Rolling the dice

There are many things wrong with where I work, and from what I am told those wrong things extend to the public accounting profession in general. Its not that they are necessarily doing something illegal (although the example I will talk about later is definitely against the tax code), its just the greed and drive for money that bothers me

A little over a week ago we had a tax class for all the first year tax accountants. It dealt with how to handle mortgage interest, and other Schedule A writeoffs. It is actually a long convoluted story, but I will just shorten it down.  The mortgage interest that is deductible on Schedule A is only from an original home loan (or combination of two homes), and is limited to 1.1 million dollars. Any interest on the value exceeding the 1.1 million dollars is not deductible.

If you get refinanced, a second mortgage, or any other additional loan (such as home equity), that interest is NOT deductible under the Internal Revenue Code. Nor can you claim any deduction on interest exceeding that first 1.1 million dollars. However, our trainer told us that we will in fact make those deductions, no matter what we thought was going on.

I brought up that I noticed several clients were claiming $200,000+ on mortgage interest per year, and not even counting if they were home equity or second mortgages, that total of interest is far beyond the value of 1.1 million dollars worth of homes, so far in excess that there is no way they are only claiming for that value (the most you really should see is about $100,000 and thats only if they get really hosed by the bank). He told me that no firm would check into those numbers, and that I should just set the deductions up. He even admitted that the IRS would have full legal reason to audit and charge fines because it is against the tax codes. Yet he told us we should do it. He said its worth “rolling the dice” against getting an IRS audit.

I did bring up that it sounded like what we were doing goes against the AICPA codes of conduct. He pointed out there is nothing illegal about taking the clients at their word (when obviously they are lying, but as long as we don’t have obvious direct proof it doesn’t matter) and that it was worth it both for the client to risk the audit, and for us to keep these clients, to continue. It all came down to profit for the firm. That was the day I was positive I didn’t want to do public accounting.

Somehow I felt slimy, and wondered if lawyers were above me on the ladder of social mores (there is a lot more to talk about, even worse stories. I will post later about those).

Disappointing Work Update

I will make this pretty quick. There has been two rather disappointing things that have occurred this week. I do dislike the job, and I have already gone on ad nauseum about the other issues.

1. Monday I was given back an extended return. Basically earlier this month we had thrown together numbers for the return to be sent in with the extension. Not a big deal at all. I got it back and was told to ensure that the personal business showed no profit. Basically report all income, but only enough expenses to offset that income to zero. This is technically legal, althouh the IRS hates when people don’t report all their losses. So I turned to my boss and asked if he was sure. The losses were close to $300,000 and who doesn’t want at least carryover for the next year? He said no, don’t report any losses. “We don’t want the IRS to look at him closely, because of the sale we did last year.”. Now, there is nothing technically illegal about what we are doing, however it somehow bothers the ethical socialist in me. Why are we worried about IRS interest? I mean if everything is legit, this should give him some benefit over the next few years. It left me a little discontented, but its somethin I have to do.

2. The second issue is even more frustrating. I was originally told when I was hired that we would be going to 4 10 hour shifts in May. That is still the case, however we are still going to have to check email, voicemail, and check in 2-3 times each Friday. In addition we cannot take Fridays off where there is a deadline, or if a client is coming in (which is about 30% of the time). If there is a holiday (such as Memorial Day), we will only get 8 hours of credit, not 10 for the day taken off and we will have to make up the 2 hours on another day. There were about four other small bullet points on restrictions for 4 10 hour shifts. Its disappointing and I think for the most part I am just going to keep the 5 8 hour days (although on a good note I get to wear jeans/t-shirt on those Fridays).

Just relaying some of the disappointments.

April 13

First, this may be a long set of postings, its mostly done this morning to work things out in my head. Its four AM and I woke up with anxiety/insomnia. True I fell asleep about 10pm, so its not really a full lack of sleep, rather its that I got up earlier then I want. I wonder if part of the problem is I took two benadryl, this is the second night in a row I doubled my benadryl and the second morning in a row I woke up earlier then normal. Its partially I fall asleep earlier, I just thought it might make me sleep longer, doesn’t seem to do that.

I woke up from a dream this morning at 4am. It was a few years from now and I was working as a social worker and pretty happy with my life. Evidently I had gone back to school and gotten a Masters in social services. I think that may be just the stress, but I have always liked helping people. It was a pretty cool dream, my wife, family, friends, a job I enjoyed.

Work is in a pretty weird situation. I put in 105 hours the first ten days of this month, it has been pretty exhausting. Friday afternoon I finished up my “MGOR” (must go out return) and was told I wouldn’t be assigned anymore because I was going to be a runner. I was a bit worried because running doesn’t add to my “chargeable hour” goal of 140 hours of work between the 1-15th of April. They explained it wouldn’t reflect badly on me since I was acting as a courier. So I did some “running” of packages Friday afternoon and had a good deal of fun. They then asked if I could make a run down to Tumwater on Saturday. At first I said yes, but realized it was 75 miles each direction, and honestly my truck isn’t up to that. I don’t want to kill my truck for work so I explained it to them that I couldn’t do it. No biggie, the head admin told me she would like me to come in Saturday, but since she wasn’t sure what time the deliveries would happen to call at 10am.

So I called at 10am, was told she wouldn’t need me Saturday, evidently enough auditors are in that they didn’t have enough work. I was pretty stoked, it meant I had an actual weekend off. After a couple of hours I realized I didn’t know what time she wanted me to come in Monday, so I called back. She then told me she wouldn’t need me as a runner at all. This means I am not sure what the hell I am going to be doing Monday. For some reason I have a bad feeling about this. I am wondering if one of my original assertions that they hired too many people is accurate and that they would be “thinning the herd” after tax season. No one has told me my job is in jeopardy (and I haven’t done anything wrong) but there is a niggling feeling in the back of my head.

This reminds me of last week there was an issue. One of the families asked to take a deduction that is flat out not possible (its sort of a long convoluted story, figure I wont bore you with IRS Code Sections). It was so obviously not possible that my professor (an ex-IRS agent) quizzed us on it several times. I told my “reviewer/specialist” we couldn’t take it, we even looked up the Revenue Code and it backed what I said. I checked the return after I passed it up the ladder a few days later and found out we had taken the deduction anyways (to appease the client, it must have been changed after I had finished my prep). That made me feel unclean, even though I technically am not signing the return and its not my responsibility.

Another note is when I delivered that package on Friday, the receptionist/secretary told me “off the record” that she would recommend I work for a different accounting firm. Evidently her firm (which is a conglomerate of multiple partnerships/LLC’s) was waiting for work promised 10 days before and are thinking of moving to a different company. A lot of issues had come up, and they don’t necessarily have a good rep.

This combined with other little factors makes me wonder if my original assumptions back in October were correct and this wasn’t necessarily the best choice. I do think it was a good decision on some aspects, it got heresyoftruth medical insurance, so she will be going in to have the hyperthyroid testing in ten days, and it gave me a tax season under my belt as a public accountant, which also underlined that I don’t like being a public accountant. Its a good learning experience, I learned I don’t like 70+ hour weeks for ten or more weeks at a time. Especially learning that I will be expected to work more hours as I get more experience. I know some of my coworkers look at me weird, but I don’t want to make a ton of money if it costs me 1/4 to 1/3 of my life. I don’t like sacrificing time with my wife, family and friends in order to make a large amount of money. I enjoy my life, and you really can’t put a price tag on family and friends, its something that has just been reinforced by my experience this tax season. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind working OT occasionally, if its not regular, its just not the knowledge that every year I will sacrifice three to five months (depending on deadlines, etc). Its just not worth it to me.

In other news I put in an application yesterday with the Washington State Auditors as an Assistant State Auditor. That means three job apps this week (IRS, DCAA and WA SAO). This is just the start, there are several more fed, state and even local government agencies I want to apply with (even a couple non-profit places, but those are low enough pay I am not sure I could support my wife and our student loans on the wages from them).

Well I sort have lost my wind doing this, so I will wrap it up. ciao.

/edit: I just did another app with the Air Force as a staff accountant.

Tax Job Schedule

Yesterday went really really well. I ran a Shadowrun game that lasted about 8-9 hours after a late start. Unfortunately it ended up with ashcake and talkswithwind getting out of here late, but hopefully they will forgive me for it. The game had a pretty good pace, and I enjoyed the RP, even though it looks like at some point there might be a throw down between members (actually I think things have been smoothed over partially, til after the next couple of runs, hopefully by then differences will be worked out). I have put in an hour or so of working on system mechanics today, with having a full group of people interested it really does energize me to work on things.

Work went well this week. At the end of my shift Friday I was given two actual tax assignments (simple things) but no one was able to show me how to get the returns and get our programs to start running them. That means when my peer advisor gets in on Monday he will show me. Friday I started my shift just a little bit before 7am, got out at 3:30pm and was home just a couple minutes after 4:00pm. I am trying to get in the habit of going in early, because during busy season (starting February) I am going to have to work long days, I am hoping by coming in earlier I will be able to get out somewhere around 6 or 7pm, not 8-9pm. Although I am thinking maybe sticking to going in at 8, that way I can match hours with heresyoftruth better. So I guess I am saying thats still sort of up in the air.

Oh, I found out what the “chargeable hours goals” for my position are. These are the number of hours per month my company would like working on actual client returns (they bill the clients by how many hours I spend on it, somewhere around $250-$300 an hour starting out – more for more detailed work, of course I don’t quite see 10% of that, but hey I hear there are bonuses). So these hours do not represent going to meetings, checking email, doing any company work. Now, these numbers do not include the 160 hours of paid time off I get, and unfortunately I cannot take that paid time off during busy seasons and this does not include normal office duties that aren’t chargeable. I believe if you come close but do not make your goal, nothing bad happens, and I heard rumor when you make your goal you get good bonuses, I will find out and report back next week.

  • January 80 hours (easy to do, two weeks at full time work can cover this)
  • February 235 hours (since I want one day off a week to recharge – Sundays, it means this has to be spread over 20 weekdays and 4 saturdays, thank god for leap year). This comes out to about 20- 11 hour days and four four hour days. This is honestly not too bad, I can stay a little less then 11 hours a weekday and work a little more on saturdays, but its about 58 hours a week, still tough. No vacation time is possible during this month.
  • March 275 hours (21 weekdays, and 5 saturdays), this comes out to about 65 hours a week (plus an extra two days at a total for 15 hours). I am thinking I am going to have to work 12 hour weekdays at least, that way Saturdays are 8 or less hours. No vacation time is available this month.
    April 1-15 135 hours (11 weekdays and 2 Saturdays) this comes out exactly like above, 12 hour weekdays and two Saturdays to make up the time. The unfortunate part is my time for these two weeks may even go higher if we are behind as a company. No vacation time is available these two weeks.
  • April 16-30 75 hours, less then full time so by working just ten shifts I can get this. Plus at this point I can start taking vacation time. I might take a week off since I earn basically 14 hours of vacation a month starting January 2nd. This is also when I start studying for the Washington State CPA exam, I want to take and pass all four parts by August if possible, for the bonus and the ability to have my job pay for the exam and study materials (several thousand dollars for this combined).
  • May 145 hours, this is less then the 160 hours normally worked in four weeks, not too bad.
  • June 115 hours, even less then May for the goal.
  • July 140 hours, less then full time
  • August 145 hours, less then full time, but we are now building up to fall tax season because October is the end of six month extensions on taxes due last April.
  • September 165 hours, a little over full time, but can be matche.
  • October 170 hours, a bit more over full time, but still nothing compared to March
  • November 90 hours, drops down, plus holidays are in here
  • December 80 hours as year slows and begins its cycle at the beginning of this list.

I got an email from a friend, they make a bit less overall money working for the state, but they don’t work any of these hours at all (they just work 40 a week and have vacation). However, my current employer seems pretty cool, and the people are nice, I will see if the bonuses and promotions make up for the lack of life, one thing I have to do is not let my frustrations come out on heresy, I love her too much so everyone keep me on my toes about it please. If this is too much, within 24 months I will get a government job, just trying to get the 2 years as a public accountant minimum for some of the cool jobs I have seen posted.

I hear the wife moving around, maybe I will go snuggle a bit more.