You may remember I came to Accounting as a profession late in life. At the ripe old age of 50 I took my Bachelor of Fine Arts and added to it to get a Master of Science in Accounting. I went directly from graduation to qualifying as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). I got some experience by working for a couple of “temp” firms, and finally “hung out my shingle” and started my own CPA practice.
Being a CPA in public practice is very rewarding but it can also be really expensive. You have to take 40 hours of continuing education every year. You need to carry liability insurance. You have to equip and maintain your own office, pay for gas for your own car, etc. After years of being reimbursed for those expenses by my employer, all of this came as a shock. You also have to find a “book of business”, which is usually done by word of mouth advertising, and attendance at networking events, all of which isn’t cheap.
Then I discovered membership in my local chapter of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). By participating in their monthly meetings and their semi-annual conferences I could get all of my continuing education. I didn’t have to pay for those classes because I usually “worked” there – monitoring rooms, hosting experts, sitting at the registration desk, etc.
These meetings also functioned as great networking opportunities. Many times CPAs who owned larger practices didn’t want to bother with small mom-and-pop clients, who balked at paying $250.00 an hour. They would refer those folks to me. I would answer their questions, help them figure out what they could and could not claim as exemptions on their taxes, and sometimes even straighten out their QuickBooks. I only charged $50.00 an hour, and they were pleased not to have to pay the “big boys.” I reciprocated by referring my clients to the larger firms if they were being audited by the IRS, or the state.
The chapter meetings were often held in resort areas, and because it was a professional expense, I was able to deduct the trip from my taxes. Al and I went to Galveston one spring. We also went to The Inn of the Mountain Gods in New Mexico once. We regularly visited San Antonio, and Austin and stayed in a big hotel.
Another perk was an outsourced Human Resources firm who had a suite at the Ballpark in Arlington. During the Rangers’ season they held “informational meetings” that we could invite our clients to attend with us. We had to listen to an hour-long presentation of their services, and for that we got to sit on a balcony or indoors in an air conditioned suite to watch the game. Those meetings were always catered and we got all the hot dogs, nachos, barbecue, and a taco bar we wanted. They also always had a desserts, like key lime tarts, brownies, chocolate-covered strawberries, and fresh chocolate chip cookies. Al and I often went whether I was hosting a client or not.
As I said, having my own CPA practice was expensive, but the perks were outstanding.
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