Compensation Planning

Compensation Planning, Opinion Letters & Expert Testimony

Stephen D. Kirkland, CPA, CMC, CFC, CFF helps employers address one of the toughest issues they face - compensating their employees. Determining the amount to pay is only the beginning. Designing pay plans that pay back and take advantage of tax benefits is just as important. Stephen helps businesses and charities design and update compensation and rewards systems, create incentives, and determine levels of compensation for their employees. This involves addressing many facets, including cash flow concerns, connecting rewards with goals, tax issues and maintaining confidentiality (when possible).

Stephen issues opinion letters addressing reasonable compensation for income tax purposes and fair market value for business valuations. These opinion letters are helpful for compensating hospital administrators, physicians, executives, directors, foundation trustees, S corporation shareholders and charity officers. For more information on compensation opinion letters, please visit

"An expert gives an objective view. He gives his own view."
~ Morarji Desai

Stephen also prepares analyses and reports to assist courts in determining reasonable compensation, fair market value compensation, lost wages and earning capacity. These reports are used in federal courts, family courts, and state court cases. For more information on Stephen’s compensation related litigation support services, please visit or call Stephen at (803) 724-1414 (office).

Stephen also speaks at professional continuing education seminars and conventions on current issues in compensation. His recent and upcoming presentations include:

“Normalizing Owner Compensation in Business Valuations”
National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA)   Webinar December 18, 2017 

“Getting Paid What Your Services are Worth”
Financial Valuation SuperConference
San Diego  December 12, 2017

“Normalizing Owner Compensation in Business Valuations”
Business Valuation Resources (BVR)  Webinar   December 5, 2017

“Normalizing Owner Compensation”
American Society of Appraisers (ASA) Advanced Business Valuation Conference
Houston  October 8, 2017

“Getting Paid What Your Services are Worth”
NACVA   Webinar September 18, 2017

“Getting Paid What Your Services are Worth”
NACVA   Webinar July 26, 2017

“Getting Paid What Your Services are Worth”
NACVA’s Annual Consultants Conference
Chicago   June 9, 2017  Please change the 8 to 9

“Normalizing Owner Compensation in Business Valuations”
NACVA Webinar   December 2, 2016

“Getting Paid What Your Services are Worth
NACVA Webinar   December 1, 2016

“Getting Paid What Your Services are Worth”
NACVA’s Financial Forensics and Expert Witness Conference
Chicago    November 16, 2016

“Normalizing Owner Compensation in Business Valuations,” and “Getting Paid What Your Expertise is Worth,”
NACVA’s Business Valuation and Healthcare Valuation Conference
Washington, DC     September 21, 2016

“Practical Tips for Engagement Letters” and “Getting Paid What Your Expertise is Worth.”
The Carolinas Chapter of the Institute of Management Consultants
Greensboro, NC    September 12, 2016

“Normalizing Owner Compensation in Business Valuations,” “Getting Paid What Your Expertise is Worth,”
and “Practical Tips for Engagement Letters”
The Massachusetts Chapter of NACVA
Westborough, MA   July 21, 2016

“Practical Tips for Engagement Letters”
NACVA Webinar   June 27, 2016

“Normalizing Owner Compensation in Business Valuations”
NACVA’s Annual Consultants Conference
New Orleans, LA   June 25, 2015

“Normalizing Owner Compensation in Business Valuations”
NACVA Webinars    July 15 and 29, and September 24, 2014  

“Normalizing Owner Compensation in Business Valuations”
NACVA’s Annual Consultants Conference
Las Vegas, NV   June 19, 2014

“Preparing for IRS Scrutiny of Executive Compensation”
Columbia Tax Study Group
Columbia, SC     February 19, 2014

Reasonable compensation issues come up often in IRS audits of closely-held companies, non-profit organizations and professional service firms, as well as in business valuations. The facts and issues are usually complex. Large amounts of money are involved and egos are challenged. Therefore, you might expect many of these cases to be heard by the Tax Court. However, there are disadvantages to going to court. First, going to court can extend the process for years. Second, preparing for court takes large amounts of time and money. Good attorneys and compensation experts are expensive. Third, sensitive information about the employer becomes publicly available in court. Therefore, most of these compensation cases settle without going to trial. Only about three to five published opinions on reasonable compensation come out of the Tax Court each year.

The judges do not always use the same methodologies in forming their opinions. Therefore, when cases are published, they are read carefully by attorneys and compensation exerts. Since the law does not say exactly how reasonable compensation amounts are to be determined, the courts create guidance through their published opinions.

"Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining understanding.
View life as a continuous learning experience."

~ Denis Waitley


Economic Damages

Stephen analyzes economic damages and lost profits claims, and provides expert testimony when necessary. Every situation is different and must be studied carefully. He tries to begin the process by asking the right questions and ensuring a good understanding of the issues and facts. After perusing documents and completing careful research and analyses, he forms opinions and prepares to explain complex issues in simple terms.

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few."
~ Shunryu Suzuki

Tax Malpractice Claims

Evaluating Tax Malpractice Claims

Stephen has the education, credentials and experience to analyze complex malpractice claims involving income tax planning and tax compliance services. He worked in the tax practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers for ten years (1982 – 1992) and then was a tax/consulting partner in two CPA firms over a twenty-two year period.

Stephen has been engaged as an expert witness by attorneys across the United States almost one hundred times for Tax Court cases and tax malpractice cases. Most cases settled, but he has testified in U.S. Tax Court five times.

He is the author of the book “America’s Best Tax Strategies, Legitimate Ways to Save Income Taxes Now” (self-published in 2004) and has written more than one hundred published articles. He has also spoken at many continuing education seminars and conferences and taught a graduate-level income tax planning course at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business (2000 – 2005).

Since time is of the essence in any litigation, Stephen strives to be available to counsel when needed and to provide timely responses.

"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."
~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War