Rosemarie Sibley, CPA: Financial forethought is key

Rosemarie Sibley has worked in the tax field 32 years. “I think I was born to do it,” she said.

How long have you been in the tax field?

“This will be 32 years.”

What first attracted you to the field?

“I think I was born to do it. My dad is not an accountant, but he should have been (ha-ha). When I got to college, I was looking for the right fit for me and accounting grabbed ahold of me and it hasn’t let go since.”

What is the biggest difference from when you stated to now?

“Computers are the biggest thing. The first couple years I was out of school, I was filling out forms with pencil and paper. I’m grateful for that experience but I couldn’t do it again. I would have one quarter of the business because it would take that long.”

Who are your clients?

“Our practice is more than 70 percent individual tax returns.”

Are there things business owners should be mindful of this tax season?

“There’s not tremendously big change that’s going to affect this tax season. For us, this tax season will be pretty much the same as last tax season with the exception that I’ll sit down with every one of my clients and do better planning because their taxes on the same income and expenses could potentially be very different for 2018. We want to make sure that they’re not surprised with a big tax bill next April.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make with their taxes?

“It’s the planning. When I find out in March that my client sold their business six months ago and they didn’t talk to me about it — something like that has huge tax implications. Or maybe they sold their house and bought something new — we could have done the ‘like-kind exchange’ and not have paid any taxes at all. It’s the planning. There are just so many places where you can run afoul. More often when I look back on those who prepared their own taxes, I usually get them more money back.”

If a client prepared their own taxes in the past and made mistakes but are coming to you for the first time, can you fix issues from previous years?

“Yes, absolutely.”

How far back do you generally look? Is it indefinite?

“About three years.”

Are there any tax success stories that come to mind?

“I have realtor who’s one of the higher-income taxpayers. About three or four years ago we started looking (at their taxes) after he had been seeing another accountant for many years. After the first year, we started looking at his situation and we changed his structure from being a sole proprietor to a ‘S’ Corporation. We were able to save him more than $20,000 in taxes every year and put in some strategies for retirement accounts.”

What were your initial thoughts on the new tax law?

“We’re not going to be out of work (ha-ha). It’s supposed to be a simplification and it’s not. There will be a few people who will be able to go to a simpler form and not itemize, but it’s more complicated for the people we deal with. It’s planning, planning, planning with every single one of my clients whether it’s business planning for the corporations or looking at itemized deductions for those high-dollar taxpayers, the ones earning $125,000 to $250,000. They are the ones going to be hurt by this tax law because they’re losing some big itemized deductions.”

Were there feelings of concern or excitement surrounding the new bill?

“I was really glad. I followed this tax bill more than I usually do. Usually my strategy is to wait until Washington is done with their discussions. But in this case, because there was so much on the line, I followed more of it. I was glad to hear that the medical deductions survived. I had a fellow come in whose mother is in a nursing home which costs $60,000 per year and up. If he couldn’t deduct her medical, she was going to pay big taxes in the future. With the medical deduction, her taxable income was zero. I was glad to see the medical deduction survive. It’s huge.”

Are there specific changes in taxes this year people should be aware of?

“For individual filers, especially those who file early in the tax season who are looking for their earned income tax credit, the child tax credit doubled. It’s going to be really nice for the folks who are coming in early. Instead of $1,000 off their tax bill for every child, it will be $2,000 off for every child. I think it will more than make up for the loss of the personal exemption.”

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