Adamson Advisory

Three Steps to Valuing Your Practice for Partner Retirements

There are 76 million Baby Boomers in the United States, defined as those of us born between 1946 and 1964. Accounting firms across the country are full of Boomers with 61% of all partners now over the age of 50, all marching toward retirement.

Consider these three steps in valuing your practice for partner retirements.

Step One is determining the value of your firm. Remember we are describing an internal structure, not an external sale or merger. Also, this is a process/transaction that is between the firm and the retiring partner; not a deal that is done outside the firm between individual partners.

There are two pieces to value – accrual basis capital and goodwill. The goodwill is almost always expressed as a multiple of revenue and the generally accepted value historically was one times revenue.

The surprise for many of us Baby Boomers may be that the overall average goodwill value out there has been about 80% of revenue for several years. The latest 2014 Rosenberg MAP survey of 364 firms puts the average at 81%.

So, once we get our heads around what is perhaps a lower value for our firms, Step Two is determining how we split up the firm’s goodwill among the owners. The choices here include allocating it based on ownership percentages or books of business which you tend to see in smaller firms. But the direction that the profession is trending is to allocate the goodwill based on owner compensation.

Step Three is the process you utilize to pay out the value to the retiring partner. The capital is usually paid out in cash or over a short term with interest. The vast majority of firms are paying out the goodwill in the form of deferred compensation (ordinary deduction to the firm and ordinary income to the partner). We see terms ranging from seven to ten years, with no interest. Ten years has become the norm.

It is probably time to pull those agreements out of the drawer, dust them off and take a look! Read the full story on this topic here.

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