As you are aware, double dipping refers to the situation in which one of the parties to a marital dissolution receives double payment for a single asset, or gets charged with the receipt of an asset and then is asked to pay support from its income stream. Double dipping can occur when investments or pensions have been included in the equalization payment. Typically, the non-investment or non-pension holding spouse traded his or her interest in future payouts for other assets, such as the party’s share in the home or a business. The double dip scenario arises when the party who traded his or her share in an asset later requests spousal support when the paying party’s primary or single source of income is a pension or investments.

Of course, it is the obligation of the attorney representing the party who wishes to gain full possession of investments or a pension to advise the client of the potential for double dipping and to assist that client to avoid a potential nightmarish scenario. Although this responsibility is rarely violated, I thought it would be of interest to present a case in which counsel actually breached the Attorney Standard of Care by neglecting this duty, which eventually led to a serious malpractice action.

In Newsletter #28, I provide you a brief review of the background of In re Marriage of White (1987), in which the findings directly impacted cause for the malpractice case addressed in this issue’s feature article. Please note that due to the sensitive nature of the case presented here, I am using fictitious rather than actual names of the law firms and parties involved. Also, there are specifics about this case I will not divulge. Nevertheless, I believe you will find this account interesting and informative.

When a dissolution case involves the ownership of a business, you should strongly consider choosing a Forensic Accountant accredited in Business Valuation (ABV). The ABV Credential is granted exclusively by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) to qualified CPAs. To earn the ABV Credential, candidates must meet qualification requirements, which are based on successfully passing the ABV Examination and meeting minimum valuation-related business experience and education requirements. These include:

  • Holding a valid and unrevoked CPA license or certificate issued by a legally constituted state authority.
  • Passing the ABV Examination.
  • Completing the ABV Credential Application upon successfully passing the ABV Examination.
  • Completing 75 hours of valuation-related continuing professional education (CPE). All hours must be obtained within the 5-year period preceding the date of application.
  • Attesting to meeting the minimum education
  • and business experience, and payment of the appropriate credential fee.
  • Completing at least 6 business valuation engagements or achieving 150 hours of
  • business valuation experience within the 5-year period preceding the date of the credential application.
  • Signing a Declaration of Intent to comply with the requirements of ABV Recertification.

ABV credential holders rightly consider themselves the premier business valuation service providers. We stand out from those not certified by going beyond the core service of reaching a conclusion of value and creating an advantage for clients through the strategic application of this analysis.

Ron

The most qualified individuals to handle the valuation of a business in a divorce matter are CPAs who are accredited in business valuation. The Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV) credential is only awarded to CPAs who have met specific requirements. These include receiving 75 hours of valuation-related continuing professional education, completing 6 business valuation engagements or obtaining 150 hours of experience within the 5-year period preceding the date of the credential application, and passing the ABV examination. Of course, those CPAs who maintain their accreditation and also have several years of experience conducting valuations are usually the ideal choice.

Forensic Accountants who are ABVs know exactly what documents are needed to thoroughly value a business and how to analyze all records. You should expect your properly accredited Forensic Accountant to ask for and analyze historical financial statements, income tax returns, savings and checking account statements, credit card statements, general ledger details, images of checks written and deposited, accounts receivable ledgers, fixed asset ledgers, ledgers of unbilled work-in-progress and accounts payable ledgers. Experienced CPA/ABVs will not only be able to analyze these documents, but will also most likely have the greatest ability to successfully trace unreported income hidden by parties involved in marriage dissolutions.

Equally important is to ensure your Forensic Accountant can and will simplify complex business financial and accounting issues so that attorneys, clients and the courts will have no trouble comprehending them. Choosing an accountant that meets all of the above criteria best ensures a business valuation done right.

Ron

The back issues of our newsletter are available right here on our blog. Just select Newsletter Back Issues or go to the blog menu and click on “Forensic Accounting Today (Newsletter Archive).”

From the moment I established my own practice, I knew my success would depend, to a marked degree, on consistently delivering completed work on time to our clients. Therefore, I set out from the beginning to take the necessary steps to properly organize my practice to efficiently handle an abundant volume of work while maintaining uncompromisingly thorough and meticulous standards. My goal of establishing these systems was the delivery of diligently completed assignments on time, every time. To this date, the only exceptions to meeting deadlines have occurred when circumstances have arisen beyond our control, such as the inability of a referring attorney’s client to be able to timely deliver documents we needed to complete our work.

Workspace

Those of you who have visited my office know I am adamant about maintaining a neat, orderly workspace. My filing systems (both on the computer and physical filing) are always organized and up-to-date, and my desk consistently remains clean and uncluttered. As a result, I rarely need to spend unnecessary time searching for documents my staff or I need.

What is the secret to our efficiency? Simple. “Do it now.” When I am through using a tool or reviewing a document, I immediately place it back where it belongs. Thus, I know where things are. Additionally, I expect and require the same from my staff.

Planning Assignments

When we receive a new assignment, we develop an action plan that includes every individual step we must undertake to complete the project. I lay out all of the tasks, and assign responsibilities for who is going to do what with deadlines for each duty to be completed. Then I require each of us to complete every task in the plan prior to their respective deadlines. Of course, occasionally revisions are needed in plans as circumstances change. Rarely, if ever, does a variation in a course of action result in a puzzling challenge when the required expertise in your field is there and you are properly organized. Our system works.

Ron

Perhaps, on days you are scheduled to appear in court, you wake up in the morning and say to yourself, “Yes… I’m in trial today and I can’t wait. This will be an exciting challenge and things will work out fine for my client.” If this is your attitude, you understand how I feel about what I do.

Throughout my childhood, I seemed to possess a passion to plan, organize and execute strategies. When a project involved making a presentation in front of a class, I typically would prepare myself thoroughly and practice my presentation until I felt confident I could capture and emotionally appeal to my teacher and classmates. As a result, I invariably achieved my aim, and, as I matured, my confidence and enthusiasm for speaking in front of groups grew.

Today, the stakes are certainly higher. However, I am at ease with the level of responsibility I am routinely presented and continue to possess energy and passion. As of this writing, I have made hundreds of appearances as an expert witness. With each passing opportunity, I try to evaluate my effort and sharpen my skills a little more. The self discipline, method of preparation and focus I developed provide me the confidence I need to draw from my pool of knowledge. Perhaps, this is what enables me to handle curves thrown my way by aggressive attorneys. Yes, I still have passion for what I do and enthusiastically look forward to new opportunities.

Ron

On July 31, I presented a webinar to Family Law attorneys entitled, Analyzing Tax Return Data (as it related to income available for support). The event was sponsored by the State Bar of California Family Law Section. Webinar content included an analysis and interpretation of business and personal tax returns as it relates to gross cash flow available for support calculations. We discussed what items to look for, and addressed how to convert income to cash flow for support calculations, in addition to how to input the data into support calculation software.

The initial topic I focused on was how to prepare gross cash flow. This included the sources of cash flow—individual income tax returns, C-Corporations, S-Corporations and partnerships.

Next, I addressed support calculation software input reconciliation— cash flow versus taxable income.

Thirdly, I concentrated the discussion on support calculation mechanics, including settings, tactics, input of cash flow information, and analyzing and understanding results.

To enhance the attendees’ grasp of this subject, I presented a detailed case study, which partially focused on proper input of information into IRS tax forms. These included Form 1040, Schedule A, Schedule B, Form 1120 (U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return), Form 1120S (U.S. Income Tax Return for an S Corporation), Schedule K-1 (Shareholder’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc.), and Form 1065 (U.S. Return of Partnership Income). Subsequently, I presented an example of reconciliation of cash flow to support calculation software input.

I thank each of you who took the time out of your busy schedule to attend the webinar. All of you who were present, as well as those who were unable to attend, are welcome to contact me with questions concerning this subject. It will be my pleasure to assist you.

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