Improvements

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has been busy lately issuing exposure drafts on disclosure improvements, income tax disclosures and income tax accounting. You note that I said disclosure improvements, not simplification and especially not reduction for the first exposure draft. The exposure draft was in response to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) request to consider incorporating several SEC mandated disclosures in generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Most of the changes are minor and will not require any significant additional work by preparers, but there are a few you might want to take a look at a little closer.

The first is a requirement to disclose the calculation method for dilutive securities in determining earning per share (EPS). GAAP requires preparers to calculate the dilutive effect using two methods and then use the method that results in the lowest EPS. This means that a company might be switching methods from quarter to quarter to comply with GAAP.

The proposal is for companies to disclose the specific method used each quarter. Making the disclosure does not really require any additional work, but to the uninitiated investor seeing a company change calculation methods each quarter might raise questions about “shenanigans” going on at the company when, in fact, the company is simply following a GAAP requirement. When companies have a choice in methods, it makes perfect sense to disclose that choice. When companies are required to use a specific method each quarter, even if that method changes, disclosing the change only serves to confuse rather than inform investors.

The second proposal is to require that prior financial information – think income statement and balance sheet – for acquired companies be included in the footnotes to a newly consolidated company’s audited financial statements. The practicality of this requirement could be problematic from an audit perspective. If a predecessor auditor existed, there are potential concerns about how to incorporate that work into the successor auditor opinion, but at least a path on how to handle those situations exists within the auditing standards.

The bigger problem comes from cases where the acquired entity was not audited. I know that would be rare to nonexistent for material public company acquisitions, but this is a change in GAAP and a private company acquiring an unaudited entity would have to comply with the disclosure requirement or get an adverse opinion. It is possible that a private entity may not even be able to comply with the disclosure requirement if they wanted to. An auditor may not be able to audit certain amounts – think inventory or cost of goods sold – that happened in the past. If those numbers can’t be audited, then a clean opinion may be impossible to obtain. Is that really a proper result for private companies acquiring small, but material unaudited entities?

Finally, an overall concern is the migration of public company reporting requirements from the SEC to reporting requirements for all companies, whether public or private. We already have a strain between the requirements in GAAP that is focused on public companies and the needs of private company financial statement preparers and users. While a majority of the changes proposed seemed appropriately applicable to both, the precedent-setting aspect of a public company focused SEC dictating GAAP used by private companies is something we all need to recognize as a path fraught with pitfalls that requires an extra layer of deliberation to make sure GAAP is serving all constituents, not just the fewer larger public companies.

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Changing

TXCPA members and the Board of Directors recently met in steamy New Orleans to set the path for the profession in Texas. An overall theme that emerged at the meeting was change. As noted by our keynote speaker, Barry Melancon, CEO of AICPA, change will never be slower than it is today. You read that right. Change will never be SLOWER.

What does that mean for the profession? One of the things it means is that we won’t be able to make a big push and change the CPA Exam, change the CPA licensure requirements, change how the profession is presented to potential new colleagues, change the audit model and change the reporting model, and then take a deep breath and sit back for the next decade.

Those who sit still will be passed by or disrupted. Ask Sears, Kodak and many other businesses that were once leaders and even had the keys to the future – Kodak invented digital photography and Sears was into home delivery before it was cool – if taking time to get to the future is fast enough. Those businesses, for some reason, paused and now they are irrelevant.

We can’t simply think about what it means to audit a business that employs blockchain and artificial intelligence. We need to rethink how those technologies impact the whole audit process at its core. Does blockchain make confirmations irrelevant? Does artificial intelligence allow constant population testing where never possible before?

When it comes to tax work, are tax returns the feature product of our work as many view them today or will tax returns become a byproduct of work around life planning for individuals? These are some of the challenges the Board started to discuss at the meeting in New Orleans. We certainly won’t come up with all the answers, but TXCPA is working to provide its members with ideas and connections to discuss the future, so members of the profession stay relevant to your current and future clients.

 

 


What are you great at?

Being good is simply not good enough. The first question I hear from many people when seeking advice is what do I need to do better? The problem with that question is getting better starts from looking at areas of weakness that need to be improved. If an area of weakness is a fatal flaw, something that will truly hinder your career, then by all means, you need to work on that area. But once you have eliminated career limiting flaws, what next?

Too often people try to create a breadth of skills they are good at. This is kind of like investing in an index fund rather than individual stocks. You won’t lose big, but you won’t do better than average either. In investing, this is a great strategy, but in career building such a plan may not be the best. Instead, people should think about finding a few things they could be great at doing. Think about it – who is more likely to get noticed, someone who is a solid hard worker or someone who delivers something special?

If you’re honest with yourself, the answer is someone special will get noticed first. Then people will look at the person who does something special and, if they are good enough at everything else, give that person the opportunity for the next project or promotion. My “special” is accounting policy and standards. If you ask people who know me just a little, the first thing they will comment on is that I have a unique ability to understand how transactions should be accounted for under our standards and rules. Once people notice me for that talent, they look a little deeper and realize I’m a pretty good manager, supervisor and leader, too. (Yes, those are different skills.)

The point is that without the initial recognition because of my special skills in one area, the rest of my “good” skills would never be recognized. As you move up the ladder in your organizations, it gets harder and harder to show how you’re different. Everyone is good (well, above average). The question is, how do you shine when everyone is talented? I think the answer is to pick something you’re (very) good at and become great at it. Being great at something is what will continue to get you noticed, after which, you can then show off all the other things you are good at.

What are you, or can become, great at? That’s the question you need to answer to get noticed and accelerate your career path.


Questions

I know we all became or are becoming CPAs because we like numbers not words. Well, how did that work out for all of you? Looking at the last week, I probably read or wrote 1,000 words for every number I entered on a spreadsheet. The reality is that our life as CPAs is buried in words, including reading contracts, leases, marketing proposals, tax regulations and accounting standards. The resulting work of taking all those words and determining the resulting numbers to put in the accounting systems can be easy or difficult depending on the precision of the questions asked about the documents we read.

Let’s take a recent example that had lots of people talking, the end of Game of Thrones. The big question was who was going to be King or Queen of Westeros at the end. The easy answer is that the king was Bran the Broken of House Stark. Everyone who said it would be Bran was right … well, not so fast. That depends on what question was asked.

If the question asked was who would sit on the Iron Throne at the end, maybe the answer should be no one. I mean, the throne was melted out of existence by Drogon the Dragon, so no one can sit on it, right?

If the question was who will rule the Seven Kingdoms, the answer once again maybe no one, because one Kingdom decided not to bend the knee and be independent at the end.

If the question was which house will rule the Seven Kingdoms, then the answer may be House Stark, because even though one Kingdom decided to be independent, it is also ruled by a member of House Stark, Sansa Stark.

There is a tired old joke about a series of accountants being asked what two plus two is, and the one who gets hired is the one who says what do you want it to be? Maybe we’ve been missing the moral of that joke all these years. Maybe the real point of the joke is that answers depend on the questions asked


Winning the War on Talent: Recap of the Closing Session at the Financial Strategic Leadership Conference by Guest Blogger Mark Goldman, CPA

On May 10, I was honored to be on the panel at the Financial Strategic Leadership Conference hosted by TXCPA San Antonio and the TXCPA CPE Foundation, speaking on the topic of “Winning the War on Talent.” Recruiting experts Nancy Ozuna and Anna-Marie Parker from BKD joined in, as well.

One of the items speakers hope for at such an event is an engaged audience and we certainly were fortunate in that respect. The audience chimed in on several of the topics that were discussed and in fact, directed the conversation in many ways.

I wanted to write this follow-up as a way to both continue the conversation and bring some closure. It was a very productive session, but the audience was so engaged that we actually ran out of time to finish the discussion!

With respect to the top item that candidates look for during the interviewing process, the most discussed request was “flexibility.” To state it in even more basic terms, they look for a position that will fit in with the rest of their lives.

We all have other aspects of our lives that need our attention. Most commonly, family needs are cited, but our other interests, such as maintaining relationships with friends or continuing hobbies we enjoy, are also very important.

Job applicants in today’s market are looking for flexibility to be able to do an excellent job for their employer, but not have to sacrifice too much of their other interests in order to do so. While we want to be productive, it should not be at the expense of other important areas of our lives. We want balance.

Flexibility was, by far, the most discussed issue of the session, but many more were mentioned, including:

  • Remote work capability;
  • Faster growth and promotion opportunities;
  • Dress code that makes sense for the work day;
  • An understanding of expectations;
  • Meaningful work;
  • Feedback on performance, along with active coaching and mentorship;
  • And of course, competitive pay and benefits.

If I had to summarize all of this in one short statement, it would be that employees in today’s workplace expect transparency in how everyone is treated and in what it takes to be successful.

It’s no longer acceptable to be expected to act in a certain way simply because that was the historical expectation. We need to understand why something is handled the way it is and if it doesn’t make sense any longer, then we expect our organizations to be proactive about changing it.

I’m curious what you think about the list above. Is there anything you would add or alter? Please comment or start a conversation on the TXCPA Exchange. We would love, love, love to hear from you!

Mark Goldman, CPA

Mark Goldman is a CPA and the founder of MGR Accounting Recruiters and Where Accountants Go, and the author of the book “49 Tips for a Successful Accounting Career.”

Goldman graduated from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. He worked in public accounting handling tax and general business consulting, and then entered the recruiting industry in 1993. In late 2006, he started MGR Accounting Recruiters, a locally focused recruiting firm specializing solely in accounting placement, and then 10 years later in 2016, he founded www.WhereAccountantsGo.com, a career website for accountants. In conjunction with that effort, he hosts the weekly “Life in Accounting” podcast.

He has served on the local board of directors for TXCPA San Antonio in several positions, including being a past-president, as well as on the state-level TXCPA board. In addition, he has been involved at both the committee level and board level in other accounting-related organizations, such as the Institute of Management Accountants, Financial Executives International and the American Payroll Association. He has also led the career transition ministry at his church.

On a personal level, Goldman was fortunate enough to be able to marry his high school sweetheart, Sayuki, and they are blessed to have a daughter.

 


Preparing for the Future

I recently saw a list of people in Texas who lost or had their CPA license suspended, due to failure to complete required CPE. I find that list unfathomable for two reasons. One, how could you let something you worked so hard to get lapse over not completing a reasonable amount of CPE? It can’t be the cost, because you can get all the mandatory CPE for little or no expense now.

And I would say it can’t be because of the time either. Some people might say 40 hours – or five days a year – is a lot of time. My answer is that you probably waist more time in useless conversations about the Kardashians, Game of Thrones or some other meaningless topic. Let’s look at this in terms of numbers. Five days is less than 2% of the workdays in a year. Now, CPE can be taken in one-hour (or less in some states) increments. All you need to do is watch one hour of CPE one day a week over lunch while you eat a sandwich. How difficult of a time commitment is that to keep? TXCPA even offers the new TXCPA Passport, which includes special savings for members and unlimited access to a catalog of on-demand CPE courses available to watch anytime.

I guess I should be happy that people not wanting to take CPE are no longer part of the profession. With all of the changes happening – new tax law, new SEC and PCAOB rules, new GASB pronouncements, new FASB standards – how can you keep up without taking CPE? And the changes are even bigger than just the new standards and rules. What we do every day is changing radically, due to technology. Artificial intelligence, robotic process automation and blockchain, just to name a few, are technologies that are changing what it means to be a CPA.

We don’t necessarily have to become experts in data analytics or computer programming, but we better know enough to have a conversation with the experts in those areas. Really, such a concept is nothing new. CPAs have been interacting with subject matter experts for years, be it people who really understand tax, M&A accounting or valuation work. I’m certainly not a valuation expert, but I can talk reasonably well with those who are about valuations. I know enough to be dangerous, which means, in terms of the profession, I know enough to bring in the experts when I need them.

While future CPAs may include people with data and technology skills, that doesn’t mean I lose relevance – as long as I keep up. The CPA profession has always been broad enough to include many experts, from tax to financial planning to forensics. Today, I would say public company GAAP knowledge is even a subset expertise in the profession, as well. How do we keep all of this together? It is by taking CPE to expand our areas of knowledge so we can engage our subject matter expert colleagues when needed. CPE is the key to a continuously relevant profession and I, for one, am glad we have recognized that need for many decades.

 

 


Are You More Important Than Your Colleagues?

Do you tell your colleagues that you are more important than they are – or more specifically, that your time is more important than theirs? While I bet most of you would respond that you would never say such a thing, I also bet most of you have done something in the past month to deliver that exact message. What did you do? You overstayed your assigned time in a conference room and passed the next group that was supposed to be in there five minutes ago as you walked out the door. By not allowing the next group to start on time, you made it loud and clear that your time was more important than the time of those who were waiting to start their meeting.

Even if you’re fortunate enough not to work in the latest fad of open office environments, offices are getting smaller and smaller, so more and more meetings are moving from offices to conference rooms, even meetings with only two or three people. Scheduling apps make the process of reserving a conference room easy, but the apps also allow meetings to be scheduled one next to another. Scheduling meetings one after another maximizes use of the available space, but it also sets up the proverbial dominos. If an early meeting runs late, then the next meeting runs a little later and before you know it, people are waiting five minutes, 10 minutes or even longer to start the next meeting.

The passive/aggressive among us (see my hand being raised) try to “fix” the problem by scheduling the start of our conference room reservation 15 minutes before the meeting begins and the “considerate” might schedule the reservation to end 15 minutes after the meeting is supposed to end. In some ways that makes sense, like the time we had to get between classes when we went to school. Schools recognize that you can’t start the next class one second after the last one ended. The problem is that the scheduling creates gaps throughout the day where valuable space is not used.

Real estate consulting types then come in, look at conference room usage and say: “Look at all the times conference rooms are not being used. You could save real money by reducing the number of conference rooms and, therefore, the amount of leased space you occupy.” Such a reaction becomes a death spiral to conference room availability and usage.

It seems the real solution is to respect your colleagues’ time, end your meeting on time and vacate the conference room when you’re supposed to. Of course, asking for such a level of respect in a society when its OK to take out your phone and tell the person you’re eating with they’re boring and you would rather spend your time with this shiny device may be hoping for too much, but that’s probably a whole different blog. How does your office solve the conference room conundrum?