The JDA

Public Accounting Firms, Ranked by CEO Hotness

*ranked from the Accounting Today Top 100 #10: BDO Wayne Berson has done wonderful things for BDO but I definitely wouldn't do wonderful things to him. Nope. Sorry Wayne but… just no. The good news is you're one makeover away from being Eric Cantor, in which case, email me. #9: CliftonLarsonAllen It's a known fact […]

Are Today’s Accountants Already Occupying Wall Street?

Caleb and I had a talk last night and it made me think about this whole Occupy Wall Street thing. More importantly, it made me think about what I am and am not doing to support it. I haven’t been to a rally, even to take pictures (last time I tried to do that, I was the only one out in front of the Federal Reserve Board at 6 in the morning except for the lone Fed cop patrolling the perimeter).

I get that people are pissed off. I’m pissed off too. I’ve been pissed off, don’t tell me about being pissed off. I was lugging around aFed sign made on top of “Ron Paul ’08” acrylic three years ago, you don’t have to tell me about being pissed off. (Here I am in 2009 on SF Citizen in a “Bernanke 00%” t-shirt at an anti-Iraq war rally)

And I get that for some people, all there is to do is go downtown with a drum and some poorly-written signs on cardboard ripped from your mom’s Costco packages in the recycle bin. That’s totally fine, everyone has their own way of sticking it to the man.

For a lot of Going Concern readers, sticking it to the man means showing up every day in business casual pretending to give a fuck about COSO but actually knowing that it’s all a lie. They work you to the bone until you leave or submit and get promoted to manager. Partner if you’re lucky. Run on that hamster wheel, here have this bonus, keep going and one day you can beat your own subordinates into submission. Go, go, go… Many of you get that this is bullshit but keep showing up every day anyway, and to me, you are your own special kind of protester. Same as last year, motherfucker, it’s the ultimate form of rebellion.

Too much?


Point being, everyone has their own way of screwing the establishment. Francine does it railing against the Big 4. Bill Sheridan and Tom Hood do it at the MACPA with professionalism. Tom Selling does it by riling up fellow academics. Professor Dave Albrecht does it by being seen in public canoodling with known incendiaries like yours truly.

I do it by ripping on the IASB as often as I am allowed to, infiltrating the Hill to sniff out what’s the latest in CPA lobbying efforts and getting in as many F bombs as I can on the dry subject of accounting. That’s all I can do. I can’t abandon my day job to hang out in Manhattan eating vegan paninis. I can make and distribute offensive Bernanke fridge magnets.

I completely understand why people are attracted to Occupy Wall Street; the part I’m struggling with is why so many of the 99 Percenters seem obsessed with this thing called “fairness” that does not, in fact, exist. Is it fair that any of us have to drag our asses to work every day and do what we do? Is it fair that Becker costs $3,000 and doesn’t pass the CPA exam for you? Is it fair that many of you are drowning in student loan debt and seemingly forced to get Master’s degrees just to work in your field? Is it fair that Caleb gets listed in all the accounting publications and I’m stuck as the sidekick hack who always manages to piss people off? This world is unfair, sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I have to write about accounting every day of my life, it’s un-fucking-fair, we get it.

In my view (for whatever that is worth, which is probably not more than our company pays me to write this post), the ultimate rebellion is assimilating and infiltrating the establishment to enact real change from the inside. Are partners scared as shit of this website? Yes. If they’re threatening you with termination if you even dare to write us for advice, we’re doing something right. And I didn’t even have to not shave my armpits to accomplish that (but Caleb probably shaved his).

Are any of you going to independently revolutionize the accounting industry? Probably not. But collectively, you have scared the pants off of lazy ass recruiters and partners across this country who thought you didn’t have it in you. They read us because they feel like they have to or else they’ll lose touch with what you guys are thinking, and it scares the living shit out of them. In my mind, that’s a far more effective message to send the The Establishment, whoever the hell they are.

I fully support the fundamental sentiment of Occupy Wall Street but much prefer fulfilling my incendiary duties here trying to get accounting kids riled up and questioning why they put up with the shit they do. Working mothers in public accounting should be allowed to have children. Interns should be allowed to ask questions (even dumb ones). Auditors should be expected to question last year’s logic. It’s not complicated but it’s important work that a lot of you do, and I hope that you get that.

It is not your fault that we’re here. Many of you just followed the rules.

Thanks for letting me be a part of that. Beats standing around with a fucking sign, that’s for sure.

Earlier:
Wanted: Accountants for Large Protest; Organizational Skills and Experience with Anything Slightly Resembling a Expense Reimbursement Policy a Plus [GC]

What To Do When You Inherit Money

If you’ve recently inherited a little money from a deceased relative, please accept our condolences. Then accept our advice, which might help you navigate this tricky area without ending up in the IRS penalty box and/or screwing yourself later on down the road.

Special thanks due to Allen DeLeon, CPA, PFS of DeLeon and Stang, who gave me good advice when I found myself in this situation with no clue how to handle it and some pointers for this article. If you are in Maryland and need an expert to help with your inheritance (Fluffy Mattress, CPA is not taking on new clients at this time), hit up the firm and they’ll be happy to help. The following is not presented as tax advice and is not meant as a substitute for a professional assessment of your personal situation.

First, you might be a CPA but that doesn’t mean you are an expert in personal financial planning, estate rules and tax law. So unless you happen to be a partner with 20 years experience handling inherited IRAs and pension plans, find yourself a qualified CPA from whom you can get a little advice. Maybe there is a partner in your office who you trust that knows a thing or two about this area but absent that, check with your state society of CPAs to see if they have a recommendation. It shouldn’t be hard to find someone in your state.

Second, get any real estate or other property valued and save all documentation. You aren’t taxed on the receipt of property, so if your grandma leaves you her house, you don’t have $200,000 in income to claim but you will have a gain (or loss) to report later (should you sell this property) that is based on its value at the time of the owner’s death. If you end up never valuing it and renting it out for a decade and then want to sell it, you’ll be ass out if you don’t have a baseline value. This goes for stocks too but you should have no problem figuring out what those are worth.

On the federal level, the only initial tax you have to worry about is on inherited IRAs and pension plans, which are taxed as income (meaning at your normal tax rate – be wary of a large sum changing your tax bracket). If you cash these out, you can elect to have the tax withheld or pay it directly to the IRS yourself after distribution but keep in mind there could be penalties associated with that option.

Currently, most inheritance is not subject to income tax. The second Congress reads this article, however, that could change so again, talk to someone who actually knows the rules and keeps us with any changes if you are at all unsure how to proceed.

Good luck!

Five Questions With Feed the Pig’s Benjamin Bankes

It’s been quite some time since we brought you Five Questions as we’ve already asked just about everyone worth asking to participate. But we’ve got a serious bacon fetish and a penchant for saving our pennies, so when we got the chance to interrogate Feed the Pig’s Benjamin Bankes, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity.


In case you aren’t familiar with his work, BB is th��������������������f the AICPA’s Feed the Pig campaign, inspiring saving across the country through PSAs, tweets and other similar awareness campaigns. His people got in touch with us and sent his official bio thusly:

Although he comes from a long line of investment piggy bankers, Benjamin once toyed with the idea of playing professional football (he wanted to be the ball in a Super Bowl game). Once he realized he would have no life with that career, the idea quickly boared him. Then, he discovered the alarming state of personal finances in this country and Benjamin realized his true life’s mission.

Bankes attended Sowthwestern University, where this little piggy went to marketing classes. Though he has never been known as a party animal, he does enjoy the occasional mudslide. In addition to his sharp business sense, Benjamin is also a very talented fiction writer who goes under the pig-pen name of H.W. Hogfellow. Other interests include: long trots on the beach, watching television (his favorite show is Squeel of Fortune), viewing movies (favorite movie is Martin Boarsese’s epic, The Hogfather), and listening to music (favorite song is “Pigs Don’t Lie” by Shoatkira). Benjamin currently resides in the minds of 25 – 34 year-olds everywhere who need proper financial guidance.

Feed the Pig’s hard work is definitely working. According to a survey conducted by The Advertising Council:

Respondents who recalled seeing or hearing the Feed the Pig PSAs were more likely to claim they always take certain actions to save money, such as:
o Keeping a budget of their expenses (33% vs. 19%)
o Saving for long-term financial goals such as education, a house or retirement (30 vs. 18%)
o Bringing a bagged lunch to work and/or eat leftover meals (29% vs. 21%)
o Comparison shopping for the purchase of most items (49% vs. 23%)
o Increasing savings when they receive a salary increase (27% vs. 16%)

Respondents who recalled seeing or hearing the Feed the Pig PSAs were more likely than those who had not to report that in the past six months, they have taken action to learn more about managing their finances. Reported activities include:
o Discussing ways to save money with friends and family (84% vs. 67%)
o Visiting a website to get more information about how to save money (62% vs. 34%)
o Calling a toll-free number to get more information (32% vs. 4%)

Side note: this interviewer slipped an extra $20 in her piggy bank after writing this piece.

We’d like to say we sat down with Benjamin but good bacon would have gotten hurt in the process, so instead we caught up with him via email and asked all the sizzling questions we could come up with.

AG: Does it hurt having that slot in your head?

BB: Only when it’s empty.

AG: When we think of financial literacy we think of you but what are some other resources for those interested in learning how and why to save?

BB: Of course I recommend my website, www.feedthepig.org as well as another financial literacy website from AICPA, www.360financialliteracy.org. In addition the state CPA societies have wonderful financial literacy sites and offer programs in their communities. Here’s a sampling:

Texas Society of CPAs: http://www.valueyourmoney.org/
California Society of CPAs: http://www.calcpa.org/Content/Financial_Literacy.aspx
Virginia Society of CPAs: http://www.vscpa.com/Content/financial_fitness/default.aspx

AG: Do you read any accounting blogs and if so, which do you like?

BB: Do I sense a leading question? You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to pull one over on Benjamin Bankes.

AG: Fine, we won’t send you a FREE I heart Jr Deputy Accountant bumper sticker then. Moving on, even though financial literacy is important, we all deserve a splurge every now and then, especially if we are being diligent about saving our money. How do you splurge?

BB: I put ice cubes in my tap water.

AG: Sounds like you missed your calling, you would make a great CPA. Lastly, are you going to be visiting Capitol Hill any time soon? Seems like America as a whole has really embraced your message but Washington could really use your help. You can stay at my house to save a few bucks on a hotel room.

BB: I don’t have any trips planned right now, high gas prices and all, but follow me on Twitter (@feedthepig) and I’ll let you know when I’m there.

CPA Exam Candidate Bloggers, They’re Everywhere

Back in the day, there was really only one CPA exam blogger and it was Jeff at Another71 who chronicled his adventures (read: failures) while amassing a large audience of loyal followers who shared in his triumphs and defeats. Over time, Jeff transformed his humble little website from just a soap box for him to complain to an actual career, blowing off the idea of a day job for the somewhat lucrative but always entertaining world of blogging. By all appearances this has worked out for him and it may be no small coincidence that a storm of CPA exam bloggers have followed in his footsteps, including his own team of CPA exam bloggers writing for him at Another71.

The only other longstanding CPA exam blog we can think of is the New Jersey Society of CPAs’ Exam Cram, which has featured a revolving cast of characters over the years, all of whom share their individual CPA exam stories with NJSCPA members and the Internet at large. Who says blogs are dead?


One CPA exam blogger we haven’t seen in quite some time:
The Cooking Accountant
has been at this for awhile now and appears to have allowed a BEC failure to keep her from her blog since June of 2010. Once active in documenting her journey, her last entry reads “It hurts twice as much to learn you have to re-take two parts because you failed one. This is reminiscent of when a little girl riding her bicycle hits a raised chunk of sidewalk and goes flying off her bike, landing on the hard cement. But this time, not only does she scrape and bruise her knee and elbow so bad she can barely get up, but the doll she had in the bike basket is now sitting in the gutter.”

But many other CPA exam bloggers are alive and well and blogging every dirty detail of their lives as CPA exam candidates, at least when it comes to disappointments and annoying coughing girls at Prometric.

My CPA Exam Journey
3 Letters, 1 Day at a Time
Sleep on CPA
No More 74
Mission: Pass CPA Exam
CPA Adventures

The list goes on and on and if I missed any good ones, do let me know.

Here’s my concern: while it’s certainly healthy to form a community of miserable bastards who can share in the joy and misery of the CPA exam experience together, at what point does blogging become a distraction? If you notice, each one of these blogging candidates commit well thought-out, carefully written, decent length posts, something a lot of “other” bloggers don’t always do. So is there an element of procrastination that blogging about the exam allows?

If that’s the case, it’s probably a healthy sort of procrastination. Candidates might be taking a break from the MCQ but they are still focused on their goal of licensure by writing about, thinking about and reading about the CPA exam.

As long as they don’t start using that #twudygroup to talk about movies and their relationship problems, I don’t see the harm.

New Research Suggests Accrual Revelation About Earnings and Trading Strategy

Professor Russell Lundholm may not have intended it to turn out this way but may have inadvertently revolutionized the accrual anomaly and not so incidentally points out that no one else seems to have figured this out. “It’s about the composition of earnings and what percent were due to accruals,” he said about his recent paper, published in the January/February American Accounting Association’s Accounting Review.

Think about it this way: a company with a lot of cash…has a lot of cash. It’s obvious that cold, hard cash can be used by a company at any point. Accruals, on the other hand, aren’t always as easily converted into a pile of dollar bills that can be shoved into a truck and sent to debtors or suppliers for items the company needs. Forgive me for going out on a limb here but it then seems obvious that a company low on accruals (or accounting tricks) should reasonably underperform. That’s not the point of the work, though. It’s about looking at earnings minus accruals:

Employing corporate data spanning 19 years, the authors — [Russell] Lundholm, [Nader] Hafzalla (now deceased), and Matt Van Winkle of Voyant Advisers, LLC of San Diego — compare results computed via the traditional method and via the new method for both operating accruals and total accruals. For both operating and total accruals the new method yields significantly better returns, with the sharpest difference being seen for operating accruals (net income minus cash from operations); there, the traditional model yields an annual return that is about 6.5% greater than that of a portfolio of similarly-sized firms, and the new model produces an abnormal annual return that is about 11.7% greater than that of similarly-sized firms.

People have figured out this strategy but the new bit is that Lundholm, Hafzalla and Van Winkle look at it as a new equation: is picking out a stock dud as easy as figuring out who has a bunch of accruals?

Lundholm points to examples where a high level of accruals preceded poor stock performance.

Accruals at Monsanto Co, the world’s biggest seed producer, were 58 percent of earnings for the previous four quarters when the company reported results on January 6, 2010, according to Lundholm. That was in the top 10 percent of all U.S. companies.

Since then, its shares have dropped 13 percent, while the S&P 500 index is up about 16 percent.

Recommended reading in relation to this subject, Lundholm’s paper in its entirety: Percent Accruals by Lundholm, Hafzalla and Van Winkle. We’ll take all the accounting revolutions (or revelations) we can get.

What’s on Incoming IASB Chairman Hans Hoogervorst’s Plate?

Your next IASB chairman, Hans Hoogervorst, already has a few things on his to do list (right after scratching Sir David Tweedie’s name off the door), one of which involves restoring investor confidence by redoing last year’s bank stress tests in Europe since it seems they were not really credible, “One reason for scepticism was that sovereign bonds on the banking book were deemed to retain their full value, despite the fact that many were trading at steep discounts in the market,” he said. “The fact that some Irish banks that had passed the test later turned out to be insolvent only served to reinforce the doubts in the market.”

Doubts? That’s a kind way to put it.


Speaking at the two-day European Commission financial reporting and auditing conference, Hoogervorst also wanted to make sure everyone is clear on who rules the IASB. Despite appearances that rules are made by a handful of influential Europeans who like to play with accounting regs, he insisted the IASB is a multi-national group in which everyone gets a say. Or rather, he insisted that he’ll be trying to make sure the IASB is perceived as such, “It’s very important that we develop a governance structure that is more inclusive. At all costs we should avoid the perception that IFRS is dominated by a small group of nations,” he said. He did not seem to clarify if he was more worried about the actual structure of the IASB or just the appearance, nor did he mention how many U.S. delegates will have at the IASB’S table if we were to stop dragging our feet and just adopt already.

While auditors are taking a lot of heat for failing to catch just how bad off European banks were, H-squared doesn’t seem to feel they deserve so much criticism as they were simply following the rules. “How critical will auditors be when they see that regulators consider that severely discounted securities carry no risk?” he asked, obviously rhetorically.

Also in attendance at the conference, Federal Reserve senior associate director and chief accountant Arthur Lindo, who is hopeful that we here on this side of the pond will “move diligently towards some form of IFRS in the near future.” What Lindo did not say was whether or not the Fed would also adopt these rules or continue to use their freakish hybrid of GAAP and government accounting that they make up each and every year. Perhaps convergence will mean throwing in some IFRS into their 300+ page financial accounting manual.

Looks like Hans is going to have his hands full for the foreseeable future. Veel geluk met dat!

Accounting chief calls for more credible bank test [Reuters]

Maybe You’re Too Busy To Pass the CPA Exam Then

Warning: the following is a rant and it’s nearly four years in the making. If you offend easily or think you might recognize yourself in what I’m about to rant on, maybe you should skip this post and come back Friday when I’m back to offering cuddly advice on how to pass the CPA exam. For now, I have a serious bone to pick and can hold my tongue no longer.


As many of you know, I spent my early years on the fringes of the industry in CPA review. I loved my job, mostly because I gobbled up everything I could about the exam and was able to offer that knowledge to others at a critical time in their lives. I loved being able to share in their successes (and failures) and it was a joy to work with some of our students who went out ofize what I’d brought to their experience. We all know it’s hell, and I can’t say my job was any less stressful than the exam experience itself but it was worth it to come to work every day just to hear a heart-felt “thank you” from a candidate who truly appreciated what I’d done to help them get those three all-important letters after their name.

But for every sweet student, I would have to deal with a handful of lazy, unmotivated, over-privileged pricks who expected the exam to pass itself and seemed to blame everyone except themselves when things went wrong. Somehow it was my fault that they spent the last year getting wasted and posting photographic evidence on Facebook, or my fault that they blew off studying to play WoW or [insert lame, overplayed excuse here]. And that’s exactly what they were and will continue to be: excuses. I can tell you that nothing will stand between a CPA exam candidate and their goal of licensure more than excuses. Well, maybe lack of knowledge but that’s a rant for another day.

The worst excuse of all has always been and will always be “I’m too busy.” If you’re too busy to read through the terms and conditions before you shell out a few grand for a review course (or at a minimum, call up with reasonable questions about how things work), you’re probably too busy to take the exam. If you’re too busy to dedicate two hours a day to studying, you’re again likely too busy to take the exam. If you’re too busy to sacrifice 14 hours to exam-taking and 400 hours to studying in 18 months time, you’re definitely too busy to take the exam.

It’s a pathetic excuse when you think about it because who decided to take this thing in the first place? You did and at some point I can only hope it registered in your mind before making said decision that you still have things to do and a limited amount of time to do them. But you chose to do this anyway, right?

My favorite are the parents who also work full-time and complain that they are just too busy. Listen, no one is debating the fact that they have a metric shit ton on their plate but what they seem to forget is that life is all about choices and they chose to start working, get married and have children before passing the exam. So, sorry but it’s not like life is just a random shuffled deck, each candidate getting whichever cards the dealer hands out; we’re all adults here and as such, it’s important that we recognize the impact of the choices we make. The AICPA Board of Examiners didn’t decide to start a family for you, you did.

This exam sucks for everyone and for different reasons. Stop making it suck even for people who aren’t taking it by thinking somehow you are more important than everyone else and therefore entitled to some kind of special treatment because you work 60 hours a week (who chose this line of work again? Please remind me). Somehow hundreds of thousands of equally-busy future CPAs have managed to pass this thing before you and I didn’t hear most of them complaining about how busy they are. Get over yourself or get out of public.

Making CPA Exam Resolutions for 2011

I can’t believe the year is over and have already gotten my 2010 CPA exam rant out of the way so the following is specifically for those of you excited to get started on the brand-spanking new (not so new) CBT-e CPA exam that launches anew on January 1 or, more specifically, January 3rd, 2011. Or maybe January 4th. Anyway…


Last year, you probably swore up and down you’d be done with all four parts AND the ethics exam (for those of you who actually have to take one) by now but life happens and your plans fell through so instead of making unrealistic resolutions only to be disappointed, let’s tackle this the conservative way.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew One part per window is reasonable unless you are going to end up fired or divorced if you don’t get your CPA in the next two months. If you want to be ambitious and take two in a window that’s fine but the easiest way to get through it is by taking it slowly and carefully. Give each section the time it needs to get embedded in your brain just long enough for you to spit it all out, pass, and move on to the next section. There are always exceptions to the rule (and I’m sure they are going to take this opportunity to remind us how exceptional they are in the comments) but odds are you aren’t the exception so don’t try to overachieve, you don’t get bonus points for most failed attempts or most parts attempted in one testing window.

Plan! I can’t say it enough: if you don’t have a plan, you’re going to bomb miserably unless you’re one of those fantastic freaks who somehow pulls it off despite all your best procrastinating. If you’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, think of your CPA exam plan in the same way you might approach weight loss. If you don’t plan out a specific diet and exercise plan, you’ll be shoveling cookies down your pie hole within a week.

Schedule. As in right now. If you wait until the last minute to schedule your exams (you know who you are, I talk to you all the time and you’re always sort of generally scheduled to take the exam “at the end of the window”), you’re missing an important motivator that can actually encourage you to study. If you schedule early, you’ve got actual dollars invested in an exam part and a big fat carrot to dangle in front of your face when you’re in the mood to blow off studying. Not just that but you have an actual day to circle on the calendar, which will help you when you’re planning how much time to spend studying in the days before.

Hope that helps and Happy New Year to all of you, see you next year!

P.S. – Please get in touch with us after the 4th with any and all (legal) feedback on the new CPA exam format, we’re excited to hear your thoughts on the AICPA’s exam makeover!

Doing It Right: Not Acting Like an Ass on the Internet

We’ve given you plenty of tips on how not to be an ass on the Internet (sometimes causing you to get pissy with the messenger for calling you out) and also plenty of examples of those who do it wrong (some really, really wrong). So it was thrilling to see the AICPA’s This Way to CPA site take on bad behavior for job-seekers with some of the same tips we’ve been throwing out there all along in Remember your dignity (please). We were especially into this one about acting like an unrefined dolt:

THE BIGGEST DON’T OF ALL

Blab stuff online you can’t take back. It happens. From the typical drunk pic on the Facebook page to the more serious crimes like tweeting the salary you just got offered (especially smooth when the people who already work there see it and instantly pity/hate you), social media blunders are as common as they are hilarious. You heard about the girl who slammed her boss in a status update, then was reminded – by him – that she’d friended him already, right?

Social Media Manager Angela Connor has a simple suggestion to protect yourself against this kind of public blunder. “I don’t care what your privacy settings say; don’t assume anything is private.” This is, of course, the Internet we’re talking about. It’s just too easy for incriminating pictures, swear-packed rants and outright whining about your current job to slip out and become public knowledge.

Surely they aren’t referring to the sort of swear-packed rants that are a mainstay over at Jr Deputy Accountant because, well, let’s face it, that potty mouth nailed me this sweet Going Concern gig.

But if I were to go job hunting tomorrow, my big fat angry mouth would be all over the place ripping on Federal Reserve presidents and verbally bitch-slapping ne’er-do-well Congressmen and most employers aren’t so into that sort of behavior. So let this be yet one more reminder that in this day and age everything you do on the Internet can come back to bite you.

Like that Russian skin flick Caleb made in the early 00s. Google it.

Oh, and can someone please clarify “typical drunken pic on Facebook” for me? I’ve seen plenty of said drunken Facebook pics in my day and am not quite clear on what would qualify as “typical”. Anyone?

Top Six Time Wasters When You’re Studying For the CPA Exam

Allow me to blast right by the fluff and get straight to the meat: you know who you are and you know exactly what you’re doing so put down the apps and get back to the books, this is the CPA exam you’re studying for!

I humbly present, in no particular order of distractionness, the six biggest time wasters for CPA exam candidates.


Twitter This one is huge and I was reminded of this yesterday when I got an email from someone I know exclusively through Twitter who has been studying (on and off, I presume) for the CPA exam for almost as long as I’ve known him. He made the decision to cut his account with a promise of “I’ll be back”, something you may want to consider if you’re blowing up Twitter with status updates when you shoulong>Facebook True story: I once got a call from a CPA exam student who gave me a huge sob story about not having enough time to study begging me to give him more time on his course as he promised up and down that he would not let unforeseen events (death in the family, car accident, job loss; you name the excuse) interfere in his studying going forward. That might have worked (oh, who are we kidding, it wouldn’t have worked on me) except for one small problem: he’d forgotten we were also Facebook friends. So while he was updating with pictures of his drunken nights out and “Which Serial Killer Are You?” quizzes, I was watching an entire year of studying (and a few thousand bucks) swirl down the drain. Stay away from Facebook and please, for the love of all that is sacred and holy, enough with the FarmVille when you should be studying.

Email Emails are great. They make us feel loved and needed and important and sometimes contain all kinds of useful information that we can even apply to studying (like a subscription to our newsletter *ahem*) but they can also be a massive time-waster. You aren’t that important and neither is your email, so shut down Outlook when you’re studying if you’re in front of your computer and even go so far as to set an out of office on weekends if you’re in the last couple weeks before exam day.

Instant messenger Oh IM, how we love thee. Gchat is great for catching up and sharing news but it can be a huge time suck if you get stuck chatting with a friend (especially when you’re dying for a distraction). Don’t cheat and change your status to “Studying for the CPA exam REALLY BUSY”, just log off and hide out for awhile. Trust me, you aren’t going to miss anything that you can’t catch up on next time you log in.

Your phone From texts to apps to mobile Twitter, your phone can be the biggest distraction in your house if you don’t count your TV on Sunday. With so many different ways to keep yourself from studying, sometimes it’s best to simply unplug or, rather, plug your device in to charge somewhere out of your reach while you are studying. Turn your phone to silent and hide it under your pillow if you have to. Checking your phone might only take a second but several checks add up to minutes and next thing you know, you’re pounding out an email response with your thumbs and totally off track.

Your girlfriend (or boyfriend) Seriously. You swear (s)he didn’t need this much attention when you first started dating but now you’re a year in and since you started studying for the exam it seems like you can’t shake her (him) off your nuts long enough to do two homework modules. If a nice talking to won’t work, why don’t you try explaining to your sweetheart that this is a professional exam and, if (s)he’ll get off your jock long enough for you to study and pass, you’ll make a whole metric shit ton more money as a result. That should work. If it doesn’t, dump her (him).

Lastly, remember that our site can be a distraction too. Shock and awe, I know! It’s one thing to swing by for CPA exam tips or to get my email address so you can ask me a question (seriously, I’m nice and sort of know what I’m talking about, wtf) but if you end up here trolling comments and whining about the bonus you didn’t get, you can easily waste plenty of good study time that could have been better applied to, oh, actually studying. Subscribe by RSS so you don’t miss your favorite articles when you have some free time and ignore us until you pass.

Five Ways To Stick To Your CPA Exam Plan During the Holidays

If you’re like most of us, you’ve been half checked out since Thanksgiving [Ed. note: like you don’t even know] and are most likely spending your December gorging yourself on cookies and getting tipsy at holiday parties. But if you’re also studying for the CPA exam, it’s critical to stick to your schedule or else you’ll end up in February wondering why you haven’t studying at all for the exam you scheduled months ago. Here are five quick and dirty ways to stick to your plan.


Turn people down Yes, we know it sucks to have to say “no” but the big key to getting through the exam is being disciplined, which sometimes means saying you’ve got to stay home and study when friends and family are begging you to come out and play. Keep your commitments to a minimum and only do the holiday activities you’ve absolutely have to without being disowned by your family. If you must attend a wild company party, make sure you don’t turn a day of partying into a week of recovering.

Take your CPA review materials with you If you’re traveling out of state to see family, it’s important to bring your review materials with you so you can keep studying while you’re sitting around hearing about your Uncle John’s aches and pains and/or third wife. Bonus: studying is a great excuse to get out of awkward family interactions and shoveling snow so break out the books and show them just how disciplined and determined you are. We guarantee it will inspire oohs and ahhs at the table and hopefully keep you on track to pass next window.

Stick to your schedule If you’ve taken our advice so far (we swear we’re qualified to dispense said advice), you already have a rock-solid study schedule that accounts for every hour of every day and has studying penciled in between work and sleep whenever you can sneak it. Don’t allow the holidays to invalidate that schedule, simply reschedule some areas accordingly. If you blow off entire chunks of your schedule to sip cider and make gingerbread houses with the nieces and nephews, you’re that much more likely to keep blowing it off come January. Adjust your schedule if you have to but be sure to stick to it!

Turn your social aversion into a study tool If you’re like most people – especially accountants – you can’t stand awkward social interactions. Since you’re studying for a professional examination with a reputation for being all-consuming, you’ve got an out when it comes to lame social activities like tree-trimming, caroling, and/or volunteering down at the homeless shelter. Screw all that, leverage your CPA exam misery to your benefit and use it as an out. It’s either that or recruit the homeless guys to help you blast through flashcard drills while you’re handing out Christmas Day turkey at the shelter.

Use days off to study… MORE! Yes I said it. You might have half days or PTO to cash in or the post holiday-party day after to lay around at home and recover but instead of taking a holiday, try squeezing in a little more study time so you’re that much more ready come next year.

And lastly, though this isn’t exactly a tip, ENJOY YOURSELF. You’ve earned a nice little break so take advantage of it, just don’t blow your entire plan in the process!

PCAOB Wants Broker-Dealers to Pony Up for the Privilege of Increased Enforcement

Yesterday, Caleb shared the details on a tentative new plan hatched by Dodd-Frank that would require nonpublic brokers and dealers to open their doors to that special brand of attention known as PCAOB inspections. We also learned that if the PCAOB gets their way, those special little broker-dealers will be asked to pony up the cash for the privilege of getting PCAOB patdowns.


Via Business Week:

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board may require the biggest U.S. broker-dealers to pay more than $1 million a year to fund auditor inspections required under the Dodd-Frank Act.

PCAOB board members voted unanimously Tuesday to seek comment on the proposal, which would create a mechanism for raising the $15 million needed to perform reviews dictated by the financial- regulation overhaul enacted in July.

Unlike audit firms, of which 97% of the littler ones get constantly pestered by the PCAOB while the big boys get their boxes checked and can hit the ranges by noon for cocktail hour on the putting green, the new funding requirement would only affect 14 percent of broker-dealers large enough to meet the PCAOB’s tentative net-capital requirements.

These fees would account for seven percent of the PCAOB’s total funding, guesstimated terminally-acting PCAOB chair Dan Goelzer.

PCAOB board member Bill Gradison is sure that the PCAOB is serious about identifying issues and doing its job protecting the public or whatever the hell it is they are there to do. That means no working things out as they go, I suppose. He swears the interim inspection program is not “just a learning experience for the PCAOB” and “could have consequences for the firms involved.” That’s if anyone finds anything fishy, I am guessing.

Doing It Wrong Twitter Case Study: The Runaway Tweeter

Continuing our series on those in the industry who attempt to use Twitter but fail miserably in one way or another, today’s case study has to do with a tweeter all too frequent among the accounting set: the abandoned account.

You’ve probably come across more than one of these if you’ve attempted to look up certain state societies of CPAs or organizations that appear in Twitter search results but, sadly, feature no picture and maybe one or two tweets from two years ago. It’s obvious, upon checking out the empty bio and single tweet that these accounts belong to tweeters who really wanted to get into the whole Twitter thing but either gave up or got confused and let that drive them away.


I won’t name any names (but one starts with Idaho and ends with Society of CPAs) but one has to wonder what would inspire a media department to go through the trouble of getting their account validated and deciding on that first tweet only to be spooked by the lack of interest or the pure unadulterated excitement of tweeting. What is it? And why bother opening an account in the first place?

We’ve given you guys this lovely piece of advice before (see our interview with New Jersey Society of CPAs’ Don Meyer) but it’s important to remember that you won’t become Ashton Kutcher with 1,000,000 followers overnight and possibly never if you’re tweeting mostly about accounting and all related awesomeness. The niche is small and interest is limited to the couple thousand folks out there who are actively using social media to connect with other like-minded accounting enthusiasts and sources of accounting information. Reactions can be slow to come, if at all, and if you’re trying to break into social media you shouldn’t let the oftentimes frigid audience keep you from trudging ever-onward to meet your social media goals.

You may never get a reaction. You may not get many followers. You may not feel like your message is getting through. But keep doing it and please, don’t end up one of these phantom accounts abandoned in the Twitter junkyard with all the dirty Britney videos and busted dot coms.

Doing It Wrong Twitter Case Study: The Over-Excited Federal Taxation Agency

Without naming names (I’ll give you a hint, it starts with I and ends in S), sometimes agencies get a little too excited when it comes to social media and make the mistake of jumping in head first without analyzing their target audience’s needs. In the case of the IRS, they’re forgetting that tax dodgers know they use Twitter and Facebook to track down tax evaders (hey, if you’re dumb enough to tweet about your five years of unfiled returns, you totally have it coming) and therefore also forgetting that this might turn a few potential followers off from their feeds.

Despite that, the IRS is happy to announce several new Twitter feeds, including one specifically for Spanish-speaking taxpayers. Hola!

The IRS Twitter news feed, @IRSnews, provides the latest federal tax news and information for taxpayers. The focus of the IRS Twitter messages will be on easy-to-use information, including tax tips, tax law changes and important IRS programs such as e-file, the earned income tax credit and “Where’s My Refund.” Anyone with a Twitter account can follow @IRSnews by going to http://twitter.com/IRSnews.

Another important IRS Twitter feed, @IRStaxpros, is designed for the tax professional community. Follow @IRStaxpros by going to http://twitter.com/IRStaxpros. The IRS also tweets tax news and information in Spanish at @IRSenEspanol. Follow this Twitter feed by going to http://twitter.com/IRSenEspanol.

The IRS Twitter feeds will work in conjunction with IRS.gov and the IRS YouTube channels to bring IRS information direct to taxpayers. Since August of 2009, there have been more than 1 million views of videos on the IRSvideos (http://www.youtube.com/irsvideos), IRS multilingual (http://www.youtube.com/user/IRSvideosmultilingua) and IRS American Sign Language (ASL) (http://www.youtube.com/IRSvideosASL) channels.

What’s doing it wrong about this? Maybe the fact that the IRS keeps pumping out Twitter feeds a la PwC (who, last time I checked, had a good 30 – 50 Twitter accounts, each with a varying specialty) but still hasn’t learned how to engage, which is an important component to social media as any of us with half a social media brain already know. Twitter users don’t want to be shouted at, they generally want to interact! If I want tax news, I’m far more likely to follow Don’t Mess With Taxes and get it from her instead of wasting my time plugging into a spammy news feed run by our almighty Treasury Department.

Just sayin.

Should You Request a Rescore if a Simulation Snafu Cost You a Passing Grade on the CPA Exam?

For this, my first CPA exam advice column since 2010 testing finally closed, we have a pretty interesting question from a candidate in Georgia who wants to know if it her 74 is worth a rescore. Normally my advice is to forget about disputing your score as the AICPA has not actually changed a single failing score to passing in the last three years (remember, their formula is bulletproof and they are not about to admit their precious psychometric testing sucks) but this is a special case.

Hello, I have a question related to my score on Auditing and would appreciate any advice you could provide. I took the exam on 10/28/2010 and received my score of 74. I am wondering what my options are for appeal or review. The reason for this is because on the last simulation one of the tabs was not the same when I tried to review as when I first saw it. I am 100% sure that I had the choice of 6 options when taken the exam. But once I went back to review the test, there were only 4 choices available. I did report this to the coordinator that was present and she told me that she would write a report. I also reported in the section where they ask if there were any problems during testing.

Firstly, remember that Prometric test center staff are not hired by the AICPA to administer your test. They administer hundreds of different professional examinations, not just the CPA, so they don’t really get how important a single screwed up simulation can be to your overall score. Don’t be surprised if they merely wrote down your complaint and tossed it into the examination abyss.

That being said, the AICPA’s appeal process isn’t really going to help you. As I said above, the chances of a rescore turning out favorably for you are slim to none.

But you may have another option, available through your state board, that would allow you to meet with one of their representatives and see the questions you did not answer correctly. Whether or not this actually ends up in your 74 turning into a 75 is up for debate and in my three years of working in CPA review, I never met anyone who did this, let alone did it successfully.

Contact your state board and ask about the score appeal option. If available, you will likely have to pay a fee and there are no guarantees that anything positive will come of it but if you sincerely believe that the simulation changed, that’s a glitch and throwing out that simulation could just bring you beyond a 75.

Good luck!

Final Reminder of Five Ways the CPA Exam Could Change in 2011

We’ve been talking plenty about 2011 CPA exam changes but since this is my last Friday CPA exam column until the new exam hits in January of next year (December being a blackout month), I figured now would be a good time to go over what will or might be changing next year, much of which is entirely dependent on how things turn out early in the year when CBT-e launches.


First, international standards WILL be eligible to be tested beginning January 1, 2011 but that doesn’t mean the 2010 exam and 2011 will be completely different. I suspect that the AICPA Board of Examiners will be extremely conservative with new standards for at least the first two testing windows of 2011 if not longer. That means you will see new standards and questions but likely will not see too much new material if you’re testing in January/February or April/May.

Second, simulations and research problems WILL look different, unless you’ve taken the exam this year already, in which case you’ve probably already seen a preliminary version of 2011’s simlet problems. The format is changing slightly but pretty close to the current tabs in simulations so it may not look all that different to you come 2011. Research will be worth more than the single point it is now so check out the tutorial on the AICPA’s website and don’t forget to use your current NTS for a free 6 month subscription to the professional literature.

Third, the candidate performance report (score report) is changing. Check out the AICPA’s website for a somewhat complicated scoring FAQ that explains how they currently determine your performance and what all those “comparable” or “weaker” notations mean on your score report.

Fourth, possibly based on the third point, the AICPA has pledged to look into changing what qualifies as a passing score in 2011. They have been pretty quiet with details and have not really said whether new passing scores – if implemented – would be higher or lower than the current 75. The best bet until we hear otherwise is to relax and worry about it later if they decide an 80 works better. They have pledged to give scoring a look after the first window of 2011 so stay tuned and we’ll let you know if we hear anything at that point.

Lastly, remember that the AICPA is nothing if not conservative. That means even though things are changing next year, it is highly unlikely that the AICPA will feel comfortable completely changing things on candidates. So for those of you rushing to get in one last part in the next two weeks (remember: you’ve only got 8 testing days left in 2010!), I’m pretty sure you’ll find next year’s exam to be far more familiar to you than you might think.

The AICPA Teaches Congress What “Burdensome” Really Means

On July 19, the AICPA sent a letter to the House and Senate condemning new 1099 reporting requirements (said requirements being carefully hidden inside The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a.k.a. Obamacare) as burdensome and annoying. Apparently the AICPA must feel quite strongly about this matter as it is now November and they have sent a very similar letter to Congress, perhaps to show them just how burdensome extra paperwork can really be.


The House letter may be found here.

The AICPA doesn’t like that rental property owners could now be required to keep extensive records and bother with tax issues in typically tax-free January, among other things:

This would be the first time that individual taxpayers owning rental property who are not “engaged in a trade or business,” would be required to provide Forms 1099-MISC. For example, many individuals, who own a vacation property that is rented part of the year to help defray their costs, would be subject to the provisions of the SBJA. We are concerned that (1) keeping records to track expenses by provider, (2) obtaining tax identification numbers and other information from providers of property and services, and (3) providing Forms 1099-MISC during January, a month when taxpayers would not normally be focused on tax issues, would be extremely burdensome. Additionally, the AICPA questions the need for sending information forms to certain providers of services, such as utility companies.

Thankfully the AICPA has everyone’s back and feels as though business owners should be allowed to focus on growing their businesses instead of worrying over filling out massive amounts of paperwork. We’ve got to appreciate that attitude as any other professional organization might salivate over the idea of plenty of billable hours to go around as CPAs line up to hook up business owners with the right paperwork but not the AICPA, who said “businesses do not need the added cost of more regulatory requirements at a time when their efforts must be focused on profitability and sustainability.” Word!

We look forward to the next round of angry letters from the AICPA on this matter and hope that they don’t find fighting Congress too burdensome.

Doing It Wrong Twitter Case Study: The Hyper-Connected Crack Tweeter

Chances are you know the Hyper-Connected Crack Tweeter and worse, you could possibly be him or her. Tell-tale signs of hyper-connected crack tweeting include constant RTing, endless strings of @s (sometimes to no one in particular) and a nuclear follow cost. If you are unsure of your follow cost, feel free to check here and if you come up nuclear, it may be time to talk about your Twitter habits.


Remember, value is in the eye of the beholder. While it may seem reasonable to the hyper-connected crack tweeter to send out a constant stream of “Thanks for the RT!” notes and 75 #FollowFriday recommendations beginning on Thursday night, if many in your stream are following 100 people or less, you’re basically just cluttering up other folks’ streams and adding very little value while doing so. Because we’re specifically speaking about accounting here, it’s important to point out that many in the profession are new (or newer) to Twitter and therefore likely to be following just a small handful of people. Point being, if you aren’t adding value you’re pretty much just being obnoxious.

Our recommendation is always to look at what others in the profession are doing to get an idea of what is appropriate use of Twitter. We’ve already recommended checking out those on Michelle Golden’s Accounting Awesomeness list for starters but would also point out specific tweeters like MACPA’s Tom Hood, next gen CPA rockstar Jason Blumer and exuberant Scott Heintzelman. What do these people have in common? They all know the importance of interaction without overkill, sharing just enough of their personal views and goings on mixed in with updates on the profession that keep followers informed and engaged. Now that is doing it right.

The hyper-connected crack tweeter makes the mistake of thinking more is better so even more must be even better. Twitter is not a popularity contest and having the most followers does you little good unless you can somehow convert multi-level marketers and pornbots into clients. Since that’s unlikely, the best thing the hyper-connected crack tweeter can do is take a look at why they are tweeting so much and what value they are offering to the Twitter community as a whole.

True value comes from both the connections and the service provided between those connections. For some, hearing what you had for breakfast is an endearing way to feel closer to strangers thousands of miles away who share the same interests and so a bit of that is allowed (keeps people from thinking you’re a tax-obsessed robot without a soul, right?) but sending out 25 #FollowFriday tweets in rapid succession is really just a cry for help and a sign that you need a primer in how to pack the most punch into your tweets without cluttering others’ streams with your nonsense.

Remember people, moderation. I know it’s exciting and it’s tempting to overdo it but let’s all remember that we have a tradition to uphold for the sake of the whole industry and that’s one of calm, collected and not at all easily excited cool.

Memo to the AICPA: You Don’t Have To Be In High School To Come Up With Juvenile Acronyms

Some of you seemed less than enthused when we shared an AccountingWEB piece on the AICPA’s new “Clearly Pretty Awesome” campaign two weeks ago so I’m here to get a good hoo-RAH out of you in the hopes that you, our brilliant, bitter and oftentimes inappropriate Going Concern readers, might have 2 or 3 cents to add.


Here’s the deal, the AICPA is giving away cash and prizes (to be used strictly for educational purposes, that is) for whomever (between ages 15 – 19) can come up with the best made-up job title using those all important three letters: C P A. Since the efforts of both the Obama administration and Ben Bernanke seem to be useless in creating jobs, perhaps high schoolers can boast a better success rate in creating new jobs. Sorry, Certified Public Asshole is already taken and frankly, kind of played out. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have similar ideas for made-up jobs, though whether or not anyone actually becomes a Chief Private Asshat remains to be seen.

The obvious inspiration behind the campaign is to plant the seed of public accounting in young little future beancounters’ brains when they are still pliable and easily influenced. After all, it’s easier to get them now, as opposed to later on down the road when they’re bitter and pissed off, overworked and saddled with a family and a career. While we admire the AICPA’s efforts in painting the profession in as cool a light as possible given the circumstances, we don’t quite see the point in rewarding whomever makes up “city park accordionist”.

Instead, here’s what I propose: take your high school student to work day for CPAs. Cops do it, why can’t we? Invite high school students to go on a ride-along to the client and hell, while they’re there why not have them partake in such exciting awesomeness as inventory counts? It will look great on their résumés when the job market looks up in 3 – 7 years!

Or better, encourage students to become forensic accountants by taking them to a real prison to follow a day in the life of Jeff Skilling complete with orange uniform and over-aggressive cellmate. That kills two birds with one stone as the impressionable youngsters could also get a great lesson in sexual harassment from a tattooed dude named Spike and save themselves an employee training or two down the road. Perfect!

So, go on then, what do you think CPA could stand for?

Can You Tattoo a CPA Exam Cheat Sheet On Your Arm?

Listen, this may seem like a ridiculous question and knowing our tax-obsessed friend Joe Kristan, chances are he was kidding when he asked it but I couldn’t help but indulge him since this is actually one I have thought about more than once.

Being pretty well-covered from head to toe in ink myself, if it were allowed (and were I completely bankrupt of ethical fortitude), tattoos #34 – 47 co be mnemonic cheat sheets. But is it allowed?

Joe asks not so subtly via Twitter:

@adrigonzo Can you tatoo [sic] cheat sheets on your arms? If so, what parts do you recommend?

Valid question (if ridiculous), no? Let’s look at the rules.


You cannot bring paper, pencil, notes, your cell phone, a calculator watch (who even USES one of those?!), or even a hat into Prometric and if you choose to bring a jacket (I hear those rooms get chilly), you’ve got to wear it all 3 – 4 hours of the exam or else risk running out of time to take a break and put it in your locker. But as far as I can tell, there is absolutely no requirement that would otherwise bar someone from writing down the “answers” in fancy script on the absorbent epidermis of their inner forearms. After all, it’s not like you can remove your skin, right?

Here’s the problem (or four):

The first is that the AICPA Board of Examiners guard their proprietary CPA exam questions with their lives. If it came down to someone being able to bypass the rules by slipping past Prometric with answers tattooed on them, chances are they’d not only skin the offender but sue the shit out of them to find out where they got those answers. Review courses may have practice questions that are similar to actual exam content and the AICPA may retire 50 questions from each section a year but NO ONE except for the AICPA Board of Examiners has an actual answer key.

That being said, if by some fluke someone were able to get their hands on real exam content (unlikely since you aren’t allowed to take scratch paper out of the room and trust me, every sheet is accounted for), the CPA exam that you get is actually pulled from a test bank of thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of questions. So even if you illegally smuggle out exam content and hand it to a tattoo artist, the odds that you would get the same questions on an exam are slim to none. Sure there are likely repeats (as anyone who has taken an exam section two or – God forbid – three or more times can tell you) but not so many that getting an entire random exam tattooed on you would do you any good.

So, let’s just say somehow someone gets their hands on an exact exam and somehow someone else just so happens to get that same exact exam (after tattooing the answers on their forearm). Exam content, as many of you should already know, changes twice a year. So even if the first two somehow work out, the tattoo will be obsolete in 6 months. Then what? Scrawl FAS 141(r) underneath the other rules like a cover-up? Tacky!

Lastly, let’s all keep in mind here that this is the CPA exam, a professional licensure examination that tests not only your knowledge but your personal ethics and ability to protect the public interest. Times may be changing and the public may be OK with being served by a CPA with a visible butterfly tattooed on their ankle (or, we can only hope one day, a full sleeve tattoo) but there is no way you are protecting the public if you’re starting off your career looking for ways to cheat the system.

So is it allowed? Technically yes from what I can gather. Morally that’s a big fat hell no and I shouldn’t have to explain why. We look forward to an announcement from the AICPA that all candidate tattoos must be biometrically logged before admission to the exam is granted.

AICPA Announces International CPA Exam Locations

Have you, like many foreigners, been tripping about getting into the US to take the CPA exam, battling with strict post 9/11 Visa rules and other assorted red tape? Trip no more, the CPA exam is about to go international. This is huge because the exam is also about to get an international makeover (like IFRS testing in FAR and international audit standards in AUD) but that couldn’t at all be coincidentally related to this announcement from the AICPA:

The Uniform CPA Examination will be offered outside the 55 U.S. jurisdictions for the first time in its history in 2011. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and Prometric – the three organizations that jointly offer the CPA Examination in the United States – reached an agreement to administer the exam in international locations.

The CPA Examination next year will be offered in Japan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

The international exam will be the same as the one offered in the U.S., using the same computerized format and administered in English. As in the U.S., the purpose of taking the examination will be to qualify for licensure as a CPA through U.S. state boards of accountancy.

Security has been one issue for the AICPA in deciding where to offer the CPA exam even though it will continue to administer the exam through Prometric. International testing will be subject to the same state board or jurisdiction rules that determine eligibility for CPA exam candidates since there is no Dubai Board of Accountancy. Just as now, potential international candidates will have to meet the requirements of whichever jurisdiction they choose to apply. Which I guess makes all the residency-requirement states out of the running to be a part of this epic new spin on the computerized CPA exam?

Some have mentioned on earlier bitch sessions about the AICPA that their motivation is a monetary one. Expanding membership, for example, brings in revenue. Increasing the passing CPA exam score (thereby causing more failures and, one would imagine, more subsequent $$$ retakes after) is another example though that’s just a rumor last I heard. So if one were inclined to postulate as to the motive behind this move and approach it skeptically, you might come to the conclusion that this could equal a pretty significant payday for the AICPA as well as NASBA, Prometric, ChoicePoint and all the CPA review courses who make a living off of this exam. I’m not against it.

I guess we will find out what significance the U.S. CPA exam still holds for the rest of the world. Even if we end up looking pretty bad when international candidates do way better on the AICPA’s new international exam content in 2011.

How Much Harder Is BEC Going To Be In 2011?

Following the awesomeness that was our “How Much Harder Is FAR Going To Be In 2011?” post, I figured it would be a good idea to go over each section to compare this year’s CPA exam with next year’s. Today you’re lucky to get a good BEC wrap up.


Written Communication – As stated last Friday, written communications are moving from FAR, AUD and REG to strictly BEC. This is good (and possibly easier) for most of you as writing can be a right-brained activity while the rest of the CPA exam mostly tests your left brain’s ability to process and digest information.

If I were taking the exam, I’d relish the opportunity to have three attempts at essays (since it might make up for my pathetic understanding of cash flows) but for many of you this is a weak area. That’s fine. In 2011 you’ll only have to try it once with three BEC-related WCs. You still do not have to get the answer correct but simply have to A) write like you have at least some sense of what a “business memo” contains B) not misspell any words (you get a spell-checker in 2011, no excuses) and C) stay on topic.

Easy. Currently you get two written communications in three different sections, while in 2011 you will get three written communications in one section.

No Simulations – Contrary to rumors I am still hearing for some unknown reason, BEC does not and will not contain simulations in 2011. It may not contain them for some time or the AICPA BoE could get creative and start testing them out in a few years, it’s hard to say but my understanding is that they are happy with written communication in BEC for now. Between you and me I imagine part of the motivation behind this is getting all of you off their backs about the fact that a multiple choice only exam section still takes the same amount of time to grade as more complicated sections like FAR, AUD and REG. But what do I know?

More Econ, Less IT – As for actual BEC content, IT will be more lightly tested while econ will carry more weight. Econ goes from 8-12% of questions to 16-20%. A new area, operations management, will make up 12 – 16% of questions you see. Business structure (partnerships etc) goes back to REG where it belongs and corporate governance takes its place with 16-20% of your questions coming from that area.

Narrowing Components – The new AICPA target weights have changed since last year. Before you were tested on five core components: communication, research, analysis, judgment and understanding. In 2011 (this is for all sections), you are tested on just three: knowledge and understanding, application of the body of knowledge and written communication. Knowledge and understanding make up the MCQ (80 – 90% of your score in 2011’s BEC exam) while written communication makes up the other 10 – 20%.

Will BEC be more focused than it has been since 2004? We wouldn’t put any money on that. It’s still the junk drawer of the CPA exam though it’s come quite a way since its debut with the computerized exam 6 years ago. As a person intimately acquainted with it, I feel it has a ways to go. But 2011 is an improvement and just like FAR probably easier for you guys in the long run.

Is The AICPA Cheapening the Profession with New Membership Rules?

Someone has to ask the question and as a matter of fact Sharon Gubinsky, one of our favorite Maryland CPAs, already has.

Before we get to Sharon’s enlightening comments, however, let’s examine the AICPA’s idea to expand membership to non-CPAs. As is, AICPA membership is limited to those who hold a current CPA certificate. Since the AICPA is a professional organization charged with protecting the protectors, you’d think it would be simple to decide who can and cannot join the organization.

Those of us affiliated with the industry but without CPA certificates are more than welcome to cheer from the sidelines but are rightfully barred from membership in an organization that oversees licensure and sets the overall tone for CPAs across the country. But here are the proposed changes:

In May 2010, the AICPA governing Council unanimously voted for a member ballot on a proposed bylaw amendment to update the requirements for admission to the Institute. This recommendation is a part of the first major comprehensive review of membership requirements since the 1950s. The bylaw amendment would add a provision to the current CPA certificate requirement for voting membership. Therefore, if the ballot measure were to pass, individuals could become voting members of the AICPA if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1. Possess a valid and unrevoked CPA certificate issued by a legally constituted authority, the present requirement for membership.

2. At any time possessed a valid CPA certificate and the certificate was not revoked as a result of a disciplinary action (i.e., the certificate holder allowed the certificate to lapse because they were not providing public accounting services and therefore the certificate was not required by their state board of accountancy).

3. Fulfill the education, examination and experience requirements of the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) for CPA certification (see Appendix B) and are of good moral character but have never been granted a right to practice because they do not hold out as CPAs.

Back to Sharon. Not arguing with the first two requirements (nor am I), she and many others take issue with the third. Why on Earth would someone meet every requirement for licensure and choose not to be licensed but still wish to be a member of a large, influential professional organization like the AICPA?

She says:

An additional sore spot for current members opposed to this amendment is that in order to maintain an active CPA license a required amount of continuing education credit hours is mandatory. For the State of Maryland the State Board of Accountancy requires eighty hours of CPE every two years in order to renew your license. Those without a valid license are not subject to this requirement. Not only is the CPE a scheduling issue at times due to billable client work but it is not cheap. The average cost for eight hours of training is approximately $300.00. The positive note is that the CPE requirement does keep us informed and refreshed.

Having a CPA license keeps CPAs incentivized to protect the public and adhere to the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct that gives that credential such weight. There is some level of prestige in saying one has accomplished it and a level of service to the public interest required by those who hold it. So why open up AICPA membership to anyone who could be a CPA if they put in the legwork but haven’t?

I think an associate membership idea – if additional membership revenue is what the AICPA is after – is an excellent idea and I for one would be one of the first non-CPAs to sign up just to show my commitment to what the industry stands for. But that doesn’t mean non-CPAs should be allowed to vote on issues important to CPAs, regardless of how intimately acquainted with the profession and the industry’s professional standards one might be.

Licensed CPAs? Yes.

Inactive CPAs? Yes. They still put in the work to pass the CPA exam and secure experience, they have simply chosen to drop out of public or move into a different line of work. That does not negate their professional experience.

Non-CPAs? NO.

FYI – This Is the Last CPA Exam Window To Blow Off Research Tabs

If you’ve been paying attention, you already know that as is, research isn’t very important and if you’re running out of time on a simulation you should completely ignore it. It might be worth a point and let’s be real about it, no one uses it unless they need words for a written communication. Shame on you guys.

Starting January 1, 2011, however, you’re going to have to start giving a shit about the research. I know, lame. They want you to know how to search the code because that’s what you have to look forward to once you get those three letters after your name. Awesome, right? Figure it out.


Research problems will make up one simlet tab in REG, AUD and FAR. FAR and REG are fairly easy in that you only have three databases to search through; in REG, you’ll have to look through the Internal Revenue Code and Tax Services code while in FAR you only have the ASCs to worry about. AUD, however, is littered with 10 different sets of code so you better get familiar with research by A) using the research problems you already have in CPA review textbooks and software and B) playing with the actual functionality of the 2011 CPA exam format if you are sitting for the first time after January 1.

For those sitting for the first time in this coming window, you’ll still have the old research format (unless the AICPA Board of Examiners is trying out their new simlets one last time as pretest questions before the CBT-e beast goes live next year) so you can always feel welcome to ignore it if you are halfway through your simulation with only a quarter of it bubbled in. You can still find that tutorial on the AICPA’s website as well and it is advised that you try it out before you show up at Prometric and waste a bunch of time figuring out how to work the controls. It’s fairly straight-forward but you might as well give it a test drive as you can’t waste 5 minutes to pee let alone try to puzzle your way through an unfamiliar exam format.

I hope to hear that all of you blow research off all the way up until November 30, 2010 (you know, to show your solidarity and commitment to the collective experience of taking this damn exam)… Yes, November 30th, the day most of you are sitting for one last part. Any update on Prometric blackouts in your area? So far I’ve heard the Bay Area is getting completely booked up for the last week of November (shock) but not much else. Any of you having trouble getting in at the last possible minute or more?

This is why we always tell you to schedule early but why listen to us?

If you’d like to know something about the exam (don’t ask where the tutorial is, I just gave it to you), get in touch.

Just One More Reason To Not Act Like an Idiot on the Internet

Federal officials are looking for “easier” rules that would allow for wiretapping of Internet-based services since no one uses their phones anymore, says the NYT.

The FBI, DoJ, NSA and White House officials have been meeting for awhile now to come up with a way around the everyone ditching their phones problem. Spying on someone gets hard when they’re doing all their dirty business on Skype I’m sure. Can you show me any criminals that actually do that?

If things go the way the in-the-dark could mean requiring communication providers to provide access to encrypted interactions using common platforms like BlackBerry and Facebook. While it’s unlikely that any of you will become subject of a federal wiretap warrant, just opening this door means a critical component of our online security has been compromised.


Monitoring services and firms already watch the conversation (look at Cyveillance, for example) and if you brag about all your unreported income on Twitter (e.g. “Fuck 1099s, I haven’t filed a return in five years and those idiots at the @IRS will never find me!”), chances are you’ll get busted so we know TPTB are watching but what happens when they can force their way through encryption? It’s one thing to open yourself up to litigation by being stupid enough to say you’re going to blow up an airport in 140 characters or less but you should be able to make inappropriate comments in the privacy of your own Facebook outbox.

Since when do drug cartels use Facebook to arrange their deals?

Regardless of where this proposition goes the reality is that we’ve already pretty much given our information up (and do, consistently – see also “Sign in using Facebook” buttons that you guys are probably constantly pressing out of laziness) so one more step can’t really be the end of the world for individual privacy, right?

All the more reason to tighten up your personal Internet security in the meantime, which means not using your full name for stuff and refraining from threatening to stab the senior while at the client’s. You know who you are.

The Quickest 2011 CPA Exam Breakdown You’ll Ever Read

Because we know all of you are very busy tearing up your last exams before CBT-e hits in January of 2011, we won’t waste your time and get right to the point. 2011 is coming, the exam is changing and though we’ve been over it plenty in the last several months, let’s go over it one more time.


Simulations – This year’s simulations are next year’s simlets. Simulation problems will be shorter, task-based problems that should take you about 10 – 15 minutes to complete as opposed to the 45 minutes they take now. AUD and FAR will have 7 smaller simulation problems while REG will have 6. As usual, not all of these are graded.

Multiple choice – BEC and REG will contain 24 MCQ per testlet while FAR and AUD will still contain 30. MCQ will make up 60% of the FAR, AUD and REG exams and 85% of BEC.

Research – if you’re taking the exam this year, research is buried in simulations and doesn’t carry much weight point wise. Next year, however, research will be its own tab worth as many points as any of the other simlet problems. FAR research will be easy as it is limited to the ASCs (Accounting Standard Codification) and REG will mostly draw from the Internal Revenue Code but AUD will come with a dropdown menu that includes PCAOB ASs, the Code of Professional Conduct and SSARS just to name a few. You’ve been warned.

Written communication – WC is out of FAR, REG and AUD and slapped into BEC. You’ll have to write three written communications, of which two will be graded.

International standardsIFRS and international auditing standards will be added to current FAR and AUD content (respectively) while REG is mostly unchanged by this as you can’t really test international standards of federal taxation. Keep in mind that this additional content will most likely be gently mixed in with what is already being tested and does not make GAAP completely irrelevant so don’t use 2011 as an excuse to procrastinate all the way through the holidays.

Now stop wasting your time with inflammatory nonsense blogs and GET BACK TO STUDYING!

(btw: if you have a CPA exam question for us – anything from applying to qualifying to passing – do get in touch)

Why Are Milwaukee Accounting Professionals So Afraid of Social Media?

Having grown up in Milwaukee I can’t imagine 2/3rds of Milwaukeeans are jumping into social media, let alone 2/3rds of the financial and accounting population. If they are, it appears as though they’re not really listening to our advice and should be taking this “transparency” in new media thing a notch or two up.

The Milwaukee Business Journal says that two-thirds of Milwaukee area accounting professionals use LinkedIn and Facebook but not necessarily for business. Trying to balance their professional personas with their real lives as protectors of the public interest, they’re understandably sketchy when it comes to diving head first into the Twitter.


There are really no excuses at this point. Plenty of brands have figured out how to gently skirt the line, stand way back behind a wall of professionalism, interact with just about everyone, make it entertaining with self-deprecating stabs at the “boring accountant” stereotype and completely push the envelope until it falls off the cliff. It’s fine, everyone’s doing it and so far no one’s getting sued.

That statement isn’t entirely true, some companies have taken to suing complainers which is always a great way to drum up business and make people want to give you their money. For those of you afraid of social media, that translates into behavior not to engage in. Being a “sue first, ask questions later” sort of company is always a bad idea so don’t do it.

And if you’re going to put someone in charge of handling social media, make sure it isn’t someone overworked and angry at your company who might tweet that they want to stab the client. Other than that, I’m not sure where this fear of social media comes from but it appears that many Milwaukee accounting professionals don’t understand that your brand is only what you present it to be. As long as no one is threatening to physically harm anyone in your stream, you’re pretty safe as far as whatever else you decide to do. Share links, talk to other professionals, really grow a pair and send a photo of your awesome cube arrangements. Whatever, just get involved and stop acting like it’s a larger, more frightening deal than it actually is. It’s just another way to get business done.

Accounting professionals who lack the non-mandated-by-the-AICPA cojones to jump into the new media game are sort of underestimating their own professional ability to judge what is appropriate and what isn’t. That’s an individual choice for brands, firms and representatives of companies as they interact online but it’s disrespectful to the profession to imply that we as a whole don’t act right on the Internets. Please. The niche is large enough that one may bring whatever they want to the table and mostly not get rejected nor the shit sued out of them for tweeting client Social Security numbers. Don’t we know how to behave?

I’d hope so.

So stop being afraid, Milwaukee accounting professionals, it isn’t going to bite (you in the ass later) because you know what’s right and what’s wrong. You’re a fucking professional, dammit. Let me know when you’re on Twitter, I might follow you.

How Not to Get Unfollowed on Twitter

The last time I attempted a “How Not to Be a Total Asshat on the Internet” public service message in this arena, I was torn apart for being too harsh so I’ll leave out the specifics and stick to the suggestions. You know who you are.

Keep in mind that what works for some doesn’t work for others and vice versa; we’re specifically talking about how to fit in with the accounting crew, not alienating clients, not come off as too spammy and/or maintain a reasonable professional profile using your Twitter account as a point of contact to your brand. All of you are more than welcome to do whatever you want with your Twitter accounts, the following is meant for professionals or brands.


Actually interact – No one is suggesting you follow every person who follows you or go on some mass following spree to artificially inflate your Internet popularity for appearance’s sake but a good balance of @s with following shows some level of interaction. A lot of firms miss this one and organizations can make the mistake of focusing strictly on their own message and ignoring what others are saying. Don’t do that, jump in and say something.

If the thought ever crosses my mind that you might be a robot, you’re probably not doing it right – You know the one; they have the same not-quite-normal headshot as their avatar and profile shot for every hot social media service available and not a single candid pic of this person “in action.” We don’t suggest drunken Facebook shots to remedy this but it would be nice to confirm that the person behind the account is, in fact, a person with a tweet that doesn’t seem prefabricated or a picture that deviates from the Headshot Series 1. When it’s a little too perfect, it appears suspect. People are less likely to enjoy your message if they are too busy wondering whether or not you’re a machine when reading it.

There is a such thing as TMII’m guilty of this one and it’s because I’m really not trying to masquerade as a total professional. Nor am I representing my company when I’m out there tweeting about the crackheads hitting on me at the gas station or meter maids terrorizing me with parking tickets. For some, interacting goes too far and gets way too personal. If you are attempting to represent or have at all associated yourself with your company, be aware that there is still a such thing as privacy. Even if you are only followed by a handful of people, your tweets reach the entire Internet.

RTs and FFs – And please for the love of Bob Herz don’t thank everyone for every RT, nor be the “all day #FF” guy. If you’re spending half your Friday #FFing everyone, you’re A) making unnecessary noise and B) diluting the value you add by suggesting helpful people to follow. Stick to a handful if you’re going to do it all instead of spewing out half your following list.

Oh and auto DMs? They were never really cool and to me they say that you’re too busy to actually say anything to me and inconsiderate of how cluttered my inbox can get. Sorry if this offends anyone who is in love with their own “brilliant” auto DM but I see them as obnoxious. Add to the conversation, not the noise.

Weak Internal Controls at Prometric… Allowed or Bad Form?

Okay, this one pretty much takes the cake as far as CPA exam questions are concerned (as far as I have seen) and if this person is for real, I really really hope they have gotten in touch with the AICPA, NASBA and Prometric for clarification. Is this a legitimate question?

From our friends at the always useful and sometimes entertaining CPAnet forums:

Are you allowed to fart when you take the CPA Exam?


Told you this was a weird one.

The responses are what truly amazed me as we all know accountants are not known for having a good sense of humor if any at all (no offense, you guys know I’m right). Helpful CPAnet members weighed in with everything from “You can on the audit section if you have weak internal control” to “by all means pass GAAS”. One contributor suggested that farting during FAR is completely allowed, as no one wants to waste a precious second excusing themselves after a testlet to go rip one (or four) in the Prometric potty on an exam that’s already short on time. Love it.

We didn’t see “bodily emissions” on the list of banned items at the test center so without confirming for 100% certainty, we’re going to go ahead and say let ‘er rip. Literally. There’s absolutely no reason to hold it in for your fellow test-takers’ sake unless it’s chronic or otherwise obnoxious. But a fart? I don’t see a problem.

Then again, be careful. An accidental shart in the middle of a testlet could cost you your entire exam.

Is Life at the Big 4 Really What Working Mothers Want?

Let’s just say we weren’t surprised to see all 4 Big 4 appear on Working Mother’s 100 Best Companies list, nor were we surprised to see list favorites like Grant Thornton and McGladrey joining them. As is my wont, however, I’m loathe to point out that the definition of “working mother” is a vague one.

It would be ignorant to assume that all working women want are flexible working hours and more than 12 weeks off after squeezing out another kid but once again it appears as though that is the yardstick we’re using. Know what would have really come in handy for me when I first had my son? Time off for his dad so he could stay home with my infant while I escaped to work for a little quiet time with irate customers. Maybe I’m not your average working mother and you are as always welcome to correct me if I don’t represent the status quo but in my view, moms with jobs want more than just a cookie cutter work-life balance. I don’t even know what work-life balance is and am pretty sure the term was made up in some HR braindump meeting, but somehow it exists to this day and supposedly remains the definitive goal of most working women even though it doesn’t even really have a definition. Sorry but I don’t buy it and I don’t know many working women who do.

What working mothers really need is the respect of their peers, opportunities to advance through the firm that are in line with those of their male peers and a work life that doesn’t stress them out to the point that they want to shake the baby and slap the hubby by the time they get home from a grueling work day.

Is that work-life balance? Maybe. Don’t get me started on the idea that all women are motivated by a desire to raise a family either because for some of us work-life balance means being able to balance a cocktail in one hand and the remote in the other at the end of a long day. Where’s the list of top companies for Dads? Bunch of sexists. Oh and pay equal to their male counterparts would also be nice but since we’re still caught up in this antiquated notion that women desire more time off to raise their families, it really shouldn’t be reasonable to expect women to receive equal benefits if they are also requesting special treatment.

Anyway, congratulations to Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Grant Thornton, McGladrey and PwC for making the Working Mother list and I’ll keep waiting for the day when we can get over ourselves and admit that we all have unique goals that aren’t always easily defined by nonsensical terms and preconceived notions of what people should desire.

Five Things Every CPA Exam Candidate Needs

Let’s cut right to the chase and get into five things every CPA exam candidate really must have.


1. A good support system Maybe you’re lucky and your significant other has been supporting you all the way through this adventure to licensure but chances are he/she is pissed that you’d rather spend your evenings cuddling your CPA review book than them. Fine, don’t worry about them, worry about yourself and surround yourself with like-minded candidates who can support and inspire you. It can also be helpful to have someone to sit next to you on the pity potty when your scores come back less stellar than you’d hoped. Whether your support system comes from your social circle, coworkers or online forums, find one and use it.

2. A plan No kidding, you need one if you’re going to pull this off. That means scheduling your exams well in advance, plotting your course by creating a detailed study schedule and figuring out how to balance studying and everything else in your life. The better you plan ahead of time, the better you’ll do. I don’t have any figures supporting this so you’ll just have to trust me.

3. A Notice to Schedule I’m sure you already know you need an NTS if you’re going to get anywhere. What I mean is, if you’re actually going to take the exam you’ve got to start the application process as soon as possible and make sure you’ve met your state board’s requirements. Find out how long it takes well in advance of actually applying by reading up on your jurisdiction’s requirements and understand how long things take in your state. You can get a lot of this information first-hand from the CPAnet forums or by following the #CPAexam on Twitter. First-hand accounts from actual candidates will offer you more value than the official word from your state board, though their estimate may be somewhat realistic too. Schedule 45 days before your exam so you have one less thing to worry about when studying. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to apply or if you qualify, check out NASBA’s Accounting Licensing Library for help.

4. Faith Oh so cheesy but it works. If you believe that you can get through this, one way or another you will. If you doubt yourself every step of the way, you’re going to suffer appropriately. So it’s generally a wise idea to have some faith in yourself otherwise you’ll be needlessly miserable through most of this entire process. Faith is whatever you define it as, only you know what it means for your particular belief system. Adjust accordingly to your personal circumstances.

5. Discipline You don’t need talent, nor a high IQ, nor a good GPA to get through the CPA exam. You can be marginally skilled in your career and only somewhat intelligent to pass but if you do not bring discipline to the table you’ll never get through it.

Optional additions: a good CPA review program, a reliable caffeine connection, a miserable bastard or two to commiserate with, and/or a good distraction to reward yourself with after you’ve put in your study hours.

Protecting Your Online Identity or, Alternatively, How Not to Get Busted Being a Subversive at Work

It amazes me that fairly intelligent people manage to do really stupid things, sometimes on a consistent basis. One of these things is being sloppy about one’s online identity or, more specifically, publicly participating in any conversation that might ruffle management’s feathers. What on Earth could I be talking about?

Let’s take a look at the popular public accounting video series by YouTube user witn3ssthefitn3ss – or more specifically, witn3ssthefitn3ss’s 266 subscribers. Among them, several users who have (oh-so-creatively) used their first and last names as user names. Now there probably isn’t anything in your company manual that specifically states you are not allowed to subscribe to YouTube videos that paint the profession in a less than flattering light and let’s face it, odds that HR even knows how to find YouTube are slim to none but regardless, it’s bad Internet behavior and I’ve got to call these kids out for it.


For example, Michael V Staub (YouTube user michaelvstaub, how convenient!) appears to be working for PwC in Chicago. See how easy it is for any idiot to track your activity on the Internets, kids? I just did it and it took me all of two minutes.

Now Mike is more than welcome to subscribe to any YouTube channel he wants to but in an uncertain job market, it might be a better strategy to C.Y.A. (Cover Your Ass) and have the Internet wherewithall to come up with a better user name than, oh, your entire name. Especially if you’re going to be liking videos that make management look like slave-driving taskmasters.

There are more, like Joseph Bailey, an E&Y manager in Florida. Again, maaaaybe there is some other Joseph R. Bailey subscribing to these videos under his real name but we just don’t see it being that much of a coincidence.

The point is, your social identity is as much a commodity as your education and professional experience. Don’t carelessly throw it out there where anyone can track your likes and dislikes. Take the time to separate your personal and professional lives or you can pretty much guarantee a whole bunch of hassle later on down the road. Sure, it was only an accounting video this time but what if management takes it personally and thinks you only liked it because one of them had the audacity to ask you for a McDonald’s Diet Coke?

Watch what you do out there, kids, the entire world is watching. There are billions of usernames you can come up with, don’t make the mistake of using your own first and last unless you are an Internet marketer or sticking strictly to completely safe-for-work material.

Update: Details about licensure have been removed as we have confirmed Illinois’ tricky licensing requirements and our poster in question is, in fact, fully licensed.

How To Get “Monitoring The Conversation” Right

Being an incendiary, I’m used to getting unfollowed, ignored and even blocked (yes @mark_to_market blocked me, Lord knows who else, I stopped caring at 2000) and I’m definitely used to seeing the rats scatter across my stats every time I mention [insert firm or company name here] so it’s obvious to me from my various online interactions that some communications departments are keeping an eye on the conversation.

Since we’re all interested in the accounting side of things, I have to say that I notice more “official-looking” Twitter activity from firms based outside of the US (generally Big 4 coming from the UK or Canada) that leads me to believe most of them are at least keeping an eye on the Google alerts. PwC had the large pair to follow me once, very early on, and probably unfollowed when I started ripping on them for bumbling Satyam. Anyway, someone has to watch what’s being said and a company (or organization) can only choose to engage or not engage.

Engaging, of course, comes in several forms but to vaguely pin down what “engage” means, I’d define it as any activity that alerts others they are listening and/or give a shit.


For Comcast, they swarm Twitter responding to complaints about their crappy service, extortion boxes, and complicated remotes. Not all companies choose to take that route, nor should they be expected to. Protecting or guarding your brand means figuring out how much “engaging” is appropriate as any more or less than is appropriate for your particular organization’s needs will come off as fake, lame or just forced. And no one wants to interact with that.

For Dave and Buster’s, I give them credit for totally engaging me by following me. I’ve been publicly ripping on them for at least a week but I’m not doing it just to be mean, I’d really really like to know what went down with E&Y (welcome to your new gig, KPMG). I’ve never actually been in a D&B and any inquisitive tweets on my part were not returned but so far they haven’t sued me so I guess I’m doing well on that front.

Some agencies choose to completely ignore some of the more “questionable” interaction that isn’t exactly a pissed off customer. They’re already trained to handle that (any social media idiot can teach you how to talk to customers who talk about you in a list of 3 items or more) but they aren’t likely prepared for a fake accounting firm to ask them if newly-single D&B would want to try them out as auditors.

I don’t expect Dave & Buster’s to answer or acknowledge that but following me shows that they are at least aware I’m trying to egg them on and aren’t afraid of my bitch ass. Unlike the fake accounting firm, I’m a voice out there spreading whatever I know about [insert company] to a huge audience. They can’t send me 10,000 free tickets to shut my trap and I’m not exactly making a complaint they can resolve so what can they do? Keep an eye on me?

I admire that tactic. And may leave them alone… I’m more likely to do so if I get a tweet about what happened with E&Y but won’t be holding my breath for that particular @.

I’m Not Impressed With FASB’s New Twitter Account

When @FAFNorwalk launched on August 4, 2010, it was supposed to be an awesome attempt at connecting government accounting to the 439 people interested in it (don’t trip, FAFN, y’all will get your massive following).

The day after signing up, they mustered up the courage to send out their first tweet:

Welcome to FAF/FASB/GASB! Stay Tuned For Updates.


First of all, we’re not sure if FAF, FASB and GASB know this but Twitter accounts are free so you are totally allowed to get your own. As far as I know, you are even allowed to get several as long as you can come up with an email address for it so there’s no need to share, although that can get messy. What if one of you is trying to tweet about the latest comment period (Disclosures of Certain Loss Contingencies – I’m sure that will garner quite a bit of interesting commentary) while the other wants to talk about new lease rules?

Secondly, is this the best they can do? I’d really like to see some more thoughtful commentary from Norwalk that truly opens the conversation. They can think of this as a comment letter in 140 characters.

Thirdly, what’s up with the one and only person FAFNorwalk is following? We don’t know who the hell @Badwissen is but maybe they are just really into FASBs and @FAFN could totally vibe that when they started their little Twitter co-op.

Lastly, let’s try to work a little better on the turnaround, eh @FAFN? Compliance Week already had an entire story up about new lease rules by the time @FAFN got around to tweeting about it… fine, @FAFN tweeted it around 2 and the CW story went up after 5 but still, with @FAFN’s access to insider information, I want to see @FAFN tweets about lease rules a full two hours (or a day!) before anyone, come on.

If you are looking for a truly dull Twitter follow with zero interaction, @FAFNorwalk is totally for you. Personally I like my accounting feeds with slightly more bite, even if that means a simple @ every now and then.

How’s that for a fucking comment letter?

Earlier:
Wonky Accounting Insight in 140 Characters or Less: The FASB Is Now on Twitter

I Don’t Want to Talk About the CPA Exam Anymore

It’s September, you guys are wearing my ass out with these 2011 questions and really I haven’t heard from very many of you lately so I guess that means you’ve got your heads buried in FAR. So I’m pretty much done for awhile unless you come up with some pressing issues that you need addressed. If you do, let me know. Otherwise let’s go back to one of my very favorite CPA exam items ever, the Ethical Craiglister.

Rest assured this person posted in 2002 so A) hopefully they’ve brushed up on their ethics, especially if they did end up scoring someone to help and B) the exam is now computerized, locked-down and way more monitored than it was back when this idiot posted on Craigslist for someone to take the ethics exam for him.

I think it’s the “serious replies only” that I really love about it. Like he expected to get flash and comment letters about what a disgrace to the profession he is.

I need someone to take CPA Ethics test for me
Date: 2002-01-03, 10:08PM PST

Local CPA candidate has no time to study; will PAY you to take the ethics exam for me! Serious replies, only. You must have passed test in California within last two years.

Hey, if you see this, please get in touch with me and let me know how that worked out. I’m really fucking curious to see how your life ended up after you were unleashed on public accounting.

Five Ways Not to Suck As an Accounting Blogger

Initially Caleb got butthurt and thought I was writing this article about him but I guess that means he thinks he sucks. I can’t name any accounting bloggers that actually suck and know plenty so here’s how not to tip that number past 0 if you’re thinking of taking it up.


Write about what you enjoy Believe it or not, there are people who care about: CPA exam experiences, SOX compliance, non-profit accounting, accounting technology, Big 4 bashing, rence, accounting education, the Fed (cough), tax law… you name it and someone is writing about and looking to read about it right now. If you write about what you think people want to read about, chances are they won’t read it. Someone out there is totally into keeping LIFO even after we adopt IFRS so if that’s your thing, go for it but stay true to what you’re into.

Don’t isolate There are some folks who get away with being reclusive hermits or narcissistic pricks that don’t engage with the broader group of us (I won’t name names) but for the most part, if you want people to embrace what you’re doing, you’re going to have to bite it and talk to them sometime. Don’t trip, we’re not that bad. You can pick and choose which of the bunch you associate with and no one is saying you have to like every other accounting blogger out there. But at least find a few who don’t annoy you to talk to and share ideas with every now and then. If Dennis Howlett can manage, so can you.

Don’t get stuck in your niche Even if you’re strictly into LIFO, think about reaching out beyond your specialty and even beyond accounting to areas like finance, law and politics. It’s OK, it’s all relevant. The great thing about writing about what you love is that no one can tell you how to do it, not even us. The broader your subject matter, the more appeal you’ll have.

Actually try The thing about writing for this audience is that you have to keep doing it without getting much interaction back. We’ve personally seen countless state societies of CPAs abandon or under-evaluate their efforts in this medium simply because they didn’t get the Seth Godin reaction they were expecting. You aren’t Chris Brogan and accountants aren’t going to flock to your content by the bazillions, there are only so many of them to reach in the first place. Being in such a small, specialized group, it’s important to remember that you might not get the reaction you want right off the bat, if ever. But if you give up early, you’ll miss out on that reaction later.

Don’t think you know your audience’s expectations The best way to figure out if you’re delivering to your target is to access your site’s analytics and see who is coming from where and how. But even if you’re a stat whore like some of us, you can only tell so much about your audience from your side. Listen to what people are saying and try to recognize patterns in what is well-received and what is ignored. This isn’t just a blogging thing, you can use that sort of wisdom with e-mail marketing, Twitter, whatever. They’ll let you know what they like so don’t be so busy yelling your point to listen.

And as a bonus 6th tip, try to shake things up a little. This didn’t make the list because it really doesn’t work for everyone but for some of us it’s the only way to do it. If you aren’t afraid of being humiliated out of the industry with your big fat mouth, try pushing the envelope every now and then. Trust me, it feels awesome.

Happy Last CPA Exam Testing Day of Q3 2010!

So we heard that some but not that many of you received your scores from this window, if so congrats (we hope) and do let us know how you did. For those of you stuck in Wave 2, um, sorry about that and here’s to hoping you get your 74 before the final window of 2010 gets too filled up to schedule before the dreaded CBT-e changes take effect January 1, 2011 in case you need a retake.

Remember, Q4 2010 could be the most difficult to schedule CPA exam testing window of all time so if you are in Wave 2 and want to take another stab at it before 2011 after you get a failing score towards the end of September, you better be sure to get your reapplication in for a new NTS as soon as you get your score. Be prepared to select an alternate Prometric location or date and time that you didn’t really want as it’s going to be rough getting in for some of you.


Of course, there are those of you in remote areas or CPA dead zones that may have no problems at all but for our little future CPAs in places like Texas, Illinois, California and New York (i.e. exceptionally large numbers of CPA exam candidates testing at any given time) be open to changing your dates or location if need be and don’t flip out if you can’t schedule where or when you want.

If you are testing today on this final testing day of Q3 2010 we’d love to hear what you’re taking. Jr Deputy Accountant’s unofficial poll of CPA exam candidates (really I’ve just been asking candidates I’ve talked to lately and not even taking a tally; sue me) reveals that a large number of you are actually going after BEC either today or before the end of the year to avoid written communication in 2011. That’s a bit of a shock, I assumed most of you would try to tackle FAR before IFRS hits but hey, whatever floats your boat. For those of you who pass BEC this year, you also have the advantage of getting a BEC exam with less economics and IT to worry about, not to mention no essays.

And if you don’t pass? Remember, there’s always next window, CBT-e or not and hopefully we have already calmed your fears surrounding the 2011 changes. It’s a little more to memorize with international standards thrown in the mix but you were already going to have to memorize a metric shit ton of information anyway so what are a few more standards going to hurt?

Good luck to all of you and don’t forget to get in your last minute CPA exam questions before it all changes in a few short months!

The Scam That Accounting Education Isn’t

I complain about a lot of things in the industry that I probably should be grateful for instead: Sarbanes-Oxley, the PCAOB, the IASB and the AICPA Board of Examiners… the list goes on. I’ve done my fair share of complaining about accounting education as well (even offending some by implying professors were cheap and lazy though I certainly did not mean all or even most accounting professors) but I think it’s safe for us to say that we have it a lot better than some other professions. Like law.


Check out Critical Mass on the law school scam (the entire thing is recommended reading):

Over the years, I wrote countless law school recommendations and very, very few grad school recommendations. I never worried too much about the ones who were law school-bound–the students I worried about were the ones who decided to go for PhD’s in English. Grad school in the humanities is a scam. There are simply no jobs, tenure is disappearing, the culture of the academic humanities is pathological, and the sort of academic life grad students hope to acquire is ceasing to exist. But law school, I felt, was a safe bet–and would also offer its own variety of intellectual thrill. Who wouldn’t want to learn to think with the precision, capaciousness, originality, and historical-mindedness that the law requires? It’s beautiful and powerful and very, very useful. When done well, it’s applied scholarship, scholarship with decisiveness and impact.

But bubbles are bursting everywhere we look these days. Last month I posted about how Loyola’s law school is cooking transcripts to give its grads a leg up on the job market. Now comes word of widespread cynical profiteering at the expense of students’ futures.

Accounting education doesn’t appear to be so neatly packaged as the debt factory that law is, nor does it seem to produce too many rats to fit in our particular race. Sure, there are plenty of unequipped idiots who get through (shouldn’t professors exist to weed these out if education is, in fact, meant for the greater good of our economy and not just to create more perpetual debt?) but that happens in any profession, no more in accounting than elsewhere as far as I can tell.

Do a Google search on the law school scam and you’ll get pages upon pages of results. Do one on the accounting education scam and you’ll get one question about DeVry’s accounting program (I won’t say a word). Does that mean accounting is any better off?

Somewhere between this depressing March 2010 report from CPA Trendlines on how actual firms held up through the recession in 2009, and the rosy reports from hijacked media like CNN about how great the industry is handling this mess, lies the truth. Some areas are better than others and some accounting grads just don’t deserve a job. With the firms lining up the lawyers instead of the staff, you can bet the days of skating your way through 2 years of easy work experience are pretty much over.

Hopefully this means fewer unqualified future accountants being pushed through accounting programs that will soon be starving for qualified educators and better prospects for the bright, talented future CPAs who actually deserve a job in this industry.

Don’t Let 2011 CPA Exam Changes Keep You From Studying This Year

I’ve talked to a lot of panicked CPA exam candidates out there who seem to be bewildered and anxious about CBT-e changes coming up in just a few short months and even though we’ve covered it plenty here on Going Concern, I figured I’d take the time to remind you once again to relax. Please. Seriously. Like now.

A few things to keep in mind and then we’ll get to the good part.


1. Accounting is still accounting and IFRS puts debits on the left too. While international standards are spooking everyone, let’s take a deep breath and remember that accounting is still accounting whether it’s GAAP, government, IFRS or that wonky version of financial accounting that the Fed gets to make up. For the first few testing windows, if not years, it is highly likely that the AICPA will take a conservative approach when it comes to integrating the new standards into the CPA exam. They are not going to scrap years worth of effort put in to the computerized exam just to test international standards that aren’t even used in the U.S. so stop thinking 2011’s exam is THAT much different.

2. Regulation isn’t really changing at all. Does it ever? You’d be surprised how little the exam changes from year to year even as new standards are released and introduced to the bank of questions candidates receive. The fundamentals haven’t changed much over time and probably won’t. In the last three years, I can only remember two very large changes: a massive overhaul of Audit in mid 2007 that changed a lot of terminology but not much else and FAS 141(r) or, as candidates know it, business consolidations last year. Beyond that, the meat and potatoes of the exam have remained pretty constant in the 6 years since the exam went computerized.

3. Simulations will be easier. Believe it or not, the new sims should be way easier than the current ones. Instead of hoping you get a simulation that covers the two or three areas you studied (ahem, procrastinators, I’m talking directly to you), you get 6 or 7 smaller simulation problems that cover a multitude of areas. This makes your crapshoot odds of knowing what you’re doing far better than they are under the current structure.

So, now that we’ve pointed out those few things, I think you should know that there’s no reason to hold off on studying this year if your plan is to start taking exams in the beginning of 2011. GAAP will not change and will still be tested, it is just that new international standards will also be added to the mix.

You can certainly get a jump on studying by going over the current material towards the end of the year and then hit the 2011 stuff once it is available. Otherwise you’ll have to cram up to 150 hours of studying into a couple weeks right after New Year’s when you’re probably in no mood to study anyway. Trust me, a fourth quarter 2010 FAR exam isn’t going to be drastically different from a first quarter 2011 FAR exam except for the obvious international stuff sprinkled throughout. No big deal.

You CAN use 2010 books to START to prepare for the 2011 exam, just be sure to update them with 2011 material once it is available. If you rely solely on 2010 materials you will probably fail but you can definitely use them to get the foundation on topics that are still going to be tested in 2011 and beyond in much the same way they have been since 2004.

Hope some of you can now sleep at night. You’re welcome.

Hey Media, Leave the Accounting To Us Mmmkay?

When Going Concern first launched a year ago, I know we heard more than a few chortles from the audience at the very idea of an accounting news site (or tabloid, depending on who you ask) because, really, how interesting can accounting be? Of course we’ve since learned that cube-dwellers, financial professionals, college kids and accounting enthusiasts are totally into what we do because no one was doing it before and someone had to.

It’s easy to forget that we’re not only utilizing this avenue to rip on obvious boneheads who try to manipulate our precious accounting (we’re talking to you, Patrick Byrne) and make fun of idiot celebrities who don’t pay their taxes but also to bring an accounting awareness to the world at large. It’s not all number-crunching and despite the stereotypes that we ourselves perpetuate, we’re also providing a service by making the obscure world of accounting digestible to non-accountants.

Which is pretty much the entire reason why other media outlets need to back off and leave the really super complicated reporting to us if they’re going to get into things they don’t understand.

Case in point, American Apparel.


The headline was really that American Apparel has been taking the active accounting defense stance lately, getting fired by Deloitte (hint if you’re not into the accounting: that doesn’t happen very often. The other way, perhaps, but the auditors very rarely get spooked and bail like that), rapidly bleeding precious capital and sort of “forgetting” to file important check-ins with the SEC. Oops. That’s where the doubt arises in “going concern doubt”.

In fairness to some media outlets, not everyone bumbled the headline. But for these two, we need to define the term “going concern.” This might be too hipster ironic, even for me.

Thanks, InvestorWords, I’m too lazy to type out this definition myself:

The idea that a company will continue to operate indefinitely, and will not go out of business and liquidate its assets. For this to happen, the company must be able to generate and/or raise enough resources to stay operational.

And then we can get into American Apparel’s future a ‘going concern’ via Marketplace and American Apparel Warns of ‘Going Concern’ via the Los Angeles Business Journal. Yeah, to clarify: that’s what we want, American Apparel has the doubt part to worry about, which was conveniently linked to directly from AA’s preliminary 10-Q to the SEC. See, it’s laid out there for you, all you have to do is read it.

Anyway, I’m not annoyed when people like Emily Chasan write stories about this stuff because she knows what she’s doing. Caleb gets away with it because he knows what he’s talking about. I stick to what I know – ripping on regulatory agencies and bitching about the general state of the industry – and pull it off. There are a ton more accounting writers I could name (Bill at CPA Success, Rick at CPA Trendlines, Francine at Re: the Auditors, Professor David Albrecht, Jim Peterson at Re:Balance, blah blah blah) but I would end up leaving out quite a few talents and I’d hate to offend anyone. Ha.

My point is that you don’t have to be one of them to get the story right. That’s all I’m saying.

The irony of this is not lost on me. I don’t wear American Apparel dammit but I half dress like this awful stereotypical hipster. Don’t ask me what to wear on CPA exam day, I stick to what I know.

Should CPA Exam Candidates Crack Open College Textbooks?

It’s a valid question and we haven’t answered it yet so let’s give it a shot, shall we? Here’s the specific reader inquiry:

I graduated in 2008 with an accounting degree, but I’ve not really pursued anything in accounting since then. Without talking too much about my personal life, I’ll just say I had better opportunities.

Anyways, I’m considering getting back into public accounting, and I plan on beginning taking the CPA exam in 2011, after busy season. If I order a CPA review course, will that be enough, or should I spend some time reviewing my books/notes from college?


Yeah, we’re with you on the “better opportunities,” be that foaming lattes or harvesting certain medicinal plants (depending on your state, of course), so let’s forget about what you’ve been doing since you graduated and focus on the task at hand: passing the CPA exam.

As we’ve told you plenty of times, it’s always best to knock the exam out as soon as you graduate since you likely still have some sort of study habits left over from college and aren’t yet tied down with family and a career but things don’t always work out that way for whatever reason. That’s fine, my professional experience has actually been that those who take some time off after school do better once they do start to tackle the exam simply because they are older, wiser and usually slightly more dedicated than a 22 year old fresh out of college. No offense to the dedicated 22 year olds out there, of course.

But please, whatever you do, don’t bother with your college textbooks. Chances are your cheap, lazy and overworked accounting professors used the same textbooks year after year while the CPA exam changes twice a year. Sure debits still went on the left even in 1903 but keep in mind the CPA exam isn’t necessarily a test of how good of a CPA you will be but a comprehensive skills test that identifies your shallow knowledge of a broad range of subjects. Think of the exam as a lake 15 miles wide but only an inch deep; some of your college texts may delve into some areas in detail that aren’t really tested on the exam or they could skip entire areas completely, especially since you graduated just as the economic crisis was hitting. Things have changed since then and with international standards hitting in 2011, the chances are even lower that these areas were covered in school.

For you, the best thing to do is find a review course that will help refresh your knowledge based on what you learned in school but also give you a general outline of topics that you may have forgotten or never covered when you were in college. I know it’s called “review” but a good review course can teach you as if you have no prior accounting experience whatsoever… assuming you do remember which side to stick the debits on.

Skip the textbooks and spend your time focusing on a review product that will give you exactly what you need to pass the exam. Good luck!

Five Ways Not to Lose Your Job Playing Around on the Internet

Accountants are more prevalent in the social mediasphere than you might think; they’ve taken over Twitter, blog regularly and can even be found figuring out how to make Foursquare relevant to business. But since tapping the potential of social media for business is relatively new, not all organizations know exactly how to use the tools, nor do the understand the importance of a good social media policy within their organization. So here are some tips for making the most out of social media without losing your job. We’re sorry we have to even share these but we’ve seen some of you guys out there in the social mediasphere and it appears you need a reminder.


Choose Your 140 Characters Carefully – If you’re on Twitter and are complaining about your job, understand that the entire world can see you. Even if your stream is private, the great Google sees everything. A few months back, Twitter’s internal search allowed private tweets to appear in searches. I’m not sure if this little hole has been patched but if it hasn’t, you don’t want to be a victim of your own public stream of consciousness. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in an e-mail to your boss.

Ask About Your Firm’s Social Media Policy – Though it’s sort of implied in the firm’s overall policy on communications outside of the company, social media is an entirely different avenue and the rules may not be as cut and dry as the GAAP you’re used to. Not all companies will specifically bar you from blogging on your free time and many turn a blind eye to the activity… until you say something they don’t like. Don’t assume that you’re safe if you don’t share your name or location: it’s fairly easy to reveal your identity if you’re sharing details of your life like where you live and what you do. It gets easier if you’re using a blog to rant about work or out obnoxious coworkers. This applies to positive blogs as well; even if you’re doing the industry a service by discussing current events in accounting, some firms would rather you not say anything at all. Be careful with your details and when in doubt, ask about your firm’s social media policy.

Facebook Friends – You’re not friends with him in real life so don’t be friends with your boss on Facebook. Facebook can be a great networking tool if you aren’t sharing photos of your drunken weekend adventures but if you are, better leave your boss or even coworkers off your friends list. Remember also that Facebook privacy settings can be complicated to say the least; even if you have most of your profile set to private, if you haven’t gone in and changed certain settings, mobile uploads and other photo albums can still appear in search results. That means any nosy coworker out to make you look bad could easily stumble upon your page and access things you’ve posted thinking they are invisible to anyone but your friends. I’m all for being cozy with colleagues but be careful when adding people you work with if you, like 99% of us, use your Facebook to rant, brag and occasionally spout off inappropriate things.

Careful when commenting on blogs! – Listen, we love you guys for contributing but sometimes we have to wonder if you’re playing with a full deck. If you’re commenting from and about work, keep the details to a minimum and use the anonymity of the Internet to your advantage! I have Jr Deputy Accountant readers who work for the banks, the Fed or government agencies but that secret stays between them and me – some choose to create a nickname that wouldn’t reveal who they really are and others stick with “anonymous”. However you do it, remember that if your name is George Stein and you work at KPMG, using GSKPMG2010 isn’t fooling anyone. Talking about salaries or griping about the conditions are totally allowed – if not encouraged – but be smart about it and never use your real name unless you work in communications or don’t mind your boss or colleagues seeing your comments. Once again, remember the great Google sees ALL.

Whatever you do, never forget the Internet is forever – You can delete your Myspace account but since the Internet tends to aggregate information, just because you’ve deleted something doesn’t mean it is gone forever. Case in point: when I write a blog post on JDA, it’s picked up and republished by two news aggregators instantly, which means I’m stuck with whatever typo I missed or stupid comment I made, even if I change or delete it on my own site. It is the same with Twitter as many bizarre websites aggregate tweets about a particular subject, some permanently. So you might be able to zap an obvious faux pas the morning after but it could come back to haunt you if it ends up somewhere else.

Tales From the CPA Exam: Is Gum Really Banned at Prometric?

Directly from CPAnet comes word that gum could possibly be banned by Prometric, although it may only apply if the testing staff are having a bad day. I didn’t see gum on the list of prohibited items either and would assume the rules are not there for interpretation by staff based on the mood they are in.

The test facilitator at Prometric today made me take my gum out before the exam. I rebutted with the fact that the AICPA does not prohibit gum in the list of prohbited items in the AICPA Candidate Bulletin: She then explained that people have left their gum in the testing center and it has been a “mess” to clean up. She seemed irritated and ornery, and I didn’t want to raise my blood pressure any higher before going into the test room… so I conceded and spit out my gum.

Now, I tend to consider myself to be a courteous and responsible gumchewer. I dispose of my gum in its original wrapper that always ends up in a trash can. One reason I like chewing gum while taking a test is b/c it allows me to harness any natural stress and focus on the task at hand. I really could’ve used some gum today, but I didn’t let that ruin my test. However, I will never be able to quantify the effect of my lack of gum on my final score tbd. Does anybody know the official gum rule? I think this lady was just having a bad day…

I didn’t attempt to reach Prometric to confirm this candidate’s story, I believe that our little candidate here IS a responsible gumchewer. Since this was posted on August 3 (assuming the night after the exam), the candidate still has until September 3 to request a rescore though it’s been several years since the AICPA has actually granted one (don’t waste the money).

I believe you can also contest the conditions of your testing center within the same 30 day window so if you absolutely must, go that route. Complain that you were subjected to conditions outside of your control that had a detrimental effect on your performance and see how that works out.

Or hope you passed and don’t bring gum next time. Regardless of why you wanted it, you should have been allowed it since it wasn’t on the list. Hopefully this person checks in and lets us know how it turns out.

Regulatory Uncertainty Leaves Small Businesses Reluctant to Hire

I know of only one small business owner who has confidently added staff throughout the recession and that’s only because A) he’s really cocky (in the best way, of course) and B) he absolutely needed to in order to survive. Lucky for him he ended up in a fairly recession-proof business and in fact, the recession has been kind as it has driven all sorts of new business to him as the unemployed and jaded look for new career options. But he’s a fluke success and not all small business owners can say they’ve weathered the last two years as well as he has.

Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher and former St Louis Fed President William Poole both feel the hiring problem is based not on the fact that businesses can’t afford it but because business owners are too unsure of the regulatory environment to confidently add staff. I am going to have to agree with them on this one.


Said Fisher in a recent speech:

For some time now in internal discussions with my colleagues at the Fed, I have ascribed the economy’s slow growth pathology to what I call “random refereeing”—the current predilection of government to rewrite the rules in the middle of the game of recovery. Businesses and consumers are being confronted with so many potential changes in the taxes and regulations that govern their behavior that they are uncertain about how to proceed downfield. Awaiting clearer signals from the referees that are the nation’s fiscal authorities and regulators, they have gone into a defensive crouch.

Case in point, Obamacare’s insidious 1099 requirement that we’ve covered plenty up to this point and will continue to cover so long as it threatens to cripple businesses with unnecessary busywork. The House had a chance to kick the requirement in the balls last with with the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act (H.R.5141) but failed to pass it, leaving us right back where we were*.

Business owners – and small business owners in particular as they tend to have less capital and fewer chances to “warehouse” out their employee insurance needs in bulk – are understandably reluctant to plug more money into the economy if they are unsure as to how much it’s going to cost just to hire on new staff. Many businesses could hire at this point but have chosen not to simply because they have no idea what sort of financial impact hiring will have on them in the future once new rules are fully written out and implemented.

Seems a bit counterproductive when we’re trying to claw our way out a recession, doesn’t it?

*Full Disclosure: JDA is long Caterpillar at this point in anticipation of the number of bulldozers that will be required just to keep up with the 1099 goodness. How is this helping the economy heal again?

Is Copy and Paste Cheating on CPA Exam Written Communications?

Today’s reader question comes from a CPA exam candidate who I imagine would prefer to remain totally anonymous so let’s blow right past the pleasantries and get to the question, shall we?

So I just finished my exam yesterday and I am a little concerned about my communications tab. As I still had about 2.5 hours remaining going into my first simulation, I had a lot of time to write my communication. With the amount of time I had, I was able to research my topic extensively.

In my communication, I had used sentences that were straight from the research tab, without referencing it, but a most of my memo was changed and modified into my own words. However, the fact that I used some sentences and phrases word for word concerns me. I can’t actually recall how much I copied, which concerns me even more. Do you know if this is considered cheating? Has anyone copied directly from the research tab and still passed the exam?

Let me tell you, this is a new one even for me so the best way to answer is by defining what the AICPA BoE is looking for in your written communication.

The three components of a successful written communication are organization, development, and expression. This means they are looking for a structured document with clear ideas, supporting information to supplement your statements and use of standard English when conveying your ideas. Now the AICPA BoE spends quite a bit of time and effort developing questions for the CPA exam but that does not mean they are also developing components for you to use in your communication. This means that if you do have lots of time left to work on your written communication, the very last thing you want to do is copy and paste. It was my understanding that the copy-paste function was limited to research problems within simulations only as “transfer to answer” but maybe I’m wrong (stranger things have happened).

That being said, your best hope is that they don’t notice you did that. I don’t think it counts as cheating, exactly, as cheating is defined as having someone pretend to be you to take the exam or somehow smuggling in exam answers as if you’d be able to predict what questions you would get. That last one is probably rare if not impossible as not even the review courses get the EXACT questions that will appear on the exam except for retired questions released each year by the AICPA.

If you took exact phrasing from the authoritative literature, you did not complete the objective of developing nor organizing your statements; you simply took what had already been organized for you and stuck it in there. Suffice to say this is a HUGE NO NO and probably means you will not get points for this area. As I said, maybe they won’t notice and you’ll pass, it’s hard to say.

If you find yourself with lots of time left over for written communication, use it to review your other simulation answers, not to develop the Howl of CPA exam WCs. All you need is a beginning, middle and end. Your answer could be totally wrong but you will still get the points as long as you are clear and concise. You do not get bonus points for flair so don’t bother, you’d be better off going over your simulation to make sure you did everything correctly.

So the short answer is: I don’t think it’s cheating but I don’t think you are going to get the points if they pick up on what you did. Since most WCs are machine graded, the machine may be thrown off by just how perfect your answer is, raising a red flag that gets yours pulled for human review. Again, I could be wrong on this as frankly I’ve never heard of anyone doing this.

Be sure to let us know how it went once you get your score and good luck!

P.S. – don’t do that again. Seriously.

Family Planning and the CPA Exam: Part 2

Last Friday, I tried to talk a soon-to-be-Mom out of trying to squeeze in at least one exam section this year before her baby is born but she refused to listen (I like that) and is asking how to do it “against medical advice” – or my advice, anyway. Since I admire that kind of dedication (even if I don’t necessarily agree with it), let’s see if we can come up with a plan.

Here’s her response to my comments last week:

I really appreciate and understand your response. At this time in my life it makes the most sense to get this done now. I am basically sitting around while my husband spends this year on internship. I am at a point where I will not be working this year and felt I might as well take the CPA now. Once my husband gets a job we will settle down and I will get a job. I heard it is much harder to take the CPA while one is working and that is why I figured it would make sense to do it now. I know there is some risk with trying to pass all 4 parts in an 18 month window, but after reading a lot of your articles and blogs on studying tips I feel I can realistically make this happen. Hopefully that will be the case.

Man, a new baby and Dad is working on an internship? Ouch.

Well let’s start with your plan: a good study plan pencils in at least 3 hours a day, no more than 3 hours at a time, over a consistent period of time. Your study plan will have to include time for rest so be sure to take lots of breaks and don’t try to do marathon study sessions of 5 or 6 hours at a time as you’ll stop retaining information after about 3. Ideally you need to figure out how to get in 150 hours of studying for FAR between now and your due date as you will have forgotten everything by the time the baby is born and you actually get back to being able to form complete sentences once you’re getting more than 3 hours of sleep a night.

Do NOT schedule your exam too close to your due date as I haven’t heard of getting your fees refunded because you ended up having a baby on exam day. If you have any control over this (planned C-section or something along those lines), obviously it will be easier to figure out how to schedule but otherwise just try to sit as many weeks before you’re due as you can. This may mean having to study 7 – 12 hours a day (in 3 hour chunks, of course) leading up to your exam date but if you need more breaks (like an hour of studying at a time), that’s fine too. Find a rhythm that works for you, I can’t tell you what formula is going to be best for your needs. When I was pregnant I found that I tended to stay up late because that’s when my son was most active, which would have been a perfect chance to study had I been so inclined at the time. I commend you for wanting to pass FAR more than I wanted to stuff my face with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Other than the above suggestions, your job now is no different from other CPA exam candidates’: study, practice MCQ, get familiar with simulations and go into the exam with confidence knowing you prepared as best you could.

Just hope your water doesn’t break.

Good luck!

Family Planning and the CPA Exam

For this particular post, as much as I would love to throw my experience with CPA exam candidates and children (sometimes interchangeable, mind you) around, I’m going to do something a little bit different. Would any of you with experience in the following care to weigh in and help?

Here’s the question via a CPA Exam Club member:

I am having a baby in 2 months and wasn’t planning on taking any parts of the exam until 2011, when I will hopefully have more rested nights and energy to study. However, after starting to do research about the CPA exam I discovered all of the changes taking place in 2011 and decided that it seemed prudent to get FAR out of the way in 201and can basically devote all of my time to studying until I have the baby and after I have the baby in order to take the exam in November. I am a pretty disciplined person with good time management. I am pretty quick at getting things done. I also got a 2nd bachelors in accounting and just completed a masters in accounting as well. Do you think I am being unrealistic in my pursuit of passing FAR in 2010?

If you think I can achieve this goal, what do you advise CPA hopefuls to do in order to pass? I am very determined to try and pass on the first try and would do whatever it takes in order to do so.

First of all, I remember what being 7 months pregnant felt like and while I loved being pregnant with my son, at that point the very last thing I would have been able to do would have been to study. So my first piece of advice not just to our little CPA exam candidate friend above but all of you with family plans on the horizon is to WAIT until you have passed the CPA exam to start cranking out the tax deductions. The exam is hard enough on its own, add a career and kids into the mix (especially for Moms) and you have a recipe for disappointment. Or at least a nervous breakdown, which you probably don’t want either.

I often tell candidates to be prepared for any and every possible thing to go wrong and mess up their perfect plans along the way. For parents, it’s almost a guarantee that even our best-laid plans will somehow be ruined, delayed or otherwise compromised.

Discipline is a requirement to get through the exam but even your best intentions can’t fight the inevitable. I could barely function once my son was born (waking up every 2 hours to feed will do that to you), let alone actually do anything productive.

So my advice to you is to wait. Wait until your child is a little older (or at a minimum sleeping through the night) and hopefully you have a supportive partner who will happily babysit while you head off to live CPA review classes. I can’t tell you how many Moms I have seen in live classes, most of whom refuse to take advantage of the convenience of online, on-demand review simply because they are desperate for a break. You know it’s bad when you’d take 8 hours of government and non-profit accounting over being at home with your brood but let’s face it, this Mom thing is the world’s roughest gig.

It sounds to me like you have a plan and that’s awesome but be sure you are being realistic. It’s already almost September, meaning the last window of 2010 is close upon us and if you haven’t already made an appointment at Prometric, you might run yourself into the ground trying to squeeze FAR in (that’s if you can even get in to schedule). And let’s just say you pass (which I’m confident you will once you get off the ground) and then have the baby. What happens when motherhood takes its toll and you aren’t able to resume studying until your child is a year old and your 18 month window is fast approaching?

Enjoy these last two months, take care of yourself and bask in your baby once he or she arrives. The exam will be here waiting patiently in the meantime and by then maybe the AICPA BoE will have ironed out all the IFRS kinks or thrown out new content altogether. Trust me, the changes next year are not that big of a deal and CBT-e will actually be easier than 2010’s exam if I’m guessing correctly (I usually do). You will put in no more effort in 2011 to pass than you would have in 2010 so better to spend the energy when you actually have it instead of running yourself into the ground at a time when you need to be in fighting shape.

Hope that helps!

If you have a CPA exam question for us, get in touch and we’ll do our best to answer.

Does Anyone Care About Fair Value Anymore?

Fair value is a simple enough concept even if you aren’t an accountant: stuff is worth what you could sell it for in the normal course of business, so that’s what you value it as when you’re adding up the value of the stuff you have. Easy, right? Not so easy when it comes to convergence.

The IASB has already expressed distaste for our fair value rules (among other things) and Accounting Onion recently shared some concerns that convergence might require a reasonable definition of “High Quality Accountant Standards” (abbreviated HQAS” by AO) agreed upon by both FASB and the IASB. So far I haven’t seen it, has anyone else?

Wait, AO launches off into it fhan I ever could.

Moreover, if there are some doubts as to what HQAS is, the SEC’s view could have been attended to more closely at the outset of formal convergence efforts (October 2002); for surely the SEC had convergence in mind when they published their congressionally mandated (see the Sarbanes Oxley Act, Section 108(d)) report on the feasibility of “principles-based” accounting standards in August 2003. According to the SEC, the “objectives-oriented” standards they are looking for from a standard setter should possess the following qualities:

“Be based on an improved and consistently applied conceptual framework;

Clearly state the accounting objective of the standard;

Provide sufficient detail and structure so that the standard can be operationalized and applied on a consistent basis;

Minimize exceptions from the standard;

Avoid use of percentage tests (“bright-lines”) that allow financial engineers to achieve technical compliance with the standard while evading the intent of the standard.”

Now, seven years later, the SEC’s battle plans have been subordinated by the din and desperation of convergence wars. Are any new standards from either board “based on an improved and consistently applied conceptual framework”? Obviously not, for nary a single alteration to any conceptual framework document has occurred in the last seven years. The existing definitions for assets and liabilities are like wooden ships sent to battle against nuclear submarines.

A few weeks back, I talked to David Larsen, CPA, Managing Director of global advising firm Duff & Phelps, LLP about this fair value bullshit that complicates my life by requiring comment every few weeks. David participated on the SEC mark-to-market panel in November of 2008 and serves on FASB’s Valuation Resource Group so he’s familiar with what I’m talking about.

David believes public opinion dominates the fair value argument and really doesn’t see what the big deal is. “The goal is to make financial statements more readable,” he said of fair value’s ultimate intention. He’s a fan of transparency on the face of financial statements and more disclosures. Who doesn’t like that?

He says fair value is purely measurement and disclosure, nothing to get upset about.

In my opinion, fair value was our first test to see if we could handle the principles widely used in international accounting “standards” (hopefully “HQAS”) before we actually committed to adopting them and we failed. If you wonder why the IASB wants to hold the floor when it comes to convergence, you only have to stare our treatment of fair value right between the eyes.

It should have worked but our “P for Principles” in GAAP didn’t adequately prepare us to handle it.

CBT-e Strategies: What To Do When You’re Still Sitting for the CPA Exam in 2011

Those of you who graduated in May should already be buried in your review books and planning to sit for some parts – if you haven’t already – but for some of you, the long wait to get your applications processed is anything but over OR you managed to procrastinate up until this point and haven’t even begun the process. I’ll resist the urge to smack you if you promise to submit those as soon as you’re done reading this post. Regardless of where you’re at in the process, chances are you’re tripping about 2011 changes. Not to worry, my big fat brain packed with CPA exam goodness is here to help.


Accounting Is Still Accounting – Even if they are testing IFRS in 2011, debits still go on the left (at least I’m pretty sure they still do under IFRS) and pension accounting is still really annoying. Keep in mind, IFRS isn’t the norm in the wild – at least in the U.S. at this point – and will not be for several years so it would be irresponsible of the AICPA Board of Examiners to heavily test rules that aren’t even widely accepted in practice. So relax, the changes are coming but they aren’t nearly as scary as you think.

FAR – If you are able to, get FAR done this year so you don’t have to worry about it next year. The first two windows of 2011 will say a lot about the AICPA’s strategy but knowing them, I wouldn’t expect 2010’s exam to be completely different from 2011’s. Those questions cost a lot of time and energy to make and the BoE isn’t about to trash all of them just so they can start testing rules that we don’t even use. With me on this one? Calm down.

CPA Review Materials – If you haven’t yet committed to a CPA review course, be sure to ask about 2011 materials and how changes affect the course you choose THIS year. A good review course will offer updates to the material but be on the lookout for additional product purchase charges or fees to update your materials. For BEC, REG and AUD the changes are minimal: international audit standards will appear here and there and a few things are moved around but for the most part the largest change in these areas will be the cosmetic change in BEC as written communications are moved out of the other three sections and stuck there. This does not change the content, only how you prepare and the point percentages for this section.

You can find the new 2011 CSOs via the AICPA here if you’d like a better look at what you’re in for next year but as I said, it doesn’t take long to figure out that next year’s exam really doesn’t look all that different from this year’s.

A 5 Step Plan to Passing the CPA Exam for Total Idiots

Disclaimer: I was going to use “for Dummies” in that headline but John Wiley & Sons owns that term. Since they’re also Going Concern advertisers, I figured it would be best not to tick them off. So don’t take my headline personally, call it creative license.

So, you want to pass the CPA exam eh? Here is your 5 step plan to get it done. Pay attention, kids, we’re only goince.

1. Apply early As soon as you are eligible to sit for the CPA exam (or even before if you are trying to bypass some state boards’ long application processing times), get your application, fees and fingerprint cards in. Assuming your accounting program did not prepare you for the exam, check with NASBA’s Accounting Licensing Library or your state board to find out everything you need to know about requirements to sit in your state. Remember the CPA exam is uniform meaning you can sit for any state’s exam in any other state as long as you meet their requirements so if you don’t qualify at home, check out other states to see if you can sit there. Point being, you don’t want to have to juggle the exam, work AND a family so get this thing out of the way before you get engaged, promoted and/or knocked up. Trust us on that one.


2. Study OK, I shouldn’t even have to list this as a step but, uh, I’ve had the fortune of working with some of you for years so I feel it necessary to point out that unless you are some freak with a photographic memory, you are going to have to do some studying to pass. The entire exam can take anywhere between 200 and 1000 hours to study for (based on your familiarity with exam topics going into it) so be prepared to put in plenty of hours with your nose buried in your review books. We’re not suggesting you should develop a sick fascination for Peter Olinto but get comfortable with your CPA review instructor(s), you’re going to get awfully cozy for the next couple months.

3. Make some temporary sacrifices Sure there are the odd cases of CPA exam candidates who managed to pass with just a few hours of studying but for most of you, you’re going to have to accept that your life must change to accommodate the CPA exam process. If this means cutting off your needy girlfriend for a few months, grow a pair and tell her to stop bugging you when you’re focused on the exam. Your friends will be there when you’re done and if they aren’t, maybe you should stick to hanging out with other accountants (oh come on, it’s not so bad). Keep in mind the CPA exam torture is temporary and once you pass, you can drink all you want. In fact, you’re probably going to want to once you start nailing those promotions and putting in 80 hour workweeks. Deal.

4. Learn to plan but learn to accept that sometimes things do not go according to plan Shit happens. If you’re studying for the CPA exam, lots of shit happens. Some things are out of your control (busy season, for one) but plenty of things are completely under your control so worry about those and try not to get too upset about the rest. Learn to create a study plan that includes sufficient study time without sacrificing your own sanity (3 hours a day is plenty). Plan your exams well in advance and schedule in some kind of final review 2 – 3 weeks before exam day to be sure you are ready.

5. If you fall off the horse, get back up and kick the horse in the shins A 74 could be the most devastating CPA exam result of all but the reality is that this exam isn’t a cakewalk and you aren’t a failure just because you’ve failed. You’re only a failure if you allow it to keep you from pursuing your goal of CPA licensure. Get up, dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes (your score report is a huge clue into where you need more work) and schedule a retake as soon as possible. It’s entirely reasonable to feel defeated but no reason to pout so knock it off and suck it up. There’s a reason only 40%+/- of candidates pass on the first attempt, this thing isn’t easy on purpose. If it were easy, any idiot with half a brain would be a CPA.

But you aren’t just any idiot, are you? Go get ’em, killer!

Did I Start Studying For the CPA Exam Too Early?

Friendly reminder: Going Concern’s own Adrienne Gonzalez will be chatting with CPA exam candidates over at CPA Exam Club on 8/3. We’ll be talking about the exam process, study strategies and all things CPA exam so if you haven’t already, head over to CPA Exam Club to RSVP for the chat if you have questions that you’re just dying to get answered.

Today’s reader question is probably one that some of you are more than familiar with… you graduate and jump right in to CPA review hoping your state board will process your application quickly and assume you’ll be ready to sit in a matter of weeks, only to discover that state boards aren’t nearly as quick as we wish ’s the sitch:

I recently graduated from Yeshiva University with a BS in Accounting. The week after I graduated, I started a Becker course (started with FAR) and planned to take the test at the end of July. Since then, my NTS has taken forever, so I prob. won’t get it for a couple weeks.

I recently started a full time position (hours are not regular, only staying 2-3 hours late a couple days a week) and am in the middle of moving apartments so my studying habits have been, for lack of better word, shite. [creative edit on our part]

The Becker AUD course starts on Tuesday. Would you say that sitting in on the course, while simultaneously studying for FAR is a bad idea? And also, assuming I’m starting from square 1 with FAR all over again, planning on taking it in the end of August, is this enough time, IYO, to be prepared to pass? (Obv with a structured study schedule of about 3 hours per day).

First of all, for those of you who haven’t already made this mistake, please keep in mind when you are plotting out your exam strategy that just because you are ready to take the exam doesn’t mean the state board is ready to process your application. A general rule is it can take anywhere from 4 – 10 weeks from the time you send in your application, fees and transcripts to the time you are actually ready to schedule your first exam. If you are 100% sure you meet the requirements to apply in your state, it’s safe to start your review a few weeks after you apply.

For our friend here who jumped the gun, however, it’s a little late so let’s see what we can do.

I’m going to say no on starting with Audit simply because I’m somewhat familiar with Becker’s repeat requirements (some of the strictest and most expensive in the exciting world of CPA review) and chances are you are going to need that class later on down the road. Our humble advice is to keep studying FAR and hope you can schedule yourself for that section in the final window of the year. The last window is always the hardest to schedule but we’re anticipating additional scheduling problems this year because of the rush to get exam parts in before the CPA exam changes in 2011 so be prepared to pick an alternate Prometric center or adjust your desired dates/times. As long as you’re open to that, you should be fine.

You can, of course, start studying Audit now and plan to take that one in the last window along with FAR but again, you’re likely to run into some serious scheduling trouble for Q4. Normally we’d tell you to go for it but this year is special and you’ll be lucky to get in one section let alone two before 2011 so worry about cramming in additional sections come January. Simultaneously studying is fine but we’re betting you won’t be able to get in to take both in the last quarter so save yourself the time and trouble by focusing on FAR for now.

Be honest, have you studied for FAR at all? Starting from scratch you can put in anywhere from 80 – 150 hours of studying so even between full-time job and a move it can be done but it sounds like what you need more than my advice on Audit is a study strategy that actually works for you. My biggest piece of advice is to take this process seriously and put off any other unnecessary drama (like an apartment move), if possible until after you have passed.

What Would the Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act Accomplish?

Representative Betty McCollum is upset that small businesses have the Small Business Administration but nonprofits don’t get a Nonprofit Administration to evaluate, build and monitor the capacity of America’s vital nonprofits. She believes nonprofits are an invisible but vital part to the economy and overlooked by Washington, DC except when it comes to tax issues.

She writes in the Hill:

This legislation represents a significant step toward creating a more effective partnership between the federal government and the nonprofit sector. H.R. 5533 establishes a new United States Council on the Nonprofit Sector. The Council will be a forum for leaders of nonprofits, foundations, businesses and government to discuss strategies for strengthening the nonprofit sector. The bill also creates an Inter-agency Working Group on the Nonprofit Sector. This group will ensure that high-level representatives from cabinet agencies and other key agencies coordinate and improve federal policies pertaining to nonprofit organizations. Finally, the legislation directs Federal agencies to collect and publish better data on nonprofits AND to support research that will lead to smarter Federal policy.

The goals of the Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act are to build a stronger nonprofit sector, craft smarter federal policy, and create more vibrant communities in every state across the country.

Listen, we love working groups as much as the next cube-dweller but haven’t yet seen a copy of the Bill so can’t say either way at this point. What we do know is that the nonprofit sector is large enough to be in need of some help beyond whatever pestering they get from our friends at the IRS.

According to a 2009 Congressional Research Service report, nonprofits (mostly charities) make up over 5% of U.S. GDP. Charitable organizations are estimated to employ more than 7% of the U.S. workforce, while the broader nonprofit sector is estimated to employ 10% of the U.S. workforce. In 2009, nonprofits filing form 990s with the IRS reported approximately $1.4 billion in revenue and nearly $2.6 billion in assets.

Those numbers do not include the estimated 215,000 charities who have neglected (or completely blown off) their 990 responsibilities.

Update: Ms McCollum’s office was kind enough to get in touch and provide us with more information and a direct link to the Bill. We look forward to seeing how this works out.

Career Options: Masters in Taxation, MBA or CPA Exam?

We’re often asked which way to go when it comes to pursuing additional education or tackling the CPA exam before moving on to grad school (if you’re in one of those awesome 120 states or somehow loaded up on units after graduation) so let’s see if we can offer some insight on the matter.

Reader question is as follows:

Hello, I am looking at a public accounting career in tax and will graduate with a bachelors and 150 credit hours after 4 years. I am wondering if there are benefits to a Masters in Tax or MBA versus entering the workforce.


Funny you ask, have you checked with Going Concern contributor Joe Kristan? He can tell you all about taking the Masters route AND tax work so hit him up (you’re welcome, Joe) for more insight. “I think if you have good grades otherwise, a M.Acc can give you an edge in getting hired, especially with big firms. For me it gave me a huge edge – my M.Acc beats my B.A. in history with CPA firms everywhere,” he told us awhile back. Somehow we’re not surprised to hear his history degree wasn’t useful once it came time to find a sweet number-crunching gig.

Back to School
I think your payoff depends on what exactly you’re trying to get out of your career and which direction you plan to go. An MBA offers you flexibility (which comes in handy when the economy is in the can and jobs are scarce) while a Masters would keep you tethered to whatever path you take but either would make you more desirable to employers – depending on who you are applying with.

Keep in mind that for some employers, an over-qualified, well-educated candidate also means someone who will need to be paid more and could (in a normal job environment completely unlike the one we’ve got going now) easily find a better, more well-paid position with any number of employers. People may be desperate nowadays but the economy will recover eventually and employers have to consider that when deciding to offer you a position.

The Real World – CPA
The advantage to heading straight into the workforce out of school is that you can get the CPA exam out of the way and then, should you want to, choose to head back after you have been licensed and pursue a Masters. The advantage to this is that you are less of a threat to employers once you actually have your CPA since they don’t have to worry about you leaving after 2 years to the day once you have your experience requirement met so you can leverage your additional education to land a better job. Then again, the advantage to staying in school – for the moment, at least, job market being what it is – is that you can buy yourself some time, make yourself more of an asset and hope that things look better from a hiring standpoint once you have completed your Masters program. Many are taking this route simply because they’re afraid of the job market (for good reason).

Under the getting your CPA now route, you have the advantage of getting to know your profession before committing to a specialty – that means being able to change your mind before you’ve given up another year of your life and the costs associated with a Masters (or MBA) program. I don’t want to talk you out of what you’ve decided to be when you grow up but there’s something to be said for real-world experience (and I’m sure more than one old timer can tell you they wish they knew what they were getting into before they did).

Keep in mind also that if you’re looking at an MBA, work experience may be a requirement for admission so you might not have a choice in the matter. Take the CPA/work route and come back later when you have a little experience under your belt and more insight to allow you to make an informed decision on where you want to go with your life.

Have You Considered Becoming an Accounting Professor?

We already did a series on credentials for accountants if you’re looking for add letters to the end of your name but if you’re not looking to take that route or looking to get out of it after you’ve gotten some experience under your belt, you may want to look into a PhD in accounting. We’re serious.

The Accounting Doctoral Scholars program, a joint project by 70+ accounting firms, several state societies of CPAs and the AICPA, wants to help you. $15 million has gone into their efforts to fill a much-needed gap in accounting education and if you don’t quite fit in to the cube, you may be one of the chosen ones.


That means they have money to help you through school so get in touch with them if this sounds like you:

If you are someone who loves learning, generating new ideas, and setting your own agenda you may want to seriously consider pursuing a doctoral degree in accounting. While all academicians can make their mark in a field, those with a Ph.D. in accounting have the opportunity to influence both accounting education and public accounting practice.

The ADS Program will provide funding for selected individuals, with recent meaningful experience in public accounting in auditing and tax, to help them make a permanent transition to teaching and research at the university level. The funding will support application to doctoral programs in accounting and also provide a stipend of $30,000 per year for up to four years of enrollment to individuals committed to teaching and research in auditing and tax—the areas of greatest need—upon completion of their doctorates. The Program will support its third class of Accounting Doctoral Scholars for Fall 2011.

No one can tell you how far to take your education. We know CPAs with PhDs who love teaching and we know teachers who have their CPA and don’t realize they practice education. It is difficult enough to decide between a Masters in Accounting and an MBA (or so we hear), how many of you are really thinking of a PhD?

If just one of you are, hopefully this helps. We’d be curious to hear what career paths you plan to take if you are and always defer you to friend of Going Concern Professor David Albrecht if you want to talk to someone who does it for a living.

This does mean you’ll actually have to teach.

Last year, AccountingWEB identified 5 reasons why we’re so desperate for PhDs in Accounting including the lifestyle change required to pursue one and the economic cost of funding it.

The New York Society of CPAs’ CPA Journal gets into what is required and what to expect if you take this route here and you can check out earlier posts that GC did on the pros and cons of the career move into academia. Good luck!

How a New Graduate Can Pass the CPA Exam (Almost) Before May 2011

This CPA exam candidate changes her name too often on Twitter to be linked to but asks us the following:

I am graduating this fall from [University of San Francisco] with an undergraduate degree in Accounting. My goal is to study and pass the test by May 2011.

I appreciate your input and advice.

First off, I love specific questions like this. If you have them you are, as always, welcome to send them in for future columns. If you have a particular goal (like passing before the 2011 changes or learning how to balance work, family and the exam), I feel better about wasting my time yelling at you because you’re much more likely to succeed. ROI, we all want one.

Anyway.


– Let’s start with the California Board of Accountancy. If you call their exam unit, they will tell you to expect a wait of 4 – 6 weeks for your application to be processed and you’ll get really excited when they cash the $100 application fee check three days after you mailed it. Don’t get excited, that’s the first thing they do (duh, it’s California). In reality, you can expect to wait about 8 weeks from the date you submit your application if you’re freshly graduated and applying with many other accounting grads in the state at the same time. Expect to wait 10 days for your payment coupon and 10 days for your Notice to Schedule once you get your ATT (Authorization to Test). So let’s say your school already posted your degree to your transcripts and you sent in your application today (7/16). You may not get approved until 9/16. Best case scenario they get you approved quickly and you get your ATT on 8/16 (don’t count on it).

Once you have that, it could be another 3 weeks until you are actually scheduling your exams. This year (since your goal is 2011, we’re assuming you’re starting as early as possible before new exam changes hit), the last window of the year will be especially hard to schedule. We’re just guessing on that since everyone seems afraid of CBT-e. It will be interesting to see the actual numbers once they are released.

Get the Hard Stuff Out of the Way – If you can get in one part this year, great. If you had to ask me which one you should take I’d usually say the one that will be hardest for you (since your rolling 18 month window doesn’t start until you actually sit for and pass that first one) but because of the 2011 changes I’m telling most candidates to take FAR. A lot of them are also trying to squeeze in BEC – I imagine they don’t like the idea of written communications and more economics but I could be wrong. Don’t take the easy route, you’ll regret it when you’re trying to pass that last really difficult section you put off and end up losing scores because 18 months came and went.

Don’t Be an Overachiever – I know the old timers will pipe in on this and say back in their day they didn’t have calculators and had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to get to the exam center twice a year to take all 4 parts over 19 1/2 hours but we humbly suggest sitting for no more than two parts per testing window. If you can get in for Q4 2010, you will have one exam done then take two more in Q1 2011 and the last one Q2 2011. So you may not exactly hit your May target but it’s OK to adjust your plans (don’t get mad at the Board of Accountancy but if you want a shortcut around their 8 week application time, get in touch with me) and you can still say you reached your goal.

The only other issue is getting those extra units to actually be licensed under Pathway 2 (the best idea for your own mobility) since you are an undergrad but you can get those in anything and have five years to meet the licensure requirements before you lose your exam scores.

Worry about that later. As for how to study, we’ve talked about CPA review courses, study strategies and things not to do in previous posts. Good luck!

Reno’s “Hot August Nights” Goes For-Profit and Skips Town?

Though the connection between the non-profit Hot August Nights organization that’s been putting on Reno’s biggest party for 24 years and the newly-registered for-profit Hot August Nights of Las Vegas is unclear, what is clear is that part of the event will be held in Long Beach this year due to “horrific” costs to put the event on in Reno.

Reno, if you don’t already know, is in pretty bad shape. I used to live there so I know that it always was but it’s in really bad shape right now. With the iconic Fitzgerald’s Hotel and Casino indefinitely boarded up directly under Reno’s “Biggest Little City in the World” sign as a direct result of the Corus Bank failure 1,500 miles away in Chicago back in late 2009, downtown looks more destitute than ever. I take full artistic license for use of the word “iconic.” This is Reno we’re talking about.


You’d think Reno city commissioners would want to encourage fun and leisure, mostly through the only event any of us with the big money to the West are familiar with (Hot August Nights) but all signs point to the city losing it.

On the same day paperwork was filed in Nevada to establish the for-profit, non-profit Hot August Nights officials announced part of the event would be held in Southern California in 2011.

There’s been a bunch of bitchfighting in Reno (and neighbor Sparks, who gets some of the tourism run-off for the event) and it continues.

We don’t expect you to be familiar with the Reno area (unless you happen to work for Deloitte or E&Y in town, though we don’t like those odds) so for a little background on Hot August Nights, it’s a yearly car show stamped as family fun for everyone. The event costs $700,000 to put on each year according to organizers who swear they aren’t looking to move the show to Long Beach in 2012.

The Reno Gazette-Journal breaks down the non-profit side:

In the 2004 tax year, Don Schmid, then listed as executive director, was paid $93,962 in salary.

On the nonprofit corporation’s 2008 income tax return, current executive director Bruce Walter is listed as collecting $256,890 in salary and $11,940 for a housing allowance, resulting in total compensation of $268,830.

Yes, I’m sure it’s the costs of putting on the event that are inspiring a move. Anyone been to a convention in Reno lately? It’s got to be the cheapest place in the country if you don’t count middle states. You’re telling me it’s cheaper to host the event in Long Beach?

For-profit Hot August Nights corporation created in Vegas [The Reno Gazette-Journal]

If You Want to Screw Up the CPA Exam, Here are 5 Ways to Do It

I spend a lot of time yelling at you kids trying to tell you what to do: schedule early for the last window of the year, don’t overload yourself by trying to take on too many exam parts at once and be sure to bring your ID to Prometric (lay it out like your clothes on the night before the first day of school so you don’t forget).

Nag, nag, nag. I do it because I care and I want to see every accouig CPA dreams achieve their goal, even when that means a major risk for capital markets (you know who I am talking about, there are some people who shouldn’t be allowed within 50 feet of a balance sheet).

But let’s put all of that aside for now and talk about ways to blow it. I mean really blow it. Unlike most of my tips, if you follow these you’re pretty much guaranteed to fail.


Schedule too many exam parts in one window This is a common mistake, mostly for newbie CPA exam candidates. You get all excited and have three months to waste before starting work in the fall and decide to take as many parts as you can in a window just to get it over with. Great. Of course, you realize halfway through the first chapter of REG that you have too much on your plate and end up blowing all three. Congrats, you’ve just learned an important lesson: take it easy. We say no more than two exam parts per window and unless you will get fired if you don’t get this stupid CPA in the next 6 weeks, stick to that rule.

Put your social life (substitute “work life” for social life here if you don’t have one) ahead of the exam If you have a life, congratulations, but it’s going to have to get back burnered for a minute while you tackle this thing. You don’t have to break up with your girlfriend but if she isn’t in accounting and going through the same misery as you, you may have to cut her off for awhile so you can concentrate. You know, only if she’s that kind of girlfriend. Your friends will get over it. Try surrounding yourself with other, equally-miserable CPA exam candidates like yourself. They’ll never be available and will only pester you via text when they are procrastinating.

Study only when you feel like it This one is great for totally blowing it and if that’s your goal, all you have to do is tell yourself you’ll study after work or when you get a chance or maybe after the game is over. Without a solid study schedule, you’ll quickly realize you never feel like it.

Blow off the multiple choice and just watch CPA review videos Hey listen, in a former life I pawned CPA Review wares 60+ hours a week and let me tell you, we liked it when students got addicted to videos, it pays the bills. But we liked it better when students also did the homework because that meant they passed and failing students don’t help our numbers nor testimonials. So go ahead and stick with the “I’m going to watch FAR thirteen times until it totally sticks in my brain” method, it means more money for repeats and we liked that too.

Spend every moment obsessing over things that aren’t often tested or worth much (like research) Want a surefire way to fail? Focus on the minute details and obsess over rarely-tested information, ask questions in Live class about your own 401(k) instead of pensions and get really bent out of shape over tiny punctuation errors in your review texts. Chances are if this is your strategy, you’ll not only fail miserably but piss off a few CPA review instructors in the process. Good luck with that. Really.

How the ACFE is Promoting CFE Awareness

After Caleb forced me to write a few posts on Credentials for Accountants meant specifically for those of you who still do not know what you want to be when you grow up, I managed to bumble one so badly I was contacted by Scott Grossfeld, CFE CPA and Cttp://www.acfe.com/”>Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. See, it appears I made a typical media mistake in using fraud and forensics as interchangeable fields within the industry and Scott felt compelled to speak up.

This wasn’t exactly wrong (I was being lazy actually) but as CEO of the ACFE, he’s got a responsibility to make sure the media represent the field of fraud examination correctly, especially when it comes to giving forensic accountants credit for what he and his fellow CFEs do out there. Thankfully, we had a nice little chat and cleared up that little point.


Additionally, Scott promised us access to recent salary survey information available shortly that will give us a better idea of what CFEs make. For now, he told us that the data confirms a 22% pay premium for individuals with the CFE compared to individuals in the same position without the CFE. We liked this approach and wish more organizations would take an active role in monitoring and engaging in the conversation, as Scott was obviously doing by reading our series on credentials.

Along the way, however, I discovered that the ACFE is also on top of things by promoting the credential, interacting with their audience and reaching potential new members through new avenues like blogging and social media. The ACFE is excited to be launching a new social media campaign shortly that we can only hope rivals that of the AICPA’s total social media genius (except for that whole Feed the Pig thing, which still creeps us out but is brilliant and weird enough to get a pass).

The strategy of having a CFE on staff is akin to carrying insurance on your home or car, and diversifying a company’s staff can mean the difference between a lawsuit and a slap on the wrist thanks to our favorite unnecessary accounting legislation of all time, Sarbanes-Oxley. “If you look at the CFE, originally the idea behind it was that we had accountants who really didn’t know how to investigate and investigators who don’t know accounting so we were able to bring those two together,” he said. “If you look now, Enron was the big thing that really changed perspective… here’s a big financial risk but you could lose your company if you’re not careful (with SOX) and I think that really raised awareness. Before that fraud work was sort of like insurance, you knew you needed it but you couldn’t always justify it.”

But CFEs do justify their price from a prevention standpoint, assuming fraud to be a risk all companies are exposed to. “5 – 7% of the company’s revenue is lost to fraud, that’s where the fraud examiner pays for themselves,” he told us.

But how does the ACFE promote the usefulness of a 20 year old credential like the CFE? By getting to the kids when they’re still undecided, of course.

“It used to be that the CFE was a secondary credential. [Promoting the credential is the goal of] the higher education partnership we provide to educators. We have 300 colleges and universities in that program. Now it’s part of the discussion; risk is on the radar in terms of what companies are looking for. What we typically see is fraud being an elective type class though there are a few schools that specialize in fraud and or forensics.”

The ACFE also promotes its mission by encouraging those interested in pursuing a career in fraud-fighting to join the organization as a student member for something like $20 a year. Student Associate membership is open to undergraduate students enrolled in 9 semester hours (or equivalent), or graduate students enrolled in 6 semester hours (or equivalent) in an accredited college or university. We agree with this approach, as surrounding yourself with like-minded folks gives you a chance to expose yourself to those already on your desired path. There’s plenty of opportunity for mentorship, commiserating and gaining insight into what the credential actually means for your career.

All in all we approve of what the ACFE is doing and look forward to seeing whatever else they have up their sleeve unfold in the months and years ahead. Let’s face it, they’re pretty much guaranteed a job forever. We like.

Is a Month Long Enough to Study for Regulation?

We’ve given you plenty of tips on studying for REG but let’s go over it one more time, shall we?

NBAinmyDNA asks:

Is 1 month enough time to study for Regulation? I haven’t studied yet and I have the exam scheduled for beginning of August.


Regulation should take about 80 and 100 hours to study for, since we don’t live your life we can’t tell you how much other stuff you would have going on in a month so it’s up to you to figure out how to fit that time in. In a general sense, it can be done in a month but you might be better off taking slightly more time just so you aren’t overloading on information. Regulation isn’t a huge or overly-complicated section but if you’re trying to do all your studying in one month, you’re going to have to cut out just about any chance you might have at a social life between now and then.

When trying to “cram” for a CPA exam section, it is easy to over-study in an attempt to get in as much studying as possible within a short period of time. So this is a good time to point out that your brain learns in layers and gets bored easily so don’t study for more than 3 hours at a time without taking a long break. If you plan on spending your weekends studying, stick to the 3 hour rule and try to plan something moderately enjoyable for yourself in between (renting a movie is OK, going out and getting wasted is NOT).

Studying 3 hours a day for 28 days will clock you in at about 84 hours, which is on the low end of study targets for this section and kind of exhausting. If you can buy yourself a few more weeks and put off your exam, you can stick to 1 – 2 hours a day and still have a life. Be diligent about creating a study schedule and sticking to it as you’re short on time to study as is, you can’t afford to miss 2 or 3 study sessions.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Summer Studying: A CPA Exam Plan for Warm Months

Alright, little future CPAs, most of you are probably still recovering from the holiday weekend and if you’re lucky enough to have a job, reluctantly dragging yourselves back to the grind which sometimes means studying for the CPA exam. Taking the summer to study? Good for you! We’ve got some tips for keeping on track when the weather is nice and the work is light.


Don’t overdo it!
If you just graduated and aren’t starting at a firm until the fall, you might be one of those candidates who decides to take all four CPA exam sections in one testing window. That’s all well and good but let’s be realistic: your degree may not post to your transcripts until August and even then you’ve still got to wait for your state board to process your application. Find out how long the process takes in your state and plan accordingly! If you’ve been approved to sit for the exam and have a few months to study, we humbly suggest taking on no more than two sections per testing window. It’s a lot easier to study when you aren’t working but trust us, it’s a lot easier to pass exams when you’ve got the time to concentrate on each section and cramming all four into one window can sometimes put a damper on that process. So slow it down, killer!

Make time for fun
Listen, no one said you have to give up your life to pass the exam and it might be a good idea to retain your sanity through the process so by all means, get out and enjoy yourself in moderation. Once you’ve created a solid study plan by accounting for each hour of each day and planning study time in between, you can afford to pencil in “fun” here and there to keep yourself motivated. Moderation is key, you don’t want to be puzzling out variance analysis while nursing a hangover so save the big bashes for when you pass.

Remember you only have two testing windows left until the CPA exam changes in 2011
Amazing how motivated you can become when you remind yourself that if you don’t get FAR out of the way this year, you’ll be forced to identify differences between GAAP and IFRS. As you know, you learned one of these in school and the other is a big fat unknown not just to many accounting students in America but many of our CPAs as well. If you’ve been putting off the exam or half-assing it for the last several testing windows, now is the time to stop and get serious about your goal. It isn’t getting any easier and it isn’t going to pass itself.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Why Aren’t We Discussing Financial Reform’s GASB Effect?

If we still care about financial reform, we should especially care about proposed changes to the Government Accounting Standards Board because, let’s face it, government accounting could really use a helping hand. Were government pensions forced to use the same reporting rules as every other pension, a $3 trillion hole would open up and we would see immediately that rules in desperate need of repair have remained broken because the current system allows the truth to be buried in the footnotes.

As is, GASB is funded by voluntary contributions given by state and local governments out of the goodness of their hearts (yeah right) and through sales of its publications.

The concern is that should GASB be unable to pay the bills, the federal government may be forced to swoop in and babysit. The potential for conflicts of interest should not escape dear reader as this would be akin to investors owning the SEC or Fed-regulated banks owning the Federal Reserve (oh wait, they already do). Is that any worse than what we’ve got now?

How bad is their financial situation? GASB reported a $3.83 million budget shortfall in 2009 and projected a $4.46 million shortfall for 2010.

So why, if we’re still talking about financial reform, are we not talking about its potential impact on GASB?

Under new financial reform rules, the GAO would be forced to evaluate GASB’s role (read: usefulness) in standards setting within 180 days of the proposal’s passage. How likely would it be for the GAO to call an issuer-funded agency that’s allowed government pensions to conceal $3 trillion in liabilities a blaring and obvious failure? The SEC could then direct FINRA to collect assessments from dealers that would go towards funding GASB. Obviously this piece of legislation has been written by Congressmen who don’t know how to do anything without making it as complicated as possible.

Financial reform has already cleared the House while the Senate is expected to vote within the next two weeks after returning from recess.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

You’re Going to Grad School: Do You Sit for the CPA Exam or Wait?

For many of you it is graduation season and that means planning to start at a firm in the fall or going back to school. But do you really need grad school?

Here’s our question from a reader planning on eventually taking the CPA exam but unsure as to when:

I just finished my undergraduate degree in the summer and therefore did not meet any of the application deadlines for grad school this Fall. I plan on going to grad school in the Spring, but in the meantime, I wanted to register to sit for the CPA exam. Is this a dumb thing to do? Most of my friends are going to grad school and studying for the CPA exam simultaneously. I don’t want to wait to the Spring to start taking the CPA though–but perhaps it will be more beneficial to me to wait. I need all the help I can get to pass. On the other hand, I’ve heard that you don’t necessarily need everything you learn in grad school to do well on the CPA exam, and all that extra information that they feed you can actually confuse you. I would love to hear your input on this.

Let’s be honest here, there are two distinct universes: 1) the CPA exam universe and 2) the actual universe.

Scenarios presented on the CPA exam are often contrived in the way that only made-up content can be and very often fail to match real-world experiences that you will encounter in your exciting career as a CPA. That also means that college may have poorly prepared you for the CPA exam universe, whether undergrad or graduate level. The CPA exam changes twice a year but it’s pretty likely that your college professors used the same books several years in a row. Of course accounting is still accounting but you are right to assume that grad school may not adequately prepare you for the CPA exam. Why do you think review courses make so much money?

Our advice is ALWAYS the same when it comes to loading up your plate with other things while trying to tackle the CPA exam: less is more. If you can trim out part of your social life, take time off of work, and avoid any additional educational or professional responsibilities while studying, you’re in a much better place to focus on the exam. Ask any of your friends who are trying to do grad school and the CPA exam at the same time in a few months how things are working out and I guarantee you they’ll tell you it’s not the cake walk they thought it would be. If you can save yourself the headache, do it, you can always go back to school later.

Grad school may make you more hireable and teach you a few tips and tricks for your career but as far as the exam goes, if that’s your only motivation for getting more education, you’d be better off just picking up some extra units to meet the 150 hour rule and focusing your efforts with a good review program. Again, college texts are usually outdated and don’t cover the same topics as the CPA exam.

It is our humble advice that you apply for the CPA exam immediately and make it your goal to complete all exam parts before you start school in the Spring since you will have the time to focus on the task at hand. Good luck!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Failing the CPA Exam the Easy Way…or: How to Use Your Scores to Determine Your Next Move

Nationally, only 43% of CPA exam candidates who sit for any exam part pass on their first try and that number shouldn’t be too surprising to anyone who has gone into an exam completely unprepared or totally intimidated. Failure may be inevitable but it doesn’t have to be the end, nor does it mean you should give up on trying to become a CPA.

So what do you do if you’ve failed?

There are two paths to take and your option from here depends a lot on how you did. Not all less-than-74s are created equal.


If you scored < 70: If you got anything less than a 70, give or take, you can put this exam off until later and move on to the next section if you are having difficulty grasping the information, especially if you scored in the bottom 60s or lower. UNLESS you are on a time crunch (like you have to get this one passed or you’ll lose credit on another section), blow this one off and move on to another. If you want to continue and try this one again you can but you should start from scratch, use your score report to gain insight into where you need more work, and review EVERYTHING as if you have not studied at all.

If you scored > 70: Pay your re-application fee and get a new NTS for this exam ASAP! A score above 70, while disappointing if less than 75, shows that you have an excellent command of the information and you’ll want to retake this one while the information is still fresh in your mind. DO NOT move on to another section. Use your score report to gain insight into your weaker areas but don’t obsess too much over what it tells you, keep in mind the report compares you to other candidates and you don’t care how other people did on the exam, you need to know where YOU need to do more work. DO NOT waste your time watching all of your CPA review lectures again, focus on doing MCQ/simulation practice questions and brush up on the areas you are weak in. Then, just before your exam, give everything a very quick overview one last time to make sure you have not forgotten the things you already know.

The point is that most CPA exam candidates experience failure at one point in the process, and some will experience failure repeatedly along the way. Be smart about your mistakes, learn from them and move on. You CAN pass, it’s just a matter of understanding how to overcome the many stumbling blocks you may encounter along the way.

Also see:
What Happens When You Get a 74?

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Credentials for Accountants: Certified in Financial Forensics

If you’re the type that enjoyed spy shows as a kid and loves scoping out financial statements like CSIs love autopsying dead bodies, you might want to consider a CFF (Certified in Financial Forensics) when you grow up. Anyone considering this designation may want to add CFF to the end of their name with a CFE or CFA. If you’re looking at a CFF, you might want to hurry up and decide before future CFFs are required by the AICPA, starting September 1st, to pass the CFF examination.

In May of 2008, the AICPA introduced the CFF as a professional credential that combines specialized forensic accounting expertise with the core knowledge and skills that make CPAs among the most trusted business advisers.


Education Requirements
Becauential that represents an extensive knowledge base, CPE is an important component to qualify for and renew a CFF designation. New CFFs are required to demonstrate a certain amount of Lifelong Learning (based on the point system below) and must complete 60 hours every 3 years with renewal of the credential.

Professional Requirements
In order to qualify to become a CFF, CPAs must be an AICPA member in good standing, have five years professional experience in the field of accounting and must score at least 100 points on the application (points based on professional experience, knowledge, lifelong learning and forensic accounting credentials already held). Only CPAs can apply as a valid, unrevoked license to practice public accounting is a requirement as well.

The CFF Exam
The exam, which will be introduced as a requirement on September 1, 2010, is a four hour, 100% multiple choice exam administered by the AICPA. It consists of the following areas and weights (check out the CSOs from the AICPA here)

Professional Responsibilities and Practice Management

• AICPA 5%

• CPA Professional Responsibilities in Civil and Criminal Matters 5%

Fundamental Forensic Knowledge

• Laws, Courts and Dispute Resolution 5%

• Planning and Preparation 5%-10%

• Information Gathering and Preserving 10%

• Discovery 5%-10%

• Reporting, Experts and Testimony 5%-10%

Specialized Forensic Knowledge

• Bankruptcy, Insolvency and Reorganization 5%-10%

• Computer Forensic Analysis 5%-10%

• Economic Damages Calculations 5%-10%

• Family Law 5%-10%

• Financial Statement Misrepresentations 5%-10%

• Fraud Prevention, Detection and Response 5%-10%

• Valuation 5%-10%

Career Options
Many with the CFF credential stick to private practice and use the CFF as a way to distinguish themselves as passionate about forensic accounting.

Compensation and Other Benefits
We all know more letters = more money but in the case of the CFF, little real data can be found on the difference in compensation for CFFs versus plain old forensic accountants. We’re guessing this is because the CFF is a relatively new AICPA credential but as time goes on and frauds get larger and more complicated, we trust that this data will be much easier to come by. As a general rule, crendentialed CPAs are more valuable simply because pursuit of a credential in one’s specialty shows a level of professional dedication adored by HR departments and managers alike.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here

How Simulations are Changing for the 2011 CPA Exam

As most of you already know, the CPA exam is changing and our last two testing windows are quickly approaching. If you are concerned about the impact of IFRS on CPA exam content, get FAR done this year. If you absolutely hate written communication, knock out BEC in 2010 as it will contain them in 2011. A few topics will be moving around and for an overview of everything that’s changing starting January 1, 2011, check out the updated Content Specification Outlines for all the gruesome details.

The biggest and most obvious change will be a shift in the thinking of the CPA exam itself
Whereas we have always considered the CPA to be a world-renowned designation and GAAP the be-all-end-all of accounting rules, we now must recognize the global nature of capital markets and future CPAs will be expected to demonstrate a working knowledge of international standards in financial reporting and auditing.


For 2011 simulations, we’re expecting that the AICPA Board of Examiners will continue to use a similar format (you may see tabs that you recognize if you’ve already taken exam parts and done some simulation problems) but instead of getting 2 large sims, you’ll get 7 task-based simlets (6 in Regulation).

Contrary to popular rumor, BEC WILL NOT CONTAIN SIMULATIONS
Blame that on the folks who don’t read but BEC will only contain written communications (3, of which 2 will be graded) and will go from 90 multiple choice to 72. You’ll get an extra 30 minutes to complete this part, which will be taken away from Audit.

The Unknown
It’s difficult to say at this point what candidates should expect come January 2011. Will research still be worth 1 point and therefore easily blown off if you’re running out of time? Will simlets require extended journal entries that can take quite a bit of time to put together? The honest answer is that we don’t know.

The AICPA used to have a tutorial at cpa-exam.org but since they redid their website, these tutorials have moved to their main page and can be found here. The cpa-exam.org site is still down and, presumably, will not be brought back now that everything is stashed on the AICPA’s website.

So our guess is that the new format WILL be available in tutorial form from the AICPA before January though we haven’t seen anything to date. When the research function changed in mid 2008, they made it available for practice at least one window prior to the new function appearing on the exam and 2011’s simlets should be no different. We’ll let you know if we spot the new format available for practice so stay tuned and better knock out some exams while you can, there are only four testing months left before everything changes!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Non-Profits are Now Exempt from Political Contribution Rules (Well Three of Them at Least)

Out of millions of non-profit organizations in America, three have been hand-picked by the authors of the DISCLOSE Act, a House bill meant to bring transparency to political contributions.

The bill is inspired by a Supreme Court decision that overturned a cap on corporate contributions to political campaigns. So to compromise and soften the hard-ass bill a little bit, they threw in an exemption for certain non-profits that meet specific requirements.

They must have more than 1 million members, be at least 10 years old and receive no more than 15% of their contributions from corporations to receive this exemption. OK, how many non-profits could that be?


The NRA and 2 others (AARP and the Humane Society).

Reform at its finest, I guess.

Just a note, Charity Navigator doesn’t do the NRA for the following reason:

We don’t evaluate National Rifle Association.
Why not? We don’t evaluate 501(c)(4) organizations because they are allowed to spend a substantial portion of their revenue on lobbying our government and not every donation to them is tax-deductible. You may be interested in our evaluation for The NRA Foundation.

If you’re curious, “DISCLOSE” stands for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections and I don’t think light is what we need in this situation. Companies, unions and other groups that spend more than $10,000 would be required to disclose donors who have given $1000 or more.

Why does this matter? Should lobbying groups really receive any tax deductions at all?

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here.

Three Myths About Simulation Questions on the CPA Exam

6 years after the advent of the computerized CPA exam, candidates are fairly used to simulations by now (just in time for them to change) but they can still be a source of fear and apprehension for candidates just starting out.

Let’s start with debunking some popular myths. Remember, all of this information is current to the 2010 CPA exam and will be changing in 2011. Since it doesn’t make sense to repeat myself, I’m talking about what to expect for the next two windows of 2010.


Only one simulation is graded. Only one written communication is graded but both simulations are definitely graded and there is no progressive difficulty like there is with MCQ. If your second simulation feels harder than the first, it doesn’t mean you’re doing better, it probably means you got screwed on a simulation that covers the one subject you blew off when you were studying. This will get easier next year as more, smaller “simlets” make your knowledge of a broad range of topics more vital to the scoring process than your intimate knowledge of two topics is now.

Research is an important tab. It actually isn’t. It isn’t worth too many points so if you have to save anything for last, it’s research. If you have time left over, by all means, knock yourself out.

Written communications are sometimes hand-graded for correctness. Actually they don’t care at all if you are right, you just have to address the issue you are presented with using keywords and write good English use proper business grammar. It’s easy, you’re supposed to be doing this all the time via e-mail and if you aren’t, maybe you should start practicing. Caleb, this means you with your IDKs.

We will dig into the details onCP 2011’s new “simlets” on Friday.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

If I Pass CPA Exam Parts in 2010, Will I Have to Pass Them Again in 2011?

Have a question on the CPA Exam? What section is easiest? How should I study for Regulation? Are pants mandatory at the testing site? Shoot us an email with your query.

It’s the big question on everyone’s minds so we better address it now before you cute little CPA exam candidates start freaking out:

Do you know what will happen if as of December 31, 2010 I have completed two sections of the exam? Will I only have to take the remaining two sections or will I be subject to the new exam parts coming in 2011?


Good question. First of all, keep in mind that a lot of the hype surrounding the 2011 changes is:

A) CPA Review course marketing (“buy new materials! Be sure you’re up to date!”)

B) AICPA marketing (“Hey! Check out how advanced we are and how easily we can integrate a whole new set of standards into our psychometric exams!”)

C) Misinformation spread by candidates who “heard from someone” that BEC will now contain 10 simulations and all of them will be graded.

Just stop. The two biggest changes for 2011 are the addition of IFRS (which will mostly affect FAR) and communications in BEC, that’s it! That means get FAR out of the way this year if you can and throw in BEC before December if you are allergic to written communication. The exam changes twice a year anyway, this is nothing new.

Now that that’s out of the way, the rolling 18 month period also stays the same so whatever you have passed in the last 18 months will still be good. Again, if you’re freaking out about all of this, get FAR done ASAP and you will have minimal IFRS and GAAP codification garbage to deal with. A few sections are moved around (for example, business structures will be moving out of BEC) but it’s mostly the same content. REG is hardly changed at all and AUD will be one half hour shorter with more on professional ethics while BEC will be one half hour longer with written communications.

Simulations are trimmed down to “simlets” and instead of getting one topic, you have a better chance of doing well as they will be smaller and consist of several different topics. In my opinion, the exam is just getting easier.

I’m willing to bet that testing will be a bit of a bumpy ride for the first two windows of the year as the AICPA BoE gets its bearings with the new information and somewhat adjusted formats. But debits are still on the left and credits on the right so it’s not worth getting bent out of shape over; the exam will still suck and you’ll still have to study but thankfully, just like thousands of CPAs before you, you’ll rarely use anything you learned for the exam in the real world.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

So Your Firm Is Going to Pay For You to Take the CPA Exam: Four Things To Remember

Have a question on the CPA Exam? What section is easiest? How should I study for Regulation? Are pants mandatory at the testing site? Shoot us an email with your query.

Not only do you have a job (congrats!) but you have a job that is willing to pay for you to take the CPA exam. Awesome! But before you load up on review materials, be sure you know what your employer expects and understand that there are situations where you can be held liable for materials if you don’t live up to your employer’s expectations.


This is Business – First of all, though you can’t claim a deduction, reimbursement of your CPA exam expenses (education, exam fees, etc) is treated as a business expense, just like any other training. If you’re desperate to get someone to help out with review course or exam fees, try selling this point to your employer.

Make the Most of Time You Have Now – If you’re in the Big 4 or anywhere down to the middle, chances are your review course fees are covered and your performance on the exam might be rewarded with a bonus. Don’t blow this! It’s easier for you to study and pass exams before you are loaded down with responsibilities and managers are much more lenient with first years looking for time off than they are if you’re in your 4th consecutive year of failing FAR. Take this seriously and realize that your firm will probably only pay once; blow it and you’re going to have to come up with retake fees on your own.

This Isn’t 2006 – Several years ago, firms would happily pay $3,000 and up for overpriced review courses with all the bells and whistles but since belts have been tightened, some are reluctant to cough up a chunk of cash without a guaranteed return on their investment. Look at this subsidy not as a gift but as additional income. Would you blow $3,000 of your own income on something and then never use it?

Ask Your Firms Lots of Questions – If your firm does not already have an agreement with a review course but is willing to pay your fees, ask lots of questions upfront and find out if you can invoice for repeats or supplemental products if you need them. One of the larger firms has a “we’ll pay for anything once” rule meaning they will only cut one check, regardless of whether it’s for $2 or $2,000. Other firms have strict rules about what you can order and when you can start (think government agencies). Regardless of how your firm works, ask about what is covered and what is expected in return.

In this economy, you can’t afford to blow a free review course and discounted or all-expense-paid trips to Prometric.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Will a CMA or CFM Get You Some Kind of CPA Exam “Credit”?

The short answer is no. The medium answer is hell no and the long answer is the rest of this post but first, let’s address the reader question, shall we?

Will any of the sections passed for the CMA and/or CFM count against the requirements for the CPA examination? In other words, can I avoid taking certain sections of the CPA examination because I have passed the CMA and CFM?


ALL candidates have to pass all four parts of the exam and for the lucky ones, there’s even a fifth part to worry about called ethics but that’s not all of you so we won’t get into that. There is no credit given for life experience, other letters after your name, certifications, and/or letters from your Mom attesting to your good moral character. You don’t get extra credit for making your written communications 15 paragraphs long, nor do you get a bonus for having the prettiest scribbles on your scratch paper. Nothing. Sorry kid but them’s the breaks.

CMAs are not automatically eligible to sit for the CPA exam simply because they are CMAs however required coursework for both credentials are similar so if you are eligible to pursue one, you may be eligible to pursue the other without additional education. This career track is best accomplished by getting an MBA or Masters in accounting, not completing your Bachelor’s and simply picking up a few extra units to fulfill the CPA’s 150 hour requirement.

If you are into it, check out some recent IMA numbers on salary potential for CMAs and CPAs. So while you won’t be able to get out of any of the usual CPA exam gruntwork, it still might be worth it to pursue anyway. And bonus, you might just be able to count your CPE units twice for both designations.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

PwC May Have Overlooked Billions in Illegal JP Morgan Transactions. Oopsie.

Now £15.7 billion may not seem like much to you if you are, say, Bill Gates or Ben Bernanke but for PwC UK, it may be the magic number that gets them into a whole steaming shitpile of trouble.

UK regulators allege that from 2002 – 2009, PwC client JP Morgan shuffled client money from its futures and options business into its own accounts, which is obviously illegal. Whether or not JP Morgan played with client money illegally is not the issue here, the issue is: will PwC be liable for signing off on JPM’s activities and failing to catch such significant shenanigans in a timely manner?


PwC did not simply audit the firm, they were hired to provide annual client reports that certified client money was safe in the event of a problem with the bank. Obviously that wasn’t the case.

The Financial Reporting Council and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England are investigating the matter, and the Financial Services Authority has already fined P-dubs £33.3 million for co-mingling client money and bank money. That’s $48.8 million in Dirty Fed Notes if you are playing along at home.

Good luck with that, PwC. We genuinely mean that.

Inquiries mount after PwC ‘failed to notice’ mistakes [Times UK]

Convio Users Indicate That Things in the Nonprofit Sector Aren’t So Bad

Convio provides technology solutions to nonprofits and recently released a bit on its user base, showing pretty reassuring data that things are not that bad in the nonprofit sector.

When the Nonprofit Finance Fund released its 2010 outlook earlier this year, a nice calming Xanax was recommended before reading. So this is certainly a bit of good news for nonprofits, at least for the customer base from which the data was compiled.

Online giving grew 14 percent despite a difficult economy. Overall, 69 percent of organizations raised more in 2009 than 2008, while 31 percent saw declines in their online fundraising.

An increase in gifts drove fundraising gains. Of those that grew fundraising in 2009, 92 percent saw an increase in the number of gifts in 2009 compared with just 43 percent of organizations seeing an increase in their average gift amount.

Small organizations grew fastest. Organizations with fewer than 10,000 email addresses on file, many of which are participants in the Convio Go! program, grew online revenue by 26 percent, and gifts by 32 percent.

Web traffic growth continued for most, but at a slower rate. 60 percent of organizations grew their website traffic from 2008 to 2009. Web traffic growth in 2009 was in the single digits at 6 percent compared with double digit growth seen in previous years.

Web traffic was strongly correlated with email file growth. 38 percent of an organization’s success building large email files could be directly attributed to the amount of traffic to the organization’s website.

This year’s study analyzes data compiled from 499 nonprofit organizations that have at least 24 months of data to compare. The study aggregates results into benchmarks that nonprofit organizations can compare against their peer group and the industry as a whole. In addition the study provides separate benchmarks for 15 nonprofit industry sub-groups, or verticals across 19 key metrics. In total Convio’s clients raised more than $920 million online in 2009.

Convio Releases Annual Study of Nonprofit Sector’s Online Fundraising and Marketing Trends [BusinessWire]

Four Time Management Tips for the CPA Exam

The subject of time management can be a sore one for CPA exam candidates, mostly the ones who have taken and failed at least one part knowing this was largely due to blowing too much time on a particular section or dedicating too much time to one component, like MCQ, and not nearly enough on simulations.

In order to combat this problem, it’s critical to set yourself a little countdown clock on your scratch paper as soon as you sit down at the computer to make sure you are leaving yourself plenty of time when you need it most.


Always allow 45 minutes for each simulation – Be sure to do each written communication first as only one is graded but you don’t know which and it’s an easy 10 points if you at least manage to scribble something down, even if you don’t have time to get through all the simulation tabs you can still pass if you have done the communications. It’s a crapshoot but stranger things have happened.

No more than a minute and a half on each multiple choice question – Add up the number of MCQ in a testlet and count up, writing the time you should be finished on your scratch paper. Let’s say you’re taking FAR and started at 10 am; you will need 45 minutes for each testlet if you are going to have 45 minutes left over for each simulation. So by 10:45, you should be on testlet 2, by 11:30, you’re on to testlet 3. That leaves you plenty of time for the sims. For REG, you’ve only got about 1.25 minutes per MCQ as you’ve got 3 hours total to get through the entire thing. If you’re doing well on time, go back and check the MCQ you marked for review (if any) otherwise trudge on to the next part and never take a break! You don’t have time!

And remember: never leave any questions blank! GUESS! – If you get it wrong, it’s wrong. If you get it right, you’re smarter and/or luckier than you thought and are that much closer to your CPA. The exam is a plus-point basis exam meaning you don’t lose points for wrong answers, you can only add points as you go.

If you’re short on time, forget the research – If you are running out of time on the simulations, try to complete as much as you can in each tab and blow off the research, as yet it isn’t worth much. This may change when CBT-e hits in 2011 but for now, it’s not worth it if you don’t have the time. You’d be better off reviewing your written communication if you only have two or three minutes to spare.

You learned all about time management when studying for the exam so take that knowledge into the testing center and knock ’em dead!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

How to Avoid ID Problems at the CPA Exam

Although the instructions are pretty clear, this question comes up fairly often so let’s make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to ID that works at Prometric when taking the CPA exam.

Prometric is very clear about what you should have before you get to the testing center (at least half an hour early, of course, and smokers should make that an hour so they can get in as many as they can before they start – you don’t want to waste those breaks).


First and foremost, check in with them 24 hours before your exam to confirm your appointment. The night before your exam date, set out your NTS and make sure you have two forms of exactly matching ID ready so you aren’t scrambling to find it in the morning.

At least one of your forms of ID must have a recent photograph and both must be valid (i.e. not expired) and signed. Try a credit card and a driver’s license, forget about a Social Security card or a student ID as Prometric will not accept these. A passport is OK but must be accompanied by a secondary ID (like a credit or debit card).

The name on your primary photo ID must match your Notice to Schedule exactly. If you show up and both names are different (foreign candidates who use both an English name and their native name sometimes run into this problem), Prometric will not allow you to test and you will forfeit exam fees. If there are any issues with your ID, contact them in advance to see if an exception can be made or make sure you will be okay come test day. Make sure to do this within your NTS timeframe and no less than 15 days before your exam date so you can at least reschedule without losing your exam fee if need be.

Got it?

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

The CPA Exam Application Timeline

Since graduation season is once again upon us, we thought we’d revisit a time tested favorite question from CPA exam candidates: When should I apply for the CPA exam?

First, find out when your school posts degrees to transcripts and whether or not the state you are applying to requires a degree before you can apply. If you are unsure of your state’s requirements or which state you might qualify in, NASBA has a really handy search tool you can use ($10 for 24 hours of access). Or just check out the website to read up on your state’s requirements. If you need a degree before you can apply, you’re going to need to know how long you’ll be waiting for your school to post it. Don’t apply any earlier as your application will be rejected and you’re out the initial exam fee.


If you’re planning on jumping right in to studying, you can generally apply to sit for the exam right after your degree posts. Remember, at this point you want to have tied up all the loose ends in your life that will keep you from studying; crazy ex-girlfriend, slave-driving boss, roommate drama… you get it. Sweep all that aside and submit your application (and fees!) as soon as you can. Don’t forget, just because they cashed your check does not mean you have been approved to sit so don’t get excited if you see it clear a week after you sent it in. That’s usually the first thing they do since you’re out the fee whether or not you qualify and hey, who doesn’t want money?

Now, should you start studying right away? It depends on how long your state takes to process applications. If you are looking at a 6 – 8 week wait, you may want to hold off on cracking the books, especially if you plan to start with something small like BEC. If you start studying too soon, you run the risk of being denied to sit for the exam and losing precious CPA review time (many programs have expiration dates – always ask!) catching up on units you need to qualify. Don’t invest in a review course until you’re absolutely sure you will be able to start sitting for exams right away. If you come from a quick processing state (usually a search through the CPAnet forums can reveal more detailed information from other candidates in your shoes) and are absolutely certain you meet your state’s requirements, you can start studying as soon as you send in the application.

Congrats to the spring grads and feel free to get in touch if you’ve got any questions about the CPA exam!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Three Signs It Might Be Time to Quit Studying for the CPA Exam

Before you get upset at that headline, I don’t condone quitting the CPA exam process, especially if you’ve actually made some progress and passed some exams. But for some, quitting the exam is the only logical choice and it’s fair to present that argument for those of you truly struggling to get through.

Signs that you should keep going are obvious. If you are feeling unmotivated, bored, intimidated, anxious, panicky, upset, overwhelmed and/or a little depressed, you are just like every other CPA exam candidate out there. There isn’t a single person who gets through the entire experience without feeling some of those feelings, sometimes all at once. But in some very rare cases, struggling with the exam is a sign that perhaps you should be doing something else, and that’s what we’re talking about. So what are some other signs?


Severe depression Obviously if the entire exam process has you feeling dejected, depressed and hopeless, you may not be cut out for the stresses of public accounting and all that comes with the CPA designation. A little sadness or frustration is totally normal but if you find yourself staring at your CPA review flashcards wondering if the corners are sharp enough to slit your wrists, talk to a professional and consider a different line of work. Please. The exam is hard but it isn’t worth killing yourself over. No pun intended.

Complete lack of motivation Again, a little bit of procrastination or a motivation drought is normal if not totally expected. But if you absolutely cannot muster up the courage to crack open the first chapter of FAR for days on end, you’ll never make it. Either motivate yourself (we’ve given you plenty of tips on how to do this in previous CPA exam columns) or give up. I’m serious. If you don’t, you’re not getting through it.

Extreme agitation It’s OK if you’re high-strung, so is Caleb (that’s why he’s the perfect CPA). It’s OK if you are snapping at random passers-by with the nerve to bring their raunchy shrimp ramen lunch smell past your cube. But if you are yelling at everyone from the cat to the mailman for most of the day, the stress of the exam process has taken its toll on you. Remember, the exam is a sort of real world test run and it isn’t going to get any easier once you start your illustrious career in public accounting. Bail. Now. And relax, it’s really not that serious…

Let’s just say I know from professional experience most of these instances are few and far between. Very rarely in my career helping future CPAs pass the exam did I encounter someone who was doomed to 74s without any hope at all. Sure, there were people who failed. A lot. For some of them, they needed to fail in order to change their study habits, take the exam seriously, or really decide this was what they wanted to do.

Very often, I would encounter professionals in their late 40s or 50s who felt disappointed in themselves for abandoning the CPA exam 10, 15, or 20 years ago. So if you do happen to be really depressed, lazy, and/or pissed off and decide to quit, know that you’ll probably end up coming back at some point in your life wishing you’d just gotten it over with when you first had the chance.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Three Study Motivators for the CPA Exam During a Blackout Window

Blackout months are notorious for inviting procrastination, especially June. The weather is nice, the work is light, and if you’ve been studying for most of the year, the mid-point can be exactly where you lose what little motivation you had to study. Because you have an entire month “off”, it can be easy to fall into a rut of not studying.

So as we go into this month, let’s remember some ways to stay motivated, even when it’s tempting to run off and play in the sun:


Get a study buddy – Sometimes all you need is someone chewing you out encouraging you to keep going. If you’re doing this alone and know you’re slacking, maybe you need to recruit a friend to keep you in check.

Bribe yourself – Yes, bribing yourself is a pretty low tactic but whatever works, right? Promise yourself a splurge when you pass whatever section you are studying for or, if you’ve got a little extra cash to throw around, bribe yourself often with treats like $4 lattes and DVDs or whatever it is you’re into that won’t break the bank. This goes in reverse – if you aren’t studying and know it, punish yourself by taking away the movie tickets or nice dinners out.

Schedule your exam date close to the opening of the next window – This way you know you can’t blow off the entire month. Obviously this isn’t a good idea if you’re taking FAR and don’t plan on studying until June 1st but if you’re planning on taking a smaller section like BEC and have the time to put it, schedule your exam in the first or second week of the window so you know you can’t procrastinate. I guarantee you’ll only lose one exam fee because of not studying before you learn that particular lesson.

Good luck and if you’ve had luck breaking the procrastination habit, do share what worked for you!

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Panera Bread Combines Free Markets and Nonprofits in Missouri

In a test run to see if expenses can get covered at the end of the day, Panera Bread has opened a unique new location in Clayton, MO that combines the benefits of nonprofit status with the fundamental principle of the free market system: let the market determine what an item is worth. But it adds a unique qualifier to the traditional concept of the need determining price: human nature.


The menu is exactly the same as other Panera locations (sick foodies can check that out here if they aren’t familiar with Panera’s offerings) but instead of charging a fixed price for each item, this special little spot will ask only what customers can afford. “Take what you need, leave your fair share,” says the sign at their entrance, just in case one is confused by such a foreign transaction model. No prices? Do we even know how to value items independently any more?

Panera is hopeful that the “Cares Cafe” model will thrive and grow to a series of donation-based stores that rely more on empathy than capitalism. “Hopefully we’ll be able to open them across the country, but our original St. Louis location must succeed first!” tweeted the fine folks behind Panera’s official Twitter account.

Can someone confirm Missouri rules on sales taxes related to the sale of food? And is it a sale if the exchange is really a donation? I’m really confused.

Anyway, not everyone is thrilled about this concept. Though it is obviously well-intentioned, the donation model may not necessarily transfer outside of St Louis. Trends consultant Marian Salzman reality-checked USAToday saying “while young people are very much attuned to helping out and making a difference, if they find themselves sitting next to other customers with whom they don’t feel comfortable, they’re not coming back.” You know, as in the possibility of homeless and otherwise destitute individuals (of which our country has plenty nowadays) lounging around with the nerve to eat a cheap meal.

Hedging against operating losses, this particular location has one slight difference from other Panera stores: its bread (except for sandwich bread) is really day old product from other locations around the St Louis metro. Hey, nothing wrong with getting the most out of inventory with a horrible turnover rate.

In the end, it’s hard to say whether this nonprofit experiment will float but if it does, Panera wants to open two more within six months. Good luck with that.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here.

How to Choose a CPA Exam Review Course

As many of you who have been reading Going Concern for some time already know, I used to be in CPA Review. I ditched that gig months ago to pursue my dream of writing full-time (so far so good) and can finally write a completely unbiased post on choosing a review course. I won’t name names here just for the sake of equal opportunity but let’s talk about how to pick a review coursntly, whether or not you actually need one.


First and foremost, if you are broke, you need to know that review courses are expensive. Like new car expensive. Ok, maybe like used Ford Focus expensive, either way, if you’re fresh out of school or still looking for work, you probably don’t have $2,000 lying around. It’s fine, you can get by on cheap textbooks but you’re going to have to bust your ass a tad harder than the guy who got his flashcards and full review paid for by the firm.

Keep in mind: the CPA exam is an investment of not just money but time. If you put $2,000 into it but still don’t study, you’re going to fail miserably. Unless you pay some brainiac $2,000 to take the exam for you but that would be illegal.

If you’ve got the cash for a full review, the first thing you’ll want to do is your homework. No, not practice MCQ, we’re talking research. A simple Google search will give you plenty of options (hell, there are less than a dozen CPA review providers so it’s not like you have to slog through pages upon pages of results). Remember: every candidate is different and what works for the stock photo chick on the company’s website may or may not work for you. Before you start looking for a course, take a personal inventory of your own needs and think up some questions to ask. Try these if you’re really stumped:

Is there an instructor or teacher available if I have questions about homework or content? And if so, how long should I expect to wait for a response?

How long from purchase do I have to access the material? Will it expire? Can I renew after that period and if so, are there any limitations on when?

Are there any discounts available?

Am I limited to one format or can I have the flexibility of combining online/live courses?

What is the policy for students who fail a part? Is there a repeat or discounted option?

Will I have access to updates as they are released and is there a cost and/or time limitation for this?

Those are a start. Most of this information is available on CPA review courses’ websites but sometimes it helps to get a real person on the phone and ask. You can quickly tell what sort of operation you are dealing with by the way the company’s phone staff handle your questions. The exam is a commitment and so is your choice of review course so be sure you are comfortable before you commit.

If you have already committed to a course that isn’t working for you, call around and ask if there are discounts available for students who have taken other courses. Most CPA review companies offer this.

Keep in mind that review courses – like all businesses – are still interested in making money above all else. Some will push full programs with all the bells and whistles while others rely on materials that look like they were made at Kinkos; at the end of the day, it’s not how shiny your review book is but how effective the instruction style is in teaching you the concepts that will help you pass.

And you will, as long as you put in the effort.

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor . You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.

Reminder to Nonprofits: 990s are Due By May 17th

Nonprofits don’t need the reminder but we’re going to remind them anyway: May 17th is the new deadline to file your Form 990s (it would have been the 15th but that happens to fall on a weekend, consider yourselves fortunate, procrastinators).

The Boys and Girls Clubs and Goodwills of America have probably already filed their 990s but what about the tiny, grassroots organizations that didn’t get the memo when Service rules changed to require even small non profits under $25,000 to file 990s?


The guess is that up to 1/4 of all non profits could inadvertently lose their tax exempt status by missing the May 17th deadline without even realizing they were supposed to file anything at all. It costs $750 to refile after losing said status, so blowing it could be a costly alternative to hiring a professional to get the 990 in order for a small, simple nonprofit.

This isn’t merely busywork presented to nonprofits for shits and giggles, as we all know the Service would never EVER waste anyone’s time with bureaucracy and paperwork just for kicks. The IRS is seeking to clean up tax exempt status claims to exclude agencies that exist in name only or simply for the tax break. In its view, leaving NFP organizations that take in less than $25,000 a year largely unchecked left the fraud door swinging wide open. And as we all know, the Service has a duty to the taxpayer to collect everyone’s fair share.

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 mandates that all nonprofits must file a 990 for three consecutive years, making 2009 (and thus May 17th) the 3rd year. Orgs that have not filed 990s will automatically lose federal tax exempt status.

The good news is that if you are trying to claim a tax deduction for a donation to one of these little bitty nonprofits that will be losing their exemption, you can still do so up until the date the Service notifies the charity that it can no longer claim tax exempt status.

All is not lost, of course, as those familiar with IRS tactics presume that “offenders” will be offered a chance to redeem themselves (after steep penalties and late fees, of course).

More on the 990 Filing Deadline:
When a Tax Time Bomb Goes Off: Repurcussions Await Some Small Nonprofits

Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see all of her posts here.

Three Ways Soon-to-be Accounting Grads Can Get Ready for the CPA Exam

With May graduation season nearly upon us, handfuls of future CPAs around the country are preparing to tackle one of the most important events of their careers: the CPA exam. Unlucky for them, few colleges adequately prepare accounting grads to enter the real world and though you may have the knowledge necessary to practice the art of accounting, chances are you’re completely lost on how to get started on the CPA exam.

Don’t worry, that’s why we’re here. Just a reminder that if you have a CPA exam question for us, do feel free to get in touch and we’ll do our best to help you along.

Anyway, soon-to-be grads, here’s what you need to be thinking about:


Confirm when your degree is posted – As with most things CPA exam, the rules and procedures vary depending on the state you will be sitting in. Few states allow you to sit with less than 150 semester units and even fewer allow you to sit without your degree posted to your transcripts so the first thing to do now is find out how long your school takes to post your degree. Some schools will let you pay an extra fee to expedite this process so if you are in a rush, inquire at your school if you can move this along.

Apply to sit for the exam with your state’s board of accountancy – Once you have your degree, you’ll need your school to send your transcripts to the board of accountancy to which you are applying (NASBA if you’re in a NASBA state, or CPAES – authorized provider of CPA exam qualification services for some states). You cannot send them in yourself (even sealed, official ones) and should submit any application fees and forms in at the same time as requesting your transcripts be sent.

The Board will match your application (and likely cash your check before doing anything else) with your transcripts and like magic, you’re authorized to sit for the exam. If you meet your state’s requirements, that is. It’s usually a good idea to look these up before leaving school just in case you need to sneak in Federal Taxation or Advanced Accounting to please your State Board.

Start studying for the exam when you apply to sit – Though it’s probably wise to focus on finals for now if you are graduating this spring, you can get a jump on studying by starting your CPA exam review around the same time you submit your application. Always check with your state to see how long this might take (generally 4 – 6 weeks) as you don’t want to start studying for BEC 4 months before you will actually be able to sit. Keep in mind that just because you are authorized to sit for the exam you will not necessarily begin testing immediately and will still have to factor in wait times for your payment coupons (NASBA wants their money) and Notice to Schedule (NTS). Generally these take 10 business days each to arrive.

So start the application process as soon as you qualify. A summer off can turn into 2 or 3 years of procrastination and next thing you know you are trying to remember which side debits go on and still no closer to your goal of CPA licensure.

Hope that helps and good luck to all of the soon-to-be new grads!

Cuomo: Espada’s Looting of Nonprofit ‘Reprehensible’

In the largest nonprofit fraud case we’ve ever seen, State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr is getting it from NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for perpetrating a $14 million scam using his non-profit as an ATM. Ouch.

Soundview Comprehensive Community Development Corp., a Bronx-based health care non-profit, appears to be little more than a vehicle for Espada’s extravagant lifestyle and Cuomo doesn’t find any of it to be entertainment.


“Siphoning money from a charity would be egregious under any circumstances, but the fact that this was orchestrated by the State Senate Majority Leader makes it especially reprehensible,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Espada’s charity allegedly paid $100,000 for campaign literature, $80,000 on meals for Espada (including $20,000 for sushi – one of JDA’s weaknesses but hey, at least I pay for my own), vacations for the family and $2,500 a month for a co-op rental in the Bronx in which Espada supposedly lives. Double ouch.

If you’re into that sort of thing, you can check out the summons from the AG’s office here.

To date, Cuomo’s complaint is merely a civil one but he has left the door wide open for criminal charges against Espada and 19 others, including family members installed on the charity’s board. Taking a page from the Crazy Eddie fraud handbook, I see.

Espada also allegedly used the nonprofit’s corporate credit card to cover up to $450,000 in expenses that he’s now admitted may have been personal. Snicker snicker, everyone knows the corporate card should only be used for personal expenses if one is trying to fund an affair and hoping the wife doesn’t find out. Duh.

Because being a nonprofit looting Senate majority leader is hard work, Espada took the first 14 weeks of the year off and charged the paid leave to – you guessed it – Soundview. Since its board is packed with friends and family, they approved a $75,000 payout for personal expenses associated with this respite in a lump-sum payment at the beginning of the year.

Espada has responded by claiming Cuomo’s accusations amount to little more than a “witch hunt” meant to advance the AG’s political career. Whatevs.

Meanwhile, Espada’s Senate homies are praying for him. For $14 million bucks, he needs all the Hail Marys he can get, especially since the FBI and IRS raided the clinic this morning. Good luck with that.

Here’s What to Expect on the FAR Section of the CPA Exam

Friendly reminder (especially now that tax season is over), if you have a CPA exam question for us, shoot us a note, tweet us, or find us on Facebook and pester us until we answer. Up to you but we know you have questions so stop being shy.

Anyway. We have question from Twitter this week from @jacmelirose:

“What are the most heavily tested subjects for FAR? Help? Taking FAR in a month day for day.”

Alright, let’s start with the obvious: asking “what are the most heavily tested subjects” usually means you haven’t studied up until this point and are looking for a shortcut. Understandable but keep in mind this goes against the CPA exam guru’s advice. Just sayin’.


A good place to start is with the Content Specification Outlines for the section you are studying. For FAR, you can expect to see the following:

Financial statements (17% – 23%) – that means profit and loss, balance sheet, cashflows and footnotes/disclosures.

Typical items in financial statements (27% – 33%) – you’re talking marketable securities (pretty heavily tested or so we hear), receivables, bonds, leases, inventory, PP&E (depreciation, mostly), liabilities and revenue recognition. As much as you hate bonds, expect to see plenty on the subject so get cracking.

Transactional items (27% – 33%) – business combinations (yup, consolidations), contingent liabilities, discontinued operations, earnings per share and extraordinary items.

Government accounting (8% – 12%) – Everyone’s favorite! It’s not heavily tested but you will need to know a little about fund accounting, budgets, and government financial statements.

Not-for-profit accounting (8% – 12%) – Again, not heavily tested but it does show up (several MCQ and maybe a sim) so you will want to be sure to understand how NFP accounting works by understanding the 4 statements: financing, activities, cash flows and functional expenses.

Because we all know it’s against the rules to discuss what actually appears on the exam, we won’t tell you to expect BONDS, LEASES, and PENSIONS (and LOTS of them). We also will not tell you to be on the lookout for inventory in simulations because, again, that would assume we’re telling you we know what’s actually on the exam and of course we don’t.

FAR takes about 132 hours to prepare for – if you’ve got a month to do it, you need to be extra diligent about creating a study plan. Block out no less than 3 hours per day for MCQ/sim practice or lecture videos. Generally your brain tunes out if you’re studying any more than that per day but if you do the math, you realize you need more like 4 hours per day to meet the 132 hour requirement. In other words: a month is not really enough time to study for FAR. Here’s hoping you’ve been studying all along and are just looking for some last minute advice. Good luck!

Transitioning from Typical Accountant to CFO Superstar

Let’s face it, accountants aren’t often featured as heroes in action flicks nor romantic leads in love stories, and are pretty much ignored by the media unless it involves blame and/or complicated financial rules that are just barely an accounting matter (accountants did not securitize every loan nor did some nefarious squad of beancounters dream up Repo 105) so it’s pretty exciting to see the Washington Post heralding accountant turned CFO Carl Adams.


No, he doesn’t have 12 mistresses and he hasn’t gotten any DUIs (that we know of) but the smart professional is cool again. As if he (or she) ever wasn’t.

Carl received his accounting degree from Penn State and, presumably, was really impressed by what he saw when he entered public accounting via Ernst & Young, so much so that he hung around to make senior manager before leaving to do a stint with the SEC.

Transitioning back to the private sector meant applying what he’d picked up from E&Y and the SEC in the capacity of an accounting professional, except plain old “accountant” just didn’t fit him anymore. Perhaps accountants are far more “superhero”-like than we give them credit for? Adaptable, talented, and equipped to deftly switch careers like some folks switch lanes on the freeway; what’s not to admire?

Since most CFOs are professionally qualified to be accountants anyway, a guy like Carl may not seem so spectacular on the surface but when you consider the ever-sophisticated landmine-laced territory of financial statements, there is no such thing as an over-qualified CFO. The definitive line between CPAs and finance professionals slowly becoming blurred and may become non-existent.

Since we know accountants – generally speaking – are change-adverse, why not introduce a more comprehensive curriculum in accounting programs that prepares future CPAs for this diverse, brave new world of accounting and finance to offer them maximum flexibility to transform with the industry?

Sorry for you old schoolers, the green eyeshade has been retired for quite some time: now is the era of the ever-evolving, constantly-changing, ready to head off the next Repo 105 before Wall Street implodes itself again accountant. Movie coming to theaters near you in 2011… in 3D!

Carl Adams: An accountant who yearned to do more finds his calling as a CFO – New at the Top [WaPo]

Three Examples of “Significant Unusual Transactions” that Should Get Auditors’ Attention

The PCAOB issued a friendly reminder yesterday to auditors that sometimes unusual transactions can be cause for alarm and should send the risk red flags flying. Unfortunately, the friendly reminder did not actually mention anything about what “unusual transactions” are but regardless, you better be on the lookout for them.

“The PCAOB’s message to auditors, in this challenging economic environment, has consistently emphasized attention to audit risk and adherence to existing audit requirements,” said Martin F. Baumann, Chief Auditor and Director of Professional Standards.

Since Practice Alert No. 5 (makes it sound kind of hot, don’t it?) warns of the risk of material misstatement inherent to unusual transactions without mentioning what those transactions could be, we came up with three unusual transactions to which the PCAOB could possibly be referring. It isn’t called guidance for nothing, you’re on your own when it comes to determining what qualifies as unusual, little auditors. Hopefully this helps.

• Large and frequent A/P entries to an entity known only as “Candy” (substitute “Bubbles”, “Kitty”, or “Roxy” as appropriate) This is why you have professional judgment so use it, we’re pretty sure even if you haven’t been to a strip club you know what strippers look like on the books and records.

• If you find yourself in a warehouse on December 31st counting an inventory full of dirty bombs, AK-47s, plutonium rods, chances are your entity is engaged in “unusual transactions.” Bonus points for extra unusual if you’re counting that crap and your entity is a church. Red flag, dear auditor, red flag!

• Recurring transactions for “crack” are definitely unusual. You don’t need us to tell you that’s a giant red flag, unless you are auditing under the influence yourself and concerned mostly with where the entity’s CFO hides his stash. Remember also that crack is pretty cheap on the street so repeated transactions will likely fall outside the scope of materiality though a raging crack habit will be material in the aggregate. Adjust scope accordingly.

PCAOB Issues Staff Audit Practice Alert on Auditor Considerations of Significant Unusual Transactions [PCAOB]

Here’s Your Study Plan for the Audit Section of the CPA Exam

Friendly reminder: >75 is here to answer your CPA Exam questions so send them over.

A reader sends us the following dilemma:

“I took the audit section only and failed, most of it was due to not committing enough time to it. If you have any tips to develop plans I would like any suggestions to creating a plan.”

First of all, no offense but I think you have already identified where you went wrong, are you sure you need our help? Oh well.


Let’s talk about Audit, shall we? The average CPA exam candidate will spend 60 – 90 hours studying for the Audit section – that assumes watching your CPA Review lectures 1 time and spending 2 – 3 hours on MCQ/sim practice problems for each hour of lecture. If you are taking the self-study route, you will obviously need to spend more time on MCQ/sims (about about 2 or 3 hours on top of the 2 – 3 you would be doing if you had videos to review) and create a structured study plan based on the most current CSOs (Content Specification Outlines), which you can always find on cpa-exam.org.

Those of you taking exams in early 2011 will want to be on top of exam changes planned to kick in in the first quarter, though the AICPA has been helpful and already released the CSOs for that period.

If you’ve taken the exam and failed, you already have an incredibly useful tool at your disposal – your score report. The report provided after you fail will compare you to other candidates: IGNORE THOSE NUMBERS. Who cares how you did relative to other candidates? All you need to glean from that information is an idea of where your stronger areas are in comparison to your weaker sections. The score report is broken down by different components of the CSOs for that section so obviously you will want to focus harder on areas that you performed poorly in.

About a week or two before your new exam date, give the entire section a once over just to be sure you are also sharp in areas you did well in the first time.

Schedule your new Audit exam AS SOON AS POSSIBLE as the information is still fresh in your mind. If you have a new exam scheduled in the meantime, reschedule it if you can. Unless you REALLY bombed Audit (68 or below), you will want to jump right back in while it is still floating around in your brain.

As for exam preparation and planning, we’ve covered that plenty of times on Going Concern so check out this, this, and this.

Michael Oxley Is Spreading the Good Sarbanes-Oxley Word to Nonprofits

Presented by Serenic Software. Download our free whitepaper – “5 Key Reasons Why Great Financial Management is So Important for Your Nonprofit Now”

If you’re a non-profit leader and free on April 12th, why not head to Washington and listen to Mike Oxley (yes, that Oxley, without whom SOX would still be the property of a certain Chicago baseball team and not the bane of accounting’s existence) speak about transparency and accountability for non-profits?

The ironic part, of course, is that non-profits don’t really have to suffer with the legislation named after Oxley but he’d like to see a little more, well, Oxley in NFP, even if it isn’t necessarily required by law.

[Oxley] will speak about the importance for nonprofit organizations to be transparent and ensure greater accountability with their financial standards to build on and preserve donor trust, strengthen the reputations of nonprofit organizations and associations, and enhance the overall nonprofit sector.

Attendees will include thought leaders from foremost nonprofits, trade associations and key congressional staff members. Both the House and Senate Ethics committee’s staff have deemed this a “widely attended event.”

My feelings on Sarbanes-Oxley have been expressed more than once here on Going Concern but I can sum them up thusly: more useful things could be done to “protect” the investor interest besides arcane SOX compliance and the PCAOB including but not limited to random auditor cavity searches, TSA-style interrogation of management, and waterboarding the internal audit team. Is Oxley trying to imply that non-profits should follow suit but only voluntarily and out of obligation to donors instead of investors?

Surely his plan is not that sinister.

Only because non-profits already have their own version of SOX in the Form 990 (which I have complained about before as well) that has all of their bases covered. The only SOX carry-overs are strengthened whistleblower protection and retention of documents in lawsuits, perhaps because non-profits may have been where Mike Oxley got his ideas.

SOX compliance costs averaged $2.9 million during fiscal year 2006, actually down 23% from the fiscal year previous according to FEI. Do you know many nonprofits who have that sort of cash lying around?

I think it might be better to get some advice from the guy who wrote the bill and start tightening up the ship just in case.

Recommended reading by April 11th if you’re checking out Oxley’s “I just want to be helpful” presentation: The Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Implications for Nonprofit Organizations (last updated January 2006). Bring a notepad.

Former Congressman Mike Oxley to Speak at Nonprofit Summit [Council for Non-Profit Accountability]

Let’s Take a Closer Look at This Shia LaBeouf and InterOil Situation

There’s some funny business going on in InterOil and a lot of it is pure juvenile humor. First of all, you have Louis from Even Stevens pumping their crap stock. Then you have him in Playboy saying he’s less than well-endowed.

It’s as if the jokes write themselves but then you realize that investors are actually counting on the soundness of markets and suddenly it’s not so funny. Never mind, it’s funny.


The first problem with InterOil isn’t really that the guy from Transformers is clumsily pushing it now that he’s worked beside the real Gordon Gekko – sure Wall Street is cool again but not cool enough to rub off on Shia LaBeouf who has apparently taken to pumping stocks lately.

Yeah, we know, we’re confused too.

Getting ready to play next to Michael Douglas for Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” sequel “Money Never Sleeps”, LaBeouf studied under the financial ninjas at John Thomas Financial (yes, JDA already made that joke. A bunch of times) and apparently turned $20,000 into $489,000 says Business Insider.

And yes, he really did tell GQ readers to grow some balls and short gold at 120 (whatever that means). 120 what? Euros?

“He’s So Money” says GQ in the April 2010 issue. Give me a break. From the mouths of garbage-stock-pumping babes:

“I thought my life was pretty wild. I’m Richie Rich. I land in New York, secretly thinking I’m like the coolest guy in the world. I’ve been on the cover of GQ! But then I met these guys, and it’s humbling. It’s the most sex-drugs-and-rock-‘n’-roll atmosphere that exists on the planet. I was hanging out with some wild human beings.”

So we’ve established Shia is a douche but what about InterOil’s “fundamentals”? I’m so glad you asked!

How about this “bad faith” bankruptcy filing by InterOil’s esteemed CEO Phil Mulacek?

InterOil also recently announced a that part of the Antelope-2 well will need to be re-drilled, greasing it up further for 14-year-old humor for months to come. For 7 years InterOil has promised awesome discoveries and for 7 years it has failed to deliver. Since we no longer have logical fundamentals (InterOil outperformed well through 2009), the best we can do is juvenile humor, I guess.

Grow some balls and short InterOil or just sit there and wait for it to implode, up to you.* Shia needs to hurry up and jump on the tax problems bandwagon like many of his fellow “stars” so we don’t have to listen to this anymore. Wonder how much his toilet seat collection would snag at IRS auction?

Earlier: QOTD: Sam Antar is Ready to Rumble

*Disclaimer: nothing here should be taken as investment advice and I don’t take back what I said about Shia’s John Thomas nor his Financials.

Three Ways to Get Back into Study Mode for the CPA Exam

Masochism at its finest means just thinking about the CPA exam while fully head down, eyes closed and trudging towards the busy season finish line. It’s cool, CPAs are a masochistic bunch and if you’re going to subject yourself to the torture of studying for the CPA exam while tackling your least favorite part of the year, have at it but please be smart about it.

It’s almost April and you know what that means – a brand new testing window filled with fun and exciting >75 action. Hopefully 75s, if you little masochists plan right.


Here are a few tips, you can do whatever you want with them. Ideally, you can ignore them for the next few weeks until you shift from busy season mode back to exam mode.

Don’t be unrealistic about your work load – Some of you complain about “busy season” and know damn well you haven’t pushed a difficult piece of paper in months while others haven’t seen the light of Facebook (nor the end of the tunnel) in weeks. Take a reasonable assessment of the free time you have to commit to the exam and plan accordingly. If you’re grinding all the way through April 15th, maybe a late April test date is a tad optimistic and not all that smart.

If you aren’t ready, blow it off – This goes against everything I always recommend to CPA exam candidates but it’s a wise piece of advice this time of year. If you are not ready for an exam, try to reschedule. Maybe taking FAR on April 1st made a lot of sense when you scheduled it in October but now that April is almost here and you haven’t seen daylight in two months, it’s not looking like such a bright idea. Of course, if you’re in a situation where you are about to lose credit for exams previously passed but still not prepared, there’s no harm in going to the exam anyway as you’re basically forfeiting the exam fee and might as well find out what’s on the test for next time.

Don’t permanent vacation yourself just because you’re tired – Shifting from busy season to exam mode, it is really easy to rationalize an extended vacation from studying just because you need a break. The rest is deserved but don’t let a few days of relaxation turn into several months of procrastination. It’s easier than you think and I’ve seen it enough times to know it happens all the time. Don’t be lazy, this is what you wanted.

AICPA Pushing Members, Small Business to Adopt More Cloud Solutions

The AICPA is in the cloud and wants you to join them, accounting industry. Being a preferred financial application for the AICPA can pay off so before you start ripping on accountants remember they (and especially their clients) have a metric shit ton of money.

The technology push came quite some time ago (XBRL anyone?) and CPAs are generally on top of it. You can’t get them to blog (Tracy Coenen can tell you more about that) but you can definitely get them worked into a lather over something that will make their lives easier.


Intacct is learning what being on the AICPA’s good side can do for one’s business.

CFO.com:

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is pushing to accelerate adoption of cloud solutions among its 350,000 members, focusing especially on small and midmarket companies as well as CPA firms. The AICPA’s first official endorsement of a cloud vendor, payroll solutions provider Paychex, came several years ago. But the institute has rolled out more such partnerships with increasing frequency, including with bill.com for invoice management and payment in 2008, financial management and accounting software maker Intacct a year ago, and tax-automation supplier Copanion at year-end 2009.

Intacct president and CEO Mike Braun was beside himself when the AICPA began pushing his product, acknowledging that an endorsement from them meant unprecedented reach in the industry. Awesome, the AICPA has finally joined with technology instead of fearing it. How dare I make broad generalizations about the AICPA’s conduct over the past few years?

A previous example of the AICPA’s tech phobia: It only took them 6 years to figure out what to do with BEC on the computerized CPA exam and they still aren’t sure how to treat it. No one is bitter but it’s a tad disturbing that CPAs were taking a professional licensure exam with paper and pencil up until 2003. They’ve had all this time to assemble BEC into something that isn’t the CPA exam’s junk drawer but still can’t manage to cobble together a storyline for the section.

One can only hope that the cloud can get the AICPA BoE to have an epiphany on that point. In the meantime, this is one hell of an endorsement so good for technology but even more credit is due to the AICPA for getting with 2008.

Then again, you have guys like GNU founder Richard Stallman and Oracle’s Larry Ellison who say cloud computing is “complete gibberish” and nothing but a slick marketing campaign for pricey third-party software. “Somebody is saying this is inevitable – and whenever you hear somebody saying that, it’s very likely to be a set of businesses campaigning to make it true,” Stallman told UK’s Guardian. Wait. Are you telling me the AICPA would engage in such shifty behavior just to make a few bucks?!

Nahhhhhh.

CPAs Spanked by SEC for Porn Site Audit

Let it be known that if you are peddling porn and engaged in online pimping, you do not want the SEC on your back.

WebCPA reports that Stephen Corso of Las Vegas and Brian Rabinovitz of Oak Park, CA got the SEC smack down in a Nevada federal court for filing materially false and misleading financial statements from 1999 – 2002 (that’s quite a backlog) and that audit staff – under the boys’ supervision – omitted important info and violated the sanctity of auditor independence during audits of Exotics.com


While the enforcement doesn’t go into specifics, we’re happy to. Exotics.com bills itself as the world’s premiere source for – wait for it – beautiful female adult entertainers. Not to be outdone, Exotics also boasts a veritable cornucopia of escort options including “BDSM & fetish providers, exotic dancers, strippers, sensual and erotic massage specialists, TSTV and other adult entertainment.” It’s that “other that really scares me. Self-billed as the Quicker Pecker Upper (kid you not), the site headline right around the time the SEC brought the heat was “Better than Wives, Girlfriends, and Porn” – and apparently above performing audits according to GAAS?

So, who wants to wildly speculate as to how audit staff violated auditor independence?

Here’s the 2005 release from our friends at the SEC:

[T]he accountants fraudulently participated in audits of Exotics-Nevada’s year-end financial statements and in a review of its quarterly financial statements and failed to conduct those engagements in accordance with GAAS, as required. The Commission also alleges in its complaint that, among other things, the accountants prepared or created many of Exotics-Nevada’s books and records and then audited the financial statements they created. According to the complaint, they also caused their firms to issue false audit reports which, together with the underlying financial statements, were incorporated in Exotics-Nevada’s public filings with the Commission.

Now listen, little auditors, you don’t shit where you live and you don’t audit your own statements. Audit sampling? I could see how it would be hard to resist in this particular instance.

CPAs Disciplined for Porn Site Accounting Fraud [Web CPA]
SEC Complaint

Are Too Many People Passing the CPA Exam?

The AICPA recently announced that it would be re-evaluating the CPA exam scoring process and we’ve been wildly speculating awhile as to what that might actually mean. Staying true to the doom and gloom, yours truly immediately thought the AICPA Board of Examiners was convinced you kids would bomb FAR horribly in Q1 and 2 of 2011 with the addition of IFRS and they were just preparing for that.

Upon further reflection, maybe the exam is too easy. Maybe requirements to sit are not strict enough (even though we’re down to 4 states that allow you to sit with 120 units last I checked). Maybe the job market is worse than anyone wants to admit — now wait a minute, what does that have to do with it?


There isn’t raw data that tells us how many would-be CPAs we have on our hands who have passed all four parts of the CPA exam but still can’t get a job, at least none I’ve seen. I’ve spoken to these people and it doesn’t seem to be getting better in the aggregate.

I believe the BLS numbers somewhat concur with this conclusion, if you can believe them. (CPA Trendlines has them)

I hear you guys bitching about it all the time. If you’re still employed and trying to take the CPA exam, you get the extra special designation of ultra-masochist but it’s not you guys the AICPA BoE is worried about, it’s the bottleneck of people who’ve passed the CPA exam trying to squeeze in 2 years in public to get a license.

Case in point, a friend of mine here in the great (broke) state of California decided to take on the CPA exam a tad later in life than some of you. We won’t hate on her for that. She worked her ass off and eventually got through it. She’s a leader of a prestigious accounting society in her community and has the credentials a lot of the kids coming out of school don’t. She can’t find a job. She’s tried every firm in town large and small as well as the surrounding area. I’ve scouted the Bay Area and can’t find anything for her either.

She’d stay more than 2 years and be more than a body filling the chair but they don’t even have a chair for her.

She’s not the only one. So maybe the AICPA BoE caught on and is going to try to change that. They can’t create the jobs so what do you think they’ll do?

Oh, and if anyone has a lead on a public accounting gig in the top half of California for my qualified little friend here, do get in touch.

Sam Antar Is Still Waiting for an Apology from Patrick Byrne and By the Way, Has Never Engaged in Naked Short Selling

Sam Antar knows an accidental criminal hero when he sees one: his cousin Eddie Antar was hailed as a champion of cheaply-priced consumer electronics in the Crazy Eddie days, though the poor saps in New York didn’t realize he could price his goods so cheaply because he was stiffing the government on sales and payroll taxes. Patrick Byrne and Overstock.com are pushing to corner the accidental criminal hero market by denouncing the evils of naked short sellers (bad bad bad), of which they seem to be convinced Sam is one.

While we’re on the topic of OSTK’s campaign to end evil naked short sales, I hereby volunteer to help Overstock edit their naked short selling page, by the way, as it’s not only a dry read but a tad poorly-written. Just sayin. Helpful girl that I am, it’s the least I can do.


Anyway, Sam’s still waiting for his apology from Patrick Byrne but in the meantime, would like him to take back those mean things he said about Sam naked shorting them to death. In an email to the SEC, Byrne himself and Overstock.com audit committee member Joseph Tabacco this weekend, Sam sets the record straight:

First off, I have never been involved any illegal naked short selling.

Second, how can Overstock.com label me as an “anti-Overstock.com blogger” when:

I correctly reported in my blog that Overstock.com used an improper EBITDA from Q2 2007 to Q2 2008 in violation of SEC Regulation G to materially inflate its financial performance, in light of its later amended disclosures.

I correctly reported in my blog that Overstock.com violated GAAP by using a phony gain contingency in light of the company’s recently announced restatement.

Third, please note Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff received $5,000 in cash from Overstock.com a few days prior to writing his defamatory letter about me. Both Chief Deputy Attorney General Kirk Torgensen and Deputy Attorney General Richard Hamp acknowledged that Shurtleff’s claims about me were false in various tape recorded conversations cited in my blog.

Sam goes on to explain that he’s actually doing Overstock a favor by uncovering fraud that its own audit committee has seemed to, um, overlook. You know, so they can set themselves right with the SEC and skip the restatement next year, filing all those extensions can get pricey and time-consuming you know.

See, Patrick, why so hostile? We’re all just trying to help!

Three Ways the CPA Exam Could Change in the Near Future

If you’ve been trying to pass BEC since the CPA exam went computerized in 2004 (you can laugh all you want, I know a few people…), rejoice! The AICPA, NASBA, and Prometric have committed to another 10 year contract to administer and oversee the computerized CPA exam in 55 US jurisdictions.

“This 10-year extension of the exam contract from 2014 to 2024 continues the close and highly successful collaboration of the three organizations in the delivery of the computer-based examination for the past six years,” said Barry Melancon, AICPA president and CEO. “The CPA exam is the gateway to the accounting profession and under this arrangement we have seen the exam improve and grow. About 93,000 candidates took the examination in 2009 – a record.”

Now we imagine it must have been editorial privilege to leave out the actual passrates of those 93,000 2009 CPA exam candidates and we’ll not wildly speculate that the record is a direct result of threats that the exam will be jam-packed with IFRS come 2011.

What will the CPA exam of 2024 look like? Obviously no one knows but looking at the evolution of exam content since 2004, we can take a stab at guessing.

BEC will be a big priority – As we move from two simulations in FAR, AUD, and REG to 6 “simlets” (smaller, unrelated simulation problems) with communications being moved to BEC, I imagine it will be a big priority for the AICPA. It’s been notoriously “random” and filled with the bits and pieces that the AICPA couldn’t seem to make relevant in other CPA exam sections; the junk drawer of the exam, as it were.

IFRS – A lot is riding on implementation of IFRS questions (anyone volunteered to write those yet? I think the AICPA is still patiently waiting for help).

Scoring discussions planned after the first two quarters of 2011 – In other words: if you guys do well, the AICPA might leave it alone. Bomb and they might have to consider grading on a curve, invalidating that whole psychometric testing thing they’ve got going now.

Good luck with that. Really.

CPA Examination Contract Renewed in the U.S. Through 2024 [Press Release]

Three Ways That Patrick Byrne Can Apologize to Sam Antar

As you’re probably aware (if not, check the links below), it hasn’t been the friendliest of exchanges between criminal CFO/forensic accounting sleuth Sam Antar and Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne. Sam being Sam, he recently reached out to Patrick Byrne to see if he would be interested in a mea culpa:

From: Sam E. Antar
Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 11:02 PM
To: Patrick M. Byrne
Subject: Overstock.com Restatement
Importance: High

Hi Patrick:

Will you finally admit that I was correct when I reported in my blog that Overstock.com violated GAAP by using a phony gain contingency in light of the company’s recently announced restatement?

You owe me a public apology.

Regards,

Sam


Our understanding is that Pat hasn’t responded to Sam’s request for an apology yet (we’re hopeful!) so Team GC thought we’d offer some suggestions to Dr Byrne should he decide to take the high road and apologize to Sam. Having been in this situation more than once myself, I can honestly say sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up, buy some flowers, and admit that you’re an ass but totally repentant.

Overstock.com gift cards – Nothing says I’m sorry like free stuff that the aggrieved party can pick themselves. Bonus, the overhead on Byrne’s own inventory must be low. You know, because it’s his, not because there is any monkey business going down on OSTK’s financials.

An SEC Gift Shop Goodie BasketI busted Sam in an SEC baseball hat at Stanford last week so wouldn’t it be cute if Byrne got him a whole basket full of fun regulatory shwag? Awww, what a precious moment it would be watching Sam pull out DoJ beer cozies and a color-changing SIGTARP coffee mug. Who doesn’t love tchotchkes? PB can’t go wrong! I’d even throw in a pair of NY Fed Pistol Team patches for that added touch of flair.

Cupcakes – Come on, no one can resist cupcakes, not even Sam E. Antar’s hardened criminal ass. You know, might as well send some to the GCHQ while he’s at it, we’ve been putting up with this Overstock shit for months too. Hopefully even Patrick Byrne knows when it comes to cupcakes, it’s best to invest in high quality, over-priced boutique cupcakes. Even my cheap ass knows that.

Earlier:
Winners and Losers in the Overstock Restatement
Even Earlier:
Is Patrick Byrne’s Facebook Friends List Motivated by a Farmville Obsession?

For-profit Higher Ed. Moving on Non-profits Could Reap Taxpayer Funds

Prostitution in the industry is nothing new, you have to take what you can get even if that means devouring struggling non-profits or whoring yourself out for otherwise wholly un-big-business-like busywork (I’m staring directly at you, Big 4).

Daniel Golden of Bloomberg reported yesterday that “ITT Educational Services Inc. paid $20.8 million for debt-ridden Daniel Webster College in June. In return, the company obtained an academic credential that may generate a taxpayer-funded bonanza worth as much as $1 billion.”


With education little more than a vague directive to “teach” at this point (except for the chosen few professors who put their hearts into it, of course), schools are being encouraged to “convert a school to a charter school or a similar education management organization, a for-profit or nonprofit organization that provides ‘whole school operation’ services” (via firedoglake) in California districts where schools have fallen way short of federal education “guidelines”. Hint: that’s when you know it is bad. Firedoglake implies that recent protests and riots by California state university students facing severe class cuts and hikes in tuition are directly related to the push to privatize education.

In the case of small but favored not-for-profit educational institutions, they don’t have much of a choice but to end up recycled into the ITTs and the DeVrys if they can’t make it. For-profit education is the way to go, ask DeVry. They didn’t make $369 million last year for nothing.

Said Karen Pletz in the Kansas City Star, “the not-for-profit mission, whether it be in education, health care, or other human services, is really about values and is intrinsically focused in bettering lives and community.” Not to carelessly go name-calling but what can a for-profit, publicly-traded institution possibly know about that mandate or education for that matter? Its first loyalty is to the shareholders, not the students.

Perhaps not coincidentally, in December of 2009 WSJ pointed to a Department of Education report revealing a 21% default rate in the first three years for those coming from for-profit institutions like ITT over there gobbling up broke Daniel Webster College. For-profit education institutions are accused of aggressive loan procedures to get students through their programs; meanwhile non-profit private education remains picky about who they’ll take and for good reason. It’s a sweeping generalization to say default rates somehow correlate with the quality of instruction but one can assume loans are easier to pay off when the debtor is not just gainfully employed but paid well.

Company’s purchase of N.H. college could earn it $1 billion [Bloomberg via Boston Globe]

The Purpose of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ New HR Service in India Isn’t Entirely Clear

PwC has launched a new HR service in India and one can only speculate as to the inspiration behind staging the move there (I’ll give you a hint: it starts with Satyam and ends in fraud) but let’s take a look at the official spiel before we rush to judgment.


India’s Financial Express:

Global audit firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, announced the launch of its human resources service ‘Saratoga’ in India along with India Human Capital Effectiveness survey (HCE), a top company official said.

“Saratoga is the most extensive database of HR metrics available globally. We are launching it in India and we have already got an immense response from Indian companies,” PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Partner and Global HRM network leader, Richard Phelps, told PTI here.

On the surface, Saratoga looks like little more than an inventory count of companies’ human capital, which means something when you have to keep a leash on a bunch of customer service guys with fake first names (how else would you keep track of them?).

See, PwC cares. They care that JP Morgan outsources call center jobs to India – I know this because I’m a Chase customer (leave me alone) and have had the misfortune of dialing in. Meanwhile, JPM’s off-shore hiring spree continues and someone’s got to handle all that “human capital”, why not PwC?

I don’t care that some guy in India has a job, I care that he calls himself Patrick and pretends to have a bizarre hybrid Texas/New Jersey accent. Is there going to be a check box on these PwC Saratoga metrics for guys who fake 50s-style American first names from Indian call centers?

I’m not bitter. It’s good that PwC cares about the global community and wants to reach out to facilitate cheap labor for its audit clients like JP Morgan (for the record I use BofA too and they have the decency to hire air-headed middle-state chicks named Kelly and Sarah).

Could you imagine what would happen if the Fed stepped in and barred PwC from auditing anything that’s moving here in the US? Hell, it happened in India.

Good luck with that human capital census or, uh, whatever it is, PwC. I mean that.

Sam Antar at Stanford: Jr. Deputy Accountant Gets a Live Dose of the Criminal Mind

Last week, I took the day off from work and headed down the 101 to sit in on former Crazy Eddie CFO and self-proclaimed criminal Sam E. Antar speaking to Stanford MBA students on, what else, fraud and the criminal mind. Sam is a friend of both JDA and Going Concern and it was excellent to see him recount the Crazy Eddie story to an auditorium of future MBAs.

Ironically, he showed up wearing an SEC baseball cap, which is akin to JDA owning a Federal Reserve hoodie (I do) and didn’t waste a second getting to the point of his visit.

“I’m gonna be the guy that fucks you guys up,” he told the room before beginning the presentation, “I’m a racist and a scum bag but I hate everyone equally.”


I could literally see the audience squirm in response. I already knew Sam was a tad offensive and was counting on getting an extra dose of it; there was no squirming in the media corner.

“Political correctness helps the criminal, not you,” he explained, “It limits your behavior, not the criminal’s.”

Right.

Sam went into auditor standards like the fraud triangle though insisted there is no such thing as rationalization. “Criminals know right from wrong. We don’t plan on failure.”

We even got to see a vintage Crazy Eddie ad spot as Sam’s presentation was spliced with images from the 2006 Court TV episode of Masterminds detailing the Crazy Eddie fraud. That’s for the sections that Sam doesn’t tell you; the details are plentiful in his spiel though don’t let that catch you off guard, he insists he is still just as dangerous as he was before he was caught.

You can get the Crazy Eddie backstory from Sam’s Web site (if you aren’t fortunate enough to be able to play hooky and see him spook Stanford MBA students in person) here, here, and here. If you get the chance, I highly recommend checking him out live (leave your valuables in the car).

And then there’s the video of Sam and Eddie meeting up decades after their fraud was discovered — and Sam gave up his family (and, consequently, himself) — that I recommend you not miss.

So long as there are unqualified auditors being piled into audits they aren’t trained to perform, there will be guys like Sam E. Antar figuring out a way to distract, deter, and delude them, no matter what it takes. For Crazy Eddie, it didn’t take much. What’s to say things have changed?

Sam Antar Photograph by Buck Ennis for Crain’s New York Business and Investment News.

Four Ways to Force Yourself to Study for the CPA Exam

I’ll save you the hoo-rah, I’m pretty sure you don’t need it. It’s March already; if you aren’t studying, you’re working, and if you’re doing both right now I worry about your decision-making capabilities. Oh well.

Masochistic or not, it isn’t always easy to get yourself motivated to study.

You have entire CPA exam strategies laid out on the CPAnet forums here, here, and look, you even have a hoo-rah. Not everyone is an Elijah Watt-Sells so get that out of your head and worry about what works for you.


That strategy – finding a perfect fit for your own needs as a CPA exam candidate – also goes for motivation.

So how do you force yourself to study? Here are a few ideas:

Bribe yourself – Sock away $xxx for a new toy and reward a passing score with whatever your bribe is. If you’re cheap/laid off/sinking $1000s into failed exam fees and broke, it could be a decent dinner or a movie. Define splurge for yourself and make that the carrot you dangle in front of your face to get you to study.

Commiserate – You can find plenty of miserable accountants taking (and not always succeeding at) the CPA exam. You can also find support and encouragement if you’re actually trying to pass, so use resources like CPAnet and Twitter to find other candidates to speak to. If you’re taking a live review, sign up with someone else from your firm and go to class together. It helps to have someone else keeping you in check.

Visualize your goal – This might be the most, um, cheesy of methods but it absolutely works. Write CPA after your name on business cards and put them up where you will see them frequently (but don’t hand them out, that’d be illegal); though this tactic isn’t meant as a substitute for actually preparing (sorry to break it to you), a little positive thinking takes the anxious edge off.

Plan – Sometimes knowing there is a clearly defined schedule takes some of the panic out of the CPA exam, and if you’re disciplined enough, you won’t need motivation. Sure, it’s robotic, but that’s what studying for the CPA exam is. The exam doesn’t ask you to think critically outside of the parameters of financial reporting and accounting, nor do you get bonus points for creativity. So maybe you just need to have a plan, stick to it, suck it up, and move on until you’re done. It’s the most miserable of the options but sometimes all that works.

So? What worked for you?