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BHW Blog // 2012

Oct 30 2012 | Posted in General

Another Year Behind Us

Most companies, and even individuals think of December as the last month in the year. For accountants, it really is October when the year winds down. This is when no matter how well your intentions are, the return is due and should be filed.

My staff takes well earned time off and attends classes for tax updates that are never approved until the last minute. Then they have to take classes to tell them what tax laws were kept and which ones were not (never has this been more the case than in 2012).

As for my partner and I; it is a time to evaluate staff needs, infrastructure, and of course take time off. Marc will take his family on their trip to the Philippines to visit all the relatives. I will spend as much time in Vegas as my beautiful wife (and wallet) will allow.

Since we are at a point when things have slowed down, this would be a perfect time for you to come see us with questions or concerns over 2012. As "cash basis" taxpayers, there is very little we can do to assist you after December 31st that will make an impact on your 2012 tax return other than in the retirement arena.

Also, this is a good time come visit your accountant. I'm sure many of you are not aware that November is "Take your CPA to lunch month" -what!! Do you think I just made that up?

Well if it's not an officially sanctioned event on a calendar, it should be.

I'm going to my networking meeting on Wednesday (Halloween) dressed up as a calculator - it was either that or as Donald Trump, but since my hair hasn't come back from the cleaners, I will opt for the 10-key.Besides, I don't want to scare anyone.

Hope you all have a great and safe Halloween!

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you again.


Sept 26 2012 | Posted in General

A Road Trip with My Daughters

As many of you know, I am a gambling type of person and this causes me to be in Vegas on numerous occasions. So when my daughter asked me to fly down to the WSU -UNLV football game, I was more than happy to oblige her.

Most of the trip was me drinking and gambling and her drinking and hanging out by the pool. However, on the times we spent together, I started noticing that older couples gave us the evil eye and dealers were confused with we used words like darling or sweetie. It did not take long to discover that many people thought we were a couple - or that my daughter was a "real' working girl. For the rest of the trip, we started using the words "dad" and "daughter" a lot.

Many of the people I ran into in Vegas were kind of surprised that my daughter would want to spend time with her dad (mainly parents of 22 year olds). I feel very lucky that my daughters are willing to put up with my teasing and being silly.

Another interesting part of the trip was that when people asked me what I did for a living, I was bombarded with tax questions. Now I know why most doctors don't like to tell people they are doctors "...I have this pain in my side and..." As always, I try to give them some kind of answer that could help.

The question is, have I helped them? Getting tax advice from a guy you are gambling with - someone who does not know other areas of your tax life - who may not be sure of all the state laws that will affect you - and more importantly, someone who wants you to stop asking them questions - these are not the qualifications of some one you should be seeking tax advice from.

When seeking help, from either your doctor or your accountant, talk to the one you know and trust!

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you again.


Aug 23 2012 | Posted in General

Do you remember when?

Recently, I was remembering an easier time in my life. I used to call it the "Fred Flintstone Era": You would be working and the five o'clock whistle would go off and Fred would slide down the dinosaur crane no matter what was happening when the whistle blew.

That's how I approached my W-2 job as a CPA back in the day. I had no concern about profitability and I did not have to explain to clients why the return was not finished. That was up to some poor schmuck to explain.

Well it turns out, that I am that schmuck now! I think about clients all day long - worry about them all evening long - and dream about them all night long. Sounds like I am committed - or need to be!!

During the last year or two, I have been able to shift some of the heavy lifting to my partner, and to some well trained staff members who hopefully will do some of the worrying for me.

Financially of course, I enjoy this part of my life but I can remember when taking $20 on a Saturday morning and searching out yard sales was a blast. My beautiful wife and kids would come along - my kids must have bought over 100 Barbie's on these trips.

Now-a-days, it's Bell Square for shopping and credit cards instead of cash. I'm not looking for sympathy or to change anything in my life (well, maybe the petting zoo incident), I'm just remembering a simpler time in my life where there wasn't a need for daily medication.

Try and remember those simpler days both in life and in taxes. No more full service at the gas station - no more hand drafted tax returns - no more house calls by the doctor - no more green shaded visors.

We live in a complicated world for both life and taxes. Give me time, I'm still adjusting.

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you again.


Aug 23 2012 | Posted in General

Do you remember when?

Recently, I was remembering an easier time in my life. I used to call it the "Fred Flintstone Era": You would be working and the five o'clock whistle would go off and Fred would slide down the dinosaur crane no matter what was happening when the whistle blew.

That's how I approached my W-2 job as a CPA back in the day. I had no concern about profitability and I did not have to explain to clients why the return was not finished. That was up to some poor schmuck to explain.

Well it turns out, that I am that schmuck now! I think about clients all day long - worry about them all evening long - and dream about them all night long. Sounds like I am committed - or need to be!!

During the last year or two, I have been able to shift some of the heavy lifting to my partner, and to some well trained staff members who hopefully will do some of the worrying for me.

Financially of course, I enjoy this part of my life but I can remember when taking $20 on a Saturday morning and searching out yard sales was a blast. My beautiful wife and kids would come along - my kids must have bought over 100 Barbie's on these trips.

Now-a-days, it's Bell Square for shopping and credit cards instead of cash. I'm not looking for sympathy or to change anything in my life (well, maybe the petting zoo incident), I'm just remembering a simpler time in my life where there wasn't a need for daily medication.

Try and remember those simpler days both in life and in taxes. No more full service at the gas station - no more hand drafted tax returns - no more house calls by the doctor - no more green shaded visors.

We live in a complicated world for both life and taxes. Give me time, I'm still adjusting.

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you again.


July 26 2012 | Posted in General

The Numbers Guy

Being a CPA to most people still elicits the response "so you're a Bean Counter?" I try not to get offended by that - sometimes I count jewelry or hamburgers or sheep (with my door closed).

This past year, I have been asked to be the Treasurer of my Rotary Group and also my BNI Networking Group. It comes with the territory. I have said yes to both.

However, it has gotten down to me keeping score at golf, being the banker at poker games, even totaling the coin jar in the house!

When will someone ask me to use some of my other skills? I can tell a great joke - cook a nice meal - interact with foreign dignitaries. We accountants are pretty well rounded and our clients don't tap into all the services we can offer. I can't remember the last time one of my doctor clients asked me to scrub in. Do they assume I can't handle a retractor or even spell retractor?

That's all I really wanted to say - I will get off my soapbox now and mention to clients and leaders (I assume there are a few of you) - that the summer lollygagging is just about over and if you have not brought in your business or personal tax information - you need to get busy.

We can really do more than just count up what you have earned. We can tell you how to earn more - how to save more - and how to lower those taxes you've been complaining about. We can do this quite easily in August when the volume of returns is low. If you wait until there is only a week left until the due date (as so many of you do), then we are back to Bean Counting - and we're pretty good at that also - just ask anyone.

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you next week.


July 03 2012 | Posted in General

The Long Arm of the Law

There are times when I understand what the IRS is trying to do and then there is the rest of the time.

We - both as a firm and a profession - are attempting to educate our clients in the area of foreign bank accounts and also foreign assets. Our government wants to know if you have signature authority over a foreign account. I assume this is a need for both income reporting and also criminal investigation.

With the numerous employees that come to this area from all over the world - not to mention how close we are to Canada, this reporting requirement is coming into play relatively often.

Knowing if you have a foreign bank account seems pretty straight forward. I have some money - and it's in a foreign account - right?? What many clients forget to report are accounts that they have signature authority over. Many clients are listed on their parents account as a signer so that if anything happen to them, checks could be written. Even though the money is not theirs, these accounts are reportable.

Canadian citizens who live in the US and have RRSP accounts (similar to our IRA's) forget that these accounts need to be reported each year.

The IRS now has a new form which details out all foreign assets that a taxpayer has. In addition, if you have a foreign trust - or hold foreign real estate in a trust - or receive significant funds as a gift from a foreign person, these are all reportable transactions and the penalties for not reporting run in the tens of thousands of dollars.

I realize that humor was missing from this blog - and I always try to find the funny side of everything. It was hard to do with this subject. We want to be sure our clients are not caught unaware of these requirements and that we have done everything we can to educate them on the rules.

I'll try to find a lighter topic for next time - my beautiful wife always gives me ideas.

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you next week.


June 06 2012 | Posted in General

Work Spilling Over

Last week we had the official retirement party for the unofficial retirement of Roger Long. Sounds a little confusing, I know - just go with it.

Who is this Roger guy and why would we throw him a party? Well, for many of his clients, it ends a 30 year relationship of business and tax consulting and we wanted to give them a chance to say goodbye.

For his co-workers, who enjoyed working with him and for him, they will find time to say what a pleasure it was to be a part of his work (and social) life and will miss his sense of humor.

For myself, it brings to an end, a working relationship that started in 2002 with a guy who I had never met before but ended up becoming my best friend. We found out early that we both loved golf and gambling - I can still remember losing over $100 playing poker with Roger one on one in the storage room at lunch. And yes, we probably needed to seek counseling at this point.

We usually made at least 3 to 4 trips to Vegas together - sometimes with the wives but mostly without.

Whenever I want to golf, Roger is the first phone call. He has many special rules that allow both of our scores to be much better than when I play with other golfers.

Over this time, I met his family and friends and enjoyed them all. We have shared birthday and anniversary vacations together. His beautiful wife and my beautiful wife get along great which works out great for us. My wife calls Roger "my second wife."

Now this retirement will not end the relationship we have. But it will make things much different here at the office. Each morning he or I would stop at the other's office with a cup of coffee and say "Did you see that poker tournament on TV?" or "Did you read about this or that?" I will miss that part of our relationship. No matter how much you try to stop it, work spills over into the rest of your life so try to find something or someone to make work enjoyable.

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you next week.


May 13 2012 | Posted in General

When is a little - A LOT!!

My beautiful wife's birthday is today and she asked me this week if we could have a BBQ with a "few" friends. Of course we can was my response.

The total BBQ attendance is currently at twenty!! Now I like a party as much as anyone else, but the expectation of a few friends turned into a reality of needing zoning permits and safety postings - you know safety postings: "Grill is Hot", "Watch your Step", "She is NOT 18".

I will be leaving the office early today so that I can shop a little more and get the backyard ready to accommodate the guests - really nice people taken one at a time!

As it turns out, most of the guests are very close friends or relatives and in addition, they are mostly clients. So I do have a planning opportunity here. I am very familiar with the tax code and know exactly how to work this out to my advantage.

When they arrive, I can have them sign in while telling them it is Birthday card for Stephanie. Attendance is important when shooting for a tax deduction.

After that, I can show them a Power Point Presentation on the new Tax Laws - while sprinkling in a photo or two of my wife and kids. And finally, I can send them all an invoice for the time I spent preparing for this "tax meeting."

So I decided to run this by a friend of mine at the IRS just to be on solid ground; I've been informed they are auditing me right away.

My advice to you - let the social side of your life stay just that.

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you next week.


May 13 2012 | Posted in General

A Peak at Portland

25 years I have lived in the Seattle area and never ventured down to Portland. I know. Seems silly that I would not have had one vacation, one business trip; a desperate need to hug a tree!

So, when my beautiful wife asked me where we should go for an after tax season get-a-way, I suggested Portland. We left on a Sunday and took the train. It was a great way to travel. We stayed at the Benson Hotel for two nights and every day we walked around the city and ate at little cafes and purchased cool items from unique stores. We spent two hours inside Powell Books - I have a Kindle Fire so I did not make a purchase.

All in all, we had a very good time. My wife even saw a couple of condos she was dreaming about owning; "Wouldn't it be great to live here in Portland!" I told her, "First things first. Let me see the casinos and the golf courses before we think about such an important decision."

Just to set the record straight, I would never move to Portland. I am not excited about living in a state where there is an individual income tax. I know the argument - "they don't have a sales tax" - but I just finished up a return where a client moved from Seattle to the east coast. They make a good living but the additional cost of living in the state they moved to is over $200,000. Live in Washington, keep $200,000. Live in the other state, give up $200,000. Sounds like an easy decision.

This, among other things is a good reason to have a meeting with your CPA when making life changing decisions. Moving to another state; let me give you my thoughts - paper or plastic - you're on your own.

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you next week.


Apr 14 2012 | Posted in General

Dreaming about taxes

I was telling someone in my office that I had a dream that a co-worker saw me without any clothes on. Their response (other than hoping it was not them) was to say "Why did you dream about her?" If I could control who I dream about, then Scarlet Johansen and I would be heading over to Halle Berry's house for a party!

What I have found is that my dreams during tax season seem to focus on the work environment - since I am here 12 hours a day and sleep 10 of the remaining hours, it is only natural.

Some of my dreams are bizarre (refer to first paragraph). Some of my dreams are scary - I think my clients know which of you I dream of under this category. The rest of the work dreams surround some kind of deadline that I am trying to achieve - sometimes making it and other times failing.

Let me share with you the dream that I wish I were having (minus the movie stars) relating to the office:

My dream would be of a great place to work - wonderful co-workers who enjoy my company and I enjoy theirs.

A job where I am good at what I do and where the compensation allows me to have a good life with my beautiful wife and kids (and one grandchild).

A job where all my clients bring me everything very nicely organized with enough time to prepare and review their returns.

And finally, when they are ready to remit my fee, they say: "Rick are you sure this is enough?"

Now I AM dreaming!

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you next week.


Mar 22 2012 | Posted in General

April 15th is only the beginning...

For most of my clients, there are three words that upset them; Audit, Fee-Increase, and Extension. I know one of them is hyphenated - just go with me on this.

Audits are out of my control for the most part. You do a good job submitting the data, we do a good job interpreting and presenting the data, and hopefully the IRS is pleased and moves on to clients with dependents named Astro.

Fee-Increase is also something I have very little control over. We bill by the hour; that is the product we are selling - our knowledge doled out in increments of time. Have you seen the tax law changes we have to learn? A client recently told me that my fee was higher than her refund. Think what would have happened if she owed??!!

Extension, just like the word "Port-A-Potty," has a negative connotation but can be very useful at times. Without extensions, we would be unable to process all the returns of our clients. I'll let you decide what would happen without Port-A-Potties.

Close to 600 of our clients ask for extensions each year. Some because they just can't seem to find the energy to address their filing needs by April 15th. Some extend because information they need will not arrive in time to file. And finally, some extend just because they don't particularly like to be told when to do something by big brother.

The truth is we encourage extensions - they are our friends. The key to filing an extension is to make sure you will not owe any more money after April 15th; the extension only applies to filing your return, not to owing the government money. When you do get around to filing, if there is still tax due, the IRS will charge you penalties and interest. This is why extensions should not be performed by the untrained!!

So, scream about Audits; shed a tear for our fees; but embrace extensions!

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you next week.


Mar 14 2012 | Posted in General

The Weather and Tax Prep Fees...

Yesterday was the most bizarre weather day I have ever encountered in my 53+ years on this planet, and I have lived on both coasts, Arkansas, and South Dakota. It was calm and cloudy in the early morning and then during my first meeting, it snowed - the kind of flakes that are the size of Frisbees.

Later that day it rained so hard I did not go to lunch. In the afternoon it rained and then snowed all in the span of 20 minutes and by 5pm it was nice enough to take a walk; and I did. While working late, I heard the sound of hail hitting the roof and my truck was covered with it.

So, what does this have to do with taxes? The bill you get from your CPA can have just as many swings as the weather. Let me tell you about the clients I met with during this weather pattern.

My morning meeting was with a long time client and our meeting was calm. We spent the first 15 minutes catching up on what has been happening the last year and the rest of the meeting went very fast as his information was in good order. His bill will not have him reaching for an umbrella.

The next valued client came in with a briefcase, plastic bag and a three ring binder that could have held the NY city phone book. Information was raining down on me from every direction and it was going to take all my talents to weather this storm of data. The bill for this return may cause him to purchase flood insurance.

I am hoping you follow my logic and put in a little preparation time. In addition, please use our organizer as it will certainly make a difference on the bill. Bring a sweater just in case.

I want to send a thank you out to my florist (yes, I have a florist!). Robert, you are the best!!

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you next week.


Mar 04 2012 | Posted in General

If you look out your left window....

As you are probably aware, everyone is after money. The government is raising taxes, the counties are cutting services, my kids never bring me back the change. One of the best ways for Uncle Sam to increase revenue - besides raising taxes - is to audit taxpayers. I know it is hard to believe that there are people out there that are not on the "up & up" when it comes to their tax reporting. Fudging a little here and there has not been the culprit lately. Many people rely on their credit card bill as the backbone of their records when they are audited. The charge for Costco, Safeway, Amazon; all listed as expenses on their tax return. The IRS does not accept this proof as substantiation of the expense. Only the actual receipt is proof (along with an explanation of how it relates to your business).

So, if you have not been saving each and every credit card slip for your business, it is time to make that a habit.

And since I have you forming new habits, be sure to write on every credit card slip that relates to meals, who you were with and what business you discussed. That information is required in order to allow the deduction. If you should need some additional training in this area, I am always available to be taken to lunch so that I can monitor your recordkeeping skills?at a slightly reduced rate!!

My family gathered together last week to watch the Oscars and my wife asked me: "If you won an Oscar, what would you say about me in your speech?" All I could think of in that split second was a great line by the comedian Rita Rudner:"...if I had shot you when I met you, I would be out of Jail by now..."

Not my best moment!

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you next week.


Feb 07 2012 | Posted in General

Hello from your Tour Guide, Rick Walter

Welcome to my inaugural 'Blog'. I am not a Facebook person so I am unaccustomed to posting my thoughts on-line. However, I've been told that I like to talk a lot and since the field of tax and accounting is where I live, this would be a great place to start.

I plan to also comment on other areas of life in addition to the exciting world of taxes. I encourage feedback from my readers and also any questions that can be answered in the space provided for a weekly blog (nothing about the meaning of life, please).

As with most businesses, a CPA firm has its productive season. That would be the months January thru April where we prepare around 1,100 tax returns; just over half of the returns we will file in a year. With the new year, comes the realization that I will be living in my office seven days a week for the foreseeable future. When I was younger, I never liked the tax season hours, nor did my wife with two little ones at home. Now that they are big kids (Megan just graduated from WSU), my wife is able to ignore the long days of tax season and I get into a routine of 7am to 7pm.

So, I'm sure you are waiting for some words of wisdom relating to tax filing that you can use this year. Here you go:

Don't talk to your neighbors about your taxes: They shouldn't have that kind of information about you.

Don't take tax advice from your doctor: It will almost always be wrong or not applicable to your situation.

Don't discuss any tax related issues on Facebook: Believe it or not, the IRS is monitoring these postings for possible investigation.

Thanks for listening and I will talk at you next week.


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