Profiles: Jeffrey Howson

Jeffrey Howson

Jeffrey Howson

MBA 77

CPA; Founder, Howson & Simon, LLP; Adjunct Professor, GGU


Jeff Howson advises high-net-worth clients by day, but teaches Income Taxation of Trusts and Estates by night. It's a course he began teaching back in the 1970s, annually at Golden Gate University's San Francisco campus' Braden Tax School. Since its founding more than forty-five years ago, the school has enrolled more students than any other tax program, making it one of the top graduate tax schools in the country.

A colleague, Ron Linder sent Howson to Golden Gate to talk to John Williams, the founder of the tax school. It was that commitment to quality that first brought Howson to the classroom, first as a team teacher with his colleague Ron Linder. He was by then a tax partner at Arthur Young, one of the Big 8 accounting firms.

"Golden Gate enabled me to go from being green as grass in taxation to becoming a tax partner within just a few years."

Jeff didn't start out to become a financial advisor to the wealthy. Growing up in Seattle, he was an ordinary kid with a gift for mathematics. In the late 1950s, while Jeff was a student there, Seattle's Roosevelt High School was recognized as one of the top twenty five in the country. Mostly, though he excelled academically; valedictorian for his graduating class of 800. His first job was bagging groceries at a local supermarket. He first attended Harvard and settled in to life at Cambridge in 1960 with a bachelor's degree in general studies, not mathematics.

In early 1965 he journeyed to Australia on a Fulbright scholarship. When he wasn't in class or playing bridge, he hitchhiked around the countryside, exploring Australia. It was the beginning of a lifelong passion for travel, which would eventually lead him through fifty countries. From Australia, he moved on to India where he decided to apply to the Harvard Business School, arriving back in Cambridge in the fall of 1966.

Howson arrived in San Francisco with a freshly-minted Harvard MBA. Jeff was one of a half dozen students from his HBS class to have signed on with Arthur Young in San Francisco. Howson then decided to leave Arthur Young and go solo. Jeff and wife Anne (the firm's initial bookkeeper) sub-leased space from an attorney friend in the Mills Building. He partnered with Philip Simon, a former co-worker in the tax department at Arthur Young with a law degree from Stanford. From that initially modest firm, Howson and Simon has grown to a group of about two dozen people, adding a third partner, Catherine Ong, after making some family-friendly changes.

From the onset Jeff Howson intended to specialize in working with high-net-worth individuals and he has followed that vision. One aspect of his firm's success is hiring seasoned professionals from top accounting firms. They were looking for people who had worked for Big 8 firms for eight or nine years and then wanted to start a family.

Anne stayed on as the firm's bookkeeper for a few years before resuming her efforts with several residential real estate renovation projects. He returned to teaching at Golden Gate in 2006.