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Accounting News Roundup: The Talent War, Tax Havens, and 20/20 Visions | 11.07.17

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The Talent War

I’ve noticed that there’s something hostile about how people describe the search for qualified finance and accounting professionals. Statements like, “IT’S A WAR FOR TALENT” or “THE BATTLE FOR THE TALENT IS ON” are so pervasive, I’ve been assuming for awhile now that human resource departments line up every Monday to calls of “Spears and shields! Spears and shields!”  Even if it’s larping or just rhetoric, I imagine HR professionals like these pugnacious metaphors to break the monotony of explaining crappy benefits packages and ignoring sexual harassment claims.

This CFO article takes a new tack with the melodramatics, upping the stakes a bit:

As it turns out, predictions that the economic recovery would inevitably draw companies into a fierce tug-of-war for talent were off-base. As far as finance executives are concerned, the hiring process now more closely resembles a scavenger hunt.

That insight into labor market dynamics emerged from the third-quarter results of the Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey, which drew responses from 850 CFOs.

I’m excited to see where this goes next. If CFOs are engaged in a scavenger hunt now, by mid-2018, they’ll be rummaging through piles of business-casual carrion, trying to revive anything with a pulse to fill a low-level FP&A position.

Tax havens

The “Paradise Papers” is the latest massive leak of documents chronicling the maneuvers of wealthy individuals and corporations to avoid taxes and other questionable activities. One of the most visible of these companies is Apple, which has been fighting the image as a serial tax avoider for a few years now, most famously in an appearance by CEO Tim Cook before a Senate subcommittee. The New York Times was one of the media organizations who helped break the news of the Paradise Papers, and it includes this callback to Cook’s testimony:

It was May 2013, and Mr. Cook, the chief executive of Apple, appeared before a United States Senate investigative subcommittee. After a lengthy inquiry, the committee found that the company had avoided tens of billions of dollars in taxes by shifting profits into Irish subsidiaries that the panel’s chairman called “ghost companies.”

“We pay all the taxes we owe, every single dollar,” Mr. Cook declared at the hearing. “We don’t depend on tax gimmicks,” he went on. “We don’t stash money on some Caribbean island.”

True enough. The island Apple would soon rely on was in the English Channel.

Yes, Apple Apple has avoided the Caribbean completely, having moved its tax haven of choice about 1,000 kilometers from an island in the North Atlantic to Jersey, an island in the middle of the English Channel. The Times reports that “the company canvassed multiple jurisdictions” before settling on Jersey, and you have to wonder if any of the tax lawyers bothered to stand up and say, “Uh, guys? Shouldn’t we find a place a little farther away from Ireland?” Maybe this was Apple’s way of giving the finger to the tax-haven shamers.

Elsewhere in Paradise Papers: Bono ‘distressed’ by fears firm he invested in may have avoided profit tax


As someone who has worn eyeglasses for 30 years, the idea of 20/20 vision is a bit abstract to me, kinda like true love or auditor quality. In other words, I know that it’s a thing, but I’ve accepted that it’s not practical in real life.

Anyway, here’s an amusing Wall Street Journal article on the business cliche du jour: strategic initiatives entitled “Vision 2020.” Organizations far and wide adopted “Vision 2020” plans because no one in a corporate marketing department can resist corny wordplay.

At least 10 universities and school districts in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. embraced visions. Competing businesses began to out-vision each other. International Paper and Asia Pulp & Paper both presented 2020 visions. So did the professional-service consultants EY and Grant Thornton.

Fun fact: PwC also has Vision 2020 strategy. I’m sure you can find Vision 2020s for KPMG and Deloitte as well if you cared to look, but no one does, so let’s just agree that 2020 can’t get here fast enough so these stupid initiatives will end and for other, completely unrelated reasons.

Previously, on Going Concern…

In Open Items, one user wants to know if Big 4 internship offers will be rescinded after a DUI. Also, “What are accountants good for?

In other news:

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