Friday, April 24, 2009

Susie Leivas-Sturner of Leivas Associates #119

Bruce Norris is joined this week by Chief Financial Officer with Leivas and Associates, Susie Leivas-Sturner.

Susie started working in the tax field at 13 years of age. Susie goes into a little detail of the family business and how she got started in the industry. Leivas and Associates does tax returns for individuals, corporations and trusts. Susie sees more audits comings as the State is more cash tight. Susie as an enrolled agent can represent clients during audits.

An Enrolled Agent (EA) is a federally-authorized tax practitioner who has technical expertise in the field of taxation and who is empowered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the Internal Revenue Service for audits, collections, and appeals.

The IRS is getting tough as to who they will work with. If you’re not an attorney, enrolled agent, or CPA they won’t want to speak with you. There are different types of audits. Susie describes how the IRS is tracking how many returns the business and she personally accomplishes in a season. Every year the IRS could be looking for different things as red flags.

Bruce asks if a tax preparer pushes the envelope if the IRS could audit their entire clientele. Susie says she does know of cases where that has occurred so it’s important you have a person who knows what they are doing. Susie describes red flags for the IRS including negative taxable income, extremely high business expenses, and anything really out of ratio. The IRS uses computers and then people to check for inconsistencies. A CPT 2000 does not mean a person is being audited.

Bruce asks if there was any significant change this year to policy. Susie says no big stuff but the stimulus bill has changed some things including college credits and automobile purchases. Some got passed during tax season.

Bruce asks how this year has affected her clients. Susie says it’s been a depressing year. People are getting laid off, furloughs, pay cuts, and overtime has been cut. She thinks most Americans are a paycheck away from bankruptcy and we’ve learned to spend too much. She says this year was a very different year than last year.

Bruce asks how this cycle feels compares to the 90s and Susie says this year feels worse. In the 90s, Susie heard issues from mainly businesses. Individuals are really concerned and don’t see an end in sight.

Susie says people 60 and over know how to save money. People who are younger really don’t understand savings and it’s a real issue. Bruce says people confuse home equity with a savings account. Susie says real estate was seen as a check book and that she’s very surprised at how much people had started to pull out of houses.

Susie says people don’t look at the full picture when making purchase decisions. They seem to mostly care about the payment, not about terms. Susie saw many people become second homeowners and almost 100% were financed. Very few people own anything free and clear. Many people are retiring now with major debt. The old way of thinking was to get rid of all debt and then retire. Social Security was meant to be a supplement and around 70% rely on Social Security as their only form of retirement.

Susie says she was expecting the foreclosures to hit sooner and so far her clients haven’t gotten hit so hard. Part of her job is to pick people up so she’s been preparing herself for those conversations. She was ready last season. She got a little this year but not as much as she expected.

Susie says if people have yet to pay their taxes, they need to as soon as possible. Once you file, the IRS is willing to do payment arrangements and it’s really easy. If it’s really bad, she thinks the IRS will probably compromise and negotiate considering the current climate. The ability to pay will probably be more of an issue.

Susie and Bruce talk about people who don’t file for years and the process of going about getting into the system. Susie says the state is more aggressive in going after late payments. Bankruptcies can wipe out debt but it depends. Not all debt is forgivable. Bruce asks about insolvency and how that plays into the IRS.

Susie says Congress made some changes to help homeowners with acquisition debt. The state didn’t do the same. Susie says the every year the amount a senior can make before being taxed changes.

Susie and her team can be reached from their website at She will join us next week for part two.

In 1990 Susie became enrolled to practice before the Internal Revenue Service and in 2003 became a financial advisor for HD Vest.

Susie’s greatest strength is helping clients understand and feel comfortable with one of life’s ongoing large bills...TAXES. Many people say before meeting Susie going to have their taxes prepared was worse than going to the dentist. Susie helps make the best of one of life’s tough chores.

Susie’s father Richard Leivas started her in the business at the age of thirteen. After completing her education, she and her father became business partners in Leivas Tax & Bookkeeping Service with two locations in Riverside and San Bernardino. In 1992 Leivas Tax and Norton’s Business Service merged, with Leivas acquiring Norton in 1997. Over her career she has demonstrated to clients the tax benefit of retirement planning. After many years of working closely with Jim Kanouse, it made sense to join forces and form Leivas, Kanouse & Associates. Susie was married for the first time in 1999 and spends much of her free time with her husband Bob and her dog Buster in Lake Havasu City. They enjoy the outdoors, boating, and reading, listening to music and spending time with friends.

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