For nearly 10 years, Tom Herman, 56, has written about taxes as The Wall Street Journal's "Tax Report" columnist, and he has continued to write with verve and enthusiasm that many might think belie his subject matter.
But as Benjamin Franklin said, "But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
That leaves plenty of fodder for Mr. Herman, whose weekly column appears every Thursday in the Personal Journal. He also pens "Ask Dow Jones," a weekly column for The Wall Street Journal Sunday, a personal finance supplement that appears in the Sunday business sections of more than 70 major metropolitan dailies. He also wrote "Tom Herman on Taxes" from October 2001 through the end of 2002 for The Wall Street Journal Online.
Far from a dull subject matter, Mr. Herman, who appears frequently on NBC's "Early Today" show to discuss taxes and personal finance, said taxes are a "great prism to view the world through."
"It's not just about taxes. It's about everything," he said. "Taxes played a very important role in the American Revolution, and they've played a very important role throughout our history."
Often he finds his email box -- his email address appears at the bottom of each column -- bursting with messages from his readers. "I hope readers understand how valuable their feedback has been to me in broadening my understanding and alerting me to important stories," he said.
The challenge in writing about taxes is not in finding something to write about, but in the complexity of the subject matter, and the difficulty in making it understandable, he said.
"Rarely can you accept one or two person's word for it," he said. "There are so many exceptions and quirks that you really have to be very, very careful."
Once the reporting is done, you have to be equally as diligent at making the information clear and understandable for the reader, he said.
A native New Yorker, Mr. Herman began his esteemed career at The Wall Street Journal in 1968 upon graduating from Yale. He worked at several Journal bureaus until 1976 when he moved to The Asian Wall Street Journal, covering Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. Before taking over the Journal's Tax Report in January 1994, he covered investing, economics and the Federal Reserve and also specialized in investing and personal finance for the paper.
His foray into journalism began at the Browning School, where he won the school's award for journalism. Last year, the school awarded him its annual Alumnus Achievement Award. At Yale, he was a reporter and political editor for the Yale Daily News.
He is the co-author with Douglas R. Sease of "The Flat-Tax Primer," a book published by Viking in April 1996. He also contributed to several other books, including "The Wall Street Journal Lifetime Guide to Money," published by Hyperion in 1997 and "The Wall Street Journal Guide to Who's Who and What's What on Wall Street," published by Ballantine in 1998.
Mr. Herman said he greatly admires his colleagues, whom he learns from each day. In terms of how his peers might reflect on his body of work, he said, "I hope fellow journalists will say my articles were fair, balanced, enterprising and regularly broke new ground; that they were informative, lively and fun to read; and that I cared passionately about accuracy."