your brother?

KP: For sure, he was my play thing. I pretty much told him what to do. I say it built character in him; he might feel otherwise.

PGN: A favorite memory from back then?

KP: There’s a National Guard base in Bethany Beach and my mom was able to get a trailer on the beach. A trailer! It was in a really beautiful, fenced-off area and we had so much fun. We could walk to the beach from the trailer, which was not something we were used to growing up in Dover. We did that for two weeks each summer for several years and we loved it.

PGN: Are you a good swimmer?

KP: I’m an excellent swimmer. My spirit animal is a turtle. Being in the military, my dad sent me to lessons at 5 a.m. in the summer.

PGN: I’m good in pools or water where you can see what’s around you. I don’t like the idea of crabs and minnows and creatures right next to me without my knowledge!

KP: [Whispers] They’re all around you! I think it’s a mindset. I can just float in the waves for an hour or two and then I’ll start thinking about the tides and the jellyfish and I have to get out.

PGN: What other kinds of things did you do in your youth?

KP: I would say I was a secret nerdy athlete. I was captain of the girls’ basketball team but I was also treasurer of the speech and debate team, I was on the academic challenge team and I was on the executive council to the principal and got to do the morning announcements. I love basketball but I was like, “Let’s be real, I’m not going to be able to make a career from this” so I got lots of extra credits and began to focus in on accounting. Unlike becoming a doctor or lawyer, which takes eight years of college to master, you can do really well in accounting in a relatively short amount of time.

PGN: Were you a numbers nerd as a kid? Were you the one counting the change from your dad’s pocket?

KP: Yes! He actually had a Crown Royal bag and he’d put all his change in it. I think that’s every kid’s first penny pouch! I’d be like, “Let’s go! Quarters first!” Getting all the coins into those little rolls … I think I did that until … well, until they started Coinstar, but they charge you for that. 

PGN: What was a crazy sports moment?

KP: I blocked my own teammate’s ball and threw her to the ground. We were down by two points and were throwing the ball inbound. She apparently had gotten turned around and went to shoot the ball at our basket! I flew at her and practically body-slammed her to the ground but she made the layup anyway! Thankfully we won the game in overtime or she never would have heard the end of it.  

PGN: How was the overall college experience?

KP: When you first get to college, it’s either great or total shell shock and then great. I’d been such a good student for so long I fell off my first semester with about a C average. My mom stopped giving me money so I had to get a job, and I worked with PROUD — the Puppy Raisers of UD. We trained Seeing Eye dogs and they gave you an 8-week-old pup to raise and teach basic commands. Because they’re service dogs, I got to take him to class, in the cafeteria, everywhere! My mother never let me have a dog; she told us that we were allergic. [Laughs] I’m going to give my mom the benefit of the doubt that she wasn’t lying and that I just grew out of them. That can happen, right?

PGN: Absolutely! How did you end up in Philly?

KP: I realized that I needed to start getting ready for the job market. I entered a community-impact competition with PWC. There’s a shelter on campus for women and children. We made a proposal to get mattresses and bedbug-resistant rubber sheets and toys for the kids. We came with 40 accounting students and painted the whole facility, we bought and put cribs and strollers together. PWC was the sponsor and they paid for everything, including a $5,000 donation. Our group won and I asked if I could do an internship with them and they said yes.

PGN: Why math?

KP: I like math because there’s always an answer; it’s either right or wrong. And accounting is simple arithmetic. It’s not calculus or complex equations. And you’ve got a calculator … It’s more about the story you are telling or revealing with the numbers. Especially with taxes, it’s someone’s life on paper in front of you. It’s the subtext of a life. And you’re a detective sorting it out. 

PGN: A friend once paid me to help her with her taxes. As I was sorting through receipts, I came across a bill for some sex toys that had accidentally wound up in the box. I remember saying, “Uh, I don’t think you can deduct these … ”

KP: [Laughs] I don’t know, were they for medical purposes? Yes, we get stuff like that. It’s almost like being a doctor in that we’re privy to the most personal things. Actually, a lot of people think they can deduct medical marijuana, but not unless it’s legal in your state. It’s important, because we have older people using alternative methods of medicine. That’s one of the advantages of using a real accountant and not the do-it-yourself tax software. We’re all people who like to problem-solve. We develop a relationship with you, your family and/or business. We use our tax expertise and natural curiosity to uncover advantages that the best algorithms can’t find.

PGN: When did you come out?

KP: The first day I got to college. My roommate, who is my best friend to this day, had come out her senior year of high school. She’d been through the family drama, the rejection, the turmoil of being on your own. She was completely open and a total stud, wearing fitted hats with long hair. I was like, “You are so cool.” We’d go places, to gay clubs and … if I hadn’t met her I don’t know where my life would be. It’s funny, I wanted to go to St. Joe’s, where I had a scholarship, and there was drama, drama, drama because my parents wanted me to stay in Delaware. I was so glad I did because through her I came out on day one and never looked back.

PGN: The Hens got you.

KP: Truly. I enjoy Philly, but someday I’d like to move back and become the governor of Delaware or something. I really want to give back to my state. It’s such a unique state and so close-knit; I could make a difference, especially in the LGBT community. I think there are about 15 gay people and we all know each other! But seriously, I love what I do and what I’ve learned and I think I could use these skills to go beyond taxes and do good for others. If you have knowledge, you should use it to help others.

PGN: Agreed. Where was there to go in Delaware when you first came out?

KP: Nowhere! We’d go to a club in Baltimore called The Paradox. It was a real ’hood club and I’m this suburban dweller from Delaware. It was ratchet ’hood too: people smoking blunts everywhere, Crown and Henny bottles all over the place. It was great! And of course we came to Philly — Woody’s on Wednesdays; this was the mecca. And now I live here. 

PGN: How was coming out to the family?

KP: I think they all knew. You can only be a tomboy for so long — what, until you’re 16? After that you might be a little more. I was always in shorts and sweatpants and I’m ridiculously tall for a woman — I call myself the lady giant — so I’d wear men’s and boys’ clothes because they fit me better and I liked the style. After a while I just realized, you know, I don’t think I’m going to wear a dress any time soon. The first time I really spoke to my mother about it was after I’d broken up with my girlfriend. She’d been really involved with my family so when we broke up, my mother was still texting and calling her. I finally had to say, “Stop calling her, she was my girlfriend and it’s over.” I told her about some of the problems I’d had with her and my mother’s response was, “I understand. I dated someone very similar once.” That’s when I first started realizing that parents actually had a life before having kids, that they were once us. I had such a newfound appreciation for my mother. I told her how scared I was to tell her and she said, “Come on, I already knew. You’re always in pictures with girls on your Facebook page.” 

PGN: So when you’re not crunching numbers, what do you do?

KP: I like to be active and I want to try new things like traveling, so I’ve been learning to speak Italian online. I’ve been working on it for two years and I’m to the point where I can read it and take directions. I’m almost ready to go. I’m also the treasurer for a nonprofit, The Delaware Institute for Arts and Education. They bring artists from all around the world to public schools in Delaware — poets, spoken-word, drummers, dancers, sculptors. They share their stories with the kids and then ask them to create a project based on it. The kids work on it and then share the projects with their families and the entire school. One of the projects was at The Grand concert hall and it was incredible. It’s crazy, though; my neighbor was the one who started the program and he died in a traffic accident last year. He was out jogging, came to a crosswalk and had a heart attack. He fell forward and got hit by a car. That was the first time as an adult that I knew someone who died. At his memorial, there were so many stories of how he had touched people, that he gave much and expected little and changed people’s lives. Now that’s a life worth living and it’s inspired me to want to do more.

PGN: That’s beautiful. Now for some random questions.

KP: [In a funny voice] It’s grab-bag time!

PGN: [Laughs] Yes! Any tattoos or piercings?

KP: Oh yes, I love tats. My first one was a tramp stamp, a Virgo sign. I was only 17 so my mother had to come with me, which was embarrassing. She was in full military uniform and grilled the tattoo artist about making sure the needles were clean, etc. I have an infinity symbol on my foot and “somnium,” which means “dreaming” in Latin, so it means constant dreamer. I have a tribal turtle with the tree of life on its back and then I have a tattoo for my best friend, and I have a sort of pirate, Treasure Island tat on my arm which finally has some color. I said to the tattoo artist, “Can black people do color?” And she said, “Red.” So I was like, “OK! Let’s do a sun!”

PGN: What’s the farthest you’ve traveled?

KP: Mostly just the East Coast, Florida and New Orleans. I’m working up to go to the West Coast to get used to long plane rides before I try Europe. I don’t know that I can handle more than six hours. I’m deathly afraid of being in a plane and not being in control. Ha, maybe if I learned how to fly a plane so I could help out I’d feel better, but now I’m actually getting fairly zen and try to think, Hey, if the plane goes down I won’t have to pay my student loans back. Trying to find a positive side!

PGN: First R-rated movie you ever saw?

KP: “Waiting to Exhale.” I’m a huge Whitney Houston fan.

PGN: Do you cook?

KP: Yes. I love making breakfasts. 

PGN: Hobby?

KP: I love watching movies. I’m a huge movie buff and I can watch the same movie over and over, TV shows too. The first time I see it from the perspective of the main person, the next time I watch from the perspective of the antagonist, the third time maybe the narrator. I find something different each time. 

PGN: Favorite movie line?

KP: It’s from “The Fifth Element.” Chris Tucker is getting choked by Bruce Willis and Willis is this really uptight guy. He grabs Tucker and says, “I’m here for a mission, do not bother me” and Chris squeaks out, “Super, Green.” You have to see it.

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