Archive for the ‘Helpful Information’ Category

Monday, January 23rd, 2023

The Scheduling Challenge

“Be like a duck, my mother used to tell me. Remain calm on the surface and paddle like hell underneath.” – Michael Caine, actor

I continue to hear many stories about the scheduling challenge for CPA firms. Audit work is easier to schedule than tax work. Audits are bigger engagements and consume a higher volume of hours per engagement. Audits also demand more coordination with the client giving the client time to prepare for the upcoming work.

Tax work is more like a constant fire drill. Sometimes a tax return can take many hours, but most are budgeted for a few to several hours. Plus, it is difficult to know, for sure, when the client’s tax information will be submitted to the firm.

Many firms are using software to help in the task, such as Prostaff and others, but the whole process is still a challenge. Other firms have appointed a “Scheduler,” but it is an overwhelming task for one person. So much information is needed from so many people!

Here’s something that might work for you. It works best for firms that ask their teams to be skilled in both tax and audit. One and two-year staff are usually exposed to both tax and audit. They can specialize later on.

Each staff person keeps a two-week schedule. It shows what they have scheduled for the coming week and what they expect to have for the following week. It also shows open time, PTO time, holidays, etc. They submit this report to the Schedulers every Friday morning.

There are two schedulers. One experienced Tax Manager and one experienced Audit Manager for the office. These two managers are charged with knowing what their teams are doing and how they are doing. The Tax Manager and the Audit Manager meet every Friday morning. The firm administrator (practice manager) is also a part of this small scheduling committee. The firm administrator acts as the management contributor, helps balance work when needed, and/or relays communications from management.

The schedulers use the individual team members’ two-week schedules to assess who has too much work and who has room for more work, and they determine the experience level needed for new assignments. They assign work into the two-week schedules and also may move work around depending on client needs and workloads.

The firm administrator, sometimes with the help of an administrative assistant, modifies each two-week schedule and returns the schedules to the staff.

Some managers also keep two-week schedules if they are more involved in doing the work rather than supervising it.

This system makes sure that everyone has a full schedule for the next week and a good idea of what they will be doing for the week after that. Also, these two-week schedules have the number of hours indicated to do the work. The schedulers provide the hourly budgets as they assign new work or modify existing work.

I hope all of this is helpful and not too confusing. If you have questions, feel free to contact me. I will also share a handout explaining all this and a sample two-week schedule form if you request one.

  • Keep busy at something: a busy person never has time to be unhappy.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, January 19th, 2023

The Cost of Recruiting

“Stay calm and aggressive.” – Gabrielle Reece

Today, I am just sharing some interesting comments I have heard recently about how some firms respond to the huge challenge of recruiting new team members.

These examples are not from small firms, nor are they from huge firms. The comments are from what I call mid-size firms.

  • One firm works with seven different professional recruiters.
  • Another firm paid over $300,000 to recruiters in 2022.

Maybe you don’t have to go to these links, but I hope you are acting aggressively when recruiting.

  • Certainly, if you look at human behavior around the world, you have to admit that we can be very aggressive.
  • Jane Goodall

Tuesday, January 17th, 2023

News From Illinois About The CPA Exam

“Just believe in yourself. Even if you don’t, pretend that you do and, at some point, you will.” – Venus Williams

In Illinois, you will only need 120 credit hours to sit for the Exam. You still need 150 to be certified. Here’s the press release from ICPAS:

Illinois Updates CPA Exam Eligibility, Reduces Credit-Hour Requirement

CHICAGO, Jan. 4, 2023– Effective Jan. 1, 2023, prospective certified public accountants in Illinois will only need to present proof of having 120 eligible semester credit hours, versus 150, and a baccalaureate degree to apply to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam, the universal exam all certified public accountant (CPA) candidates must pass to earn the distinguished CPA credential. Individuals passing the exam will still need 150 semester credit hours to become licensed.

The Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS)—one of the largest state CPA societies in the nation—advocated alongside the Illinois Board of Examiners (ILBOE) to reduce the credit-hour requirement for testing eligibility from 150 semester credit hours to 120. In 2021, the Illinois House and Senate unanimously passed ICPAS-sponsored legislation to amend the Illinois Public Accounting Act to allow this change. While earning 150 semester credit hours remains a key education requirement to become a licensed CPA in the state, ICPAS hopes that requiring fewer credit hours to initially sit for the CPA exam will help make becoming a CPA both more appealing and accessible to a broader candidate pool, particularly among accounting students, graduates, and young professionals.

“Earning the CPA credential is one of the most notable ways to establish your professional identity and exhibit a high level of competence in the accounting and finance profession,” says Todd Shapiro, ICPAS president and CEO. “Yet, despite strong market demand for the specialized services CPAs are entrusted to provide, we’ve been witnessing a nationwide decline in new CPAs. It’s our hope that this rule change will help alleviate some of the time and financial barriers associated with becoming a CPA and, ultimately, strengthen the CPA pipeline.”

Individuals planning to sit for the CPA exam can submit their credentials evaluation application on the IBOE website at once they’ve earned 120 semester credit hours (including 24 hours in accounting with at least one course in audit and one course in tax, a minimum of 12 hours of business courses, and a baccalaureate degree). Provisional approval will be available for students completing the educational requirements in the final term in which they receive a degree. ICPAS’ FAQ on preparing to take the CPA exam is available at

  • Self-belief and hard work will always earn you success.
  • Virat Kohli

Wednesday, January 11th, 2023

Keeping Them

“The responsibility of a company is to serve the customer. The responsibility of leadership is to serve their people so that their people may better serve the customer. If leaders fail to serve their people first, both customer and company will suffer.” – Simon Sinek

You have worked hard to attract enough talent to be able to master this coming tax season. Now, you have to work at keeping them.

Per an article via Bloomberg, there are five benefits US employees want:

  1. Remote work
  2. Flexibility
  3. Sustainable work
  4. Financial health
  5. Job security

The CPA profession offers so many key benefits. I be you’ve got these!

Read the article to learn more about each one of these five.

  • I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.
  • Thomas Edison

Friday, January 6th, 2023

Little Things

“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” – Mother Teresa

Change is hard, and you are faced with so much right now. Even what seems like a very little thing can seem very challenging. Watch out for the little things.

Read this Friday Flashback post from October – One Space or Two?

  • If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.
  • Napoleon Hill

Thursday, December 29th, 2022

Be Competitive With Holidays

“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

This time of year, there is always talk about holidays. “We get Christmas Eve off.” “We only get a half day on Christmas Eve.” Those kinds of comments flow among your workforce and their friends and relatives.

Are you competitive when it comes to holidays for your employees? There was a recent discussion on the CPAFMA discussion board. By the way, it is worth your membership fee to get access to the discussion board. Some firms reported offering as few as seven paid holidays. I recommend that you provide nine or ten, and several firms do provide that many.

Of course, religious holidays make a difference in some firms, as do state observances.

Here’s a standard 10-day holiday menu offered by CPA firms:

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day
  • The first Friday after April 15th – Tax Holiday
  • May – Memorial Day
  • July – Independence Day
  • September – Labor Day
  • November – Thanksgiving
  • November – The day after Thanksgiving
  • December – Christmas Eve
  • December – Christmas Day
  • Floating – The birthday of the employee or other reason

We all know and have complained about how many holidays Federal employees receive, probably because we don’t get mail on those days. Here’s the Federal holiday listing for 2023. Notice they don’t get the day after Thanksgiving, nor Christmas Eve.

Monday, January 02 * New Year’s Day
Monday, January 16 Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monday, February 20  Washington’s Birthday
Monday, May 29 Memorial Day
Monday, June 19 Juneteenth National Independence Day
Tuesday, July 04 Independence Day
Monday, September 04 Labor Day
Monday, October 09 Columbus Day
Friday, November 10 * Veterans Day
Thursday, November 23 Thanksgiving Day
Monday, December 25 Christmas Day
If a holiday falls on a Saturday, for most Federal employees, the preceding Friday will be treated as a holiday for pay and leave purposes. If a holiday falls on a Sunday, for most Federal employees, the following Monday will be treated as a holiday for pay and leave purposes.

I have observed that no matter how generous with holidays and PTO you are with your employees, in a CPA firm, the work always has to get done – and it does.

Enjoy the long New Year’s holiday weekend – Happy New Year!

  • You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.
  • Maya Angelou

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

Too Many Meetings

“There is one kind of robber whom the law does not strike at, and who steals what is most precious to men: time.” – Napoleon

You have heard about it and read about it. Meetings are a dreaded part of work life.

CPA firm leaders are very time conscious. They worry about how much time team members spend on productive work, yet they often waste everyone’s time in meetings.

As you enter tax season, you will have meetings in January to get everyone up to speed on tax issues, internal procedures, etc. Plan now on how you can shorten these meetings, eliminate some of these meetings, and break them into smaller group meetings. Don’t include people in meetings that don’t need to be there. Communicate as much information as possible via your firm’s intranet and through other technology tools.

Investigate other things management does that interrupt people who need to focus on work. Determine what you can do to “fix” these interruptions and then fix them. Your team will thank you.

  • You may delay, but time will not.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, December 8th, 2022

Upgrade Your Employee Benefits

“Leadership requires the courage to make decisions that will benefit the next generation.” – Alan Autry

CPA firms are trying many things to win the war for talent. So many firms have definitely increased current salaries, increased the salary offer to new graduates, and given stay bonuses to valued team members.

Money talks, but it does take more than salary dollars to win and keep good people.

One issue that I have noticed recently is that CPA firms do pay 100% of the health insurance premium for their employee. Health insurance is available for the employee’s family, but they must pay a significant part of that premium. Also, many firms do not offer dental or vision.

Maybe insurance is something you should review as you begin a new year. Is there more you can do in this area? Perhaps your main competitors are not offering dental/vision. Being generous with your insurance benefits might make you unique in your marketplace and help you attract and keep talented people.

What about the rest of your employee benefits package? Is there more you can do to make the entire benefits package more impressive?

  • He who lives only to benefit himself confers on the world a benefit when he dies.
  • Tertullian

Wednesday, December 7th, 2022

The Wrong Training For Your Clients

“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday and avoiding today.” – Wayne Dyer

Every CPA firm complains about clients who procrastinate submitting their data until the very last minute. I have heard these complaints from small firms and large firms for decades. It is a common problem.

Very few firms solve this issue by outplacing the offending clients. Maybe you are training your clients the wrong way.

The first step is clearly defining your expectations prior to busy season. This works for some clients. Another activity used by firms is to call and remind the client, call again, call again and finally give up. This nagging step sometimes works.

Even though you clearly communicate your expectations, you permit the client to bring in their information very close to the deadline and then put stress on yourself and your team to serve the client. Consider pricing the work for these types of clients much higher than your average rates, although this doesn’t alleviate the stress on the team.

When you accept last-minute work, you are basically training your client that their procrastination is acceptable. They will do the same thing year after year. So, don’t complain about them!

In these times of labor shortage, it is time to prune your client list. I hope these procrastinating clients are on the “make them disappear” list.

  • Procrastination usually results in sorrowful regret. Today's duties put off tomorrow give us a double burden to bear; the best way is to do them in their proper time.
  • Ida Scott Taylor

Monday, November 21st, 2022

Keeping Your Employees

“Be thankful for problems. If they were less difficult, someone with less ability might have your job.” – Jim Lovell

I recently read an article suggesting ways to keep your best employees. I found it not to be very helpful. It mentioned things we have all heard before.

It suggested:

  • Improve compensation
  • Increase flexibility
  • Evaluate your benefits
  • Encourage professional development

All of the many firms I talk to and read about are doing all of this. I am sure most of you want to know more. What else can you do?

In 2022, I have observed more and more firms are actually disengaging from many clients simply because they cannot hire enough people to take care of them. Quality service matters more than the number of clients.

Add this to the list above – Don’t punish your staff by keeping clients that are ranked C and D. Shrink our client list to keep your best employees.

  • Be happy with what you have while working for what you want.
  • Helen Keller