An Article as it appeared on the Worcester Telegram & Gazette of Sunday, Nov 12

Leona van der Meer has worn a lot of different hats during her 30-year career in accounting, from being an expert on Intuit Inc.’s QuickBooks software and a business consultant to co-CEO of VDM Consulting of Uxbridge alongside her husband Harry van der Meer.

She specializes in teaching her clients how to best use QuickBooks to manage their accounts, as well as acts as an overseeing bookkeeper and consultant.

Recently, Ms. van der Meer has teamed up with UniBank, based in Northbridge, to give presentations on the importance of small businesses separating personal and professional finances. Her presentation is “Should You Mix Business with Pleasure?”

How did you first get involved in consulting, and what does your job entail?

“In my senior year in high school, I took one of those Myers & Briggs assessments that said I would really excel as either a funeral director or an accountant. It was probably because I scored well in ‘attention to detail,’ but I really did not want to be a funeral director, so I went into the field of accounting. When QuickBooks became the most popular small business accounting software product, I thought that it was something I really wanted to know how to work with. I’ve been a ProAdvisor for several years, which requires renewing certifications on an annual basis so that you’re always on top of any QuickBooks updates, and I do a lot of QuickBooks seminars with my clients. I do a lot overseeing of my clients’ bookkeeping and help handling their business’ finances. What I’ve found as I was working with businesses and getting into the accounting of things is that a lot of times, the problems with the accounting is just a symptom of a lot of other things that are not working properly with the organization. That’s where the consulting comes in.”

How does your specific experience affect your consulting?

“In order for me to really support and help my clients best, I need to dig deeper. A little bit like when you go to a doctor and something’s hurting, they’re going to ask you a lot of questions and try to diagnose what’s causing the pain. In my case, the pain is often manifesting in the accounting, and then it’s a matter of how are we best going to treat the pain. We will get into the organizations, and we’ll look at the different things that are going on that may be causing the accounting to be incorrect.”

Why did you approach UniBank for your seminar?

“UniBank and VDM Consulting have been talking about how we can best support businesses with our shared compassion to help businesses become more successful. UniBank is quite unique that way, in that they really want to focus on education for their clients.”


How did “Should You Mix Business with Pleasure?” get started?

“UniBank and VDM Consulting discussed, ‘What can we do? What kind of topics would best support the local businesses in the area?’ My experience has been when I’m working with businesses, especially the smaller businesses, a lot of times they get into business and they’re not really business-minded yet – they get started, they’re excited about the products or services they’re going to offer, the entrepreneurship, and they forget that they truly are in business. So, what will happen is that they will try to run everything through the same account, and in some situations you can, if you’re a sole proprietor, but as you start to become incorporated and have different business entities, the IRS has much stricter rules on what you can and cannot do.”

Why shouldn’t you mix business accounts with personal accounts?

“There are actually six reasons, and that’s what I do in my workshop, I go over the six reasons:

• One, because the IRS says so. It’s in Publication 583; there are rules for sole proprietors, partnerships and corporations, and these rules say you must keep a separate business account and a separate personal account.

• Two, you don’t want there to be any question that you’re a real business. There are very clear rules for businesses and hobbies, and you need to be very clear that you’re running a business, because there are very different tax applications that the IRS uses.

• Three, to avoid a big, costly, timely mess at tax time. What will be the cost of having to hire someone to clean up your mess or having your accountant at tax season take your personal account and split out what’s business and what’s personal? How are they going to know and not assume?

• Four, you need to develop business credit history, and you can’t build credit history unless you have a business account. You want to be able to apply for financing, you need to be able to provide clean, proper financial statements.

• Five, you want to avoid the risk of opening your personal financials at the time of audit. If you’re audited and your business and personal accounts are co-mingled, you’ve just allowed the IRS to get an eyeful of everything personal, and they may determine that your business shouldn’t be considered corporate status.

• That leads me to six, the problem with piercing the corporate veil. Basically, if you set up your corporation, you set it up to protect you from liability, being sued, and if you are not handling your business separate from your personals, then the IRS says, ‘Why should we?’ ”