I’ve practiced public accounting for over 30 years. I was a tax partner in a regional firm before launching my own boutique tax practice in Santa Fe, N.M. a few years ago.
Tax season is when I have the most contact with my clients. I love learning about what they’re doing and helping them find the best solutions to their concerns. We have a highly diverse community in Santa Fe. My clients represent that diversity and I love it. I’ve got artists and art galleries, restaurants, film makers and native Americans. I also have some wealthy individuals and quite a few oil and gas businesses that are struggling this year.
My whole practice is focused on maintaining the right work-life balance. I don’t have the pressure of firm performance goals. I’ve worked in that type of environment and one of the reasons I went out on my own was because I don’t need that anymore. That said, I’ll still be very busy the next few months because I’m a tax practitioner. I was just looking today at my list of delinquent 1099s. I need to make some phone calls.
My only hard and fast rule is that I never work Sundays. My stress during busy season is the pressure that I place on myself to take care of clients who depend on me. I’ve had some of my clients for 30 years. I feel personally obligated to take care of them.
I don’t focus on revenue the way a traditional firm would. Yet my practice has grown because I provide quality service with care and feeling for my clients and their goals and aspirations. I get a lot of clients who also aren’t primarily focused on revenue or income, but they need sound financial advice to succeed in realizing their dreams.
I ask a lot of questions when I meet with clients to review their taxes. But because I limit the services I provide mainly to tax, I end up referring a lot of work to other people I know in town. I do payroll for some small employers. I think the biggest one has eight employees. I don’t prepare financial statements or perform audit or attest work. I do some basic QuickBooks consulting on how to set up accounts and run reports.
I make a good living. I accept that sometimes I make more and sometimes less.
I enjoy my work, but that doesn’t mean I want to drag it out by doing everything the old fashioned way. To the contrary, the work I most enjoy is meeting with clients and finding the best solutions to meet their needs. The more efficient I am on administrative tasks, the more time I can spend on the work I most enjoy—or doing things I enjoy that have nothing to do with work.
I use a fully integrated cloud-based tax service that saves me a lot of time. Now if only I could get my clients organized…
One of the fun things about having my own practice is that I can take the time to research issues of special interest to me and my community. Here in Santa Fe energy efficiency and renewable energy are popular.
I always have two or three people who buy electric cars. This year I’m expecting a Tesla surge. I’ve had one or two already and hear that they’re the hot item right now for people at a certain income or wealth level. I like to help clients determine exactly what the tax advantages are—or are NOT—for a particular electric car.
We get a lot of sunshine and every year about 10% of my clients install some kind of solar system. I enjoy researching the technologies, the tax credits and return on investment. I have thermal solar panels on my house and passive solar heating via a two story greenhouse in the center of our living space.
Sometimes people put in huge photovoltaic panels—far more than they’ll ever use, just to get rebates from selling power to the electric company. But at night they don’t have sufficient battery storage and they’re pulling power from the grid. If electric companies start charging for grid access, which I think is likely, it could change many assumptions. I try to bring concerns like this to the attention of clients who could be impacted.
In a really small practice like mine, a sense of fulfillment comes from getting very close to my clients and helping them solve problems and achieve their dreams. I think the key to a successful busy season is knowing what my capabilities are and being willing to turn down work if necessary to not overwhelm myself. I also know that I’ve got to be organized enough myself to stay on top of clients who aren’t. It’s frustrating at times, but this is part of the service I provide.
Ann M. MacKinnon CPA, owns her own firm in Santa Fe, N.M
Last updated: 21 October 2019