An accountant can serve many types of roles for CEOs, from hands-off keeper of the books to proactive, fully engaged adviser. It’s up to executives to decide how heavily they want to rely on their accountants. But in general, the more interaction they have, the fewer financial surprises they’ll run into.
“Once something’s done, you can’t change it, obviously,” says Jim Forbes, tax principal with Skoda Minotti. “So we try to tell all of our clients that the more we’re involved on an ongoing basis, whether it’s in decision-making or just helping them forecast where they’re going to be at for the end of the year, the more effective we can be.
“If you’re not having somebody look at your taxes until the end of the year, you can end up getting a big surprise. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise; sometimes it’s not. But the key question is, does the client want to pay for service throughout the year, or do they just want to hire you to be the historian?”
One of the areas where accountants can provide crucial help is in monitoring quarterly tax estimates.
“If you don’t work with your CPA throughout the year, you might be underpaying [quarterly estimates] or, conversely, you might be overpaying,” Forbes says. “If you’re overpaying, you might look at it as a nice surprise. But really it just means you didn’t use you cash efficiently.”
There are many business situations for which accountants, if they’re consulted ahead of time, can provide valuable advice: buying fixed assets, making investments, timing the recognition of income, compliance with loan covenants, and monitoring pricing, material costs and margins.
“For most of our clients, we try to be involved on a regular basis, at least quarterly, because we can give them options — maybe it’s a way to reduce taxes or to run their business more efficiently,” Forbes says. “Of course, they may turn around and say, ‘That’s not what I want to do.’ But at least they’ll know what the options are.”
Jim Forbes, principal with Skoda Minotti’s Tax Planning and Preparation Department, has 17 years of experience working with small and mid-cap public companies and privately held C- and S-corporations.
HOW TO REACH: Skoda Minotti, www.skodaminotti.com or (440) 449-6800