Looking for a CPA...

45 Replies

Hi, I’m currently living in Orange County, CA and would like to work with a real estate CPA to do my taxes and optimize/evaluate my tax returns from previous year. I’ve always done taxes by myself using TurboTax in the past, but I think it’s time I hand this process over to a CPA to get the most out of my tax return. I have 2 rentals: one in CA and one of state in an LLC. I have full time job with W2. I would like to work with a CPA for the long run, but I’m having difficulty finding one. I asked about Keystone CPA, but their fees are way too expense for me at the moment sInce I’m just starting out as a real estate Investor. I don’t mind working with a CPA via online, but I prefer to have a face-to-face. Any recommendations? Thank you in advance for all your help!

@David T.

You can ask @Logan Allec who is in LA. He might not take new clients, but he can refer you.

That said, face-to-face is not that important when we can video conference. If you decide to consider remote relationships, choose from the many tax experts on this forum.

@David T.

I have names for you in San Diego if you're willing to work remotely.  You can also reach out to @Logan Allec as was already suggested since he is in L.A.  You'll definitely want to work with someone who is either CA-based or is familiar with CA laws if they live elsewhere.  Not sure what you consider to be fees that are too expensive, but paying for good advice is well worth it.  Working with someone who knows what he/she is doing could end up saving you money in the long run, possibly even paying for their fees with your savings.

I am thinking about going the other way, from a CPA firm who claims to specialize in real estate to TurboTax or the like. I spent $3800 on my LLC tax return this year and $1200 on my personal. This years LLC tax return is more than double last years and I was told that is because I own more properties (14 now).

Are you worried your not getting enough deductions? My federal and state tax returns do not cover the costs of my tax prep....so I am wondering the same thing.

Maybe my tax prep costs are normal and expected. I guess it is hard to know when you only see one set of returns.

@Benjamin O'Brien

It is tough to say whether or not the LLC tax return for $3,800 is expensive or not expensive without all the information.

14 rentals is good amount of rentals so first and foremost congrats on that!

I also assume that this LLC return is filing a partnership return as it has more than 1 partner(correct me if im wrong)

How many partners does the entity have?
How many different states are the properties located in?
Is the accountant also doing the books?
Are you selling properties every year?
Is he also providing suggestions to lower your overall tax burden when the income flows through to your individual tax return?

If there are many partners, properties scattered across many states, you are buying/selling properties annually, hes doing the books and providing suggestions - then the $3800 can be justified.

if the opposite is true, few partners, all properties in 1 state, your doing your own books, not selling properties and hes not providing advice - then I would argue that the fee is on the higher end.

$3800 divided by 14 is approximately $275 a property. 
Accounting/taxes are important but if its eliminating all your cash-flow thats a problem.

@Benjamin O'Brien

In my opinion, fees should be judged based on value, not necessarily amount of properties and things of the like.

For example, if a CPA saved you $10k in tax dollars where you may not have by preparing the returns yourself, would you pay $3,800 for that? I sure would.

Ultimately, you have to be happy and feel comfortable enough with your CPA to justify the fee. Maybe the fee isn't the issue - if you feel like you're not maximizing your tax deductions or utilizing the best strategies, maybe it's time to find a new CPA ;)

@Basit Siddiqi

This is a single member LLC (no partners). All of my properties are in Tennessee . I do my own books and send in the QuickBooks file. I buy and hold and so have not sold any houses since I started acquiring 5 yrs ago. I was hoping to receive suggestions as to how lower my tax burden, but it costs $500 and hour to talk with him so since talking to him 2 years ago I haven't spoken to him again. I didn't feel like I got much direction during our first hour long discussion as he wanted to go over the entity structure and out future plans, which took the entire hour.

Thank you for providing some insight, When you break it down to the per house price it isn't as painful!

@Benjamin O'Brien  

Most CPA's/Tax pros who specialize in REI don't bill hourly.

It's a fairly antiquated method of billing and.....doesn't work at all for REI because like you said- you want to talk to them!

There's only so much to be done after the fact- you NEED to be able to communicate as you're making moves, planning, ect. 

I bet if you reached out to one of the Tax pro's here on BP who specialize in REI we could do a free review and likely find a few items/ savings your current guy missed.

Just please...please don't go to turbo tax. 

Oh- Also, don't take this the wrong way. But your quickbooks are only a time saver if they're accurate, correct books. 

If someone isn't a pro and has lots of items in incorrect categories, or the books need a few hours of clean up work...that's going to bump your bill to higher than if you didn't have QB at all. 

@Benjamin O'Brien

I suspect that @Nicholas Aiola is right: the real problem is not the bill, but the value. For instance, what does his $500/hr give you? It is surely a high cost, but what do you get from it? If you learn how to save $5,000 - then it's a great bargain.

@Katie Lepore some good CPA’s are half the cost as other CPA‘s . often just because they arnt as good at marketing, or haven’t published books takIng 3 chapters telling you how to expense mileage. Relatively we can call these hIgh prIced, publIshed, well marketed CPA’s as “too expensive”
Originally posted by @Katie Lepore :

@David T.

I have names for you in San Diego if you're willing to work remotely.  You can also reach out to @Logan Allec as was already suggested since he is in L.A.  You'll definitely want to work with someone who is either CA-based or is familiar with CA laws if they live elsewhere.  Not sure what you consider to be fees that are too expensive, but paying for good advice is well worth it.  Working with someone who knows what he/she is doing could end up saving you money in the long run, possibly even paying for their fees with your savings.

Hi @Katie Lepore,

I've been reaching out to @Logan Allec on multiple occasions, but he's been MIA. I'm not sure where he is or what's happening, but I haven't heard from him. Hence I started this thread.

Originally posted by @Steve B. :
@Katie Lepore some good CPA’s are half the cost as other CPA‘s . often just because they arnt as good at marketing, or haven’t published books takIng 3 chapters telling you how to expense mileage. Relatively we can call these hIgh prIced, publIshed, well marketed CPA’s as “too expensive”

I agree with @Steve B. That pretty much sums it up.

@David T. Good luck with your search. I've done my fair share of research on CPAs and it's VERY difficult to find one where the pricing could be justified. I'm not sure how anyone can justify a return cost for $1000-$2000 with a W2 + a few rental properties. I would love to have one of "expert REI" CPAs have a look at my return to see if they can add any value. I've already gone through 3 CPAs and found mistakes in all of them. Some more serious than others. I got 2 of them as referrals on BP! I always worry that if I can find a mistake in my return, what other mistakes are there that I'm not aware of.

@Brian Warren There is a lot of great advice in this thread.  I consider myself quite frugal and lucky.  I had a CPA for a number of years until she retired that never charged me an hourly fee, which was very important because I'm an 'idea guy' that would email or call to make sure I understood the tax implications of a purchase, sell or flip.  When she retired I got stuck with her associate that charged $100 / hr but there was no value in the time spent.  Keep asking the question and follow the sage advice you are getting in this thread and you will stumble into your next CPA.  My new CPA is a corporate executive who loves the field so never stopped handling taxes.  Her fees are incredibly reasonable, but would have never found her if I had settled during the search.  Good Luck!!

Originally posted by @Eric C. :

@David T. Good luck with your search. I've done my fair share of research on CPAs and it's VERY difficult to find one where the pricing could be justified. I'm not sure how anyone can justify a return cost for $1000-$2000 with a W2 + a few rental properties. I would love to have one of "expert REI" CPAs have a look at my return to see if they can add any value. I've already gone through 3 CPAs and found mistakes in all of them. Some more serious than others. I got 2 of them as referrals on BP! I always worry that if I can find a mistake in my return, what other mistakes are there that I'm not aware of.

It’s tough to justify the cost of your CPA if the value is not correctly perceived. A run of the mill tax preparer could prepare the same return for cheaper but it could wind up costing you 5x more in tax liability. The same could be said if you prepare your own returns.

If a real estate savvy CPA saves you $10k in taxes, would you pay $3k for that? Or would you rather pay $500 to the general tax practiotioner who cost you $10k in taxes?

@Benjamin O'Brien If you notice on here most people saying that what your cpa charged you last year was normal, are also cpas. That’s not exactly an unbiased opinion. In my opinion (not a cpa, have no fight in this) you paid way to much. Likely by 2-3k. I also own rentals in TN (onlt a few less then you) as well as another state and I pay less then 600. So unless the 3800 includes like filing fees or fees to create an llc you paid way way to much.

@Eric C.

Frankly, I have hard time believing that 2 of my peers from this forum would make material mistakes. Mostly out of professional curiosity, I would like to see what kind of mistakes they were.

Feel free to reach out privately if you want to share this information.

Originally posted by @Kon Zel :
Rather than starting a new post, anyone have recs for a CPA in North Jersey or remote?

@Jay Patadia is in Somerset, and @Simon Filip is in Paramus.

Remote - you can choose from the many fine tax experts who regularly contribute to this forum.