(Give Yourself) The Gift of Good Business for the Next Decade

Guest posts are always difficult. Too often the material that crosses my desk is of very low quality or thinly disguised ads, usually both. I pass faster than a speeding bullet. 

Then there are people I know that I would love to have write a guest post. They are articulate and care about the reader. Unfortunately, they are also busy. However!!! Through good fortune I was able to convince one of these people to to write down her wisdom for you, kind readers.

Debbie Todd has followed this blog for a long time and is a recommended tax pro on the Find a Local Tax Pro page of this blog. Seeing Debbie work with clients on social media has left no doubt in my mind of her level of knowledge, experience and willingness to serve her clients at the highest level possible. 

This post started over a discussion on Facebook. Debbie left a comment and I said I would love to hear all the details about it, preferably as a guest post. It was a lot of work, but she complied. As a result, you get to pull back the curtain and see how things run in a smooth operating tax office that serves clients like royalty and how you can get the same results with your tax pro. I wish I always lived up to those high levels.

Be sure to read to the end. I will copy Debbie’s contact information from the Finding a Local Tax pro page to the end of this post, along with a link to a worksheet you can download. You want that worksheet!

Thank you for the post, Debbie. It will help readers and me alike.


Guest post: Debbie Todd of iCompass Compliance Solutions, LLC


SECRET INSIDER Bean-Counter Chat Alert – Earlier this year, the Wealthy Accountant and I chatted online about what CPAs and Enrolled Agents like to talk about — innovative ways to serve, educate — and yes, sometimes even boot our clients in their business behind — while keeping our sanity and a semblance of family balance.

I promised to share a couple of strategic tips and a tool I developed that transformed not only my own business, but also generated amazing results for my firm’s clients. Then unexpectedly, LIFE got in the way of delivering on that promise — until now.

I lost two long-term step-parents within 3 months and then both my brothers had major cardiac events. Experiencing sudden and profound change, loss and grief sure puts things in perspective. Not an excuse — but I hope you can relate. Life throws unexpected curve balls which get in the way of best laid plans for your business, your personal life and even your legacy. Decisions matter! Adjust, breathe and take the next step. And the next…

Just as Summer gave way to Fall — and now as our lungs are filled with the brisk air of Winter — know that Spring 2020 is just around the corner. A new season, a new decade and untapped new opportunities await.

Read on to learn how…


David or Goliath – What Mattered Most?

The log in the fire is crackling, casting a rosy glow of warmth on the stockings, the twinkling tree and the ribbon-wrapped presents… 

As happens so often during the holiday season, I spend time reflecting on what worked well (and didn’t) with my beloved clients. I muse on the opportunities and challenges they faced in growing their business this year, adapting to new tax rules, employee issues, as well as several experiencing traumatic family events, which suddenly altered some of their best-laid plans.

What tips and tools could I share to allow them to be more successful in 2020 and beyond? I’m their CPA, their trusted financial coach and I take that privilege seriously. So do most of my amazing bean-counter friends.

Whether you are a large international company, a locally owned small business entrepreneur or a trendy global digital nomad, having rock-solid business goals and smart financial processes behind you is critical for your success. It’s not your size — it’s your heart, purpose and willingness to take action. Like David. . . 

Let’s face it, you’re toast without it… and often sooner rather than later.


Seizing a New Decade of Opportunities

As I gaze thoughtfully into the log’s dancing flames and scratch our aging Labrador’s graying ears, I realize that in just a matter of days, we will usher in a brand new decade…and brand new opportunities.

With last year’s tax law changes, a plethora of retirement planning opportunities (the SECURE Act, for example), combined with continuing economic growth, this reflection seems more weighty, more impactful and infinitely more exciting than prior years.

So, as a seasoned tax and financial strategy practitioner, I regularly share updates on these opportunities with my clients via email and during our quarterly meetings — but, how do we address (get to know) new businesses who want to join our cherished client family?


Communications and our Beloved NCO Triage

Like the log’s embers keep the fire going, providing both light and warmth, having a foundation of trust, clearly stated goals and objectives fueled by open communication, regular review and adjustments — translates to success on both sides of our client relationships.

Think about when you go to the doctor or the emergency room. You want the professionals taking care of you to listen and understand what is going on with you so you can get the correct diagnosis and treatment, right? Well the same holds true for your business or family financial health.

Over the last several years, I have developed what we call our NCO Triage, or New Client Onboarding Triage. It has blossomed to over 7 pages – and NO, this is NOT like your tax organizer. It’s a strategic financial life goals framework that helps me help you turn your dreams from vision into reality.

Yes, it asks questions about your business like what kind it is, what state(s) you operate in, your revenues, status of tax filings, who does what in the finance functions, etc, but also covers key details like a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).

Next, we learn about your life goals… not just for your business, but how your business fuels your life’s passions and dreams. 1, 3, 5, 10 and even 20 years. After all, that IS why you are working, right? Finally, we discuss your communication styles and preferences so we are both comfortable with how we will play together going forward. Ninety-five percent of preventable challenges stem from miscommunication.

So, WHY is this Important?

Keeping an eye on the fire is important. Left unattended, the fire eventually dies out and the cold will seep in. A few strategically placed money tips will keep your financial fireplace warm and toasty.

As stated earlier and without sounding too cheeky (okay maybe just a little) — your cash flows, financial foundations and habits are the lifeblood of your business. Your goals and vision sets the heartbeat and pace with which you operate. Slow and steady wins the race.

Wanna know something cool? Meeting with your CPA or EA can actually be FUN! Seriously…

I just wrapped up Q4-2019 meetings with many of my clients. Most calls start out something like this… ”Hey Deb, I’d like to meet with you for an hour this time. Let’s talk about our financials and the tax items for the first 30 minutes or so. Then I have a couple of ideas I want to run by you, so put on your counselor hat for the rest of the call, OK??” What an honor to help them explore possibilities that will improve their lives. After all, wouldn’t you rather be helping transform your client’s future with smart financial tips and tools as opposed to simply fixing and filing their historical transactions? Seriously, I get just as jazzed up as they do — and LOVE to see their dreams become reality.


Key Takeaways and Next Steps for Caring Pros and Smart Clients

Mylie, our Lab, is looking at me with that “Mom, it’s time for bed” look. I get up, turn the Christmas tree lights off and add an all-nighter log to the fire — so it will have energy to burn, keeping our house toasty warm while we sleep and dream.

Fellow Tax and Financial Pros — Key Thoughts AND A GIFT

  1. Proactive Planning with Forward Focus: Understand that your best value as a passionate and knowledgeable financial professional lies in proactively helping your clients achieve their dreams and life goals. Right, wrong or sideways, you can only fix and file past transactions. Instead, help your clients avoid those mistakes in the first place while providing tools to make their future dreams a reality. (Hint: Start on page 4 of the NCO!) Leverage this mindset into your practice’s core values and I believe you’ll both be happier as a result. 
  2. It’s NOT about the Money: This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Don’t compete strictly on price – EVER. Not everyone needs to be your client. Read that again. It took you YEARS of training, countless exams and ongoing research every single year to do what you do and do it well. It’s about VALUE: The amount of money I save clients each year far supersedes their invoice amount. Don’t sell yourself short – your knowledge is worth it.
  3. Equip Your Clients: Many clients are NOT money gurus – they are great artisans in their own field, but need your financial expertise so their business can thrive and grow. Offering monthly or quarterly meetings, a Q4 tuneup and emails of key tips are simple ways you can help your clients go to the next level. Plus, it provides a reasonable revenue stream outside of tax season!
  4. The GIFT: You can download a copy of my NCO and adapt it for your firm’s use. The fun part starts on page 4! Understand, I am NOT giving tax or legal advice and this document does not replace your well-crafted Engagement Letter or professional due diligence procedures. Use the following link:

2019 NCO – New Client Onboarding Triage Initial Questionnaire Template

Smart Clients Wanting to Up their Game (It’s OK if you read the Tax pros list above too)

  1. Identify Your Goals and Vision: As 2020 begins, what do you want to accomplish in the next year or the next decade? Seriously, a little dreaming and planning can make a HUGE difference! Feel free to download the last four pages of the NCO, dream and jot down your thoughts (crackling fire and aging Labrador optional, but highly recommended)!
  2. Plan With Your Tax/Money Pro: If you are not planning with your tax pro outside of annually filing your taxes, you are missing out on a golden opportunity to make small (or even large), consistent improvements to your financial bottom line throughout the entire year. Yes, you should pay them for these meetings too – unless they are already on retainer.
  3. Execute, Review, Adjust, Repeat: Dreams and vision are great, but it’s ACTION that wins the race…100% of the time. I’d rather see imperfect action (within legal bounds of course) than a perfectly procrastinated idea. As part of your meetings, you can set timelines, deliverables, checkpoints and get objective feedback and insights to adjust course, as needed. Then repeat!

I, for one, am truly excited about spending quality time with loved ones and enjoying Christmas – celebrating Jesus and all the wonders we have been blessed with – and those opportunities which await. [Editor’s note: Debbie delivered this to me December 23rd. Your lazy editor didn’t get to it until after the 1st of the year.]

Wishing each of you a joyous, happy and safe Christmas and New Year – AND a next decade that blesses your family and business beyond measure!

Debbie Todd

Your Friend in Financial Wellness, Debbie








Contact Information

iCompass Compliance Solutions, LLC, dba 1 Hour Impact Firm #5917

Locations we prefer to serve: SW WA or Portland, OR Area. WBE certified in both OR and WA

Contact: Easiest to reach me via email or https://www.facebook.com/TheSpunkyCPA/

Email: deborah.todd.cpa@gmail.com

Areas of practice: Federal and state personal and small biz taxes, Non-Profit – 990s, IRS compliance and remediation, divorce and estates, also small biz startup strategy. Niche expertise in small business interactions with State and Federal Government Contracting.

In person or fully digital capabilities.

Areas of practice you don’t handle: Ex-Pat, valuation disputes, M&A.

Bio: You can learn more here, including govt background- http://1hourimpact.com/about-us/

Interesting tidbit: Special passion for teaching smart early childhood financial literacy using engaging, interactive theater.


More Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here. 

Hiring a World Class Tax Professional

It's your money. Finding the right tax professional to serve your needs is important. It's not just about adding a few numbers to a return; it's about helping you pay less in taxes and build your nest egg for retirement. Your family is counting on you. Make sure you have the right accountant on your team.What is the largest expense you’ll have in your life?

Some will say it’s the purchase of their home or their college education. Others, thinking about it a while, feel transportation expenses lead the list of lifetime expenses. You would be justified in thinking medical costs, including medical insurance, are the biggest expense you will face in life.

Yet none of these expenses are close to what you will pay in taxes over a lifetime. 

Taxes will consume over half of what the average American earns over a lifetime. This means no other expense can possibly be larger.

The list of taxes in nearly inexhaustible: federal income taxes, state income taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes and now tariffs are being added to the costs of many goods you buy.

Let’s take a look at the taxes a typical American pays:

  1. Federal income taxes: 20% (yes, you get deductions and credits, but many pay 20% or more after these tax reductions)
  2. State income taxes: 5% (some states are higher while some have no income tax)
  3. Sales taxes: 5% of spending (some items are not subject to sales tax however)
  4. Property taxes: 5% of income, but is levied against the value of the property so it can be a larger (or smaller) slice of your income
  5. Payroll taxes: 15.3% (half paid by employee, half by employer)
  6. Excise taxes: What isn’t taxed? From alcohol to fuel to tobacco to vehicle registration and so on.
  7. Import taxes: Tariffs are a tax paid by consumers of the country levying the tariff and that is going up in the U.S.
  8. Other taxes: As a consumer you pay the taxes of businesses in the form of higher prices. Taxes are built into virtually every product and service. Medical expenses are usually exempt from sales taxes, but the taxes on the system are passed on to consumers. If they didn’t they would go broke meaning the survivors do pass on the cost of their taxes.

No one tax seems insidious by itself, but added together they take a massive chunk of your wealth unless you take actions to lower your tax liability.

Some taxes are difficult to reduce. If you buy gasoline you will pay the excise tax, for example. 

You can avoid many taxes by refusing to consume. That is easier said than done after a certain point. Frugality can save a lot of money, but go too far and you cross the line into being cheap. And there is still something to be said about quality of life.

Reducing consumption doesn’t avoid all taxes. Less consumption means less sales tax, but your wages still get hit with payroll and incomes taxes. 

The good news is you can use the tax code to reduce taxes beyond the mere consumption taxes (sales and excise). The United States has a progressive tax system which means your tax bite increases with your level of income. The first $24,000 of income on a joint return is tax-free because that is the standard deduction. Earn several hundred thousand and your top dollar earned can be taxed at over 30%. And that is just federal taxes. The state you live in wants a chunk too.


Investing in Tax Avoidance

Tax avoidance can be a dirty word in the tax profession since it is often the words we use when illegal activities are involved to avoid taxes. However, tax avoidance can be 100% legal!

There are two type of tax avoidance you need to consider: tax deferred and tax-free.

Tax deferred strategies push the tax into the future when you pay them with deflated dollars and potentially a lower tax bracket. Tax-free strategies avoid income taxes completely.

Is your tax professional Wealthy Accountant Certified? The right accountant can  reduce your taxes, help you accumulate wealth and achieve your financial goals.The Tax Code is massive and changing all the time. At the risk of sounding self-serving, you need a qualified tax professional if you are serious about reducing your tax liability. The Tax Code is too complex to navigate effectively without experienced help.

I could go into several tax reducing strategies today, but this isn’t a post on specific strategies. Besides, your facts and circumstances will probably dictate a slightly to radically different approach to meet your needs.

This is where you might think I would recommend my office for your needs. Except that isn’t going to happen.

I closed my office to new clients six months ago until June 1st (which is fast approaching). Unfortunately, a few factors will not make that a good choice for you after June 1st.

First, my regular clients filled May and June to the hilt so in reality July is the earliest I can get a new client in for a consultation.

Second, I decided (with my team) to focus more on local clients. (I owe my community my services. They breathed lifeblood into my firm and spreading myself too thin is very problematic.)

Third, my health had deteriorated significantly.

Before we continue onto solutions you can use I will take short detour into my health issues.


Learning to Breathe

When I was 18 or 19 years old I entered a silo with silo gas. Like a good worker I toughed it out to finish the work. Unfortunately, silo gas damages the lungs.

The best accountants do more than prepare taxes; they advise their clients for maximum wealth. You work hard for your money. Keep as much as legally possible while growing your net worth.I’ve since had short bouts of difficult breathing. These bouts are accompanied with persistent coughing. Cold weather makes it worse.

This past winter started early and lasted long. It isn’t hard to say we had a good six months of winter in the Northwoods of Wisconsin this year. 

I started out good this winter, but didn’t travel south for a short respite from the cold this year.

Around mid-February I started losing my voice (some might actually think that is a good thing). The cough soon followed. With tax season in full swing I was never granted a reprieve. The cough got seriously worse.

Here it is mid-May and the cough is still running strong; three months of hell and still going. The doctor said there is nothing she can do and recommended extended rest. (Well, that doesn’t work well with me.) 

I hurt. A lot. Nothing I do or take seems to work. Summer heat can’t come soon enough.

The cough has sapped my strength to the point I nearly faint when coughing spells hit which is often (like 5-10 times an hour).

To top it off my voice is gone. It has started to come back a bit, but the last days of tax season were so bad I couldn’t talk and breathe at the same time. It was difficult breathing at all! I still find it hard to breathe often. (And I never smoked, in case you’re wondering.)


Finding an Ace Tax Professional

No one person can be the go-to guy of the industry. I might be good, but pushed my body too hard and now the price is being paid. 

My openings available this year will be limited so I can produce two courses you will find valuable and to make Camp Accountant a reality. If my health does not improve I will take no additional clients this year.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting around twiddling my thumbs! I am fully aware of my limitations and have taken steps to provide more qualified choices for you.

Hopefully you have noticed the Finding a Local Tax Pro link at the top of most pages of this blog. The list of tax professionals is still small, but growing.

Not all areas of the U.S. are covered. If you are a tax professional who follows my philosophy, consider adding your name to the list. If you know of a tax professional who does outstanding work, consider nominating them for inclusion on the list. I will contact them before adding them to the list. (They have to want to be a part of this.)


Certified Wealthy Accountant Tax Professionals

And that brings up a good point. What level of quality do the tax pros on the list have?

The question recently arrived via email. A reader wanted to know what I thought of one of the tax pros on the list. In that instance I confessed I did not know the tax pro mentioned and could not vouch for their level of competence.

However, those on the list had to take action to get there. They either read this blog or follow my work as I post it around social media. I would be surprised if they were below average. (Let me know your experience. Too many bad marks and they will be off the list. The good news is I have received no bad comments on any tax pros on the list! Fingers crossed that continues.)

Still, it is not good enough to just put names on a list without vetting them. Over the next year I will take steps to “certify” tax pros on the list as Wealthy Accountant Approved. (They can be still be on the list if not “certified”, but I think people visiting this blog will steer toward the “certified” names.) It might eventually roll out to a national designation showing tax professionals who not only are competent, but can add value to their clients by consulting and providing actionable tax strategies to increase wealth (like maxing out retirement plans, maximizing tax credits, et cetera).

Tax professionals who attend Camp Accountant will be offered the “certified” designation. Tax professionals I have worked with personally and trust their work will also gain the designation. 

Rather than simple testing, I plan an in-depth vetting process to include the best of the best tax professionals on this blog’s list with the Wealthy Accountant Approved designation.

This is a valuable resource for you and the tax pro. You know the tax pro meets a high standard and the tax pro can charge more for their exceptional level of professionalism. (Smart people are never afraid to pay more for quality. It is the high price for mediocre quality that irritates.)


Putting a Good Tax Pro to Work

Top-notch tax professionals are always busy. The good news is you don’t have to settle for one tax pro!

As the tax pro list grows you will have more opportunities to find a Wealthy Accountant tax pro locally. Until then you can keep your current accountant while gaining the full benefit of using a Wealthy Accountant tax pro.

You work hard for your money. The right accountant can help reduce your tax burden while helping you build your retirement accounts. Save for your future; have more time with friends and family; travel the world. It all starts with the right accountant on your team.Tax season is not the time you save money tax planning. Tax season is triage in ALL tax offices! The options for saving taxes on the return being filed is massively limited (y’all want an IRA deduction with that, is about all we can do).

Reducing your taxes happens now, outside tax season. A few hours of consulting can pay off with a massive return. It is not uncommon for my clients to save 10 times or more than my fee in taxes. This is a 1,000% return! Some clients save even more. In some cases I don’t reduce their taxes but help them understand their tax and financial situation better so they can maximize wealth creation even if taxes are not reduced.

It is rare for a client consultation to end with tax reductions less than my fee. In those cases the value is usually increased wealth from other sources or fixing a tax issue that is sure to bite the client in the future.

I encourage you to use this resource: the Finding a Local Tax Pro list. I do NOT charge anyone to be on this list! This is for you, kind readers. There is no financial benefit to me. You get the value and I get the warm fuzzy feeling more of you are getting the service you deserve and that I can no longer provide. Yes, Camp Accountant has a fee, but that is to cover the costs of the Camp. I want Wealthy Accountant Certified to mean something everyone can trust. I want a day to come when everyone demands their tax professional be Wealthy Accountant Certified whether on this list or not.


As much as I want to help the world, I am one man who has pushed his body too far. I have to think smarter if I am to help every one of you kind readers. Just because I can help someone doesn’t mean I should. Too much work can break the horses back. Well, this horse is struggling with health issues as a result. 

I’m never one to shy away from work. I love what I do, even when it hurts. But if I go down no one is helped. I owe it to you, every one of you, to act and think smarter. The audience is too large for one small office in the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin to handle. 

I need a team and one is being built. I will give all I have because you deserve only the best. When I push too far it is impossible to give the best. 

With the expanding team of tax professionals around the nation we can serve you at the highest level possible.

Don’t be afraid to hire a tax pro from the list. Ask the right questions before hiring. I published two posts on this in the past: 7 Questions Rich People Ask Their Accountant and Finding a Good Accountant.

Ask questions to verify the tax pro can serve your needs. Many tax professionals specialize. As long as you’re going to pay for the service you may as well get the best one possible.


In parting, do not worry about your favorite accountant. I thought the end of tax season would give me a breather (pun intended), but so far the cough and breathing issues have not improved. Warmer weather and time off (tax season really doesn’t end until June or so as extensions and questions come in rapid-fire until then) should allow me to heal. I am a bit worried this has lasted so long and so strong.

I’ll survive, no matter how much it hurts. I always do. I am fully aware of your presence and need, kind readers. I will find a way to get every one of you served to the level you deserve and more.



More Wealth Building Resources

Credit Cards can be a powerful money management tool when used correctly. Use this link to find a listing of the best credit card offers. You can expand your search to maximize cash and travel rewards.

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here.