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sling6shot
Frequent Visitor

Opinions on Accountants

Looking for some general knowledge on how you guys select an accountant for your farm operation.  My father-in-law is looking for a new one and he has no idea on where to start or how to get a good one.  Here are some of his general questions:

 

  • What qualities or values do you look for in an accountant and why?
  • What services do you primarily use? (i.e. bookkeeping, financial statement compilation, etc.)
  • Are there any new services that tech savvy accountants are providing that I should look into?
  • How often do you talk with your accountant?  (once a year tax advisor  vs.  year round trusted advisor)
  • Any other tips?

Thanks in advance for the replies.

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8 Replies
Advisor

Re: Opinions on Accountants

My father was my CPA's very first customer, kept him until the day my father passed. Actually the son has taken over, also has inherited the family farm too. Now he is my CPA and I own my share of our family farm. We talk once a year and live half way around the world from each other. Qualifications met! FWIW, we talk farming more than finance!
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Senior Contributor

Re: Opinions on Accountants

I've been looking also. The two I talked to didn't know anything about modern production agriculture. They were both recommended by "farmers". Same problem with insurance. I did find insurance, but it was with a agent sixty miles away. Those kind of services are hard to find in a erea with mostly small part time farmers.
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Senior Advisor

Re: Opinions on Accountants

My CPA is the son of a farmer and continues to participate somewhat in the family farming business.  His practice is heavily farm related.  

I see him twice a year, but this year it will be more often as I have some major questions.   Plus, we talk on the phone or via email for major financiai questions like the tax implications of a given purchase.

I'm no tsure what questions you ask.  He has to be trained and attend refresher training.  I don't use him as a bookkeeper, just a tax preparer and sometimes business consultant.

 

If you use computer bookkeeping it could help if he is familiar with the package you use or you switch to his.

 

I would not be afraid to ask my banker, lender, and respected local farmers who they use or recommend.

 

I used to use a high priced firm that said they were ag related, but they didn't care about or understand my situation and therefore didn't offer any unique solutions.  My current guy is proactive and if I have an idea that has both up and downs sides to it he will point them out and educate me.

 

 

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Honored Advisor

Re: Opinions on Accountants

Ours is wonderful. 

 

I take the two-hour drive to Richmond (VA) to meet with her every February.  It used to take a second drive back to pick up filings, but now, they e-file and I sign the requisite papers for that to happen, print the vouchers, and mail in our taxes due.  They FedEx the file copies. 

 

If we get a notice, I call, fax it up, and they handle it.  So far, eveything has gone smoothly  and no sums were due. 

 

In the last few years, I have started getting them to calculate and email a payroll worksheet, for each employee, as they hire on and fill out their W-4, or receive raises.  The payroll person just takes my request for info over the phone, and I usually have my printout in an hour, or less.  That way, I have peace of mind, the employee has the full picture of his or her earnings, and my withholdings are correct. 

 

I do not ask her for financial advice.  She has handled complexities of farming, mining royalties, and rental houses, all to a T.  I refer people to her whenever I am asked for a good CPA.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Opinions on Accountants

  • What qualities or values do you look for in an accountant and why?-------Try to assess his personality.  Search for integrity and conservative viewpoint------- take him to lunch, he should make time for a new client, he should be concerned for the bill and who is paying.  Mine will have a salad or a sandwich every time, he won't stick me with a big meal and treats his partners the same.  He should have other clients in farming but it is not important.  He should be very current on tax law.  He should not be a risk taker.  If he tries to impress with the deductions he has gotten his clients ------ RUN away from him.
  •  
  • What services do you primarily use? (i.e. bookkeeping, financial statement compilation, etc.)  My degree is in accounting, I do the bookkeeping to keep myself on top of the expenses and financial statements.  My CPA does tax prep, tax advice, and investment advising.  We are friends --------- I am lucky.
  • Are there any new services that tech savvy accountants are providing that I should look into?  A CPA who is current and up to date on tax code will be tech savvy --------- Tech savvy also means knowing what techie "trends" to stay away from.
  • How often do you talk with your accountant?  (once a year tax advisor  vs. year round trusted advisor)  3-4 times a year.  Should be more.
  • Any other tips? -------IMPORTANT, do not hide things.  Ask him about the little things as well as the big.  Show him what you don't know.  The more you talk the better he knows you and how to help you better.  Do not watch the clock get to know him.  He has knowledge you need and he enjoys helping.  If not look for another.  You will get lucky too.
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Senior Advisor

Re: Opinions on Accountants

You have a good post about what you expect from your CPA. I expect my CPA to be up to date on tax law and knowlegable about recent tax rulings by the courts.

 

I don't require much in advisory services but do like to learn the tax ramifications prior to making decisions. But then I don't have many extrordinary activities any more. My tax returns have little change from year to year, so perhaps I do not need his expertise as much as I used to.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Opinions on Accountants

I agree that was a good list. Your post is important, too. Even when we start stepping away from more cumbersome/complicated ventures, which some of us tend to prefer to do over time, the professionals we retain need to be current on whatever twists and turns have been added to tax code, whether by legislation or litigation.

I have had the sad experience of seeing my accountant's face drain of blood, when telling her of a management decision my parents' CPA had made on transferring some family- owned stock holdings. Probably cost our family a an aggregate half- million dollars in additional income taxes. Yet, my folks still hired him for fifteen more years.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Opinions on Accountants

An accountant who is in retirement and maybe not keeping up----------- maybe just filing forms in the last few years.  Avoid if possible.  The economy of the last few years has made for more tax code adjustment than normal--- hard to keep up.   Especially when it comes to estate planning.  A good accountant needs to be in on those goals and ideas.  Even if it is a decision like how to invest a payroll deduction.  

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