IRS Agents Working From Home Can Watch H&R Block Reality TV Show

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David Leary: [00:00:04] 18% of accountants make financial errors daily. One third make a few every week, and a whopping get this like a whopping 59%. Make several errors a month.

Blake Oliver: [00:00:16] I make errors every day.

David Leary: [00:00:18] Every day. Coming to you weekly from the OnPay Recording Studio.

Blake Oliver: [00:00:24] Hey everyone and welcome back to the show.

David Leary: [00:00:25] I'm Blake Oliver, I'm David Leary.

Blake Oliver: [00:00:28] Congratulations, David. We hit 10,000 subscribers on YouTube. Thank you. It's amazing. Thank you to all our new listeners. And I want to prove it to you guys. I want to show you what it looks like on the back end of YouTube. We have 10,610 subscribers. That's a 6,000% increase in the last 28 days. And we have an achievement here, 2 million views.

David Leary: [00:00:56] On one clip. On one clip, we have another clip with a million views like it's Who'da thunk.

Blake Oliver: [00:01:03] The algorithm is working. Uh, and funny enough, the clip that caused our YouTube channel to blow up was the one about General Motors and, uh, their lawsuit against San Francisco, San Francisco, which is trying to tax GM's global revenues, global profits due to the presence of the cruise self-driving unit in San Francisco. And apparently, that touched a nerve. People. People don't really like San Francisco all that much. Um, so that's our achievement. Um, thank you to all our new listeners. I hope if you found us on YouTube, you go subscribe to the podcast feed as well so you can listen on the go. And I hope you enjoy what we're talking about. And if you want to tell us what you like, you can email us the accounting podcast at earmarked Me and you can earn free CPE. Download the earmark app earmark Cpcomm put in your email. You'll get a link to download the app, and you can earn continuing professional education credits for listening to this podcast. And now, David, on to the news.

David Leary: [00:02:09] I think the story that you should jump into is H&R block's creating a reality TV show, and I know you haven't watched it yet, and and I had it in my queue and I didn't even think it was going to cover it on the story till I watched the video and I said, oh, we have to have it on the show now. It has to be on the show.

Blake Oliver: [00:02:26] I thought you were like making this up. But no, this is a real thing. Let's watch the preview on YouTube and, uh, then we'll discuss.

H&R Block Clip: [00:02:41] Tired of watching sexy singles having too much island fun? I'm here to get spiritual by getting physical with everyone.

H&R Block Clip: [00:02:51] She really gets me.

H&R Block Clip: [00:02:53] Didn't think so. We've changed the game. Hey.

H&R Block Clip: [00:02:57] Look good. Literally.

H&R Block Clip: [00:02:59] Is this like a riddle or something? I wasn't really good at geometry. These super seductive hell raisers think they're in for a week long party on a place called Lit Island.

H&R Block Clip: [00:03:11] What is up? To get it lit. All lies.

H&R Block Clip: [00:03:15] They're actually on Responsibility Island. What? Really, really unprofessional. And we reveal our host.

David Leary: [00:03:25] What next? The host is an iron.

H&R Block Clip: [00:03:29] That's right. It's an iron. And she's snooty. How many of you.

H&R Block Clip: [00:03:34] Scallops had a chore chart when you were a kid?

H&R Block Clip: [00:03:37] That is not cool. You're so hungry. She's like a really up lion.

H&R Block Clip: [00:03:44] The real reason these smoke shows were sent here. To get a genuine lesson in growing up.

H&R Block Clip: [00:03:51] My mom could not have signed off on this.

H&R Block Clip: [00:03:53] By taking on a gantlet of responsibility challenges.

H&R Block Clip: [00:03:58] The worst tax form. What does that even mean?

H&R Block Clip: [00:04:01] Come on. Jade. These games, they're just. They're so hard.

H&R Block Clip: [00:04:05] And they can't leave until they conquer the final boss. The mother of all responsibilities, filing their own taxes.

H&R Block Clip: [00:04:13] Absolutely not. No. Assistant.

H&R Block Clip: [00:04:16] My previous relationship with Texas was turbo toxic.

H&R Block Clip: [00:04:20] Let's all just calm down.

H&R Block Clip: [00:04:22] I'm calm. Let me explain something to you. Don't mansplain.

H&R Block Clip: [00:04:25] Ah.

H&R Block Clip: [00:04:27] This is easier than I thought. I'm A109 niner. What?

H&R Block Clip: [00:04:34] I'm holding wrist. Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait.

Blake Oliver: [00:04:37] There's FBI guys, take FBI agents. We need to cut.

H&R Block Clip: [00:04:41] Welcome to lit. I mean, responsibility Island.

H&R Block Clip: [00:04:47] Mommy, it happened again. Yeah, I ended up on a reality show to make me a better person.

Blake Oliver: [00:04:55] So is this for real?

David Leary: [00:04:57] So, apparently, I think it's, uh, actors and actresses, so I think it's a mock reality show. But the gist is you take attractive, shirtless people, put them on an island, and the only way they get off the island is they have to do their own taxes. Now, I don't know, outside of watching a clip like this, I just don't know. Would you sit through 4 to 6 episodes of this?

Blake Oliver: [00:05:17] Uh, well, what this calls to mind is when Floqast did that series PBC. Yes. Where they hired actors from the office, and they created an office style comedy about an accounting team. I watched the first episode. I didn't watch the rest of them, like at a certain point. The preview might be, you know, the best part of this, right? The two minutes that we just watched, I don't know if I could watch a whole episode, but, uh, I will I'll try it. I'll give it a shot. I'll be able.

David Leary: [00:05:50] To watch it on H&R block's website. Youtube. Apparently there's a Roku channel H&R block's gonna have. So it's it's out there.

Blake Oliver: [00:05:57] It's it's.

David Leary: [00:05:58] Everywhere.

Blake Oliver: [00:05:58] It the episodes air. All four episodes will air on Friday, February 16th. That's so weird because I guess they're out. They must be available.

David Leary: [00:06:07] Oh, maybe this the news articles came out later.

Blake Oliver: [00:06:11] Let's see if it's available on their website. Yeah, you can watch the series now. Go to. Uh, not.

David Leary: [00:06:18] Now. Everybody stay with us. But when you're done with the podcast, go watch it all.

Blake Oliver: [00:06:22] H&r Block. Com slash responsibility island.

David Leary: [00:06:26] How long are these each episodes. Can you do you get a timer if you click on them?

Blake Oliver: [00:06:30] Uh, I don't really, but we don't want to watch one right now. No, we don't.

David Leary: [00:06:33] See the four hours.

Blake Oliver: [00:06:34] I don't know, I can't tell. It looks like they're short. I think these are just parodies.

David Leary: [00:06:39] Parodies? Yeah. Okay.

Blake Oliver: [00:06:40] Anyway, there you go. The host is an iron. Like an actual, like iron that you used to iron shorts. Yeah.

David Leary: [00:06:48] Because basically they're they're getting them to do a delting things like their laundry and ironing their clothes and doing their taxes. I mean, that's the premise of the whole thing.

Blake Oliver: [00:06:56] Um, all right, where do we go from here? Irs agents. All those IRS agents working from home now will have something to do, right? So, you know, you work for the IRS, you work from home. Most of them haven't gone back to the office. Uh, you can watch that reality TV show. And why am I mentioning IRS agents working from home? Well, there was another op ed in the Wall Street Journal. Our favorite opinion section and the headline is IRS agents shouldn't work from Home. Since the pandemic, my constituents have reported far more service complaints. And in this piece, which is written by. A Republican who represents Kansas's fourth congressional district. Estes. Ron Estes. He basically blames the IRS service problems on IRS agents working from home and continuing to do so after Covid. He says, quote. During the pandemic, businesses relied on telework to continue operations. Now that the pandemic is over, businesses should be making data driven decisions about remote work, and so should the federal government. While some companies have flourished by allowing employees to work remotely, results are mixed. Then he cites a bunch of conflicting studies, which we have talked about on this show. Some say you're more productive, some say you're less productive.

Blake Oliver: [00:08:24] With such inconsistent data, it's incumbent on individual businesses to determine how best to attract workers and meet customers needs. Enter the federal government, the largest employer in the US with nearly 3 million employees. In a February 15th House Ways and Means Committee hearing, I asked Daniel Werfel, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, if all IRS employees had fully returned to the office. After referencing a Government Accountability Office report that found most federal agencies are using 25% or less of building capacity in their headquarters, everyone's working, he said. It's a 50% on site versus 50% working in some remote location, he said. This is in line with a government wide standard of 50% on site work. I asked because my office staff in Wichita, Kansas, regularly assist constituents who are experiencing delayed responses and challenges when working with federal agencies. My office opened more than three times as many IRS related cases in 2023 as in 2019, suggesting IRS staff were more effective at their jobs before the pandemic. And he goes on and he basically says that like IRS agents should go back to the office and this is the way to restore timely service.

David Leary: [00:09:33] So, so this is really his narrative or take on. Attacking the IRS, right? This it's not budgeting. It's not funding. It's not horrible tax code laws that they can't get passed properly or get make decisions on. He decides to blame it on the working at home to fit his narrative, I guess.

Blake Oliver: [00:09:53] So, yeah. So there you go. More fantastic opinions from the Wall Street Journal.

David Leary: [00:10:00] Now, is he, uh, is it Senator or House of reps.

Blake Oliver: [00:10:04] He's a congressman.

David Leary: [00:10:05] Congressman, so I wonder how often he's in office. Is he in DC actually showing up to legislative sessions? I always wonder what his record would be.

Blake Oliver: [00:10:14] Yeah. So I was curious, you know, who is Ron Estes? Uh. And so he's been in office since 2017, and he's a leader on passing landmark tax reform, rolling back burdensome regulations and implementing trade agreements with some of Kansas's biggest trading partners. And he's got he's got a he must have an accounting practice. What's next? You've got a story about Lyft getting sued by shareholders.

David Leary: [00:10:45] The Lyft story. But I was going to pivot, uh, to government thing for South Carolina. Clicking here to get my. Article.

Blake Oliver: [00:10:53] Well, you get that going. Uh, listener all pro Leamington says I have more faith in The accountant two confirmed sequel. And actually, I have some news about that. Um. They got a tax credit. Sequel to the 2016 film The Accountant, starring Ben Affleck, is among 15 films that have secured approximately 61 million in production tax incentives for 2024 through California's Film and Television Tax Credit program. Disney's Mandalorian and Grogu is highlighted as the highest budget film ever to qualify for the state's tax program, which annually allocates $330 million in state tax credits to TV and film productions. So there are 15 films, a combination of independent and major studio productions, and they are expected to contribute nearly $408 million in production spending to the state's economy. And they are estimated to create jobs for around 2200 crew, almost 600 cast members and almost 1700 background performers, over a total of 579 filming days.

David Leary: [00:11:58] So just a I was in Atlanta last week and I was talking to somebody and remember we covered it 2 or 3 weeks ago. Atlanta or Georgia is pulling back their movie production. Tax credit. We talked about this a couple weeks ago because.

Blake Oliver: [00:12:13] They found that it wasn't delivering ROI for them.

David Leary: [00:12:16] It wasn't ROI. Right. And we talked about that directory. Well, um, gentlemen, I was talking to his father, owned a frame shop. Owns a frame shop in the Atlanta area. Who were you talking to? Uh, a friend of the family. Okay. We had to say. Right. And his father owns a frame shop, so creating picture frames, almost half the revenue is creating picture frames for movie sets. And, you know, if it's a house, they want certain artwork hanging up in the house. And so there's all this indirect that you can't measure perfectly if you want to do an ROI. Right. And so if the movie's dry up a little bit, that's a lot of revenue this small business is going to lose, right.

Blake Oliver: [00:12:51] Um.

David Leary: [00:12:52] I do have South Carolina ready if you're ready to move.

Blake Oliver: [00:12:55] Let's talk about South.

David Leary: [00:12:55] Carolina, South Carolina. So remember a few months ago we covered South Carolina. They had an accounting error. Those in about $3.5 billion. And it caused the comptroller to resign. But at that time nobody really said was the money missing. Was it stolen? Well there is $2 billion in a bank account that no one appears to be able to identify who or what the money belongs to.

Blake Oliver: [00:13:19] How much.

David Leary: [00:13:20] Money?

Blake Oliver: [00:13:20] $2 billion in South Carolina. They just found $2 billion in a bank account.

David Leary: [00:13:25] $2 billion. So according to South Carolina's Berkeley County Senator Larry Grooms, the to quote the $1.8 billion in cash in an account that is unaccounted for. When I say unaccounted for, I mean the treasurer has been unable to tell us so far which agency and which account the 1.8 billion belongs to. And and obviously with taxes like you want all every penny, right. Accounted for and budgeted for. Right. As a citizen or a taxpayer, I'm.

Blake Oliver: [00:13:54] Just I'm just trying to wrap my head around this. There's a bank account, the state controls, and nobody knows what agency, what department it belongs to.

David Leary: [00:14:04] Correct. And so there's a lot of finger pointing between the comptroller's office and the treasurer's office. You know, there's a lot of finger pointing and blaming. And it's to the point now where the lawmakers who are trying to get to the bottom of this are getting fed up to the point that they're now asking the state's voters to approve making their positions appointed by the government and not elected positions anymore. That's how fed up they want. They want because the comptroller.

Blake Oliver: [00:14:29] There is elected. Elected. Yeah. Yeah. I don't think we should have elected people doing these jobs. Like, it just seems like, uh, you're going to end up with people who aren't qualified. Right. Like how many accountants want to become politicians? It's probably a very small like overlap of those Venn diagrams there.

David Leary: [00:14:49] And there's no I wish there was more details, like, was this like one big deposit that got in this bank account? Was it a little bit each month? Like, how long has this been going on? There's just so many answers that we don't have answers to.

Blake Oliver: [00:15:00] I'm trying to comprehend the level of incompetence that is necessary for a bank account to go missing like this. Like. How do you just lose track of it? How does how do you not know where the money came from, who it belongs to? I mean, that's just total incompetence. These people should be fired. They they should not be doing these jobs.

David Leary: [00:15:21] Jobs?

Blake Oliver: [00:15:22] Yeah, right. This is bookkeeping. Well, thank you for following up on that story, David. That is just absolutely nuts.

David Leary: [00:15:32] I have a story that could tie into why it happened. Possibly.

Blake Oliver: [00:15:35] Sure. Let's do it.

David Leary: [00:15:36] So this story was a survey from Gartner. But 18% of accountants make financial errors daily, right? One third make a few every week. And a whopping. Get this Blake a whopping 59%. Make several errors a month.

Blake Oliver: [00:15:53] I make errors every day.

David Leary: [00:15:55] Every day. So. And this is a survey conducted by Gartner in July of 2023 of 497 individuals that are in the comptroller. Uh controllership functions.

Blake Oliver: [00:16:05] Okay. So I have follow up questions.

David Leary: [00:16:07] Yes. Good.

Blake Oliver: [00:16:08] What kind of errors are we talking about?

David Leary: [00:16:10] They did not explain what the errors were. They had some explanations of how or why that's being reported.

Blake Oliver: [00:16:18] But like my question is I make I make little mistakes. I make big mistakes. I make mistakes that don't matter. I make mistakes that matter a lot. If these are mistakes that don't matter, then why do we care? It just seems like. Like useless information.

David Leary: [00:16:34] Everywhere. I mean, mistakes we saw lists typo last week. Yeah, that's a mistake about South Carolina. That's right. Big mistake. Maybe it was lots of little mistakes right. These things compound. So. Yeah. Um but.

Blake Oliver: [00:16:47] Go for it.

David Leary: [00:16:48] Yeah. So it's basically in the last three years, they're saying 73% are reporting that their workload has increased so much because of new regulations. And there are 82% say that economic volatility has just increasing demands for the work. So they're really the root cause is kind of they're overworked. Yes. Ultimately. Um, and then obviously this is Gartner and Gartner is big on software. But they were talking about, uh, the people that are making a little bit less mistakes are accepting technology. So and what it means by that to accept the technology. So technology acceptance and accounting firms is defined really by four elements. Users must find it easy to use, must be easy to learn, easy to customize for their own needs, and it must have all the information the user needs in one view. And if your technology or software meets all four of those, a person that's in an accounting role is more likely to use that software, take advantage of it, and ultimately make less errors. Hmm.

Blake Oliver: [00:17:50] Well, continuing on with errors. Did you see the piece in Bloomberg? There are 340,000 fewer accountants and companies are paying the price. The dwindling numbers of CPAs is at a crisis level, but starting salaries are still too low to tempt more people into the field. And this doesn't come as news to any of our listeners. We cover these stories all the time, but this is an example of mainstream business finance press covering it. So there have been some major mistakes as a result of the talent shortage. Several companies lift Planet Fitness, Mister Car Wash, Rivian Automotive. They've had to correct their quarterly earnings statements due to errors. That's basically the worst kind of mistake you can make is have to correct your SEC filings. That's that's career limiting, although maybe not given there's a shortage. Over 720 companies cited insufficient staff in accounting and other departments as a reason for potential errors in 2021. And that's a 30% increase from 2019. And I guess that's the latest data we have available. Despite numerous job openings, students are not choosing to major in accounting due to the low pay for entry level jobs and the high cost of the additional year of college required to become a certified Public Accountant. And the article goes on to talk about how the demand for accountants is so high that firms are resorting to hire undergraduates for full time internships. So while you're in school, you're getting a full time job.

David Leary: [00:19:27] Fortune also picked up this, this headline or this article as well. And they have a quote from Joshua Chavis, assistant professor of accounting and law at the University of Buffalo School of Management, whose research has documented links between auditor turnover, long working hours and mistakes. And his quote says if people preparing the financials are overworked or there's not enough of them, you will have errors. It's his research is black and white that you'll have errors from that. The other funny thing I noticed Legalzoom had to restate as well one of these companies. Now, what I find ironic about that Legalzoom has their own accounting and bookkeeping service that they offer. Why don't they just utilize their own services to get their their financials done? I don't know.

Blake Oliver: [00:20:13] Uh, well, you know who else is having financial difficulties? Regional banks. I spotted a story in the Wall Street Journal last week, and the headline is Signs of Trouble at Regional Banks Reignite Sector Fears. And we've been talking about this, how regional banks invested a lot in, um, making loans to commercial real estate owners, developers. So these banks issue a lot of loans to companies that do commercial real estate. And like we saw with the IRS, most companies are not fully back in the office five days a week. It's closer to 50%, maybe 2 or 3 days in the office. And so these, you know, office buildings are not at occupancy and they are losing occupants, they're losing leases, they're losing rents, and they can't pay the loans off to the banks. And so these banks are holding loans and perhaps bonds. Uh, based on these loans that are. Maybe not worth what they. Claim to be worth on the bank's balance sheet because these banks are holding them as held to maturity securities. They're not writing them off. And and we saw New York Community Bancorp, Nycb, they had their credit rating downgraded to junk status following the identification of material weaknesses in their internal controls related to risk monitoring and assessment in its loan books. So what does that mean? In plain English? It means that they didn't have proper internal controls in place to monitor the risks in that portfolio. And you wonder why. Maybe it's because they didn't want. To write off those loans, to write down those loans, to recognize the losses that have been building. And it's possible, right, that every every one of these articles says, oh, this isn't going to be a contagion. There's not going to be a big collapse of regional banks. But I am concerned that because of the way the banks have been hiding these losses, by not writing down these loans, writing off these loans, that there could be more of these. And regional bank shares have just plummeted as a result of this, because I think the investors are getting wise to this.

David Leary: [00:22:32] And the regional banks, every time you see a building going up or construction project, it's never financed by Bank of America. There's always a sign of some small regional bank that's helping build this building. And so, yeah, they're holding the notes on buildings that are not being empty buildings. Basically, they'll have notes for. Right. And eventually somebody's going to walk away from their note. And now what do the banks do.

Blake Oliver: [00:22:53] Yeah. And then that's the problem is because then, you know, maybe these banks are actually undercapitalized. Right. And, you know, maybe there will be a run on the banks, uh, if this if the banks have to suddenly disclose billions of dollars of losses that have been building, but that they haven't disclosed because they don't have the internal controls in place to ensure that the losses are being recognized? That's my outsider take on it. And I would be really curious to hear from our listeners, if you agree is. Are these regional banks in trouble? I mean, do we have a looming real estate crisis in commercial real estate? It just seems obvious to me that if the offices are at 50% capacity of what they were that long terme, these landlords aren't going to be able to pay back their loans. And who's going to be taking the loss on that? It's the banks. And if the banks can't absorb those losses, they will not survive. And then everybody connected to those banks suffers. Where do we go from here? You had a story about Lyft, right? Lyft got sued by its shareholders.

David Leary: [00:24:03] Yeah. Follow up story for Lyft. Um, I think we talked about Lyft. It was last week. We covered this news that, um, Lyft, they added an extra 0 to 1 of the lines in their press release about their earnings statement.

Blake Oliver: [00:24:15] So one number, they.

David Leary: [00:24:16] Said number, right.

Blake Oliver: [00:24:17] 500 basis points instead of 50 basis points. The stock jumped. Yeah yeah. So it wasn't real Lyft.

David Leary: [00:24:24] Stock jumped 67% in a half hour because of a typo on their earnings statement. Now they're being sued by their shareholders for securities fraud. So I was wondering.

Blake Oliver: [00:24:35] If this was going to happen. Like who's going to be held accountable?

David Leary: [00:24:37] Accountable. So the complaint was filed in San Francisco federal court. The misrepresentation, the misrepresentation was so apparent that it went beyond mere negligence and amounted to a reckless indifference to the truth. And the lawsuit seeking damages for investors who bought Lyft shares at the inflated prices between 400 and 5 p.m. and 400 4:51 p.m. on February 13th. Um. The shareholders also said that the CEO and CFO were motivated to delay fixing the mistake in order to boost their stock based performance bonuses. And then also investors who, uh, had bet you know, who short sellers, they actually had to cover their short positions because of this. And so there are these lawsuits have, uh, bubbled up now.

Blake Oliver: [00:25:19] Yeah. So like, even if the mistake was an honest mistake, there's definitely people who lost money. Like you said, the short sellers had to cover their short positions and they're wiped out. So they're they might be entitled to compensation to be made whole. And I don't see how Lyft escapes that. Right. Even if you make a mistake, you still got to make those investors whole. And then if they can prove, oh man, if they could, if they could prove that Lyft moved slowly to fix it and to address it, then you get into the intent.

David Leary: [00:25:54] Intent part intent.

Blake Oliver: [00:25:55] Yeah. That's fraud. So Lyft might be sitting pretty right now because their stock has stayed up right.

David Leary: [00:26:01] It's still up. It came down a little bit. But in general it was a strong earnings statement. It was just you know that typo was there. But if I was Lyft I would say, hey look at all this data about accountants that make mistakes. Like of course this happened on accident naturally. And like you've said, the accounting shortage could lead to lots of fraud because there is no accountants doing the work. Right? Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:26:21] Well, I've got tons of remote work stories. Um, but I was thinking, you know, let's talk about something that's of interest to small firms, right? Firm owners. And I just lost the story. I had it right here. Hold on one second. Um, it was about niching.

David Leary: [00:26:38] While you're looking for that, I can bring up, uh. I'll add it. Um, there's another survey. It's about the state of accounting workflow automation, and the major cause of poor work life balance at firms is due to workflow challenges. Right now, the survey was done by financial sense. Um, really targeting smaller firms. Right. This is this is surveys of smaller firms. Um, and as you see on this graph, 63% are reporting that workflow is one of the biggest challenges that their firm faced in 2023. And if you scroll down a little bit we'll get into um. Like how it affected their firm, and the vast majority are saying it basically causes poor work life balance. It causes missed deadlines, poor work distribution errors, and poor work quality. Right? So a major not having work flow really affects these types of things. And this almost goes back to the Gartner thing where the software right. If people don't have software that's easy to use, right. Or if you don't have workflow software, I could see how there's more errors. Right. That easily comes up on that.

Blake Oliver: [00:27:41] Absolutely.

David Leary: [00:27:42] Let me scroll down. So this is.

Blake Oliver: [00:27:44] Really important as.

David Leary: [00:27:45] I scroll.

Blake Oliver: [00:27:45] This is a huge takeaway right. So this is mostly small firms. The number one issue is managing workflow. And the biggest impact of that is poor work life balance. So if you want to improve work life balance for yourself and your team, the number one way to fix that is to have a good way to manage your workflow. Yeah. And I still see firms managing their tax returns, their monthly reconciliations, all their work on spreadsheets. And it's insane to be doing that these days when you have solutions like. The company that did this survey, financial sense or any of the other practice management solutions out there or workflow tools out there.

David Leary: [00:28:27] Our favorite process street, which is an even sped up for accounting firms. But it's amazing, right? Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:28:31] It's not even specific to accounting firms. You can use it for any business. And we run our business on it. We do all of every podcast episode that we produce, goes through a massive checklist in Process Street to make sure that it gets done. There are so many different options, whether you choose something specific to accounting or just in general. I just I can't wrap my head around why firms don't do this. It's the one of the most obvious ways to fix your firm. Along with my other favorite, which is proposal software and getting paid. Getting paid thinking like in a service agreement to getting paid automatically every month. If you do proposal software and workflow software, you can use whatever else you want in your firm, right? I don't care, but those two things are essential. I actually just did a whole webinar on this called the five Apps You Need in Your Firm, and those are my top two. And then I go into some of the other details. But if you're interested in that, go to the earmark YouTube channel and you'll find it in live streams. The five apps you need to run your firm. And I go into a lot of detail on that.

David Leary: [00:29:38] And so they talk about some of once, once a firm owner discovered they have workflow problems, like how they tried to fix it, and a lot tried to set up processes buying workflow automation, software, training staff. But for a lot of them it didn't work. And so that's an interesting. The next graph down is like why when you try to implement your solution, didn't it work? And the number one answer is my team slipped back into old habits. Right. And the second answer was app overwhelm made it difficult to decide on the software. Right. And then new processes still need to be automated. And then the fourth one software was too complicated. And so this goes back to those four pillars, right. It's got to be easy to use. You got to be able to customize it. Your your staff just won't use it. If they don't use it you're in trouble. You can't roll this stuff out.

Blake Oliver: [00:30:25] I would add you can't make the decision top down. I think this happens way too often, especially in big firms. Is somebody at the top or in the IT department decides we're going to go buy workflow software, and then they go evaluate it and they buy it. And they didn't get the people on the front lines involved in making this decision. And those people, if they don't like the software, they're not going to use it. So then you've just wasted all this time implementing software that nobody's using. Yeah. When you say app overwhelm, I think you have a chart here on the screen that talks about why don't you use workflow automation software?

David Leary: [00:31:01] Yeah. And the number one answer was too many choices.

Blake Oliver: [00:31:04] And there are there's like dozens of solutions just in accounting.

David Leary: [00:31:08] Hundreds.

Blake Oliver: [00:31:09] Hundreds for this. Probably. Yeah. And then of course, like if you're just talking about project management software in general, there are hundreds of options.

David Leary: [00:31:19] My favorite answer here, though at 4.3%, that'll always be I'm okay using spreadsheets. It's always going to be there forever I love it.

Blake Oliver: [00:31:26] I mean, look, if it's working right, but I find most of the time. Maybe this is the problem, that the spreadsheets work for the partners, because they've just got people whose job is to, like, run the spreadsheet. But it's a giant waste of time for everybody else. But the partner doesn't feel that because they just have people doing it for them. I don't know, I just I there's this there's a disconnect here. Any any other insights from that survey was that mainly it's.

David Leary: [00:31:54] Just I mean, I mean, obviously you have to look who makes the surveys. And, you know, some of these surveys are self-serving. But I think if you look at that Gartner one, you look at this one, you look at the bigger issue with accountants making errors. It's all tied to bad workflows, not having the right software, because the only way we're going to get over these, these crisis of lack of people is technology ultimately. Right. And I, I think.

Blake Oliver: [00:32:17] Going back to that discussion about regional banks, one of our live stream viewers, Alison, said, well, these regional banks become too local to fail if tenants can't continue to pay their leases. Well, I guess that would imply there would have to be a bailout of some sort. And who would who would do that? I suppose the feds would of course, step in, just like they did with Silicon Valley Bank. If a bunch of regional banks started to fall apart and bail them out. But there's always the question as to whether or not the investors will get the bailout to the depositors, get bailed out. Do the investors get bailed out? So that's why the stocks have crashed. Well, not crashed, but what they were down 25%. Regional bank stocks were down 25% or something. I don't know where they are now, but, um, did you.

David Leary: [00:33:07] Find your niche, your niche? Article?

Blake Oliver: [00:33:08] Oh, yeah, I did. Um, so this was an article in CPA trendlines. Which niche is the best niche? It's a survey. Cpa trendlines does a lot of research. I love their research. They survey small CPA firms mostly. And they asked, you know, what's the best niche. Let's see what this question was. Specifically. They asked, where are you focusing your services. Right. What. What niche are you focusing on? And the chart's interesting because it's really like there's there's nothing that really dominates. But I also find it funny that this is considered a niche. So if you're on YouTube, you can see my screen and you can see that, uh, the number one quote unquote niche is small business at 73%. Now, I would argue that small business is not a niche. So we've got some issues with definitions here, people. It's to be a niche, right? Literally what is a niche? Like what is the actual what is a niche. It is a small like hole in a wall.

David Leary: [00:34:21] And I think that's the argument. Is it a vertical or a service. Because you could still have a niche. If you're the expert in calculating sales tax for e-commerce companies, right. Or whatever like that. But yeah, small business is too general, right? It's like saying my niche is millionaires. I only do millionaires. That's my niche.

Blake Oliver: [00:34:37] It's too big. Right? You so.

David Leary: [00:34:42] Well, that's like the second and third place ones on that graph.

Blake Oliver: [00:34:46] Okay. I'll just go up to the graph. So there's professional services. And then it's kind of cut off. But you see doctors. So I could see that. Right. Medical offices. And that is a niche that's good. And that's 42%. Oh, and the question was which niches offer your best new opportunities? That's the question that's being answered. So Professional Services is the first one that to me seems like a niche. I would argue it's too big still, like it's still too big. What kind of doctor's offices is it? A Botox clinic. Is it a dentist's office? Is it a chiropractor? Is it? And lawyers.

David Leary: [00:35:24] Kind of like a lot of things fall under professional services, right? Is.

Blake Oliver: [00:35:26] And is that just like any buddy delivering a service like that's too, too wide? Um, the next one's not a niche in my opinion. Individuals. Individuals are not a niche. It's maybe certain kinds of individuals, uh, midsize businesses, also not a niche. Real estate. There you go. 31% real estate. That is the first true niche. Although you could argue that it's not a niche small enough. Uh, are these like Airbnb hosts? Are these investors in commercial real estate? Like, what kind of real estate are we talking about? Right. You got to really dig in here. You can't just. And this is important. Like, I think like a marketer because I did marketing for accounting software companies. And you have to think like how do you target your message if you're just targeting all real estate people? That's too broad. Yeah. Your message is never going to get through to anyone a construction, that's the next one. Nonprofits then technology, healthcare, wholesale and distribution, manufacturing, hotels and restaurants. Other at 11%. Retail trade. Large business. That's not a niche. Pension plans. State and local government and then banks and thrifts. At 2%. So I don't know if you're looking for a niche. Maybe the best strategy is to go to one of these ones that nobody's working on.

David Leary: [00:36:58] Yeah, or the ones that are super high percentages because those you just the competition is easy. It's nobody's focused enough in those niches. So go find a sub a sub niche of those to go after. Uh, I think Jason stats has been every week lately, either on LinkedIn or YouTube, wherever he does it at. Maybe it's even Twitter where he some he probably used AI to do it, but he generated like a list. It might be 400 400 possible niches like, um beekeepers, uh, bicycle shops, like super detailed niches you could go after as an accounting firm and it gives it picks one of them randomly every week and gives you all these examples of what you could reach those clients.

Blake Oliver: [00:37:37] Right. My niche, uh, was homeowners associations. Those are great. And the property management companies often do the accounting, but they do a really bad job. Right. Um, state and local government is on here at the very bottom of this list, close to the bottom. And I think that's actually an incredible niche niche. I'm just going to say niche. So we're saying the same thing, um, because we've seen reports in the news about how these state and local governments don't have people to do the accounting. Right. So maybe you can step in for like a small municipality or a town as an outsourced accounting firm and do that remotely and serve all the small towns in your state. You know, or the cities.

David Leary: [00:38:20] And they're going to be more open to that because they're having their own hiring problems. Right. Exactly. This might be the time to. Yeah, look into that niche for sure.

Blake Oliver: [00:38:30] So there you go. Be more niche with your niche. That's my my only.

David Leary: [00:38:35] Advice if you're going to go in a niche. Don't quit. Stay in your niche for at least 24 months so you get good at it. I talk to people all the time. They do six months in a niche and then I see them at the next conference. They're like, oh, I'm not doing dentist anymore. I'm now doing bicycle shops that seem six months later, I'm not doing bicycle shops. It didn't work. I'm doing breweries. Like you have to spend 18 months to 24 just to get good at that niche.

Blake Oliver: [00:38:57] Not even just to get good, just to know what you're talking about.

David Leary: [00:39:00] About. Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:39:00] Right. Like I don't yeah. That and this is the problem with like picking a niche out of nowhere is that you don't know anything about it. So how are you going to go get the experience that you need to actually be good at serving that business? Yeah. You have to go like work at a business like that or own one. Be an investor in one. You can't just pick it up and expect it to be successful. And you have to have relationships. You need to go to the conferences. You need to live in it. So, you know, great example, Chris, farm and breweries, right? He just lives and breathes it. He doesn't really drink beer, but he knows everything about breweries.

David Leary: [00:39:39] Yeah, he he hardly goes to accounting conferences. He only goes to brewery conferences. Yeah. And 24 hour bookkeeper, you know, uh, their account bookkeeping firm. They get a booth at Concrete World, right? Yeah. Um, construction.

Blake Oliver: [00:39:53] Yeah. Uh, and that's the way to go. That's that's. You can target all your marketing. You can target all your processes, systems, technology to just serving that group. Uh, Michael Alaman, I did an interview with him on my earmark podcast. He just does Keller Williams real estate agents. That is super specific. Not just real estate agents, but Keller Williams real estate agents. And Keller Williams has a standardized chart of accounts recommended by the founder so he can go to every single one of his potential clients and say, this is what your, you know, founder of, you know, Mr. Keller used. So we're going to use that instant authority.

David Leary: [00:40:32] Did you? You want to talk?

Blake Oliver: [00:40:33] I let's talk I.

David Leary: [00:40:35] So there was an article in the Washington Post, and I don't think the article was very meaty, but the headline was juicy. Turbotax and H&R block now use I for tax advice. It's awful. Yes.

Blake Oliver: [00:40:49] I was talking about this with Roger Harris on the Federal Tax Updates podcast. Okay. And we're gonna put that episode out onto this feed as a bonus episode. And, uh, yeah, he was just amused by this. Of course, being a enrolled agent and having decades of experience, the error rates are insane that were tested like these bots that were put into TurboTax were giving answers wrong answers like half the time.

David Leary: [00:41:18] And the same is I think it was true with H&R block 30%.

Blake Oliver: [00:41:21] Of the time.

David Leary: [00:41:21] And, you know, a lot of times it would just point to help files. Now, in defense of TurboTax and H&R block. Neither products are actually using AI to calculate anything, right? It's really kind of like a glorified help situation, right? But they weren't even giving you the wrong answer. That's not good.

Blake Oliver: [00:41:38] Yeah, right. Well, and I said in response to this, there was some discussion on Twitter about it. And LinkedIn I said, look, this doesn't mean that I can't answer these questions. It's just they implemented them the wrong way that they if you if you just take the the generic ChatGPT bot and you plug it into your app and you let people ask questions, you don't know where it's getting those answers from because it's ingested the whole internet. And we know there's a lot of bullshit out there on the internet, and it's going to give you wrong answers. So you have to train these models. If you want to accurately answer specific tax questions, you have to train the model on a data set that has been reviewed and approved by experts.

David Leary: [00:42:21] So you don't have beef, right? Is like you're using your customers as guinea pigs to to test this out and help you, uh, improve it. But it's his point of view is if you're going to add put AI into a product, it's got to be finished and working properly. I mean, we just saw this, like you said, Gemini last week with the Google Gemini their AI and like the yeah the rollouts of AI is probably that's going to be the big story this year because everybody's going to roll AI in their products and we're going to see just a lot of we'll probably see more failed rollouts of AI than we will see actual successful implementations of AI.

Blake Oliver: [00:42:58] And the successful ones will be eyes trained on a proprietary data set that has been created and validated by experts. And so this is why, actually, companies like Thomson Reuters could really take advantage of this whole AI thing, because they have massive databases of research and analysis that they do. They pay people a lot of money to do this. And tax accountants subscribe to services like checkpoint in order to get access to that research. And imagine if you took an AI and trained it on all of that research. It could give, I think, really accurate answers. Now, the question is whether these big companies like that are actually going to, you know, do this. Are they going to take the initiative because they've been slow to move in the past? Uh, it would be really neat to see. It could be really powerful.

David Leary: [00:43:51] Or you could roll it out, like obviously we talked last week about or they have their free version, and the free version only has so many features. And if you have all this, these complicated things, you can't use the free version of their product. Well, why don't you just make your I only work with the free version. So you have this smaller set of variable questions that can handle anything outside of that. It's just like, I don't know these answers like instead of making because really that's the problem. It's making up answers. Right? And that's what we can't have.

Blake Oliver: [00:44:16] So. You don't have to wait to do this though. You can actually make your own AI in ChatGPT that's been trained on specific knowledge. You can do this with custom GPT if you have the. Plus or the team plan. And if you have the team plan, you can share these custom gpts with other people on your team. So perfect example. This morning I was digging into the SEC's new climate disclosure rules that they just put out over 800 pages of rules. And I'm sitting here scrolling through this PDF, doing keyword searches and thinking, there's got to be a better way to get an overview of this without reading all 823 pages. And so I went into ChatGPT. I said, I'm going to create a custom GPT. And I uploaded that PDF and also the like a summary document. The SEC put out key facts. And I said, your job is to analyze these documents and answer questions I have about them. And. It's pretty cool. I could ask it, how do the rules affect companies? And I get a I get a really good summary of the disclosure requirements. Of the costs. Of. What these companies are going to have to do as a result of these rules.

Blake Oliver: [00:45:44] And I don't have to go in and read the whole document myself now. I should go check that, right. But the reason I know this is going to be accurate is that I've uploaded a document to ChatGPT, and it uses that as its primary source. So it's not going to search in the internet. It's not using whatever somebody's blog post that was pulled into the large language model. To answer my question, it's going to first use the information I gave it. And it's just a small example of what these other companies could do, of what anyone can do. You could do this with any document. If you have this subscription, anyone can do this right now. And actually I've made this public. So I'm going to put the link to the SEC climate disclosure rules analyst. Into the chat here and you can go play with it. Have fun with it. Uh, let's see, I got to find the. Find the link copy link. Here you go. Enjoy everyone. Sec Climate Rules Analyst you have to have a paid subscription for it to work. So you'll find that link on YouTube.

David Leary: [00:46:53] Perfect. I'll play with it later. I don't know what I'll ask it, but I'll play with it.

Blake Oliver: [00:46:58] But yeah, you can do this with anything. So you could do this with, like, an IRS guidance document. You could do this with a set of like GAAP rules. You could do this with any document and you can basically query it. So instead of doing find in the PDF, now you're just asking questions in natural language. And I've had really good results with this, especially with court cases. This is like my number one use case for AI right now for research.

David Leary: [00:47:24] Kind of pivoting off of I a little bit. I know there's a lot of concern with firms about it tying to your data, right. Or being careful not to expose client data to these, these tools and bots. And obviously with you build to create your own, uh, back end data stores that are slightly more secure now. Right. But and where I'm going with this, it made me think about I was at a doctor's appointment yesterday, and I do the post-op whatever thing where they're making sure I'm still alive before they release me. And we walk into the room and the nurse practitioner, I'm not sure, uh, she says, Alexa, stop. And I almost like I couldn't focus on anything else after that point because I was thinking, like, there's no way having Alexa's in hospital rooms can be HIPAA compliant. And then it led me to think like, what about all these accounting firms? Like, is it okay to have an Alexa in your accounting office?

Blake Oliver: [00:48:15] Um, I don't know.

David Leary: [00:48:17] Obviously it's not HIPAA, but man, it's.

Blake Oliver: [00:48:19] Got an open mic basically.

David Leary: [00:48:21] And then so do our phones. Right? So then I'm like like I don't know, like what's okay and not okay, but I just almost couldn't think about anything else after she did that. And I saw the Alexa sitting there, I'm like, wow.

Blake Oliver: [00:48:33] Well, you know, this is the thing about AI and privacy that is kind of scary to think about is that AI is really good at connecting all these disparate data points. You can feed somebodys like medical records. You can feed a lot of information, like anonymized information about people into AI, and then it can figure out who those people are. Yeah. So even if you've this is the problem, even if we anonymize data and then we like release it into the wild, AIS can go and find all the correlations and then track it back to you. So eventually with all these like hacks that are happening and just I like privacy is gonna be really challenged by this. You know, a great example is like Google tracks my location because I've given, you know, Google Maps permission to track my location passively in the background, right? So I could take all the data points about all the places that I go and compare that to all the data points about all the other people using Google and everything it knows about them, and it can create a profile of me just based on my movements. Yeah, and that profile can be scarily accurate and in ways that like, we don't even understand how, uh, same thing. I read a story about how. Uh, this is a little scarier, even. If you give an eye, you know, like enough information. Now it can, you know, reliably it can do it can do a pretty good job of estimating when you're going to die. And we don't know how, but the way this.

David Leary: [00:50:06] Is you type accountant. It just replies back early. Like it's that kind of how it works.

Blake Oliver: [00:50:10] Yeah, well, so what they do is they take historical records about people. Um, I got to tell the story now. Right? So this is I've been saving this. So this is an article in New Scientist. I trained on millions of life stories can predict risk of early death. An artificial intelligence model was trained on the entire population of Denmark. Okay data of the entire population of Denmark, and it can predict individual's likelihood of death more accurately than any existing model, including those used in the insurance industry. The AI is known as life two VEC, and it was developed by researchers at the Technical University of Denmark. This includes the. The data includes information on education, medical visits, diagnoses, income and occupation for 6 million people for 12 years in the last 20 years. Uh, it was converted into a format that could be used to train a large language model such as ChatGPT. They don't say that it was that, but it was converted into that. Um. So it was trained on all but the last four years of data. So I guess they trained it on the first eight, and then it was tasked with predicting the life or death outcomes for a group of people aged 35 to 65, and it proved to be 11% more accurate than any existing model or actuarial life tables used in the finance industry. Amazing. Yeah, and it was able to accurately predict the results of a personality test in a subset of the population. So think about that. It's using data that has nothing to do with your personality and it predicts your personality. How does it do.

David Leary: [00:51:46] Health behaviors.

Blake Oliver: [00:51:47] I guess so we don't know. And it correlates all that data and somehow figures out who you are. So you remember that Tom cruise movie, uh, with Precrime?

David Leary: [00:51:59] What was that? Minority report?

Blake Oliver: [00:52:00] Minority report. Like, just imagine data being fed about people into AIS predicting their future behavior. This could be very profitable for the insurance industry.

David Leary: [00:52:12] Well, this could be useful for the IRS. They could look at all returns and all people that don't file, and they can predict who's going to pay their taxes or commit fraud on their taxes, that this could actually help them, like figure out who to go after for tax fraud.

Blake Oliver: [00:52:26] Yeah. Yeah. Well, they're going to have to do a lot of catch up to get to that point, because as Roger and I discussed on the Federal Tax Updates podcast the IRS just started sending out. Non-filing notices to 125,000 wealthy people who haven't filed taxes in the last seven years. So these people who make like over $400,000 a year have not filed taxes for seven years, and the IRS just started sending letters.

David Leary: [00:52:56] Oh, I sometimes I wish I had that, like, level of hubris. Right? Oh screw it, I'm not paying taxes.

Blake Oliver: [00:53:04] And you wonder why do they do that? Like, aren't they going to owe a lot of money? And the sad fact is like. You only cap out, you cap out at 25% of the tax bill. So let's say you owe a $100,000. The most. The penalties go up to is $25,000. So if you're really wealthy, you could just say, I'm not going to file a return. And if they catch me, I'll pay the 25% penalty someday. But in the meantime, I get to use all that money that I'm not paying the IRS to do whatever I want.

David Leary: [00:53:42] It's worth the worth. The gamble. Or maybe when I get to end of life, I'll use this life calculator I. And then I'll figure out like the odds. By the time they catch up to me, I'll just be dead anyways. So maybe the last 6 or 7 years in my life, I'm just going to not file any taxes or pay taxes.

Blake Oliver: [00:53:56] Exactly. David. So it's sort of like, you know, drive your age, right? And don't file your taxes if you're like 90, I guess. I don't know, it's it's crazy to me that we have a situation where there can be such noncompliance. And yet here we are. Um, and again, most people who don't file their taxes, they don't actually end up going to jail because. I forget exactly what the standard is, but it has to be like on purpose. They have to prove that you deliberately didn't do it. If you say it was a mistake, then you just owe the penalties. So we've got a.

David Leary: [00:54:30] Whole don't don't send an email or write a letter that says, I refuse to pay taxes because of, you know, the Founding Fathers X, right? Don't consciously not pay your taxes. Just don't file.

Blake Oliver: [00:54:41] Thanks everyone who joined us live. Anthony asks, what's the name of the federal tax? What's the name of the federal Upstate's podcast? It's federal tax updates, and there are a few different ones like, uh, so the one to go to is just the website federal tax

David Leary: [00:54:59] It's the red, white and blue one has the Treasury building on it or the Capitol building on it. Yeah. Um, and.

Blake Oliver: [00:55:05] Actually if you go to the subscribe page, then that's the easiest way to get to it on whatever app that you like. Federal tax It's great. Roger Harris, Andy Schwab of Paget. They do that every couple of weeks and you can earn CPE for it. And you can also earn IRS continuing education for it. So if you're an enrolled agent, it's a great way to get all the, um, see that you need every year to not every episode qualifies because the IRS is very strict about what qualifies, but a lot of them do.

David Leary: [00:55:40] So I know we have two minutes left. Did you want to, uh, you're on the Trump. The Trump beat right now. The Trump stories. Apparently the CFO pled guilty to something.

Blake Oliver: [00:55:50] Can you Allen Weisselberg, our favorite CFO who is not a CPA. Um. Let me pull that up. Allen Weisselberg, the former CFO of the Trump Organization, has pled guilty to two counts of perjury in a Manhattan court. He admitted to lying during sworn depositions and in his testimony in the Trump trial last year. What did he lie about? He misrepresented the size of the Trump Tower triplex in financial documents, and he lied about that on the stand. That was the most egregious example of a scheme to secure favorable loans. According to the New York State Attorney. He's going to get five months in jail. Provided that he returns for his sentencing on April 10th and leads a law abiding life until then. There you go.

David Leary: [00:56:44] 79 years old. I don't know, you said five months in jail.

Blake Oliver: [00:56:47] Five months in jail?

David Leary: [00:56:47] Yeah, I just like I don't know, I'm only 49. I'm like, I couldn't even imagine that. Like, he's 79. Like, I don't know. Well, you know.

Blake Oliver: [00:56:56] Maybe he can go get a job as a climate disclosure SEC expert. Because now, according to these new SEC climate disclosure rules, my theory is that every single company, every single public company is going to have to hire somebody whose job is just to do that at least one person. So there's like a there's there's thousands of jobs out there now for SEC climate emissions experts. You can help companies calculate their, uh, what do they call them? The, uh, direct and indirect emissions. Emissions. Scope one and scope two. No. Scope three. Thank God they pulled that out of the rules. So you don't have to estimate all your downstream emissions of all the companies that are your customers, which would be insane. Uh, I think to try to figure out, but it's still going to be a ton of work. It's 800 and something pages of rules. So yep, full employment for accountants. And that's all the time we have this week. Thank you everyone who joined us live. We surpassed a hundred live stream viewers for the first time. Wow. Yeah. It's amazing. A little quiet today, but we encourage you on future live streams to let us know what you think, ask questions, send us stories, heckle us, uh, keep us entertained and awake. You know, as we discuss these riveting issues in the accounting profession. And don't forget, you can earn free CPE for having watched this live stream. Yes, you made it all the way through. You deserve credit. Download the earmark app and take a quick five question quiz and get your free CPE. You can find that at earmark Cpcomm. Thanks everyone for joining us. We will see you here next week.

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David Leary
David Leary
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IRS Agents Working From Home Can Watch H&R Block Reality TV Show
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