For more than 25 years, Samuel Moses has been a Certified Public Accountant. Before starting his accounting career, he operated his own small business, which made him very aware of the problems and concerns facing a business owner.
Moses’ career in accounting began with Arthur Anderson & Co., the then-largest CPA firm in the world. He eventually formed his own accounting firm in Santa Monica. His office has always been within a block or two of the Third Street Promenade, and his current office has been at 100 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica for the past eight years.
Moses says he always enjoys meeting new clients because every new person provides a fresh set of issues and problems that he can help solve. He says he finds it very enriching to develop strategies and techniques that can save his clients both money and anxiety.
With tax return season here, what are the benefits of an accountant taking care of an individual’s tax return opposed to an online tax return website?
The greatest benefit is simply knowledge. Online services can prepare an adequate return if everything is input in the proper areas and nothing is left out. The adage I use is: “I give you a nice new airplane. You start down the runway and take a wing off. It isn’t the fault of the plane, but of the unskilled pilot.” A CPA knows the ins and outs of taxes, and can advise and guide you thought the maze that is the Internal Revenue Code. A professional will also often find opportunities, deductions, and strategies that you might never realize existed.
For anyone who chooses to do a tax return online, do you have any advice?
Just be very aware of what you don’t know. It is very easy to leave something off or put the data in the wrong field. If that happens you might end up paying more tax, taking an unsuitable or illegal deduction, or creating an audit risk. Most people pay someone else to cut their hair, change their automobile oil, clean their teeth, etc. It isn’t because they can’t do those tasks themselves; it is because they feel safer and more secure knowing a skilled and trained professional is performing the work. A professional can also save you a lot of time trying to learn the tax laws and nuances for your once a year challenge.
What other areas do you specialize in and what services are offered?
I prepare all types of tax returns for individuals, corporations, partnerships, and trusts. I specialize in small businesses, start-ups, professionals, real estate, and entertainers. I also see many people who haven’t filed their taxes in years or who have tax audits or notices. I offer a full range of services, including tax preparation and planning, tax audits, financial statements, bookkeeping, payrolls, incorporations, Offers in Compromise, and consulting.
With today’s ever changing economy and tax laws, what makes you stand out when it comes to offering counsel on financial and business decisions?
I am always very willing to help my clients solve their tax and business issues and problems. I don’t like to tell a client that something can’t be done, but I try to find ways to make it work. I like to think of ideas and techniques that can help my clients with their taxes, business, and life. I keep aware of new tax and business laws, regulations, and issues. I also use my broad knowledge in many different areas to help identify my clients’ other needs and when appropriate refer them to attorneys, financial advisors, and other professionals.
Do many people file their taxes late?
I see many, many people who are filing their taxes anywhere from a few months to a few years late. It is amazing how many individuals haven’t filed income taxes for two, three, four or more years. When most finally file, they are motivated by a notice from the Internal Revenue Service or the State of California.
Once a person doesn’t file for the first year, he or she tends to be afraid of getting caught, so they don’t file taxes the next year and so on. Non-filers are often surprised to learn that there is no statute on back taxes you owe. However if they would be due a refund, they can only receive it for three years from the due date. After that, the refund is forfeited, and the government just gets to keep the money. This is just one of the government’s tools in discouraging late filing. I have seen some taxpayers lose thousands of dollars in old refunds because they wrongly thought they owed taxes and didn’t file until it was too late.
What do you enjoy about being a CPA?
I enjoy helping my clients solve their problems, save money, and grow their businesses. I try to be very creative and look for new avenues to assist them. I particularly enjoy seeing new businesses or start-ups as they provide the most opportunities for me to help. They may need advice on incorporating, bookkeeping, marketing, business licenses, pension plans, consulting, etc. I try to give them the best start I can, as so many businesses fail due to lack of planning or proper advice.
As we begin 2012, what advice can you give our readers?
You always hear the standard tax advice about saving receipts, keep good mileage logs, document you charitable donations, etc. However, you should also know that there are many creative choices that can be used to save taxes. You can seek out tax-free investments or look into pension vehicles that give you solid deductions save for your future and even offer good legal protection. You should also try to file your taxes by April 16, and if you can’t, be sure to file your extension to avoid penalties.
If you have an idea for a new venture or business, you should consider launching it now. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to grow, and in the meanwhile someone else may start a similar enterprise. Remember, there is no better time than the present.