October 23, 2018

Accounting News Roundup: The Talent War, Tax Havens, and 20/20 Visions | 11.07.17

zombie face iphone

The Talent War

I’ve noticed that there’s something hostile about how people describe the search for qualified finance and accounting professionals. Statements like, “IT’S A WAR FOR TALENT” or “THE BATTLE FOR THE TALENT IS ON” are so pervasive, I’ve been assuming for awhile now that human resource departments line up every Monday to calls of “Spears and shields! Spears and shields!”  Even if it’s larping or just rhetoric, I imagine HR professionals like these pugnacious metaphors to break the monotony of explaining crappy benefits packages and ignoring sexual harassment claims.

This CFO article takes a new tack with the melodramatics, upping the stakes a bit:

As it turns out, predictions that the economic recovery would inevitably draw companies into a fierce tug-of-war for talent were off-base. As far as finance executives are concerned, the hiring process now more closely resembles a scavenger hunt.

That insight into labor market dynamics emerged from the third-quarter results of the Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey, which drew responses from 850 CFOs.

I’m excited to see where this goes next. If CFOs are engaged in a scavenger hunt now, by mid-2018, they’ll be rummaging through piles of business-casual carrion, trying to revive anything with a pulse to fill a low-level FP&A position.

Tax havens

The “Paradise Papers” is the latest massive leak of documents chronicling the maneuvers of wealthy individuals and corporations to avoid taxes and other questionable activities. One of the most visible of these companies is Apple, which has been fighting the image as a serial tax avoider for a few years now, most famously in an appearance by CEO Tim Cook before a Senate subcommittee. The New York Times was one of the media organizations who helped break the news of the Paradise Papers, and it includes this callback to Cook’s testimony:

It was May 2013, and Mr. Cook, the chief executive of Apple, appeared before a United States Senate investigative subcommittee. After a lengthy inquiry, the committee found that the company had avoided tens of billions of dollars in taxes by shifting profits into Irish subsidiaries that the panel’s chairman called “ghost companies.”

“We pay all the taxes we owe, every single dollar,” Mr. Cook declared at the hearing. “We don’t depend on tax gimmicks,” he went on. “We don’t stash money on some Caribbean island.”

True enough. The island Apple would soon rely on was in the English Channel.

Yes, Apple Apple has avoided the Caribbean completely, having moved its tax haven of choice about 1,000 kilometers from an island in the North Atlantic to Jersey, an island in the middle of the English Channel. The Times reports that “the company canvassed multiple jurisdictions” before settling on Jersey, and you have to wonder if any of the tax lawyers bothered to stand up and say, “Uh, guys? Shouldn’t we find a place a little farther away from Ireland?” Maybe this was Apple’s way of giving the finger to the tax-haven shamers.

Elsewhere in Paradise Papers: Bono ‘distressed’ by fears firm he invested in may have avoided profit tax


As someone who has worn eyeglasses for 30 years, the idea of 20/20 vision is a bit abstract to me, kinda like true love or auditor quality. In other words, I know that it’s a thing, but I’ve accepted that it’s not practical in real life.

Anyway, here’s an amusing Wall Street Journal article on the business cliche du jour: strategic initiatives entitled “Vision 2020.” Organizations far and wide adopted “Vision 2020” plans because no one in a corporate marketing department can resist corny wordplay.

At least 10 universities and school districts in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. embraced visions. Competing businesses began to out-vision each other. International Paper and Asia Pulp & Paper both presented 2020 visions. So did the professional-service consultants EY and Grant Thornton.

Fun fact: PwC also has Vision 2020 strategy. I’m sure you can find Vision 2020s for KPMG and Deloitte as well if you cared to look, but no one does, so let’s just agree that 2020 can’t get here fast enough so these stupid initiatives will end and for other, completely unrelated reasons.

Previously, on Going Concern…

In Open Items, one user wants to know if Big 4 internship offers will be rescinded after a DUI. Also, “What are accountants good for?

In other news:

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Accounting News Roundup | 01.21.10

How to find the “best and brightest” [CPA Success]
This may be a better topic for the friendly HR professional but figuring out who these future accounting rock stars are before they show up on their first day is “more art than science”, as Tom Hood notes.
Popular to some old-school thought, GPA does not always indicate who’s going to dominate in the real world and “soft skills” — besides being a terrible term — are in more demand than ever.
Help The The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago Help Haiti [Re: The Auditors]
The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago is having a drive today and since Francine’s friend is the CFO, we’ll be glad pass around the news:

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Guillermo Becerra, is the CFO of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. I asked him how I could help him, and the Red Cross, during what must be an incredibly busy time post-Haiti earthquake.

“The Chicagoland community will come together on Thursday, January 21 to give to the American Red Cross as we help the people of Haiti recover from the catastrophic earthquake that devastated their country last week.
The Chicago Helps Haiti media relief drive begins at 5 a.m. and lasts until 11 p.m. Nearly every TV and radio station in our area will be promoting this fundraising effort throughout the day. You can help too, by giving via phone or online, and sharing your thoughts here, on Facebook or Twitter, and by asking others to give.
To give from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. CALL 1 (877) 565-5000 or visit www.chicagoredcross.org/haiti

Plus, we’re guessing that if you give, your 2009 tax return isn’t much of a concern.
If Your Password Is 123456, Just Make It HackMe [NYT]
The Times is concerned that you have a shitty password which puts you at a huge risk of being hacked by someone sitting in their parents’ basement.

Imperva found that nearly 1 percent of the 32 million people it studied had used “123456” as a password. The second-most-popular password was “12345.” Others in the top 20 included “qwerty,” “abc123” and “princess.”

You know who you are, ye with stupid passwords. Also, don’t even think of changing it to “654321” because that drops in at #19.

Accounting News Roundup: Haiti Relief Passes Senate; Accounting Job Surge? CPAs Basically Control People’s Lives | 01.22.10

Senate votes for faster tax breaks for Haiti gifts [WaPo]
As expected, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation yesterday that allows taxpayers to deduct donations made for Haiti relief efforts. You have until the end of February to donate so that it may be included on your 2009 return.

Maybe it’s bad legislation but we’ve been over that.

CPA Jobs Set for Surge. But When? [CPA Trendlines]
That’s the question, isn’t it? Rick Telberg, who has done a great job of tracking the Bureau of Labor Statistics on accountants, points out that while the latest BLS forecasts a 22% increase (279,400 jobs) by 2018, there’s no indication that it’s happening now:

[M]any tax, accounting and finance professionals are still slogging through the Great Recession. The Association for Financial Professionals, for instance, reported that about one in four respondents say their organizations will contract in 2010. At the same time, a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of private companies found 43 percent of CEOs and CFOs still budgeting no expansion over the next 12 months to 18 months. The data just seem to reinforce economic uncertainties and a weak outlook.

The BLS is looking past the past the recession for the jump in opportunities but just when the hell will that be? Just because the economy isn’t contracting currently, doesn’t mean it won’t in the future and this “recovery” has been tepid at best.

Theismann to CPAs: You Are the Conscience of America [Web CPA]
Joe Theismann gets it. He knows that without all of you out there in CPA land, your clients don’t stand a chance. They’d be finished. Finished!

“You’re the conscience of America,” Theismann told conference-goers. “You are the survivors in tough times. With accountants, I’m not looking for someone to file taxes and do my financials. I can do that myself online. In your position you can basically control people’s lives.”

So get out there and control somebody’s life. Joe Theismann is expecting it.