Put Me in Coach...In a Favorable Tax Situation

There are more than 800 certified tax coaches in the United States – a relatively exclusive and elite network of specialists around the country trained by the American Institute of Certified Tax Coaches, an independent, not-for-profit corporation based in San Diego. The AITCT provides training to tax professionals including certified public accountants (CPAs), attorneys and enrolled agents (EAs), who wish to become expert in proactive tax planning.

Meet Heather L. Denehy, CPA, and one of the country’s 800 CTCs (certified tax coaches) whose firm is based in Lynnfield, Massachusetts. She recently told Advisors Magazine that a tax coach’s training is not just about compliance but is focused on uncovering tax deductions and loopholes that most tax professionals don’t know how to find. Their extra special skill set is most effective in reducing taxes for successful small business owners, entrepreneurs, and high net worth individuals.

“I really enjoy working closely with small businesses,” Denehy said. “I feel that there’s a great need for small businesses to have somebody that they can lean on, ask questions, bounce ideas off of,” she added, “someone with an outside perspective who has their back.”

Denehy relies on her expertise in accounting, tax and financial analysis as a tool to help business owners understand their goals – and to then collaborate with them to fulfill those goals.

“A few people just want their 1040s done during filing season, but I get many more phone calls from people who are looking for additional guidance,” Denehy added. Most of her business clients are in New England thanks to existing clients who are quick to provide referrals, but she also has individual tax clients all over the country.

Regarding other services and ongoing tax guidance, Denehy says she may offer advice on how to prepare for retirement, how to transfer wealth to grandchildren, Medicaid/Medicare planning, trusts, wills, and much more.

“I see my role as explaining those complex tax and accounting issues that are out there in the most basic of terms so that my clients easily understand it all,” Denehy said. “It’s like going to the doctor; You don’t want to hear the names of all the tendons and muscles around your knee, you just want to understand what’s going on and how it will be fixed.”

The medical analogy comes easily from Denehy who started college majoring in microbiology before ultimately graduating from Boston’s Northeastern University in 1997, earning a BS in business administration with a concentration in accounting. She became a CPA in Massachusetts in September of 2000. Her first job out of college was with Arthur Andersen LLP in Boston in the High Technology Division of the Audit Division where she worked exclusively with small business clients. In 2011 she took over the firm which now bears her name.

Denehy today likens her company to somewhat of a boutique firm.

“I choose to have a fewer number of clients, but I prefer to work deeply with the clients I do have,” she explained. “We tend to tailor our services based on what the client’s needs are.”

Denehy notes, for example, that a business owner during the first few years after starting up has a greater and distinct set of needs than the owner who has been in business more than 10 years.

“In that sense, we’re a boutique because we mold and adapt our services to each client’s specific needs,” she said.

At the same time, Denehy is fully aware of the things her firm cannot do, or the areas in which it has limited bandwidth.

“For instance, I had a couple of clients recently that needed to get a business valuation completed, and my most suited role was to be the liaison with the valuation experts, working in conjunction with them,” she recalled. Denehy was comfortable serving as a mediator – being the clients’ eyes and ears at the table, understanding what was happening and then able to convey all the information as needed to her clients.

“The clients found that process extremely helpful; In part, because I served a role they tend not to enjoy,” Denehy chuckled.

Increasingly for some people, social media platforms are touting financial advice and tax tips. Proceed with caution is the message from Denehy.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of incorrect information being disseminated across many social media platforms where people are interpreting an isolated piece of the tax law,” she said. “They will blast it out to the entire world claiming, ‘you can do X, Y, and Z,’ but a lot of us tax professionals are cringing and saying, ‘No. Not really.’”

Any tax recommendation from any source needs to be spot on because otherwise there may be problems down the road. Denehy maintains that part of her role is to get the correct information out there.

And she is quick to credit Dominque Molina, co-founder and president of the American Institute of Certified Tax Coaches ( “Dominique is the person who has personally – without knowing it – completely contributed to changing my life and the way I do things,” Denehy summarized.

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