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CPAs help after San Francisco earthquake.


More than 200 volunteers from the California Society of CPAs provided free tax and personal financial advice to victims of the San Francisco earthquake.

The California society began supplying the community with information about disaster tax rules on radio and television within hours of the disaster and had set up a telephone hotline manned by CPA volunteers within days.

The program involved three levels of service. The telephone hotline allowed callers to discuss personal financial situations in confidence with a CPA. If the questions were too complicated or extensive to be handled over the telephone, the caller was referred to a CPA volunteer in his or her area who would meet with the caller to discuss the situation in depth. Finally, a person who had suffered major losses and required extensive financial counseling was paired with a CPA to get his or her taxes and personal finances in order as soon as possible.

The problems handled by the CPA volunteers ran the gamut. As examples, Mark Setzen of Wayn, Samuel and Company put together a package for a $500,000 business disaster loan that "easily amounted to six inches of paper." He also handled an application for a federal disaster grant for a retired couple who sustained damage to their real estate holdings but could not afford a new mortgage loan because of their limited fixed income.

Suzanne Mayor of Coopers & Lybrand assisted a woman who owed heavy state and federal back taxes. Since she lost most of her possessions, she can substantially reduce, or even eliminate, the back tax burden by filing amended returns for prior years.

Sandy Collins, a sole practitioner, helped a woman who had no insurance and lost everything but the clothes on her back when her Marina district condominium was demolished. Collins helped her file an amended return and apply for a 4% disaster loan.

All in all, more than 100 persons received assistance from the program, many of whom had suffered severe losses to their homes, property or businesses.

Jim Kurtz, executive director of the California society, credits CPA volunteers with the program's success. Kurtz notes, "They responded to our call quickly and demonstrated the highest level of competence and integrity in providing free services to the community." Stu Kart, California society president adds, "There is an important role for CPAs in a disaster situation. We explained technical tax information to people and helped them sort through the financial disaster assistance forms from various state and federal agencies."

Kurtz also said advance disaster planning helped to spur the quick response of CPAs in launching the emergency effort. A special advisory group had worked with the California society staff to develop ideas and materials that could be used in an emergency. The society also developed a handbook for CPA volunteers that has been distibuted to state societies across the nation.

PHOTO : Peter Paulina, CPA, a San Francisco sole proprietor, takes a tough question while manning the California CPA society hotline.

PHOTO : John Latham, a CPA volunteer from Seiler & Co., answers a call.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Institute of CPA's
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Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Baliga, Wayne J.
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Feb 1, 1990
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