A Driving Force in Your Financial Success
By Michelle Martin
As another tax season gets underway, it is important for business owners and individuals to be aware of increasingly complex and confusing tax codes. Joseph Parker and his team at Summit Financial Solutions in Woodstock offer a variety of financial, business and tax planning services to help clients not only minimize their tax liability but also develop a strategy for growing their businesses, saving for both short-term and long-term goals, and financial planning. As Mr. Parker explains, “Summit Financial Solutions offers comprehensive planning services by experienced, qualified professionals who take time to understand clients’ individual needs, offer informed solutions and essentially become their partner in helping them reach their financial goals.”
Mr. Parker is president and executive tax director of Summit Financial Services, which has served businesses and individuals in Cherokee County and surrounding areas since 1989. He joined Summit Financial Solutions in 2002, while studying accounting and finance at Kennesaw State University.
Business Planning & Services
As an experienced business owner himself, Mr. Parker understands firsthand the critical role that strategic planning plays in the success of any business, big or small. “More than anything, I think of myself as a business consultant and part-time CFO,” he says. Mr. Parker works closely with business owners to help them manage inventory, taxes, and employee levels within a range that is affordable and maintainable. “I can look at the company objectively, in black and white, and identify where savings are possible, and help business owners get to the next level. My goal is to implement a system that they can manage themselves, like a well-oiled machine that just needs routine maintenance.”
Mr. Parker spends time with clients to understand their specific situation, then he makes recommendations that will work for them. As he explains, “Every business and every business owner is different, so what works for one company may not work for another. My job is to get to know businesses and business owners individually, and to anticipate what their next five steps are and help them plan to reach their goals.” Mr. Parker has found that, like in most areas of life, business owners are creatures of habit and hesitant to implement big changes in how they’ve operated. “In some instances, it’s simply a matter of finding a solution within their comfort zone. While they might see bigger savings and growth potential from bigger changes, they’re willing to accept the tradeoff of doing what works for them,” he says. “The key is learning what is important to them.”
Summit Financial Systems also assists with payroll administration or trains business owners to use recommended software programs for managing payroll in-house.
Tax Preparation & Planning
Mr. Parker is an Enrolled Agent with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the highest credential given outside the agency. All Enrolled Agents must pass a three-part test covering individual and business tax laws, and complete 72 hours of continuing education courses every three years. As an Enrolled Agent, Mr. Parker has the authority to represent taxpayers and to serve as Power of Attorney in IRS matters.
New and changing tax laws each year make tax filing increasingly difficult. “On average, individuals will spend 33 hours preparing an itemized tax return with interest and dividends on their own,” Mr. Parker says. “Using an ‘over-the-counter’ tax software program will require, on average, an additional 10 hours.”
Through proactive tax planning and preparation, Summit Financial Solutions can help minimize your tax liability in current and future tax years. “The world is full of tax preparers who can complete the necessary forms by the tax deadline, but what are they doing to help you save money?” Mr. Parker asks. “At Summit, we will examine your situation and records to determine what benefits you the most — filing jointly or separately; timing the sale of assets; identifying applicable deductions and credits.”
Tips for Choosing a Tax Preparer
Mr. Parker recommends doing your homework when choosing a tax professional. “Just as it is a bad idea to hire a home-repair contractor or a nanny without doing a personal-needs assessment and careful investigation, it is never wise to hire a tax professional without doing the same,” he says. “Never base your decision solely on cost.”
The complexity of your tax return.
Your occupation or industry. Does the preparer have specialized training in dealing with your tax situation (i.e. small businesses, elder issues, rental real estate activities, etc.)?
Is future financial advice important to you?
If the IRS questions something or audits your return, will they be available after tax season? Is this an included service or will it be an additional charge?
What is the fee structure? Do they charge a flat rate or by the form? Never use a preparer who advertises large refunds or whose fee is based on a percentage of your refund. Beware of preparers who offer a low quote to get you in the door and then charge by the line entry. Large cookie-cutter firms that pop up on every corner at tax time do not necessarily offer the best value or employ experienced tax preparers.
Do you feel that they are trustworthy with your private information?
Do they help you with clear, professional answers to your questions? If you are a business client, do they help with business-related planning as well?
How long has the preparer been in the tax business?
What type of credentials or designations do they maintain? Do they continually upgrade their knowledge by meeting continuing-education requirements?
Does the preparer belong to any professional organizations? Belonging to a reputable professional organization indicates a commitment to excellence. Professional organizations also provide training and updates on tax court decisions.
Is the preparer a long-time member of your community? Consider what that says about their reliability, loyalty, and trustworthiness. Length of time in business often parallels business skills.
“There is a lot of responsibility that comes with signing a tax return,” Mr. Parker adds. “Tax preparers who aren’t willing to sign a tax return aren’t worth your risk. After all, it’s your name, finances, and peace of mind at stake.”
Summit Financial Solutions
1816 Eagle Drive, Building 100, Suite A, Woodstock