Category: Uncategorized

NYC at night

 

Here’s a pic of the Empire State Building, taken from Penn Station (7th Ave at 33rd St.) about 7pm last night. I really miss the lockers in the train stations – it’s a lot harder to explore the city and climb stairs with 75 pounds of luggage in tow to literally everywhere.

 

Climbing the Value Chain

Ahhhh…. It’s that most wonderful time of the year – March – when a young accountant’s mind turns to… MUSH.

Yes, busy season is here, and like all of us, I’m frantically trying to get stuff done for clients.  The good news is that I have a spare PC with a TV card in it, so I can at least run Formula One in the background while I work 24×7.  With my trips to Seattle and Detroit next week, I’m not sure my wife and son will even know that I’m out of town (even though I usually work out of my home office).

As a sole practitioner, my clients ask me to deal with many different issues for them – Quickbooks, Peachtree, taxes, compliance, IT support, dealing with vendors, etc.  As such, there are some things that, although I am professionally capable of dealing with them, it’s a lot easier to find someone to take care of the details, as the value of the service to the client is not what I would like to make on an hourly basis.  That having been said, I want to take care of my client – but I don’t want to be in the business of stuffing envelopes, nor do my clients want to pay my rate for that service.  Accordingly, I’m trying to identify specialists who deal with these details for a reasonable fee.

One service which has been recommended to me is FileTaxes.com.  This is a service which will prepare 1099’s, W-2’s, 941’s, and the like for you, and keep you from going nuts trying to find that one copy of a “red” W-3 or 1096 on February 28th.  PayCycle (mentioned below) also offers a service for up to 50 1099’s which gives you e-filing capabilities, and prints the recipient copies on your PC for $10 wholesale(e.g. CPA Firms) or $40 retail (e.g. end users).

Another service which I’ve seen a demo of is Paycycle‘s payroll service – an outsourced payroll solution which lets accountants rebrand their web-based payroll solution, mark it up, and sell it to their clients.  (It appears to be similar to some of the services provided by AccountantsWorld, which is another company helping small firms rebrand automated services).  It costs $14.99/client/month, and their webinar was pretty impressive.  I’ve got a couple of small companies who are using ADP and some other services who I’m thinking of switching over to see how well it works.  The website speaks of imports into Quickbooks, Peachtree, and other formats, alt.  Bad news here – there’s a limit of 50 active employees, so my client with 75 actives who needs a solution is out.

How are you helping yourself and your clients provide more value in less time?  If you’re not thinking about how to constantly do more with less, you’re sitting still – and in today’s dog-eat-dog world, that’s a great way to end up as the prey instead of the predator we all aspire to be.

P.S. If you have a few minutes and haven’t laughed enough lately, there’s some hilarious new music on iTunes from a fake band called “Van Heffer”.  The whole tragic saga of Van Heffer has been played out in Wichita Rutherford’s podcast, “Five Minutes with Wichita” – but here’s a thumbnail sketch:  Sissy Elvis impersonator sings Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne songs backed by a  Bluegrass band.  Now this is no cheap imitation – Randy Rhoades guitar solos are repeated note-for-note on a mandolin.  My favorite track:  The Bluegrass version of Iron Man.  Check it out – the whole album is $9.90, and as Wichita would say, “It’s just precious.”

 

Thanksgiving, 1620.

 I saw this in the Wall Street Journal Online today, and wanted to pass it along to you and yours.  Thanks for your counsel and friendship through the years, and I wish each of you a very happy thanksgiving, a merry Christmas, and a prosperous 2006.  As I sit here in my parents’ living room with my wife, my son, both of my parents, and my sister and her family, I am struck with the many blessings the Lord has put at our table, including our family, our friends, and our health.  May God bless you all as richly as He has blessed my family with good times this holiday season which will make those long, dark days of winter ahead warm with pleasant memories of the things that are really important – faith, family, and friends.

Best regards, Brian

______________________________

 

 

 

The Desolate Wilderness
November 23, 2005; Page A16

Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.

When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other’s heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

This editorial has appeared annually since 1961.

 

NASBA to Provide CPE Tracking Tool

Greg LaFollette has scooped the world and caught information on a new CPE tracking tool to be launched next year by NASBA.  See link for more details.

http://www.thetechgap.com/2005/10/nasba_to_provid.html

 

Brian Joins K2 Enterprises

Brian Joins K2 and the Delta Crown Room. What’s next- the apocalypse?

I recently started doing some work with K2 Enterprises. For those of you who are wondering, K2 is the leading provider of technology CPE for CPA’s in the US, and they teach for most of the state CPA societies. I am slated to teach quite a bit for them next year. For more info on k2, visit their website at www.k2e.com. My K2 e-mail address is brian@k2e.com.

I am on the plane to teach a course in Virginia right now, and spent quite a bit of time this afternoon in the Crown Room. For frequent travelers, the airport lounges are a must. I spent 2 hours in a cubicle there this afternoon, and it made all of the difference in the world. Some people say that they are in it for the free booze. I will admit, it’s nice every now and then to have a gin martini, but I’m in it for the facilities. I can get a T-mobile monthly pass when I’m on the road a lot, and it works at any Crown Room, and works at Starbucks, Kinkos, and other places as well. It’s so nice to be able to go into a cubicle, plug in my phone and PC, and return calls and recharge. I billed time in the Crown Room in excess of what I paid for it ($150) the first time I used it. Good stuff.

One of the things that really hit home with me today was the wisdom of using a hosted Exchange and Sharepoint provider. K2 uses a hosting provider for all of this. The recent events of Hurricane Katrina really brings all of this home. K2’s headquarters are in Hammond, LA, a few miles from Lake Ponchatrain. The office didn’t have power for a week after Katrina, but there was no loss of e-mail- they just kept on going. Since K2 is a ‘virtual’ organization, the field force (that’s me) never lost connectivity with each other through their hosted Exchange accounts. So I ask you- do you really need to have Exchange in house? The best answer for your disaster recovery plan may be ‘no’.

[Posted with hblogger 2.0 http://www.normsoft.com/hblogger/]

 

All My Package X’s Live in Texas….

The handy, dandy, Package X, the SearsCatalog of tax publications has finally gone to be with Elvis this year.  After 2004, the IRS will no longer print copies of Package X.  The simple reason here is the changes in technology which have rendered it a 21st century buggy whip.  Your options follow:

1. Download each individual form you need from the IRS website or the related state websites
2. Subscribe to a forms service through someone like BNA or Superforms.
3. Get the forms through your tax software, and figure something out for those forms which you can’t figure out how to use, or for those items when you need just one form, and for which you don’t want to pay the “per return” charge for that client.

Another option is a hybrid of this, and IMHO, is the optimal solution for many sole practitioners like me:
1. Federal: Use Publication 1796, a little known CD available from the IRS for about $25.  As the IRS describes it,

Publication 1796, IRS Tax Products (a CD-ROM equivalent to PKG X), is
sold by both the Superintendent of Documents under the Government
Printing Office (GPO)
and the National Technical Information System
(NTIS)
under the US Department of Commerce.

2. States: Use the State Tax Links site provided by the Federation of Tax Administrators.

 

Long Island – Suburbia, Supersized

Long Island – Suburbia, Supersized

On the road again- this time to Long IsIand to take a class. I ran into the Palm store in the Atlanta airport- great shop, by the way- and saw a Speck rubberized Treo case. Love it so far. I also have an aluminum case for the Treo, and it was simply too bulky. (Mind you, it works great with my 3 year old, as it’s pretty much indestructible).

I’ve also got all of my August 15th stuff done- just have to deliver it now.

I have spent some time lately working on Quickbooks, and have been impressed- the 2005 version seems to have stepped up and dealt with some of the issues accountants used to complain about (weak passwords, poor audit trail, inability to lock out prior period adjustments, etc.), and the Sleeter Group’s consultant guide seems to be a good tool for refreshing your skills. (Tip ‘o the hat to Will for the lead on the Sleeter Guide)

[Posted with hblogger 2.0 http://www.normsoft.com/hblogger/]

 

Internal Control Documentation Tips

Since I teach a lot of internal control seminars, people are asking me how to ‘idiot proof’ their systems against fraud. Sorry- it can’t be done. As long as humans are prone to error, people will find ways to beat systems- it’s in our nature to improvise, adapt, and overcome problems we face. That having been said, I have come across some innovative ways to document and search for weaknesses in internal controls over the last couple of years.

The keys I have seen are to keep things understandable and focus on the average reader. Sure, you’ll want to mention the location of key database files in UNC codes (think names like \\luther\apps\appname\database.mdb), but keep the overview focused on the big picture. If you find yourself creating diagrams on large format paper, you need to break things up. My experience has been that your average retail/wholesale/manufacturing company user can’t comprehend a diagram on large format paper – it’s just sensory overload.

Because half of the people viewing your diagrams are visual learners, it’s important to use diagrams, flowcharts, and color. I have a flowchart template for Excel which is available from my website, www.bftcpa.com. The visual items make it easier to grasp the whole system without getting initially bogged down in the details.

Color can be used in listings of duties to identify potential segregation issues, Three colors of highlighters – one blue, one yellow, and one orange – can be used to identify tasks as either access to assets, recordkeeping, or approval/override, The lists of duties by employee can then be reviewed, and if an employee has more than one color highlighting in their list of duties for, say, the revenue cycle, the duties should be reviewed to see if they are consistent with each other.

[Posted with hblogger 2.0 http://www.normsoft.com/hblogger/ from a Sprint Treo 650]

 

Big Change in Audit Standards

Big Change in Audit Standards

The AICPA issued eight (yes, eight) exposure drafts on June 15th. These represent a huge change in how audit standards work, and will hopefully help auditors do better audits. How they will impact the profitability and cost-effectiveness of our profession’s premiere service remains to be seen.

Based on a cursory scan of the ED’s, they appear to continue the trend started with SAS 99 whereby we go look for things which shouldn’t be there. (or as we say in East TN, ‘go lookin for stuff that just ain’t right). The new ED’s extend this command to ‘go forth and look in many places’ from fraud (promulgated in SAS 99) to financial statement errors and omitted disclosures. The wording changes seem to also remove much of the wiggle room in existing standards.

While this is new as a requirement of standards, many auditors have been doing this for some time already. The new rules thus decree that it isn’t optional any more- so it’s going to be easier for those pesky lawyers to second-guess everything you do.

The changes also appear to bring ASB’s version of GAAS closer to that promulgated by PCAOB and GAO. Now mind you, this may not be such a terrible thing, but I’ve seen the other end of this equation- three workpapers to track down and document a $2 variance in petty cash. Let’s hope common sense is applied liberally to these new rules.

So….. are you and your partners sure you can explain why you did what you did to 12 people who couldn’t get out of jury duty- always a scary thought.

Bottom line: I see fees going up, number of audits and audit firms going down, and risk on engagements going up. What are you seeing out there?

[Posted with hblogger 2.0 http://www.normsoft.com/hblogger/]

 

Mobile Computing Tip Of the Day

Having trouble with a laptop? Is your windows corrupted? Buy a 2.5″ USB 2.0 HDD case, pull your hard drive out of your laptop, plug it into your case, and plug the case into your desktop or another PC. You can then usually get your data off your PC, and back it up before reformatting your hard drive and installing the new operating system.

I’ve linked above a $50 case for this – I bought the CompUSA store brand for $20. Good luck, and happy ticking….