Local Accountant Rubs Shoulders with Rock World
Author: Paul deVere
What do Steely Dan and Michael Marcus, CPA, MST have in common? Twenty-one different state tax returns.
Let’s start with Steely Dan. If you missed the music of the 1970s (too old, too young), you missed the jazz-rock icons, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), with hits like “Reelin’ in the Years,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Deacon Blues,” “Peg, Babylon Sisters,” and “Hey Nineteen.” Or think of it this way: 17 platinum albums between 1972 and 1980. This was the era of the modern “big band,” where the minimum was a keyboard, drums, bass, sax, clarinet, trombone, trumpet, plus harmonious, jagged tenors and baritones that broke rules and hearts.
Marcus is a fan (see also the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, etc.) and handles the taxes for two Steely Dan side musicians. The band’s 2006 national tour with Michael MacDonald took them to 33 cities in 21 different states. “They had horrific tax returns because all states take the position that professional athletes and performing musicians must pay tax in each state where they perform,” Marcus explained. “The sax player joked, saying that I gave him writer’s cramp. After signing all the forms, he couldn’t play for a week.”
Marcus smiled and said that he supposed this was his “claim to fame.” Others might think his fame as a basketball coach for his daughter’s fourth grade rec team is of a much higher order. That “MST” after his name stands for Master of Science in Taxation. His busiest time of the year? January 15 through April 15. When is his youngest daughter’s basket ball season? Right. “They just hate my drills,” Marcus explained. “I make them go up the court right handed and down the court left handed.” When asked about the timing of his coaching, Marcus replied that it wasn’t about timing, “It’s about being a parent,” he said.
Marcus also splits his time between his family’s home in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey and Hilton Head Island. When school is not in session, the entire family—Marcus, his wife, 14-year-old son, and two daughters, ages 12 and eight—migrate to the island. “We’ve been coming here for about 20 years. There were some people from New Jersey that were here who asked if I would continue to do their work. I said, ‘Sure!’ One thing led to another. Business picked up here, and the people I represented asked me to do more work here. So I’ve been going where I can see more growth potential,” Marcus explained. He has clients as far west as Texas and as far south as Florida, and is spending more time at North Carolina’s Research Triangle—Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill—where some of his larger clients have relocated.
But Marcus’s business isn’t only tax preparation. He specializes in all facets of accounting for closely-held businesses, professionals and individuals. “I handle monthly and quarterly accounting, tax projections as well as valuations, estate planning and retirement planning. But I don’t sell products. I just don’t feel comfortable doing it.”
A graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, Marcus received his graduate degree in taxation at Long Island University, C.W. Post Campus in Brookville, New York. Northeastern is noted for its cooperative education program, putting students in a real world situation. “I spent my cooperative education period with one of the national CPA firms,” Marcus explained. The firm paid for the masters program. “They figured if you were crazy enough to bill the requisite hours for the firm, go to school and get a B or better to matriculate, they’d pay for it.”
How did Marcus end up with Steely Dan’s side musicians? “One of them found me,” he said. “He’d moved into the area, in New Jersey. He got interested because I have ‘MST’ as well as ‘CPA’ after my name. He figured I knew something had to be done about his taxes.”
“But I’m just dealing on the periphery of the music business,” Marcus continued, admitting, however, that working for the side musicians gives him a side benefit. Their management company makes sure Marcus gets great seats at the concerts. He is, after all, a fan.
Michael Marcus has one big tax tip that applies to many Hilton Head residents: Planning. “Planning ahead is essential for an investor who is holding/selling real estate, especially in terms of capital gains, as well as issues concerning material participation and passive losses. Owning dual homes can be a big issue, as far as establishing residency and figuring out what works best.”
Michael Marcus, CPA
14 Anolyn Court, Suite A-2
Bluffton, SC 29910