CPA relationships/advice

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4nursebee
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CPA relationships/advice

Post by 4nursebee » Sat Feb 29, 2020 6:10 pm

My spouse used a CPA before we met. We have continued to use the same person as we commingled, added a farm business, bought four rental properties, and engaged in some stock trading. Many years ago the CPA added a note onto our returns suggesting we get Roth IRAs. I have solicited the opinion of the CPA regarding some things we were doing, never has the agency responded. I think the first time was a general written request with our tax information to discuss our retirements, this was maybe 4-5 years ago, we wanted to line things up well for what is happening now. The second was for some specific farm business advice, direct email and company website forms were not responded to. I then mailed them at the office seeking the information, said I had not heard back from the CPA. The CPA called, we got our question answered. Again this year, with one of us retired, we typed out a letter requesting to speak with him about how to best handle our finances in retirement. We placed this letter on top of the info we took to the office for getting our taxes done. Again, no response, though we have gotten our returns back. We don't really need the hand holding, but 5-10 minutes in person could go a long way with peace of mind and perhaps a better understanding of how to minimize retirement taxes, and likely some better knowledge with regards to real estate and farming interests.

So, I kind of feel like while the taxes get done, seem to get done well, we lack the ongoing tax advice of a CPA, and this could cost us money in the long run. I am considering seeking out another CPA at the same firm, or perhaps a different firm. Perhaps a younger person that would hang around, be responsive, be available. My fear is that if we changed CPAs or firms, that the change over would perhaps be difficult with regards to record keeping for the carry over of short and long term trading losses, farm records (assets and depreciation) and real estate records (same kind of thing).

My parents ran a business for many years, paid a monthly fee to a CPA who basically acted like an on call business partner. They talked all the time.

So my question for this crew is:
1. What kind of service do you get from your CPA?
2. How easy could it be to change firms? Have you ever done so?
3. What would you do?

I plan to start a list of questions, call and ask for a formal appointment before changing anything.
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veggivet
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by veggivet » Sat Feb 29, 2020 6:56 pm

I've been with my CPA for over 20 years. He responds to my emails promptly, often providing links to articles addressing my question. I meet with him annually during tax season where we review my returns and he answers any questions I have (I come with a list of 5-10 typically). I simply wouldn't tolerate the treatment you've described. I would vote with your feet; I'm sure there are other firms in your town that would treat you as a valued client.
If you watch your pennies, your dollars will take care of themselves.

EHEngineer
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by EHEngineer » Sat Feb 29, 2020 7:02 pm

I have used a few CPAs over the years. I never found one who was willingly "on-board" with advising before the fact, like you describe with your parents. My CPAs just wanted to fill out the tax returns. I get better advice on bogleheads, so now I do my own taxes.
Or, you can ... decline to let me, a stranger on the Internet, egg you on to an exercise in time-wasting, and you could say "I'm probably OK and I don't care about it that much." -Nisiprius

coachd50
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by coachd50 » Sat Feb 29, 2020 7:26 pm

4nursebee wrote:
Sat Feb 29, 2020 6:10 pm
My spouse used a CPA before we met. We have continued to use the same person as we commingled, added a farm business, bought four rental properties, and engaged in some stock trading. Many years ago the CPA added a note onto our returns suggesting we get Roth IRAs. I have solicited the opinion of the CPA regarding some things we were doing, never has the agency responded. I think the first time was a general written request with our tax information to discuss our retirements, this was maybe 4-5 years ago, we wanted to line things up well for what is happening now. The second was for some specific farm business advice, direct email and company website forms were not responded to. I then mailed them at the office seeking the information, said I had not heard back from the CPA. The CPA called, we got our question answered. Again this year, with one of us retired, we typed out a letter requesting to speak with him about how to best handle our finances in retirement. We placed this letter on top of the info we took to the office for getting our taxes done. Again, no response, though we have gotten our returns back. We don't really need the hand holding, but 5-10 minutes in person could go a long way with peace of mind and perhaps a better understanding of how to minimize retirement taxes, and likely some better knowledge with regards to real estate and farming interests.

So, I kind of feel like while the taxes get done, seem to get done well, we lack the ongoing tax advice of a CPA, and this could cost us money in the long run. I am considering seeking out another CPA at the same firm, or perhaps a different firm. Perhaps a younger person that would hang around, be responsive, be available. My fear is that if we changed CPAs or firms, that the change over would perhaps be difficult with regards to record keeping for the carry over of short and long term trading losses, farm records (assets and depreciation) and real estate records (same kind of thing).

My parents ran a business for many years, paid a monthly fee to a CPA who basically acted like an on call business partner. They talked all the time.

So my question for this crew is:
1. What kind of service do you get from your CPA?
2. How easy could it be to change firms? Have you ever done so?
3. What would you do?

I plan to start a list of questions, call and ask for a formal appointment before changing anything.
For what services do you pay the CPA? If you only are paying for tax work, I don't know if I think it is reasonable to expect "freebies" on the side.

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gr7070
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by gr7070 » Sat Feb 29, 2020 7:52 pm

If you want to speak with someone call them.

While it's poor business of them to not respond to their clients regardless of how the client contacts them. It is 2020 and if I want something or expect to get any information from another party a letter is the absolute worst way to get my needs met.

OnTrack2020
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by OnTrack2020 » Sat Feb 29, 2020 9:32 pm

I am soooooo happy you posted this question, because we're having the same concerns. We had a wonderful CPA for many years. The great thing about her was that she was at a similar point in life that we were---her kids were 1 to 3 years older than our kids, so she'd always give us good advice on college, the home improvement credits, etc. Whatever we asked, she was able to give us some pretty sound advice. When we had questions during the year, she'd call back and give us an answer or we'd set up an appointment and go see her if it was something that we had to deal with right away that she could look over--and she would charge us for the appointments, but I can't remember her charging for short phone calls. Then she moved out of the area. :( We were at a loss, and the practice assigned us a new CPA--probably in his 20s. I just didn't have the rapport with him that I had with our previous CPA. And then he left. And they've assigned us another CPA. My concern at this last appointment with the new CPA was that we could really use some tax advice now that my husband has just retired, and basically it was stated in a sentence or two. I'm still at a loss that she left.

My husband says that CPAs cannot give investment advice.? I'm not looking for investment advice--I want tax advice, such as how much we'll pay in taxes in terms of pulling from IRAs if social security is taken and how that all happens with ACA, estimated taxes during 2021 now that we're basically in retirement.

I've considered calling our old CPA--she's still in the state. But, at some point, she will retire also. But I loved that she was older, had practiced for many years, and seemed extremely knowledgeable.

I think for you, you already know the answer. There are two things you can do. You can set up an appointment to sit down with the CPA, go over all the services you would like, ask if he can be available to you on a regular basis, and how much will it cost. Or you can find someone new. I'm curious if the practice you are with has an owner and if you could also talk to the owner about your situation (although I haven't done that myself)? If you can't get anything resolved or don't feel good about your meeting, I would gather all your tax records and go elsewhere.

123
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by 123 » Sat Feb 29, 2020 9:45 pm

It's possible your CPA doesn't really know who you are. The tax return stuff likely gets passed off to staff personnel and your notes would get misplaced in that process. Many CPAs are reluctant to give advice about investment plans, some feel it is not their role. Other CPAs are more open to cashing in on the opportunity to advise you. Possibly it's time to move on to another CPA. All the business history the CPA has is likely buried in your tax returns and business records your current CPA has, hopefully you have copies.
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MikeG62
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by MikeG62 » Sun Mar 01, 2020 8:32 am

As someone else suggested, I'd call the CPA. Hard for him/her to duck the question when you have them on the phone.

Sadly, many tax preparing CPA's simply want to push out tax returns - drop your numbers into their tax software which then spits out your return. What you are asking requires more brainpower - not only more of their time, but it's harder to do. Perhaps your CPA is not comfortable running various scenarios about possible future outcomes. Does not want to get called on the model if things turn out differently? Not all CPA's are created equal.

As a retired CPA (but not tax expert - although I know lots of CPA's who are) I am of the view that a CPA is generally not the right person to provide retirement or investment planning. If I needed that advice, I'd seek out a financial advisor (or use this forum).
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4nursebee
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by 4nursebee » Sun Mar 01, 2020 8:34 am

On the freebies thing, we are not looking for free. We want and are willing to pay for the best advice. I recall the first letter saying as much.

Someone said to call, that is the plan. Especially since typed letters enclosed with our returns and direct emails have not worked.

Has anyone here switched CPAs? How did that work and how complicated was your tax situation?

Thanks again.
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anil686
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by anil686 » Sun Mar 01, 2020 8:43 am

I too have a small business and pay about $300 per month (have 4 entities and personal tax situation). Have been with him for 15 years - generally responds within 1 day during busy season (like now) but within the day from April to September generally. He has been transparent and pretty much a stickler for following the rules which I like. My previous one would give information that I would not say is wrong, but was pushing boundaries. I like paying as little in tax as the next person, but I do not want to be audited and want to steer clear if I can from gray zones even if it means paying more. My CPA knows this and has been good about that part of it and is often quick to recommend above board things that I can do to help tax wise. Hope that helps...

Deblog
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by Deblog » Sun Mar 01, 2020 9:34 am

We had a CPA that really did not give much advice on taxes at all. Did not proactively mention Roth IRA, or anything else with tax. We just went to a firm that does financial planning and taxes etc. we paid a one time fee to evaluate our situation, retirement readiness etc. mentioned a number of things in the future we could do. Suggested after tax deductions for me (company has after tax but not Roth). Looked at previous tax returns while doing all of this. Mentioned some deductions (I have a small business making maybe 8-10,000. / year) that our accountant did not take that we qualified for. This year we are using them for taxes and for a year or 2 may pay for a yearly evaluation. I think they said 1500 for that. We are not doing a % of savings for them to totally manage. I have learned a lot here and have recommended this site to many friends as they no very little on investment and retirement planning. I just feel better right now with a live interaction and feel it is reasonable in cost. They also looked at our mutual fund options with ira and 401 k to recommend where to put the money. They will not continuously monito that but we are ok there. They allow me to call and ask questions here and there also. Makes us feel better sitting down in person and for sure will have them do taxes and tax advisement with it. He even called 4 months ago to get our current earning and tax withholding to see if we were on track or needed to make adjustments.

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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by dbr » Sun Mar 01, 2020 9:39 am

You are writing letters to your accountant? Most people would do this kind of business in face-to-face meetings, or, in some cases, by video conference etc. I think an appointment is indicated (I don't get the "formal" part) which might start with a discussion of what services you want. If this CPA is primarily engaged to prepare tax returns and give tax advice, he/she may not even be appropriate as a financial planner. That could explain not getting any response.

Also, not attempting this until tax season is over might be a good idea.

EdNorton
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by EdNorton » Sun Mar 01, 2020 9:49 am

Do you expect to pay the CPA to answer your questions? :sharebeer
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4nursebee
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by 4nursebee » Sun Mar 01, 2020 10:11 am

dbr wrote:
Sun Mar 01, 2020 9:39 am
You are writing letters to your accountant? Most people would do this kind of business in face-to-face meetings, or, in some cases, by video conference etc. I think an appointment is indicated (I don't get the "formal" part) which might start with a discussion of what services you want. If this CPA is primarily engaged to prepare tax returns and give tax advice, he/she may not even be appropriate as a financial planner. That could explain not getting any response.

Also, not attempting this until tax season is over might be a good idea.
Yes, writing letters and including them with our tax documents to the CPA, placed the letter right on top. It was not asking for specific advice, rather saying "we want to talk to you about some things".
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4nursebee
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by 4nursebee » Sun Mar 01, 2020 10:13 am

EdNorton wrote:
Sun Mar 01, 2020 9:49 am
Do you expect to pay the CPA to answer your questions? :sharebeer
If we utilize services in the world we expect to pay for them.
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Buford T Justice
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by Buford T Justice » Sun Mar 01, 2020 10:17 am

Its tax season, only the A list clients generally get thoughtful responses. Circle back to him / her in June with a scheduled appointment.

dbr
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by dbr » Sun Mar 01, 2020 10:21 am

4nursebee wrote:
Sun Mar 01, 2020 10:11 am
dbr wrote:
Sun Mar 01, 2020 9:39 am
You are writing letters to your accountant? Most people would do this kind of business in face-to-face meetings, or, in some cases, by video conference etc. I think an appointment is indicated (I don't get the "formal" part) which might start with a discussion of what services you want. If this CPA is primarily engaged to prepare tax returns and give tax advice, he/she may not even be appropriate as a financial planner. That could explain not getting any response.

Also, not attempting this until tax season is over might be a good idea.
Yes, writing letters and including them with our tax documents to the CPA, placed the letter right on top. It was not asking for specific advice, rather saying "we want to talk to you about some things".
It would not be surprising if this were not even noticed or if the result is that your CPA is now expecting a call from you, having gotten a heads up that you might be calling. Without a specific issue and in the middle of tax season this would not be an action item in most offices. A CPA that you know well and work with frequently might call. If someone I know sent me letter or an email and mentioned along the way that they wanted to talk to me about something my natural response would be to expect a phone call from them at some point. I might or might not answer the email with a "call me anytime" comment.

EdNorton
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by EdNorton » Sun Mar 01, 2020 10:24 am

Sounds to me you are not a valued client. You must not be a big revenue generator. I would suggest going to a smaller firm.
Outside a dog, a book is man's best friend, inside a dog, it's too dark to read - Groucho

coachd50
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by coachd50 » Sun Mar 01, 2020 10:50 am

4nursebee wrote:
Sun Mar 01, 2020 10:11 am
dbr wrote:
Sun Mar 01, 2020 9:39 am
You are writing letters to your accountant? Most people would do this kind of business in face-to-face meetings, or, in some cases, by video conference etc. I think an appointment is indicated (I don't get the "formal" part) which might start with a discussion of what services you want. If this CPA is primarily engaged to prepare tax returns and give tax advice, he/she may not even be appropriate as a financial planner. That could explain not getting any response.

Also, not attempting this until tax season is over might be a good idea.
Yes, writing letters and including them with our tax documents to the CPA, placed the letter right on top. It was not asking for specific advice, rather saying "we want to talk to you about some things".
To be honest, as others have mentioned, during tax season (busy season) placing a vague letter that does not let the accountant know what you want to to talk about, how long it will take, and forces the accountant to then try and reach out and contact you to schedule the appointment that YOU want is probably not the best way to go. Particularly, as others have mentioned, if you are not a real revenue generator for their office.

Pick up the phone, call the office, schedule an appointment.

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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by bertilak » Sun Mar 01, 2020 11:40 am

I would look for a small. local, CPA who will more likely have the time to talk with you.

My CPA runs his own business. He is a one-man operation -- no handing things off to an assistant!

He is a real go-getter. HIs web page lists ...

1. Insurance Brokerage (Auto, Home, Life, Health, and Business)
2. Real Estate Brokerage and Leasing
3. Investment Advisory Services
4. Employee Benefit Plan Design and Implementation
5. Individual and Group Retirement Plans
6. Payroll Services

In looking this up, I noticed he doesn't even list taxes! I don't use him for ANY of the things listed above.
Last edited by bertilak on Sun Mar 01, 2020 4:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by veindoc » Sun Mar 01, 2020 12:16 pm

My CPA has always been responsive, returning my calls/email within a day. Are you emailing your CPA’s using their direct email? Meaning first name@cpafirm.
If so and there is no response, I would find another CPA.
If you don’t have their direct email and instead are relying on letters, telegraphs and Morse code, I question why?
My CPA who works in a large firm could easily pick me out of the Starbucks line. Seems odd to have a business relationship with someone and they not know who you are. Based on the responses here that does not seem to be the norm.

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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by 4nursebee » Sun Mar 01, 2020 1:44 pm

veindoc wrote:
Sun Mar 01, 2020 12:16 pm
My CPA has always been responsive, returning my calls/email within a day. Are you emailing your CPA’s using their direct email? Meaning first name@cpafirm.
If so and there is no response, I would find another CPA.
If you don’t have their direct email and instead are relying on letters, telegraphs and Morse code, I question why?
My CPA who works in a large firm could easily pick me out of the Starbucks line. Seems odd to have a business relationship with someone and they not know who you are. Based on the responses here that does not seem to be the norm.
Yes, I have his direct email, it was one of the places I messaged him for the 2nd request, this was not answered (or ever found). I ended up mailing a letter to the office before I heard back.
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grandmacassie
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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by grandmacassie » Sun Mar 01, 2020 2:20 pm

Each year with our “tax organizer” questionnaire, our CPA send an engagement letter that we must sign. In it, the scope of work is described as tax preparation. It specifically excludes tax planning unless a separate engagement is made. Perhaps this is the disconnect you are experiencing.

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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by Cuzz35 » Sun Mar 01, 2020 6:30 pm

It sounds like you are getting no service at all. I would look for a new CPA. From reading on these boards finding a good CPA is as hard as finding a good investment advisor.

Switching shouldn't complicate things but you might experience a spike in cost. Sometimes one CPA can transfer the tax software file and the new CPA can import the data which saves a ton of time but in my experience this doesn't happen alot.

I'm a CPA and deal almost exclusively with individuals and I was taught to respond to every client withing 24 hours, even if it's just to say I can't help right now or I need more time. Clients call and email me questions all the time. It can be hard to deal with during tax season because I'm managing 300+ returns, staff, partners etc., But responding to clients and providing good service is really important.

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Re: CPA relationships/advice

Post by Cuzz35 » Sun Mar 01, 2020 6:33 pm

OnTrack2020 wrote:
Sat Feb 29, 2020 9:32 pm
I am soooooo happy you posted this question, because we're having the same concerns. We had a wonderful CPA for many years. The great thing about her was that she was at a similar point in life that we were---her kids were 1 to 3 years older than our kids, so she'd always give us good advice on college, the home improvement credits, etc. Whatever we asked, she was able to give us some pretty sound advice. When we had questions during the year, she'd call back and give us an answer or we'd set up an appointment and go see her if it was something that we had to deal with right away that she could look over--and she would charge us for the appointments, but I can't remember her charging for short phone calls. Then she moved out of the area. :( We were at a loss, and the practice assigned us a new CPA--probably in his 20s. I just didn't have the rapport with him that I had with our previous CPA. And then he left. And they've assigned us another CPA. My concern at this last appointment with the new CPA was that we could really use some tax advice now that my husband has just retired, and basically it was stated in a sentence or two. I'm still at a loss that she left.

My husband says that CPAs cannot give investment advice.? I'm not looking for investment advice--I want tax advice, such as how much we'll pay in taxes in terms of pulling from IRAs if social security is taken and how that all happens with ACA, estimated taxes during 2021 now that we're basically in retirement.

I've considered calling our old CPA--she's still in the state. But, at some point, she will retire also. But I loved that she was older, had practiced for many years, and seemed extremely knowledgeable.

I think for you, you already know the answer. There are two things you can do. You can set up an appointment to sit down with the CPA, go over all the services you would like, ask if he can be available to you on a regular basis, and how much will it cost. Or you can find someone new. I'm curious if the practice you are with has an owner and if you could also talk to the owner about your situation (although I haven't done that myself)? If you can't get anything resolved or don't feel good about your meeting, I would gather all your tax records and go elsewhere.
Can you look up your old accountant and see if she is still practicing? No reason she can't provide you with tax services anywhere in the country. I've met very few of my clients in real life, even the ones who live in the same city. The level of service you get even at the same firm is going to vary person to person just like talent and skill.

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