January 2 marked the 40th year that Ruth Roberts has been in business in Huntsville. Except for one year when renovations took place at her building, Roberts Tax & Accounting has been at 402 W. Main St. the entire time.
Roberts grew up in Green Forest, where she graduated high school. In 1970 she married her husband, Gary, then moved to Huntsville.
Before becoming disabled in 1999, Gary worked at Butterball.
“When I opened my business  I was 28 years old, I had a 7-year-old and a 3-year old. Now I’m a great-grandma,” she said with a hearty laugh.
Roberts has a son and a daughter, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Roberts said she’s always been attracted to numbers, or math.
“I’ve always loved math. Math has just always come easy to me. I always knew whatever I did it would have to include math, numbers,” she said.
“I do their tax returns, I efile [electronic file] them. If they have any trouble during the year I’m always here for them. If they need copies I do copies. My people know they can call me any time they need me. I am there for them. They’re my family.”
Roberts said her clients become family over time.
“They start out as clients but after a few years they kind of become family,” Robert said.
Roberts for two years worked for an accountant, “then every year for the last 40 years I go to school.” Roberts goes to tax school through Auburn University when it’s held in Fayetteville.
Roberts was asked if she thought she “knew it all” when she opened shop at 28 years old.
“Oh Lord, no. Anytime you think you know anything you’re in trouble. You don’t know everything. Nobody knows everything.
“There’s something every year. This year is the less changes than ever. The best part is no more Obamacare,” she said about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. For several years people were required to pay a penalty even if they didn’t have the insurance.
“I’ve got some people who have gotten penalized and they just really didn’t have the money to buy it,” she said.
Roberts also spoke of a double-taxation issue she doesn’t care for.
“The biggest change since I’ve been in taxes that I really believe is double-taxation is up until about 15 years ago, Social Security wasn’t taxable,” she said. “And now you have to pay on your Social Security. Social Security is a tax and yet you’re paying tax on it. I think that’s one of the most unfair tax changes.”
Roberts in July 2019 retired after 15 years with the Madison County Conservation District, where she worked as a secretary, bookkeeper and accountant.
“During tax time I would work up here at noon, I’d run down there and keep them up, then I’d run back up here,” she said.
Roberts said she has one client who’s been a customer since 1981.
“The first five, six years I did taxes by hand. Then I was either ‘go computer or quit what I was doing,’ so then I went computer,” she said.
Roberts said her little office needed a lot of work done 40 years ago, including the floor and a front door that had been painted dark blue.
“It was sad when we walked in, but it’s not a big office. It’s just me,” she said. “I take them [tax returns] in and do them, and check them, I run copies, put them together and sell them.”
Roberts said her attention to details is important to her business.
“If you can’t do it right the first time, you don’t have time to do it right the second,” she said.
Roberts noted, “It’s something I love. I love doing this. I just love it.”
She was asked about any plans for retirement.
“Not now. I just love it. I don’t now what I would do if I didn’t have this office ... I just love what I do. As long as my mind is good and my health is good I’d like to hit 50 years,” she said.
Roberts remembers the beginning of her Huntsville business like it happened just a short time ago.
“When I first started I just didn’t have the money, so I ran up to, there used to be a Radio Shack ... and I would make copies because I couldn’t afford a copy machine. Then I got to where I rented a copy machine for several years, then I got my copier,” she said.
When Roberts had a computer and printer, “I thought I was somebody,” she said with that joyous laugh.
And, for 40 years, Roberts hasn’t had a restroom at her business. She said other businesses in the strip over 40 years – including a grocery store and a hair salon – have allowed her to use their facilities.
Roberts said there’s anther reason why people use her services.
“I’ve had people in Huntsville come to me and say ‘the reason I’m here is because it’s just you,’” she said. Her clients aren’t interested in going to an office with several employees.
“You know some people talk. Well, I don’t talk. My daughter told me, she said, ‘Mamma, when you die there ain’t nobody saying you gossiped’ and I don’t. I just turn my ear when somebody else is gossiping. Don’t want to hear it, don’t care,” she said.
Roberts said she turned away only one person during her career, a man who wanted her to do things that were against the law. She still believes the man was an agent of the Internal Revenue Service inspecting how she did business.
Another man was asked to find another tax preparer, after Roberts did his taxes, because he was angry at Roberts when she said he owned money to the government. His reaction and his physical size were intimidating, she said.
Roberts Tax & Accounting is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Those hours are in effect from Jan. 2 to April 15.
Roberts said she works Mondays from 9 to 5 once tax season is over. She is taking on more bookkeeping jobs, so she may expand to Tuesdays, as well.