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.

No comments: