ATLANTA-BASED MOORE COLSON, one of the largest accounting and advisory firms in the U.S., has more than 35 years of experience in providing tax, compliance and consulting services to companies in the trucking industry. “Our founding partner, Greg Colson, had a trucking company client when he started the firm in 1981, and our involvement in the industry has blossomed from there,” said Chris Arnone, partner and business assurance practice leader at the firm.
“Today we have about 25 transportation clients, which includes trucking, logistics and brokerage. Although most of them are currently in Georgia, we have worked with trucking companies throughout the Southeast,” added Steven Murphy, partner and practice leader for the transportation industry.
Moore Colson’s services include assistance with tax planning, tax returns, and audits or reviews of financial statements for lenders or investors. The firm provides consulting services as well.
“A lot of the companies in the trucking industry are multi-generational, family-owned businesses, so we spend a lot of time on succession planning and estate planning, helping the current owners transfer their ownership down to the next generation,” said Murphy. The goal is to find the most tax-efficient and business-efficient means of making the transition so that the current (older) generation has the liquidity they need to retire while the younger generation has the funds they need to succeed and to grow the company that they are inheriting.
Transition planning can be difficult when some members of the next generation aren’t involved in the business and parents want to make sure they get their fair share of the family’s financial assets. “We help the owners allocate their assets so that everyone gets what they need and the ones in the trucking company have the voting rights and the power to run the business,” Murphy added.
Moore Colson also works with trucking companies that have no family member interested in taking over the business. “There’s been a lot of consolidation and acquisitions in the industry lately, so we help companies that are preparing the business for a potential sale,” Arnone said. “We’ve also worked on the other side, on due diligence for investor groups that like to invest in trucking companies. That’s helped us continue to grow our expertise in this industry.”
It’s never too early to start thinking about succession planning, he added. “Usually the sooner you do it, the better you are able to react when something happens. You don’t know when some scenario might come up: a customer or investor may be interested in acquiring you, or something happens in the family. It’s a best practice for trucking companies to be thinking about succession and to have some strategic planning around it.”
MAXIMIZING CASH FLOW
Moore Colson understands its role as a partner to its hardworking transportation industry clients, who are open 24/7 and operating 365 days a year. “We know that we always need to be available as they look at business decisions and strategic decisions and try to move the company forward,” said Arnone.
Because the industry is highly regulated, almost all of their trucking clients are structured so that they encompass multiple companies within the business. “From a financial statement standpoint, from a tax standpoint, that makes things a little more complicated, but it’s usually necessary from a legal and risk management standpoint,” he explained.
Trucking companies are often asset-intensive. “If they have employee drivers, they are buying a lot of trucks and trailers, which means they have a lot of capital needs. They might have the current cash flow that will allow them to buy some of this equipment or they may have to go through a loan process,” said Murphy. “We spend a lot of time helping them manage their cash flow.” When trucking companies can defer their tax liability, they have more cash available to finance those capital purchases.
Many trucking industry clients are looking for ways to invest in technology, whether it’s mandated systems like ELD or software upgrades that will make them more efficient and more profitable. Arnone said that Moore Colson can help them find ways to finance such investments through tax credits, incentives to invest in non-diesel technologies and similar strategies.
Making investments in new equipment and new technologies is especially important in this era of driver shortages, Murphy added. “It can help companies get new trucks that have the bells and whistles that drivers want. The more current the truck is, the more excited the driver may be to come to that company.”
Although the era of autonomous trucks is probably five to 10 years away, Moore Colson is also beginning to work with trucking company clients now so that they will be prepared to manage the risk and security issues around that technology and other technologies, like blockchain.
ENJOYING THE RIDE
An active member of GMTA since 1994, Moore Colson is now an annual sponsor of the association, supporting activities like the golf tournament, the fall leadership conference, the annual conference and the truck driving championship. “We have done presentations at both the annual conference and the fall leadership conference; we try to keep GMTA members up-to-date on the latest tax and accounting rules,” Arnone said.
Talking with owners, families and executives of trucking companies at GMTA events provides them with a front-row seat on what’s going on in the industry. “That’s been a huge help to us as we continue to build our industry practice,” said Murphy.
That knowledge of the industry, coupled with the firm’s expertise in tax planning and succession planning, has enabled Moore Colson to help trucking companies grow.
“Through the years we have really enjoyed working with trucking companies that are startups and helping them grow into more mature companies,” Murphy added. “We have enjoyed working with small trucking clients as well as the large companies. It’s been a great ride.”