Todd Skinner – The tax specialist with a passion for community welfare

Todd is principal with Skinner + Company a widely recognised accounting firm. A CPA, he has practised in Phoenix for more than 25 years working with clients in Arizona, throughout the US and many other countries in a variety of industries that include real estate, healthcare, and manufacturing.

Todd oversees tax planning and compliance for the firm and consults with business and individual clients on a variety of tax and accounting issues including income tax planning and compliance, real estate transactions, estate and gift planning and compliance and trust design, retirement planning, international issues, and business acquisitions and dispositions.

It doesn’t sound too ambitious when Todd Skinner says he wants to double the size of his tax accountancy practice within the next 10 years. That’s because he is a realistic man, with an impressive track record and you feel you could bet your house on him achieving his goal.

Accountancy has been a passion for Todd ever since eighth grade when a Sunday School teacher, who was also an accountant, explained the profession to him, demonstrating how there was much more to it than simply crunching numbers.

With his appetite whetted, he found a job with a local bookkeeper, initially working for free before joining the payroll and remaining throughout high school. At college, he took a Bachelor of Science degree and added a Masters in Accounting.

Todd says it is the ability to help people manage their business affairs and, by extension, their wider lives that is the real attraction of his specialism in taxation.

“Our service is impactful because tax is most people’s biggest expenditure.”

“I like the complexity of tax and the fact that rules are constantly changing, requiring continual learning to stay on top of your game. Our service is impactful because the tax is most people’s biggest expenditure. I can help them to successfully manage that which is very rewarding. You become a trusted adviser to clients and get an insight into all aspects of their lives.”

Todd started out with Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst & Young) in Los Angeles before getting married and moving to Pheonix, Arizona in the mid-1980s. Within a few years of the move, he had set up his own firm Skinner & Company, providing tax planning and compliance services to companies and individuals. The firm now has 10 employees and a healthy mix of US and international clients, mainly based in the UK, Germany and Italy.

He says: “Our clients are generally closely held small to medium-sized businesses. The biggest concentration is in real estate where we help owner-operators of industrial and commercial properties with their tax affairs. We also work closely with attorneys and financial planners on referrals for trust and estate work.”

At the heart of Todd’s success is his focus on customer service, and his ability to become a trusted adviser to clients. He says that developing a relationship with a client means understanding their goals and objectives and then helping them to achieve those in the most tax-efficient manner possible.

“The closer the relationship, the more valuable the services are.”

He says: “The closer the relationship, the more valuable the services are. With small businesses, it’s not just the business, but it also becomes about family relationships. We have some clients where the business includes three generations (grandfather, father and son).

“When the grandfather dies the grandmother finds herself in control of a lot of the business. We can often provide a bridge between a stubborn 88-year-old and the rest of the family, providing an objective viewpoint on why certain actions are necessary from a business perspective.”

One of the biggest headaches at present for the wider US tax community is the new Trump Administration and its approach to policymaking. Todd says the uncertainty surrounding various pronouncements on tax is affecting some of his clients, who can’t make business or investment decisions with confidence without knowing what tax laws they will be operating under in six months’ time.

Despite this, he is pushing on with his plans to grow the business and develop talent from within the company. Todd is still the main generator of new business, but he hopes that will change soon.

He says: “In a firm this size you wear a lot of hats. I do a big picture review of day-to-day work performed by my staff and also act as a rainmaker, but we have a close relationship with our manager Ryan Clouse, who is working towards ownership.”

Outside the business, Todd is heavily involved with fundraising for a charitable organisation called A New Leaf which helps victims of domestic violence and also provides shelter and housing for homeless individuals or families. He currently serves as Treasurer and is a past Chairman.

He says: “I’m very passionate about A New Leaf. They are a wonderful group of people and their mission is vital to helping disadvantaged people. Our country is not as generous with its social safety net as other countries in the Western World, so private organisations such as A New Leaf along with churches are vital to providing extra services.

In addition to his work with A New Leaf, Todd is a founding member of Lucky Sevan Foundation, a non-profit organization teaching teamwork and leadership skills to today’s youth. Every summer the foundation brings together groups of boys and girls from local communities to participate in a surf camp on the beaches of California. Established in 2006, the camp teaches how to engage with life’s challenges and embrace those challenges as opportunities for growth, and has served and shaped over 500 youth to date.

“As a business owner I have gained a lot from my community and I feel a deep responsibility to give back.”

Now a grandfather, Todd also enjoys spending time with his two young granddaughters but is unlikely to let either his charity or family commitments distract him from his business interests. Perhaps he will be ready to retire in 10 years’ time, but not before his company is considerably bigger. When asked for some advice for aspiring entrepreneurs on building and growing a successful business Todd had this to say.

“The biggest thing is persistence and realising that failures along the way are just lessons to be learnt and can often lead to future successes. It’s not all a bed of roses and takes a lot of effort, but the rewards are definitely worth that effort.”