Where Are They Now? From Tax Preparer to TaxSlayer

USC Aiken alum bridges tax preparation with computer technology

Alumnus Zane Christopher earned his accounting degree from the University of South Carolina Aiken while working full-time and building the widely recognized tax preparation software TaxSlayer. He prepared income tax returns alongside his father at Augusta-based Rhodes-Murphy & Co., a company started in 1965 by Aubrey Rhodes Sr.

The North Augusta native began working at the firm in 1985 and attended USC Aiken intermittently from 1987 to 2001, at times taking courses at Aiken Technical College and USC Columbia. Most often Christopher attended classes at night and during the summer to meet the demands of 16-hour workdays during tax season.

In the late 1980s, Christopher and the firm's partners began to recognize the power of tax software and sought to develop their program. "At that time, we were buying our software from a company in California," he says. "We decided to hire programmers and develop something we could sell ourselves."

The resulting product, TaxSlayer, was developed in the mid-1990s by Jimmy Rhodes, Carl Rhodes, and Christopher. The company first introduced TaxSlayer Pro, a software product marketed to professional tax preparers. Christopher and his colleagues attended trade shows and pitched it to small "mom and pop" tax firms who were doing returns by hand, demonstrating how the tool could increase efficiency and improve their business.

"Eventually, we were no longer a tax preparation company; we became a technology company," Christopher says. "We had to hire IT people, computer engineers, and a support staff."

The business took off, and TaxSlayer quickly became known as one of the market's largest online tax preparation services. In 1998, TaxSlayer Online was introduced, offering tax software for individual filers. Christopher served as the company's co-vice president.

TaxSlayer was sold to a private equity firm in 2020, and Christopher is still residing in North Augusta and enjoying retirement. While his journey ultimately led him to a career in computer technology, he continues to advocate for the income tax and accounting field, where it all started.

"There's a shortage of accountants around the country, and the field is never going to go away," Christopher says. "I had great professors at USC Aiken, and it's a great field to go into."

However, computer and sales skills are key. Christopher's advice for current and future students—no matter their major—is to take more computer classes, and above all, be a good representative of your company.

"You cannot take too many computer classes," he says. "Technology transforms quickly, and it's important to be up to date on your computer skills. And no matter what your major is, work on your sales skills. It doesn't matter if you're answering the phone, you are still selling the company."

For more information, contact Leigh Thomas, thomas29229@yahoo.com