Nearly three years into their thriving partnership, CPAs Michael Boulrice and Stephen Wood
adeptly advise, represent, prepare taxes for, audit, and analyze financial information for an impressive array of individuals, corporations, state and government entities, and not-for-profit clients. As accounting professionals, their clients rely on them and their extensive knowledge of tax law, government regulations and bookkeeping to ensure effective compliance with the complicated and ever-changing tax laws.
A Certified Public Accountant (CPA):
- Prepares tax returns, making sure they are filed accurately and on time.
- Does independent audits of government agencies, such as public schools and municipalities, to make sure their financial activities and documentation comply with state and federal laws, and there are no errors, misinformation, fraud, or overspending.
- Prepares reviewed or compiled financial statements, based on the needs of the client.
- Analyzes clients’ financial information, and gives ethical advice.
- Keeps current with continuous changes in tax laws.
- Represents clients before the Internal Revenue Service.
- Assists with tax planning.
By working with clients on a case-by-case basis to help them structure their tax planning, Boulrice and Wood take the time to carefully analyze each client’s financial situation before they offer advice.
Most importantly, CPAs listen carefully to their clients to determine their financial needs, and assist them in keeping and completing the proper documentation to ensure their taxes get filed accurately and on time. In addition, CPAs work as independent auditors for corporations, not-for-profit groups, and government agencies.
A Serendipitous Meeting
Although Michael Boulrice and Stephen Wood both grew up in the North Country and earned Accounting degrees from SUNY Plattsburgh, they did not meet until they “ran across each other” at the certification classes all CPAs attend. (Each year they must complete a minimum of 40 professional development hours to maintain their certification.) “I was already in business and my partner, Jack Conroy, was retiring. I needed someone of a similar age to grow the business with,” said Boulrice.
“We were at the same place in life, and Mike had good experience,” Wood confirmed. “It took me a while to settle in…I had more responsibility here than at my previous job and I spent the first year just learning the ropes. But it was a good move. I like having an ownership stake.”
Listening is Key
By working with clients on a case-by-case basis to help them structure their tax planning, Boulrice and Wood take the time to carefully analyze each client’s financial situation before they offer advice. “We pay attention to the personal relationship with the client. Sometimes this is more important than the detail of tax law. You can’t be afraid to say ‘I’ll get back to you,’” said Boulrice. Added Wood: “We meet with clients periodically. They like the personal connection. Our clients seem to appreciate our skill set and demeanor as well as our level of caring. We really listen.”
While each partner handles his own list of clients, Boulrice and Wood frequently use each other as a sounding board. “A second opinion is always very helpful,” said Boulrice.
To assist in this work, they employ three full- time staff: two accountants (recent graduates of SUNY Plattsburgh) and a paraprofessional.
They credit Wood’s mentor, Dr. Mohamed Gaber, chair of the Accounting Department at SUNY Plattsburgh, with helping them recruit qualified individuals who share their vision and work ethic. “He sends us good candidates,” confirmed Wood.
Asked about future growth, Boulrice said, “Growth is hard. It’s a gradual process. It takes good people. A good team.”
Constant changes in tax law and enhancements in communications technology mean Boulrice and Wood are always learning. “There’s something new every year. For example, the Affordable Care Act brought significant changes over the last three years,” said Boulrice. Due to their location near the international border, Boulrice and Wood have Canadian clients who need to file U.S. tax returns, and American clients living in Canada who must do the same. The internet helps communication across the border, as well as within the local area, go swiftly and seamlessly. In addition, all taxes are filed online.
The Auditing Process
Due to government regulations that require independent audits, Boulrice and Wood leave the office when school lets out in June, and spend six weeks going from school to school (and other government agencies) to examine their financial records to make sure they comply with government regulations and taxation. “We have two teams. Each of us takes a staff member with us,” said Boulrice. “We work right at each school and return to the office in September.”
They are also there to represent a client who is chosen at random for auditing by the Internal Revenue Service. “We’ll host the IRS agent for the client,” said Wood. “He or she works in our office instead of at the client’s home or business. The audit process is not bad if you have good records.”
Balancing Work and Family
One of the reasons the partnership between Boulrice and Wood works is their shared commitment to their young families, and their dedication to life in the North Country. “This is a great place to raise kids,” said Wood. “It is small, but not completely rural. Montreal and the Adirondack Park are both within an hour.” Added Boulrice, “I moved to Syracuse for seven years where my wife had a job. We came back to be near family and it was good to come back.”
While there may be some overtime during tax season, the partners strive keep it in balance with their family obligations. For the most part, work is kept even and steady with flexibility for themselves and their employees. “We try to be flexible with our employees and ourselves with demands for time. We make it work,” said Wood.
Outlook for the Future
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, the job market for Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) is projected to grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024—faster than average for all occupations. Like any industry, employment growth is tied to the health of the overall economy. And, with the economy of the North Country developing momentum, this means the outlook for CPAs, and Boulrice and Wood, is promising.