10 Mar Jon Cartu Claims: Who Knew Accounting Could Be So Interesting? A Tax-Time Loo…
When asked what question he is most often asked at parties after identifying himself as a tax accountant, Scott Nissen says: “So, I have this rental property…” Which turns out to be a great enquiry, because being familiar with the changes in tax law is precisely the expertise Nissen offers his clients.
Scott Nissen, owner of the 10-year-old Nissen & Associates, is a Washington State Enrolled Agent, which means he is licensed directly by the Internal Revenue Service and is regarded as a tax expert, instead of a Certified Public Accountant who may offer a range of other accounting services.
four-person firm specializes in tax
accounting for individuals and small businesses. Nissen recently bought the old
Moka Joe Coffee space on James Street, and has completely renovated it into a
warm and modern office. (Is it your imagination, or can you still detect a
lingering scent from the previous building owner’s business?) There’s a
fireplace in the reception area, and intriguing Shelby Cobra and Mustang car
models on the mantel. You will notice a number of conversation-starters
throughout the office, designed to break the ice and find mutual interests with
recent change for Nissen, besides the change of address, is his marriage to
Jean Webster, a wedding they managed during high tax season. Webster utilizes her
communication skills from her job as a webmaster at WWU to help market the
firm. Webster and Nissen met 10 years ago, when Nissen helped a fraternity
brother from California move to Bellingham. He was introduced to Jean on that
trip, and promptly decided to relocate to Bellingham.
enjoys the combination of numbers and social interactions (aided by his studies
in social and behavioral science), which his approach to accounting combines.
When asked what sets Nissen apart from the typical perception of an accountant,
Webster says it is his sense of humor and desire to know his clients well. “And,
he asks the right questions in a nice way, which might save you money in the
long run,” she says.
have to talk about money, or you might not get the correct advice,” Nissen
adds. “Accounting isn’t just numbers; it is an art.”
firm has found a way to support local non-profits in a win-win way, even with
the changes to the tax code for charitable contributions. “We’re very involved
with a number of charities. I work as treasurer for some, and I charge for that
service. But I’m often able to give back by participating in fundraising
auctions,” says Nissen. “In fact, we’re going to South Africa for our honeymoon
thanks to a raffle we won at a Boys and Girls Club event.”
charities he especially supports include Blue Skies for Children, Whatcom Parks
and Rec Foundation and the Alzheimer’s Society (now Dementia Northwest). Nissen
often advises his small business clients on how to frame their charitable
contributions for the best tax implications.
website includes a list of important documents to bring to your accountant, and
the firm is taking new clients. It is important to bring all of your
documents. Finding out what’s important and getting the necessary information
is vital to providing great service. “If you don’t tell me about your whole
financial picture, I won’t be able to do my best for you,” he says.
fees vary based on how complex your situation, but you can mitigate costs by
organizing your records. Unlike some accountants who simply charge by the
number of forms he must fill out, Nissen tries to reward the organized client. He
recommends saving receipts for three years back from your filing date. However,
if the IRS finds a discrepancy in an audit, you may need seven years of
takes data security very seriously and will be glad to discuss it with clients.
important to include your accountant in conversations about your possible future
incapacity or the structure of your estate plan. “I’m happy to work with your financial
planner (there is a list on the website) to be sure we’ve strategized about
future care costs, or the best way to plan the tax implications for your spouse
or estate,” Nissen says. “It can be as basic as planning for a step up in basis
for rental properties you may have.”
to Nissen, the hardest thing he has to do is tell a client they owe the IRS
more than they anticipated. “But, on the flip side, when we get a new client
and review past years, we can often amend previous tax filings and save the
client some money.”
The first consultation is free, as is consultation as needed throughout the year, in most cases, if there’s a change of life event.