Tax needs? Per capita, Oxford County is the place

Tax Season 2015 is coming to a close (on Wednesday, officially).

If you owe this year, the check should probably be in the mail. But if you’re looking for last-minute tax help in Maine, Oxford County might be the place to go (just an educated guess).

While I’d ask you not to bank on my last-minute tax prep advice, Oxford County does have the state’s highest number of tax preparation employers per capita, with 21 as of September 2014. (Note: the figures do not include sole proprietors, but only tax preparers who have at least one other person on the payroll.)

That number of tax preparation establishments compares with a population for Oxford County of about 57,675, as of a 2013 estimate from the American Community Survey. By comparison, Knox County has 54,557 people and just nine tax preparation establishments.

It’s not just individual people that file taxes, however, so measuring Oxford County’s share of tax preparers can use a little more detail, using “location quotients” from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The term sounds confusing, but the concept is simple. The location quotient compares a certain industry or job type’s total share of employers, employees or wages to the national average.

And by that measure, too, Oxford County is a standout.

The data above on establishments comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which comes out of the unemployment insurance system and is just about the most accurate point-in-time data available on wages, employment and establishments by type.

The location quotient is perhaps best summarized by a Bureau of Labor Statistics formula. Here, it’s in terms of tax preparers.

Local Concentration = (Tax preparation services, Maine county) / (All-Industry total, Maine county)

National Concentration = (Tax preparation services, U.S.) / (All-Industry total, U.S.)

Location Quotient = Local Concentration / National Concentration

So, when the local concentration is equal to the national concentration, the number equals 1.0. In Oxford County, tax preparers’ share of total employer establishments in Oxford County is 1.78 times the national average.

By comparison, Cumberland County has the most tax preparers, 69, but a location quotient of 0.67, less than the national average and far below the national high of Rains County, Texas, where tax prepares make up about 5.6 times the share of total employers than the national average.

And so, as the tax checks get written, remember there’s a private sector side to that civic duty.

In the first three months of last year (the bulk of the 2014 tax season), tax prep employers in Maine supported about 293 jobs and paid out about $1.5 million in wages for those three months (triple the amount paid for the second and third quarters combined).

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.