Sunday, March 1, 2009

Seventh Day of Work

After recovering from my affliction, I put in another long day- 12 hours. I find that at a certain time of day, say 4:00 PM on Saturdays, it gets much easier to do work because all the accountants with kids have already left. Where I'm at, that would be a large part of the firm. A benefit of interning in accounting is that I can generally work extra hours if I like. I am really efficient during the afternoon and evening, so I enjoy leaving a [surprise] heap of finished work on my supervisor's desk for review.

They've sure given me responsibility in a hurry at this firm- and I love it. There's never any downtime, and expectations of me are high. Expectations can be stressful, but this is what makes me an efficient worker.

I began today by exploring the issue of tax accounting related to the Madoff scandal. The stimulus bill of last summer (I believe) extended the Net Operating Loss (NOL) carryback period to 3 years, with the carryforward period remaining at 20 years. So people that lost money with Madoff can correct their prior year returns to recover taxes they paid on either cash flow-generating or phantom income that, in retrospect, wasn't real. I tried asking a fellow accountant to sum up the article I read into a nice, neat ball that is easy to understand. "What's the bottom line? What do we do for clients who are Madoff-victims?"

The answer I got was the following: "It's a gray area... Like most things in accounting, the answer is 'It depends.'" I spazzed. My Intermediate Accounting 1 professor, Sue Marcum, used to say that "It depends" is her favorite answer to all questions accounting-related. I agree.

Tax seems to me like one gigantic gray area. If everything in tax was black and white, then a great many of us would be out of jobs. Making money from the gray area is fine. What excites me, though, is understanding applicable parts of the gray area well enough to save clients more money than their tax preparation bill ends up being. In my opinion, both parties win with the US Treasury being the only loser. Poor treasury. I'm sure if I worked at Treasury I'd be eager to tax people senseless... pshh.. just kidding. Does the US government have feelings? If your tax burden is less because your accountant found either a loophole or a more favorable treatment of certain items, will the government feel sad that it wasn't able to collect more tax? I doubt it.

After the Madoff discussion, I moved on to the fun stuff: tax returns. I performed some small-scale data entry before learning about reporting foreign investment taxes. I was taught which Schedule B form to use in indicating foreign taxes paid on investment income. I also learned the placement of alimony/spousal payments. Hearing that child support payments are not tax deductible got me curious about the specific rules for family-related payments of this kind. When I got home, I spent a fair amount of time checking out Section 215 on the IRS website. This wasn't my first time visiting the IRS website for research purposes. Things I see at work get me curious and interested in particular tax matters, and so I'll usually go and research them myself. Experience is everything in this business, and I'm not going to get anywhere by sitting around. I'm taking an active role in my tax education because this is a serious discipline and I strive to excel in all that I do.

I finished the day with a long return and some categorizing of a client's business expenses.

I'm a meticulous guy, so the adding machine is a personal friend of mine. I wanted an adding machine with the ticker-tape and all as a birthday present when I was 7 years old. I thought the paper feeding was the neatest thing ever. I spent hour after hour over the next few years playing with that machine. I didn't have anything to add, either. I simply enjoyed calculating random numbers and figuring out the functions of the machine. My parents were skeptical of my initial desire for this machine, but they were definitely buying me the refill supplies soon after they gave it to me.

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