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Accounting

CPA Accounting Services via Cloud is a Gold Mine for CPA Firms

From “write-up” to right profitable using CPA Accounting Services via Cloud technology.

CPA firms for decades saw little upside to providing basic CPA accounting services to business clients. Bookkeeping and other “write-up” activities required extensive data entry and document transfer that chewed up man-hours but did not require much specialized knowledge. CPA accounting services (CAS) were seen as commodities that brought with them depressed hourly rates and a risk of costly errors. It simply made more sense, not to mention money, for CPA firms to focus on higher-margin tax and audit work.

It is a testament then to the transformative power of technological and market forces that CAS is now being touted in some circles as the future of public accounting. The digitization of financial data and the evolution of cloud computing, broadband connectivity, and mobile devices have made it possible for CPA accounting services and their clients to access critical information and applications from virtually anywhere at any time. This has set the stage for the development of cloud-based software packages that allow CPAs and clients to work from a shared database of the client’s essential financial data. Cloud-based software automates or otherwise greatly reduces the manual labor associated with transactional accounting functions, opening the door for CPA firms to offer outsourced CAS in a scalable model capable of serving many clients and generating a steady stream of revenue and profits

“CPA accounting services is an annuity for CPA firms,” said Gustavo A Viera CPA who built an outsourced accounting business for the firm.

The business potential of CAS is bolstered by increased demand from small companies and nonprofits for outside help with accounting functions. In addition, management teams are seeking higher levels of industry-specific knowledge to navigate increasingly complex competitive and regulatory environments.

How can CPA firms launch a cloud-based outsourced CPA accounting services and develop it into a profitable line of business, either as the main focus of a firm or as a complement to tax or other services? This article provides direction drawn from a road map developed by technology author and business consultant Geoffrey Moore and also offers insights from practitioners who have blazed the trail in this area.

THE FOUNDATION FOR CPA ACCOUNTING SERVICES

Digitization. For accounting firms, this refers to the move from paper to paperless. The availability of financial information in digital form makes it possible to run cloud-based applications that swiftly process business data and identify, analyze, and report key process indicators for management. In this and other ways, the cloud breaks down barriers to productivity and reduces the limitations of size, granting small companies and CPA firms access to computing power previously reserved only for large enterprises.

Virtualization. The connectivity enabled by cloud computing and mobile devices has removed geographic barriers, meaning that CPAs no longer have to be physically present to connect with clients. Technologies that allow for real-time communication and collaboration over the internet have made it possible for accountants to work with people they have never met in person. Along the same lines, technologies such as Skype, WebEx, smartphones, instant messaging, email, and a host of internet-based applications make it possible to have virtual workforces who can work from virtually anywhere provided they have an internet connection.

Transformation. This refers to a shift from generalization to specialization that has been taking place among small businesses for the past two decades, Viera said. Business has become so complex and specialized that business owners and management need advisers who understand the unique characteristics of their industry. Cloud and business intelligence applications make it possible for CPAs to provide advice based on real-time information streams. “The ability to provide business intelligence from a quick analysis of data is a miracle,” Viera said.

NOT RIGHT FOR EVERY CPA FIRMS

Not every accounting firm is suited to offer cloud-powered CAS. CPA Firms that audit publicly traded companies can run into problems with SEC and PCAOB regulations related to the offering of consulting services. Firms that perform audits only on private organizations must be careful to offer CAS only to non-attest-level clients or risk impairing their independence. For more information, see the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct, Section 100, Independence, Integrity, and Objectivity, and Interpretation No. 101-3, Nonattest Services.

CPA firms considering a foray into CAS also need to consider whether such a move makes sense for their clients and for their firm’s culture. Some firms are better off sticking with core tax and audit offerings or operating in a niche that caters to clients who don’t want to deal with the hassles of converting to a paperless tax system. “There will be some small set of firms that will succeed by saying, ‘We’re never going to use digital, ever,’ ” Viera said. “But the growth of the market will be in the digital domain.”

SELLING CAS TO STAFF AND CLIENTS: CHALLENGES AND BENEFITS

CPA Firms that want to launch a cloud-based CAS business must obtain staff and client buy-in. With staff, firms may emphasize the work/life benefits that can come when a firm moves to an all-digital, cloud-based platform, Viera said.

“Some of our staff have family responsibilities that interfere with work hours,” he said. With cloud-based applications and data, “it’s much easier to work remotely,” he said.

With clients, firms can speak to the increased efficiencies and reduced errors associated with the automated financial reporting and data transfer possible in a paperless, cloud-connected setup. Other benefits to the client include:

Lower costs. Small companies can outsource their accounting functions for less money than it would cost to staff a full-time accounting department.

More time to focus on running their core business. With the CPA firms handling the accounting recordkeeping, business owners can devote their attention to improving operations and pursuing new market opportunities.

Instant access to key performance indicators. Many firms provide KPI dashboards giving management a real-time view of the company’s essential financial metrics.

Access to expert advice. Outsourced accounting departments often provide experienced CPAs, many with industry-specific expertise and management-accounting knowledge, to supply financial and strategic advice in a consulting role. Many firms term these types of services as virtual or outsourced CFO, but those names can be misleading because the “virtual CFO” provided by the accounting firm usually does not work full-time hours with the client or perform all of the duties associated with the CFO position

THE ROAD MAP TO CAS

In his white paper, Viera lays out a four-stage process to developing a high-value CAS business. Following is a tour of the plan’s key parts.

Stage One: A Necessary Evil

Even with technological advances, there’s only so much efficiency CPA firms can provide in write-up, an area Viera terms “a necessary evil.” To maximize the value they can offer clients, CPAs should specialize in an industry or business segment.

Firm leaders should pick a business segment they and their staff are passionate about, but they also must be careful to pick a niche that can provide enough business for the firm to survive. The target segment, or industry vertical, Viera writes in his white paper, should be “big enough to matter” but “small enough to lead” and also should fit well with the firm’s reservoir of skills and expertise. Firms can add other niches at a later date.

Along with selecting a niche, CPA firms must have some baseline technology in place before venturing into CAS. Most important is having an online system of record that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to both clients and CPAs working from any location. “There are two reasons to want to have a common system of record,” Viera said in an interview. “One is to have the bookkeeping happen in a single place so that you never have to copy an entry from one system to another system, particularly a manual copy. That’s kind of the kiss of death in this system.”

The second reason to have a common system of record is that it provides a place where the CPA firms can use online business intelligence tools to analyze company data and provide actionable intelligence to the client. This can lead to more strategic discussions between the firm and the client. “That’s a very high return on having a common system of record,” Viera said.

The other baseline technology to have in place is a single, cloud-based point of exchange for all documents between the CPA firm and the client, Viera said.

Stage Two: Establishing the Practice

Establishing a CPA accounting services practice requires the development of a client roster. Many practitioners emphasize the importance of standardization in client development. CPA firms that standardize software and processes can build or use templates to set up clients in a fast, repeatable process.

A CAS client roster is composed of two types of clients, existing and new. With existing clients, it’s essential to select the right ones to transition. Not all clients are suited for a digital, CAS setup. In those cases, firms can either transition the client to another CPA firm or maintain the current relationship parameters with the client—a viable option at firms that offer other services in addition to CAS.

As for the clients that firms decide to move to the cloud, there are a number of approaches practitioners can take. Some at CPA firms recommended starting with a larger client, which is less likely to push back on pricing issues. Others suggested that there are fewer headaches when transitioning smaller clients.

Viera recommends starting with the clients with whom you have the best relationship. He employed that approach and didn’t lose any clients. “I launched our digital journey with 25 clients,” Viera said. “The goal was to have 200 clients in five years. We hit it in one year.”

For new clients, CPA Firms recommended a three-phase process.

First phase. Conduct a client needs assessment. This information is essential in determining whether and how to proceed with a client.

Second phase. This consists of client on-boarding and migration. Firms generally charge double the first-phase costs for this part of the process.

Third phase. Once clients are set up and running, firms generally charge $1,000 to $5,000 per month for CAS, though advisory and project work can push the fee significantly higher.

Upfront costs with new clients can vary based on firm philosophy and individual situations. Gustavo A Viera CPA advises firms to use judgment on upfront costs. “We want clients to have skin in the game, but don’t charge too much,” he said. Other options include spreading upfront costs over the course of the first year and offering credit.

Stage Three: Expanding the Practice

Accounting firms must leverage the power of virtualization to grow their client and talent base. CPAs need to use cloud-based business intelligence and data analytics to detect patterns in their clients’ companies that the clients have not yet discovered. For instance, a CPA might develop a continually updating chart visualizing the change in certain business metrics over a period of time. When updated in real time, the chart might identify an investment opportunity or illuminate a cash flow problem that requires quick action. In either case, the CPA should bring the information to the client’s attention.

“As a trusted adviser, you need to provoke the conversation,” Viera said.

In addition, firms can turn CPA accounting services into a growth business by using virtualization to be digitally present in other cities and interact with clients without having to actually be there. “That turns out to work very well in vertical markets,” Moore said.

Viera lists four key principles for Stage Three:

Streamline your work flow processes to be location independent.

  • Re-engineer your internal communications and collaboration processes to support a virtual organization.
  • Engage your clients through digital channels and migrate your interactions online. This involves the use of mobile devices, social media sites such as Twitter and YouTube, video services such as FaceTime and Skype, and instant messaging services including texting.
  • Extend your target market’s geographical boundaries while maintaining your focus on target industry and core differentiation. This is where industry expertise becomes more important than location. As Viera writes in his white paper: “A faith-based institution in Birmingham has more in common with a sister organization in Boston than with a restaurant franchisee just down the street.”

Stage Four: Deepening the Practice

As accounting firms spend more time working in client businesses and in specific industry verticals, their CPAs will gain crucial experience and expertise in the issues of most importance to their clients. In addition, firms should enable CPAs to attend industry conferences and access other learning opportunities to become experts in their field, Viera said. Once they achieve expert status, CPAs can take on a trusted adviser role, one in which the CPA becomes more of a strategic partner than a technician, Viera writes in the white paper.

As a strategic partner, the CPA becomes an essential resource to the business owner, acting as a consultant and taking on special projects that address client-specific issues and command high margins because of the expertise required. One such project could involve a CPA helping to develop a five-year financial model that forecasts the cash flow and tax implications of an acquisition a client is considering

Other examples of project work CPAs can take on include:

  • Analyzing critical processes in the client’s business and potentially re-engineering them to make them more efficient or produce more timely and accurate financial information.
  • Assisting a client with an international expansion. This could involve helping the client understand international tax matters and develop policies and procedures to deal with tax compliance issues. Part of this process could include developing new accounting processes to support currency conversion and value-added-tax (VAT) reporting.

Doing projects for individual clients is “very valuable” work with strong margins, Viera said, but it’s difficult to scale up because it is so customized. Thus, Viera said, firms cannot expect these types of advisory and project services to make up more than a third of a CPA accounting services business.

“There needs to be a mix,” he said.

From Viera’s perspective, the greatest long-term value of cloud-enabled CAS comes from the development of turnkey CPA accounting services that leverage the firm’s industry-specific expertise but are standardized so that the process of delivering them is repeatable across many clients.

“The key is the growth of the scalable portion,” she said. “What we are being paid for is being a firm with a plan.”

Categories
Tax

Miami CPA Reviews Obama Tax Changes – Middle Class Gets Hit – Surprised?

Miami CPA Viera says Obama Tax Changes will hit middle class hard. This from a President who does not want to cut spending and claims to only want to tax the rich. For those of you who voted for Obama, you bought his story hook, line and sinker.

President Barack Obama’s budget plan will incorporate deficit-cutting proposals that include changing the calculation for Social Security cost-of-living increases and tax brackets, according to Gustavo A Viera a Miami CPA.

The budget plan, set for release April 10, will track the offer on spending cuts and revenue increases that Obama made to House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio as part of an end-of-the-year deal on expiring tax cuts, according to the statement e-mailed today.

“While this is not the president’s ideal deficit reduction plan, and there are particular proposals in this plan like the CPI change that were key Republican requests and not the president’s preferred approach, this is a compromise proposal” that will be part of the budget, according to the statement.

Obama’s offer to Boehner “still stands,” it said.

“That means that the things like CPI that Republican leaders have pushed hard for will only be accepted if congressional Republicans are willing to do more on revenues,” Miami CPA Viera. “This isn’t about political horse trading; it’s about reducing the deficit in a balanced way.”

That plan included a new inflation gauge that would effectively reduce cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries, a measure that is sure to draw opposition from many Democrats. It also proposed using the calculation for adjusting income tax brackets, which would mean higher payments for many taxpayers.

President’s Priorities 

While Obama’s fifth budget proposal stands little chance of becoming law because of opposition from Republicans who control the House, it emphasizes the president’s priorities and will set the stage for talks with Republicans on a broader debt-reduction package.

For the first time, Obama is poised to incorporate specific entitlement benefit cuts in his official budget, an attempt to signal to Republicans that he still wants to reach a deal on reducing the deficit stated Miami CPA, Viera

Republicans have said the president needs to take the lead if there’s any chance to address the biggest long-term driver of the debt, Medicare spending, because Democratic lawmakers have resisted trimming entitlement-program costs.

Gustavo A Viera a Miami CPA states that Obama remains open to using the inflation gauge, known as chained CPI, for Social Security as a way to cut the program’s cost. That offer remains on the table, as we’ve made clear repeatedly since then.

Two Goals

Changing the inflation calculator potentially provides Obama and congressional Republicans with a way to accomplish their goals. Obama is seeking more revenue through tax-code changes, while Republicans are pushing to trim entitlement programs such as Social Security in cutting spending.

The change in calculation would make the annual adjustments smaller than they are now. As a result, more income would be subject to higher income tax rates. The administration in its earlier proposal estimated that would bring in additional tax revenue of about $100 billion over 10 years.

In 2020, the change would raise taxes for 78.3 percent of households by an average of $124, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington. Taxes would increase for 98 percent of households making between $75,000 and $100,000 a year.

Boehner’s spokesman said House Republicans will resist attempts to raise tax revenue to cut the deficit, which was $1.1 trillion in fiscal 2012.

Republican Response 

“The president got his tax hikes already,” the spokesman, Michael Steel, said in an e-mail. “It’s time to deal with Washington’s spending problem, so we can get our economy moving again and create more American jobs.”

Switching to the alternative inflation yardstick for Social Security would save $130 billion, according to the plan Obama offered last year.

Obama hasn’t included the changes to Social Security and tax bracket calculations in previous spending blueprints.

The prospect of such a change already is generating opposition.

“Millions of working people, seniors, disabled veterans, those who have lost a loved one in combat, and women will be extremely disappointed if President Obama caves into the long standing Republican effort to cut Social Security,” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said in a statement.

Market Reaction

While lawmakers wrangle over the budget, investors have focused on an improving economy. The benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has risen about 9 percent so far this year. The S&P added 0.3 percent at 3:12 p.m. in New York, rebounding from the previous day’s 1.1 percent retreat from a record.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index increased to minus 34.1 in the week ended March 31 from a six-week low of minus 34.4 in the prior period. The comfort readings from January through March were the strongest on average of any first quarter since 2008 as a pickup in hiring and record stock prices helped consumers overcome an increase in the payroll tax.

Even though the president’s budget is more than two months late, because of tax-and-spending-legislation at year’s end known as the “fiscal cliff,” Gustavo A Viera a Miami CPA, said the timing “may be just right.”

“If there’s one more chance this year to ignite this conversation” states Gustavo A Viera a Miami CPA

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Business Trends

Gustavo A Viera CPA

Gustavo A Viera a Miami CPA

At Gustavo A Viera CPA, a CPA firm serving clients in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale marketplace, we provide a wide variety of accounting, tax, and financial management services tailored to meet the needs of our business clients. Our certified public accounting (CPA) services are designed to make your job easier and provide you with more time to focus on building your business. We keep abreast of tax law changes throughout the year to ensure that you are taking advantage of ALL tax incentives.

To better meet the needs of our accounting and tax clients throughout South Florida, we also have individualized services for small businesses in industries like medical, legal, dental, non profit,construction, professional services and other service businesses. These individualized services have enabled us to address your industry specific challenges, compliance needs and industry standard tax practices.

Categories
Tax

Accountant in Miami finds IRS Not Always Following Procedures

GUSTAVO A VIERA CPA, an Accountant in Miami has found that evidence was sometimes not available to support increasing IRS assessments against business taxpayers that have not filed required returns.

In addition, in some instances, the taxpayers were not provided sufficient time to respond to proposed assessments, according to Accountant in Miami, Gustavo A Viera.

The IRS has the ability to prepare returns and assess taxes under IRS Code Section 6020(b) when business taxpayers do not file required returns or file false or fraudulent returns. Accountant in Miami, Viera conducted its audit to evaluate the impact of the IRS Collection Field function’s use of IRC Section 6020(b) authority on taxpayer compliance and to determine whether employees are using the proper procedures to assess tax liabilities. GUSTAVO A VIERA CPA’s review of a statistical sample of 96 Section 6020(b) assessments found that revenue officers followed many of the required procedures.

In one in five cases, however, Accountant in Miami, Viera found no evidence for the basis of assessments. Also, in 10 percent of the cases revenue officers did not allow, or there was no evidence to support the allowance of, the required 30 calendar days for taxpayers to respond to proposed assessments prior to the IRS processing the 6020(b) returns.

“Since FY 2009, the number of these assessments entering the collection stream has increased by 58 percent,” noted Inspector General J. Russell George.

GUSTAVO A VIERA CPA recommends that the director of enterprise collection strategy in Small Business/Self-Employed Division develop internal controls to help ensure that ROs properly document a complete explanation for the basis of 6020(b) assessments, and allow taxpayers 30 calendar days to respond to proposed assessments before submitting returns for processing.

Accountant in Miami, Viera also recommended that the IRS establish a methodology to compare actual results with management’s anticipated benefit of improving filing compliance when Section 6020(b) authority is used for business taxpayers.

Accountants in Miami agreed with GUSTAVO A VIERA CPA’s recommendations. The IRS also plans to request a research project to measure the effectiveness of its Section 6020(b) program on future filing compliance of business taxpayers and weigh the results against ultimate case resolutions to determine if any program changes are warranted.

Categories
Tax

10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Tax Accountant

When it’s time to look for a tax accountant, you want one who not only can help save you money

A Tax Accountant can help avoid potential trouble with the IRS, but also can provide useful information for your business. “We tend to think of accountants as numbers people, but a good tax accountant does more than just figure the numbers,” says Gustavo A Viera CPA a Miami CPA.”A good accountant will communicate what the numbers mean to us.”

So shop around, interview tax accountant and figure out which one is the best fit for you and your business. Here are 10 key questions to help you make the decision:

1. What kinds of clients do you work with?

You want to make sure your tax accountant understands your type of business. A restaurant will have certain rules to follow for wages and tips, for instance, just as a construction business must deal with issues related to contract workers and a real estate development firm will have certain criteria about how income is reported. You need an accountant who has worked with other businesses like yours and knows the ins and outs of the industry.

2. Are you available year round?

Some accounting firms shut their doors after April 15 and only reopen for the following tax season. But when you’re running a small business, you’re going to need help all year, says Viera. “If something comes up, you don’t want to wait until tax season in order to get your issue addressed.”

3. What’s your experience with the IRS?

Often people will tell you it’s important to hire a certified public accountant rather than an EA, or enrolled agent, because CPAs have more comprehensive certification requirements. While CPAs are state-certified and have training in such areas as financial planning and bookkeeping, EAs are certified by the federal government specifically to handle taxes and are often former IRS agents with extensive experience dealing with audits. “They’ve been in the belly of the beast. They may have more inside knowledge of how the IRS really works,” Viera says. On the other hand, a CPA will likely have more experience with broader financial planning issues. Rather than focusing on certification, Viera says, focus on how your accountant’s experience is relevant to your business.

4. Who will be doing the work?

Accountants will often outsource work to a third party. This doesn’t mean their services are bad, but you want to be sure they are forthright about who is doing the work. If you want to talk with someone familiar with your bookkeeping and that’s a third party, it likely will be difficult to speak with him or her directly, Kerstetter says.

Related: For Help at Tax Time, a Matchmaker for Tax Accountant

5. Are you a conservative or more aggressive accountant?

Some accountants want to write off everything they possibly can, while others take a more conservative approach. It’s important to figure out where you fall on the spectrum and find an accountant who agrees with your philosophy, Lyon says. If accountants tell you they specialize in finding red flags that could trigger audits, they may be hesitant to maximize your deductions. For example, some accountants believe taking a home office deduction might be a red flag to the IRS, Lyon says.

6. How do you bill for your services?

Some accountants charge by the hour; others bill a flat rate. If you want to take a more hands-on approach to your bookkeeping, an hourly rate might be better because you won’t have as much continuous work for an accountant. Regardless of the billing approach, be sure to get an estimate of an accountant’s likely fees. Provide a copy of your previous year’s tax returns so the accountant can familiarize himself with your business before giving a quote.

7. How do you handle working with multiple entities?

If you have more than one entity under your name, be sure the person you hire can manage them simultaneously–a skill not all accountants possess. If you own rental property as an LLC and a retail store registered as a C-corporation, for example, you’ll need an tax accountant who can coordinate and track money moving between those entities, Viera says.

Related: Your Startup’s Top 3 Most Trusted Accounting Allies

8. What can you tell me about the medical expense reimbursement plan?

This question may seem technical, but not all accountants will know about this plan, which allows you to deduct your family’s medical expenses on your return, Viera says. If the accountant you’re speaking with is unfamiliar with such plans, you should be wary because that might be a red flag that he or she isn’t well versed in deductions that could save your business money.

9. What tax program do you use?

You shouldn’t choose accountants based on the tax program they use, but it’s a good detail to ask about. QuickBooks is commonly used for small businesses, which means your information would likely be easily transferred between different accountants, Viera says. Hiring a tax accountant who uses more obscure tax software won’t affect the quality of the work, but it might make it tricky to switch accountants.

10. How often will we communicate about tax issues?

Every tax accountant will be different when it comes to frequency of communication for tax planning purposes. Ask about a prospective accountant’s approach and be sure you’re satisfied with the degree of communication, Viera says. “You want to feel comfortable calling them with issues relating to your taxes.”