Friday, June 6, 2014

The Worst CPA?

The late comedian David Brenner used to perform this routine he called “the worst doctor.”

He would contend that of all the people allowed to practice medicine in the U.S., it would stand to reason there had to be one person who was the worst doctor in the country.

And he would then continue the gag by imagining himself and others as patients who were being treated by the worst doctor. I would certainly hope that nobody has had the misfortune of having the worst doctor as his or her primary care physician, especially with the rollout of Obamacare. That alone would jump-start a whole other comedic routine about the worst IT people, and their Dilbert-like supervisors leading up to the Oval Office.

While I’ve always had competent medical practitioners, I’ve certainly had experience being served by the worst of the worst in other areas of pursuits  – teachers, roofing contractors, plumbers, landscapers and electricians, just to name a few.

But those are best reserved for anecdotes at Happy Hour accompanied by an ongoing stream of adult beverages.

But what about the worst CPA?

Divining an accountant’s competency is rather difficult for most of us, because if it were that easy to judge, we could probably do the work ourselves.

And there are always bad accountant jokes to go along with that premise:  i.e. why did the auditor cross the road? Because that’s what he did last year.

Or, how many accountants does it take to change a light bulb?”

“What kind of answer did you have in mind?”

“Two, one to change the light bulb and one to check that it was done within the given budget.”

I bring this up because a friend of mine and long-time tennis partner recently was regaling me with stories of how great his new accountant was.

Since my colleague has spent the last 25 years in journalism and hasn’t been within three area codes of an accounting class, I asked him why he thought his CPA resided among the upper echelons of the green eyeshade crowd and he crowed, “You should see the tax refund he got me!”

I stifled a laugh and tried to impart to him that when it came to the correlation of competency vs. the size of your refund, size does indeed not matter. In fact, it could easily be just the opposite.

He dismissed my skepticism and in fact went out and purchased a back yard furniture set with his IRS windfall.

His joy was short-lived however when he received a notice of a discrepancy in his 1040 filing, to the tune of $3,500. Apparently he deducted something that he should not have and his accountant either missed it or was not familiar with the guidelines.

I know what David Brenner would have said.

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