PCPS Member Since 2007
Gary L. Howard, CPA – Managing Partner
A Seasoned and Specialized Firm
I founded my practice as a sole proprietor in 1985. Since then, I have brought on an additional partner and gained a staff of experienced employees. My partner began her career with me while she was still in college over 14 years ago, and officially became partner two years ago. In addition to the two of us, we have seven employees: three CPAs with two with over 10 years of experience, a senior accountant with 10 years of experience, two staff with over three years of experience and a firm administrator. I’ve found that the unique nature of our practice has helped to attract and retain this team of well-seasoned professionals.
Each day in our firm is different from the next. Around 60-65% of the practice is focused on tax controversy work, including forensic accounting, audits with state and federal governments, and litigation support for white collar (i.e. money laundering, banking violations, tax evasion, etc.) criminal attorneys. We have worked 165 foreign voluntary disclosure bank cases since 2009. We have also recently been involved in two criminal federal tax trials in the state of Hawaii. We’re proud to report that one of these returned a verdict of not guilty, though the other is currently under appeal. In January of 2015, our firm acted as forensic experts in the case of Sylvester Stewart (of Sly and the Family Stones), which ended with our client being awarded five million dollars in unpaid royalties. We find that once we represent a client in the litigation or controversy area, they will remain with the firm for their traditional work.
Leveraging Relationships to Build a Unique Practice
When I first began developing my practice, I strictly did traditional work. I knew I wanted to specialize, but my area of expertise came around by chance. One of my traditional clients got involved in a criminal tax matter and I was put in touch with a prominent local tax attorney to assist with the situation. Over time, this attorney became a mentor to me and would often bring me in to work with him on his cases. After he passed away, his three junior partners took over the law firm and continued requesting my assistance because they were pleased with my work. That law firm continued to expand and I developed a number of strong connections that added to my own practice and credibility. I have also recently began teaching forensic accounting where I graduated in 1981 at California State University, Fullerton. This has provided me the opportunity to develop more of these relationships and strengthened my credibility as well.
Why We Joined PCPS
Almost 11 years ago, while exploring the AICPA website, I stumbled upon the PCPS and joined shortly after. The first resource that caught my interest was the Small Firm Networking Groups. When you’re a sole practitioner, you don’t have the opportunity to receive feedback on ideas or issues from other partners. Networking groups provide this valuable opportunity. I joined the 2005 Small Firm Networking Group (created in 2005), and it has been an incredible resource. Even outside of our regular meetings, we are constantly bouncing questions and ideas off of each other year round. The friendships and grounding I have gained from the group have been not only the most important aspect of my PCPS membership, but a critical aspect of my overall career.
In addition to the networking groups, PCPS has a number of resources that have been useful in the management of my practice. In particular, I have used the staff evaluation resources found in the Performance Management section of the Human Capital Center. In fact, I will be incorporating these into my upcoming employee reviews. It’s important to have a formalized program and plan for staff management and development, and I appreciate the templates that PCPS has available to make this process more simple for small firms. In general, my relationship with the AICPA and PCPS has been wonderful and has afforded me a number of opportunities in my career and contributed toward my firm’s success.