Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Return to Sender

For a street with just eight houses on it, my block gets more than its share of FedEx and UPS deliveries.

Truth be told, my neighbor directly across the street receives the lion’s share of those – a minimum of four per week, not to mention their weekly bottled water and online grocery shopping as well.

But the other day a FedEx truck pulled into my driveway and extracted a 6-foot tall box from the back, marched it up my front stairs and deposited on my stoop. When I asked what it was I got the standard company line from an obviously annoyed driver to the effect of “hey, I just deliver the packages I don’t ask what’s in ‘em.”

Turns out it was a plastic bumper guard to an unknown vehicle, an item I certainly did not order. I took off the shipping label and tried to contact the company only to get a message that the number was no longer in service.

I even Googled the address and discovered that a business that once occupied that space had long since moved.

It was about this time, that the F-word began creeping in – fraud. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Commuter Factor

Over the more than three years I’ve been privileged to have this space, I’ve often expounded on the very real M&A roadblock of client fears.

Once a CPA firm client hears wind of a merger, it ultimately travels faster than a middle-school rumor and the traditional questions arise:

  1. Is the person I trust still there?
  2. Are my fees going to go up?
  3. Will I now have to travel farther to see my accountant?

While the first two are certainly reasonable concerns, even I was surprised at how heavily the travel time weighed on client retention or, for that matter, become a deal breaker altogether.

Case in point: Last year, our company was in the final stages of a deal closing in the Midwest, when suddenly the mergee determined that the majority of his clientele would not make the trek to the successor firm’s office, despite it being just five miles away.

The reason?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Whether Tax or Teeth, It’s a Matter of Trust

Although I traded an office in Manhattan for an office at home more than three years ago, I nevertheless continue to make the trek into New York City to see Dr. Jeff – my dentist since the mid-1990s.

With 450 dental offices within reasonable driving distance, it does beg the question of why I continue to shoulder the expense, not to mention the time it takes to travel from my suburban home to 48th Street and Madison Ave.

One word: Trust.

For lack of a more complicated explanation, I trust Dr. Jeff implicitly. He has always been straightforward if there was a problem or even a potential one brewing and he has never done unnecessary work simply to run up the bill. And should an emergency arise, he would either squeeze me in his daily schedule which is almost always packed tighter than a can of imported sardines, or offer to come in on Saturday.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Trump: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

There are certain ironies that cause you to simply shrug your shoulders and admit you just can’t make this stuff up.

Take for example, Fred Wilpon, the co-owner of the New York Mets of Major League Baseball, being recently appointed to the league’s finance committee, despite twice being duped by Ponzi schemes including Bernie Madoff.

The latter incident so serious that the club needed a loan from MLB to stay afloat.

Then, there’s just declared GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, he of the $8.7 billion net worth (or so he claims, but more on that in a minute) and host of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, who stated that our county was in “serious trouble” and asked when was the last time the U.S. beat China in a trade deal.

The jowly megalomaniac, who has managed to slap his annoying surname on everything from buildings, to golf courses and even a state park, boasted that “he beats China all the time.”


Perhaps his memory is going the way of his wispy hair.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Junior Achievement

At the recent AICPA Practitioners and Technology Symposium in Orlando one of the 1,000-plus attendees was an 18-year old CPA.

Let me repeat that for emphasis – she was EIGHTEEN years old AND a CPA. That mean she most likely began college at 13 or thereabouts. Roughly the age I was struggling with the basic tenets of algebra and beginning Spanish.

By contrast when I was 18, I don’t believe I could spell “CPA” let alone know what one actually did. I always marvel when people get a career calling very early on, although prior to last week’s conference I had never met anyone who began their life’s work at 18 – except perhaps those opting for a career in the military or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, a life in crime.

Again by comparison, I have switched careers four times since my college graduation – which from what I understand is not atypical. 

In any event, usually when I read about someone who enters college about the time they should actually be starting 8th grade, they usually intend to pursue one of the sciences as a career. I found it quite refreshing she decided on accounting, as the current pipeline of the profession needs all the youngest and brightest minds they can attract.

Which brings me back to the conference agenda.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Gen X May Be Poor X

I know I’m getting on in years when the first wave of the MTV generation or Gen X, will turn 50 next year.

That makes me, what? Well, never mind.

In any event, this week I attended the AICPA’s Technology and Practitioners Symposium where a number of sessions were devoted to attracting and retaining Millennials. So much so in fact that one could easily forget those who fall in the age demographic between the Baby Boomers (me) and the employee of choice these days, the Millennial.

And now that the folks who comprise Gen X, or the grunge generation, have evolved  from lip synching “Rock the Casbah” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” to mid-career workers with children of their own, they’re also facing the prospect of having a bleak retirement.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Virtual Preparer?

It’s estimated that more than 40 million people filed their taxes the week of April 15th and that includes yours truly.

Since the mid-1990s, my filing procedure has been relatively unchanged. I collect all pertinent paperwork and of course, my W-2s and drop them off with Rocco, my faithful preparer since 1993.

While it may seem routine, it’s a system that has worked for me and what’s the saying about if it isn’t broke…?

Counter to that relatively mundane process, I read recently where H&R Block is testing state of the art technology that employs the Oculus virtual reality equipment from Facebook to provide “avatars” of tax preparers for future customers.

And I’m not even sure if I understand all of the above even though I just wrote it. Sure I have a Facebook page (as do roughly 1 billion others around the globe) but somehow virtual reality and tax preparation seem like one gargantuan non-sequitur. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

You Gotta Be Kidding Me!

Imagine being complicit in the largest financial fraud in history and at the time of sentencing you’re faced with the prospect of serving 114 years in prison. Suddenly, the judge sentences you to time served, two years’ probation, a year under house arrest and 250 hours of community service.

If it were me, I would immediately head to the nearest convenience store or gas station and buy $100 worth of Powerball tickets.

But that’s exactly the “sentence” for one David Friehling, the accountant who signed off on phony audits for Bernie Madoff, whose unprecedented Ponzi scheme caused more than $17 billion in investor losses when the scam collapsed in 2008.

Friehling, whose testimony was critical to Madoff’s prosecution, claimed he never conducted a real audit of Madoff Securities because he always believed the owner at his word. Sort of like my brother in law promising me in 1999 that he would not only repay my loan to him, but with interest as well.

Care to venture a guess on whether I ever saw that money again?