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February 2, 2023

ICYMI: The Ten Most Popular, Not at All Clickbaity Stories of 2022

With just seconds left in 2022 (this is scheduled to publish on 11:59 PM on December 31st), let’s take a quick look back on the ten stories that seemed to have the most buzz this past year. Some may be surprising, EY gets way too many mentions, and a lot of people were interested in salary projections.

10. Corporate Overlords Try to Scare Us Back Into the Office With Figures on How Much WFH is Costing You

[Article]
Coming in last on this list of ten stories people read tf out of this year, a June piece I wrote solely to call out return-to-office propaganda. A Fortune piece lazily blockquoted in the article went into graphic detail about the unforeseen costs of working from home, the comment section here laughed heartily at the idea and told the pro-RTO crowd to stuff it.

As we watch gas prices tick higher and higher, commercial lessors and middle managers everywhere are anxious to get people back in chairs. Their chairs. Gross, old, shared-space, contains-the-farts-of-coworkers-past chairs. Nothing at all like the luxurious gaming chair your firm WFH stipend covered, though let’s be honest that one is harboring some ghost farts too.

There is no question that remote workers are saving on gas. According to AAA, the U.S. average for a gallon is creeping dangerously close to $5 with Georgia coming in lowest at $4.33 and California taking top spot at $6.37.

Everything costs more. And it will cost more tomorrow. We know this. But a recent Fortune article asks are we really saving money by working at home?

To the surprise of no one, we are. Which is good because things cost more now in December than they did when that was written in June.

Looking back on this article, I’m thinking these comments look like bots. Oh well.

9. Here’s Everything We Know So Far About 2022 Accounting Salary Projections

[Article]
The ninth most-read article on Going Concern in 2022 was a collection of 2022 salary projections made by Robert Half, Accounting Principals, Hays, and other staffing companies, all of which are experts in the field of disappointing accountants with salary offers.

This line from the Alliance Resource Group 2022 Accounting & Finance Salary Guide about sums things up:

While pay raises are returning to pre-pandemic levels across all industries, rising prices mean higher salaries may not keep pace with inflation.

The only reason accounting salaries did keep up with inflation for so long was the lack of inflation.

We’re currently working on an updated version of all these projections for 2023, in the meantime you can check out some 2023 accounting salary projection posts we’ve already put together.

8. Former EY Partner Calls Newly-Released Tax Salary Data “Disturbingly Low”

[Article]
As has been the case on this website since it was founded in 2009, the big news in 2022 was anything and everything relating to salary. The money you make was especially relevant this year as word of a worsening accountant shortage hit mainstream media (you know things are bad when civvies suddenly care about what happens in accounting), now the whole world knows how underpaid you are.

Firms have been on a “transparency” kick in recent years — especially across the pond — and in June, Australian Financial Review wrote a detailed post about the salaries at EY related to that. For the piece, AFR spoke to a former partner who echoed what r/accounting has been saying for years: pay is too low.

Staff in EY’s tax division have learnt for the first time the salary ranges paid for graduates, consultants, managers and directors as part of a pay transparency drive at the big four firm.

A former EY partner said the rates were “disturbingly low”. However, recruiters felt the rates were competitive and generally above market.

The firm’s partners told staff graduates in the tax division would earn from $64,000 to $66,500 each year; consultants from $69,000; senior consultants from $86,000; managers from $116,000; senior managers from $154,000; and directors from $210,000, according to multiple EY sources.

Remember those numbers are in Australian…uh…whatever it is they use over there.

7. Here’s the Deck EY Put Together to Sell the Audit/Consulting Split to Staff

[Article]
The potential consulting/audit split at EY has been big news this year, made slightly bigger by EY putting out constant press releases about how many people they are hiring despite many recruits with multiple Big 4 offers saying they are reluctant to choose EY not knowing what the future holds.

AFR got a copy of the deck EY put together to sell the split to its people and apparently a lot of people who aren’t at EY were interested in seeing it because that post was on fire.

What’s in it for you? A clipart sack of money apparently.

6. KPMG CEO Pats His Firm on the Back For Being So Behind the Times, Roasts EY While He Does It

[Article]
I distinctly remember phoning in this shitpost on a Friday afternoon because I thought it was funny that KPMG Global Chairman and CEO Bill Thomas was so loudly talking shit about EY, I didn’t expect so many people to read it. Bill’s comments must have struck a chord, or maybe people just love Big 4 bitchfights. I know we do.

This is Thomas in an internal memo to KPMG partners in June:

We are a partnership that has been strong and growing in some countries for over 150 years.

Our culture fuels this growth and stability.

Our responsibility is to leave the firm better than we found it for those who come after us – we are stewards of the business for our mentees and the next generation.

This is the very fabric of who we are.

To monetize the goodwill of our firm that has been created for over a hundred years, at the expense of the next generation, would be entirely contrary to our culture.

TL;DR “y’all are shortsighted and we’re better than you.” Finally KPMG has something to feel smug about.

5. EY Reports a Rise in Naughty Behavior Now That People Have Returned to the Office

[Article]
This wasn’t really talked about in 2020 though it should have been. Due to the pandemic, instances of sexual harassment, break room fights, and offensive bathroom behavior plummeted to near zero as it’s difficult to be a jerk in the workplace via Zoom. As EY Oceania pointed out its November Value Realised Scorecard, now that people are back in the office the acting up has resumed:

We have seen an increase in misconduct and disciplinary complaints in FY22. With many of our people working remotely in FY21 we saw a decrease in complaints due to people not being in the office or attending events together.

Here’s the full scorecard on Workplace Incidents for your review, looks like mostly breaching policy (yawn):

EY Australia workplace investigations

4. Ex-BDO IT Audit Manager Raissa Kengne Charged in Deadly Atlanta Shooting (UPDATE)

[Article]
Raissa Kengne was arrested in August after allegedly shooting three people, killing two of them, in Midtown Atlanta. It came out later that Kengne worked for BDO USA in Atlanta from August 2019 until November 2021 as an IT audit manager and that one of the men she allegedly killed was former colleague Wesley Freeman. In a LinkedIn post shortly before the shooting, Kengne wrote:

I was severely retaliated against and constructively discharged. My home was broken into. My life and my family lives were threatened – not only by BDO USA, LLP and its Partners and members of its senior management team, but also by their clients. … Furthermore, BDO USA employees and partners leverage their relationship with people living in my condominium in order to pursue the retaliation at my home.

You can read a 547 page complaint detailing Kengne’s claims on Scribd. As of the last court update, Kengne was denied bail at a bond hearing.

3. The AICPA Has Written a Strongly-Worded Letter to the Treasury Department on Remote Work (UPDATE)

[Article]
This was another post that I did not expect to blow up. I’ve written approximately 2,342 articles about things the AICPA does over the course my career and very rarely does anyone care, least of all me. Seriously. It looks like this particular bit of AICPA news had appeal beyond the limited audience of people who care about what the AICPA does and turns out people are interested in the intersection of remote work and taxation.

The AICPA wrote to the IRS to request guidance in key areas related to employees working remotely; basically the rules are old and apply to a pre-pandemic environment in which office workers worked in offices. With hybrid and remote work, taxation can get tricky and the AICPA wants the IRS to address this.

An excerpt from that letter:

Employers are reviving and reassessing fringe benefit programs to accommodate the new work environment. Consequently, employers are fielding questions from remote workers concerning,for example, the reimbursement of expenses for travel to an employer-provided work location when those travel days are limited, and the travel distance may have expanded. Many employees do not view themselves as commuting under the circumstances and are seeking reimbursement. In analyzing these new scenarios, and in particular, the tax home of employees, the current revenue rulings and interpretations of case law are outdated, do not reflect the current work environment,and are unclear in many instances. The lack of updated guidance has left employers and employees in the untenable position of making decisions regarding employer workplace policies while the rules regarding amounts reported as payments, to or for the benefit of employees, remain uncertain.

“Many companies are moving to fully remote or hybrid work schedules, causing tax issues with fringe benefits which employers offer to employees,” said AICPA Director for Tax Policy & Advocacy, Kristin Esposito, CPA, MST. “The old rules aren’t working anymore. The AICPA has submitted recommendations to the IRS that account for this shift, which we urge them to strongly consider.”

2. Compensation Watch ’22: Deloitte Lifts the Lid on Raises

[Article]
Compensation posts are always popular, for some reason this particular compensation post was huge. Maybe because Jason went allllll the way back to 2013 to compare Deloitte raises over the years. Many, many years. For example:

A2->S1

  • 22.4% (2022)
  • 18.6% (2021)
  • 7% (2020)
  • 16% (2019)
  • 10% (2017)
  • 14.5% (2016)
  • 12.4% (2015)
  • 11.6% (2014)
  • 10.4% (2013)

Or:

S1->S2

  • 11.6% (2022)
  • 14.9% (2021)
  • 0% (2020)
  • 12.3% (2019)
  • 7.9% (2017)
  • 9% (2016)
  • 12.3% (2015)
  • 7% (2014)
  • 6.8% (2013)

nO oNe WaNTs tO WoRk aNYmORe!1

1. The IRS Is Paying an Unwelcome Visit to AlliantGroup

[Article]
Ranked solely by volume of clicks, our biggest story of the year was the IRS Criminal Investigation division raiding tax credit consulting firm Alliantgroup’s Houston headquarters on May 20. Here’s the original tip we received a little after 11:34 a.m. the day of the raid:

The Houston headquarters of the R&D tax credit consulting firm Alliantgroup is getting raided by the IRS.

Not the first time these guys have been in hot water.

Later that day, someone on the payroll who was in attendance for the raid shared what they saw:

Employees on my floor were put into a conference room and told to wait while they looked through the floor. They said they had a warrant for floors 15 through 20 which is all but one of the floors we work on (the only other floor is used for storage mostly). They allowed us to grab whatever we wanted and go back into the conference room, then we were escorted out of the building. They said we cannot use the company server in any way, including Outlook or teams. We did grab our work laptops before going home. It was very surreal.

All these months later, we continue to receive messages from former Alliantgroup employees eager to share their experiences. And CPA firms that worked with Alliantgroup are receiving messages from a federal grand jury subpoena, or so we hear.

Bonus: Why is the Accounting Profession Scaring Everyone Away?

[Article]
This one got a lot of eyeballs but sadly not enough to make this list. Because the accountant shortage is my cause célèbre and I never tire of reminding accounting firm leaders that they screwed up by not paying people more ten years ago, I am making it #10½. Suck it, leaders.

The post was prompted by this tweet:

I gave a wordy laundry list of reasons why the problem is deeper than simply overcoming it because of course I did, summed up thusly:

To directly answer Keith’s question: “Why isn’t the goal for the industry to tell ppl it’s worth it?” BECAUSE PEOPLE CAN SEE WITH THEIR OWN EYES IT IS NOT. Accounting is in direct competition with better paying industries (tech), more prestigious industries (medicine, law), and better work-life balanced industries (grave digging, government work, any minimum wage job that caps you at 32 hours a week so they don’t have to pay for your health insurance). As it stands, the profession has not sufficiently demonstrated to students that it is worth it both literally and figuratively. Simply telling them “no but it is” is an ineffective strategy as we can see. Making shinier brochures and forcing smiles on exhausted faces is not going to fix the problem. Fix the value proposition problem and you might get somewhere.

The debate is still raging to this day. Though it’s not so much a debate as a constant cacophony of people screaming into the void about pay.

And that’s it. There were many more hits (and even more misses) but this is already too long so I’m done. Thanks for reading and here’s to 2023, I hope it’s your best year yet (wish we could say the same). Will we continue to get record PCAOB fines? Will the accountant shortage get so bad that large clients can’t find auditors to hire? Will a huge scandal rock the profession and reduce the Big 4 to Even Bigger 3? Will people stop posting tax questions on r/accounting?? Who knows! Guess we all have to stay tuned.

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