Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Summer at Work

Tax accounting firms have two busy seasons, each preceding the major reporting deadlines found in April and October. Most tax accountants go on vacation April 16th, assuming they've been busy preparing personal tax returns. On April 16th, I went to class. This is my life.

I didn't return to tax work until after visiting Japan in early May, post-finals. At the end of May, I resumed my position at the firm. "Jeff the Intern" is what they called me...the same as every other job I've ever worked. But what "Jeff the Intern" didn't know is that boutique tax firms still have work to do on April 16th. I found it waiting for me.

After some furniture moving and office rearranging, a recent vacancy at the firm left me with my own office for the summer. My history as an Intern in various capacities at various firms and government agencies moved me along from a "bullpen cubicle," to just a plain cubicle, to a shared desk in an office, to my own desk in a shared office, and finally to my own office.

This new office came at an opportune time, since I was just about to find out what tax accountants do in the summer: more tax returns. But in the summer, the tax returns are different from normal. We do property tax returns and FBAR forms (Foreign Bank Account Reporting), to name just a few. I mention these in particular because completing these forms for all the firm's clients became my responsibility for the summer. Notably, I was given a list of several dozen clients who needed DC personal property tax returns completed, and was told to complete those forms for every one of them.

I worked extra hard and finished all the returns in just a few weeks. My supervisor was pleasantly surprised.


With this repetitive work consuming my days during the summer, I turned into a routine zombie. Tax returns for people are interesting because everyone's life is so dynamic and different from anyone else's. Personal property tax returns are boring. They involve listing furniture items, computers, and all other "personal property," so that the state governments may tax the value of these items. There are very few loopholes. No loopholes = boring.

In terms of becoming a zombie, I developed a routine that pervaded my life and overtook my individual willpower. The days went by as follows: Gym, Work, Lunch, Work, Auditing Class, Sleep. The weekends were spent studying auditing and cooking, one of the few things that relaxes me. I use the word "zombie" because I could feel my entire life going on auto-pilot. This experience enhanced my understanding of adult-life. I've work three summer jobs, and in retrospect, they've all gone this way. I can clearly see why working parents say, "they just grow up so fast," when referring to theirs and others' kids.

At work, one is forced to be so engaged all the time (at least in the accounting profession), that the days just melt away. Happy hours seem like happy minutes and 18 years of a son or daughter's life seem like the distance between staff 1 and senior.

I am learning that the key to success, the key to making money, is to do nothing other than embrace the lifestyle and try milking it for all it's worth. Taking on each day with the goal of sapping as much experience as possible from the activities of daily life is the way to tackle this, the accountant's, lifestyle.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tax Freedom Day

Ironically enough, on April 16th there was a group of students tabling on the quad at American University, advocating for the abolition of taxes.

These students yelled out to me, "Do you HATE taxes?! We're advocating for the abolition of all taxes!!"

I took one of their post cards which shows the trend of our "Tax Freedom Day" for the past 40 years. The tax freedom day is the day when you start working for yourself, and stop working for the government. This year, Americans only had to work, on average, until April 13th for the federal government. Their wages for the rest of the year are theirs to keep. This method of thinking is alternative to reasoning that about one-third of each day's wages earned goes to the government. Another trend on the post card I received indicates that our tax freedom day, adjusted for the federal budget deficit, is a record high May 29th this year.

A short recap of my tax season:
  • My longest day was 14.5 hours.
  • My shortest day was 4.5 hours.
  • My hardest worked stretch of time was 47 hours in 4 days.
  • Sometimes people receive taxable payouts because someone they know has passed away. It is unbelievably awkward to try asking a client if their significant other is still alive.
  • I received several tax forms from clients that had food on them. I'm not talking about coffee, either. I had a form with a smushed blueberry on the backside.
  • After my last post, I conned Windows Vista into letting me illegitimately beat the Minesweeper basic level in just 9 seconds. My legit record is still 16 seconds.
  • My waist expanded by 0.5" between my first day at work and my last.
  • this is getting a little personal.....

All in all, I learned a lot and I'm glad to have written this blog to chronicle the adventure. I will continue my position at this firm through this summer, and will continue to write about my experiences. My role will be different for the summer months, however, because other accounting tasks begin to take greater precedence.

Your continued readership is much obliged.