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SPECIAL REPORT: Donald Garrett

Donald Garrett still remembers one day in 1992 when a client called him in a panic. The L.A. riots were occurring, and protesters were marching down the street toward the client’s business. FIRM: Miller Kaplan Arase LLP SPECIALTY: Tax compliance and financial reporting for closely held businesses and entertainment companies HOBBIES: Skiing, gardening and travel “He asked, ‘Tell me what records and documents I need to put in my car,’” Garrett recalled. “He had seen other buildings burned and looted and wanted to make sure that he could continue his family-owned business.” Most days of Garrett’s 35-year career in public accounting are less dramatic than that incident, but the partner at Miller Kaplan Arase LLP in North Hollywood still finds the work interesting. He specializes in accounting for entertainment clients, particularly radio and television broadcasters and theaters and concert venues. He also works with X-ray, a special Internet-based platform Miller Kaplan has developed to help radio station owners track their revenue from advertising. Garrett said his “desire to help others solve a problem that has been keeping them up at night, and the confidence to give advice that might not be what a client wants to hear” make him effective in his job. He also takes interest in the personalities he comes across in his show business practice. “It’s interesting to be able to meet and interact with artists who work hard at their craft, but are not constantly in the headlines,” he said. “I enjoy collaborating with creative individuals and explaining complex business and tax matters in a way that helps them make informed decisions.” As a partner, Garrett juggles the roles of rainmaker, manager and financial technician, with the dominant role at any moment dependent on the circumstances and clientele. He believes an accountant’s power derives from the value provided to clients. Delivering straight, unbiased advice and respecting the client’s confidentiality builds trust and makes an account a valuable advisor to management. Typically, Garrett works 40 to 50 hours, but that number escalates during tax season. “Work life during tax time is intensely focused, but not overly stressed or crazy,” he said. “I am impressed by the camaraderie and teamwork among those working on tax returns. Although tax time reduces the ability to spend time with friends and family, it never obliterates it.” When not at the office, Garrett enjoys traveling, skiing and gardening. His civic work often involves his accounting skills; he has served as campaign treasurer for two Pasadena city council members and the Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood Association, also in Pasadena. In terms of what he would like to change in the accounting profession, Garrett noted that the fundamentals of the business have not changed during his career, but accounting rules have become more complex. Technology that allows quick and easy communication has allowed him to expand his clientele and work with clients all over the world. He doesn’t have any particular accounting rules he would like to change – just scale back the growing number of them. “I would like to simplify and reduce the number of regulations and reporting requirements for businesses,” he said. “The time now spent on compliance by owners and management of closely held businesses would be better used to focus on growth and developing new products and services. I don’t think that changing one law or accounting rule would make much difference.” Early in life, Garrett thought that he would have a career in medicine, and during high school he worked in a hospital as a pharmacy assistant. But in his senior year of high school he took a career-interest test that recommended he pursue work in accounting and finance. “After taking my first accounting class, I loved it and never looked back,” he said. His advice to others considering the profession is to find a passion for helping clients and enjoy the opportunity accounting provides for lifelong learning. “This profession allows one to care for clients and their needs, maintain a healthy work-life balance and enjoy what you do,” he said.

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