Communication or lack thereof

Per PCAOB Board Member, Facebook Will Not Sufficiently Prepare You As an Auditor

"For new accountants, the focus on documentation can be a difficult transition — the world of texting, Facebook postings, and tweeting may not fully prepare you. And, of course, communication skills are important even beyond the accountant's documentation of audit procedures. Being able to express yourself effectively is key to your relationships with your co-workers […]

Groundbreaking CFO.com Survey Reveals Accounting Professionals Desperately Need Communication Skills

Make sure you're sitting down before you read this incredible news courtesy the CFO.com March survey of 422 public and private CFOs, controllers, chief accountants and other senior finance executives [note: free subscription required to read the article]: The results show that today’s accounting and finance staffs have more than enough data skills. But they […]

How to Have Recruiting Season Conversations Without Scaring People Off

You spent your entire junior year reading Going Concern horror stories instead of brushing up on your communication skills and now the heat is on. Recruiting season is here and you don't want to end up working for the firms that get made fun of all the time around here. Instead of hyperventilating, email us […]

One Candidate Would Prefer If Prometric Worked On Its Communication

It's been awhile since we've heard a horrible Prometric story but with tomorrow being a holiday, we should have seen this coming. Before I get into the actual story, it's worth pointing out that the Prometric closures themselves aren't necessarily the issue. I have never heard a candidate complain about being informed of a testing […]

Small Pennsylvania Town Sues the Fire Department Over Shady Accounting

I would expect more and more items like these in the news in the months and years ahead but that’s just my humble opinion.

Apparently commissioners in Lawrence Park Township, Pennsylvania are sick of messing around and would like an Erie County judge to appoint a custodian to handle the volunteer Lawrence Park Fire Department. On Friday, the township filed a petition, after a July 12th vote of 3-2 to go to court.

Via Firehouse.com:

The three commissioners are claiming the Fire Department is violating a township ordinance by not providing an accounting of how the department is spending township money. The commissioners are arguing a custodian should be in place long enough to bring the department in compliance with the law.

The commissioners and the Fire Department have been feuding over the department’s finances since 2009. The firefighters have said the department is fiscally sound.

The funny part of all this is that the fire department claimed part of the reason why their finances were so jacked up was the Form 990 they “never knew existed” according to department president Maureen Crotty. Apparently the township commissioners felt the lack of a 990 (which reveals any non-profit organization’s expenses and revenues and is required for all non-profits above $250,000) was one of many good reasons not to give the department more money.

So back in April, almost a year after the IRS said all required 990s better be in or else, the fire department was still waiting to get a completed 990 back from its newly hired accountant, who didn’t have time to fill out the simple form while also auditing the department’s financial records by request of the stingy township commissioners.

Back then, Crotty stated she hoped the finished 990 and audit would help repair the strained relationship between the fire department and the five-member board of commissioners. Guess that didn’t happen.

The Tax Policy Debate Just a Got a Tad Less Sophisticated

Tax policy is one of the most complex issues in the political discourse, regardless of the simplicity behind the rhetoric used by our public officials. And thanks to this “straight talk,” it has become one of the most polarizing topics in politics. But now that a man has been arrested for trying to engage Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) in debate (after drinking of course) on the issue using colorful language (or you might call it “expletive-laced threats”), the discussion has hit a new intellectual low.


Here’s the voicemail Charles Turner Habermann of Palm Springs, CA left for Congressman McDermott, From the National Law Journal by way of Above the Law:

“Uh, I, I, I’d like to remind you McDermott that if you read the constitution all the money belongs to the people. None of it belongs to Government Okay! So, if Jim McDermott says they’re spending money on a tax cut, he’s a piece of human dog shit, okay. He’s a piece of human filth. He’s a liar, he’s a communist, he’s a piece of fucking garbage. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, or George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, if any of them had ever met uh, uh Jim McDermott, they would blow his brains out. They’d shoot him, in the head. They’d kill him because he’s a piece of, of, of disgusting garbage.”He later says: “And you let that fucking scum bag know, that if he ever fucks around with my money, ever the fuck again, I’ll fucking kill him, okay. I’ll round them up, I’ll kill them, I’ll kill his friends, I’ll kill his family, I will kill everybody he fucking knows.”

In the second message, he says, “Your congressman, Jim McDermott is a piece of garbage. And I’ll tell you something right now, garbage belongs in the trash that’s exactly where he’s gonna end up.”

Then there’s this:

“As for his motivation for leaving the voicemail message, Habermann said he was calling politicians to let them know that what they were doing and saying regarding spending taxpayer’s money was wrong,” the complaint says. “He said he was trying to scare them before they spent money that didn’t belong to them.”

He also said he never intended to hurt anyone and that he was too afraid of losing his $3 million trust fund to commit a crime.

Yep, this guy’s a tax policy wonk, all right.

Arrest in California in death threats against congressman [National Law Journal via ATL]

American Apparel Takes Issue with Deloitte’s Notion That Management Withheld Some Fairly Important Financial Statements

Remember the hipster drama Deloitte caused this past summer when they resigned as the auditor of American Apparel? It was quite the rs the stock took a beating (it has recovered in the meantime) and questions were raised about the company’s ability to continue as a [g]oing [c]oncern.

Some recent developments in this particular story have come to light as Dov & Co. have been providing a whole mess of information to Deloitte, as is SOP in these matters. For starters, Deloitte notified the APP audit committee that the 2009 financial statements are not kosher and anyone using them for any other purpose than lining a bird cage is nuts.


From the 8-K:

On December 15, 2010, the Audit Committee of the Company received notice from Deloitte stating that Deloitte had concluded that Deloitte’s report on the Company’s previously issued consolidated financial statements as of and for the year ended December 31, 2009 (the “2009 financials”), including Deloitte’s report on internal control over financial reporting at December 31, 2009, included in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2009 (such reports, collectively, the “Deloitte Reports”) should not be relied upon or associated with the 2009 financials.

Deloitte explained that its conclusion was based on the significance of the declines in operations and gross margin in the Company’s February 2010 monthly financial statement, combined with the January 2010 monthly financial statements, the Company’s issuance of revised projections in early May 2010 which reflected a significant decrease in the Company’s 2010 projections, and Deloitte’s disagreement with the Company’s conclusion that the results shown in the February 2010 monthly financial statements would not have required a revision to the Company’s projections as of the date of the 10-K filing and the issuance of Deloitte’s reports. Deloitte further indicated that their decision considered their inability to perform additional audit procedures, their resignation as registered public accountants and their professional judgment that they are no longer willing to rely on management’s representations due to Deloitte’s belief that management withheld from Deloitte the February 2010 monthly financial statements until after the filing of the 2009 10-K and made related misrepresentations.

So if you can get past how poorly written these paragraphs are, you can boil down Deloitte’s concerns about the 2009 10-K to a few things: 1) business was not looking good; 2) they didn’t buy APP’s notion that financial projections for February ’10 were hunky dory (which weren’t made available until after the 10-K was filed); 3) APP management was more or less full of shit. You can also read their official letter to the company, if you are so inclined.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Dov & Co. have a difference of opinion here:

The Audit Committee of the Company has commenced an investigation into the assertions that management withheld the February 2010 monthly financial statements and related misrepresentations. Management disagrees with Deloitte’s assertions and does not believe that the February 2010 monthly financial statements were withheld. The Company does not currently believe, including after discussions with Marcum, that the reaudit will result in any changes to the 2009 financials, though no assurance can be given in this regard.

So, somewhere, there are February 2010 financial statements stuffed in a drawer (but whose drawer?) that basically caused this whole fiasco. This seems like a completely plausible scenario.

(UPDATE) Grant Thornton Employees Prohibited From Accessing WikiLeaks, Even in Their Spare Time

~ Update includes email sent to all KPMG employees and further details on communication within PwC.

Confirming some chatter in last Friday’s post on the banishment of WikiLeaks at Deloitte, notification at Grant Thornton was sent out late on Friday.

So not even after a long, hard day doing Stephen Chipman’slowed to read catty messages between diplomats or war logs on your personal computer. What’s next? Firmwide emails instructing lonely accountants not to visit Fleshbot (NSFW)?

Personal time aside, judging by the conversation on the Deloitte post, it appears that KPMG has also communicated ‘no peeky at wiki’ but we haven’t seen the official communiqué. And since all the major firms have contracts with the Feds, we decided to call around to see find out the scoop. So far, a source at PwC did inform us that the WikiLeaks website is accessible but no official policy on accessing the site has been communicated to the firm at large.

[UPDATE: We have learned that PwC’s Washington Federal Practice did receive communication prohibiting access, downloading, etc. etc. to WikiLeaks, however, as we’ve updated above, a firm-wide communication was not sent.]

Messages with E&Y and KPMG were not immediately returned. If there has been official lines have been drawn in the cyber-sand, kindly email us with any communication.

Earlier:
What if Accounting Firms Had Their Own Version of WikiLeaks?

UPDATE: The message from KPMG, courtesy of the sagacious Judge Sven Erik Holmes:

Date:December 10, 2010
To:All KPMG Personnel
From: Sven Erik Holmes, Vice Chair, Legal and Compliance
Subject:Government Notice Regarding Web site Access

PLEASE DO NOT DELETE THIS E-MAIL WITHOUT READING

In response to the recent well-publicized release of government documents on the WikiLeaks Web site, the federal government has begun notifying its contractors regarding restrictions on accessing classified documents included in that release. As a provider of services to several federal agencies, KPMG is a federal government contractor and has begun receiving such notices from its federal agency clients. This e-mail contains important instructions regarding access to such classified information, which are applicable to all firm personnel.

KPMG personnel should not access information marked or labeled as classified (including material publicly available on the WikiLeaks Web site or other Web sites) using government or KPMG computers or other devices that access the Web (such as PDAs or Smartphones) as doing so risks placing material that is still classified on non-classified systems. This restriction does not limit employee or contractor access to nonclassified, publicly available news reports (and other nonclassified material) that in turn reference classified material, as opposed to the underlying classified material itself (whether or not in the public domain).

The government’s notices remind us that federal contractors are obligated to protect classified information pursuant to all applicable federal laws, and to use government information systems, whether classified or unclassified, appropriately. Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents (whether in print, on a blog, or on a Web site) do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents. To the contrary, classified information, whether or not already posted on public Web sites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority.

If you believe that you may have downloaded classified information to a government or KPMG computer or other device that accesses the Web (such as a PDA or Smartphone), please contact [a KPMG lawyer who will ask you a ton of questions and probably scold you] in OGC at [lawyer’sname]@kpmg.com.

KPMG personnel are also reminded that firm policy requires personnel to maintain the confidentiality of any information that they obtain from a client in connection with a client engagement. It is important that the confidentiality of any such information be maintained.

Five Ways to Communicate Better with the Boss

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

Would you like to be more appreciated by your boss? Feel more comfortable apprith requests? Stop worrying about what he thinks of you? Why not do something about it?

As with any human relationship, your behavior and attitude can make a difference in your relationship with your boss. If you want a different type of relationship with him, start behaving differently and results will follow.

First, be conscious of the type of relationship you’re going for – you don’t want to build a connection that’s too friendly or intimate; keep it professional but rewarding.


“The ideal boss-employee relationship is one of trust and respect where both individuals work as a team to achieve the goals of the company,” said Deborah Millhouse, president of CEO Inc., which specializes in direct hire placement, temporary staffing, and human capital services. “The employee should be supportive of the needs and requirements of the boss so that the boss can reach the goals and complete the job with success.”

Millhouse offers five tips for building a better relationship with your boss:

1. Make a genuine effort to learn about him or her. “Understand your boss’s personality style and communicate with him in an effective way that supports his temperament,” Millhouse said. “Ask good questions about his or her goals, and then support them.”

2. Check your bad mood at the door. “Attitude is more important than aptitude,” Millhouse said. “Be full of energy and ready to try anything.”

3. Use good manners. Just like your mom taught you, simple courtesies like saying please and thank you can go a long way. Also, “deliver results without being asked or prompted a million times,” Millhouse said.

4. Communicate openly and clearly. Don’t be stingy with your ideas; contribute good ideas to the team and you’ll be appreciated. Also, “speak up, be accurate, clear, and to the point; don’t play the cloaking game,” Millhouse said. No boss wants to spend time trying to figure out what you meant by what you said – just say what you mean in a polite, clear way.

5. Take initiative. Don’t always wait to be told what to do; when you see something that needs to be done, just do it. “Set good goals,” Millhouse said. And then, “do what you say you will do.”

If your boss is particularly difficult, improving your relationship with him might take more time. View it as a challenge and make an ongoing effort to make improvements.

“Most difficult relationships lack trust, so building trust is the first step,” Millhouse said. “Trust is achieved through understanding and communicating effectively with each other. With a boss who is especially difficult, the employee can attempt to improve relations with efforts to open the lines of communications.”

About the author:
Nancy Mann Jackson is an award-winning journalist and corporate communicator who writes regularly about small business, parenting, and workplace issues. Since 2001, she has worked as a freelance writer and has written hundreds of articles for publications including Working Mother, CNNMoney.com, Entrepreneur.com, and MyBusiness. She also writes and edits annual reports, blogs, and newsletters for companies in industries including finance, technology, and construction. Jackson also is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Reprinted with permission from glassdoor.com.

Memo to the Boss: We Need to Talk

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

Don’t fall for the myth that some bosses are just too busy to meet with you. The truth is your boss does not have time not to meet with you on a regular basis no matter how busy your boss might be.

Don’t get me wrong. You should be very careful about wasting one minute of your boss’s time – or anybody’s time for that matter. After all, there are only 168 hours in a week and everyone has zillions of demands on his or her time. Your boss has his own tasks and responsibilities and projects besides his management obligations to you. Your boss is busy. You are busy. Nobody has a minute to waste.


That’s exactly why neither you, nor your boss has time to not meet with you on a regular basis to talk about your work. When you have a boss who won’t spend time talking through your work with you, misunderstandings occur, you don’t always know what resources are necessary, you might find yourself in a real pickle and, even if you succeed against all odds, then you probably won’t get the credit you deserve.

But how often can you succeed against all odds? Without clear expectations, adequate resources, monitoring, and measuring of performance, here’s what happens:

• Unnecessary problems occur.
• Problems that could have been solved easily get out of control.
• The resources you do have get squandered.

As a result, the boss who tried so hard to avoid spending time managing you ends up spending lots of time managing you, anyway. Only it’s after the fact because you were set up to fail, instead of being set up to succeed. When the boss avoids spending time in advance to make sure things go right, things usually go wrong. Small problems pile up. Often, small problems fester unattended until they become so big that they cannot be ignored. By that point, the boss has no choice but to chase down the problems and help you solve them.

In crisis, the boss is virtually guaranteed to be less effective – a further waste of time. What’s more, these bosses run around solving problems that never had to happen, getting big problems under control that should have been solved easily, recouping squandered resources, dealing with long-standing issues, and then feeling even more pressed for time.

As a result, these are the bosses who go right back to avoiding spending time managing you, and the next time they’ll make time for management is the next time there is another big problem to resolve.

So don’t waste any boss’s time. Make your one-on-one time with every boss brief, straightforward, efficient, and all about the work. But make sure you get that regular one-on-one time with every boss you answer to directly at any given time. How often? That depends on the nature of the work you are doing for that boss. Once a day? Once a week? Every other week?

If you push every boss to put the management time where it belongs, up front before anything goes right, wrong, or average, on a regular basis, and you make sure you get the basic elements you need to succeed, then the time every boss does spend managing you will be so much more effective.

If you make sure the time every boss spends with you is high-leverage time, bosses are going to want to give you that time. You will gain a reputation for not wasting anyone’s time. You will gain a reputation for making good use of management time. Bosses will know that it is worth spending time with you, that there will be a return on investment for every minute a boss spends with you.

Future CFOs, Partners Best Not Check Integrity at the Door

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight–everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

A strong moral compass can give high-potential managers a leg up the career ladder, according to the results of a recent survey.

One-third of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said that, other than technical or functional expertise, integrity is what they look for most when grooming future leaders. Interpersonal and communication skills also ranked high, cited by 28 percent of respondents.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources, a provider of senior-level accounting and finance professionals on a project and interim basis. The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from more than 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.


CFOs were asked, “Other than technical or functional expertise, which one of the following traits do you look for most when grooming future leaders at your organization?”

Their responses:
• Integrity – 33%
• Interpersonal/communication skills – 28%
• Initiative – 15%
• Ability to motivate others – 12%
• Business savvy – 10%
• Other/don’t know – 2%

“History has shown time and time again the importance of ethics in business – even a single lapse in judgment by one employee can significantly affect a company’s reputation and its bottom line,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half Management Resources. “Leaders who are principled and forthright inspire this same behavior in their teams, creating a culture in which integrity is a core value.”

McDonald pointed out that communication skills also are requisite as executives take on greater responsibility.

“Especially during difficult periods, managers must be able to promote open, two-way communication with their teams,” McDonald said. “Executives in companies that have moved successfully through the downturn understand the importance of listening intently to feedback from employees and are always on the lookout for this skill in potential leaders.”

Accounting News Roundup: AIG Rolls Out Repayment Plan; Wal-Mart Names New CFO; IRS Files Lien Against Sharpton | 09.30.10

AIG to Convert Preferred Shares Into Common to Repay U.S. [Bloomberg]
“American International Group Inc. agreed with U.S. regulators to repay its bailout by converting the government’s holdings into common shares for sale, a step toward independence for the insurer whose near collapse two years ago threatened the global economy.

The U.S. Treasury Department will convert its preferred stake of about $49.1 billion for 1.66 billion shares of common stock and then sell the holdings in the open market, AIG said today in a statement. Common shareholders, who hold about 20 percent of the company, will have their stake dilutent, the insurer said. Those investors will receive as many as 75 million warrants with a strike price of $45.”

Spain loses AAA status, stands firm on austerity [Reuters]
“Spain lost its final top-line debt rating on Thursday as the government sought backing from lawmakers for a budget it hopes will be austere enough to convince markets it can slash the deficit at a time of economic weakness.

Moody’s become the third and last rating agency to cut Spain out of the highest AAA category which has helped it finance its debt relatively cheaply. The one-notch cut had been expected and the agency said it hoped not to have to cut again soon, bolstering Spanish debt markets.

But the agency also said a poor growth outlook meant Madrid would have to take further steps to meet its deficit targets in years to come. The Bank of Spain said a sluggish recovery would slow further in the third quarter.”

IASB head knows all about cross-channel frictions [FT]
“In a decade spent overseeing international accounting standards, Sir David Tweedie has become an amateur student of French psychology.

The Scot has locked horns with France several times as head of the International Accounting Standards Board, the body that sets the International Financial Reporting Standards rules followed in the European Union and other countries.

His fascination for his adversary is such that he recently thrust into my hands an academic paper entitled “France and the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ Model: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives”. The article explores the hostility often felt in France towards the British and American way of doing business.”

McDonald’s May Drop Health Plan [WSJ]
“While many restaurants don’t offer health coverage, McDonald’s provides mini-med plans for workers at 10,500 U.S. locations, most of them franchised. A single worker can pay $14 a week for a plan that caps annual benefits at $2,000, or about $32 a week to get coverage up to $10,000 a year.

Last week, a senior McDonald’s official informed the Department of Health and Human Services that the restaurant chain’s insurer won’t meet a 2011 requirement to spend at least 80% to 85% of its premium revenue on medical care.”


Wal-Mart picks successor to longtime CFO [Reuters]
“Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) named Charles Holley to succeed Chief Financial Officer Tom Schoewe, who will retire on November 30.

The world’s biggest retailer said on Wednesday that Schoewe, 57, will stay at Wal-Mart until January 31 to help with the transition.

Holley, 54, joined Wal-Mart in 1994 and is treasurer and executive vice president of finance.

Those credentials should make him a capable CFO, said Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi, though Wall Street could view the transition negatively since it adds uncertainty.”

All We Are Saying Is Give Dick Fuld a Chance [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
Names being floated to replace Larry Summers as the National Economic Council include Citigroup Chairman Dick Parsons and Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy. Jonathan Weil sees where Obama is going with this:

“There’s much we can learn about the kind of person the president is looking for by studying these two contenders’ credentials. In addition to CEO chops, it seems Obama is seeking someone who also has served on the board of directors of at least one company that either had a massive accounting scandal, blew up so spectacularly that it threatened to take down the global financial system, or both.”

…and doesn’t think he’s aiming high enough. He has some of his own suggestions.

Memo to Media Departments: Here Are Three Ways to Make My Job Easier – rebuttal [AccMan]
Dennis Howlett’s rebuttal to Adrienne’s plea to PR types.

Sharpton faced with fresh tax woe [Tax Watchdog]
The Rev. owes around $538k to the IRS for 2009. His lawyer is a tad confused by the whole thing and says everything will paid up by Oct. 15th.

Memo to Media Departments: Here Are Three Ways to Make My Job Easier

I’m not going to name names since that doesn’t seem to go over well but I have a bone to pick and think this is the perfect platform for doing so. In case you aren’t paying attention, I tend to use real-world examples to form my suggestions on what to do (or more often than not what not to do) in social media and this time I need to air a complaint about some industry “professionals” who aren’t playing the game right.

Again, no names so don’t ask and if you’re wondering if I mean you, I probably do.

I’m referring specifically to media def attempts on my part to connect with them and get their news out here on Going Concern and Jr. Deputy Accountant. The JDA blow offs I can almost understand but when I come right with a proposition and offer them a coveted spot among the PwC rebranding whine dump and salary news here on GC and they completely ignore it, I get pissed.

Therefore, helpful sort that I am, I’m offering three ways YOU, accounting industry media person, can make MY job easier:


1. Respond When I write you an email inviting you to participate in an interview, survey, ribbing, etc., a response would be nice either way though I obviously appreciate a “yes” far more than a “are you kidding me?” Regardless of whether or not you would like to participate, the least you can do is respond. I know you’re busy, we’re all busy, no one expects you to answer me 4 minutes after I’ve sent the email but a courtesy response would be awesome. I’m not asking a lot. I’m giving you a chance to participate in something awesome and trust me, I wouldn’t waste my own time so I don’t expect you to waste yours.

2. Don’t be scared I’m not sure what it is or why people seem to perceive my brand as hostile but I’m really not as hostile as it seems if you actually talk to me. It amazes me that some industry professionals think Going Concern is hostile and incendiary as well! Seriously?! We hardly swear and cover accounting news, how threatening can we be? Apparently quite. I can’t speak for Caleb but I’ve been blocked. And ignored. Whatever, it’s not about my ego, it’s about me inviting you to take a seat at our conversation and you running the other direction.

3. Wake up! If you are going to start A) a campaign and/or B) a Twitter account, please expect that I’m going to find it and possibly come ask you questions about it. As a media professional, it’s sort of expected that you’ll be excited to offer me the information I seek so I can share it with our readers or at least be able to point me to some press release that accomplishes the same without you having to talk to me. It doesn’t matter if you disagree with my opinion on Ben Bernanke being a massive douchebag or if you are offended by my liberal use of the F-word on my own turf, this is about the industry. We know for a fact that some industry professionals wish Going Concern would expire and drop off the Internet but let’s be real, it isn’t happening so you’d be smart by embracing it instead of fighting it. Like it or not, we’re the future of the industry. Suck it.

I swear we don’t bite (Caleb might but you’ll have to ask him to be sure) and we’ve proven that we here at Going Concern hold ourselves to an exceptionally high standard of ethical behavior when it comes to sources, interviews and communications with industry professionals. So I don’t know where the fear is coming from but seriously, answer your damn emails.

Accountants Still Can’t Not Write Good…or: Improving the Communication Skills of Students

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight–everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

“I am not good at writing. I want to be an accounting major so I don’t have to write.”

All of us who teach or advise students have heard this – our students’ dislike for writing papers. These students are under the false impression that accountants do not have to write, or at least not much.

Frequently, our students do not realize that written communication skills are essentiaprofession. As a matter of fact, communication skills are one of the five core competencies outlined in the CPA Vision Project, tested on the CPA Exam and demanded by employers.


The CPA Vision Project

The CPA Vision Project of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) addresses issues we must tackle to keep up with the challenges facing the profession. To remain competitive, CPAs need to demonstrate five core values and five core competencies.

One of the top five core competencies, Communication and Leadership Skills, is the ability to “give and exchange information within meaningful context and with appropriate delivery and interpersonal skills.” These core values and competencies are instrumental in providing the five core services outlined in the CPA Vision Project: Assurance and Information Integrity, Management Consulting and Performance Management, Technology Services, Financial Planning, and International Services.

If we want our students to offer these five core services efficiently and effectively, accounting classes must incorporate the ability to communicate well as a learning objective.

Writing on the CPA Exam

So what about the CPA Exam? Is the profession testing communication skills on the Exam? Yes.

The CPA Exam requires candidates to demonstrate their writing skills. Currently, CPA applicants complete constructed responses on the Auditing (AUD), Regulation (REG), and Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) sections of the exam.

With the introduction of the new CPA Exam format (CBT-e) in 2011, writing will remain an important part. However, instead of testing writing skills in AUD, REG, and FAR, the constructed response portion of the exam will be entirely tested in BEC (Business Environment and Concepts). Starting in 2011, CPA candidates will write three essays in BEC.

Entry-level accountants lack written communication skills

The CPA Vision Project demands communication skills and the CPA Exam tests them. Does that mean employers of new CPAs are pleased with new CPAs’ writing skills? No. Many employers of recent accounting graduates complain that their new employees do not possess the requisite writing skills. While our students may have strong technical skills, their written communication is often ineffective and poor.

In addition, accountants are spending less time on gathering, processing, and reporting information, and more time on interpretation and providing strategy and decision support. Accountants prepare notes to financial statements, interdepartmental memos, plans, and proposal communications with various stakeholders, written personnel evaluations, and articles in professional journals.

According to an article in The Trusted Professional, one-third of the accounting firms surveyed are unhappy with accountants’ writing skills. Correctly using grammar, organizing information, and writing clearly, concisely, and completely are necessary for business writing. In the worst case, poor writing skills can lead to dismissal of the accountant or inability to rise to higher managerial levels in the organization.

Because of the CPA Exam requirement and the needs of future employers, writing in accounting classes is an important part of many schools’ accounting curricula.

Communication: The business of accounting

Accounting is much more than financial statements and debits and credits. Properly and broadly understood, accounting is all about communication. Written and oral communication gives the numbers meaning, context, and focus on a decision.

We need to continue working on improving the writing skills of entry-level accountants, but these skills must be further reinforced once students enter the workplace. Firm training and management programs in which writing is given a high level of consciousness and priority will help ensure users have the best product available.

About the authors:
Gabriele Lingenfelter, CPA, teaches accounting and auditing for the Luter College of Business and Leadership at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Lingenfelter is actively involved on the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Audit & Attestation Subcommittee and the development of future CPA Exams. She also is a member of the VSCPA Editorial Task Force. Contact her at gabriele@cnu.edu.

Phil Umansky, CPA, Ph.D., is associate professor of business at the Sydney Lewis School of Business at Virginia Union University and chairman of the Accounting and Finance Department. Umansky is a CPA Ambassador, a regular contributor to the WTVR Virginia This Morning TV Show on money management topics, and a member of the VSCPA Editorial Task Force. Contact him at pumansky@vuu.edu.