Warren M. Bergstein, CPA, AEP®
Most people’s finances are pretty complex, so they don’t always stop to consider all the elements and how they work together. I’m proactive about bringing these things to my clients’ attention—no matter what time of year it is.
I’ve been a CPA for 40 years—and an Accredited Estate Planner (AEP®) for 25—working in firms of all sizes, from my own one-man operation to one of the Big Five. Despite all of the changes I’ve seen, some things remain absolutely constant: what my clients most need from me, even though they may not always be aware of it.
Here are six things that I always seek to address within every client relationship.
1. Save Money
The most important thing I do for my clients is to help them save money. This often takes the form of immediate tax savings, but only when they are legal and logical. If I help you save money this year, but have not made sure that my recommendations are unlikely to result in a bite at an audit a few years down the road, I haven’t really helped you. This means that I have to be fastidious about keeping up to date with changes in the law and regulations, strategies that other professional advisors are having success with, and the IRS’s ever-shifting opinions on various strategies.
2. Create Documentation Systems
An enormous part of staying on the right side of the law with regard to taxes is being able to document what you spent, when, with whom and for what purpose. The IRS is very clear about what it wants to see: you should have a diary that details your business and other deductible activities; you should keep receipts for expenses over a certain amount, etc. I spend a lot of time working with my clients to create systems that will help them keep track of this information. An added bonus is that better documentation usually results in the ability to deduct more legitimate expenses. I also always take care to document what we decided to do and why, usually citing IRS rules and regulations.
3. Develop Allocation Strategies
Saved money represents an opportunity. Sometimes it can be a straightforward opportunity to take a vacation or make some long-contemplated major purchase. Often, though, it is an opportunity to make an investment or risk management choice. Working as closely with my clients as I do, I typically understand their immediate and long-term priorities and can set up a consultation with an investment or insurance advisor. Then I review the recommendations with my client to ensure that they really make sense for the client’s particular circumstances.
4. Follow Up
Some CPAs—and their clients—are comfortable with the “see you next year” approach. That has never made sense to me. My role is to advise my clients using a level of “big picture” knowledge that I am probably in a better position to have than some of their other advisors. So I frequently call clients to check in and look for ways I can be proactive for them. I also keep good notes so I can be sure to follow up and do what I said I would do. I’ll also double-check with clients if I know they’re not good at a particular thing, like making estimated payments. Beyond accounting, my AEP designation and long affiliation with professional organization enables me to work closely with attorneys to help my clients stay on top of their estate and financial plans.
In addition to being a CPA, I have been on the faculty at several area universities over the years. It’s fair to say that my “teacher” mentality follows me into my practice. I’m always looking for interesting materials to share with my clients and love being called on with difficult questions. I enjoy the challenges of finding the right answers and of explaining those answers so they make sense to people without my specialized level of knowledge. It’s one of the most rewarding things I do, and it supports everything else my clients receive from me.
I became associated with Adelman Katz & Mond LLP to enhance and expand the services I am able to offer my clients. My six partners and I have a diversified practice in the areas of traditional accounting and auditing, tax services and a full range of consulting services. Our staff of 20 people adds a further dimension to our ability to be timely and hands-on in all areas of our practice. What this means for my clients is that they can call on a whole team of experts. If an issue comes up that one of my partners is better qualified to address, he will address it. So our firm’s clients get to enjoy the benefits of personal attention that come from working with a small firm, while also having access to a depth of experience more common in a larger firm. I find this balance is very important to clients and they really value it.
Thirty years of practice in tax planning, estate planning, personal financial planning and accounting has given Warren an extraordinarily deep understanding of personal finance. His clients, who include primarily high net worth individuals, entrepreneurs and sole proprietors, benefit from his particular expertise in tax law, its applications and implications for individuals. Warren is an adjunct professor of accounting and taxation at Long Island University and has also taught at New York University. He has spoken at the Institute of Management Accountants, the NY Society of CPAs, Long Island University and at New Jersey City University. In addition, he is an accomplished author, and has regularly contributed to publications the experts rely on, like Marshall Loeb’s Money Guide, Taxation for Accountants, and The CPA Journal.
Warren has been very active in professional organizations, and has frequently been elected president, board member or committee chair. Warren is a fan of local sports teams, including the Mets, the Giants and the Jets. He also likes to read biographies and books on current events. He and his wife, Susan, live on Staten Island. They have two children, Sam and Robin; and one granddaughter, Reily.
- Years as CPA: Since 1974
- Years with AKM: Since 2003
- Tax planning
- Financial planning
- Estates and trusts
- Tax-exempt organizations
- New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants: Past President, Brooklyn Chapter; Member & Past Chairman, Estates and Trusts Administration Committee; Member, Personal Financial Planning Committee; Past Member, PAC Board of Directors; Past Chairman, Taxation of Individuals Committee; Past Member, Nominating Committee
- Accountants Club of America, Inc. / Accountants Forum, Inc.: President; Past Vice President; Past Treasurer; Member, Board of Governors
- Financial Planning Association: Past President, New York Chapter; Past Member, National Advisory Board; Member, President’s Council
- Institute of Management Accountants: Past President, New York Chapter; Member, Board of Directors
- Tax Society of New York University: Past President
- Estate Planning Council of New York City: Past Director
- Estate Planners Day: Past Chairman
- Certified Public Accountant, NY
- Life, Accident, and Health Insurance Agent, NY
- Accredited Estate Planner, National Association of Estate Planning Councils
- BS, Accounting, Baruch College, City University of New York
- MS with Distinction, Taxation, Long Island University
- Advanced Professional Certificate in Taxation, New York University
- Recent and Upcoming Tax Presentations:
- 1/8/2015: LIU Annual Seminar – Federal and State strategies fir Tax Planning for Individuals (including same-sex marriage rulings), Small Business (including Affordable Care Act and Tangible Property rulings); Other current developments in taxation.
- 12/16/2014: NYSSCAA – FAE – Annual Tax Update for Personal Financial Planning Committee
- 12/12/2014: Lorman Educational Seminar, Garden City, Long Island – IRS Form 1099 reporting: What You Need to Know.
- 12/5/2014: Lorman Educational Seminar, Melville, Long Island – IRS Form 1099 reporting: What You Need to Know.
- 12/10/2014: Lorman Educational Seminar – IRS Forms Workshop
- 11/13/2014 Institute of Management Associates, New York Chapter – Annual Tax Update: Planning and Strategies for 2014 and Beyond.
- 10/29/2014: Lorman Educational Seminar, White Plain, NY – IRS Form 1099 reporting: What You Need to Know.
- 10/24/2014: Lorman Educational Seminar, New York City – IRS Form 1099 reporting: What You Need to Know.
- 8/21/2014: Independent Association of Accountants, Brooklyn Chapter – The Net Investment Income Tax: Update and Strategies.
- 6/25/2014: New York Society of Independent Accountants – Mid-Year Tax Planning: Strategies for 2014 and Beyond.
- 1/21/2014: Independent Association of Accountants, Long Island Chapter, Plainview, NY – Tax Update for Individuals and Small Businesses.
- 1/9/2014: LIU/IRS Annual Seminar – Federal and State Strategies for Tax Planning for Individuals (including same-sex marriage rulings), Small Business (including Affordable Care Act and Tangible Property rulings); Other current developments in taxation.
- 12/6/2013: Lorman Educational Seminar, Plainview, NY – IRS Form 1099 reporting- What You Need to Know.
- 11/13/2013: Institute of Management Accountants – 2013 Federal and State Tax Update for Individuals and Small Businesses.
- 10/16/2013: Lorman Educational Seminar, New York City – IRS Form 1099 reporting: What You Need to Know.
- 9/19/2013: Society for Independent Accountants, Westchester Chapter – 2013 Tax Update
- 9/3/2013: Independent Association of Accountants, Brooklyn Chapter – Post Mortem Estate Planning
Connect with Warren M. Bergstein on LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/WarrenBergstein