“We focus on clients that have some level of complication,” says Timothy R. Devlin, the Boca Raton-based co-managing partner of Daszkal Bolton, an accounting and advisory firm that is marking its 30th year in business. “If your situation is relatively simple, we’re not the firm for you,” he says, candidly. “We love businesses and their owners. That’s our focus, in addition to high-net-worth individuals and executives. We have experts in all areas, and we do best when clients have multiple needs and require multiple services.”
It is clearly the moment for that mission. With offices in Boca Raton, Sunrise and Jupiter, the firm that was founded by Michael Daszkal and Jeff Bolton is doing robust business, in part because of the migration of businesses and individuals to Florida from other states—just the type of clientele who walk through the door with complicated issues and the need to be serviced by a range of experts in different practice areas.
“We have a group of people who’ve moved from the north and from California to Florida, and we’ve been helping them with their state income tax minimization,” Devlin says. Their first question is obvious—what are the steps necessary to enjoy a Florida tax residence?—but the solutions are highly variable and specialized. “Every situation is different,” he says, “but the idea would be to establish an office in Florida. That would be an example of what we might assist a client in. Having a Florida accountant is certainly another beneficial fact, but it’s more complicated than that. We have a team of eight people who do state and local income tax work to try to help clients come up with their plan to take advantage of the benefits of Florida.”
LOCAL MEANS GLOBAL
No client is typical—the firm serves clients across every key sector, from health care, hospitality and real estate to entertainment, construction and retail—but in South Florida, “local” often means “global”: “Depending on the client, their situation is complicated by the fact that they also have a business—and that business can be a national business, or an international business,” Devlin says. “It may have headquarters in different parts of the country, so how do they align themselves to take advantage of the benefits that Florida has? That requires more extensive planning to avail yourself of the benefits of Florida—meaning, if you’re working for a New York company, and your company is based in Manhattan, there may be the ability to avail yourself of some Florida-reduced taxation, but you would have to do certain things to do so.”
Such as establishing a professional web of connections—and Daszkal Bolton offers concierge service to aid in that effort. “The way for us to really help our clients is to connect the legal to the financial advisory, the accounting and the banking,” Devlin explains. “A business or individual coming to town is initially going to need to update their estate taxes and their various other operational documents to align with Florida law. In addition, there are various items—tests that you need to meet for Florida resident purposes, and some of those include connections to advisers.”
As he indicates, residency means more than spending more than 180 days in the state: “It’s more of a state of mind,” Devlin says, “and that state of mind is supported through the use of relevant local professionals, clubs and relationships to bolster the fact that someone is a Florida resident.”
He cites an example: “A client of ours recently came to Florida from New York, and they joined a local city advisory committee to support their connection to Florida, which I thought was a unique set of circumstances. We encourage these types of clients to create connections to Florida, including purchasing a residence, establishment of connections to religious institutions, banking relationships, obviously accounting, legal, and the like. This was just an extension of that.”
The firm is especially adept at handling what has become the elusive nature of basic geography. It’s not just that local can equal global: Where is your business when the world is digital and your employees, as well as your interests, are disbursed?
“What has happened in the last five to 10 years is that the landscape has changed in terms of state taxation,” Devlin says. As individuals have moved and connections have become increasingly virtual, as businesses have become less brick-and-mortar-based, states have evolved from being an old-school geographic bases and serve, as Devlin says, “more of an economic nexus function, whereby if you’re doing business in a particular state, that state wants to get its share of taxation. That’s different from what used to be the case, when you were required to have operations, employees and sales in a state. A lot of individuals were unaware of this, and it’s changed how the planning is done to minimize overall state income taxation.”
Devlin says that even Daszkal Bolton is not immune to its own location-based complications: “We found that in our own firm, over the last four or five years we’ve been hiring the best and brightest talent in other areas in the country to support our business, but that also has caused our firm to be subject to taxation in other states where we weren’t before. Here we are, a Florida business paying state income taxes,” he says, with a note of irony. “In the zeal for talent, we want to have the best on our team. If we learned one thing during COVID, it’s that people can work remotely and be effective.” Daszkal Bolton employs a staff of 220, anchored by around 100 certified public accountants.
Devlin warms to the theme: “One of the lessons we learned early on was that we never lost money on a good person—meaning, bringing in strong talent really helped improved our firm overall. Learning that lesson allowed us to build out practice areas around a talented individual or individuals. For example, for a 220-person firm, we have a 10-person international tax group and an eight-person state-and-local tax group. Before that, the need for that type of work was distributed throughout the firm, but we didn’t have a dedicated expert, and we really only improved when we were able to hire a dedicated expert, and then organize around that expert.”
RULES OF RECRUITMENT
Recruiting an expert in a desired practice area is how the firm has stayed relevant and successful over three decades. Devlin cites Faith L. Gorman, who joined Daszkal Bolton 20 years ago, armed with a law degree from Hofstra, and Ernst and Young on her résumé. Gorman became the anchor for the firm’s state-and-local tax practice. “With her joining our firm, we immediately improved our state and local tax presence, and that’s something that we’ve been able to provide to our corporate clients,” he says, adding that the migration to South Florida from other states—that ubiquitous subject—has put this practice area into overdrive.
International tax planning is another area where Daszkal Bolton established a beachhead. “Companies are coming to South Florida from abroad, or companies that are local to us or to the United States are doing business abroad, or sourcing product abroad,” Devlin says. For the past six years, Christopher J. Galuppo—a CPA and a lawyer who is a member of the bar in New York, Connecticut and Florida—has led these services; the firm recently added Zvi Rafilovich, a CPA in both Florida and Georgia, so that area continues to grow. “If we’re trying to service clients with some level of complication, obviously international tax rules, responsibilities and planning would be considered a complication and a pain point for many businesses, so we’re going to try to help clients navigate that pain point,” Devlin says.
Estate work is more of a legacy piece of the practice, but these days it, too, dovetails with the exodus to Florida. “I had a meeting with an attorney today, and we were talking about a couple who came from California, a community property state, and Florida is not a community property state,” Devlin says. “In order to do their planning in Florida, they had to break their community property ownership.”
Devlin says it’s “very complicated.” And, yes, the firm has experts for that.
Photo by Brett Hufziger