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PODCAST: What to expect when working with farming clients

Written on Jul 15, 2021

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager  

When Paul Neiffer, CPA, talks with his farming clients, it’s always from a place of passion and deep appreciation for what they do.   

“I seriously considered going into farming instead of becoming a CPA,” he said.  

Neiffer is a principal with CliftonLarsonAllen in Washington. He specializes in income taxation, accounting services, and succession planning for farmers and agribusiness processors and he’s a regular speaker at national conferences and contributor at agweb.com, a site that delivers business information on American agriculture. He also recently started a podcast called The Farm CPA.  

He grew up on a farm in southeastern Washington, so his appreciation for farming goes back to his childhood. Now Neiffer and his wife own a 200-acre working ranch in the same area, along with owning farm ground in Washington, Iowa. He’s also in the process of buying another 360 acres of irrigated ground in southwest Missouri.  

As someone who has grown up with farming, Neiffer said on the latest episode of The State of Business podcast that his favorite activity is to go out and visits his clients on their farm. He said it’s helpful for him to know some of the more common terminology and experiences his clients are going through as he analyzes their business through a CPA perspective.  

There are many parts of the tax code that are related specifically to farming, Neiffer said, and if CPAs don’t these areas well, they can end up hurting their clients.  

“You really need to understand, what are the income tax rules? What are the state rules?” he said. “Because farmers typically are land rich and cash poor, which means there is certain estate tax planning that might be more applicable to farmers than other clients. And then what is the farm program payments?”  

As long as Neiffer has been in the industry, he said he’s seen farming evolve tremendously when it comes to technology. The idea of a farmer sitting in a tractor all day long is no longer relevant, as he compared their responsibilities more to logistics managers.  

Farmers’ pain points include dealing regularly with state regulations such as overtime, water and fertilizer, transitioning to organic farming and a lack of labor. They’re dealing with large amounts of money, and Neiffer said many are probably spending more time behind a computer than on a tractor.  

“These days, in order to make a living in farming, you can't treat it as a lifestyle, you have to really treat it as a business,” Neiffer said.