and Business Forms
Wendy Ezell PLLC today announced the launch of a new, optional NetClient CS module — Legal and Business Forms, powered by LegalStreet. This easy-to-use online library of
legal and business forms is tailored for business owners.
The new module contains basic forms that are routinely needed by business
clients — including simple contracts and lease agreements, promissory notes, human resources documentation, and other
general business and legal compliance forms. The resource is designed to help tax and accounting professionals ensure their
business clients are in compliance with increasingly complex tax and legal requirements.
Using Legal and Business Forms via their secure and private NetClient
CS portals, clients will be presented with an easy-to-use tool that guides them through the completion of basic forms.
Wendy Ezell PLLC sets standard for ELP Service at
July 15, 2014
"So many families go generations making the same mistakes." says Wendy Ezell, CPA. " If you can reach
out and make a positive change, it's like planting a seed that will be harvested many times over."
Wendy has been an
ELP for eight years, and her push to help make a difference in the lives of hers clients and thier families has made her one
of the program's top professionals. "I really like Dave's philosophy. I believe that doing taxes should be holistic
and a family matter."
with the Dave Ramsey is largely due to the way she and her team treats those clients. "We always respond and call back
within 2 hours. We make their visit to our office delightful - the 'Ritz Carlton treatment.' We never tell them
how bad things are, and always look for solutions."
Wendy says the key is communication. "Obviously, they are ready to talk. Most have come to the decision to take
control of their finances and are ready to make a change, even if the change starts small. Make sure you keep your meetings
with them and always moving forward and toward a goal."
January 1, 2013
NetClient CS private
portals offer you and your clients an easy way to access documents and software, share data and collaborate in real time.
As private, secure extensions of your own website, portals give clients anytime online access to your services. With clients
concerns focusing on protection and the growing identity theft, portals provide a safe and easy way to communicate.
Despite Bailout $; Bank Raises Rate On Church Loan
American banks received billions of dollars in bailout money. With that in mind, one North Texas
pastor wondered why his bank raised the interest rate on his church.
Pastor Steve Solomon, of Riverwalk Fellowship in Haltom
City, took out a 20-year loan with JPMorgan Chase to finance the $2.4 million church building. The church paid a 7
½-percent interest rate on the loan and had never missed or made any payments late. After five years of payments
Riverwalk had $1 million in equity.
Now here's where things get more complicated. The original loan had
a five-year renewable. That means, every five years Chase could look at the church books and decide whether or not
to raise the interest rate.
Pastor Solomon said, "We've been hit a little by the economy, but not that bad." So, Solomon
said he was surprised last fall, when Chase raised the interest rate to more than 11-percent. "On a $1.3 million
loan, our mortgage payment would go up about $4,000 a month."
Grapevine certified public accountant Wendy Ezell told CBS 11 News, "It's a sign of banks being stressed." Ezell said
despite the bank bailout, banks are cutting off lines of credit or turning them into loans, with much higher monthly payments.
"People who are really credit worthy, that probably should have lines of credit, were called in during the first two
months of this year," she explained. "I've seen time after time where they're calling them [loans]
in and cutting their lines of credit off. I don't know that a bank would admit that to you."
So, how does this scenario
fit with the Riverwalk loan problem? The church had also taken out a $100,000 line of credit. Ezell thinks banks
are still worried about loan defaults and are reducing their risks and dropping liabilities.
"I think they
were just telling us, they didn't want our business," said Pastor Solomon.
Chase did give the church time to look for another bank.
In a phone interview with CBS 11, a Chase representative said, "We offered a renewal and they didn't like the renewal.
We helped them put together a financial package and gave them two extensions."
Those two, 90-day, extensions did help. Riverwalk
found a credit union to take their loan and will now pay $2,000 less each month than they had been
paying with Chase before the interest rate increase.
When state auditors called Brian Terrell wanting to see his firm's books,
he thought he had nothing to hide.
"There's absolutely no reason I should have stood out. We were
small, maybe $400,000 in revenue, I thought I was doing everything correct," Terrell says of his Dallas-based business.
Because Terrell & Terrell, CPAs, was so small, the auditor evaluated all
the firm's invoices for the past four years and found a $4,000 variance in state and local tax (commonly called SALT)
it had failed to collect.
"That was embarrassing because the first thing they encourage you
to do is call your customers," Terrell says.
"Imagine buying a car and getting a call saying, "We forgot to charge you tax, would you mind paying
it?' I wrote the best letter, asking if there's any way they could help me and a lot of the customers wrote the
Terrell's experience is not unique. Most companies
learn about SALT in a reactive way and come running to their accountants when they encounter
problems. A bigger problem is that a lot of those accountants don't know much about
SALT, either, or don't want to take on the liability.
"I started searching for someone
to help me similar to the way a tax preparer would in an IRS audit, but it didn't
exist," Terrell says. "I was sharing an office with five other CPAs doing tax work day in and day out,
and they wouldn't even touch it. They knew anyone calling [for advice] was in a mess."
was 12 years ago and Terrell has since gone on to become a Sage Accpac
reseller who recently took on a project as part of his other company, CodePartners,
to integrate a Web-based sales and use tax software called SpeedTax into Accpac
so that the compliance work could take place behind the scenes for his customers, with transaction-based pricing ranging
from 10 to 45 cents.
With some experts predicting an average of two changes in sales tax
rates each day, companies either need to bring in a SALT specialist or install software
such as SpeedTax that provides real-time calculations, integrates into their accounting
system and provides detailed reports in case an auditor comes knocking, allowing them to be proactive instead of reactive,
SpeedTax, Avalara, Sabrix
and other sales tax software vendors have established referral programs for accountants
to send their clients to them for help. About 250 to 300 firms are part of Avalara's Accountants
Network, which essentially serves as a referral service, according to Marshal Kushniruk, executive
vice president of strategic accounts and customer experience for Avalara.
value proposition for accounting firms is they don't want to do the tedious calculations, but they can fulfill returns
for clients or have us do it," Kushniruk says.
The challenge the vendors are facing is that many companies that have problems don't
even know they have a responsibility to collect state and local tax and many accountants
don't know how to determine which of their clients fall into that category.
provides a Perfect Prospect Profile to characterize which companies may
be targets. Red flags go up for those entering a new market, doing business in more than one state, having offices in
more than one state, conducting business on the Web, and recently undergoing an audit (a statistic offered by SpeedTax states that more than 45 percent of companies that purchase technology to ensure
"accuracy and a defensible audit trail" do so after an audit).
Sales tax compliance is a tricky business and a bulk of firms may never hear
their clients utter the phrase until they are audited.
Software vendor SpeedTax has
put together a free CPA Questionnaire online that accountants can send to their clients
to answer and return to them via email.
It was designed to educate clients while collecting key information about potential risks that accountants could
use as a "springboard for corrective action," according to the company.
The multiple-choice survey takes about 15 minutes to complete, but it can
be saved and reopened in case clients don't know the answers to certain questions
(Not sure is a choice, however). After completion, a compliance snapshot appears detailing
risk from low to high in the form of dashboards broken into seven categories-audit defense, nexus, taxability, returns and
filing, exemptions and current practices. The client can then add comments before emailing it to his accountant.
Sample questions include:
* What sort of sales tax calculation software or service do you use?
* Do you have a system in place for filing, storing and managing exemption
* What percentage
of your customers are exempt?
How many sales and use tax returns will you file this year?
* Do you itemize your products versus service on invoices or contracts?
* How many SKUs are represented in your product line?
The full survey is available at www.speedtax.com/questionnaire/index.php
SpeedTax created a free online CPA Questionnaire that allows accountants to determine
their clients' sales tax audit risk. (See related story, "Compliance Checkup.")
October, CCH expanded its offerings to include a suite of products called
CorpSystem for corporate tax professionals to not only calculate rates but determine their end-of-month liability, prepare
returns and manage their exemption certificates (which are sometimes required to prove they were not required to collect
The Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters has
a sales tax compliance product line called OneSource Sales & Use Tax, which it markets
to larger companies with multinational operations, and also offers various guides for
users to understand the ins and outs of SALT.
In May, the Tax & Accounting business
of Thomson Reuters launched a consulting services arm that competes with
the Big Four and second-tier accounting firms to provide such things as taxability analysis
studies, nexus determination to see if they even are obligated to collect taxes in the first place based on their legal
presence in certain states and voluntary disclosure agreements to reduce penalties for
They also can evaluate merger and acquisition targets so companies can be alerted to
possible exposures and potentially negotiate purchase prices as a result, according to Rachel Stephens, manager of Consulting &
WorkFlow Services for the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters,
adding that services cost roughly $250 per hour.
aren't the only ones looking to help firms help their clients.
Several consulting firms exist throughout
the country that will work with clients directly, in conjunction with their accountant
or behind the scenes.
Ezell started her Grapevine, Texas-based practice after serving
as a SALT specialist for both Arthur Andersen
and Grant Thornton. When she handles federal tax returns for clients, she interviews
them about their overall business to determine if they may have sales tax issues.
"I often find they
are making attempts to [collect taxes], but aren't doing it properly. I attempt to get them healthy
and into remittance," says Ezell, whose clients range from small mom and
pops to companies with $75 million in revenue. "A good CPA would have to take notes
and listen for clues."
One of the most obvious clues is when a company ventures into another state, Ezell says, noting that what's taxable in one state
may not be taxable in another. For example, a client may boast that he sold $10,000 into
Montana for the first time.
"They think they're being friendly, but they're really giving me what information
I need and they didn't realize why they had to tell me," she says.
Accountants who are looking to identify which of their clients may encounter nexus issues should
run a report with revenue by state, and start managing the top 10 states, doing voluntary disclosure
to get them in compliance before the state tries to, Ezell advises.
always better if clients tell their accountants they are planning to do something beforehand. For example, Pennsylvania
penalizes companies that don't sell a certain amount into the state, which can end
up costing them more than they collected in revenue there,
Another example boils down to local jurisdictions that may offer incentives for businesses
considering opening new facilities in the area.
"It's rare you
can get incentives after you signed a lease and broke ground," says Diane Yetter,
president of Yetter Consulting Services,
a sales tax consulting firm based in Chicago.
started her career as a sales tax auditor for the state of Kansas in 1985 and served
as a sales tax manager at Arthur Anderson in 1989 and also helps clients with systems analysis and software
implementation. She works closely with about 15 CPA firms throughout the country, sometimes billing
them and sometimes billing the client, depending on the firm's desires and the complexity
of the situation.
Yetter believes her firm has been successful because she
doesn't do income tax work or general business consulting, so other accountants don't
fear they may lose business to her.
"Companies are relying on their CPAs to make
sure they're legitimate. If the CPA doesn't know when the company is doing something
that's putting the company at risk, the CPA is putting themselves at risk," Yetter
says. "CPAs have an ego of feeling they can be everything to the
client. By not bringing in the specialist, you are at greater risk of losing your client.
If the state assesses them $1 million and it's going to put the company out of business, you can bet
the company is going to sue the CPA."
States are growing more aggressive about going after people who don't pay as the
economy worsens and they need to fill their coffers, Ezell
says. (Estimates show about 50 percent of state revenue comes from sales
and use tax and billions of dollars go uncollected every year.)
They are lurking at truck stops to
watch how many times trucks cross the state borders, checking Yellow Pages to see where
companies are advertising and looking at Web sites with pull-down menus to see in which states they are willing to take
found that the total cost of compliance for small businesses is $130,000 a year, including
$10,000 on penalties and interest.
Sabrix, whose pricing is tiered and
starts around $1,000 per month for 40,000 transactions annually, doesn't do audit
work, but does provide legal citations of how it calculated rates and provides Web-based portals
to archive key data. The company also offers the firms that are part of its referral network access to a Sales
and Use Tax Webinar forum to help explain a variety of issues including regional trends
and shifting nexus definitions.
"We're trying to help them see the risks for
clients and help them keep their income work so [their clients] will not go to a bigger
firm," says Carla Yrjanson, Sabrix's
vice president of tax research. "The risk of not coming forward is you're entering
a fraud situation and they'll go back and asses until the beginning of time and
add interest and penalties. If you come forward and negotiate to get in compliance, you
have some control, can reduce penalties and reduce or eliminate interest."
Collins, vice president of government affairs for ADP/Taxware,
doesn't necessarily agree that the states have been any more aggressive than they
were five years ago, but he does see more states-about 17-implementing sales tax holidays
in which certain products such as clothing or school supplies are exempt from taxes for
ADP/Taxware receives referrals from both Big Four
and individual accountants with new clients, changes in personnel in their tax departments
or expanding to more markets, increasing potential exposure.
sometimes ask for a proposal, which the vendor provides for free, and help the vendor
answer initial questions so clients don't have to, or ADP conducts an in-depth scope analysis, for a cost. The point
is, many accountants need help in order to give help.
we reach out to firms, the first step is to understand their level of awareness and increase the risk management
and refund opportunity so they can evaluate their clients and figure out which ones are at risk,"
says Doug McCubbin managing director of
the AlliantGroup, which provides tax advisory
services to firms and their clients. "Most are comfortable in their own states but miss other opportunities for
credit and incentives. Unless you spend a lot of money on technology to stay on top of it,
there's room for lots of errors."
When clients do ask about technology, accountants should
first ask about the company's functional requirements and which of those functions
they have in their existing software before considering purchasing a new system, he says.
Some firms simply call AlliantGroup and ask questions which AlliantGroup
charges an hourly fee to answer, but 99 percent of the time AlliantGroup talks
directly to the client because a majority of projects will require revisiting down the
road, McCubbin says. And it's not only
the small firms that need help.
Eide Bailly has more
than a dozen offices and formed a SALT group about two years ago with seven employees.
But since so many companies are crossing state lines these days, this year the company aligned
with AlliantGroup to serve as national specialists and to help Eide Bailly with projects related to reverse sales tax
audits-aka refund reviews-for clients who may have collected more tax than they needed
to. AlliantGroup charges the firm and the firm charges
the client without marking up the price, but adds fees for any time spent on the project.
get more client work, gain experience and we're aware of everything that's happening," says Travis
W. Burgess, CPA, senior tax manager at Eide
The firm has plans to develop the specialty services in house down the road as a result
of this relationship, he says.
"People feel like they're failing if they can't
do everything. The one-stop shop has always been promoted as a great term, but maybe
it's not the best way," Burgess says, echoing Yetter's sentiments. "We let the client be aware there
are issues and let them know we have outside sources and connections that will benefit
them even though we don't have the resources."
DeFelice is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.