Grant Thornton Welcomes Crawford as Managing Director

C.J. Crawford

C.J. Crawford

Chicago-based Grant Thornton (FY16 net revenue of $1.7 billion) welcomed C.J. Crawford as an audit managing director in the Atlanta office.

In his new role, Crawford will lead several engagement teams with a focus on audit quality while enhancing financial technology industry offerings. He has more than 18 years of experience working with public and private clients in the financial technology, media and telecommunications industries.

New Online Tax Filing Site Launched

Henry.tax, a new platform for filing personal income taxes, has been launched. It is a personal tax preparation platform, with each return being prepared and submitted by a professional CPA.

The site’s proprietary technology allows taxpayers to upload documents and file in less than 10 minutes. A CPA with more than 10 years of experience will prepare the personal income tax returns. Henry.tax will maximize the amount of each refund expected for a base charge of $250 for most filers that includes preparation, CPA verification, filing and audit protection.

“We are pleased to be launching Henry.tax during a time in our nation’s history when the tax system is more confusing than ever. The new tax law passed a few weeks ago has created confusion and added stress to the tax-filing process,” says Michael Chen, CEO and founder of Henry.tax. “Our top-tier Henry.tax CPAs have reviewed the new law and are fully versed in its intricacies. Their 10+ years of experience ensures that no money will be left on the table.”

2018 Predictions: 5 Trends in Financial Wellness Benefits

January is financial wellness month and while many Americans are likely making financial-related New Year’s resolutions, employers should focus some attention on financial wellness benefits.

“Employees’ financial stress and how it affects an organization’s productivity and bottom line are certainly on the radar for most employers today,” says Elizabeth Halkos, Purchasing Power COO. “It’s a significant concern because half (52%) of America’s hard-working employees are stressed out about dealing with their financial situation, according to the 2017 PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey. Accordingly, 77% of stressed employees say their stress levels have increased over the past 12 months. So employers are going to have to take a deeper dive into providing financial wellness benefits in 2018.”

Halkos offers five predictions for 2018 financial wellness benefits.

  1. More employers will add financial wellness benefits. In 2017, 48% of U.S. employers were offering some kind of counseling or instruction about money, according to SHRM and IFEBP surveys. Look for that to increase in 2018 as further research in the past year confirms the impact employee financial stress has on a company’s bottom line including lower productivity, higher absenteeism and more health care claims.
  2. Financial wellness benefits will become more holistic. That includes not only financial education tools and resources but voluntary benefits that are designed to address both physical and emotional struggles while working to help employees with short-term financial needs.
  3. More student loan repayment benefits will become available. In 2018, we will see more student loan repayment benefits appear including programs in which employers are making contributions to loan balances or providing methods for employees to refinance their debt.
  4. More attention will be given to helping employees with short-term financial issues. In 2018 look for employers to add voluntary benefits such as employee purchase programs and low interest installment loans and credit that help employees avoid payday loans and cash advances from credit cards when they have emergency needs such as a broken refrigerator or unexpected out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  5. Employers will begin to look for ways to provide financial education to future generations. Employers should look for ways to provide an element of family-focused financial education. Incorporating a few age-appropriate financial education lessons into financial education resources and opportunities can start to pave the way for future generations.

H&R Block Enters Exclusive Partnership with Walmart

H&R Block will be the new, exclusive DIY desktop tax software provider available at Walmart stores nationwide, and sold directly by Walmart on walmart.com.

“At H&R Block, we give our clients the flexibility to prepare their taxes however they want, which includes offering them the products they want where they shop,” says Heather Watts, senior vice president and general manager of digital at H&R Block. “Walmart shoppers expect to get the best value possible, and in this partnership with Walmart, H&R Block desktop software is committed to meeting customers’ tax prep needs.”

Among the key product enhancements for this year’s desktop software products is the addition of “drag and drop,” which imports tax information from any source, including last year’s tax return from other tax prep services.

In addition to the maximum refund, 100% accuracy and 100% satisfaction guarantees that come standard for all H&R Block DIY tax software clients, these are among the other benefits that make H&R Block products the best value in desktop tax software:

  • Free in-person audit representation from an H&R Block tax professional
  • Unlimited free tax advice via live chat
  • Up to five federal returns can be filed for free

“In addition to better prices, the value H&R Block can offer Walmart shoppers with our support features, such as free in-person audit representation and unlimited free tax advice, is among the many reasons we are so pleased to expand our partnership with Walmart this year,” Watts says.

AGN International and DFK International Form Strategic Alliance

AGN International and DFK International have formed an alliance, Global Connect, with the aim to formalize client referrals between member firms of both associations.

“It’s not intended to run a bank account and overheads, and pay subscriptions. Certainly those are possibilities. We’re open-minded about how this might develop but for the time being it’s simply a vehicle to give some structure. It’s there to have some rules, procedures and guidelines that we’ve both signed up to,” says DFK International CEO Martin Sharp.

“It is business as usual at the member level, but where occasionally we can’t take care of a matter within our own association, the first port of call is to one another. Global Connect really is a collaborative relationship; it’s us working together as a wider group to further each other’s interests,” says AGN International CEO Malcolm Ward.

“Both of our associations are all about independent firms, principally firms that wish to continue to trade and operate under their own name, under their own rules and procedures, their own branding, principally,” Sharp says. “But the marketplace is not littered with such firms of good quality and good standing, which both of us expect. So that leaves vacancies or gaps in coverage.”

“This is client-service led,” Ward says. “We’re both quite substantial organizations. We have good coverage, quite similar from one another, but not completely without gaps but by the time you factor in increasingly complex niche and specialty requirements it’s very, very handy to draw on both our memberships which represent something north of 400 members. That gives us more breadth of choice.”

“Obviously an alternative to collaboration would be merger but because we have so much similarity, merger seems, on the face of it, not to deliver very much benefit and a lot of potential friction and disadvantage,” says Sharp. “But collaboration seems to bring the advantages we might not otherwise get with a merger without actually losing what’s special and particular and valued by our members in our own associations.”

HMWC CPAs & Business Advisors Acquires Kelley Associates

Tustin, Calif.-based HMWC CPAs & Business Advisors (FY17 net revenue of $11 million) acquired Kelley Associates Inc., of Lake Forest, Calif.

“The addition of Kelley Associates, Inc. complements HMWC’s core strengths in comprehensive and complex tax planning, and service to businesses and individuals involved in real estate transactions and ownership. This merger adds very competent professionals as well as important clients to HMWC,” says Steve Williams, HMWC’s MP.

Kelley Associates, Inc. is headed by Barbara Kelley who has more than 30 years of tax and business consulting experience, including experience at Deloitte and Moss Adams. An associate at the firm will join Kelley in the merger.

Kelley Associates specializes in real estate and wealthy individuals. The firm’s services include real estate taxation, accounting and taxation for businesses and individuals, business advisory services, entity selection and complex estate and wealth protection planning.

Calif. Accountancy Board Recommends License Suspension

Irvine, Calif.-based Hagen Streiff Newton & Oshiro (HSNO) is facing a critical report by the California Board of Accountancy for its audits of spending and contracts at Great Park in Irvine, the Voice of OC reported.

Former Mayor Larry Agran, whose political career was damaged by the Great Park audits, said, “For heaven’s sakes, if you can’t trust auditors to be honest and straightforward, then who can the public trust?” The Voice of OC is a nonprofit news organization that covers Orange County’s local governments.

The firm said in a statement that it “strongly disagrees with the State Board’s Accusation, as they appropriately completed the engagements with the city of Irvine in accordance with professional standards.”

Mayor Pro Tem Christina Shea defended the audits and said one of the contractors on the project filed the complaint with the Board of Accountancy.

“It’s just another political operation to justify what they did at the Great Park,” Shea told Voice of OC. “I think they’re just doing everything they can to exonerate themselves … we stand behind our audit, the city does and I do.”

The city spent over $1.4 million on the audits that examined why more than $250 million was spent to develop 88 of the Great Park’s 1,300 acres. The firm reviewed spending and Great Park development contracts awarded between July 2005 and the end of 2012.

The state auditor, Elaine Howle, also criticized spending on the park. She cited poor governance from the city, saying a city subcommittee failed to enforce auditing standards and that city officials failed to enforce the industry standards to ensure an impartial analysis.

The accountancy board report says HSNO violated numerous public accounting standards and recommended HSNO reimburse the state for the cost of the investigation and pay an administrative penalty. It’s also recommended HSNO and its lead accountant in the audits have their accounting licenses revoked, suspended or restricted.

PKF O’Connor Davies Acquires Malane & Soderlund

New York-based PKF O’Connor Davies (FY16 net revenue of $146.6 million) acquired Malane & Soderlund of White Plains, N.Y.

Malane & Soderlund specializes in tax services with particular expertise in estate and trust planning.

“They’re known throughout the region as go-to tax experts in a wide range of industries, and we look forward to adding that knowledge and experience to our firm’s deep bench of expertise,” says Kevin Keane, MP.

Sue Soderlund was admitted as partner in tax compliance and planning division. Soderlund, co-founder at Malane & Soderlund, has more than 30 years of public accounting experience, including more than a decade working at a Big 4 accounting firm. Specializing in estate and trust matters, she provides tax solutions to individual clients and small businesses in a number of industries. She also has expertise in advising clients on post-mortem tax planning strategies, preparation of estate tax returns and court accountings.

Dave Malane will serve in a senior advisory capacity to a select group of clients. Malane spent nearly 25 years at a Big 4 firm, including serving as PIC, before co-founding Malane & Soderlund in 1992.

Barbara Georgetti and Monika Mathews will also join the tax division. All four new team members will work at the Harrison, N.Y., office.

“After more than 25 years of growing our firm, this is the right time to combine forces with a stellar partner like PKF O’Connor Davies,” Soderlund says. “This gives us a chance to lend our expertise to an already established group of talented professionals and expand the services we’re able to offer our clients.”

RubinBrown Acquires Goltermann & Associates

St. Louis-based RubinBrown (FY17 net revenue of $91 million) acquired Goltermann & Associates also of St. Louis, effective Jan. 1, 2018. This combination allows RubinBrown to grow its specialization in both entrepreneurial and wealth advisory services. Admitted as partners are Greg Goltermann and Joe Goltermann.

“Similar to RubinBrown, Goltermann & Associates has a long-standing, reputable history in the St. Louis community and values strong client relationships,” says John Herber, chairman at RubinBrown. “With the combination of our firms, clients will continue to receive superior service and individual attention to their specific needs, while also benefiting from RubinBrown’s more robust resources and integrated financial planning process.”

Goltermann & Associates has provided accounting, tax and advisory services to families and entrepreneurial businesses in the St. Louis area for more than 30 years.

“RubinBrown’s culture of devotion to its team and unwavering commitment to client service excellence is a perfect fit for us,” says Goltermann.

White Nelson Diehl Evans Names New MP

Paul Treinen

Paul Treinen

Irvine, Calif.-based White Nelson Diehl Evans (FY16 net revenue of $23 million) named Paul Treinen as MP. Treinen assumed the role from Dave Doran, who retired on Dec. 31, 2017, after 42 years of service with the firm.

“Paul is a talented professional with many years of public accounting experience,” says Doran. “I can head into retirement knowing that the firm is in good hands.”

Treinen joined WNDE in 1990, and became a partner in 2001. He is a tax and advisory services partner, a member of WNDE’s executive committee and handles executive leadership functions for the firm.

Treinen specializes in corporate and pass-through taxation and has a very robust individual client base. He has vast experience dealing with manufacturers and distributors. He also has a number of clients that focused in hospitality, retail, real estate, senior care and aging services. Treinen also has experience in mergers and acquisitions, transactional issues, business formations and strategic exit strategy planning.