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Spotlight on Small Business CPA Sabrina P. Cook

March 25, 2022, 1:00 PM

Our Spotlight series highlights the careers and lives of tax professionals across the globe. This week’s Spotlight is on Sabrina Cook, who started her own accounting firm in Hickory, N.C., in 2018 and now has three employees and 300 clients.

A self-professed “money nerd,” Cook focuses on helping small businesses grow by making sound financial decisions year-round, not just at tax time. Her goal is to help other entrepreneurs reach the next level, whether that means quitting their old job to focus on their startup or going from a one-person shop to hiring a full team.

In her spare time, Cook is a distance runner and has competed in three marathons, seven half marathons, and more 5ks than she cares to count. She also is a beekeeper and owns three beehives.

What’s your official title and what does it mean? Firm Owner/President. I am the owner and president of Sabrina P. Cook, CPA PLLC. It means I have had the opportunity to create a CPA firm based on my values and vision and turn it into a reality.

Free time: book, audiobook, or podcast? All three, but mostly podcasts these days. I especially like to start my day with a few podcasts. It’s a great way to catch up on what is going on outside of my tax bubble during tax season.

Tax is a huge subject. What’s your area of special interest? I love helping small business owners take their business to the next level, whether that means they can quit their day job and pursue their passion project full time, or they can go from being the only one working to hiring a full team, or something else entirely. When a business grows, their tax and accounting needs also grow, and I like to be there every step of the way.

What’s the last movie or show that you watched and loved (DVD, Netflix, or in the theater)? As a money nerd, naturally, I love watching “Ozark,” and if you follow me on social media for any period of time, you’ll know that I’m a huge Jason Bateman fan. My Twitter handle is a nod to “Arrested Development.”

What college did you attend and what did you study? I studied accounting as an undergrad at Wingate University, just outside of Charlotte, N.C., and I studied accounting with a tax emphasis at Appalachian State University in graduate school.

Go to pick-me-up: Coffee or tea? Both. Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.

What’s the best tax or financial advice that anyone ever gave you? When I started my first full-time job out of college, someone asked me why I wasn’t participating in the 401(k), and I said I couldn’t afford to because I had to replace my beater car, pay my student loans, pay for neglected dental work, and a laundry list of other excuses. The person gently explained that by not contributing to our employer-match 401(k), I was essentially turning down a 3% raise, and that if I could make any lifestyle adjustments to make the contribution possible, I should do so, and that really hit me hard. I was leaving money on the table!

If you weren’t working in the tax profession, what would your dream job be? I truly believe I am where I am supposed to be. However, I briefly worked for a wedding magazine, going to bridal shows, giving out free copies of the magazine, spinning a prize wheel, and entering brides for a chance to win a honeymoon in Jamaica. It was the most fun job ever. People talk about “Bridezillas” but I never met any—I guess because I was giving away free stuff!

If you had the opportunity to make one change in the tax world—an extra credit, a disallowed deduction, whatever—what would it be? I understand the purpose, I but I would get rid of the “reasonable compensation” requirement for S corporations and replace it with a flat tax because “reasonable compensation” for S corp shareholders causes me more heartburn than just about anything else.

Favorite food, snack, or candy during tax season or other busy time? Coincidentally, tax season is also Girl Scout cookie season, and my Girl Scout daughter takes full advantage of the situation and makes sure my office is well-stocked with the sweet treats.

What tax news or move made the most impact on your practice or clients this past year? Any kind of financial relief for businesses struggling due to Covid-19. My nonprofit clients especially were impacted by the tax and financial incentives offered and, luckily, most of my clients were able to keep their doors open thanks to PPP and Shuttered Venue Operators Grants.

If you received a big tax refund check right now, what would you do with it? I am super boring so I would put it in the bank. If that’s not allowed, I would take my daughter on a vacation out west, somewhere like Jackson Hole or Yellowstone.

You can find Cook on LinkedIn.

You can find out more about her firm, Sabrina P. Cook, CPA PLLC, on its website.

If you’d like to recommend a tax pro to be featured, send your suggestion to rbaker@bloombergindustry.com with the subject: Spotlight. Please include the following information: tax professional’s name, title, email address, and geographic area (city/state/country).

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebecca Baker in Washington at rbaker@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kelly Phillips Erb at kerb@bloombergindustry.com