October 1, 1973 – The Beginning
The CPA firm Thomas Lewis & Associates, P.A. began business as “Thomas W. Lewis, CPA”. Mr. Lewis had worked at a CPA firm and was Controller for a real estate developer gaining knowledge on income tax matters as related to the real estate investment business. In the process, he developed relationships with investors and real estate partnership syndicators and began helping them structure real estate investment Limited Partnerships to maximize deductions and long-term capital gains.
In those days, real estate losses could be deducted 100% against other income and was thus very popular. But to get it right, there was a trick to structuring the investment so that the right combination of cash flows, tax losses, and equity build resulted in maximum return on investment. As it turned out, few accountants were versed in this matter and thus, the firm was started.
First TLA office, 1974
Real Estate Focus
At the same time, and wanting to be in on the real estate action himself, Mr. Lewis borrowed $5,000 from a relative and bought two duplexes off Lake Street in Minneapolis. Another accountant who worked for Mr. Lewis at the real estate developer wanted “in” on the action too, also borrowed money from a relative and the real estate partnership Multiplex Properties was launched. Over the years realtors, attorneys and other investors bought into the partnership and as it grew, so did the accounting firm and soon the partnership was the firm’s biggest and best client. At its high, the partnership owned over $10 million in real estate and had 33 partners. The integration between accounting, income taxes and real estate investing was a natural.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s, the firm grew through its work on real estate matters, gained individual clients as well as businesses, some of which were not real estate related. In the mid 1980’s Congress changed the tax laws governing real estate tax losses and came up with the so-called “passive activity” rule to quell the abuses that were going on in some of the publicly held real estate investment activities. And thus the real estate party was over. At this point the attorneys decided that Multiplex should terminate and it did.
The 1980’s – Beyond Real Estate
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Mr. Lewis decided to start marketing into other segments beyond real estate. So he started doing more public speaking, usually on real estate topics, as real estate had changed, but it was not dead. The firm had success in helping small business clients get their books on the “computer,” the latest gadget. For a while, technology involving computerized accounting and income tax preparation seemed to change daily.
The 1990’s – The Advancement of Technology
The firm became “Lewis & Kraemer, P.A.” incorporating the name of the other CPA working for the firm at the time. The firm was also office sharing with another CPA by the name of Roman Konezny and for a while, in the 1980’s, practiced as “Lewis & Konezny”, an informal partnership. In 1995 Mr. Konezny passed away suddenly with no succession plan. Consequently, the firm worked out a purchase of his business with his widow. Shortly before that time, Ms. Kraemer left the firm and the name was changed to “Thomas Lewis & Associates, P.A.”.
The accounting business was changing rapidly. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, QuickBooks became the “go-to” software for many small businesses and so the firm began a training program to help clients deal with this new technology.
2000 to 2010
The firm made additional acquisitions of small accounting firms including Fred Shetka in St. Paul and Eric Haukkala, LLC. The Firm saw that the non-profit sector seemed to be underserved by smaller, less expensive CPA firms and since many of the non-profits are in the St. Paul area, it was decided to open an office there in the Cleveland avenue area. At the same time, the firm was in pursuit of another CPA and found one with a book of business in Eric Haukkala. As the firm continued to grow, Mr. Haukkala and Patrick Lewis became additional shareholders increasing their interests and responsibilities in the firm as the years went by. Mr. Haukkala took charge of the auditing end of the business and Patrick Lewis took on the job of Firm Administrator.
2011 and Beyond
The firm bought another small firm from a gentleman, Cal Swenson, a long-time tax preparer who had just turned 85. The transition went smooth and was good fit for all parties involved. As a CPA firm, we are required by the Minnesota State Board of Accountancy to be Peer Reviewed every three years. This means we have to have another CPA firm look at how we prepare financial statements, and do audits, etc., to ensure that all firms doing this work are doing so at the same high level. Mr. Haukkala oversees our compliance with these numerous rules and regulations, and that we operate at the highest level. Since his involvement, we have passed all Peer Reviews. Patrick Lewis and Andrea Brown are involved in day to day accounting and tax issues.
One popular area TLA deals in is small businesses trying to work with QuickBooks. It can do many things and most only need to know a very few. For most, what the “few” is they have to know is the mystery. Mr. Thomas Lewis himself got a Masters in taxation several years ago and now he focuses on mostly IRS problems, tax planning and compliance.
Our people love helping clients and that is what we do best, whether it be accounting, auditing, or income tax problems.