Jeffrey Steinberg is a Chartered Accountant and partner in the public accounting firm Soberman LLP, located in Toronto, Ontario. Jeffrey specializes in Assurance and Advisory services, and more specifically, owner-managed businesses and professional athletes and entertainers. With his 20 years of experience, Jeffrey has become an expert in tax planning, and in 2007, was invited to the NHL Amateur Draft to speak to players and coaches about tax planning across country borders.
As mentioned, Jeffrey handles many professional athletes in both the United States and Canada and his services include,
"Tax minimization plans, tax return preparation, residency review, and investment opportunity due diligence and review."
While the firm handles various types of clients, Jeffrey's expertise is "made up of small to medium sized owner-managed businesses, as well as individuals in the sports and entertainment fields." This has given him the knowledge and experience to become an asset for any players, especially any player crossing country borders.
When asked what the main difference between athletes and regular working people, he replied,
"The issue of residency, where a player lives and plays as well as where he is from is paramount in determining both his filing requirements as well as his tax minimization strategy."
There is a lot of money to be saved by understanding where and how to properly file.
"An important item to note is that each player has different circumstances that must be evaluated to insure he is properly discharging his filing requirements in the most tax advantageous manner possible."
Jeffrey has been in the industry for over two decades and he says there are a couple of situations, where athletes get themselves in financial trouble, which continue to repeat themselves over and over. He described one such situation:
"You have a situation where a player comes from a small town and has his taxes prepared by a person who is technically proficient in what to do on a day-to-day basis, but they do not have the background or knowledge to continue working with the athletes as their situation evolves and changes. In many instances, the loyalty of the player or his family to continue working with the small town professional can cost the player dearly."
Experience aside, it's the understanding of the athlete and their circumstances that sets Jeffrey and Soberman LLP apart from the competition.
"We know that players are busy and move around quite a bit, so we change most of the paper flow or financial documentation and have them addressed directly to us. In this way, we can carry out any requests that the player may receive, in many cases without them even knowing. As well, we are able to receive all assessments directly from the various tax authorities and verify their correctness."
It is absolutely crucial that as an athlete you put your money in the hands of competent individuals who will manage it wisely. By taking control of the paper flow, Jeffrey insures that all tax and financial matters will be handled in a timely and accurately fashion. The athlete's life is busy enough that they do not need the added pressure of handling issues that in most cases are outside the capabilities.
In addition to tax strategies, Jeffrey has also been increasing his involvement in his clients' outside investment opportunities.
"In many cases you have these young adults, who by virtue of signing professional contracts, come into sizable amounts of money, the likes of which they have never been exposed to. As a result, they become targets for friends, relatives and acquaintances who propose a variety of great 'can’t miss business opportunities'."
This becomes extremely difficult and can put the athlete in a potentially uncomfortable situation. It's not easy to say no to the people who've been there your entire life. Jeffrey's approach allows the athlete to deal with the situation in a couple of ways:
"Some of our clients have opened up to us and provided us with details of some of these ventures that we have then followed up on, asked the questions that needed to be asked and in some instances brought in legal representation, where applicable. As well, we have provided the player an opportunity to pass these deals on to us to be vetted, and where they are not good opportunities, we play the role of the “bad guy” rather than the player, which removes them from potentially uncomfortable situations."
As I mentioned before, with all the complexities involved, it's necessary to choose a trusted and competent tax/financial advisor. Jeffrey listed several, important suggestions for choosing that individual:
- Look for an advisor with a good reputation, preferably with experience with athletes and high net worth individuals.
- Capability to work with cross border issues would also be a great asset.
- Look to a financial advisor that you or your advisor agrees with in regard to investment philosophy.
- You need to find a financial advisor who will work with the athlete on a plan that extends far beyond the athlete's playing days.
When I asked Jeffrey for some advice for sports professionals looking to succeed in the sports and entertainment industry he said,
"Look for an internship. This is a very competitive industry and not everyone is cut out for it. Surround yourself with people or professionals that bring added value to you and your clients. You must remember anyone that you expose your athlete to will reflect on you, so perform your due diligence on anyone you refer!"
On behalf of Access Athletes, we thank Jeffrey for taking the time to participate in this interview. If you have any questions or comments for Jeffrey, email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pass them along to him.