CPAs can give peace of mind around the Fiscal Cliff

December 17, 2012
Nicole Cassidy, CPA of Zapitelli CPAs Inc. & Andy Nentwich, CPA of GBQ Partners, LLC answer viewer calls during the NBC4 fiscal cliff call in Dec. 11.

Nicole Cassidy, CPA of Zapitelli CPAs Inc. & Andy Nentwich, CPA of GBQ Partners, LLC answer viewer calls during the NBC4 fiscal cliff call in Dec. 11.

Even if we manage to avoid the fiscal cliff as a nation, it is pretty much impossible to avoid the fiscal cliff news cycle. 24-7 updates on the web, TV and social media have bombarded Americans with pundit opinions, what-if scenarios and the specter of uncompromising politicians.

What does it all mean? Unfortunately, many Americans don’t seem to understand the potential implications to their own financial situation. That was abundantly clear during a fiscal cliff call in show airing this month on NBC4 evening news in Columbus. During the news hour, a group of Ohio CPAs fielded hundreds of calls from central Ohio viewers.

One remarked he was really surprised at the number of callers who really had no clue about what could be coming. But they took the first step to getting advice by making the call.

Now is really the time to map out a “what-if” scenario and CPAs are uniquely positioned to offer sound tax and financial advice to not only clients, but the public as well.

CPAs can help educate the public in several ways:

  • Consider authoring a blog post for your firm’s website, offering a free webinar or serving as a content curator of external articles.
  • Talk to your friends and family to make sure they understand the basics.
  • Call your local civic organization (Kiwanis, VFW Post) and ask if they would be interested in a half hour presentation on the fiscal cliff.
  • Become an OSCPA volunteer and serve as a media spokesperson for tax call ins and related interviews.

Not only will your efforts generate positive publicity for your firm, but you may also bring in new clients. Most importantly, you can use your skill set to help those less informed get ready, even if no one knows quite what to expect come January 1.

For more fiscal cliff resources, visit Financial Fitness Ohio’s Tax Tips or visit the AICPA’s resource page.


Operation CPA eases tax burdens for Ohio military families

March 10, 2012

Military families have a lot of responsibility to juggle, especially when a family member is deployed. To help lessen the burden on the soldiers and their families, The Ohio Society of CPAs partnered with the Ohio National Guard to create Operation CPA, a program that matches Ohio military families with local CPAs to provide free tax preparation services each tax season.

Now in its seventh year, Operation CPA has helped over 400 military families that are permanent residents of Ohio and currently deployed outside of the state.

This program is made possible thanks to the generous time donated by OSCPA member volunteers. One such volunteer, Elizabeth Kroll, CPA of Pease & Associates, Inc. in the Cleveland area saw an ad in CPA Voice seeking volunteers.

“I thought that these families, not just the soldiers, give so much to protect me and my home. I don’t have much time or talents to offer so this is something I can do to repay their generosity,” she said of making the decision to help.

OSCPA matched Kroll with the Shugrue family. After a news story appeared on WKYC in Cleveland, Marisa Shugrue decided to take advantage of the free help.

“Earlier that day I had been thinking, ‘I need to figure out our tax situation soon,’ so it was perfect timing, Marisa said. “I sent an email to the Society right away. It’s great that it’s just one less thing for me to worry about.”

Marisa’s husband, Staff Sergeant Mike Shugrue is currently on his third deployment with a unit based out of Lima, Ohio. “The most difficult thing, of course, is the separation for me and my daughters from my husband. But it’s also difficult to do everything on my own or to have to rely on family and friends for so much. We’re lucky that as a National Guard family we’re close to our extended family, but the downside is we don’t necessarily have access to the traditional military services and support.”

So why is it helpful to have a CPA prepare military tax returns as opposed to using tax software or doing them on your own?

“There are many deductions that are offered to military personnel that they may not be aware of,” Kroll warns. “Also, portions of their pay may be non-taxable.”

After connecting with Kroll, Marisa describes her experience as very seamless.

“I received a response nearly immediately from the Society and heard from a CPA within a day or two,” Marisa remembers. “She and I set up a convenient time to meet, and everything has gone well from there. We are meeting one more time in a few days to go over the return, and I anticipate it will wrap-up smoothly.”

“I have both done the taxes myself and used a CPA in the past. Going through Operation CPA offers both peace of mind that our taxes were done properly and saves us a lot of money, which is obviously very helpful.”

The reasons that OSCPA volunteers feel it’s important to give back through Operation CPA vary, but for Kroll, it’s all about helping where her specialties lie. “If I can help them make one area of their life less stressful then I have done my job.”

The Shugrue family now has at least one weight lifted off their shoulders until they’re all united again. “With my husband gone I feel like I’m juggling so many things, and Operation CPA has taken one of those off my hands. I’m very grateful for that. I have already recommended Operation CPA to other military families.”

SSG Mike Shugrue, Sadie (2), Paige (then four months, now 9 months), Marisa Shugrue

If you have had an experience with Operation CPA either as a volunteer or as a military family needing tax preparation assistance, please share your story below!

Learn more about volunteering for Operation CPA, or how to be matched with a CPA in your area.

FETCH! delivers fun with learning for 5th & 6th graders

November 29, 2010

Walter J. Eckert, CPA, CVA
Russell, Eckert, Mealer & Kalb, CPA’s Inc.

Fetch_logo_120x60 The morning of November 10 started a little noisier than usual for me. I’m a CPA, but instead of heading into my office, I headed to London Elementary School in Madison County to lead 5th graders in a new game called FETCH! This wasn’t for gym class and the students weren’t running after sticks, this was for math class and the students were learning about financial literacy.

FETCH! stands for Financial Education Teaches Healthy Habits. The game is sponsored by The Ohio CPA Foundation to teach kids important concepts like saving and budgeting. Plus, I was able to tell the kids what it’s like to be CPA and work in the accounting profession.

FETCH! in itself is a simple game. Using a dog park concept, the students are divided into teams and each team takes ownership of an imaginary dog, which they must name and then assume responsibility for the financial ups and downs of owning a pet. The goal of the game is to purchase four items: collar, leash, food and water, and a dog bone. At the end, the team that has those four items and the most money in their imaginary savings account wins.

In the first couple rounds of the game all the teams were eager to roll the dice and see if they could earn more money. The room was loud as the teams had fun hoping to build their savings balance. This was all fine and good until…one of the teams got caught by the dog catcher for not having a leash or collar.

You could almost hear the click in their heads. Each of the teams began to realize that while the money in the savings account was good to have, there were responsibilities and expenses for their dog that needed to be taken care of. More importantly, they realized that there were risks for NOT taking care of their financial responsibilities.

From that point, strategizing became part of the game plan for each team. Whether they decided to spend some of their savings to buy one of the required items or roll the dice to see what might happen in the dog park, they planned each move. They were saving and spending and budgeting to make sure their dog and their team had what it needed.

A couple teams saw their saving account balances hit $0 and one team went into the negative. There is no credit allowed in FETCH! so these teams had to build up their savings accounts again to continue purchasing the four required items. Along the way, the teams learned money management terms such as earnings, expenses, auditing, donations and many others.

FETCH! was an absolute success in this classroom. I was impressed (as was their teacher, Mr. Reeser) at how quickly the kids picked up on the concept of budgeting for their expenses. The collar and the leash were the two most expensive items they had to buy, but nearly every team made sure they saved enough to buy them first to avoid the penalty of the dog catcher. The cheaper dog bone (the dog’s luxury item) was typically the last item purchased. They learned to budget the “needs” before the “wants” – a concept that many adults have problems with.

As a father to two young boys I know that teaching the concepts of budgeting, earning and saving takes time and practice. If money grew on trees it would be easy to give our children everything they ask for. But, it doesn’t. So parents and teachers need to give children the right tools and information to become smart money managers. FETCH! is a great tool to use to start the conversation with children, have them practice the concepts and get them on the path towards financial literacy. Plus, they will have a good time too!

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