Not So Frequently Asked Questions about Clark Saenz
Q. What’s your professional experience?
A. In 2012, I took over the tax and accounting business of Charlene Morton, CPA, where I had been working nights and weekends since 1998. I had my own small tax and accounting practice as well, but taking on Charlene's wonderful clients allowed me to pursue it as a full-time passion. Then, in early 2014, I took over Charlene's investment management business, and Charlene moved into full-time retirement.
In addition to that, I've had a 20 year career in corporate finance and accounting. Most recently, I was the Manager of Finance and Controlling for Vestas Wind Systems for four years. In a nutshell, we built, staffed, and opened a huge manufacturing operation in Brighton, Colorado, where I handled virtually everything that involved a dollar sign (or Danish Kroner, or Euro). Prior to that, I held financial manager and/or controller roles for Sun Microsystems and Motorola. Those were exciting times, and a lot of fun, but nothing compares to what I'm doing now. I get to do what I love, serving the greatest clients on earth.
Q. Why on earth would you want to do taxes for a living?
A. After I became a CPA in 1995, I learned two things: first, the first thing someone asks you when they find out you’re a CPA is a tax question; and second, I didn’t know very much about taxes. (Believe it or not, only about 15% of the CPA exam covers tax issues). So, I signed up for an H&R Block tax class just so I wouldn’t look like an idiot. The class was free if I agreed to work there, which I did, and there I learned three things: first, I pick up tax stuff pretty easily; second, H&R Block is horrible; and third, H&R Block customers were wonderful, and so appreciative that I could help them with taxes. That’s when I knew what I wanted to do- help people with their taxes and finances. What I didn’t know was that it would take me 14 years to figure out a way.
Q. So, how come you're not a CPA now?
A. Long story- I’ll give you the short version. I passed the CPA exam (all 4 parts) in May 1995, and became a fully licensed CPA in the State of Arizona. When I moved back to Colorado in 1998, I didn’t have the required public accounting experience to be licensed in Colorado (requirements differ by state), so I put my Arizona license on inactive status, until I could meet those requirements. In the meantime, I had a few kids, learned a ton about taxes, and decided that maybe becoming an Enrolled Agent (EA) was better for me, and what I wanted to do. It's not a decision that I made lightly, nor is it without consequence. The upside of that decision: EA is solely a tax designation, so I can focus my continuing education more on the issues that my clients and I care about- taxes and investments, and less about the ones we don't, like audit and attestation standards. The downside: most people think CPA's are tax experts first, and "CPA" looks great in the yellow pages. I do miss that part. But I'm not a CPA, nor will I hold myself out as one.
Q. What exactly is an EA?
A. An Enrolled Agent (EA) is a special IRS designation, earned by passing a comprehensive test, all of it covering individual and business tax issues. Enrolled Agent status is the highest credential the IRS awards, and like a CPA, individuals who obtain this elite status must adhere to ethical standards and complete regular continuing education. Only Enrolled Agents, tax attorneys, and CPAs have unrestricted rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS. This means they are unrestricted as to which taxpayers they can represent, what types of tax matters they can handle, and before which IRS offices they can represent clients.
Q. What personal details can you share?
A. Unfortunately, I’m not very interesting. I grew up in Broomfield, got my Accounting degree (and later my MBA) from the University of Colorado-Boulder, and married my high school sweetheart. She is a 2nd grade teacher, and ridiculously good at it. After my undergraduate studies, I went to work for Motorola in Phoenix for 5 years, until the mountains (and grandma babysitters) called, and we moved back. We live in Thornton, we've been married for over 20 years, and we have 3 terrific kids and one not-so-terrific dog. I love Colorado, the north metro area, and I never want to live anywhere else.