Long Ago – Far Away……..
Thirty-eight years be exact. I joined Arthur Andersen LLP’s Tax Dept. in New York, specifically the Real Estate Group in October 1983.
I was promoted to Tax Senior six months later, and Tax Manager two years after that. I was admitted as an SC Tax Partner, five years later, five months after my thirtieth birthday. I had exceptional technical tax and IT skills and in retrospect I realise I had none of the “soft skills” or people management skills that came much later in life and , I should add, with a significant degree of pain.
Perhaps the greatest gift I received was becoming an AA Tax Partner. If I was struggling with anything, technical tax issue, difficult client or staffing issue, there were twenty-two other Tax Partners in the New York office and hundreds in the firm phone book all over the world.
The ability to reach out and instantly grab the answers from a mentor and Partner were invaluable. There are many in the CPA profession that talk about what they “got” from a Big 4 firm, but never scratched the surface of what those of us who were admitted to the partnerships got.
I left Arthur Andersen almost quarter of a century ago, and it would be an understatement to say that the emergence of the hedge fund as a vehicle for raising capital and the invention of broadband changed everything.
I remember the first week after I left Andersen I had 386-25 computer that cost a mind boggling $15K delivered with a 64KB ISDN connection [which was blazingly fast compared to the usual pedestrian dial up with accompanying blips and beeps] installed. The added pain of “up-down” replication to get Tax Notes delivered over Lotus Notes could test the patience of a saint…it would be considered maddening or even madness in 2019, but, at the time, it was magic for start-up firm. The improvements in technology over the past twenty years have been staggering.
However, there are two very significant items that have barely changed at all.
- Younger professionals develop critical judgement and client interaction skills one way, through observation and intensive mentoring by an experienced practitioner [when I say experienced, I mean Director level for new Analysts, and Partner level for Associates and above. Our firm refers to our process as “Special High-Intensity Training [“SHIT”].
- The second critical interaction is that practice leaders from Director and up to Managing Director-CEO’s do best when they have partners and peers that they respect for both professional judgement and technical skills
We continue searching of ways to create opportunities for those two item through social media, Slack channels and virtual “everything and anything”. We have had excellent results in our alternative asset hedge fund, professional services, real estate and tax controversy practices.
The issue, though, has bedeviled us in our practice with the legal cannabis industry.
Our experience has been that the quality of attorneys, certified public accountants [“CPA’s], and enrolled agents [“EA’s], collectively “Circular 230 Tax Practitioners” has had substantial issues with consistently high-quality technical skills and experience, and an abhorrent level of self-aggrandizement.
Our view is that, perhaps, one out of a thousand Circular 230 Tax Practitioners can justify self-designation as an expert.
We have made a substantial effort to provide cannabis industry businesses with tools to address both issues.
Our article, also published in Greenmarket Report…..
Has been incredibly well received.
Also do read…..
Provides some important reminders to all of us that no matter how skilled and experienced we may be if we get sloppy or lazy, we destroy our hard-earned credibility.
Highlight the dangers and risks of self-aggrandizement.
We turn our attention to the selection of mentors and professionals who we can rely on to seek to replace the function of the partners in my Andersen office in New York.
We have chosen to approach the task by offering our view of representative examples of four group of Circular 230 Tax Practitioners whom we have observed either with clients, in webinars or on the web.
The selection of the following individuals was based solely on the author’s judgement and does not represent the views of Cannabis Law Report.
We trust that our readers are both sophisticated and sufficiently experienced to draw their own inferences about the basis my judgment.I have removed myself from listing in an attempt to make this more objective.
We don’t expect it to be perfect, and the publisher has committed to offering any of the listed professionals the opportunity to agree with, disagree with, challenge or refute the author’s judgements
Contact Cannabis Law Report https://cannabislaw.report/contact-us/
And our special bean counter rating !
Exp. Senior Practitioners – > 4 years or Practice Leaders
- Jim Marty, CPA – Bridge West CPA’s – Valuation
- Luigi Zamarra CPA – General Practice
- Dean Guske CPA – Guske & Co.
- Hank Levy CPA – Henry Levy Group – Currently Alameda County Treasurer
- Jeff Calloway CPA – CFO Cannabis – Outsourced CFO
- John Sheeley, EA
- Michael Harlow, CPA – CohnResnickLLP
Skilled Practitioners – < 4 years as a Partner
- Benjamin Lau, CPA – MGO CPAs
- Joseph Bailey CPA – BC Consulting
- Brian Whalen, CPA – Green Bean CFO – Mostly Outsourced CFO
- Jessica Velazquez CPA – Indiva Advisors LLC
- John R Dundon II, EA – Real Pioneer in Cannabis Tax
- Mel Sams CPA – Sams IV CPA PA
- Shane Eloe, CPA – Dickenson, Clark, CPA’s
Practitioners with Skill, Experience or Judgment Deficiencies
- Sandy Suchoff CPA – Lefstein-Suchoff CPA’s
- Andrew Hunzicker, CPA – Dope CFO
- Derek Davis CPA – California Cannabis CPA . [aka “Green Growth CPAs”]
- Amit Chandel CPA – Canethics.com
- Michael Moran EA – Cannabis Tax Solutions
- Mark Lee CPA – Grassroots Cannabis
- Bryan McDonald, CPA CPAMD LTD
Practitioners with Serious Deficiencies
We thought it would be useful to continue the discussion by beginning an effort to highlight the view and thoughts of some of the excellent up and coming CPA’s we have had the pleasure of meeting along the way
Perspective from Shane Eloe, CPA
Share is a CPA specializing in tax consulting, planning, and preparation. I have a focus on the agriculture industry and enjoy helping clients utilize technology to improve their processes. Specialties: farm / agricultural taxation tax consulting, agricultural financial reporting, tax planning, tax preparation
As one of 3 owners in my firm, I have significant influence and business agility to seize opportunities that will pass other firms by while they analyze the situation and look to others for best practices. However, sometimes I find myself lacking perspective and grasping at straws trying to find the right resource for additional perspective. I have had several mentors both inside and outside my firms as well as mentors outside of the profession. Some have inspired me, others opened doors for me, and some have shown me what not to do, allowing me to learn from their mistakes.
The opportunities and inspiration from the external part of this network have given me the ability to develop my career and my firm in a way that would be an insurmountable task otherwise. Jordan has become a prominent member of my external network as he has invested countless hours in sharing knowledge, inspiration, and friendship with me over the years we have known each other. I had no idea where our interactions would lead, but I had the distinct feeling that I would be in for an interesting ride that would take me down pathways I might not otherwise have considered.
This has shown me firsthand the ability to step up my game in a small practice environment if I open my career development to the influence of inspiring external mentors that are doing something unique in the profession. I would not have been interested in a significant level of interaction with a senior practitioner running an average firm that’s doing nothing interesting. I value the opportunity to indulge the influence of other practitioners who think outside the box.
This influence leads me to pursue something bigger than the normal business development and firm management goals that are standard for others in my position. While others look for community involvement and a strong local network, I look for a national platform and an industry that’s not already listed on most other CPA firm websites. I look for ways to be different in a way that sets me apart from other practitioners and gives my firm a point of valuable differentiation. I also look for ways to reconfigure my firm and my staff resources in ways that will allow us to scale quickly, maintain high customer service standards, and simultaneously tackle new challenges without breaks or bottlenecks in the system. I encourage my staff to think like entrepreneurs and bring me their “craziest” ideas to see if we can incubate them into something valuable. I don’t setup artificial boundaries that can’t be crossed and I’m perplexed when any of my staff seem to think they will rock the boat by bringing up an issue or idea that’s above their pay grade. I listen and tell them I’ll take all the help I can get.
 BS – Accountancy – Univ. of Illinois -Urbana, MS – Taxation, Univ. of Texas – Austin, Elijah Watt Sells National Silver Medal – May 1982 CPA Exam as my background is relevant to the discussion.
 The ability of “just about anyone to raise investment capital, and high-speed internet which “fuels” the virtual world and the ability to do anything, from anywhere, on any device cut the shackles that made my moving to physically be in New York in proximity to Wall St. and the investment banks to pursue my choice of career
 I have been fortunate to have had someone to fill that role for me even after thirty-eight years in professional practice.
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Author: Sean Hocking
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