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Coast, South Mississippi CPAs working through a seemingly never-ending season

Susan Riley, a member of Nicholson & Company, PLLC, in Hattiesburg, says this tax season is going well.

“We are concentrating on meeting the April 17 deadline for all of our clients who want to file by that time,” she said. “There are several clients who have already expressed an interest in filing extensions.”

For Riley and other CPAs in South Mississippi and along the Coast, the biggest challenge is having clients who’re trying to file a 2005 and a 2006 return by April 17. “Most clients are prepared when they come in, but a few lack the necessary documentation for their Katrina losses,” she said. “We are seeing many more Katrina claims coming through for 2006 than I had anticipated.”

She believes this tax season has been more stressful than 2005 and is coping by trying to eat well, get proper sleep and exercise as much as she can fit in. “That’s the best way for me to handle stress,” she said. “After the 17th, we will take a three-day weekend. Our firm will be undergoing its triennial peer review for the first week of May so we will be preparing for that. I plan to take a vacation after the peer review is completed.”

Jimmy Stokes is anxious about the April 17th deadline. A partner and managing member of Alexander, Van Loon, Sloan, Levens and Favre firm in Gulfport, he has mixed emotions.

“On the Coast, we’ve been in tax season since January 2004. We have extra anxiety because we still have hundreds of 2005 returns that haven’t gone out, and they’re due April 17, the same day the 2006 returns are due,” he said. “CPAs like to have systems and as many things on systems as they can possibly have. Katrina has upset all that.”

Weighing heavily

Those factors have weighed heavily on all Coast accounting firms, and this is a stressful season, Stokes says. “We’re doing the best we can,” he said. “We’ve narrowed our client base some and put a notice out front letting clients know that 2006 will be on extension so we can focus on 2005.”

The staff at Alexander Van Loon is limited to 48 hours a week. “We must weigh out what’s best for everyone,” Stokes said. “We try to come out with a balance, and everybody tries as much as possible to leave all of this at work.”

He says clients have been more understanding post-Katrina and everybody is more flexible. “They tell us to do whatever we need to do,” he said. “What we’ve been through puts things in better perspective and that’s good for the community as a whole. It won’t kill anyone to take an extension on ’06.”

For himself, Stokes too looks at things differently post-Katrina. “I watch my children play sports. I go for a walk with my wife,” he said. “I know what’s important in life and what’s not.”

Everyone at the firm will take a breather after April 17 but not for long with the October 15 deadline looming for extensions.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.


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