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Protecting & Growing Your Business
Benny Walker, CPA | Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra, Chartered

December 2012

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There’s a corny joke that circulates in many offices: “What is the definition of an accountant? Someone who solves a problem you did not know you had in a way you don’t understand.” Benny Walker would take exception to that.

Walker, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) with an MBA, is a principal at Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra, Chartered, an accounting and business Coversidebarconsulting firm with offices in Bel Air, Elkton and Lutherville. “As a profession, our job is to educate our clients,” Walker says. “Our goal is to help individuals and businesses be compliant with laws and regulations while helping them keep as much of their earnings as possible. We should be their best friends.”

Educate

The recent economic woes of the country and the efforts by Congress to protect consumers and prevent future recurring scenarios has inadvertently led to crippling compliance and reporting requirements that are burdening small businesses. “The larger sweeping reforms have created a ripple effect that is finally reaching our clients. The complicated tax laws, disclosures and financial reporting that were invented at the federal level are making our client’s lives miserable.” The sweeping reforms Walker is referring to include the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002; the Dodd-Frank Financial Regulatory Reform Bill of 2008; the new mortgage lending laws in 2009; and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. While each of these acts delivered much needed modifications intended to rein in publicly traded companies, they also created a maelstrom of paperwork and bottom line issues that are suffocating private enterprises. “Both the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) and the MACPA (Maryland Association of CPAs) are advocating for simpler tax codes and reporting,” informs Walker. “They are fighting hard to help smaller private businesses survive.”

Long used in conversations surrounding the environment and energy sources, “sustainability” has also become a buzzword when referring to our economy and financial landscape, says Walker. “It’s easy for people to be overwhelmed by discussions about the national debt and fiscal cliff,” he explains. “You start wondering why you should care as long as your own financial house is in order. The reason is simple – your grandchildren. If we don’t stop thinking and acting for the ‘now’ and start to think and act for future generations, what kind of quality of life and opportunity will your grandchildren have?”

Walker points to a video on AICPA’s website titled “What’s at Stake? A CPA’s Insights into the Federal Government’s Finances.” This 10-minute video explains in terms that a business owner or lay person would understand what’s really on the line for American citizens with the multi-trillion dollar national deficit and how to engage in a dialogue aimed at improving the country’s financial health. “We have to demand that our political representatives think beyond the next election when making financial decisions. It’s crucial to our future.”

Coming Home

Walker has been an accountant for over 29 years. He joined Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra in 1998 and was instrumental in establishing its Bel Air office. “I’m a lifelong Harford County

Benny talks with Senior Managers Rayma McRoberts and Janet Gomes in his office.

Benny talks with Senior Managers Rayma McRoberts and Janet Gomes in his office.

resident,” Walker explains. “I was confident that the company could gain footing here.” In 2000, Weyrich acquired a local Harford County firm and began servicing their clients. Working alongside Walker in the Bel Air office are Senior Managers and CPAs Rayma J. McRoberts, who joined the firm in 2002, and Janet E. Gomes, who joined the firm in 2004 as a Manager of the Bel Air office. “We’ve become very involved in the community and support a number of organizations and causes. We’re starting to see the seeds that we planted come to fruition.” Walker details how the company’s financial support in Harford County can be more impactful when compared to its Lutherville office. “Although Harford County is growing every year, it’s still relatively small in comparison to Baltimore County. When we put our financial resources behind an event or project here, it has a real effect.”

Growing up in Harford County, Walker relays how tight-knit the community was. “It used to be that people or businesses in Harford County didn’t want a Harford County accounting firm representing them for fear that everyone would know their business. But, that’s changing. New people coming to the county like that their firm or accountant is an integral part of the community. Being local says something about your stability and integrity.”

Moving Forward

With nearly three decades in the industry, Walker has witnessed the advent of modern office machines like the fax machine and the personal computer and the pervasive influence of both. “Technology has changed everything. Not just from a task perspective but from a policy perspective as well.” When Walker started his career in 1978, office equipment and technology was not as ubiquitous as it is today. He describes how he and his peers did tax returns in pencil and used “photo copiers” to make their duplicates. At an early job in the accounting department at Towson-based Black and Decker, he remembers using a fax machine for the first time that was reserved for international work and required nearly 30 minutes to transmit a single page. “Although the task of doing accounting and taxes was harder before the technology explosion, the computations were much simpler,” he remembers. “With the arrival of desktop computers and their ability to compute difficult formulas and numbers, tax law and policies also became more complicated. Congress started taking advantage of creating layers and exceptions knowing that a computer would be doing the heavy lifting.”

Emerging technologies and data uses are topics that Walker and other CPAs are watching closely. A survey of 10,000 CPAs by the AICPA for the CPA Horizons 2025 Project indicates that the “cloud, social media and big data” are part of the top 10 trends facing CPAs and small businesses. “Technology is now the great equalizer as small businesses have access to the technology power only available to the biggest businesses only a few years ago,” says Tom Hood, CEO and Executive Director for the MACPA. “Add to that the agility of small businesses and you have a whole new competitive dynamic.”

Big data refers to the previously unimaginable amount of information that computers and computer programs can provide. Small business owners have to surround themselves with experts who can help them understand and mine the right information. “It used to be that your checkbook balance was the indicator of how well your business was doing,” Walker says, clearly amused. Ostensibly, the more money you had on balance, the better. Walker continues, “Now we urge our entrepreneurs to be deliberate and take the necessary time when they set up their businesses to put the right systems in place. Don’t let being successful be an accident,” he warns. “Consult with an accountant before you open your doors. With the right systems in place, you can retrieve real knowledge regarding the health of your business venture from the information you’ll have at your disposal.”

Coversidebar2Walker shares how Weyrich can help. “For instance, if you’re a very small business or sole proprietor, we can have our on-staff experts set up software like QuickBooks and train you how to use it. This way you ensure that you can run reports and look at statements that will give you a true and actionable representation of your company’s health. If you wait until you’ve been operating for a couple of years to seek out an expert in accounting, you could miss valuable data that would have made your business more successful. You need good internal information so that you can do the right kind of planning.”

Like lawyers and insurance representatives, accountants focus on mitigating risk, maximizing return, and growing your business or personal wealth. Walker implores that trust is key. “You have to be able to have a relationship where each party trusts the information that is being shared.” Walker suggests looking at the experience level of the individual accountant as well as the size of the firm. If you are a larger small business, you want to make sure the firm you choose has the depth you’ll need as your tax and financial requirements become more complex. Some businesses require a particular niche or industry expertise. For instance, Weyrich’s Lutherville office has divisions that specialize in accounting and tax principles relevant to dental practices as well as forensic accounting.

Looking ahead? “Our advice this year is contrary to our normal recommendations,” warns Walker. “Because of the anticipated tax rate increases next year, we are advising people to accelerate their income in 2012 and defer their deductions into 2013 where they will need it more. But give us a call. We’re here to help.” I95

Weyrich, Cronin & Sorra, Chartered
139 N. Main St., Suite 201
Bel Air, Maryland 21014
410-838-2237 | 410-879-2237
www.wcscpa.com

RESOURCES
Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA)
1901 Dulaney Valley Road
Suite 710
Towson, MD 21204
www.macpa.org

American Institute of CPAs (AICPA)
1455 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20004-1081
202-737-6600
www.aicpa.org

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