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Jaguar Des Moines

Reed Rinderknecht & Adam Obrecht
Choosing an Accountant Who’s Right for You

This might help when you interview a new or replacement accountant: Bring along a copy of your current tax return.

It provides a good road map to where you’ve been money- and business-wise, says Troy Albertson, a CPA at Lincicum & Albertson LLC in Ankeny. Plus, it will give the accountant an idea of how much it will cost to prepare your taxes.

Choosing an accountant shouldn't be an overly complicated task, but there are some guidelines you can follow. For starters, look for experience. How many years have they been doing taxes or performing tax services? Practice makes perfect in this world, so if you have a fresh young graduate (the Department of Accounting at the University of Northern Iowa has a great reputation, by the way) preparing your taxes, make sure that someone in the firm with seniority is reviewing their work.

Expertise is important as well. Some accountants like to work on small businesses, or with construction firms, or on farm returns. Skills in these areas are typically learned on-the-job over time. An advanced degree, if you will, is the CPA designation. John Stuber, a CPA with Martens & Co. in West Des Moines, says CPAs not only have to pass lengthy licensing exams, but they must attend continuing education annually to keep abreast of developments in the field. Each state licenses CPAs, a task left to the Iowa Accountancy Examining Board (which also records any disciplinary actions at this website).

Do you want just a tax preparer, or someone who can handle your ongoing personal and/or business accounting needs as well? If you’re choosing the latter, will you further want them to be able to provide business consulting services, such as working tax strategies, or ways to enhance the performance of your business? Increasingly, accountants are beefing up their business services.

Lincicum & Albertson, for instance, provides payroll services and consulting for small businesses. Martens will work on business startup and succession planning, as well as personal estate planning. RSM (a global firm that grew out of a one-man shop set up in Cedar Rapids in 1926 by Ira McGladrey) can do your taxes while advising on corporate restructurings, sell-side due diligence, outsourcing plans and other business and tax matters.

There are costs here, of course. It is difficult to shop for an accountant based solely on a cost basis, as they tend to charge by varied standards (flat fee, hourly basis, set fee for each schedule, etc.) and they may have different approaches to a particular situation. That’s where the prior year return will come in handy; Albertson says it also gives him an idea of where the client might be heading in the future.

Whatever the level of sophistication you need, odds are you’ll choose a tax and accounting firm based upon the word of a friend or relative. The vast majority of an accountant’s customers are recruited by way of referrals. Word of mouth still works fine in this field. And so does good work.
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Legacy Bridge

Reed Rinderknecht & Adam Obrecht
The beauty of our national parks is a better value if you get a lifetime senior pass before Aug. 28, when the cost rises from $10 to $80.

Act Fast to Save Money on National Park Visits

Here’s a way to save some money (not a lot) and enjoy/invest in the great outdoors (as much as you want).

At the urging of Congress, the National Park Service is bumping the price of a lifetime pass for seniors to national parks to $80 come Aug. 28. But if you stroll into your friendly neighborhood park by Aug. 27, you can still latch on to one for the absurdly low price of $10.

The passes, available to anyone 62 or older, give you free access to any of the 2,000 or so qualifying sites (not all charge admission) that are run by the Park Service and five other agencies that include the Army Corps of Engineers and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

You can buy the pass online here. Better yet, why not acquire it in person? At nearly all of the sites, this will give you a chance to admire Mother Nature firsthand. Around here the easiest to reach are the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, near Prairie City, and Saylorville Lake, near Johnston.

My wife and I already have scheduled a trip to the Neal Smith area to buy our passes and watch the buffalo roam 5,600 acres of its great tallgrass prairie lands. One down, 1,999 more great places in America to visit.

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Whitfield & Eddy Law
801 Chophouse

dsmWealth's Picks on What You Need to Know

  • Is investing in vintage cars a good idea? According to data sourced from a Knight Frank report, for the 12 months leading up to the first quarter 2016, classic cars returned 17 percent. See the ranking here.

  • Learn where to put your money. Members of TIGER 21, a peer-to-peer network for investors with a minimum $10-million in investible assets, like real estate.

  • Meet the Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy in this book excerpt from The New York Times.


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