Taxes are a touchy subject with Americans. This is known. On the one hand, a Tennessee CPA combined his love for 1040s and firearms, issues coupons to clients who, in their jubilation, can spend their refunds at his gun shop. Even if someone were not due a refund, it wouldn’t be tough to convince someone in small-town Tennessee that purchasing a gun is bound to make you feel better about the IRS impending on your freedom. For others, finding out that their sophisticated tax planning didn’t go as intended, may just cause them to grab the nearest bottle of hooch and try to forget their troubles for awhile.
Thanks to Kay Bell, we have learned that one liquor store in Delaware has made this latter scenario more convenient for its customers:
Because we were curious to know more, we called up Steve’s to find out the situation. We spoke to someone who said that returns start at $65 but the lady in charge was out and could call us back with the details. We’ll have the lowdown for you when we hear back from her.
UPDATE: We just got off the phone with Yvette Nidwik, who does the tax prep over at Steve’s and she shared with us a few more details. Unfortunately, the answer to the question on everyone’s mind, “Do we get a discount on booze?” is a flat “No.” Apparently it’s illegal in Delaware law to give discounts on liquor associated with another service (or something). Be that as it may, we were surprised when Yvette told us that she has a lot of “church people” as clients despite the proximity to the Devil’s brew. Yvette has been preparing tax returns for eleven years, five of those at Steve’s. She is not a CPA but plans on becoming an Enrolled Agent soon. She also doesn’t have a problem with the IRS’s forthcoming preparer regulations, saying, “it’s a good thing,” and that she’s “a fixer” meaning she has lots of clients who come in with prior year returns and she find lots of mistakes (especially from discount preparers that will remain nameless).
So if you’re in the area and don’t have the time or willingness to do your own, look Yvette up at Steve’s but she’s a busy lady, so no messin’ about and she’d probably prefer if you stopped in the liquor store after speaking with her.
Lewis Weinstein’s professional referral website was having trouble gaining traction. ReferralKey seemed like a good idea but unfortunately it wasn’t creating the buzz that he had hoped for.
Weinstein, a third-gen tax accountant, knew that there a few rewards that could relate to most people – religious types and vegetarians be damned – that could possibly help his website take off:
Weinstein, a serial entrepreneur and third-generation tax accountant in Needham, found that professionals using the site felt it just wasn’t helping them generate enough new business. “The common response was, ‘I thought you were gonna send me referrals,'” he says.
That’s where the steaks come in.
Users of the site can also upload their databases of clients and send out a message encouraging them to refer their friends and relatives to their trusty financial planner, for instance. “The site will track what happens as a result, and offer them an Omaha Steaks gift certificate, one from Callaway Golf, or one from L.L. Bean, for the new business that gets generated,” says Weinstein.
Sure golf stuff and LL Bean could be nice but Weinstein knows that few can resist the lure of sweet, sweet flesh during the dead of summer, thus he knew he had a winner on his hands. “Since [the red meat awards began], it has grown to just over 32,000 members. He raised a first round of about $1 million from individual investors to launch the site, and says he’s now hoping to raise a $3 million second round from venture capital firms.”
Now whether he stumbled upon this particular bit of heart disease generating ingenuity by way of KPMG is not clear, however since the House that Klynveld built has been tossing out the sirloins for a few years now, he can hardly be comfortable taking this idea as his own.
‘Thanks for the referral. Here’s your steak.’ [Boston Globe]
The Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs is tired of everyone thinking that accountants are humorless, soulless, number crunching (did we mention green eyeshade wearing?) nerds, so they decided do something about it.
The PICPA has developed two videos to show everyone that not only are CPAs important business advisors, they can be creative and yes, funny. Despite where you fall on the comedic spectrum (Brian Regan, Chris Rock, Lewis Black, Larry the Cable Guy, Seinfeld, whatevs) you’ve got to admit that this is by far the best attempt at plugging the services that CPAs can provide out there. It doesn’t go the emotional route like Grant Thornton’s campaign or just miss the mark completely like BDO. This is purely for comedic value and it’s refreshing.
Granted, the PICPA is a professional association and not a firm so we aren’t expecting any firm to go with a Big Foot parody or 80s drug ads but let’s keep this angle fresh in our minds, shall we, accounting firms?
Last week we briefly mentioned Shoeboxed.com and how they can make all your shoebox receipt toting clients disappear. Not only that but it may save some of your more aggressive employees the trouble of explaining why they punched out the deadbeat who showed up with their receipts on April 15th.
We were fortunate enough to spend a some time with Stacy Chudwin, the Company’s Director of Communications, to learn more about the Durham, North Carolina Company.
Stacy told us that the Company got its start by servicing small businesses who wanted to avoid the hassle of tracking expenses by keeping a mind-numbing amount of receipts around, “Businesses can simply compile all their receipts, send them to us and we scan, enter the data and categorize them.”
Now the Company offers an “Accounting Professional Plan” which allows CPAs to do the exact same thing for those clients who aren’t so organized with their bookkeeping, “CPAs can either have their clients send us the receipts directly or they can send the us shoebox that gets dropped off on their desk and we’ll take care of the rest,” Stacy said.
Once all the data entry is finished you can access the information via your business’ account and for CPAs, you can create sub-accounts for each individual client. These reports can then be exported to a number of applications including QuickBooks, Quicken, Excel, and others.
The Company has also developed a free iPhone app that will extract all the information from a photo of the receipt. So for you Holiday Inn jockeys out there, you don’t have to stuff all your receipts in your suitcase and try to decipher everything you spent two weeks later.
“So far all of the feedback from our clients and users of the mobile apps have been great, however everyone wants more features both in their accounts and for the app,” Stacy told us.
Stacy also maintains the Shoeboxed Blog that is updated a few times a month that has areas for “Small Businesses”, “Taxes”, “Budgeting” and “Shoeboxed.com Resources”. She also informed us that they have a very active Twitter account, “We like to use Twitter to make announcements, to highlight recent press, and to retweet some positive feedback from followers, but we will also respond one-on-one if a user has an issue and reaches out to us via Twitter.”
If you’re not hip to the whole Twitter thing the Company has online customer support and a toll free number for all your questions.
The Company has several different plans for both businesses and accountants and both come with 30 day trials. So if you’ve more nightmare clients thatn you can count, what are you waiting for? Thanks to Shoeboxed, now you can add more clients instead of wanting to physically attack them.
No not a feature film. Introducing more than thirty minutes (we assume) of Doug Shulman would be too much for boob-tube enthusiasts to bear.
Ron Howard’s production company, Imagine Entertainment, is scheduled to shoot an unnamed pilot for Fox that will center around an IRS district office. It will star David Krumholtz, of Numb3rs fame, who will play Spencer, an agent who is “trying to find nobility in his work.”
This already sounds hilarious. Not to mention that the mere thought of accountants with guns is hysterical. Plus, the fact that the IRS Commissioner doesn’t prepare his own tax return because he thinks the tax code is too complex is just one example of the real sitcom that is the IRS.
Plus the writer of the pilot is Brent Forrester, a current writer and producer for The Office so we’re guaranteed the awkward scenes will be authentic in both words and actions.
The Hollywood Reporter states that the IRS sitcom is “Howard’s first passion series project since the Emmy-winning ‘Arrested Development,'” so now we’re double-excited. The subject matter on its own is hysterical but if you add Arrested Development passion with The Office awkwardness, plus the Numb3rs guy? This might be best non-Jack Bauer reason to watch Fox.
[h/t TaxProf Blog]
This morning we shared with you the news about Deloitte’s new nightlight in San Jose. Back on the right coast, KPMG Beantown is getting a little redecorating done themselves although it sounds a little more substantive than a sign that can’t send morse code to San Fran in case someone needs an extra intern.
KPMG bestowed Jones Lang LaSalle with the honor of designing the interior of the new digs at Two Financial Center and it sounds like all Klynveldians will be infinitely more productive at the new HQ. 96,000 square feet of pure auditing, tax, and advisory bliss:
The interior will enhance workflow efficiency and accommodate KPMG’s growth requirements, which include capacity for 692 employees. Highlights of the build out, valued at $5.8 million, include: a central reception area on floors one and two, a large conference center with full media capabilities, an employee café, dedicated Human Resources suite and open office areas.
By the sounds of it they’re implementing some sort of Feng Shui strategy that will result in robotic efficiency.
We’re thinking that less than $1 mil a floor sounds like a decent deal but no sign? How the hell is that worth it? It probably wasn’t up to the gang at JLL but they could have at least looked into it. If the British invade again, a warning from the four blue squares would go a long ways towards KPMG’s national security cred.
In his 15-some years crusading against the ridiculous measurement of “time” as a performance gauge, Ron has made quite a few steps in the right direction. Seven to ten percent of 90,000 firms have moved away from time sheets and toward “value pricing”, with 1,000 or so firms eliminating the billable hour completely. While he admits it’ll be a cold day in hell when the Big 4 follow suit, he’s encouraged by the momentum.
“There is a change and it is coming from customers,” he says, “[unfortunately] the billable hour has survived many recessions.” The rigid “that’s how it’s always been” structure of public accounting, specifically, doesn’t seem to be taking the idea well. “They’d rather be precisely wrong than approximately right,” he says of major accounting firms trapped in the billable hour vice.
Encouraging value pricing in pay structures is a slow process, he says, equating the movement to that of Germ Theory in the 1800s. It was hundreds of years from the time “contact contagion” was theorized to the time it was generally accepted in medicine and eliminating the antiquated pricing structure of employee incentive won’t go down without a fight either.
Billed as “a think tank dedicated to promulgating and teaching Value Pricing, Customer Economics, and Human Capital Development to professionals and businesses around the world,” VeriSage seeks not to revolutionize business but improve it.
“You don’t let your surgeons pierce ears,” says Baker, meaning value pricing implies a company’s best soldiers will be dispatched to serve their respective battalions. In simpler terms, employees are paid results, not for how long they’re sitting in a chair. And in an uncertain economic environment, aren’t results what matter above all else? I’m not sure it could be much simpler.
Baker knows he’s got his work cut out for him but yours truly is 100% behind the idea. As a person who can tear up in one hour what five people can’t even accomplish in two, I get it. Boy do I get it.
Lucky for those who choose to accept what Ron is selling, he’s also a brilliant business mind. Knowing that Michelle Golden may have potentially criticized his website, he chose instead to hire her as a consultant. Genius! (Disclaimer: JDA loves Michelle Golden and isn’t just saying that because she doesn’t want to get torn up on her website – her “Accounting Blog list” is the most comprehensive I’ve ever seen.) She sits on their Board so she gets it. Excellent!
Want more JDA? Check out all of her posts for Going Concern here.
Of course! It didn’t even occur to us that Florida CFO Alex Sink would be far too busy running for Governor to oversee the new CFO Depot. Accordingly, as is the rage in politics these days, there will be a Office Supply Czar to overlook this little treasure of savings.
Not only does the video below inform us of this new critical position in the Florida government, the exact number of paper clips that were counted is made known: 402,419.
When you think about it, the appointment of a czar is a natural progression in the bureaucracy. If there is a specific problem (e.g. an overabundance of paper clips) appointing one individua to get on the problem like stink on a monkey is the best way to address said problem. The creation of a committee, while tempting, has run its course. Why appoint a team of 10 – 12 individuals to talk about a problem when you can get one person (with the appropriate qualifications) to make the solving of the problem their sole purpose for being on Earth?
In more non-iPad, Apple-related news, we learned earlier this week about iDonatedIt, an iPhone app developed by BMG CPAs in Lincoln, Nebraska. The app is designed to track all non-cash charitable contributions whether it be clothes, furniture or family members (okay maybe not the last one). This will allow you to track all of our donations to Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. rather than receiving that crappy receipt they give you that has nothing on it.
Being interested in all things accountant-ish, we got in touch with BMG to find out how this bit of ingenuity came about.
We spoke with Todd Blome, a partner at BMG who came up with the idea and he told us that as soon as he got an iPhone he was thinking of ideas for apps that would be useful for his clients. Since Todd is the tech-savvy partner at BMG, (he heads up their IT consulting services) he started kicking around ideas right away and eventually landed on the idea for iDonatedIt.
Todd told us that the development was fairly simple and that there were only two test versions prior to releasing the app.
“So far we’ve 100% positive feedback on iDonatedIt,” Todd told us, “We’re definitely looking for suggestions for improvements or add-ons.” The one idea that has been floated to Todd was adding a tax savings tool to the app so that a user could determine how much tax savings would be created by the donations. “That will probably be in version two,” he told us.
iDonatedIt retails for $2.99 at the app store and as Todd noted, “a donation of one item pays for the app.” A version for the Droid is currently in the works as well.
Todd and the rest of of his team at BMG are kicking around a few more ideas for apps but he said they want to make sure iDonatedIt is working as good as possible before committing to another project. Check out the demonstration below and jump over the firm’s website or follow them on Twitter to give them your feedback.
CFOs have a tough job. Oh sure maybe a select few get to globe-trot with the Fab Four to the likes of Davos but the lion-share of them have to deal with less sexy tasks like, say, saving money.
Or solve a state fiscal crisis! Enter Florida’s CFO, Alex Sink. Ms. Sink is taking cost saving initiatives to levels that the Big 4 either considered and found ridiculous (even for them) or will be implementing them in the near future.
Last year Ms. Sink had her staff count paper clips in order to reduce costs. No, seriously. “Her staff spent untold hours determining the Department of Financial Services has 537 pounds of paper clips, 37,601 binder clips and 17,425 pens.”
The staff that were found to hogging more than a reasonable amount of suppliers were fired on the spot. Okay, not really but yeah, staff were counting counting paper clips. Makes you glad to be working at public accounting, no?
The latest idea from the CFO of the FLA that is the creation of the “CFO Depot”. This will allow employees to swap supplies as needed, as opposed to rummaging through every drawer at the their desk. Presumably this will cut down on violence in the workplace and will save the state money. Ms. Sink is encouraging other state agencies to set up similar systems, as this may save the state $14 million.
Here’s the pitch:
As your chargeable hours begin the steady uptick, it is naïve to think that you can take the the same mental and physical approach to busy season that you took to the interim months. Baseball players don’t use the same training methods in September that they did in spring training, and neither should you.
“Busy season resolutions” is a loose category of work/life balance techniques that either individuals or entire teams can adopt. Silly and pointless they may seem, but resolutions, however subconscious, can benefit everyone. Before beginning the discussion, let me share of few of my experiences.
I once worked on an engagement team that instituted a “6:00pm rule.” Every member of the team had the chance to go home at 6:00pm every Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Management worked with senior staff members to ensure a balance was reached, and the early departure was enforced. Granted, the rest of the week included nights until 10:00pm or later, but it was nice to know that I had one night during the week to run errands, have a meal that didn’t arrive in a plastic bag, and mentally unwind.
Another busy season client I had was led by a partner who organized one lunch a week that the team ate together in a boardroom. The only requirement: Minimal shop talk. Talk about your families, the March Madness tourney, anything – anything but work.
As we all know, it’s easy to accept the demanding schedule of busy season and forget about the importance of keeping the scale even remotely tipped a few degrees away from work and towards the life side. So I ask you – are you or your firm doing anything to make busy season more bearable?
Share your ideas – how is morale on your team? How does the season change your gym habits? What are you doing to prepare yourself for the always-improving job market in the months following busy season?
Do leave your comments, and as always continue to send us your tips.
I’m looking forward to the conversation. Look for a re-cap later this week.
Daniel Braddock, your friendly Human Resources Professional could very well be considered the hypothetical love child of Suze Orman and Toby Flenderson. Following his varsity jacket wearing college days, he entered the consumer markets as an auditor for a Big 4 firm in New York City. He spent three brisk years as an auditor before taking the reins of stirring the HR kool-aid. He currently resides in Manhattan. Daily routines include coffee breakfasts and scotch dinners. You can follow him on Twitter @DWBraddock.