Saturday, February 16, 2008

Old Dogs, New Tricks (I'm Outta Here!)

I am a tax accountant. Given this, you might think that I could prepare a simple tax return. But no. We changed tax software this year (for the first time in over 10 years) and the transition has been rocky, especially for us "old dogs." I can no longer just "do it myself" when I need to make a quick change to get a tax return out the door. Not only do I no longer know the software inside out, but we also have new processes.

Now, a "quick change" goes something like this:

First I get the return for "final review." This means at least two people have had the file already, one to "prepare" the return and one to do a "technical review" to make sure errors were not made by the preparer and to help the preparer learn along the way. At a billing rate of $315 per hour, I'm not allowed to touch stuff anymore. I'm the one that talks to the client and helps solve problems and that's about it. We're supposed to let the young ones do the work ("training our successors" this is called), so I haven't been allowed to actually "prepare" returns for years now. Instead, someone new, straight out of college, usually prepares the simpler returns (although when it comes time to bill for the time it takes them to prepare "simple" returns, the agony presents itself to me in the form of "realization" goals wherein we are supposed to bill as much of our time as possible, but clearly we cannot bill for learning time...my goal is 85%...this is very difficult to achieve!). More experienced staff prepares the more difficult returns and a manager will do the "technical review." By the time it gets to me, it should be ready to go. But, if I catch something amiss (usually, this amounts to spelling errors...I figure this is often the only thing the client knows on his return and if he sees we've misspelled his name, he's going to assume the whole thing is wrong), I must use another document management program to enter my "review notes" and "route" the file back to the preparer electronically to make the change. Then, the preparer must route it back to me for final approval before I can route it to "assembly." Then, when I get it back from assembly and sign it, I must route it to my secretary for "delivery" (even if I will personally deliver the return). I am not, under any circumstances, allowed to mark the return as "complete" within this routing software, because that causes the whole system to blow up. I think any normal person can see that this whole process has become excessively tedious.

Of course, when things blow up, like when the IRS comes a knockin', I'm the one who has to take the heat. This year has been a doozie in terms of IRS audits. Fortunately, most have been resolved with fairly favorable consequences to the taxpayers, but they have not been without some serious challenges. For the love of all that is holy, SAVE your receipts people, and DO NOT MIX business with personal! Keep separate bank accounts and separate business and personal credit cards. Do NOT buy a multi-million dollar aircraft and claim that it is 100% business when you know it is not. Do NOT build a multi-million dollar home when your business, your sole source of income, is losing money. And lastly, be honest! I have zero tolerance for clients who want me to serve as the barricade between themselves and the IRS. Zero. <*/soapbox>

I think I've finally reached the pinnacle of my career, the point at which I can no longer do actual work or cope with problems like I used to. This is how I know it is time to "retire" and start something new, like basketweaving. I'd like to weave baskets. You know, make stuff. Real stuff, that people can use. As some people know, this is to be my last tax season. I'm going to try and hang on 'til the end, but it's proving to be very, very difficult.

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10 Comments:

At 4:02 PM, February 16, 2008, Anonymous Brian said...

I think any normal person can see that this whole process has become excessively tedious.

Taxes? Tedious?

I mean, yeah, sure ... but I figured it wouldn't be that way for accountants...

:-)

 
At 4:07 PM, February 16, 2008, Blogger Gwynne said...

Brian, it shouldn't be, but we've made it so. *sigh*

 
At 4:21 PM, February 16, 2008, Blogger Lynellen said...

so, we can look forward to seeing hand-woven baskets in your ETSY shop soon? Great!

 
At 4:27 PM, February 16, 2008, Blogger Gwynne said...

Lynellen, don't hold your breath, but yes! I'm thinking about weaving baskets out of beads. It might happen. :-)

 
At 6:57 PM, February 16, 2008, Blogger DarkoV said...

Gwynne,
I'm counting on you to go out in style! Say, for instance, (although I'm sure this is against CPA Ethics), there's got o be at least one client who is an absolute .........(you fill in the noun of your choice).

Some client who was a total pain in your fine professional backside...

You know where I'm going right...

 
At 11:45 PM, February 16, 2008, Blogger Janie said...

More! More!!

 
At 6:51 AM, February 17, 2008, Blogger Sisiggy said...

Just the word "taxes" gives me hives and sends me into an asthma attack. We use an accountant now that our taxes on considerably more complicated and a phone call from his secretary will have me analyzing and worrying for weeks: "What did she mean, 'Was that a four or a nine in my social security number?'"

Oh, and let's not forget the kick-in-the-gut payout figure -- after having ponied up quarterly. Are we, like, the only people supporting the entire federal government?

As you can see, we don't claim much in terms of the business, except a auger and a sewer camera. Yeah...I know.

 
At 8:48 AM, February 17, 2008, Blogger Gwynne said...

Darko and Janie, you two are going to get me in trouble. You know this, right? ;-)

Sisiggy, I saw your name on a list somewhere and yes, I think you are the ones responsible for our federal government. ;-) But the "sewer camera" is a first. I've never seen that on anyone's depreciation schedule! Are you sure this isn't just a hobby? Do you have a Flickr page for your sewer camera photos?

 
At 4:52 PM, February 17, 2008, Blogger Rach said...

I don't have to worry about those sorts of things for another month and a half at least - yay!

 
At 6:55 AM, February 18, 2008, Blogger Sisiggy said...

I could put a video on You Tube of it's latest -- uh -- "recording."

 

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