The old saying “time is money” applies to Bells Up winemaker and owner Dave Specter. While he certainly has the skillset to tackle the business side of his winery, what he lacks is the time.
Before he and his wife, Sara, started Bells Up Winery in Newberg, Ore., in 2013, Specter spent more than a decade as a successful corporate tax attorney working for multinational public accounting firms.
“For a small winery like ours, it is simply not possible for a single person to handle every aspect of the operation and be successful even if you have expertise in a field,” Specter said. “Making and selling wine are where my attention is needed each day, so what we pay our CPA to do our annual tax returns and planning is among the best money we spend each year.”
Hiring an experienced, capable accountant is critical to assist farmers and ranchers take care of the most important area of their business — their finances. Careful consideration should be given to who to hire, and it’s best to think about where the accountant is located, how much does he or she know about agriculture, what kind of accounting software they use, what they charge and how they keep up with new tax laws.
A fourth-generation farmer, Lori Pavlicek is one of the original Bs in 4B Farms in Mt. Angel, Ore. The family-owned and -operated farm was founded in 1972. On 2,500 acres, the family raises crops for the wholesale market including hops, garlic, grass seed, pumpkin seed, wheat, beans, corn and hazelnuts.
Pavlicek said it was important to choose the right accountant who knows the new tax codes, which are extremely complicated to follow and digest.
“An accountant whose expertise is agriculture and farming is important to me so I can take advantage of opportunities that are directed at agriculture or steer me away from a making wrong business decisions that would add more taxes or raise a red flag to the IRS,” Pavlicek said.
She said it’s important for her to maintain a good, long-term relationship with her accountant. She recommends hiring a professional who understands the goals of the owner and business, along with being able to support the owners in case of an audit. Before she hired an accountant, she inquired how long they have been in business and asked for references.
On 4B’s webpage, Pavlicek shared that her family’s lives consist of planting, growing and harvesting crops.
“We are not only providing for our families, but for our employees and their families and, being a part of Oregon agriculture, providing for the world,” she wrote. “What a big responsibility!”
That’s one reason it is extremely important for Pavlicek have professionals like an accountant assist her in doing tasks that she is unsure of because it will save her time and money in the long run.
“Professionals have a degree in their specific areas and know the rules and regulations that I would not,” she said. “Professionals will ask the questions to obtain the answers they need to help you achieve your goals.”
Joseph H. Hobson, a shareholder and business lawyer at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt in Salem, advises his agriculture clients to hire an accountant that can handle the level of complexity associated with farming.
“If multiple businesses are involved, the accountant needs to be able to help with tax and business planning for the various types of entities involved,” Hobson said.
When looking to hire an accountant, consider asking:
• Who do they know and if you can get recommendations from their clients÷
• Do they keep up with changing tax laws?
• What are their qualifications?
• What is their experience?
• Ask what kind of software your accountant uses so you are compatible so it’s easy to share data.
The most important thing to remember when hiring an accountant is to trust your gut instinct. You need to pick an accountant you can trust to be there when you need him. A good accountant should be ale to manage complex financial work and offer sound advice to help your business grow, while also save you money and time in the short and long term.