In today's convoluted and rapidly changing tax world, it's critical to have an accountant who keeps up with the new laws. But having one who can actually explain how the regulations affect you - in plain English - is even better.
- story by Ellis Anderson
That’s the reason one of the firm’s core offerings now is small business advisory services. If someone is starting up a new enterprise, they can make an appointment with Rigby. During the session, they’ll discuss what type of entity to form (corporation? sole proprietorship? LLC?), decide which bookkeeping method to use, even talk about marketing strategies. The firm can then prepare most – if not all – of the required paperwork for the entrepreneur.
When a small business owner is ready to expand, Rigby can analyze and assess partnerships, legal issues and tax consequences.
Small businesses can also look to the firm for Quickbooks assistance and support.
“The Quickbooks software has become the dominant program for bookkeeping, yet small businesses, even individuals, often need our help,” Rigby says. “They might come to us with a one-time problem. Or they might sign up for monthly or quarterly services.”
Rigby notes that Quickbooks is a bookkeeping program only. There’s a big difference between bookkeeping and accounting. Accounting is the necessary review and adjustment of your books for income tax preparation.
“We can teach clients to do their own bookkeeping, but we can’t teach them to do their own accounting,” says Rigby.
In the past year, major changes in the tax laws have kept Rigby and his staff studying and reviewing the laws. In the most recent tax season, he took extra time with clients who might be impacted by the new laws. In the meeting where he delivered their returns, he discussed in detail how the new tax laws would affect their taxes going forward. In most cases, he even worked up a projection of how their return would have looked under the new laws.
Rigby asserts that the new tax law hasn’t changed much for the typical taxpayer. The changes result in smaller savings than many expected. In some cases, people will actually pay more.
For example, many entertainment expenses are no longer deductible under the new laws. Rigby felt this single change alone would affect numerous clients, so he wrote a short article about it to post on his website blog. He writes understandable takes on accounting and tax topics – short reads that deliver need-to-know information.
Rigby also offers individual financial advice, although he stresses that he’s not an investment advisor.
“But I’m here to listen and consult with clients about their particular financial situation, including retirement planning,” he says. “I’m happy to help them consider different aspects they hadn’t thought of and become more confident in their financial decisions.”
As an example, Rigby says someone may have inherited a piece of rental property. “I’ll ask them to consider whether they want to be a property manager or a landlord. Some people hate it and others don’t mind it at all. I can offer insights based on my experience dealing with so many people and situations through the years.”
Another core service is specialized auditing – something most small-town firms don’t offer. The CPA explains that these type of audits are called Financial Statements and Compliance audits. All government entities (think libraries, senior citizens programs, water and sewer, etc.) are required by law to have an annual audit provided by an independent firm. Non-profit organizations are required to have them too, although only some are audited annually.
“Auditing is a very specialized area and requires extended continuing education to be able to provide these services,” Rigby says. He’s also extremely knowledgable about non-profit organizations and routinely advises them on a pro-bono basis.
Tax preparation, of course, is another major arm of the accounting firm, and Rigby has worked hard to systemize the process over the years, so customers know exactly what information they need to provide and how much they’ll be paying for the preparation – up front.
Last year during tax season, Rigby opened a second office in Diamondhead. The response was so promising, now the office is open throughout the year. Gerald Rigby is collaborating with his brother, Quinn Rigby – who’s a CPA in Gulfport - to keep the office staffed full time.
The Diamondhead office offers the same full range of services as the Bay location and clients there can also meet with Gerald to take full advantage of his financial expertise – and communications skills.
“Explaining complex financial issues that clients wouldn’t normally understand is an ability that takes time to develop,” Rigby says. “I enjoy the process - and the interaction I have with clients.
"And you have to enjoy something if you’re going to be good at it.”