September 17, 2019

Cheapness is not a sense

Is Everyone on Extreme Cheapskates an Accountant Or What?

Yesterday, while most of America or at least most of my noisy and obnoxious Facebook friends were prepping to watch the second presidential debate, TLC premiered its latest So Horrible I Can't Look Away reality series Extreme Cheapskates. We met the dumpster-diving PwC tax accountant featured on the show's first episode yesterday but apparently she […]

PwC Employee Embraces the Cheapskate CPA Stereotype Like No Other

It is a commonly accepted stereotype that accountants are cheapskates. Unlike Lady Gaga, they weren't born this way, rather they are shaped and molded by miser mentors and as their lives and circumstances demand. If you're one of those CPAs that fancies yourself as a savvy consumer, Kate Hashimoto will make you look downright opulent […]

What Can Be Purchased at the McGladrey Store?

There are a few things that you take for granted when working at a public accounting firm. First, your superiors will take you to nice lunches. This practice starts at the top and trickles down to the lowliest associates getting approval to throw steaks at interns. Second, you get a computer. It may not be the greatest piece of technology you’ve every used but rest assured, you won’t be crunching numbers using a pencil and paper. Third, you get tchotchkes. Tons of them. Pens, Nalgenes, poorly knit polos. The works. All of the firm swag your little heart desires can be yours. So it’s especially shocking to learn that McGladrey has a “McGladrey Store,” where items can be purchased. We don’t have a copy of the mail-order catalog but it’s safe to assume that there are items emblazoned with “McGladrey” in ample supply.

I learned of this “store” because Mickey G’s is rolling out a “Work Smarter” initiative so that the firm’s employees can maximize their time doing “high-value” work. What “high-value” entails is not entirely clear but presumably it doesn’t involve doing “research on blogs.” ANYWAY, McG boss C.E. Andrews emailed the troops to encourage them to take an online training to learn a few “Work Smarter” tips and to get the creative juices flowing so that they can submit their own “Work Smarter” ideas to the brass. For the first 25 employees that manage to throw out ideas that aren’t completely awful, they will receive “$50 to spend at the McGladrey Store.”

After the training, you will probably find yourself full of good ideas on how McGladrey can Work Smarter. Don’t keep them to yourself! Share them through our Lean thinking website and be eligible to win prizes. The first 25 people who submit an actionable idea will win $50 to spend at the McGladrey Store.

Our tipster in this matter, expands with some details:

[T]his “lean fundamentals” initiative seems irritating similar to KPMG’s “Next Step” program that I’ve seen come across your website. The dangling carrot of $50 in McGladrey bucks (cash value: 1/100 of a Monopoly bill) is particularly patronizing. Just another example of the cheapskate culture that seems to ooze from the brass at Mickey G’s these days…unless of course we’re talking shelling out for putting green-sized cakes and headlining golf tournaments that take place during the freak show of the PGA season (aka the”Fall Series”).

Unfortunately, Oanda doesn’t have a exchange rate for “McGladrey bucks” so there’s no way for us to confirm this valuation at this time. Regardless, it’s still not obvious if the $50 is enough to get you a stress ball, let alone a chance to take Natalie Gulbis out for drinks. We’d love to see a product list with prices in order to confirm/disconfirm some of our suspicions, so do get in touch with any particulars.

Blog by Wife of PwC Partner (aka Chief Spending Officer) Details Failed Attempts at More Frugal Lifestyle

Times are still tough for many but few take to the blogosphere to share their tales of coupon clipping, pics from staycations and scouring the racks at Filene’s Basement. One person who felt the need to share her frugal efforts with the masses is Lisa Unwin, the “Austerity Mum” and wife of PwC’s head of consulting in the UK, Ashley Unwin. How tough have things been at Casa de Unwin? Well, it all started when the couple purchased a house in East London that reportedly cost ‘squillions,’ and Ms Unwin thought that maybe a more modest life was in order:

Musing on how to cut the cost of family holidays she suggests forgoing private helicopter flights or cancelling that half-term break in the Maldives in favour of returning to your weekend home in the French Alps.

The closest her family comes to the wartime notion of make do and mend is for the husband to have his designer Berluti shoes resoled – at a specialist cobblers on Bond Street, she reveals.

Now that’s sacrifice! However one thing her “Chief Spending Officer” husband wasn’t able to give up are his handmade shirts:

“Not even Prada is good enough any more, can’t recall why,” she reveals.

Then, there’s the ankle-biters:

[H]er two children – nicknamed the “diva-in-waiting” and the “smallest man with the biggest attitude” – have come to believe it is normal “to have a seat that turns into a bed if you’re on a flight for more than three hours”.

For her part, Ms. Unwin was thinking about going back to work (she’s a former Deloitte communications director) but there were conditions:

Claiming she would “love” to go back to work, she bemoans how the cost of childcare makes it impractical. “It would need to be something that I could do between the hours of 10 and two – well, actually 11 and two three days a week to enable me to go the gym,” she concludes.

Sadly, Ash wasn’t so keen on the attention the blog was getting, “Mr Unwin is understood to be acutely embarrassed by the disclosures and she has now agreed to take down the blog.” Lisa is looking for ‘another way to write’ but our guess is a freelance gig with Going Concern is out of the question. Even still, the offer stands Lisa – email us.

Is Your Firm Cutting Fringe Benefits?

Last week we touched on the shockingly sensitive subject of charging time while traveling. You see, apparently it was (at one time) a-okay in some KPMG offices (Southeast) while in others, the mere idea of charging time while traveling was utter nonsense.

So that got one reader to thinking – what the hell else is being cut out these days?

Please consider a post related to fringe benefits. I’m curious in knowing whether the larger firms are allowing their employees to keep points for dollars spent on company credit cards. But there are other points programs (i.e., frequent flyer miles) and fringe benefits (i.e., gym memberships, cell phones, etc.) that may be declining on top of all of the poor raises.


Big 4 firms have been quite generous with the fringe benefits (e.g. elderly parent care, subsidizing public transit passes, etc.) and they make a point to remind you of it from the day you interview with the firm to the day you leave. However, since we’re living in unprecedented times, nothing is unheard of.

If your firm has recently gotten stingy on fringe benefits, from the vastly important (401k match) to the less crucial (discounts at Brooks Brothers) discuss or shoot us the details.

Local Man Gives Up Audit Gig to Live Off Coupons, Risk Homelessness, Suffer Yoga Injuries

Josh Stevens of Chicago was done with his corporate audit job. The glamour of cube farm life had lost its allure and lucky for him, a challenge that only an accountant could embrace.

He decided that he would accept the challenge from Internet sensation du jour Groupon to live on coupons for an entire year, “I had done corporate auditing for a year, and I decided I didn’t want to sit in a cubicle every day. I thought I’d go back and get more education, and right as I started working on those applications, this fell in my lap.”

“This” includes traveling all over this great land, living off of coupons but there are a few rules that could make things difficult for Stevens including:


• “Stevens can’t use or even touch money.”

• “He’s allowed only five visits from family and friends, with each visit lasting less than a day.”

• “Strangers, fans and supporters may donate a place to crash for the night, a car ride or plane ticket.”

So how does Josh handle not being able to have his skin touch cold hard cash and more or less being celibate (his girlfriend can’t visit him) for an entire year?

“It’s the logistics. It’s really hard to plan in advance for anything. You don’t know how to get from place to place. You don’t know where you are going to be so it’s hard to plan where you will go and who will give you rides.” Of course his ability to be a “cross between Anthony Bourdain, who is trying new things, and MacGyver, who has to be resourceful,” has proven helpful (e.g. getting manicures) as has his willingness to rely on the kindness of strangers (one couple let him stay with them for two weeks).

However, there was one instance where his adventurous nature backfired, “I kind of overdid it with a yoga class I did in Washington, D.C. I don’t know much about yoga. I think I just overstretched. I was fine that day. And the next day and then a day after that, all of my muscles tensed up, and I struggled with it for a few weeks.”

Despite this setback, Josh is plugging along and we’re rooting for him to win the $100k if completes the challenge. Hopefully he’ll spend some of the winnings on his girlfriend and maybe give yoga another shot.

Man tries living on coupons for a year [CNN]

Got Thoughts on Dodd-Frank?

No, Dodd’s hair and Barney’s thriftiness are not at issue here.

Mary Schapiro needs constructive comments from the peanut gallery because this thing is a week old and since some people at the Commission have the attention of Tom Petters, they can’t afford to lose focus.

Just jump over the Public Comments page and let ‘er rip. Any section you want get down with your wonky financial reform knowledge is welcome.

It has not even been a week since the President signed the regulatory reform legislation into law, but at the SEC we are already working to fully implement the dozens of studies and rulemakings required of our agency,” said Chairman Schapiro. “We recognize that the process of establishing regulations works best when all stakeholders are engaged and contribute their combined talents and experiences. We look forward to preliminary public comments in these areas.

Not only that! The SEC needs more people. This 2,000-some odd page behemoth is putting asses in cubes and more of the kicking ass and taking names will be had. Just two ways you can join the good times going on at the SEC.

SEC Chairman Schapiro Announces Open Process for Regulatory Reform Rulemaking [SEC]

This Man Hates Taxes More Than He Loves His Family

Well, he doesn’t come right out and say that but actions speak louder than words, amiright?

This is Guy Hands, Founder, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Terra Firma a private equity firm with locations in London, Frankfurt, and Guernsey where he currently resides.

He moved there last April from Kent, a county in Southeast England, to “protest at higher income and capital gains tax rates,” and that “he has ‘never visited’ his school age children since he left the [the United Kingdom]. They have remained with his wife at their former family home in Kent and they now have to travel to Guernsey to see him.”


Guy “Father Knows Best” Hands also doesn’t visit his parents any more “and would not do so except in an emergency,” so he’s not much of a son either.

The devoted family man is an “‘outspoken’ critic of UK tax levels,” so this level of commitment to avoid paying taxes shouldn’t be a surprise. Non-resident tax status is at stake here; he won’t set foot in a UK airport even to transfer.

GH’s shrewd sensibilities were revealed in court papers last week as the venue for his dispute with Citigroup over Terra Firma’s purchase of music group EMI is being decided. If the proceedings are moved to London, Hands’ tax planning could be completely thwarted and — gasp — he might see his children in the UK (if time permits of course).

I save tax by never visiting my family, says tycoon Guy Hands [Guardian]

Dita von Teese’s Accountant Understands Why She Has to Spend $70k on a Dress

Last month we mentioned that while we enjoy her genius, we wouldn’t want to be of Lady Gaga’s accountant. She definitely falls into the “clients that make you want to jump out the window” bucket.

Likewise, if we had our choice of clients, we wouldn’t be chasing down burlesque artists that marry rock stars, in this case, Dita von Teese. Not because we don’t enjoy burlesque artists and the rock stars they love, quite the contrary actually; it’s just seems that the headaches associated with such a client would be more trouble than it would be worth.


Surprisingly, DVT takes money quite seriously and is not as slipshod as you might expect.

I refuse to go to the hair salon and have a $300 hair dye job – I do it myself at home with an $8 dye kit… I’ve always been a saver…I saved at least 15[%] of everything I earned and invested it in mutual funds

Jesus, talk about sensible. However there is this glimmer:

I think nothing of spending $8,000 on a corset for my show. My accountant once said he couldn’t understand how I spent $70,000 on a single dress but then he came to my show and saw how lavish it was and told me afterwards that now he understood.

Those are work related expenses though; count us unimpressed. We’re expecting Gaga-esque negligent wasting of money. Like seriously getting carried away.

I bought [a Jaguar] one night on eBay for $35,000 when I’d had too much champagne.

Yes. That’s the best she can offer. Plus, there’s this:

I pay my [credit card] balances off every month.”

More sensible behavior. Doesn’t sound like she’d be that bad of a client at all. Hell, she probably even keeps all her receipts. L. Gaga’s accountant might consider asking her for some advice.

Dita von Teese: ‘I spent $70,000 on a single dress for my show’ [Telegraph]

The Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For: Deloitte #70

Continuing our F100BCTWF coverage, we find Deloitte next in the pecking order at #70. This extends Deloitte’s streak of umpteenththousandth straight years on the list. Congrats.

Deloitte – Previously ranked #61. Fortune cites Delta Chi as the big whoop-de-do at Deloitte: “[The] Firm has invested $300 million in Deloitte University, a 107-acre campus in Texas that opens in 2011 and will be the ‘symbolic heart’ of their organization.”


Other interesting stats per the snapshot:
New Jobs (1 year): 296
% Job Growth (1 year): 1%
% Voluntary Turnover: 10%
No. of Job Openings at 1/13/2010: 11,000 (?)
Most common salaried job: Senior/Senior Consultant with average salary of $84,658

11,000 job openings? Thoughts on that?

The snapshot also states that 32% of its workforce is minorities and 44% of the workforce is women. What do you think new Chief Diversity Dude John Zamora is shooting for? 50/50? People are kvetching about a few H-1Bs, can’t imagine what that will sound like if Barry Salzberg finally is satisfied.

Plus — not to disappoint some of you looking forward to doing keg stands — if Deloitte scrapped the whole “symbolic heart”, project JARED (can anyone come up with something better than “Jointly Address Reducing Expenses at Deloitte” for the love of God?) wouldn’t even be necessary.

Earlier:
Ernst & Young #44
Plante & Moran #66

Deloitte, All Out of Cost-Saving Ideas, Launches Project JARED

Thumbnail image for salzberg-barry.jpgWhen we first received the tip about Project JARED we thought that Big D had struck a deal with Subway in order to help you lose those extra pounds you’ve been carrying around.
Unfortunately, “Project: Jointly Address Reducing Expenses at Deloitte” won’t be getting you sandies on the cheap; rather it’s a solicitiation of your ideas for saving the Firm money. Apparently Deloitte is plumb out and needs some help

This is your chance to help make Deloitte fitter and stronger — by contributing your ideas to Project JARED.
Project JARED was launched in the U.S. earlier this year to enable our organization to ‘shape up’ by building organizational muscle ― devoting maximum resources to our people and market opportunities. Hence, Project JARED: Jointly Address Reducing Expenses at Deloitte.
“Jointly is a key word here,” said Tony Forcum, Deloitte Consulting LLP, who leads Project JARED.
“More than 600 partners, principals and directors have already been involved in detailed discussions and input sessions, generating over 1600 cost-reduction ideas. We are certain that opening up the dialogue to all of our people will generate additional insights. We need transformational ideas if we are to reach our goal of permanently eliminating $750 million of costs by FY12. We have made a good start toward our goal. The team has validated more than $120 million in sustainable cost savings from the changes made in FY09,” he said.


Changes have produced savings and improvements in all kinds of ways ― for example, by using our telesuite facilities to reduce business travel, thus not only saving money but also reducing the time everyone spends away from home: a win-win for all.
The Project JARED team is looking for suggestions from those who know the organization best — its people. If you have often thought: “We could save a lot if only we…” now is the time to share your idea. It could be a day-to-day activity, a fresh approach to leveraging technology, an enhancement to a process, a way to change behavior that saves money―all cost-saving suggestions are welcomed.
Visit the Project JARED site to submit your ideas, learn more about the project and ask questions.

This latest plan struck at least one person as dubious and they asked the question on probably everyone’s mind:

Q: Is this just a fancy way of saying we’re going to be losing more jobs?
A: It is impossible to predict the future, but that is not the focus of the project. The organization is casting a wide net for cost savings, looking at tactical savings (printing on both sides of the paper), operational savings (streamlining the process by which work gets done from inception to completion) and transformational savings (transforming some of the ways we do business). All of the decisions we make about Project JARED will be consistent with our core values, brand and strategy.

So “not the focus of the project” should put your concerns to rest, no? And it looks like your bright idea of printing on both sides of the paper is already taken, so don’t bother submitting that one.
Let’s put our heads together gang and figure out how we can save Deloitte money. Should Barry Salzberg stop getting haircuts? Pull the plug on Deloitte University? Give up on training male employees to better understand their female colleagues?
Nothing is too crazy people. Get on this.

Who Wants to Buy Nic Cage’s Haunted House?

nic_cage.jpg‘Cause the man is in a bit of a pinch. As you may recall, he’s got a small lien out there to the tune of $6.2 mil and his ex-girlfriend is suing him for and additional $13 mil.
The latest problem is that NC owes $128,000 in back taxes on a house in Rhode Island. All of this would be NBD if someone out there would step it up and take one — just one! — of his homes off his hands:

Among the properties he has been selling are three castles in Bavaria, Germany, and Bath and Somerset, England, as well as Dean Martin’s former mansion in Bel Air, Calif. Also on sale are novelist Anne Rice’s former home in New Orleans and a New Orleans mansion described as the “most haunted house in the United States.” Other properties on the block include homes in New York and Las Vegas, and a 132-foot yacht.

You figure the Anne Rice place would fly off the market what with the vampire craze and all but NOOOOOOO, you’re all too cheap. If this man is forced into bankruptcy and shunned by the Hollywood community, we will all be deprived of the next edition of the National Treasure franchise. Is that what you want?

The DOJ Is Not Waiting to Weed Out Sketchy Tax Preparers

Slimy.jpgEarlier this week we learned that the hammer will be coming down on small tax prep shops.
Despite the news of the fresh measures, that didn’t prevent the DOJ from getting some of the riffraff off the streets this week.
Web CPA:

On the heels of the IRS’s plan to begin regulating tax preparers, the Justice Department announced that it has filed six lawsuits this week to stop preparers charged with generating fraudulent income tax returns.
The cases included five civil injunction lawsuits in Detroit, Cincinnati and Chicago filed against several individuals and their tax preparation services. However, the trend didn’t start this week. In December, the government filed a civil injunction suit against 12 individuals and entities in Providence, R.I.

Long/short: thousands of tax returns were falsified by throwing all kinds of deductions on the returns that couldn’t be substantiated including cash donated to The Human Fund and bogus business expenses.
As Joe noted on Wednesday, it’s difficult to reason that even after the new requirements are in place, some of the more dodgy tax preparers won’t slip through the cracks. Consumers dumbfounded by our mind-job of a tax code will continue to going to shiesty 1040 jockeys that will promise low fees and bigger refunds. Ultimately they’ll pay more in the long run.
Justice Department Cracks Down on Tax Preparers [Web CPA]

Rumor Mill: Ernst & Young Layoffs Move on to the Advisory Practice

We’re hearing more about layoffs in E&Y’s North Central offices today. The chatter is that cuts are now hitting advisory professionals in Detroit, Toledo, and Cincinnati. Our source indicated that it was 2 – 3 professionals in each office which puts the total number of layoffs in the region over 30 since this latest round started last month.
Rumor also has it that the Columbus office — home of dollar beer night — could also get into the axe swinging but we’re scant on details at this point.
These cuts in the advisory practice would be the first we have heard of since the dozen layoffs (that we confirmed) in the Pacific-Northwest.
Continue to keep us updated with the specifics.
Earlier: (UPDATE) Layoff Watch ’09: Update on Ernst & Young

Stretching Your Mileage on the Expense Report Won’t Pay as Well in 2010

penny.jpgPerhaps you stick to the honor system when it comes to plugging the mileage into your expense report but for those of you that like to turn that 14.4 miles on Google Maps to 15, may be tempted to fudge further 2010:

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2010, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:
• 50 cents per mile for business miles driven
• 16.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
• 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations
The new rates for business, medical and moving purposes are slightly lower than last year’s. The mileage rates for 2010 reflect generally lower transportation costs compared to a year ago.

As Joe Kristan notes, this is down from the 55 cents in 2009, so our prediction is that many will be stretching the mileage even further in the new decade. You know who you are.
IRS Announces 2010 Standard Mileage Rates [Press Release via Tax Update Blog]

Deloitte Is Saving Money by Offering Zach Morris Phones

zmorris.jpgWe kid, we kid. Obviously you’re aware that you can shell out $13 a month and get an iPhone. Whether that’s worth it or not, we’ll let you decide but if you don’t want the iPhone, you’re taking your chances with another option, as one source describes, “crappy Windows Mobile devices that are getting shoved down our throats.”
Not only that but if you’re looking to get reimbursed for your PDA, don’t expect to get to choose whatever you want. Or to spend that much:

Deloitte also now limits the re-imbursement of PDAs to $199.99 + taxes. They used to cover the entire cost of devices that they chose to support (which mostly sucked to begin with). You’d figure that since they only pay $199.99 that we’d be able to pick the device now… but no; still limited to their “approved list” of crappy devices.

We’re not really up-to-date on the whole who-gets-what-phone-at-what-level question these days so if you’ve got some insight for your firm, discuss in the comments.

At the Deloitte Holiday Party You’ll Have to Mill Around While Trying to Avoid the Guy Mopping the Floor

We have confirmed the comment that mentions the Deloitte Holiday parties going down in the lunchroom. According to our source, this makes two years running that D has thrown it down in the caf which was a step down from the epic ’07 rager at the Waldorf. It’s not that nice of a hotel anyway.
Personally, we were hoping that Barry Salzberg was going to encourage everyone chip in and build the location of this year’s festivities with their bare hands but it might be too late to get that project started. Maybe next year.
Picture 3.png
Obviously this is less than ideal because 1) it’s definitely not a full bar and 2) instead of catering you’ll have to choose between what you think is salisbury steak and chicken a la king.
As far as atmosphere, we will admit that this is less touristy than TOTG but still. And what about the poor saps in Parsippany? Training rooms A – C? Jesus. Nothing better than crushing beers in the room where you were introduced to the FASB Codification.

KPMG Halloween Party: Don’t Expect Treats in the Form of Bonuses

With the cancellation of Christmaskah by most of the Big 4, one would think that a small Halloween fiesta would at least be possible (you know, for the kids).
Good news! At least one KPMG office is contemplating the idea, with the local staff’s help (italics are from the original email):

For $5 you may wear jeans. All donations will be used for the Family Halloween Party. If you would like to participate, please see [redacted] at the reception desk on the 27th floor.

Please note that if you are at a client site that does not subscribe to jeans day, you still need to dress to the client’s dress code.

Please remember you are still in a professional environment and wear professional clothing with your jeans. Additionally, please wear jeans that are in good condition to obtain a clean, professional appearance.

Got it? You want bite-sized 3 Musketeers, Snickers, and the like, you can pay for it. And btw, if you come in with frayed hems, your ass will be sent home.