Business and individual tax
preparation | Same sex couple Federal and State taxation
representation & negotiation | Financial consulting and software
Financial reconstructions |
I am dedicated to providing my clients with the full range of services they need, while keeping costs competitively low.
Business and individual tax return preparation
I offer complete income tax services to my business and individual clients. And wherever you are, I am able to expertly fulfill your tax return preparation needs. I have clients in several states and a few outside The States. I've prepared State tax returns for businesses and individuals in over twenty states, as well as non-resident returns for dozens of people outside the United States who have reporting requirements here.
Of course, if you're a small business, you may need help with quarterly tax filings, or the miscellaneous regulatory filings that pop up as part of running a business. I'm here to help.
The majority of my practice is centered on small businesses and the individual tax returns of their owners. My practice is very Main Street-oriented. Most of my clients are self-employed, and own a business that reports as either a small corporation or a Schedule C on their personal tax return. However, I do have a number of clients who are either retired or who work for an employer and receive a W-2. And like most other CPA's in the valley, I offer estate and trust return preparation.
Same sex couple Federal and State taxation
The marriage wars are over. At least we think they are. We can only hope that future appointments to the Supreme Court will think so, as well. These days, for married lesbian and gay couples, taxes are no different than for straight couples. That's if they're married. Many lesbian and gay couples, while committed, haven't tied that knot.
These days, from a tax perspective, Registered Domestic Partners often have it better than married couples. They are still able to allocate income between the spouses on separate Federal tax returns. In cases of huge income disparities between the parties, it can create a material tax savings.
Tax Audits - Taxing authority representation and negotiation
Really bad things sometimes happen to very good people. Even honest people sometimes get in trouble with the IRS or a state taxing agency. Not properly handling the emergency can unnecessarily add to your tax bill. Ignoring the problem could cost you everything you own.
Professional tax practitioners know enforcement from taxing authorities has increased lately. Why? Several reasons. The recent recession cut into the government's revenues and they have to make up the shortfall somehow. And they know the money is out there. In some cases it is like the situation with Apple and the IRS going after their non-reported offshore income. But most of the new collection activity is focused on small taxpayers who earn less than a hundred thousand per year. Some small business owners, in an effort to cut compliance costs, turned to unqualified bookkeepers who overstated their skills and got the tax return done for a sweet little price. It just happened to be wrong. Having your insurance agent prepare your taxes increases the probability that the return will be wrong. Would you have a notary represent you in court?
I have an outstanding record in representing clients who have received communications from taxing authorities. I have successfully negotiated favorable settlements and payment plans with the IRS, the California Franchise Tax Board, the California Employment Development Department, and the California State Board of Equalization. I have handled "Zero Change" audits, in which the taxing authority agreed that no additional taxes were due. More than once, when the IRS thought the taxpayer owed them money, I was able to prove to the IRS that the client was due a refund.
I would be lying if I guaranteed you I could "make your tax problems go away." Anyone who makes such bold promises without understanding the complexities of your case isn't being honest with you. Some types of tax, such as sales tax and payroll tax, are almost never reduced regardless of the skills of the negotiator. What I do promise is that I will work to the best of my abilities to minimize or remove your liability.
Experience has taught me that taxpayers are usually contacted by taxing authorities for one of six reasons:
- The taxpayer did not bother to file a tax return. If this is why they contacted you, they have probably already calculated what they think you owe. Chances are they've calculated your tax liability at far greater than it would be if a return were properly prepared. You may owe taxes. You may not. But they will presume the greater liability until you prove differently.
- The IRS thinks the taxpayer underreported income on the tax return. This is common. Contrary to popular belief, these kinds of tax issues don't set you up on a tickler system to get audited every year for the next several years. Sometimes the income was reported and the IRS didn't understand where it was reported on the tax return. Sometimes the taxpayer owes more money. Sometimes not.
- The tax return was improperly prepared. I've seen more of this lately. People cut corners during the downturn and often turned to cheaper preparers, sometimes themselves. I've stepped in on audits of other CPA's work less than a dozen times. Most of the audits I've gotten involved in were for clients who messed up their own returns or who had some uncertified tax preparer mess it up for them.
- The taxpayer lied on the tax return. Yes, sometimes taxpayers lie on their tax return hoping the IRS won't notice. And then they do. These kinds of audits can get messy, but aren't fatal. Further lies will only complicate the problem. I've handled a few audits like this and nobody went to jail and the penalties weren't so excessive that the taxpayer was driven to living in a cardboard box. Admitting a large accounting error and asking the IRS to work with the taxpayer to correct the error is the best way to handle these situations.
- The taxing authority (like the IRS or the FTB) is wrong. This is rare but it happens. These tend to be my favorite interactions with taxing authorities. It has been my experience that when faced with incontrovertible documentation substantiating the taxpayer's valid position, taxing authorities admit that the taxpayer is right. Dealing with taxing authorities can feel a bit like Napoleonic justice, in which the taxpayer is presumed guilty until proven innocent. This may or may not be accurate. But taxing authorities can be reasoned with. That's what I do.
- Random selection. There was nothing wrong with the return, but you got selected for audit due to luck of the draw. Just like jury duty! These kinds of audits can play out any number of ways. Sometimes the IRS finds inaccuracies. Sometimes the audit is an exercise in futility, where the taxpayer has to go through hoops just to prove out what was originally an accurate tax return. On occasion, these audits can generate a tax refund. Don't get your hopes up, but it happens.
Financial consulting and software training
There is no such thing as a "typical small business." Your business is as unique as you are. However, there are basic financial needs that all companies have in common. One company might need ongoing part-time assistance. Another might need just that one project that will improve financial operations. The following is a quick summary of what my more than twenty years as a financial professional can do for you.
Whether you do your accounting monthly or quarterly, every business owner needs timely and accurate full-accrual financial statements in order to understand how their company is doing. And maybe also why. For restaurants, catering, manufacturers, construction and agriculture (as well as many other industries), this often involves cost accounting. That's where your product costs are analyzed on a per-unit or per-project basis. In my several years as a small business controller, I relied heavily upon cost accounting to provide crucial information to the owners and key managers.
It is almost always most cost effective to do your bookkeeping (and as much of your accounting as possible) in-house. I strive to teach clients to do as much work as possible themselves. Why pay your CPA huge sums of money on an ongoing basis if you can learn to do it yourself?
The best way to manage your company's future is to plan your company's future. This starts with a sound revenue and operating budget. There are several pertinent factors that affect your budget such as your current growth curve, events happening in your industry and the regional economy. All should be considered. While a complex task, it's a vital step in mapping your business's future.
Software conversions, implementations and training
I've been hands-on involved in many software implementations and conversions. They don't have to be painful and they don't have to impede your business while underway. But they do need to be well planned. If we decide to install a software package or convert your existing software, I'll make it as quick and painless as possible. That is, as soon as we complete the planning.
Or perhaps you have perfectly good software that no one ever explained how to use properly. I've seen this situation more than once. You bought QuickBooks or another software package on the advice of your friend or previous CPA, but can't do a thing with it. You're convinced it's junk. But a few well-orchestrated training sessions can sometimes make that "useless" software a valuable asset.
The small business accounting package I'm most familiar with is QuickBooks. However, my goal is to maximize the efficiency and usefulness of your current software, regardless of manufacturer.
Clients setting up their accounting often ask me, "What software package should I get?" My stock answer is QuickBooks. Why?
- It's user friendly, even if you're not an accountant
- Errors can easily be corrected
- It's not terribly expensive
- The data file is easily e-mailed, so I can solve problems without necessarily showing up onsite at the client's venue
- This is not to say that QuickBooks is THE software for everybody. It does have limitations. But for many businesses operating in the under $5 million per year environment using PC computers, QuickBooks is the best choice.
Strategic planning/business plans
Most small business owners wince the second someone says "strategic planning" or "business plan." However, in my experience, every highly successful company I've worked with has had a business plan. Every unsuccessful company I've worked with has refused to implement one.
A business plan shouldn't be as complex as a 300 page college dissertation. It's an organic document that spells out certain goals, the timeframe for those goals, and how you plan to achieve them. While I can't force a client to be interested in a business plan, strategic planning will almost always make you more money. And if you're seeking a bank loan or investment in your company, it's a requirement.
Over the years I've become a bit of an expert on financial reconstructions. Every management position I had in private industry required a complete and immediate reconstruction of the financial records the day I walked in the door.
When doing a financial construction it's important to capture all revenues and expenses. It is more common for clients to underreport expenses than to under report revenues. More than once I've had a client who thought they owed money for the prior year, but after everything is considered they actually had a net operating loss.
Since starting my practice 16 years ago, I've been involved in several financial reconstructions. Cost is always a consideration. If a client is relying solely upon the CPA firm to perform the work, these can be more expensive than an IRS audit. Bearing that in mind, I try to involve the client as much as possible in these projects. The more involved you are, the less expensive I am.
It is almost always most cost effective for clients to do their own bookkeeping. It is part of my business model to train clients to do everything they are capable of doing themselves. However, some people are either unable to learn the necessary skills or are unwilling to do the work themselves. Or maybe you can do most of the book work, but just need a few hours per month from a bookkeeper to get the records right. I am networked with bright, honest bookkeepers who offer bookkeeping services at competitive rates.
Does it sound like you'd benefit from my services?