Listener Mail: Finding Balance with Tech & CPA Pipeline Problem

Attention: This is a machine-generated transcript. As such, there may be spelling, grammar, and accuracy errors throughout. Thank you for your understanding!

Blake Oliver: [00:00:04] If you get down to the root of it, isn't the way that you make money by creating value. And like doctors are out there, you know, either helping people reach, you know, their, you know, physical dreams with, you know, plastic surgery and stuff or saving lives. Right? Like, like that's a there's a lot of value in helping somebody stay alive. There's a lot less value in, you know, filing someone's tax return, just relatively speaking.

David Leary: [00:00:33] Coming to you weekly from the OnPay Recording Studio.

Blake Oliver: [00:00:38] Hello, and welcome back to the show. I'm Blake Oliver, and I'm David Leary.

David Leary: [00:00:43] Like, uh, is it raining up there in Phenix? Yes.

Blake Oliver: [00:00:46] I have seasonal depression. After one day of rain in Phenix.

David Leary: [00:00:51] It seemed down here in Tucson. And I'm pretty handy guy like, I fixed the dishwasher this week. That was broken. I can fix things. I can do handyman. I love when I'm done with this show. One day I'll just get a side job at Home Depot. Like, that's the world I want to live in, right?

Blake Oliver: [00:01:05] That's your dream. Your retirement job, Home Depot, I like it.

David Leary: [00:01:08] The one problem I've been having is I've had this leak for, like, two and a half years. And every time I think it's addressed and fixed, it comes back to haunt me. And now I'm at the point where I've ran out of energy and expertise to figure this out. And the real problem in Arizona is when you repair it, it doesn't rain for four months. You don't really know if you've ever repaired it.

Blake Oliver: [00:01:29] Oh, okay. So this is a roof leak.

David Leary: [00:01:30] A roof leak, right. And it's running down the wall. And but it's one of those things where maybe the leak is way over here, you know, in a different part of the house. And it somehow it's getting under things and showing up in a wall somewhere else in a different part of the house. So I'm finally admitting I might have to hire an expert. And I was thinking about how this relates to like, clients, like a client is going to try to do their QuickBooks on their own or do their taxes on their own, and they might mess it up, or they hit a point of they just gave up. And I'm just thinking, like, I really hope this guy shows up because I might have to hire this expert roofer. He's going to surge price me, I'm sure, but I'm hoping he has some. He's kind. He's like, oh, I see you've tried all these things, right. Maybe that wasn't the best or and just I my hope is for all of you accountants and bookkeepers, when a client comes to you and you know, they've really and they even know themselves, they've really messed up things. Be kind. Because I'm really hoping this guy is kind to me when I call him today to come out. Well.

Blake Oliver: [00:02:31] Good luck with that, David. Speaking of experts, I just had a discussion with my mother last night about her return. Listeners of the show will recall that my mom did not have a great experience with her tax return last year. The preparer marked her down as blind when she wasn't some really stupid mistakes, missed a big real estate transaction that she had clearly put into the tax prep organizer. And this was all because the small firm that she had been with for many years merged into a large regional firm in Southern California, and they clearly just don't have their shit together. Uh, so did.

David Leary: [00:03:08] You discover this after it was filed or prior?

Blake Oliver: [00:03:11] Uh, well, it was before it was filed, but they just sent her the draft return and, like, never scheduled a meeting with her, and she discovered it. So she was looking through the return, and she said something doesn't look right. And then, of course, they were embarrassed and fixed it and whatnot. But it should never have gotten to that point, right? Like most, uh, most preparers, I think, who listen to our show would, would, you know, review the return and then catch this mistake that the preparer made is just clear that the return never got reviewed. So she decided, I'm going to shop around and has had a really hard time finding somebody to take her on. So she's thinking about going back to the the same firm again. And uh, two things about this are interesting. One is it just shows how sticky relationships are in the tax world. Once you get your tax preparer, it's hard to find a new one. Even if they make mistakes, you're going to stick with them just because there's there's just nobody to do this work. Um, so it's a great business to be in right now in some ways because clients are very, very sticky. Of course, that's all make mistakes.

David Leary: [00:04:15] Your clients will stay.

Blake Oliver: [00:04:16] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Um, and then the other thing is, is that, um, you know, I said I said, hey, mom, as an experiment, why don't we try doing a return in TurboTax just to see if if it can be done? Uh, you know, has anything really big changed since last year? If not, we could try doing it in TurboTax and see if it gets it right. But she wasn't excited about that at all. She really values the expertise of a professional, which is pretty funny because I should be promoting that, right? As a CPA myself, she really wants a CPA to be doing her return, so it just shows you the value of the brand.

David Leary: [00:04:56] And so you suggested that you would help her do. It on TurboTax you being the CPA like, does she not think as Nick's expertise to do this?

Blake Oliver: [00:05:05] Well, apparently not, but you know, also I'm not a trained tax preparer, so it's probably for the best, you know, uh, but I really just was curious, like how well it could do, because you remember, we did our business return in TurboTax, and I was just curious if it could handle her personal return, but, you know, like, you can kind of do that with very, very low risk, because if it's if it's the same situation as the year before, you know, you can look at the previous year return, which you know is correct. We know it's correct at this point. And then we could compare it to what TurboTax outputs and, you know, see the difference. Like I just wanted to do it as an experiment. She was not interested though. She values the CPA and wants a CPA to do her return. But speaking of TurboTax, David, we got some listener mail. We got a letter from a TurboTax expert who listens to this show, and this episode is going to be, I think, all listener mail, because we have a bunch of mail that piled up this last few months, basically since December, and we're going to go through that mail and we're going to read those emails inbox and talk about it in your inbox.

Blake Oliver: [00:06:13] Inbox zero to new our resolution before January ends. By the way, if you're listening and you want to send us a message, you can do that. The accounting podcast at earmarked me that's the accounting podcast at earmarked me. Send us a message and we will likely read it on the air eventually. And we read and reply to all of our emails. So we'd love to hear from you. So. Let's start with this TurboTax expert. Okay. Uh, this is from. Melanie. Melanie. I think that might be it. Apologies if that is not how you say your name. Melanie. I recently listened to your podcast about, uh, listener emails. So that was our previous episode. We did. I picked this particular one as it had something to do with TurboTax experts. I am a PT expert. I previously worked in public accounting for 23 years. The firm changed hands and I lost my job. I had better offers from other CPA firms, but found the idea of going back to that depressing. I had seen advertisements from Intuit in the journal and always thought it sounded like a good gig, so I decided to give it a try.

Blake Oliver: [00:07:26] The first year, I answered 850 calls and chats and moved into preparing returns at the end of that season. I am a CPA and highly skilled at preparing returns, and I enjoy working at TurboTax. I do taxes for customers all over the country and have opportunities to address tax issues that I wouldn't have here in a small town in the Midwest. In addition, I find almost everyone at Intuit to be very friendly and nice. Turbotax follows the IRS rules much more rigidly than what I experienced in a public firm. In addition, most higher level returns go through quality review. In order to have deducted the numbers indicated, the customer would have to provide documentation that is what they had in the form of some type of document. Everything is documented at TurboTax and verbal communication with the expert will not pass inspection. Anyhow, I thought you were fair in your opinion of tax experts. Some are going to be excellent and some will not be so good, such as it is in life. I enjoy listening to your podcast while I walk. Keep up the good work. Thank you Melanie for writing in. We have to dissect this. David, this is fascinating to me.

David Leary: [00:08:40] I feel like our experience aligned with this a little bit. We were surprised how much we actually kind of complained about it, like the amount of documentation we had to provide. Yes, right. Our our ownership agreement, they almost stopped our whole return because of a $20 reconciled difference somewhere. Yeah, yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:08:58] Our our books didn't tie out to the bank statement. Um, and we were on a cash basis and it was due to a reconciling item and the quality control team caught that in that.

David Leary: [00:09:08] What else do we have to provide? We had to well, we had to provide our photo IDs agreement. Yeah. Operating agreement. There was lots and lots of reports actually we I think the big issue was the, the dance we had to do instead of it being kind of up front, go prepare all these things and upload them. It was like upload some more, upload some more. Oh, we also need this doc and we need this doc. But there was a lot more documentation I had to give to TurboTax Live Business than I've had to give to accountants I've worked with externally.

Blake Oliver: [00:09:36] Um, and that's what Melanie seems to be saying, that TurboTax has. I mean, she said here, TurboTax follows the IRS rules much more rigidly than what I experienced in a public firm that. Surprises me, but also now as a customer doesn't surprise me because they have that quality review process and it's very rigid, right? You have to prove that you qualify for these deductions, because Intuit does not want to get in trouble with the IRS for preparing fraudulent returns. And the bigger you are, really the more concerned about that you are and the better of a quality review process you can potentially have. And a public accounting firm might not have that. As we saw with my mother, they didn't even have a review process to make sure that her return was correct.

David Leary: [00:10:26] And and Intuit's not just motivated by his, uh, problems with the IRS. They're actually more motivated by the market opinion because at some level, every other accounting firm in America is watching them, and any time they mess up. Oh, I told you, Intuit can't do taxes or into some odd firm like the one your mom is with. They mess up a tax return. It's not a headline, right? It doesn't become a Facebook group, uh, post with 900 comments. That's that's probably even the bigger motivation is they have to reach even a higher bar because they're in such a microscope.

Blake Oliver: [00:11:02] So this year we are going to do one of our tax returns on TurboTax business. But we're not going to use full service. We're going to use the assisted product, which was not available to us last year. So the assisted product for business is very much, I believe, similar to TurboTax for individuals where we will go into a portal, we will go through a bunch of workflows, um, questionnaires, and we will answer questions, put in information and it will fill in the return. And then we can choose if we want it to be reviewed by an enrolled agent or a CPA. I don't think we get to choose, but it will be. We can have it reviewed by a TurboTax expert before we file, and.

David Leary: [00:11:47] We're doing most of the work on that. And so it's about half the price. So we're going to save a little money on doing that.

Blake Oliver: [00:11:52] I believe list price is around $750. Last time I checked for that, which is extremely competitive for a business. Well. It's competitive for a business tax return. Although there are preparers who we know prepare business returns for far less based on that survey that the, uh, what was it the National Association of Tax Preparers did? We had a whole episode about that. So if you missed that, go listen to our entire episode where we dig into the survey about what these tax preparers are charging, because they're actually charging a lot less than TurboTax in many cases. Anything else on TurboTax, David? Or shall we move on to our next I think.

David Leary: [00:12:30] The the compare and contrasting. So, um, she didn't want to go back to a firm because of the working environment. Right?

Blake Oliver: [00:12:38] Yes, that's important.

David Leary: [00:12:39] But her first year I remember she she answered 850 calls and chats. So like I think if you just had that out of context, like that sounds like a drag, but maybe not. Maybe, maybe, maybe it's more fulfilling because you're solving problems. Maybe a lot of small problems. But it's a volume.

Blake Oliver: [00:12:57] I don't know exactly how it works at TurboTax with Intuit, but I have a feeling that, you know, when you're on the clock, you're on the clock, and when you're not, you're not. So this is one of the appeals of it is that it doesn't pay as well. We know this for a fact. Last year we looked at the rates. You know, it's not as much as you could make working at a public accounting firm, but it offers flexibility. It offers, you know, really good. Intuit always has good benefits. Right, David? You you lived that life. It's yeah.

David Leary: [00:13:26] Top shelf by far. Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:13:27] So if you get enough hours you probably qualify for the good benefits. And then um, yeah it's flexible. And so if you live in a small town in the Midwest, this could be a great alternative versus going into the office at that old school traditional firm where they're going to work you 60 hours a week during busy season and treat you like crap.

David Leary: [00:13:46] Yeah. And my understanding is they send a the microphone, they send everything the all the equipment, you need the equipment. Now, I don't know if they send a whole separate laptop or PC, but that's interesting to for people to silo the TurboTax live work from the rest of their work on their other with their other clients or their business or their personal life. By having a separate unit that you just turn power off completely. Like you said, when you're off the clock, you're off the clock. Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:14:13] All right, moving on. We have to move on because we got more. Too many emails to get through. All right, so this is from Tyler. Um, about pipeline problems. Tyler said, thank you for the podcast, guys. It's a great listen in the mornings as I wake up my mind for the day ahead. As you've recently been touching on pipeline issues and have talked a bit about career changers, I wanted to contribute my own experience and frustrations, becoming a CPA and finding my way in accounting. The 150 hour rule was no issue, as I had already had an unrelated bachelor's degree, so I easily cleared the requirement by simply taking the required classes to sit the exam. Overall, it was tough, but the path was clear and I was able to do it while gaining experience first in an accounts payable role, then working my way up to a more general ledger, responsibilities at a medium sized company, and then a large public company. The grief began when I looked for a job in public accounting to get my required experience hours for the credential, and to begin my career as a CPA in earnest. I was unable to get any attention from the Big Four, but that was expected, and I assumed from the beginning that I would be working at a small or regional firm. What followed was the most frustrating, humiliating, and discouraging period of my life. After passing my initial accounting classes, I found entry level jobs in industry fairly easily, so I was shocked by the gatekeeping and age discrimination I faced when attempting to find work at a public firm.

Blake Oliver: [00:15:37] I now believe that my age and practical experience likely worked against me in the eyes of many managers and partners, and the job search seemed to somehow get worse as it ground on. And I began passing exam sections. Three interview experiences in particular have stayed with me from that unhappy time in my life. The first was with a younger manager at Grant Thornton, who was in her mid to late 20s while I was, at the time, 31. The interview consisted mainly of questions about if I could take instructions from someone younger than me, and why I was going into accounting at the advanced age of my early 30s. I left wondering if every manager in public accounting thinks every manager in the world is older than all of their reports. It seemed very out of touch with the real world. The second was at a regional firm where the hiring manager was very enthusiastic about my experience and the fact that I had passed a section of the CPA exam. My excitement at having reached a partner interview was quickly dashed when he walked in the room, and immediately looked disgusted when he saw me. I was made to feel that I had wasted his time and the interview quickly ended. My final experience came after I had effectively given up on applying at public accounting firms.

Blake Oliver: [00:16:49] At this point, I had patched together enough time working in industry jobs with active CPAs and management who could sign off on my work experience. I no longer needed the public firms to qualify for my license, although I would get a version of the CPA designation that is restricted from signing audits. I knew the partners at this firm from my regular attendance at a monthly accounting society, and was encouraged by them to apply to an open staff accountant position they had. At this point, I was weeks away from sitting my final section of the CPA exam and a few months away from being a licensed CPA. After several rounds of interviews, it was down to me and a fresh graduate of a local university who I had not met, but whose English was described to me as shaky. The job went to the young graduate with less than ideal language ability. The following year I moved abroad, where I easily found work at an accounting firm eager to hire a US CPA with practical experience. Although this experience is more than a decade in the past, and things have worked out very well for me in the intervening years, I think I will always feel bitter about my experience trying to break into public accounting as a slightly older than typical candidate. I think accounting is a fantastic choice for a career changer looking for stability, decent pay and job opportunities.

Blake Oliver: [00:18:01] But considering the wall I hit at a point when I had already completed all the hard work of reeducating myself and passing the exams, I find it difficult to recommend getting a CPA to an older candidate. I have to admit, I feel a little uncharitable Glee when I hear you guys talk about the trouble small firm partners are having finding an off ramp into retirement. And I wonder about the partners at these firms I interviewed at who will be approaching retirement age themselves about now. Thank you for giving me a space to get that off my chest. And thanks for the podcast. All the best growing it further in the new Year. Happy holidays Tyler. Thanks, Tyler, and I'm sorry you had that terrible experience as a career changer. But I have to say, it doesn't surprise me all that much, given how the profession seems to ignore the possibility of career changers, especially when it comes to education requirements. Like, one of my arguments is as a career changer myself. That we should make it easier for people who didn't major in accounting to become accountants. But we seem to do everything we can to discourage them. And you experienced that with the interview process where if you aren't. Fresh out of school on that traditional path. They almost don't even want to talk to you like that partner who was disgusted because you were slightly older, ten years older than their typical candidate.

David Leary: [00:19:24] And what do you think's driving that? Is it? I'm assuming somebody, when they're 31, maybe you're at a maturity level in your life where you could advocate for yourself, possibly. Like you might push back if people want you to work ten Saturdays in a row, is this is this what it really is driving? This is they want young, naive. Kids that they can just bully into working ridiculous hours like I'm trying to understand, like, like 31 is not old. Like for age discrimination to occur. It seems very shocking to me.

Blake Oliver: [00:19:56] Technically not old enough. I just learned that 40 is the starting point for age discrimination as a protected class. Right? I think you're right, David. I think there might be something to that is that you want the fresh grads who are going to, you know, work the hours, who turn to shape and mold. Right? Who you can, who you can. Yeah. And you can't do that with folks who are further along in their careers. Maybe they've got kids, they've got commitments, they've got a life. So this is a problem with the accounting firm business model, right. Is the way it requires these this very specific path. And if we're not producing enough accountants in college, which we aren't, we're producing about half as many as we need every year. We're going to have a problem if we don't open up the profession to career changers. I imagine this happens in other professions as well. Try going to a law firm as a career changer too, right? I bet you it's kind of similar or trying to like go into medical could be challenging to become a doctor, right? Maybe you feel discrimination. So I wouldn't say this is unique to accounting, but it's to me it's, uh, it's a big mistake. We need those career changers. And there's so many of them who would be happy to come into accounting if we offered a little more flexibility. In terms of how we bring people in.

David Leary: [00:21:18] Maybe he dodged a bullet. Maybe you didn't want to work for those people anyways, right? Right. Like maybe you got maybe you were the lucky one, even though you couldn't get a fair shake on the interview. But in hindsight, maybe you probably don't want to work for that firm anyways, if that was the culture.

Blake Oliver: [00:21:33] All right, moving right along. This is from Eric. Eric, said Blake, the alternative pathway to become a CPA that you laid out in your most recent episode is very similar to the pathway to become a certified financial planner. To become a CFP, you must have a college degree in any major three years of industry experience in financial planning past the CFP exam, which is very difficult and rigorous. And finally, you need to complete a series of six courses and a capstone course. This is very similar to the model you laid out. The only difference being the education requirement may be a small tweak to your proposed pathway could be to have a very much stripped down education requirement from dozens of credits down to approximately six courses, plus a capstone like CFP. The number of CFP is booming. The steps to becoming a CFP are very clear. It is also very easy to follow your progress towards becoming a CFP, whereas becoming a CPA is very complicated to understand, research and then track progress. Just some food for thought, Eric. I think we should look at other certifications. As inspiration for how to improve the CPA license. Um, the CMA is one that's a lot simpler and the CFP is another. So thank you for that recommendation, Eric. I think I hope that our leaders and our profession will consider streamlining things. We should make it. We're not watering it down. We're just making it more streamlined, simpler. I had to make a big spreadsheet to become a CPA. Now, some people might listen and say, well, we want CPAs to be able to make big spreadsheets and, you know, do that. But I mean, I don't it was very discouraging. And I even screwed it up right where I had missed something. And then when I finally applied for my license, they came back to me and told me I had to take two more classes. That was really discouraging. I almost quit at that point. Oh.

David Leary: [00:23:31] It's all these letters designations in these like these governing bodies. They're businesses at some level, right where you would you'd want you're competing right? Yeah. Not everybody's going to get every letter designation. So the CFP is competing with CPA. And when you're weighing your options you're like well look at this procedure. It's very clear. It's black and white. I know what my requirements are to get to the finish line. And you might pick and choose that. And that's just cash going to whatever the CFP national organization is. And it's not going the CPA. Right. And so streamlining these processes to get these designations is only going to increase the coffers if you want to think about it that way. Of the big governing boards.

Blake Oliver: [00:24:12] There are 95,000 certified financial planners in the United States. And they grew about 4% from 2022 to 2023. So they're doing something right. All right. Moving along. This is from Bethany. Bethany said, I've been binging your podcasts in order to meet my CPE credits and your ongoing discussions about the state of the industry, education, etc. are so spot on. I moved to Connecticut from Kentucky a little over a year ago. Since Connecticut supposedly has reciprocity, I didn't think it would be a big deal to transfer my license. I've been in good standing with Kentucky since 2004, and was in good standing in Alabama, where I was originally licensed in 22,001. I was told that the Connecticut board requires proof of my exam scores. Annoying but doable and proof of meeting the experience requirement. Wait, what? I figured I must be missing something, but no. Connecticut law requires me to produce documentation from within. The last ten years of having worked under the supervision of a CPA, I've been a CPA for over 20 years and working in a management role for the last ten. I have always worked in industry. How am I supposed to meet this criteria? It's beyond me. I contacted the state CPA society and their response was basically, yeah, it's crazy right? And this, my friends, is why our industry is in its current state. On a side note, a little known fact is you can get your CPA license without working in public accounting. Instead of two years at a public firm, you have to do five under the supervision of a CPA in either industry or academia. If you ever want to chat about the industry path or the perils of trying to move into teaching, hit me up. So CPA in. Kentucky since 2004. Originally licensed in Alabama in 2001, moves to Connecticut cannot get the license transferred to Connecticut because Connecticut wants proof of experience within the last ten years. Due to the law. Having worked under the supervision of a CPA. But this CPA is a manager now, so they don't work under the supervision of a CPA.

David Leary: [00:26:25] And so. And there's a difference, I guess so. Would you call it? This is moving your license to a different state, which is different than like mobility, which mobility lets you just practice in different states. So kind of the.

Speaker3: [00:26:37] Yes.

Blake Oliver: [00:26:38] So this is where it gets so complicated, right? Reciprocity means when Blake moves from California to Arizona, he can get licensed in Arizona because he already has a CPA license in California. For me, actually, it was quite simple. It worked out really well, and Arizona just accepted that I'm a CPA. I didn't have to produce exam scores. Thankfully, I didn't have to produce any other proof, um, any of that stuff. And David, you have put something on the screen here.

David Leary: [00:27:11] Yeah. So the AICPA, in preparation of possible 150 rules changing in different states, they've released a compliance checklist for changing license requirements and how to navigate. It's like, uh, for those of you listening, it's a five step checklist where it's almost like a board game. The best way to describe it for a listener, where you have box one and then you go down this check box to box two, then it's a yes no. If not, it's available to determine if your mobility is going to move from one state to the next state. Right. And so I just it just ties this email. And they have a whole website set up for this called um, so it's all tied to their, uh, protecting CPA mobility. Right. You know.

Blake Oliver: [00:27:55] And the AICPA has been putting out FUD fear uncertainty and doubt type of materials about 150 going away and CPA mobility even as they have this committee. In process to work on figuring out the CPA pipeline crisis and. The 150 hour rule is part of that. And I find it very strange that here you have the ACPa saying nothing's off the table when it comes to this committee that's supposedly going to help, you know, fix the CPA pipeline crisis, going to make recommendations to fix this problem. And 150 hours is on the table. But then at the same time, you've got parts of the CPA putting out information like this, which is clearly designed to scare firms into not supporting any changes and to, you know, keeping the situation the way it is because mobility will go away if we change the rules, they.

David Leary: [00:28:55] Even admit it when they. So the web page that you get this document from, it says the AICPA has developed guidance to empower CPAs and firms to navigate compliance implications in case proposed legislation changes the state CPA licensing requirements. So so they're pre producing all this stuff to make to like like you said to scare people right. Or because it's not is this really useful I don't know but it's like why would you make this ahead of time if it's not needed, unless you really think this is coming down like or class or.

Blake Oliver: [00:29:27] The goal is to discourage state societies and boards of accountancy from making any changes and by warning the firms that there's going to be problems. But that to me doesn't seem like a very open discussion. Right. Um, the better would be if they created materials that are designed to, like, overcome any changes. Like what if Minnesota decides to create an alternative pathway? How could we deal with that? Right? What could firms do? Be pro not con. But to go back to this whole reciprocity mobility thing because it is confusing. Reciprocity is where you can exchange your license. I mean, you can get license in another state if you're already licensed in one state. And sometimes it works great, like in my case. And sometimes it's a huge pain. It's impossible. So reciprocity is not is not very good if you ask me. Like California actually has no reciprocity with any other states. So when you move to California from any other state, even if you're already a CPA, you got to go through the whole process to get licensed again, like show your exam scores, show your education, show your work experience.

Blake Oliver: [00:30:31] All this and some states, a lot of states are like this. Mobility is where I can live in Arizona, and I can be licensed in Arizona, and I can have clients in California, or I can have clients in Kentucky or any other state. I can reach out of my state and practice with mobility. Now, theoretically, if there was no mobility that states Board of Accountancy could come after me for having clients in their state and not being licensed there. But also we've discovered that, you know, well, I guess my question about mobility is like, who does it really benefit? Mobility really benefits the bigger firms that are. Serving clients. Across states. I guess it also benefits the smaller firms that are virtual that have clients all over the country. But also the enforcement of mobility is very weak because how are these state boards of accountancy supposed to know? If I'm in a CPA in Arizona serving like somebody in, I don't know, Minnesota or Wyoming or New York or California, how are they going to know that? Are they going to do anything about that also?

David Leary: [00:31:37] Turbotax life. Our last email, the TurboTax live email. She's in the Midwest somewhere. She's taking 800 phone calls or whatever. There's people all over the country. Right?

Blake Oliver: [00:31:49] Thanks everyone who joined us on the live stream today. Megan is in the chat. Hi, Megan. Megan says I had to get my audit hours signed by my manager from the firm I worked for ten years prior to get my Hawaii license. Wet ink signature as well. Wet ink signature. Oh boy.

David Leary: [00:32:08] Hopefully that involved a trip to Hawaii to get that done.

Blake Oliver: [00:32:13] Um, with a wedding signature thing. I had to do that recently. It's so silly because, um, there's all these apps now, by the way, where they're designed to, to get around that. Um, because what people do is they just print something out, they sign it, and then they scan it. So it kind of it just has to look like a wet signature to get accepted by whatever organization. So you can like, there are these apps that have been created to get around this where you digitally sign the, you know, like you sign on your iPad or whatever, your phone, and then the app makes it look like you printed and scanned the document and nobody can tell the difference. So this whole wet signature thing is really stupid because they become digital documents. Anyway, in the end, um, I mean, there's just I'm not saying it's stupid. I'm saying like, it's it's stupid because it's so easy to cheat the system. We might as well not have watt signatures. Okay, so that's Bethany on reciprocity. Uh, didn't we have.

David Leary: [00:33:11] Another email from somebody that was trying to move from Kentucky, possibly to California, and they wouldn't recognize their licenses, and even Facebook comes in and audits and then. Oh, yeah. Is involved. They provide a service.

Blake Oliver: [00:33:24] Yeah. So we talked about that in a previous episode. I didn't bring it. But that's how I learned that California has no reciprocity. And Nasba has a service where you pay hundreds of dollars. And then that service will, like, prove to California that you qualify according to their requirements. And they make money from it, I guess I don't. It seems very strange to me that this even needs to exist. But I think the whole thing just goes to show you how, like it's not convenient for CPAs. And I think that's why there is a lot of opposition to 150 and nobody most people aren't really concerned about mobility because it's such a hassle already.

David Leary: [00:34:06] Yeah, it's already broken. Possibly. Exactly.

Blake Oliver: [00:34:09] Yeah, exactly.

David Leary: [00:34:10] Makes sense.

Blake Oliver: [00:34:11] Um, here's a message from Carlos. Carlos says, hi, I am a CPA in Puerto Rico and I was watching, uh, the listener mail compilations episode. So in our previous in one of our previous episodes, we talked about compilations, and I don't really think that compilations add a lot of value. I think they confuse the public. Right. It's something that we need to deal with. This was part of the whole, uh, Trump trial, which we haven't had a decision in that yet, have we? It's not come out. But the issue there was right like with with those Trump Organization financial statements that were given to the banks. Uh, the accounting firm Mazars did a compilation, didn't investigate any of the valuations. And so, you know, you can't blame the accountants is the argument. But Trump is trying to blame the accountants, said it's their job. Continuing with this message. Carlos said down here in Puerto Rico, almost every bank requests a financial statement issued by a CPA. If the person is self-employed or has a business, it's a pain. People call and ask for financial statements, even to get a personal loan at small loans, places where they charge 30% interest and the people working at these places tell the client to get financial statements from a CPA. Financial statements to get car loans. So that's interesting, right. Because here. In the continental states, right in the continent. I can't. I've never been asked to provide financial statements. It's all credit scores. Isn't that interesting?

David Leary: [00:35:49] And I feel like. Like the impression you get, like as a freshman in college and business school is like, oh, you're going to start a business. And like you're supposed to take your business plan to the bank, and they look at all this stuff before they give you a loan. Like, I just don't think that's that really happens in real life, right? Yeah. They're looking at your credit scores and whether or not you can pay it back. I don't think they're going to look at your business plan and be like, it sounds like a good idea. Here's a check.

Blake Oliver: [00:36:15] Maybe that's what they used to do. This is a message from Ken. Ken said, if you don't mind me sharing my experience, I can tell you that accounting for a public company on the industry side is very frustrating. The best way to describe it is that the accounting department has become like the transmission of a car. As long as everything is running smoothly, no one pays attention to it. Fpna handles all the budgeting and forecasting and is the engine driving the car. Data analytics prepares the management reporting like the shiny sports car interior, it leaves accounting to handle the exciting in quotes, exciting role of ERP maintenance, journal entries and Sox controls. 15 years ago, accounting handled all of those functions for large public companies. Not anymore. The CPA brand and accounting function is not seen as dynamic and beneficial. It is seen as restrictive and onerous, like the ball and chain of the organization. This is why the CPA is dying in industry, why the CMA is growing, and is yet another reason why our profession has a serious image problem. Thank you and David for doing the tough work of trying to preserve the value of the CPA brand and bring excitement back to our profession. Best wishes and good luck. Kind regards, Ken. And by the way, I'm just using first names on all of these emails because I don't know who is okay with first and last names. So, um, I'm just gonna. That's my policy. Um, it is unfortunate, right, that accounting has kind of been sidelined over the years into this compliance function. And it's it's interesting that you hear. Thought leaders talking about how the CPA needs to be more forward thinking. But that's the domain of Fpna now. And Fpna is hiring financial analysts and management accountants. Right. They're not looking for CPAs necessarily in those roles. It's almost too late in some ways, and.

David Leary: [00:38:14] It's Ken saying that to some extent, having that the CPA letters behind your brand is an anchor now. For your career.

Blake Oliver: [00:38:21] Could be I guess it's it's.

David Leary: [00:38:22] People are like, well, you can't do this division. You can't work. You can't work in this department because you're the CPA.

Blake Oliver: [00:38:27] Like I hope not.

David Leary: [00:38:29] Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:38:29] You know, like it's it's really good to know how the accounting all works. But I guess if you don't know how to do the forecasting, if you don't know really how to do that fpna stuff, right, you can't really participate because that is now its own department, its own team. Right. And there are people I mean, you can go. It's not in the accounting curriculum like I never learned how to do forward looking financial statements or build financial models in my accounting classes. It was not any anywhere in there, and I don't believe it's in the CPA exam either. You know.

David Leary: [00:39:01] That's I mean, at some level, it's somebody who never finished an accounting degree. I'm shocked by that.

Blake Oliver: [00:39:06] That maybe this is because of Sox. Sarbanes-oxley created a ton of work for the accounting team with internal controls. And so if you're busy dealing with that crap all the time and meanwhile, GAAP has gotten more and more complicated. I honestly think that the root cause of this problem is that generally accepted accounting principles have gotten so complicated that the accounting team can't focus on anything other than. Being compliant with GAAP, getting the journal entries right, doing the Sox controls. Um, it's just it's way over complicated. And when you read a set of financial statements these days, you know, they can be 200 pages long with footnotes up the wazoo. Like, who has time to do anything else when that's what you have to prepare every quarter?

Speaker3: [00:39:50] Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:39:50] So I and I believe that the CPA has a lot of value. But because we are stuck. It's the nature of the job, right? That's why the teams have been bifurcated in that way. Because the compliance is so onerous. Moving on. More pipeline problems. This is from Chris. And this is following up on this is in response to the episode we had with the AICPA, Sue Coffey and Lexi Kessler from the Pipeline Committee of the National Pipeline Advisory Group. Mpeg the committee that is going to make a grand recommendation in the spring on how we can fix the CPA pipeline problem. So this is from Chris. Chris said the ladies from AICPA had it right. It's a business model problem. Cpa firms need to be more profitable so that they are willing to pay more to employees and or work fewer hours. I believe the problem is that simple. The solution may not be simple, but that is no doubt the root cause. They can and probably should eliminate the 150 hour requirement. But that's not going to stop people from leaving the profession two years out of college, when they realize they are working for less than $20 per hour. Capitalism makes the world go round, so you cannot point to greed of firm owners as the problem. Firm owners want the same thing as the employees to work less and or make more money.

Blake Oliver: [00:41:19] Lawyers, engineers, financial advisors. What do these service professions do any better? From a business model perspective, we believe that we are as smart and valuable as those other professions, but in general don't make as much. Maybe engineers are in the same range. Why not? It's because of pricing. Pricing is higher in those other professions. In many cases, it's because the client is not directly paying the firm. Lawyers might get paid by the insurance company. Financial advisors suck the fees out of the client's investments and tell them not to look at their statements. Often, engineers mostly get paid by governments or by a client that is financing their fee through a loan. Those are facts about the differences between our profession and others, which I believe intrinsically gives them higher profits. Maybe we cannot find a way to do something similar in the overall profession, but market prices must find a way to go up substantially in the profession, or the incentive to be in the profession will continue to decline. Instead of your suggestion that the AICPA, AICPA focused on getting overtime pay for staff, the focus should be on driving market prices higher in an ethical way, of course, which would then incentivize owners to pay staff more and work them less because the ROI on hiring the employee is worth the risk. Regards, Chris. So. I have a counterargument to this. Chris. Just an thought experiment.

Blake Oliver: [00:42:41] Let's say we do. Push price is higher. Why would I as a firm owner? Share that with my staff. Right. Those extra profits. Unless I had to. If I can get somebody to work 50, 60, 70 hours a week. Let's say I'm a big four partner, right? If I can get young staff to work for the same and and overwork them because I can make them work unpaid overtime for the experience to get it on their resume, why would I pay them more unless I had to? Unless there was for some reason, you know, people not coming in the door anymore. I'm only going to raise salaries to the minimum I have to in order to get enough people working. So I don't know if increasing prices will necessarily, uh, increase wages. It might just go straight to the partners. You already have a situation in the big four where, you know, partners can be making over $1 million a year, and the staff are making, you know, 60, $70,000 coming out of school at big four firms, which is, you know, not terrible, but it's, you know, not enough to get by on your own in New York City or LA or any of these other or Chicago or any of these other big cities where. You've, you know, invested in a masters and now you're in a high cost area, right?

David Leary: [00:44:02] And I'm not sure, like these other professions have it figured out either from a business model. I remember going to the Clio makes the law firm software going to their conference. This might be six years ago, seven years ago, maybe eight years ago. And they've released one of their surveys based on their user data. So you basically it's practice management software for law firms. And it was the first time they did the survey. And these are smaller lawyer law firms. Right. So lawyers 1 or 2 partner type things. And they had this in an eight hour day. So you know they charge whatever per hour. Right. It seems like a lot of money. But by the time the day is done, they basically bill for about 1.8 hours and successfully collect on just about one hour a day. So they might be billing. It's crazy because they're answering the phone. They're doing all this other stuff. Yeah, but they they just can't run their business very well. So even though they have this huge hourly wage or hourly fee, they successfully only kind of bill for one hour a day. It's like they're not they're not making the money. Everybody thinks they are. You know.

Blake Oliver: [00:45:02] Well, and I think this argument about how, you know, these other professionals are paid, you know, not by the client directly is interesting. You definitely make more money when it's other people's money. That is a fair point. But then, you know, I guess maybe that's why, you know, big auditors, big firm auditors make good money because they're not directly paid by the audit committee. Right. The audit committee selects them and then the company pays them. And it is in a lot of ways, other people's money in that respect. Right. The board of directors is not going to it's not coming out of their paychecks.

Speaker3: [00:45:40] Yeah. So?

Blake Oliver: [00:45:42] But when you come to small firms, it very much is coming out of that business owners paycheck or their profits. So that's why it's lower. But like really if you get down to the root of it, isn't the isn't the way that you make money by creating value and like doctors are out there, you know, either helping people reach, you know, their, you know, physical dreams with, you know, plastic surgery and stuff or saving lives. Right? Like, like that's a there's a lot of value in helping somebody stay alive. There's a lot less value in, you know. Filing someone's tax return, just relatively speaking. And in terms of lawyers, right. Like when you have a lawsuit that you're dealing with, like there's a lot of value in getting that resolved. Either you as the plaintiff, like in a civil case, are going to make a ton of money from it. If you win a lot of times, or you're defending yourself from potential massive losses. And in the case of criminal cases, if you lose, you're going to jail, right? So like, people are willing to pay a lot of money for that. Just the nature of the work.

David Leary: [00:46:46] My leaky roof. Right. Yeah. I'm probably gonna pay a lot for this, but maybe maybe they're right. Going back to being the email, it's the business model. But the business model is an accounting. We're not producing value. And in in general, I mean, you and I have it with with your Marxist startup, you've got to figure how to produce value that people will continue to pay for. And maybe it is a bigger business model issue that the accounting industry is not producing value, not producing.

Blake Oliver: [00:47:11] As much value. And I don't want I don't want to say it's not that we're not producing value, it's that we're not producing as much value as we could. We could produce a lot more value. Right. If GAAP were simplified and financial statements were easier to read and more accessible to investors and investors, use them more like big picture. That would create a lot more value. I think actually, if the tax code were simplified, we could create more value. And if we do forward looking work, right, if your firm if your small firm can actually help clients make more money, that's how you create value, right? There's there's a difference between helping somebody stay compliant, which definitely has a value. And I'm not saying those are bad models. I mean, my business when I had my firm was entirely about doing bookkeeping, paying the bills and running payroll. There was no we didn't do any of that forward looking stuff. We just did a really good job at doing those three things for our clients, and we charged reasonable prices, and we just did the work a lot better and faster, uh, than CPA firms. And we grew tremendously. Like it's that's also why like, I think this comparison between lawyers and doctors and accountants is stupid. Like we're never going to be that. We're never going to be saving lives. So don't try to be that. Be what you are good at, right? Yeah. Like and and this that was the mistake is trying to increase the education to, uh, you know, be more like law school or medical school was the big mistake. Like, uh, and in, in marketing there's actually a very like it's a, it's a rule that you learn in marketing is like, don't try to compare yourself to a brand that you will never be. Right. Don't like Samsung. Trying to be Apple is a bad idea. Right. And they tried to do it for so long and they failed and they shouldn't. Like, do what you're good at. So we've got some comments here in the chat you might want to highlight.

David Leary: [00:49:18] And then while you're doing that you might bring up Caroline's email because I think it flows right good. After this.

Speaker3: [00:49:22] Okay cool.

Blake Oliver: [00:49:24] Dominic. Hey, Dominic. Dominic says absolutely agree on that point. Which point was that? What? Also add on that firms need to improve operation efficiency and have CPAs that advocate for themselves. In most cases the profits are there, but too many people are going to accept too little in the current environment. Yeah, well, and this is why like. I think it's kind of a shame that the associations don't advocate more for working conditions, better working conditions for staff, but we understand why they don't, right? It's because the associations really they represent the interests of firms and firm owners. And so staff are not like a priority. They're there was actually a discussion on social media about, you know, it. That's not the job of associations. It's not the job of associations to advocate for better pay and better working conditions for staff. That's the job of unions. And I said, well, just because you're not a union doesn't mean that an association can't advocate for its members. And theoretically, the members of the AICPA are just all CPAs, right? Like the Aicpa's mission is to advocate for the profession and for all CPAs, not just their members.

David Leary: [00:50:42] And there's not it's not. Association of partners or association of firm owners. Right.

Speaker3: [00:50:48] It's it's.

David Leary: [00:50:49] All CPAs.

Blake Oliver: [00:50:50] But somebody from AICPA can correct me if I'm wrong. Um, but I believe that most do's are actually paid by firms and not by individuals, or at least a significant percentage, because when I worked in public accounting, my dues were paid for by the firm, not by me personally. So when associations are getting paid by the firms, who do they represent?

David Leary: [00:51:12] They just see one big check signed by.

Blake Oliver: [00:51:15] Our firm, right? Or by Deloitte or by KPMG. So that's the interest that they represent, which can sometimes be the interest of the staff but often are not. But it should it be. I mean, this is why we've gotten into this situation, right? Weird situation where in order to really benefit, to make the really big bucks, you gotta make partner. And the timeline is stretched out from seven years to 15 years or more. Right. And yeah, you make good money. But I would actually argue that the partners in big firms are just as much prisoners of the system as anyone else, because they actually work more than the staff these days. So you work 15 years to get to partner? Yes. You're making half a million, $1 million, maybe more, but you are working more hours than the staff. So when do you have time to spend that money? I don't see a lot of partners on social media taking great vacations, you know, like that would help. Boring accountant says raising salaries in cities with a housing shortage doesn't increase the quality of life, but increases rent prices. Landlords adjust rent to what people can pay. Firm owners will pocket the profits. Yeah, I think that's the problem too, is that salaries can't even go up enough in big cities to help staff have that quality of life they used to have. So this is also. Part of the problem, and it's not something that the accounting profession can control. But what we could do is say work remotely, right? Give flexibility, let people live further out and don't make them come to the office every day, which is what we're seeing happen. Right? And that's way better. You can have a much higher quality of life, and you don't have to raise the salaries as much. All right. You said we need to go to Caroline.

David Leary: [00:53:02] Yeah. Caroline's email, I thought, ties nicely to the previous email.

Blake Oliver: [00:53:06] Caroline said, just catching up on your Accounting Pipeline podcast. I know you can't say it, but the AICPA is the most disconnected organization from the profession I've ever seen. Good lord. My $0.02. The profession needs to create a non CPA track that has some certification education requirements. Obviously much less than a CPA. Bookkeeping will be replaced by technology, but accounting will always be needed. And it doesn't all have to be audit or tax specialty level. Some of it is basic accruals and depreciation. Join the podcast. Sincerely, Caroline. So this is like, uh, there have been proposals to do this. I think they've all been a little too complicated. I think it would be worth exploring creating a paralegal type of designation for the accounting profession. And then we'd have a way to license and ensure minimum standards for people who don't want to become CPAs, but who want to be part of the accounting profession and not be excluded completely. You know, like, it's like this whole CPA or nothing doesn't make sense.

Speaker3: [00:54:13] Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:54:14] Any others? David, before we go.

Speaker3: [00:54:17] I'm trying to.

Blake Oliver: [00:54:19] I think we might have to save. Well, here's here's here's a short one. No, that's a long one.

Speaker3: [00:54:25] Yeah. Another really long.

Blake Oliver: [00:54:26] Yeah. We love your emails, but we need a shorter one. Oh. Here's one. This was about busy season Saturdays. This is from Kyle. My firm worked our first weekend of tax season today, and I always bring in breakfast for the staff on Saturdays. One of our discussions was, why don't more firms view tax and bookkeeping in a symbiotic relationship? To be able to spread out the workload by starting work earlier? For example, our firm completed all of our payroll filings and w-2s today we'll have year end books reconciled and 1099 issued by late next week and move right into tax prep. Just curious to hear your thoughts on this. 100%. A lot of the busy season. Compression is totally self-inflicted. If you do the bookkeeping and the tax, you can be ready to go in January and you don't have to force your staff to work every single Saturday or even any Saturdays. In my in my opinion. And you could you could have a balance of bookkeeping and tax. It's not like 90% tax, 10% bookkeeping. It could be like way more bookkeeping because bookkeeping you can charge for year round.

David Leary: [00:55:34] Now here's a firm though doing this. They're spreading they're doing bookkeeping work the whole year. They're spreading the work out. They got W-2s and Ten and Nines filed early, but they're still going to have Saturdays. See, he uses the word I always bring firm to the staff on Saturdays. Well, he still has them there on Saturdays, unless this is a one off.

Blake Oliver: [00:55:49] Well, and he doesn't say if it's mandatory. Right. I'm okay with staff working on Saturdays if they want to. Right. But I say if your staff have gotten their work done and they've hit their goals, like don't make them come in just because everybody else is mandatory. Like, I would hate that. But I guess maybe I'm not a team player or something. But yeah, like a lot of this work can be shifted sooner. And we saw that in the article we discussed in our last episode. Kpmg is working to accelerate a lot of the audit work, get it done in November December so that it's not such a hassle. And I think that we should be advocating as a profession. To spread the work out more, right? Loosen these deadlines. Spread out the deadlines. Right. Have rotating deadlines. Give different deadlines to different groups so that firms are not in pain. It's going to have to happen because like we've seen, there are cities that can't get audits done.

David Leary: [00:56:46] And I would even help the Rs, right? It would help them just spread out their workloads.

Speaker3: [00:56:51] Yeah, right. Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:56:53] This doesn't happen in other countries. It does not have to be this way. Uh, and we have powerful organizations that can navigate on their behalf to change.

Speaker3: [00:57:01] It with lots.

David Leary: [00:57:02] Of money.

Blake Oliver: [00:57:03] I'd be happy to go to Washington if, uh. And advocate. You know, I.

Speaker3: [00:57:09] Love to talk.

David Leary: [00:57:10] Can't advocate because they're all working.

Speaker3: [00:57:11] Exactly.

Blake Oliver: [00:57:12] I'll go there. I'll sit in some Congress person's office or some senator's office and explain this to them, and we'll make some change happen. Right? It will change the deadlines for, you know, some companies, we can have rotating deadlines, like, um, the smartest states don't require everyone to do their CPE on December 31st. That makes no sense. They do it based on your initial license date or your birth date or something. So like, you know, my license renewal is end of August or September. And everybody else is different, right? It just all goes around the clock. And so the state doesn't have to deal with it all at once every year. Well, David, that's all the time we have this week. Reminder to our listeners that you can email us the accounting podcast at earmarked me. Send us emails. Send us voicemails. Voicemails are fun because we can play them on the air. You can record that with your Voice Memo app on your phone and send that to us. We love those. We haven't gotten one in a while. And don't forget, you can leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. Um is a great place. Just scroll down on our show page and you'll see that five stars. You can give us a review. You can write a review that really helps us. We jumped into the top 11 this week. Something like that. It would be awesome.

David Leary: [00:58:27] We've been hanging around nine, ten, 11. We've been hanging around up there.

Blake Oliver: [00:58:30] Uh, that's on the business news charts, and we'd love to hang out there some more and get more listeners. Um, we're making change happen in this profession like this. This show makes a difference. There are people in influential positions who listen to this show, and I know because they, uh, they can't say it publicly, but they reach out to me privately. And I know that there are heads of associations. There are people on boards of accountancy who listen to this show. And when you write in and you and we share your experience, they hear it in a way that they have never heard before because unfortunately, they have been insulated from this and they're only hearing from the partners and they're not hearing from the people. And that's what I love about podcasting. That's what I love about this show, is that we are bringing your voices here, and I have lots of opinions, but I'm more interested in your opinions than mine. I don't want to. I'd rather fill our time with your opinions. So share your stories with us. The accounting podcast that earmarked me and earn CPE for listening. Download the earmark app. It's free. Go to earmark Cpcomm. You can earn CPE for most of our weekly episodes. The ones over the, you know, 40 50 minute requirement for CPE. Uh, do it now. You can earn one CPE for free every week, and you might be able to get your CPE requirement done before December even rolls around if you're in one of those calendar states. Sarah, thanks for joining us. Megan. Boring accountant Dominic David Big Four transparency in the chat. Uh, millennial money mom Karen Joy, thank you everyone who who chatted with us today. And thanks everyone who watched and lurked. We love having you with us. Um, we'll see you again next week. Bye, David.

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David Leary
David Leary
President and Founder, Sombrero Apps Company
Listener Mail: Finding Balance with Tech & CPA Pipeline Problem
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