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September 30, 2023

Independence Questionnaires Are the Worst

I haven't had to fill out an "Independence, Integrity, and Objectivity" questionnaire since 2009. Just for kicks, I had a buddy send me a copy of one and I can't even read through it–partly because it's incomprehensible, but mostly because of the rage.

Here's the first of 70 [!!!] questions:
Have you performed, during the period covered by this questionnaire, services for an accounting and/or auditing client of the firm, and do you believe you or the firm has a relationship with another person, entity, product, or service that could, in your professional judgment, be viewed by the client, employer, or other appropriate parties as impairing your objectivity?
You're a CPA. You don't mess around with this type of question. You solve it step-by-step. You have to because when you interviewed with this firm and they asked you to list your strengths, you said, "attention to detail." That letter opener cuts both ways.
Step 1: Diagram the sentence because there’s no way to answer with integrity if you don't even know what the fuck the question means.
Step 2: Lose confidence in your sentence diagramming skills because you still aren't sure you know what the fuck this question means.
Step 3: Try to figure out what the hell it could possibly mean to have a relationship with a product or service, and how such a relationship could impair your objectivity. (Just because I got screwed once by Wells Fargo's banking services doesn't mean we were in a relationship.*)
Step 4: Review the firm's unabridged client list that accompanied the questionnaire, pausing to reflect on:
  • whether any of your clients would find your objectivity impaired by any of the firm's other clients. 
  • how the hell you can possibly meet your billable hour goal if you really read through this entire client list.
  • all the reasons you shouldn't slit your throat.
Step 5: Realize that any rational "appropriate party" would consider your objectivity toward Bob's Discount Carpet Haus impaired once they realize that your firm gets paid by Bob's Discount Carpet Haus.
I'm bound to the same Code of Professional Conduct that you are, but at some point you realize that as a profession our collective head is up our proverbial ass when it comes to independence and objectivity. We live a paradox because we're paid to be independent. So if you have giant cajones, mark every question like this "yes" to indicate your inherent lack of objectivity. Only after getting fired for being a smartass, will you become truly independent.
*Sex joke.

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