Remember six months ago when I introduced my concept of the Accountapocalypse? We talked about offshoring, and the Rise of the Lifestyle Accountant. Your comments were both hilarious and thought provoking.
Our AWEB colleague Jason Bramwell has the earth shattering results of Deloitte's Unlocking the Passion of the […]
A couple of weeks ago, we brought you the tale of Don Dunklee, who claimed that he was audited by the IRS for a paltry $23 in vegetables from his garden. At the time, w Mr Dunklee could have come to such a strange conclusion, considering that it’s pretty obvious the IRS’s efforts at closing the tax gap would be spent in better places than the organic vegetable farmer dynamic.
And as it happens from time to time, the subject of our post reached out to us directly (Big 4 CEOs should take a hint) to explain the situation further.
You see, Don – who is a bit of inventor but not when it comes to stories about tax audits – farms as a hobby and a woman who accepted some vegetables from him stuffed a wad of cash in his pocket that he reluctantly accepted:
I work off farm for Walgreens as does my wife. We reported our entire incomes from our employer as well as the $23, and used only the standard deductions provided by the IRS as we do not have enough “expenses” to write off deductions. The $23 was a lady looking at starting her own organic farm who I refused money from. She insisted to the point she would have been offended had I not kept the money she shoved in my pocket. I kept the cash out of respect to her and reported it as additional farm income. I have a 23 acre farm that I have been building for 27 years with the infrastructure so I can have a farm business when I retire in a few years. People visit my farm to see my off grid solar/wind system, my solar charged electric scooter [Ed. note: see above], and my organic vegetable production. I give away any vegetables anyone wants as I grow much more than I can harvest for myself, in part to learn how to produce enough to make a small retirement income later on, and I like to show off my veggies/farm/lifestyle.
Then Don informed us that he fell victim to the Geithner tax malady:
I do my own taxes. I tried TurboTax for the first time (won’t again) and the $23 was reported, rightly so, as farm income. (investigator suggested I can make up to $400.00 and should consider reporting on the other income line rather than farm income during the end of our interview when she agreed our taxes were correct and made no changes). TurboTax created a form F, farm income for the $23, reported. I claimed no expenses for growing, as I do not have a true farm business.
Then Don gets to the crux of the argument behind his belief that the audit was not “random”:
Farming is my passion/hobby. Had our audit been a true random audit I believe we would have had a general agent and general tax officer doing the audit with questions and info requested related to all of my employment reported. I believe this was a targeted audit as the title of the investigator was “small business and self employed” which does not fit the nature of my return. Her questioning was often off topic from the particulars of my return (fishing?). I would not have a problem if the IRS would be honest and say something to the effect, “we would like to audit your return as we see some irregularities we need clarified.” This might help build trust in the IRS. Knowing they have powers that some consider above or outside of the law in how they deal with taxpayers I was worried. The entire process is intimidating. I do not like feeling like a criminal for being honest. I could not afford legal help, which their literature suggested, further intimidating information they provide creates the impression one is in trouble. I hope this helps clear it up a bit for you.
Giving this a little more thought, we aren’t really surprised since the IRS has shown the willingness to shake down taxpayers for a sum that wouldn’t buy you a Hershey bar in a Mad Men episode. Don told us that he doesn’t have any ill will towards the IRS but he wonders if sometimes they can be a tad misguided, “I do have a lot of respect for the IRS and their mandated task, however I wonder if their very task generates a lot of problems.”
Not sure if the IRS is into self-reflection but that’s why we have TIGTA, s’pose. Thanks to Don for reaching out to us and now that his solar-powered scooter is getting a little more exposure, KPMG (and other firms looking to reduce their carbon footprint) may have a decent alternative to the sherpas.
Today’s edition of “Accounting Career Couch” brings us an experienced and passionate auditor who has been out out public accounting for spell, getting ready to back in the game. He’s looking at PwC or Deloitte but is worried that his non-Big 4 background will hold him back.
Have a question about your career? Concerned that your CEO may be making debatable statements and want to disavow yourself from the comments? Are you a CFO that’s going through auditors like Don Draper goes through dames and n ? Shoot us an email at [email protected] and we’ll dispense some wisdom.
Back to our passionate public accountant:
I worked for 6 years at a national top ten firm (Non Big 4, Non Grant Thornton, Non Mcgladrey, Non BDO). I have a lot of passion for public accounting, and really loved the work. Last April I feel victim to the downsizing present at our firm and was let go. I just made manager the year before, and reviews were very solid, I transferred to the Mergers and Acquisitions group from Audit and we all know what happened to that group. 80% of our group was terminated and we were not allowed the option to transfer back to audit.
I have been working contract work for the past year and a half, and am looking re-enter public accounting. I am looking at PWC and Deloitte as they are hiring for audit positions but am concerned that I might not fit in and my skill set won’t be advanced enough to adapt to their methodology.
I have managed audits of companies which range from 10 million to a 1 billion, both public and private. I am also concerned that the culture might be too cut throat and a new person would be thrown to the wolves. My firm was sophisticated in terms of our documentation but not as technical as I imagine the big four would be given a lot of our clients were private.
Any thoughts from your readers here?
“Passion” and “public accounting” are not words that often collide in the same sentence, so we obviously have a special breed on our hands here. Let’s do our best, shall we?
Your experience sounds pretty solid. A top ten firm will provide good experience and while methodologies at the Big 4 firms are more rigorous, your background should be good enough that you’ll be able to adjust accordingly. Also, your M&A experience is something that many Big 4 auditors won’t have, so that’s also an advantage.
You’re shooting for PwC and Deloitte, which many will argue are the top dogs. Personally, we think you’re capable of making in there but not with your current attitude. You sound like you’re selling your experience short just because it wasn’t with a Big 4 firm. If you have managed audits of the size you claim and have the M&A experience both of these firms will give you a serious look. Big 4 firms have plenty of private clients that your experience would be perfect for.
As for your concern about the cutthroat environment, we feel it’s a little overboard. Will it be competitive? Yes. Will there be unscrupulous people that will step over their own grandmother to get ahead? Of course. But do you know of any company that doesn’t have people like this? It really depends on the market you’re in; if you’re in NYC, Chicago, L.A. San Fran, etc. things will drastically more cutthroat than if you’re in Oklahoma City or Portland. If you’ve navigated politics and assholes before, you can do it again.
Regardless, when you meet with the firms talk up your experience, passion and your accomplishments without being self-deprecating. Learning a new methodology and culture isn’t like learning Mandarin. New jobs always mean adjustments and if you’re determined and ambitious, there’s no reason you can’t kick ass inside either PwC or Deloitte.
This morning we took a look the deadly advertising at BDO and while they came up with a good tagline, they were unable to capitalize on the opportunity to personalize their service with actual clients.
In contrast to the utilitarian feeling of the BDO advertising, Grant Thornton is all about emotions. The most important statement that a professional service agency can make is that it is passionate for the client’s business, and Grant Thornton’s attitude is authentic. The firm is well defined by the tag line, “People who love what they do” and by the whimsical rose mnemonic.
The three spots in the campaign are not balanced. This one about customer service misses the mark. It is long and tedious and continues to run needlessly after the point is made.
This commercial extolling the global capabilities of Grant Thornton is better. It is well written and although it is not particularly visually arresting, it makes the point about the firm capabilities crisply.
The commercial about responsiveness is the best. It stands out because it uses humor and the analogy of the unreliable, hapless goalie is relevant and easily understood. All in all, Grant Thornton tackled the challenge of advertising a professional service firm well.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner will GT take the next logical step and extend their passion campaign in to special topical ad?
Avi Dan is President & CEO of Avidan Strategies, a New York based consultancy specialized in advising professional service companies on marketing and business development. Mr. Dan was previously a board member with two leading advertising agencies and managed another.