Gary Cooper has been a featured speaker for the Arkansas State Society of Certified Public Accountants, Lorman Education Services and the National Business Institute. He is the managing partner of JPMS Cox, the state’s fourth-largest accounting firm. His work focuses on the area of income tax and closely held businesses. He has helped clients with corporate acquisitions, mergers and disposals, IRS representation, foreign disclosures and generational transfers. Before joining JPMS Cox, Cooper worked at Ernst & Young LLP.
Cooper earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting from the University of Central Arkansas and a Master of Business Administration from Baylor University. He received his Certified Public Accountant designation in 1993.
What changes have you seen in your clients’ tax strategies as a result of last year’s changes in the tax laws?
2014 has been an interesting year for many of our clients. We do a lot of work in the middle market. In 2013, many of them saw their tax rates rise due to legislation. This really got their attention. What we have seen is that our clients are concerned about higher tax rates and pending Obamacare requirements. Many of the tax incentives the middle market has taken advantage of for years expired in 2013 and have not, to date, been renewed. There is a lot of discussion around when, or if, these incentives will be passed for 2014, which makes planning for 2014 an even bigger challenge as we approach the end of the calendar year.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the accounting profession since you began your career?
The profession continues to attract very bright young people. It’s a great career path. So in that regard, it has remained the same. The complexity of the work itself tends to increase year over year. The complexity on both the audit and the tax side has definitely increased. I have also noticed that we are running into more global issues. When I first started, you didn’t have much exposure to foreign issues. Today, it is not uncommon for us to see these issues in our market.
You have experience in corporate acquisitions, mergers and disposals. Has M&A activity picked up yet to prerecession levels?
There were definitely a few years where we saw the M&A activity slow. I think Arkansas weathered the recession pretty well. The M&A activity over the past year has been pretty healthy. I am not sure it matches pre-recession levels yet. I look for this activity to continue to pick up.
What skills and traits should people seek in hiring an accountant? In other words, how can they tell if they have a good accountant?
I think people should look for an accountant who clearly has demonstrated experience in his or her particular field. You want someone who can navigate what your industry requires. In addition, and maybe as important, you want an accountant you feel comfortable with, someone you can trust.
What’s the most common mistake you see clients make?
On occasion, clients may fail to ask our opinion on a material issue before they get into it. They make an assumption about how something will be treated on their tax return or on their financial statements. This can really limit their options in how it is ultimately dealt with.
Has your famous name helped you or hurt you?
I think it has probably helped. When I first started my career, I would have people ask me about my name, which usually meant they were going to make a comment about Gary Cooper the actor or Gary Cooper the former IRS agent (who is my dad). Fortunately for me, most people like Gary Cooper movies, and the people who dealt with my dad at the IRS had good things to say about him.