Published November 18, 2008
Volume 16, Number 11

Bregante + Co. CPAs Help Clients Navigate Through Financial Flux

Steve Fineran, right, and the staff of the Hacienda offices of
Bregante + Co. LLP.

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

Most people think of accounting as a rigid profession, with a single solution to any given problem. But while the field is precise and disciplined, it is also a lot more open ended. Instead of cut-and-dried answers, well-reasoned interpretation is the norm.

Steve Fineran, a partner in the CPA firm Bregante + Co. LLP, offers a classic illustration of this fluidity: a magazine study that regularly gave a set of financial records to 50 different accounting professionals to prepare a tax return.  “Every year there were 50 different answers for the tax results,” he says. “The fees also varied in the study, from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, sometimes with little correlation to the amount of tax involved. Still, the preparers’ positions appeared to be well supported.”

These variations are what keep the work interesting. “You have to figure out how to interpret and apply the tax code, decide whether you want to look at the short or long term,” Fineran continues. “It’s not just filling out forms; there is a lot of strategizing.”

Established in San Francisco’s financial district in 1976, Bregante opened a regional office, at 4309 Hacienda Drive, two years ago. Another office is located in Novato. The firm’s expertise is focused on three distinct areas: closely held businesses, high net worth individuals, and nonprofit organizations.

It’s a lively field to be involved in right now. This year has seen three major pieces of legislation, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, the Economic Stimulus Act, and the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, all of which demanded study to determine their impact on clients. Some new provisions, like special depreciation rules for leasehold improvements, can be significant. Still, Fineran says, the steady stream of changes is not unusual. CPAs are always going to classes and seminars to stay abreast of new developments. They need 80 hours of continuing education every two years to keep their licenses current. “New issues always come up, and we do research constantly,” he comments.

In an economy that’s shedding jobs, perhaps one of the biggest surprises is the shortage of accountants, either seasoned or newly minted. For every individual entering the profession, five are leaving, a number projected to double by 2013, Fineran explains. The wave of baby boomer retirements is taking veterans out of private practice and off college faculties. “Every year schools turn away thousands of accounting students because they don’t have enough Ph.D.s to teach their classes,” he observes. At the same time, the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, passed to tighten financial controls in public corporations, sparked a dramatic increase in corporate hiring, further shrinking the candidate pool.

Regardless of the financial flux, Fineran has two pieces of advice that remain constant. First, an individual’s primary goal should be to make as much money as possible, and only then focus on the tax consequences. Second, the opportune time for buying stock is when prices are low. “It may be hard when you see so much volatility, but if you have any faith in the long-term potential of our country and business, this is the time to invest,” he concludes.

For more information about Bregante’s services or career opportunities, visit www.bcocpa.com or call (925) 416-0550.


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