But during the Uber ride to his office, Lavina began to wonder why there wasn't a way to easily pair real accountants like himself with people who needed help filing their taxes. He became envious of the Uber driver's professional flexibility.
When you set out to file your taxes, you have two options. You can submit all of your documents to a CPA, and have them do the dirty work for you, or you can file yourself with online services like TurboTax or H&R Block.
Then there's Tickmark, Lavina's seven-month-old startup that lets you file your taxes through a mobile app called Taxfyle. It's pitching itself as the "Uber for accountants," and it was recently named one of the best new apps in the App Store by Apple.
'We're turning the traditional CPA firm upside down," Lavina said in an interview.
Taxfyle, a chat-based messaging app for quickly filing your taxes, is designed to be dead simple. Once you give the app some basic info and submit tax documents by taking photos with your phone, it connects you with a CPA that does your paperwork and asks you follow-up questions.
300 CPAs are on call 24/7 in the app, and Lavina said it takes 60 seconds to submit tax information, 90 seconds for a CPA to take the request, and generally 24 hours for all of the necessary paperwork to be completed. Taxfyle lets you take photos of your tax documents, like a W2 or 1099 form, with your phone and upload them directly in the app.
Taxfyle's CPAs have on average 14 years of experience in their field and they look through all documents submitted through the app.
"No one else is doing this," said Lavina. "No one else has an army of CPAs like we do. No one else is pairing them with customers at very competitive rates."
Filing taxes with Taxfyle starts at $49, and adding itemized deductions brings the cost to $100. Taxfyle also charges $3 for three years of audit protection. TurboxTax's mid-tier package starts at $55 and charges $40 for audit defense.
While TurboTax is the obvious elephant in the room, Lavina isn’t worried. "We don't see [TurboTax] as our main competitor. You can always paint your house for cheaper," he said. "But there's going to be a huge market of people out there who don't have the time to do it or don't have the skill set to paint their house."
"We see our main competitors as the brick and mortar, the Liberty Tax and the H&R Block, that have billions and billions of dollars in market space already."
Intuit, which owns TurboTax, recently debuted its own chat-based tax filing app called Tada that works in a similar way to Taxfyle. The app, which is currently in beta, costs $40 to file state and federal returns.
Lavina doesn't seem scared about Intuit encroaching on Taxfyle's territory.
"We're the future of a CPA firm. We're not the future of filing your taxes. He said many users are asking for the app to handle more everyday book keeping, and he plans to expand the kind of services Taxfyle provides.
"There's no reason why the vehicle we created should just be for transporting tax jobs," he said. "It could also be transporting bookkeeping jobs, payroll jobs, even audits."
For now, Lavina isn't shy about his small team's potential. "This is the next Uber," he said.