You get the sense that he is on the inside looking out, while you are on the outside looking in at something more complicated to you, but simple to him. This is because Anderson’s view of accounting appears more colorful than some of his peers. His view has more in common with his values than with mathematics. This CPA has taken a profession of facts and figures and turned it into a descriptive trade that people can easily understand and relate to.
“I was never interested in numbers as a child,” Anderson admits. “In fact, mathematics was an extreme challenge for me academically. Fortunately, accounting is not about numbers. It’s about telling a story of business activity through numbers. I have always been great at telling stories and reading stories. Accountants are, in fact, historians and history has been a favorite of mine since early childhood.”
But there is nothing boring about the way Anderson tells “a story of business activity through numbers.” Using enthusiasm, gestures and illustrations to explain what he does and how he does it, this tax expert is clearly in his comfort zone when it comes to discussing the process of keeping financial accounts.
He has a bachelor’s degree in business from Illinois Wesleyan University and a master of business administration from Illinois State University. Having worked with an international accounting firm, partnered in regional as well as local firms and acted as sole proprietor of small businesses in several industries, Anderson is highly qualified to excel at complex accounting work and help individuals and businesses achieve financial security.
Having been the chief financial officer of several businesses in the Southeast Tennessee region, including the current CPA for The Academy of Mutual Interest in Motion Pictures LLC, Anderson has achieved a degree of expertise beyond that of a normal accountant. In fact, he can practice as a CPA in 48 states.
Every two years CPAs must take 80 hours of continuing education courses to maintain their license and stay abreast of changes in their profession. These multifaceted professionals are capable of performing a variety of highly specialized job functions, including but not limited to tax advisory services, business consultation, auditing, financial reporting, information technology and management consultation.
According to Anderson, every financial circumstance in every business environment can benefit from CPA services.
“As financial reporting becomes increasingly complex, there is a greater opportunity for criminal activity and negligence,” Anderson said. “Tighter regulations passed by the Securities and Exchange Commission need to be complemented by CPAs with honesty and integrity, in order to put a stop to white-collar crime and financial misstatements. Forensic accountants working with independent financial organizations, firms, local and state police, the IRS, and the FBI to expose fraud and capital crimes. They are frequently called upon to testify during criminal trials as expert witnesses.”
While all CPAs are accountants, not all accountants are CPAs. To become a CPA, an accountant must take and pass a series of rigorous tests administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
“Lots of people can prepare tax returns for individuals, businesses, estates and trusts,” Anderson said. “Many do fine work — others, not so fine. The IRS, over the past few years, has become concerned about the quality of tax return preparers. They have instituted several programs to identify Certified Tax Return Preparers. These people need to take an exam to qualify and receive 15 hours of update training each year — several hours of this training involves ethics. None of this is required of CPAs. One of the differences, then, is that CPAs have a recognized knowledge base on ethical standards while others need to prove themselves to gain a PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number) from the IRS.
“Another difference is that the normal preparer may be very good at asking their customers’ basic questions related to the specific returns they are preparing. CPAs, on the other hand, have clients, not customers. Their questions are more about the story of the clients’ many and varied business activities for the past year. CPAs can get really good at discovering tax-related activities by pursuing the story, not the canned questions.”
Anderson said the big advantage to individuals and businesses in using a CPA involves the notion that the rules involving business operations as well as taxes are changing at light speed.
“The no-professional is very much about, ‘This is the way we have always done it!’ The CPA thinks it’s his or her responsibility to do a report, and assist the client in keeping up — or ahead of — the changes,” he explained. “What you don’t know in this age is likely to hurt you. CPAs have a place in the modern information system that puts them on the leading edge of changes, often well before they happen.
“For example, we do traditional bookkeeping. But then we develop operational reports out of the traditional monthly reporting so the small-business man can convert ‘what he is doing’ to ‘how he is doing.’ That is one of the changes I am emphasizing in my practice. Another is forensic accounting, which is finding the source of lost profits and identifying fraudulent transactions as well as fair value accounting. It’s a trend that’s especially helpful to small and medium-sized businesses. It’s also a critical skill for all accountants.”
Those who know Anderson are also aware of his skill as an “Angel Flight” pilot and his passion for helping people in need. When asked why he volunteers his service to fly people for free to certain destinations — paying all of the cost except fuel, which is provided by Bradley Sunrise Rotary — Anderson related a recent experience as the best of all answers.
In mid-December, Anderson flew Terry Lee Messer and his mother, Bobby Mullins, to Nashville while doctors at Vanderbilt hospital were in a race to save his life.
“I flew Mr. Messer to Nashville to be examined for a possible liver transplant,” Anderson said. “This was an exam to see if he was well enough for a transplant. I would then be on call in the future when a donated organ became available. Mr. Messer had never flown before. I understand he was occasionally homeless and living with his mother during this time of illness.”
Anderson described the beauty of the night flight amid twinkling lights from houses and traffic below, calling it “a magical sight.” The colorful holiday lights made the flight all the more mesmerizing from an aerial perspective as they descended upon Nashville. It was a trip that granted Messer a special highlight in his life — offering him his first and only view of earth from high above. More than that, it was an opportunity for Messer to experience the unselfish love of a pilot who was willing to go out of his way to help his fellow man.
“A short car ride to the hospital and a phone call several hours later saying Mr. Messer had been admitted — that he and his mother would be staying overnight— and the solo ride home completed the mission,” Anderson said.
Then on Dec. 22, Anderson received a call from Messer’s 77-year-old mother, stating her son had passed away.
“His liver had caused complications, his kidneys failed and all of this was more than his body could handle,” Anderson explained. “It was a short phone call — two or three minutes. She thanked me for giving them a ride. But mostly, she described how much her son had enjoyed the experience of flying. It was the gift of a very bright moment for a person who was otherwise in a very dark place. That’s why I do what I do.”
Anderson said his faith impacts his daily life, whether it is related to business or anything else, adding he feels being “a person of faith does have an impact on my work. It’s the reason why I handle myself the way that I do. I don’t think it makes me a better accountant. It just makes me the accountant that I am. I enjoy meeting people. I enjoy helping people.”
Over the past 25 years Anderson has made more than 100 flights to help people in need who counted on the kindness of strangers to help them get well or survive.
“Angel Flights do provide me with an experience that could be called ‘the joy of flying,’” Anderson admits. “But much more than that, they provide me with the opportunity to give. Whether they are kids or adults — whether it’s their very first flight or another in a long series — I get to give the passenger transportation they could not otherwise afford. You can see it in their faces. You can hear it in their voices. You can feel the energy. It’s called giving. Try it, you’ll like it!”
His friends say Bob Anderson is a CPA people can count on, who counts for something more than being trustworthy, but who realizes that he too must render an account for his honesty, integrity and values — as a professional CPA and as a man.