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Welcome to the fourth installment of our “Perkins Milestones” anniversary series, which explores our employees’ career paths and their time at Perkins. (If you missed our other anniversary posts, check out our blog to scope them out.)

At a young age, Kimberly developed a desire to help people thrive and a love of real estate and community building. Her family, starting with bare land, built a variety of different businesses on their farm: donut shop, convenience store, and an ice-cream parlor to name a few — all in addition to the production and care of 20,000 chickens, horses and cows. Growing up surrounded by entrepreneurs, Kimberly was raised with a can-do attitude and keen interest in business.

While attending Oregon State University to study business, Kimberly’s father suffered a massive stroke, so she put her studies on hold to assist her mother with the financial aspects of the family’s businesses. Years later, Kimberly is still helping businesses with their finances. Her kind and friendly nature makes everyone feel like family. For 20 years Perkins & Co has been fortunate to have this caring and clever dynamo on our team. We recently asked her to reflect on her time at Perkins, and here’s what she had to say:

Q: How did you first hear about Perkins?

My professors in college recommended Perkins as a good alternative option to the Big 4.

Q: What attracted you to Perkins?

I was attracted to the size of the firm, the people and the firm’s reputation.

Q: What was your first project at Perkins & Co and in what industry was it?

When I first started at Perkins, I was doing both audit and tax work. However, the most memorable projects are from my time as a senior. Tim Kalberg was my supervisor, and we worked on tax returns for a premier new & used store fixture supplier and a prominent high-rise commercial office building in downtown Portland. At the time, those were two of the most complex returns to prepare; they involved crazy work papers to track the various book/tax differences and reconciliations of accounts. The work was further complicated by the fact that Tim used Lotus and 12 column paper work papers, while I only knew Excel. Our team for these projects definitely burned the midnight oil to make things work and ensure the projects were completed on time.

Q: What do you like most about working at Perkins?

I adore the people — both internal at the firm and the clients. We have a smart group and great teams to work with. We also have awesome clients. The sophistication of the interconnected services we can provide allows us to do a better job and make our work more fun! It’s great to be able to simply walk down the hall and get answers to, or brainstorm about, complex or unusual issues.

Q: What’s your best memory at Perkins (so far)?

That’s a tough one. Some of my favorite memories include the family picnics and the fun activities we do as a firm. Back in the day, Cheryl Perkins, our former president, hosted family picnics at her house where people could water ski and the kids giddily played in the mud. I also enjoyed playing on the city league softball team and participating on our firm’s Hood to Coast teams for five consecutive years.

Also, let’s not forget the delirious moments in busy season. After you’ve worked very long hours you say and do some silly things—like wearing one blue shoe and one black shoe to work—and can’t help but laugh at yourself.

Q: What’s one thing you wish you knew before entering “the real world” about the accounting profession? 

To be honest, I wish I had known how rewarding a career at an accounting firm could be. You’re surrounded by smart, dedicated, creative (yeah, who ever thought accountants and creative would be in the same sentence), and, surprisingly, very competitive people. You often hear only about the long hours you’re expected to work during busy season.

Q: What advice would you give to younger accountants or individuals entering the accounting field?

Know yourself and what drives you. Learn the business of accounting and what makes a firm successful and you, too, will be successful. You’ll be surprised how important soft skills are versus technical ones.

Q: What do you look for in a candidate who’s looking to join Perkins &Co?  

Personality. For me it’s important that a candidate has a sense of humor — it gets us through some crazy times, as I mentioned earlier. Someone who’s naturally curious and self-motivated is extremely important too. Be motivated to learn for yourself and to learn about the clients and their needs; that’s why we do what we do…to help clients reach their goals and build their legacy.

There’s no doubt Kimberly is a legacy-builder; we’ve had the benefit of experiencing that first-hand! Kimberly has been integral to building Perkins’ reputation as the go-to firm for the accounting needs of local commercial real estate and construction businesses. Her focus on real estate building a community versus just a building gives her work depth and breadth. She brings skill, experience and a lot of heart to everything she does. Thank you for your great work, Kimberly!

Author: Taylor Valdes, Administrative Assistant

Keith Meyers and Drinda Roth

Welcome to the third installment of our “Perkins Milestones” anniversary series. In case you’ve ever wondered why someone would choose the life of accounting, this series explores our employees’ career paths and their time at Perkins. (Missed our first two? Read up on Lindsay Park and Trina Headley who celebrated their 10th and 15th anniversaries.)

“It’s been a ride, hasn’t it?” reflected Keith Meyers and Drinda Roth, Shareholder and Office Manager respectively, as we sat down to chat about their time at Perkins & Co. They walked through our firm’s doors over 15 years ago after one fateful meeting with former Perkins & Co president, Jim Jeddeloh, and they haven’t looked back.

Keith and Drinda first met almost 35 years ago while she was working for an attorney’s office located on the same floor as Keith’s accounting firm. But it wasn’t until after her brief stint as a flight attendant followed by a year at an insurance company, that she started working for Keith, who hired her as an administrative assistant to support his clients’ 1040 work (accounting speak for individual income tax return forms) while he focused on the corporate and financial statements.

Then, in the mid-90’s, Keith took an interest in business valuation (BV) work and began migrating his focus away from traditional accounting; it turns out Keith’s business partner wasn’t as interested in BV and was perfectly content focusing on financial planning. So, Keith decided to embark on starting his own firm with Drinda as his right-hand woman. They were 99% sure it was going to happen when larger-than-life president of Perkins & Co, Jim Jeddeloh, swooped in. Jim was keen to start a valuation department at Perkins, and after meeting with him Keith agreed to join Perkins as a principal with the stipulation that Drinda was brought aboard as well. He assured Jim that within six months they wouldn’t know what to do without her.

When Drinda first arrived at Perkins, she worked as a tax staff and did whatever was required to support the transition of Keith’s practice to their new firm. Working a regular 55-hour week (a requirement during busy season) her days were filled with 1040 prep and completing individual income tax returns. A few months after Drinda’s arrival, Jim’s administrative assistant departed, and she moved into the role, which set the foundation for her career progression at Perkins. As if she wasn’t busy enough, shortly after her arrival Drinda recognized another area where she could be an asset—with her keen attention to detail and master of organization, she added the role of event planner to her cap and has since managed all of the firm’s internal events, including our annual holiday party. Ensuring that all employees feel welcome and that there’s an activity for everyone, Drinda’s events have become quite infamous at Perkins (did we mention they’re wickedly fun?).

So, what are they up to today? Well, almost eight years after joining Perkins as a principal, Keith became a shareholder, and his primary focus continues to be business valuation and litigation support (he co-leads the firm’s respective practice groups), and he has an increased presence in providing winery valuations. In addition, he’s also a leader of the firm’s Beer, Wine & Spirits practice. As for Drinda, with the retirement of our former Chief Operations Office, her role has morphed and her responsibilities—in addition to event planning—include overseeing the firm’s facilities and office maintenance. That entails managing work orders and construction projects (including two buildouts in the past five years) for 40,000 sq. feet of space in the PacWest Center and our satellite office in Vancouver, WA, and she supervises a staff of a half dozen. On top of that, even after all these years, she still interfaces with clients that made the move to Perkins with her and Keith. You could say Drinda is the glue that holds our firm together. Keith was right; we don’t know what we’d do without her!

From a firm of roughly 60 employees when they first arrived to a firm of over 175 employees, Drinda and Keith have experienced a lot of change and growth throughout their careers; you could say they’ve grown alongside the firm. But throughout it all, the root of the culture remains the same and that’s family among coworkers (how else would you describe working with someone for almost 30 years?). Keith and Drinda have certainly contributed to our “work together, play together” mentality, and we’re proud of the culture they’ve helped us build. It’s been a wild ride, indeed! We’re glad they were up for the journey.

Authors: Luke Zakariasen, HR Assistant, and Erika Kirkland, Senior Marketing Specialist

Chances are if you’re clicking on this post your first time audit is on the horizon. Perhaps you’re expanding your business and taking out a new line of credit to finance that growth. Maybe you’re entering a business area with a regulatory environment that requires an audit, or you’re taking on new investors or getting ready to sell your business and you’re looking for the confidence and assurance that audited financial statements can provide. Whatever the reason, an audit is in your future. With some planning and up-front work your audit experience can be a good one and you may even gain some efficiency and improve your processes. Below is a list of best practices to help make the audit run seamlessly.

Talk to Your People

One key factor to ensure a successful audit is preparing your employees and setting the right tone. The word “audit” can cause worry and concern if your employees don’t understand the context and reasons behind the audit. When the auditors visit your offices they will talk to employees at every level in your company and it’s important to make sure they are comfortable. Empower your employees to answer questions, or defer to you or others in your organization, when it’s appropriate. Assign roles and point people for the various audit areas. Communicate this internally and also to the auditors and they will know the right person to go to when questions arise. Stress the importance of being open and honest with the auditors. Establishing an environment that treats the auditors as partners will help ensure they are as effective as possible.

Document Your Internal Processes and Controls

If you don’t already have detailed process and control documents, draft them ahead of the audit. Auditors are required to document their understanding of your internal control environment and no one knows your internal control environment better than you and your employees. By documenting your processes and controls you can ensure the auditors hit the ground running and understand all the strengths of your controls.

At a minimum consider compiling the following process and control documents:

  • Cash in-flows
  • Cash out-flows
  • Controls over financial reporting and month/year-end close
  • Information technology general controls

Consider if you have any internal documents (job descriptions, training manuals etc.) that you can leverage to turn into the process and control documents.

Check Your Records and Fix Any Gaps

The auditors will be requesting a significant number of documents supporting transactions and business activities. Making sure you have a complete set of records up front will save you the headache of having to recreate them during the audit process.

  • Ensure you have support for transactions (invoices, purchase orders, cash payments/receipts).
  • Gather all contracts, lease agreements and organizational documents.
  • Review your notes and records and make sure you’ve documented any unusual items or transactions, especially large ones.
  • Reconcile your books and check that your subsidiary ledgers agree to your general ledger.
  • When you’re providing schedules to the auditors make sure they agree to the general ledger. You don’t want the auditors spending their time (or your money) reconciling reports that you can reconcile more easily.

Be Proactive

  • Ask questions, often and early. The auditors want to provide you with a great audit experience and you can help ensure they do just that by starting a dialogue early and getting to know the whole audit team. Even though the shareholder and manager will ultimately be responsible for the audit, it’s the audit staff and seniors that you will be working with on a daily basis.
  • Set an expectation for any communication preferences you and your employees may have. If you prefer to have a record of everything to refer back to, let the auditors know you like e-mails. Alternatively, if you like face-to-face meetings to address questions, let them know that too.
  • Request the client request list ahead of time and make sure you understand what’s being requested. If there’s an unusual transaction or complex accounting issue, the auditors want to be your resource and are always happy to help you work through the details.
  • Consider asking to receive sample selections in advance of fieldwork. That way you can pull all the document requests before the auditors arrive to ensure they can maximize their time in your offices. You will have to provide populations sooner, but the payoff will be huge in terms of efficiency.
  • Staying ahead of the auditors will make sure they’re able to stay on track with your timelines and ensure you the best audit experience.

There’s no way around the fact that a first time audit is a lot of work. But by following the tips provided above, and taking time upfront to make sure you understand the audit process and getting your records and employees ready, you can ensure the process is efficient and valuable.

Author: Megan Whalen, Audit Senior Manager

This blog post is a summary and is not intended as tax or legal advice. You should consult with your tax advisor to obtain specific advice with respect to your fact pattern. 

January 26, 2017

Portland, Ore. – The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Standing Ovation program has recognized Paris Powell as one of 25 CPAs age 40 and under to be honored for their contributions to the areas of forensic accounting and business valuation. Powell, along with the other talented young Standing Ovation CPAs from across the country, was honored at the AICPA’s 2016 Forensic & Valuation Services (FVS) Conference in Nashville in November.

Author: Marketing Department

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Topic: Financing Options — Latest Trends & Challenges

Join us at the Skype Live Studio on Thursday, February 9th, from 3:30pm – 6:30pm to hear our panelists discuss the latest trends and challenges in financing options. Register now.

Summer has officially ended and school is back in session, which means we’re in full-on “Meet the Firms” season. Not to worry, you still have time to prepare; this post will provide you with a few pointers to help you prep for this exciting event. Even if you’re not an accounting student, these tips can help anyone who’s attending networking events or interviews.

Meet the Firms is an accounting-specific career fair, where students or new graduates have the opportunity to speak with potential employers that are seeking interns and new staff. Firms who participate in this event include public firms, private companies, and government agencies.

At Meet the Firms, you will meet recruiters, as well as client service employees at various levels, who are eager to meet you. They’ll be looking for personalities that fit with the company and will want to hear about your career goals. This is your chance to get to know each company and determine your fit with them as well – after all, the decision goes both ways. This recruiting event is also your chance to develop professional connections before applying and interviewing. So let’s dive in.

  • Set yourself up for success. Depending on your school, Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting fraternity, will often have students register for the event. By doing this, you can submit your resume which will be distributed to the companies and firms. There are also other events and opportunities hosted by respective companies to help prepare you for this event – we highly encourage you to go. Usually, there will be workshops hosted by various firms for subjects starting from resume writing to networking and even interview preparation. This is a great way to meet professionals, learn a little more about them, and make an impression.
  • Do your research. Take time to check out who’s participating – this event spans a few hours (usually from 6-8:30PM), so your time is limited. Check out the firm size and location, and get an initial feel for the firm – you want to spend time with the firms and companies you are interested in and can envision being at in the long run. You also want to have time to check out some other promising companies that might have not been on your radar. Use your professors and the accounting students from upper level classes, as they can shed insight on what firms they are interested in and why.
  • Brainstorm. Create a list of your skills and have a quick summary of your previous experiences. Having a well thought out “elevator speech” will help prevent you from rambling in case you get nervous. This ‘pitch’ can also equip you to start a conversation.
  • Questions. Write down specific questions you’d like to ask. Since your time is limited, make sure to maximize it and use the time to obtain the information you seek.
  • Dress appropriately. This event is business formal. Yes, this means suits! You’ll be on your feet almost the entire time, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes (I speak from experience). However, it is important to dress to impress, so find shoes that make you feel confident, in addition to being comfortable.
  • Ask for a business card. You’ll be meeting a lot of professionals, and this is a great way to help you remember who you’ve met. If you have any follow up questions, you can easily contact the representative. If you don’t have any follow up questions, remember to send a quick thank you note. Thank you notes are an invaluable professional habit to have – they’re a small gesture, but they go a long way.
  • Lastly, be enthusiastic! This is an exciting time for both you and the potential employer. This is your chance to market yourself and network – let them get to know you while you learn about them, as well.

If you’re not affiliated with a school but interested in an accounting career, the OSCPA hosts an annual, free Career Showcase, which was recently held at the Oregon Convention Center.

We hope you found these pointers useful. As noted earlier, while we’re specifically writing about “Meet the Firms,” these tips can be used for a variety of networking situations. Good luck, and let’s get networking!

Author: Victoria Uong, CPA, MBA

IRS Proposes Regulations Restricting Discounts on Family Transfers

Experts have been able to assist families transfer wealth between generations using methods that reduce the value of closely-held entities. By properly drafting the governing documents and deploying some valuation “slight-of-hand”, experts have been able to make 2+2=3. Though this is a great answer for family gifting, the IRS didn’t find the trick entertaining, and is taking steps to shut down the magic act.

Specifically, the IRS recently issued proposed regulations that reduce our ability to apply valuation discounts to intra-family transfers in entities like corporations, partnerships and LLCs. Currently expected to occur sometime in early 2017, these proposed regulations are not yet law, but will become effective once they are finalized.

If you are considering a gift or sale of an interest in a family-controlled entity to another family member, completing the transfer before these rules become final will most likely result in a lower valuation, lessening gift-tax consequences. These rules apply to both operating companies and “holding companies.” However, the mechanics of how they apply are complicated. While it appears that the valuation of holding company interests will be more directly impacted, operating company transfers to family members could also be affected.

You may only have one last opportunity to take advantage of the great disappearing-value act before the show closes. Call your advisor now if you are planning or considering these types of transfers and we will discuss your situation and options. We might still have a trick or two up our sleeves.

Author: Keith Meyers, CPA, ABV, CFF, Shareholder

August 31, 2016

Portland, Ore. – Since its founding in 1986, Perkins & Co has been committed to placing women in positions of leadership, a commitment that started on day one with the company’s namesake, former founding partner, Cheryl Perkins. Today, Portland’s largest locally owned public accounting firm is excited to announce the promotion of Paris Powell, Lisa Zauner, and Colleen Murray from Senior Managers and Director of Operations, respectively, to Shareholders. In addition, Tax Senior, Rosie Brammer, is one of just a few young CPAs nationwide to have been selected to attend the AICPA Leadership Academy.

Author: Marketing Department

Trina HeadleyWelcome to the second installment of our “Perkins Milestones” anniversary series. In case you’ve ever wondered why someone would choose the life of accounting, this series explores our employees’ career paths: what interested them in accounting, how they got to Perkins, and what Perkins means to them. (Missed our first one? Read up on Lindsay Park, who celebrated her 10th anniversary with us earlier this year.)

So let’s get started. Today, let us draw your attention to Tax Senior Manager, Trina Headley, who got her start at Perkins & Co 15 years ago. When Trina first began, Perkins was all of 60 employees-large, and the accountants were required to do both tax and assurance work. Today, Perkins has almost tripled in size, employees are either tax or assurance, and there are a multitude of industries in which they can get involved.

Trina knew she belonged in our Real Estate Practice Group (even back in 2001) — perhaps it was her desire as a young student to be a real estate agent that helped steer her. After a real estate practice group team builder at Oba, she knew she was going to be a Perkins and real estate team lifer. Fast forward 15 years, Trina specializes and works solely in our tax department; she even still does work for a local commercial developer that was one of her first depreciation projects at Perkins.

Recently we sat with Trina to learn more about what makes her tick. Here’s what she had to share:

1) What helped sway you to do tax work?

I prefer doing tax work as I like helping clients save money versus scrutinizing their books, which is a task on the audit side.

2) What drew you to the accounting industry?

My dad is an accountant. We moved out to Portland, from New York, for a position he accepted at PricewaterhouseCoopers.  Plus, I love numbers, and I took accounting classes while attending Beaverton High School.  After high school, I pursued an accounting degree at Portland State University (PSU), and once I graduated I made the leap to Perkins & Co.

3) What about Perkins attracted you?

While at PSU, I went through the recruiting process and attended Perkins & Co’s “meet the firms” event. There, I met Paul Kester, who, at the time, was an audit shareholder. What impressed me the most: he made it his mission to remember recruits’ first names. He was very personable and introduced me to the firm’s other shareholders. He definitely made an impact, as I’ve noticed that one of our current audit shareholders (who was at the firm even back then) still makes it a priority to get to know all the recruits’ first names. That small gesture made me feel welcomed.

Also, I went through a pretty intense interview process, but I was grateful for it. I had four interviews and met employees from all levels of the firm. I had lunch with two seniors who provided me insight into the culture and the type of work I would be doing at Perkins.

4) What do you like most about your job?

I like the clients. I like being in a consulting role and helping them along their tax journey. A few of my clients and I have been together since I first started at Perkins. It’s been a great experience to grow along with them. Being on the tax side has really allowed me to get to know my clients, and we frequently swap travel stories.

One of my favorite moments in my career is from two years ago. I worked on a tax strategy with a client and we were able to save their condo; they were so grateful. I received a touching letter of thanks for the work I did for them; the client still brings it up in conversation to this day.

Additionally, no two days are the same. I like the different challenges each day brings, and I get to work on different client projects each year. Plus, I learn a lot from my co-workers. In particular, Tim is a great teacher and is always willing to train employees. I consider him a thought leader in the industry and view him as a mentor.

5) What has been the most significant change since you started (in the industry and/or in the firm)?

There have been a number of changes which have impacted the firm since I started. From a culture standpoint Perkins announced a relaxed dress code earlier this year – we can wear jeans every day. Not many other firms offer that. However, since I’m usually meeting with clients, I don’t wear jeans, and I keep a blazer behind my door for days when I have those really important meetings.

From a sustainability standpoint, another significant change within the firm occurred when we went paperless. Before the days of the client portal and digital software, I remember using rolling filing cabinets and seeing mounds of papers at people’s desks.

6) What do you do in your leisure time?

I love to travel. Most of my travel revolves around relaxation and warm climates and being around water is a must for me. I got my scuba diving certification 26 years ago, and my favorite dive to date has been at Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands.

I also try to visit the coast at least once a month throughout the year (as I can), thanks to my timeshare. This past busy season I went to the beach for an overnight trip. Listening to the waves was so soothing and helped me relax. Watching sunsets at the beach is another way I like to unwind, and Depot Bay has some of my favorite sun and moon sets.

When I’m at home, I enjoy spending time with my four year old grandson and hiking Wahkeena Falls trail in the gorge.

In addition to her leisure activities, Trina spends her time out of the office serving as co-chair for Commercial Real Estate Women’s (CREW) 12-person membership committee. She first got involved with CREW with thanks to Brigitte Sutherland, Tax Shareholder. Four and a half years later she still enjoys attending their events and luncheons.

Thank you, Trina, for letting us take a peek inside your experience at Perkins over the past 15 years. We are grateful to have you on our tax team, and we can’t wait to see what the next 15 years have in store for you!

Author: Erika Kirkland, Marketing Specialist

Welcome back to Tips from the Trenches! For our fourth series installment, we’re going to talk about tips to help you untangle formulas. First, let’s take a tour of the Formula Bar and the Formula tab of the Ribbon.

This is the Formula Bar:

Formula bar

You can add some rudimentary formatting within the formula editing bar by pressing Alt and Enter to add a carriage return and entering spaces wherever you find them helpful.  This is especially useful for sorting out which arguments go with which function if you’re combining more than one function (“nesting”) in your formula.

Formula bar

Next, let’s take a look at the Formula tab of the ribbon.

Function Tab Ribbon Formula auditing window

Now, let’s take a look at how formula auditing and defined names can work together. To define a name, you highlight the cell(s) and type in your desired name in the name box. Names can’t start with a number, can’t look like a cell reference, and must be only numbers and letters (no spaces or special characters). The simplest way to create a Defined Name is to select the cell or cell range it should apply to and type the name into the Name Box (see the first image in this post). In the example below, we’ve got a spreadsheet to help a married couple who get paid at different times figure out their income for the first quarter of the year. We’ve named each of the variables to help us write clear formulas.

taxpayer dates image cashflow calculator chart

Using Defined Names can help your formulas read more like English and less like gibberish. This is the same cell with “Trace Precedents” on:

trace precedents image

And here’s the Evaluate Formula box at work:

Evaluate formula video

For our final navigation trick, let’s talk about links. The keyboard shortcut (in any Office application) to insert a link is Ctrl + K. This may not seem terribly handy in Excel at first, but you can create links WITHIN an Excel document using cell references or… defined names. This means you can create links that walk the user of your Excel workbook exactly through the places in the workbook they need to go.  Here’s the dialog box that pops up with Ctrl + K:

dialog box from Ctrl K

You highlight your name or type in your cell reference and boom! It looks like a regular hyperlink, but it works within the world of your workbook.

Thanks for joining us for this installment of Tips from the Trenches. We hope this ROUNDUP of tips will help you get your formulas sorted out and your users herded in the right direction.

Authors: Kathryn Sklar, CPA and Victoria Uong, CPA

This blog post is a summary and is not intended as tax or legal advice. You should consult with your tax advisor to obtain specific advice with respect to your fact pattern. 

Kimberly Woodside Blog Post Header v 3

Welcome to the fourth installment of our “Perkins Milestones” anniversary series, which explores our employees’ career paths and their time at Perkins. (If you missed our other anniversary posts, check out our blog to scope them out.)

At a young age, Kimberly developed a desire to help people thrive and a love of real estate and community building. Her family, starting with bare land, built a variety of different businesses on their farm: donut shop, convenience store, and an ice-cream parlor to name a few — all in addition to the production and care of 20,000 chickens, horses and cows. Growing up surrounded by entrepreneurs, Kimberly was raised with a can-do attitude and keen interest in business.

While attending Oregon State University to study business, Kimberly’s father suffered a massive stroke, so she put her studies on hold to assist her mother with the financial aspects of the family’s businesses. Years later, Kimberly is still helping businesses with their finances. Her kind and friendly nature makes everyone feel like family. For 20 years Perkins & Co has been fortunate to have this caring and clever dynamo on our team. We recently asked her to reflect on her time at Perkins, and here’s what she had to say:

Q: How did you first hear about Perkins?

My professors in college recommended Perkins as a good alternative option to the Big 4.

Q: What attracted you to Perkins?

I was attracted to the size of the firm, the people and the firm’s reputation.

Q: What was your first project at Perkins & Co and in what industry was it?

When I first started at Perkins, I was doing both audit and tax work. However, the most memorable projects are from my time as a senior. Tim Kalberg was my supervisor, and we worked on tax returns for a premier new & used store fixture supplier and a prominent high-rise commercial office building in downtown Portland. At the time, those were two of the most complex returns to prepare; they involved crazy work papers to track the various book/tax differences and reconciliations of accounts. The work was further complicated by the fact that Tim used Lotus and 12 column paper work papers, while I only knew Excel. Our team for these projects definitely burned the midnight oil to make things work and ensure the projects were completed on time.

Q: What do you like most about working at Perkins?

I adore the people — both internal at the firm and the clients. We have a smart group and great teams to work with. We also have awesome clients. The sophistication of the interconnected services we can provide allows us to do a better job and make our work more fun! It’s great to be able to simply walk down the hall and get answers to, or brainstorm about, complex or unusual issues.

Q: What’s your best memory at Perkins (so far)?

That’s a tough one. Some of my favorite memories include the family picnics and the fun activities we do as a firm. Back in the day, Cheryl Perkins, our former president, hosted family picnics at her house where people could water ski and the kids giddily played in the mud. I also enjoyed playing on the city league softball team and participating on our firm’s Hood to Coast teams for five consecutive years.

Also, let’s not forget the delirious moments in busy season. After you’ve worked very long hours you say and do some silly things—like wearing one blue shoe and one black shoe to work—and can’t help but laugh at yourself.

Q: What’s one thing you wish you knew before entering “the real world” about the accounting profession? 

To be honest, I wish I had known how rewarding a career at an accounting firm could be. You’re surrounded by smart, dedicated, creative (yeah, who ever thought accountants and creative would be in the same sentence), and, surprisingly, very competitive people. You often hear only about the long hours you’re expected to work during busy season.

Q: What advice would you give to younger accountants or individuals entering the accounting field?

Know yourself and what drives you. Learn the business of accounting and what makes a firm successful and you, too, will be successful. You’ll be surprised how important soft skills are versus technical ones.

Q: What do you look for in a candidate who’s looking to join Perkins &Co?  

Personality. For me it’s important that a candidate has a sense of humor — it gets us through some crazy times, as I mentioned earlier. Someone who’s naturally curious and self-motivated is extremely important too. Be motivated to learn for yourself and to learn about the clients and their needs; that’s why we do what we do…to help clients reach their goals and build their legacy.

There’s no doubt Kimberly is a legacy-builder; we’ve had the benefit of experiencing that first-hand! Kimberly has been integral to building Perkins’ reputation as the go-to firm for the accounting needs of local commercial real estate and construction businesses. Her focus on real estate building a community versus just a building gives her work depth and breadth. She brings skill, experience and a lot of heart to everything she does. Thank you for your great work, Kimberly!

Author: Taylor Valdes, Administrative Assistant

Keith Meyers and Drinda Roth

Welcome to the third installment of our “Perkins Milestones” anniversary series. In case you’ve ever wondered why someone would choose the life of accounting, this series explores our employees’ career paths and their time at Perkins. (Missed our first two? Read up on Lindsay Park and Trina Headley who celebrated their 10th and 15th anniversaries.)

“It’s been a ride, hasn’t it?” reflected Keith Meyers and Drinda Roth, Shareholder and Office Manager respectively, as we sat down to chat about their time at Perkins & Co. They walked through our firm’s doors over 15 years ago after one fateful meeting with former Perkins & Co president, Jim Jeddeloh, and they haven’t looked back.

Keith and Drinda first met almost 35 years ago while she was working for an attorney’s office located on the same floor as Keith’s accounting firm. But it wasn’t until after her brief stint as a flight attendant followed by a year at an insurance company, that she started working for Keith, who hired her as an administrative assistant to support his clients’ 1040 work (accounting speak for individual income tax return forms) while he focused on the corporate and financial statements.

Then, in the mid-90’s, Keith took an interest in business valuation (BV) work and began migrating his focus away from traditional accounting; it turns out Keith’s business partner wasn’t as interested in BV and was perfectly content focusing on financial planning. So, Keith decided to embark on starting his own firm with Drinda as his right-hand woman. They were 99% sure it was going to happen when larger-than-life president of Perkins & Co, Jim Jeddeloh, swooped in. Jim was keen to start a valuation department at Perkins, and after meeting with him Keith agreed to join Perkins as a principal with the stipulation that Drinda was brought aboard as well. He assured Jim that within six months they wouldn’t know what to do without her.

When Drinda first arrived at Perkins, she worked as a tax staff and did whatever was required to support the transition of Keith’s practice to their new firm. Working a regular 55-hour week (a requirement during busy season) her days were filled with 1040 prep and completing individual income tax returns. A few months after Drinda’s arrival, Jim’s administrative assistant departed, and she moved into the role, which set the foundation for her career progression at Perkins. As if she wasn’t busy enough, shortly after her arrival Drinda recognized another area where she could be an asset—with her keen attention to detail and master of organization, she added the role of event planner to her cap and has since managed all of the firm’s internal events, including our annual holiday party. Ensuring that all employees feel welcome and that there’s an activity for everyone, Drinda’s events have become quite infamous at Perkins (did we mention they’re wickedly fun?).

So, what are they up to today? Well, almost eight years after joining Perkins as a principal, Keith became a shareholder, and his primary focus continues to be business valuation and litigation support (he co-leads the firm’s respective practice groups), and he has an increased presence in providing winery valuations. In addition, he’s also a leader of the firm’s Beer, Wine & Spirits practice. As for Drinda, with the retirement of our former Chief Operations Office, her role has morphed and her responsibilities—in addition to event planning—include overseeing the firm’s facilities and office maintenance. That entails managing work orders and construction projects (including two buildouts in the past five years) for 40,000 sq. feet of space in the PacWest Center and our satellite office in Vancouver, WA, and she supervises a staff of a half dozen. On top of that, even after all these years, she still interfaces with clients that made the move to Perkins with her and Keith. You could say Drinda is the glue that holds our firm together. Keith was right; we don’t know what we’d do without her!

From a firm of roughly 60 employees when they first arrived to a firm of over 175 employees, Drinda and Keith have experienced a lot of change and growth throughout their careers; you could say they’ve grown alongside the firm. But throughout it all, the root of the culture remains the same and that’s family among coworkers (how else would you describe working with someone for almost 30 years?). Keith and Drinda have certainly contributed to our “work together, play together” mentality, and we’re proud of the culture they’ve helped us build. It’s been a wild ride, indeed! We’re glad they were up for the journey.

Authors: Luke Zakariasen, HR Assistant, and Erika Kirkland, Senior Marketing Specialist

Chances are if you’re clicking on this post your first time audit is on the horizon. Perhaps you’re expanding your business and taking out a new line of credit to finance that growth. Maybe you’re entering a business area with a regulatory environment that requires an audit, or you’re taking on new investors or getting ready to sell your business and you’re looking for the confidence and assurance that audited financial statements can provide. Whatever the reason, an audit is in your future. With some planning and up-front work your audit experience can be a good one and you may even gain some efficiency and improve your processes. Below is a list of best practices to help make the audit run seamlessly.

Talk to Your People

One key factor to ensure a successful audit is preparing your employees and setting the right tone. The word “audit” can cause worry and concern if your employees don’t understand the context and reasons behind the audit. When the auditors visit your offices they will talk to employees at every level in your company and it’s important to make sure they are comfortable. Empower your employees to answer questions, or defer to you or others in your organization, when it’s appropriate. Assign roles and point people for the various audit areas. Communicate this internally and also to the auditors and they will know the right person to go to when questions arise. Stress the importance of being open and honest with the auditors. Establishing an environment that treats the auditors as partners will help ensure they are as effective as possible.

Document Your Internal Processes and Controls

If you don’t already have detailed process and control documents, draft them ahead of the audit. Auditors are required to document their understanding of your internal control environment and no one knows your internal control environment better than you and your employees. By documenting your processes and controls you can ensure the auditors hit the ground running and understand all the strengths of your controls.

At a minimum consider compiling the following process and control documents:

  • Cash in-flows
  • Cash out-flows
  • Controls over financial reporting and month/year-end close
  • Information technology general controls

Consider if you have any internal documents (job descriptions, training manuals etc.) that you can leverage to turn into the process and control documents.

Check Your Records and Fix Any Gaps

The auditors will be requesting a significant number of documents supporting transactions and business activities. Making sure you have a complete set of records up front will save you the headache of having to recreate them during the audit process.

  • Ensure you have support for transactions (invoices, purchase orders, cash payments/receipts).
  • Gather all contracts, lease agreements and organizational documents.
  • Review your notes and records and make sure you’ve documented any unusual items or transactions, especially large ones.
  • Reconcile your books and check that your subsidiary ledgers agree to your general ledger.
  • When you’re providing schedules to the auditors make sure they agree to the general ledger. You don’t want the auditors spending their time (or your money) reconciling reports that you can reconcile more easily.

Be Proactive

  • Ask questions, often and early. The auditors want to provide you with a great audit experience and you can help ensure they do just that by starting a dialogue early and getting to know the whole audit team. Even though the shareholder and manager will ultimately be responsible for the audit, it’s the audit staff and seniors that you will be working with on a daily basis.
  • Set an expectation for any communication preferences you and your employees may have. If you prefer to have a record of everything to refer back to, let the auditors know you like e-mails. Alternatively, if you like face-to-face meetings to address questions, let them know that too.
  • Request the client request list ahead of time and make sure you understand what’s being requested. If there’s an unusual transaction or complex accounting issue, the auditors want to be your resource and are always happy to help you work through the details.
  • Consider asking to receive sample selections in advance of fieldwork. That way you can pull all the document requests before the auditors arrive to ensure they can maximize their time in your offices. You will have to provide populations sooner, but the payoff will be huge in terms of efficiency.
  • Staying ahead of the auditors will make sure they’re able to stay on track with your timelines and ensure you the best audit experience.

There’s no way around the fact that a first time audit is a lot of work. But by following the tips provided above, and taking time upfront to make sure you understand the audit process and getting your records and employees ready, you can ensure the process is efficient and valuable.

Author: Megan Whalen, Audit Senior Manager

This blog post is a summary and is not intended as tax or legal advice. You should consult with your tax advisor to obtain specific advice with respect to your fact pattern. 

Summer has officially ended and school is back in session, which means we’re in full-on “Meet the Firms” season. Not to worry, you still have time to prepare; this post will provide you with a few pointers to help you prep for this exciting event. Even if you’re not an accounting student, these tips can help anyone who’s attending networking events or interviews.

Meet the Firms is an accounting-specific career fair, where students or new graduates have the opportunity to speak with potential employers that are seeking interns and new staff. Firms who participate in this event include public firms, private companies, and government agencies.

At Meet the Firms, you will meet recruiters, as well as client service employees at various levels, who are eager to meet you. They’ll be looking for personalities that fit with the company and will want to hear about your career goals. This is your chance to get to know each company and determine your fit with them as well – after all, the decision goes both ways. This recruiting event is also your chance to develop professional connections before applying and interviewing. So let’s dive in.

  • Set yourself up for success. Depending on your school, Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting fraternity, will often have students register for the event. By doing this, you can submit your resume which will be distributed to the companies and firms. There are also other events and opportunities hosted by respective companies to help prepare you for this event – we highly encourage you to go. Usually, there will be workshops hosted by various firms for subjects starting from resume writing to networking and even interview preparation. This is a great way to meet professionals, learn a little more about them, and make an impression.
  • Do your research. Take time to check out who’s participating – this event spans a few hours (usually from 6-8:30PM), so your time is limited. Check out the firm size and location, and get an initial feel for the firm – you want to spend time with the firms and companies you are interested in and can envision being at in the long run. You also want to have time to check out some other promising companies that might have not been on your radar. Use your professors and the accounting students from upper level classes, as they can shed insight on what firms they are interested in and why.
  • Brainstorm. Create a list of your skills and have a quick summary of your previous experiences. Having a well thought out “elevator speech” will help prevent you from rambling in case you get nervous. This ‘pitch’ can also equip you to start a conversation.
  • Questions. Write down specific questions you’d like to ask. Since your time is limited, make sure to maximize it and use the time to obtain the information you seek.
  • Dress appropriately. This event is business formal. Yes, this means suits! You’ll be on your feet almost the entire time, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes (I speak from experience). However, it is important to dress to impress, so find shoes that make you feel confident, in addition to being comfortable.
  • Ask for a business card. You’ll be meeting a lot of professionals, and this is a great way to help you remember who you’ve met. If you have any follow up questions, you can easily contact the representative. If you don’t have any follow up questions, remember to send a quick thank you note. Thank you notes are an invaluable professional habit to have – they’re a small gesture, but they go a long way.
  • Lastly, be enthusiastic! This is an exciting time for both you and the potential employer. This is your chance to market yourself and network – let them get to know you while you learn about them, as well.

If you’re not affiliated with a school but interested in an accounting career, the OSCPA hosts an annual, free Career Showcase, which was recently held at the Oregon Convention Center.

We hope you found these pointers useful. As noted earlier, while we’re specifically writing about “Meet the Firms,” these tips can be used for a variety of networking situations. Good luck, and let’s get networking!

Author: Victoria Uong, CPA, MBA

IRS Proposes Regulations Restricting Discounts on Family Transfers

Experts have been able to assist families transfer wealth between generations using methods that reduce the value of closely-held entities. By properly drafting the governing documents and deploying some valuation “slight-of-hand”, experts have been able to make 2+2=3. Though this is a great answer for family gifting, the IRS didn’t find the trick entertaining, and is taking steps to shut down the magic act.

Specifically, the IRS recently issued proposed regulations that reduce our ability to apply valuation discounts to intra-family transfers in entities like corporations, partnerships and LLCs. Currently expected to occur sometime in early 2017, these proposed regulations are not yet law, but will become effective once they are finalized.

If you are considering a gift or sale of an interest in a family-controlled entity to another family member, completing the transfer before these rules become final will most likely result in a lower valuation, lessening gift-tax consequences. These rules apply to both operating companies and “holding companies.” However, the mechanics of how they apply are complicated. While it appears that the valuation of holding company interests will be more directly impacted, operating company transfers to family members could also be affected.

You may only have one last opportunity to take advantage of the great disappearing-value act before the show closes. Call your advisor now if you are planning or considering these types of transfers and we will discuss your situation and options. We might still have a trick or two up our sleeves.

Author: Keith Meyers, CPA, ABV, CFF, Shareholder

Trina HeadleyWelcome to the second installment of our “Perkins Milestones” anniversary series. In case you’ve ever wondered why someone would choose the life of accounting, this series explores our employees’ career paths: what interested them in accounting, how they got to Perkins, and what Perkins means to them. (Missed our first one? Read up on Lindsay Park, who celebrated her 10th anniversary with us earlier this year.)

So let’s get started. Today, let us draw your attention to Tax Senior Manager, Trina Headley, who got her start at Perkins & Co 15 years ago. When Trina first began, Perkins was all of 60 employees-large, and the accountants were required to do both tax and assurance work. Today, Perkins has almost tripled in size, employees are either tax or assurance, and there are a multitude of industries in which they can get involved.

Trina knew she belonged in our Real Estate Practice Group (even back in 2001) — perhaps it was her desire as a young student to be a real estate agent that helped steer her. After a real estate practice group team builder at Oba, she knew she was going to be a Perkins and real estate team lifer. Fast forward 15 years, Trina specializes and works solely in our tax department; she even still does work for a local commercial developer that was one of her first depreciation projects at Perkins.

Recently we sat with Trina to learn more about what makes her tick. Here’s what she had to share:

1) What helped sway you to do tax work?

I prefer doing tax work as I like helping clients save money versus scrutinizing their books, which is a task on the audit side.

2) What drew you to the accounting industry?

My dad is an accountant. We moved out to Portland, from New York, for a position he accepted at PricewaterhouseCoopers.  Plus, I love numbers, and I took accounting classes while attending Beaverton High School.  After high school, I pursued an accounting degree at Portland State University (PSU), and once I graduated I made the leap to Perkins & Co.

3) What about Perkins attracted you?

While at PSU, I went through the recruiting process and attended Perkins & Co’s “meet the firms” event. There, I met Paul Kester, who, at the time, was an audit shareholder. What impressed me the most: he made it his mission to remember recruits’ first names. He was very personable and introduced me to the firm’s other shareholders. He definitely made an impact, as I’ve noticed that one of our current audit shareholders (who was at the firm even back then) still makes it a priority to get to know all the recruits’ first names. That small gesture made me feel welcomed.

Also, I went through a pretty intense interview process, but I was grateful for it. I had four interviews and met employees from all levels of the firm. I had lunch with two seniors who provided me insight into the culture and the type of work I would be doing at Perkins.

4) What do you like most about your job?

I like the clients. I like being in a consulting role and helping them along their tax journey. A few of my clients and I have been together since I first started at Perkins. It’s been a great experience to grow along with them. Being on the tax side has really allowed me to get to know my clients, and we frequently swap travel stories.

One of my favorite moments in my career is from two years ago. I worked on a tax strategy with a client and we were able to save their condo; they were so grateful. I received a touching letter of thanks for the work I did for them; the client still brings it up in conversation to this day.

Additionally, no two days are the same. I like the different challenges each day brings, and I get to work on different client projects each year. Plus, I learn a lot from my co-workers. In particular, Tim is a great teacher and is always willing to train employees. I consider him a thought leader in the industry and view him as a mentor.

5) What has been the most significant change since you started (in the industry and/or in the firm)?

There have been a number of changes which have impacted the firm since I started. From a culture standpoint Perkins announced a relaxed dress code earlier this year – we can wear jeans every day. Not many other firms offer that. However, since I’m usually meeting with clients, I don’t wear jeans, and I keep a blazer behind my door for days when I have those really important meetings.

From a sustainability standpoint, another significant change within the firm occurred when we went paperless. Before the days of the client portal and digital software, I remember using rolling filing cabinets and seeing mounds of papers at people’s desks.

6) What do you do in your leisure time?

I love to travel. Most of my travel revolves around relaxation and warm climates and being around water is a must for me. I got my scuba diving certification 26 years ago, and my favorite dive to date has been at Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands.

I also try to visit the coast at least once a month throughout the year (as I can), thanks to my timeshare. This past busy season I went to the beach for an overnight trip. Listening to the waves was so soothing and helped me relax. Watching sunsets at the beach is another way I like to unwind, and Depot Bay has some of my favorite sun and moon sets.

When I’m at home, I enjoy spending time with my four year old grandson and hiking Wahkeena Falls trail in the gorge.

In addition to her leisure activities, Trina spends her time out of the office serving as co-chair for Commercial Real Estate Women’s (CREW) 12-person membership committee. She first got involved with CREW with thanks to Brigitte Sutherland, Tax Shareholder. Four and a half years later she still enjoys attending their events and luncheons.

Thank you, Trina, for letting us take a peek inside your experience at Perkins over the past 15 years. We are grateful to have you on our tax team, and we can’t wait to see what the next 15 years have in store for you!

Author: Erika Kirkland, Marketing Specialist

Welcome back to Tips from the Trenches! For our fourth series installment, we’re going to talk about tips to help you untangle formulas. First, let’s take a tour of the Formula Bar and the Formula tab of the Ribbon.

This is the Formula Bar:

Formula bar

You can add some rudimentary formatting within the formula editing bar by pressing Alt and Enter to add a carriage return and entering spaces wherever you find them helpful.  This is especially useful for sorting out which arguments go with which function if you’re combining more than one function (“nesting”) in your formula.

Formula bar

Next, let’s take a look at the Formula tab of the ribbon.

Function Tab Ribbon Formula auditing window

Now, let’s take a look at how formula auditing and defined names can work together. To define a name, you highlight the cell(s) and type in your desired name in the name box. Names can’t start with a number, can’t look like a cell reference, and must be only numbers and letters (no spaces or special characters). The simplest way to create a Defined Name is to select the cell or cell range it should apply to and type the name into the Name Box (see the first image in this post). In the example below, we’ve got a spreadsheet to help a married couple who get paid at different times figure out their income for the first quarter of the year. We’ve named each of the variables to help us write clear formulas.

taxpayer dates image cashflow calculator chart

Using Defined Names can help your formulas read more like English and less like gibberish. This is the same cell with “Trace Precedents” on:

trace precedents image

And here’s the Evaluate Formula box at work:

Evaluate formula video

For our final navigation trick, let’s talk about links. The keyboard shortcut (in any Office application) to insert a link is Ctrl + K. This may not seem terribly handy in Excel at first, but you can create links WITHIN an Excel document using cell references or… defined names. This means you can create links that walk the user of your Excel workbook exactly through the places in the workbook they need to go.  Here’s the dialog box that pops up with Ctrl + K:

dialog box from Ctrl K

You highlight your name or type in your cell reference and boom! It looks like a regular hyperlink, but it works within the world of your workbook.

Thanks for joining us for this installment of Tips from the Trenches. We hope this ROUNDUP of tips will help you get your formulas sorted out and your users herded in the right direction.

Authors: Kathryn Sklar, CPA and Victoria Uong, CPA

This blog post is a summary and is not intended as tax or legal advice. You should consult with your tax advisor to obtain specific advice with respect to your fact pattern. 

Lindsay Park Collage

Welcome to the first of our anniversary series posts. We’re trying something new with our blog, so occasionally you’ll see an employee anniversary post peppered in, because we’d like to recognize those celebrating major milestone anniversaries at Perkins & Co. Our employees do a lot for us, and this is one way we’d like to acknowledge their dedication, wicked smarts, and hard work.

Our first guinea pig, er, employee, to be highlighted is Lindsay Park, a tax manager and novice beekeeper (we’ll get to that later). Lindsay joined the Perkins & Co family ten years ago after an interesting start. Lindsay recalls, “When I first interviewed with Perkins & Co, it wasn’t meant to be (yet), so I began working at a national firm; that’s where I met Brigitte Sutherland and we worked so well together. When Brigitte moved to Perkins she insisted I come along too. Within a few months I made the transition and instantly became a member of the Perkins family. It’s funny to think about how it all started.”

We recently sat down with Lindsay for a trip down (her) memory lane—all ten years of it:

1)  What was your first project at Perkins & Co?

Starting at Perkins was a whirlwind! I was thrown into my first project working for the real estate practice group under Kimberly Woodside’s supervision. I had never worked on a real estate project before, so it was a great opportunity to learn something new right away. I remember receiving my review from that project — eight pages of hand-written comments. It was intimidating at first, but I quickly realized this was the result of a dedicated teacher. Kimberly’s last comment on the eighth page was “Great Job!”

2)  What was it like working at Perkins & Co in 2006?

Working at Perkins was so different back then. It seemed huge when I first started, but immediately it felt more like family than my previous firm. Perkins’ commitment to an open door policy made a big impact.

In 2006, everyone had 10-keys at their desks, plenty of pencils, and mountains of paper. I remember about two years after I started we began transitioning to a paperless office. It changed how we worked in so many ways.

3)  In honor of a major milestone anniversary, Perkins & Co celebrates with a gift of the employee’s choice. What did you choose?

The firm bought me a beehive and the necessary equipment for a beginner beekeeper. A shipment of three pounds of bees—that’s 27,000 bees, in case you were wondering—arrived shortly after the end of busy season. I was so nervous about transferring the bees into the hive!

I only recently became interested in beekeeping after learning of the dangers of processed sugars from the documentary “That Sugar Thing”, even though I was exposed to beekeeping early on in life through my uncle; he’s been a beekeeper for many years. After watching the documentary, I started eating all-natural honey and soon realized I lived in an area surrounded by wildflowers — a great home for bees. I took bee classes with my daughter, read two books on beekeeping, and enlisted the help of my uncle Dave. Bees are fascinating creatures!

4)  What stands out about Perkins & Co to you?

Perkins definitely provides me with opportunities—not only from a career advancement standpoint, but they genuinely want their employees to have a work-life balance as well.

Through it all, Lindsay says she feels “lucky to work for such an amazing group of business owners and has enjoyed getting to know everyone over the last 10 years.” She’s honored to be part of the Perkins & Co family, and would like to thank everyone for their “patience, mentorship, and kindness. “

Thank you, Lindsay! We’re so grateful to have you, and we look forward to what the future holds for you and our firm.

Author: Luke Zakariasen, HR Assistant

In my last post, I encouraged accounting students to request informational interviews and office tours during the summer as a way to get a leg up on Fall Recruiting. If you’re a student, I hope you’re taking that advice to heart. If you’re an experienced candidate, please don’t tune me out just yet. This post is for you, too.

Let’s suppose you have interviews or events scheduled with a few firms.  I know I previously emphasized these opportunities as valuable in making yourself known to the firms; however, it’s a two-way street: you should be sizing up the firms, too. Something I learned midway through my career is while my personality, values, and style of working make me a fabulous employee in many organizations, they can lead to significant challenges, and even failure, in others. Remember Goldilocks and the Three Bears? That girl had no problem walking away from things that weren’t right; she searched until she found what worked. I encourage you to be selective and find the right fit for you. How do you do that? Make a list. I use a spreadsheet. Don’t laugh, I’m serious!

I think the factors to consider fall into two categories, which I refer to as (1) Nuts & Bolts and (2) Culture. Nut & Bolts are things like compensation, benefits, growth opportunity, training support, PTO, etc. Culture is comprised of the way people treat each other, the general vibe of the office, level of office politics—things like that. The first step is to write down the things that you know are important to you in these categories. This list will change over your lifetime, and you might not know for sure what to list, but that’s okay. Start with what you do know. Next, prioritize those items. Is the espresso machine as important as medical benefits? If you say yes, I’m not going to judge (well, maybe I will just a little).  Your priorities are your own. Be honest with yourself.

Why do I recommend this exercise? To avoid confusion or distraction, or the temptation to feel that the firms your friends decide to target will also meet your needs. If you haven’t identified your priorities, it can be easy to get sucked into the allure of a lot of perks that aren’t truly important to you, but look sexy in the moment.  It’s not unlike dating…but I digress.

For our current purpose, I’m not going to talk about assessing Nuts & Bolts. I have plenty of thoughts on those, and I am happy to answer questions if you email me. For this post, I’d like to focus on culture because it has the most important impact on your day-to-day existence, yet can be challenging to assess. Culture can make or break your happiness and success. Here are the things I scrutinize when I’m going through the interview process:

The Observable

  • How do people talk to each other? I’m looking for signs of mutual respect and comradery regardless of position.
  • As I go through an office tour or meet employees, how do they treat me? Are they open and friendly or do they make me feel like I’m a nuisance? If they’re friendly, does it feel genuine or fake? Is it only the recruiter and those involved in the interview process that make me feel welcome or do execs/partners and random people in the hallway take time to say hello, too?
  • Are people smiling and/or is their laughter in the office? Life is too short to work with grumpy people and a whole office of grumpies may indicate something is wrong with the workplace.
  • Do people seem to enjoy working together? Do you see yourself fitting in? The long days go by much faster if you can be friends, or at least friendly, with your coworkers.
  • How are people dressed? Does it reflect how I prefer to dress at work?
  • What does the office look like? Do people have personal items in their cubes/offices or is everything pristine? Does it seem like the company invests in providing a healthy and pleasant work environment? Can I envision being comfortable and feeling safe working long hours in this place, even when I’m the only one in the office?
  • What does my potential work area look like? Will I be in an office or cubicle? Are the privacy and noise levels and the amount of space conducive to productivity?

The “Ask-able”

  • Is there flexibility in terms of schedule and work location? Some managers are old-school and think that if they can’t see you working in your cube/office (“butts in seats”), you aren’t working. That style doesn’t work for me personally.
  • What communication and work tools are available/preferred?   How current is the technology? Am I going to get buried in emails because that’s how everyone talks to each other, or is there a balance of face-to-face conversations, IM, etc.? If the firm is giving me a laptop and cell phone and/or remote access to my computer, it conveys they genuinely support flexibility. However, this might also convey something about expectations regarding my availability….
  • What are the expectations for answering emails or phone calls when I’m not in the office? I am happy to be available for urgent situations and flexible to meet business needs, but I also want respect for my personal time.
  • How does the firm support team building and wellness? I don’t need these programs to be sophisticated or formalized, but I like to know that the company is mindful of me as a whole human being.
  • How is work handled while I’m on PTO? It’s important to me that others on my team are able and willing to keep the ball rolling, at least with the most important items, while I’m on vacation. After all, it’s hard to relax on vacation if people keep blowing up your phone or you’re expecting to come back to days’ worth of work piled on your desk.
  • What examples are there of times the firm has remained committed to employees during difficult economic or personal situations? This is a big one for me personally, in no small part because I’m in HR and want to know how I will be expected to treat people. Any company can be good to an employee when times are good. I want to know how the company has demonstrated support when people have hit personal “bumps in the road”. I also want to know how often the firm has had to lay off people, and what approach they take to that process.  Hey, stuff happens; business is business and life is unpredictable. I don’t want coddling or tolerance of low performance, but I do expect some compassion and reasonableness.

Please keep in mind that the above list and accompanying preferences are mine and won’t necessarily reflect what’s important to you. That’s why you have to come up with your own priority list and rank firms as you get to know them. Obviously, I could go on (and on), but you get the idea—know yourself; pick the firm that fits. No firm is perfect, but by taking some time to evaluate culture, hopefully you too can contently settle in like Goldilocks, declaring “this one fits just right!”

I’m available as a resource if needed. If you have questions, or need someone to serve as a sounding board, drop me an email at careers@perkinsaccounting.com (I promise, I check and respond).

Author: Areena McLaughlin, PHR, SHRM-CP

This blog post is a summary and is not intended as tax or legal advice. You should consult with your tax advisor to obtain specific advice with respect to your fact pattern. 

While celebrating the passage of the Protecting American from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act at the end of 2015, which contained pleasant surprises extending many taxpayer-friendly provisions, you may have missed something buried in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 signed into law on November 2, 2015. This “something” is a dramatic change to the way partnership tax returns will be audited by the IRS beginning in 2018, and  will impact every partnership and limited liability company (LLC) taxed as a partnership.

So what’s the big deal?  Starting in 2018, these new rules will replace the current audit rules and allow the IRS to assess and collect taxes against the partnership unless it takes steps to elect out of this new regime. That’s right:  The partnership, and not its partners, will be required to pay the tax on any audit adjustment made to the partnership’s return!

So the partnership is now liable for taxes, how does that differ from now?  If you’re still not convinced why you should care about these rules, the following are reasons to help you reconsider:

  • Unless the partnership proves otherwise, all taxes assessed at the partnership level under these new rules will be at the highest marginal tax rate applicable to its partners in that year. So, individuals will be assessed at their top rate of 39.6%, and corporations will be assessed at their top rate of 35%. Furthermore, tax-exempt partners will also be assessed unless the partnership takes steps to prove and avoid such an assessment.
  • Perhaps something even more convincing is that the assessment by the IRS for the year under audit will be reflected on the return for the year the adjustment is finalized (which could be years later), not the year under audit. So the partners in the partnership at the time of the final IRS settlement, and not the partners in the partnership for the year under audit, will bear the responsibility for payment of taxes, interest, and penalties assessed as a result of the audit.

Now that we have your attention, did you know that certain partnerships can “opt-out” of these new rules? In order to do so, they must fit the following requirements:

  • Have 100 or fewer “qualifying” partners;
    • Qualifying partners include:
      • An individual,
      • An S corporation,
      • A C corporation, or
      • An estate of a deceased partner.
      • Affirmatively elect on each timely-filed tax return to opt-out;
      • Disclose the names of all partners and their tax identification numbers; and
      • Provide the partners with the opt-out notice.

If partnerships don’t opt-out, or don’t fit the opt-out requirements under these rules, they still have the opportunity to elect out of a partnership-level assessment. This election can be made at the time the partnership receives a notice of Final Partnership Administrative Adjustment from the IRS at the conclusion of the audit. If the partnership makes this election, then the partners in the partnership for the year under audit, and not the partners in the partnership for the year in which the audit is settled, will be responsible for paying any additional taxes, interest, and penalties. However, there is a cost. The underpayment of tax interest rate used in this instance is increased by 2% over what it otherwise would have been.

Lastly, the current concept of a Tax Matters Partner (TMP) in partnership agreements is being replaced under these new rules. Instead, partnerships will designate a “partnership representative” to handle the audit and be solely responsible for all decisions associated therewith. And this partnership representative no longer has to be a partner in the partnership. So if the partnership doesn’t designate a representative under these new rules, the IRS is free to designate anyone it chooses!

There’s still more to learn as well as additional guidance on these rules to come from the IRS, but it is time for you to begin considering their impact on both existing and new agreements of which you may be a part. Reach out to your tax and legal counsel to review your partnership/LLC agreements and address how you wish to handle these new audit rules. This will be especially crucial for any partners buying in to, or exiting out of, partnerships/LLCs after 2017.

Authors: Timothy A. Kalberg, Shareholder, and Kimberly A. Woodside, Shareholder 

This blog post is a summary and is not intended as tax or legal advice. You should consult with your tax advisor to obtain specific advice with respect to your fact pattern.