How can accountants unlock their practices’ full potential?

By Jim Scott, MD for Accountancy at IRIS Software Group

Accountants have faced a number of challenges since the start of COVID-19. The sudden shift to remote working and changing customer demands meant many had to adopt new ways of working, fast.

Added to this, businesses have needed additional support to prepare for phase two of the evolving Making Tax Digital (MTD) legislative changes and will continue to need expert advice from accountants ahead of the next phases in 2022 and 2023.

As we emerge from the pandemic, accountants will play a critical role in their clients’ economic bounce back. There’s a real opportunity for accountants too – to unlock their practice’s full potential by nurturing their clients’ growth. As with happy clients, business growth soars.

By taking these small steps and creating better efficiencies for clients, accountants can gain the headspace needed to grow their own firms.

Focus on the specifics

Accountants need to be efficient, accurate, compliant, and productive to best help their clients. This requires the right tools – enter cloud technology, this can become an accountant’s most powerful weapon. Not only can it drive efficiencies by reducing technical complexity, increasing agility and supporting flexible working, it can also improve accountants’ ability to rapidly respond to changing customer needs.

For example, a huge task for any practice is recording business purchase orders, invoices and expense receipts. Whether a sole trader or limited company with many employees, submitting and recording receipts is a time-consuming and arduous task. Leading many accountants to fall into the trap of becoming preoccupied with lower value actions.

One extremely effective tool to combat this is record digitalisation, stored in the cloud. This tool can streamline lengthy admin tasks like tracking client receipts, capturing photos and digitally processing receipts, invoices, purchase orders and bank statements. This frees up accountants’ schedules, enabling them to respond to impromptu client requests and deliver value-add services.

It also allows for valuable collaboration with colleagues that can benefit practice operations in the long run. By minimising the occurrence of incomplete records or lost receipts and invoices by ‘snapping’ all records as they arise, standards can remain high and expectations can be met on a continuous basis.

Cloud technology is also hugely beneficial in staying compliant with and managing MTD. Through harnessing a cloud approach, accountants can not only streamline services, but also act smart and respond flexibly to changing requirements as they happen. Freed from time-consuming admin-based tasks, accountants can focus on more value-add services like advisory, which will ultimately help them cross-sell services to existing clients and grow their business.

The key to unlocking potential

Happy clients equal happy business. So, for accountants looking to unlock their full potential, it’s essential they get this right.

Adopting cloud software can play a huge role in empowering accountants to work smarter, not harder. It gives them the headspace they need to meet their goals today and tomorrow and focus on what they love and do best – supporting clients. Only then can they grow with confidence and thrive moving into the next normal.

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We Did it Guys, We Found the World’s Most Insufferable Accountant

Once again, r/linkedinlunatics comes through with the gold:

Either this guy is really, really serious about his job OR — and more likely — just really bad at figuring out how to get 16 hours of work done in 10.

If Reddit existed 20 years ago, the comment section on that post would likely be filled with similarly-minded weirdos who consider abandoning any hope of a personal life some kind of twisted badge of honor. Thankfully we live in current day where this kind of behavior is called out for what it is: lunacy.

This is not the flex you think it is, my guy. Go touch grass. Quick, before climate change turns it all to dust and sadness.

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Making Tax Digital is less about tax and regulation than you may think

Evan Jones is Lead Technology Product Manager at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK

When we think of Making Tax Digital (MTD) for Income Tax, the obvious association is tax and regulation, but the reality is that MTD in any form is less about either of the above and more about how practices need to evolve as organisations, and how they might encourage their clients to begin to operate in a digital way.

When it comes to practices making as smooth a transition as possible for their clients, there may be a certain amount of expectation setting and education that make MTD for Income Tax a streamlined process rather than the burdensome task many practices fear. There is a real opportunity to transform customer interactions across the entire journey into a seamless, client-focused end-to-end digital experience.

Evolving as Digital Organisations

A shift in mindset to encompass digital working is needed among both practices and their clients as we edge towards the deadline for implementing MTD for Income Tax in April 2023. In their preparations, many practices have begun to explore technology solutions, and it’s often left to the tax department to assess these and lead the way.

However, the reality is that most of the job of MTD for Income Tax will not involve the tax department, and rather, will fall on the department already doing the bookkeeping or VAT. The fundamental principle in MTD for Income Tax is that the record keeping needs to be digital and recorded as close to real time as possible, but understandably, ‘Making Bookkeeping Digital’ probably doesn’t have quite the same impact!

In recognising the true nature of the requirements, what practices will no doubt soon realise is that MTD for Income Tax is less about regulation and tax, and more about preparing clients to work digitally as soon as possible. In fact, it’s also less about specific technology, and more about being comfortable with digital workflows and new ways of working, particularly when preparing clients to make the transition from annual bookkeeping, to quarterly bookkeeping.

Setting Expectations

Most practices have wanted their clients to use digital bookkeeping products for some time now and MTD for Income Tax and its quarterly reporting requirement may just be the catalyst they need.

The upside is that these practices will then be able to have sight of the client data they need, and to keep tabs on it throughout the year without the rigmarole of sending backups via email and ensuring clients don’t work on it at the same time.

However, the complexity is that these increased checkpoints have the potential to change relationships with clients around areas of responsibility and expectation. Just because an advisor has 24×7 access to a digital bookkeeping solution and a client’s data, doesn’t mean that there is a constant human audit service ready to flag when figures aren’t correct.

It’s important to prepare clients for this change in the relationship and set expectations by working with them more digitally now. This may help to address the fear than many practices have, which is that they will be experiencing a large extra burden that they are unable to charge for.

Making it Personal

As practices make the digital mindset shift, there’s often a fear that these new digital processes, including automation applied to what may have traditionally been manual, will affect advisor’s ability to provide a personal service to their clients.

However, if implemented correctly and appropriately, technology should inspire innovation and help practices to build stronger relationships. Sharing information digitally and having more transparency can often introduce more touchpoints, and the move to digital absolutely does not need to replace personal relationships.

Digital should actually enable practices and their clients to have more meaningful relationships, as the rather mundane necessity of constantly requesting information to be sent back and forth can be removed. Just having that data on tap will allow advisors to work more closely with their clients, and move beyond the administrative, operational tasks to dig down into what value add services they may be able to offer.

These are just a few of the mindset changes we’ll begin to see practices make with their clients as we begin the two-year countdown to MTD for Income Tax. While it may seem a daunting process, remember that it’s not the first regulatory hurdle that practices have had to overcome in the past, five, ten or even twenty years. Like all regulation, it’s a chance to adapt and to work smarter, and with the right approach to digital, practices may just find MTD for Income Tax is a new opportunity to have better, more meaningful and more profitable relationships with clients.

Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting were the sponsor of the Accountex Spotlight Day on 12 August, which focussed on Making Tax Digital and featured 3 free webinars with members of the HMRC MTD team. All are available to watch on demand now.

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British accountants crippled by raging talent war

Nearly half (49%) of UK accountancy firms are suffering huge blows to growth, amid the skills and salary war raging across the profession. The astounding figure was uncovered during research conducted by IRIS Software Group (IRIS), to understand more about the vital role accountancy professionals play in British business.

Professional services firms have been hit hard by labour shortages, with many forced to turn work away due to a lack of staff, according to KPMG. IRIS also found a third (32%) cite the current skill set of talent in their firm as a barrier to growth in the next 12 months.

A leading global software provider of accountancy solutions, IRIS surveyed British accountancy firms to uncover the state of the profession as demands on their time increase as they play a vital role in helping businesses get back on their feet and boost the economy.

Startlingly, nearly one in five firms don’t want to grow any fee-paying areas over the next 12 months. With 23% citing a lack of time and skill to market the business within the firm as the main reason why they aren’t looking to expand their business.

Jim Scott, MD for accountancy at IRIS comments on the findings, “While technology is vital to driving growth, it will never replace the insight and guidance an accountant can provide businesses. They are the forgotten heroes of the pandemic. Yet the number of firms being affected by the skills shortage is eye opening and this is only being exacerbated by the “Great Resignation”. It is truly an employee’s market. The industry must do more to support firms in listening intently and working with teams to create a culture with flexibility and hybrid working at its heart to attract and retain the best talent.”

The profession is gaining awareness of this fact – over half (55%) of accountants say managing work-life balance keeps them awake at night, and one in five say implementing flexible and hybrid working arrangements in their firm does the same.

Scott continues, “Firms need to empower teams with the best software to help them thrive wherever they choose to work. New starters, and even many who have been in the profession a while, expect consumer-like technology in the workplace and won’t think twice about leaving for a digital-first firm if technology and culture don’t meet their expectations. Firms must put this at the heart of their practice to win the talent war.”

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A Pair of Senators are Trying to Get the Kiddos Hooked on Accounting in Grade School

Do you guys remember those after school specials of the 80s that made it seem like drug dealers hiding around every corner offering free drugs was going to be something one would have to be concerned about as we got older? I imagine I’m not the only one who was tremendously disappointed to find out there are no such drug dealers. Having to pay for our drugs aside, there was a lesson in there somewhere: the grown-ups were warning us to be cautious because kids are dumb and impressionable and people who want to take advantage of that will be lurking around every billboard and TV commercial.

Well, in the spirit of gettin’ em started when they’re young, a pair of senators have introduced a new bill that hopes to get kids hooked on accounting in grade school. Let’s check it out:

Today, U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced their STEM Education in Accounting Act, bipartisan legislation that would designate accounting as a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subject, strengthening education and career pathways for the accounting profession and promoting diversity within the field.

The bill would amend the Every Student Succeeds Act to add accounting education programs as an allowable use of K-12 grant funding and promote high-quality accounting instruction for members of groups underrepresented in accounting careers. This bipartisan legislation comes at a time when the accounting profession, like many sectors of the economy, is struggling with a shortage of talent to fill available jobs. While the pandemic has exacerbated the problem in many sectors, the accounting profession has long faced such a shortage.

The Every Student Succeeds Act replaced the notorious No Child Left Behind law of the Bush era and was signed into law by President Obama in 2015. Here is a thorough read on what it means for K-12 public education in the United States should that be something you’re interested in learning more about on a quiet Monday before Christmas.

Including accounting in STEM education is a no-brainer according to Senator Collins because math. You know, the M in STEM. Also known as that thing most of you never do at work but whatever, let’s roll with it anyway.

“Mathematics is a critical skill that can help students unlock countless doors to high-paying, in-demand fields. One of those doors leads to the accounting profession whose work plays a key role in providing capital markets with confidence and assurance in financial reporting,” said Senator Collins. “Our bipartisan bill would designate accounting as a STEM subject. I encourage all of my colleagues to join me in promoting accounting education, improving students’ finance skills, and strengthening the pipeline of future accountants, who play such a vital role in our financial system.”

High-paying you say? That’s about as believable as the lie about shady drug dealers passing out joints on the playground. But I digress…

You’ll note the accounting pipeline shout-out at the end there. Which leads us to this comment from the AICPA gleefully rubbing their hands together at the idea of exposing kids to accounting:

“For years, the AICPA has championed the inclusion of accounting in STEM programs and we are grateful to Senators Collins and Rosen for their leadership in recognizing the connection between accounting and technology,” said AICPA President & CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA. “The technological skills CPAs learn help them make informed decisions, solve complex problems and enhance the delivery of services throughout the audit, finance and tax arenas. As the profession continues to evolve its services in areas like cybersecurity, information integrity and systems controls and its use of emerging technologies and techniques, such as blockchain and data analytics, the integration of this knowledge with quantitative reasoning skills enhances accountants’ value to their clients, to the profession and to the finance and tax industries. This bipartisan legislation is a recognition of the value the accounting profession provides and will help to diversify and expand the profession.”

Comments like these are exactly why the ‘Smithers Fetch Me the CGMAs’ meme exists.

As fun as it is to point and laugh at the AICPA’s desperation to stuff the pipeline with warm bodies, there’s nothing wrong with introducing kids to accounting when they’re young. Surely there are worse things to expose them to. Like… you know what, let’s not go there.

A similar bill was introduced in the House earlier this year. We’ll keep you posted on any developments. Personally I’m looking forward to the potential for T account coloring pages!

Further reading:
AICPA Supports STEM Education in Accounting Act [CPA Practice Advisor]

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CCAB releases Economic Crime Manifesto calling for more measures to ‘maintain the UK’s resilience’

The Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (CCAB) publishes its manifesto today outlining what more must be done to build and maintain the UK’s resilience against economic crime.

The Manifesto calls for four clear areas for change including SARs (Suspicious Activity Reporting) reform and intelligence sharing, ongoing funding of the UK’s Economic Crime Plan, more action to eliminate modern day slavery from supply chains and the need for public education on fraud risk and personal finance.

Angela Foyle, Chair of the CCAB Economic Crime Panel says: ‘Our first economic crime manifesto was launched 5 years ago, and since then progress has been made in key areas, including proposed reforms to Companies House to introduce identity verification for company directors, and a raft of initiatives from the UK’s Economic Crime Plan. However, we remain mindful of the challenges, especially as Covid-19 and Brexit present complex scenarios that can be exploited.

‘Economic crime is damaging and widespread, and we believe that our manifesto

presents actions which the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments need to address. These are sensible reforms and actions to ensure the progress already achieved in the UK’s Economic Crime Plan with the aim of maintaining the UK’s resilience against economic criminal activity.’

Also commenting on the manifesto, Paul Henry, chair of CCAB and director of property consultancy Osborne King adds: ‘The leaking of the Pandora Papers is a timely reminder of the need to strengthen our AML defences. SARs reporting is clearly one important tool in the fight against money laundering but further reform is needed to make intelligence sharing more effective including a two-way intelligence sharing mechanism to enable law enforcement to share new and emerging intelligence with professional body supervisors. As we say in the manifesto, intelligence sharing between the accountancy profession and law enforcement is essential.’

CCAB’s Economic Crime Panel will send the manifesto to policymakers and government officials to highlight these areas of concern and to reinforce the vital role of the professional qualified accountancy profession in mitigating these economic crimes.

To find out more, download the CCAB Economic Crime Manifesto here.

The CCAB is comprised of five bodies – ICAEW, ACCA, ICAS, CIPFA and
Chartered Accountants Ireland. CCAB provides a forum for the bodies to work together collectively in the public interest on matters affecting the profession and the wider economy.

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Strategic Resourcing: Solving Staffing Issues and Driving Transformation through Outsourcing  

It is a tough job. Not just finding the right talent but also retaining them. And it’s not just you. Accounting firms across the country are facing capacity challenges like never before. Globally, accounting and finance roles ranked seventh out of 10 positions that are the hardest to fill. This staffing issue is especially aggravating during the tax season when you have a million things to do and not enough time for meaningful work such as client meetings and advisory. The mundane, repetitive work, extra hours, and the nightmares of missed deadlines can put you and your team under intense pressure.

So how can you create added value for your clients and speed up your firm’s growth adding to you?

There is no magic lever that you can pull to create more capacity at your accounting firm suddenly. The only way for resolving staffing issues and ensuring the firm’s growth is through careful capacity planning and strategic resourcing.

Key Capacity Challenges

Finding skilled accounting professionalsIntense competitionFinding the time to hire the right professionalCost of recruitment – training, salary, loss of fee-earning timeRisks of hiring – Workload, what if they leave, etc.

Outsourcing Accounting and How to Make it Work

Outsourcing your accounting and taxation services can be an ideal solution for supplementing your team and scaling up the business. Instead of just “getting the job done,” you and your team can focus on strategic high-margin work. Apart from increased capacity, efficiency, and profitability, you’re able to employ highly skilled professionals and achieve a better work-life balance.

Of course, you need to consider certain factors, including your motivations for outsourcing, whether it’s a good match for your firm, and finding a global team that can deliver in terms of quality and quantity.

Identifying these objectives can help you select the perfect accounting provider and provide a perspective on how outsourcing fits into your overall business plan. Here’s how you can make outsourcing work for you.

Understand your motivations to outsource

Why are you planning to outsource? Whether you want to reduce operational costs, fix the staffing issues, get more clients on board, or achieve peace of mind, you need to understand your pain points and how outsourcing can help you fix them.

Defining your objective will also provide your team with the right direction. Outsourcing does not mean replacing local staff with remote teams. It means that you’re simply delegating work, so your local staff add more value to clients with additional higher-value services and focus on business growth.

Determine the tasks you want to outsource

Based on your objectives, figure out which activities to outsource and your firm’s benefits from doing so. It’s best to outsource repetitive and laborious tasks such as self-assessment tax returns and payroll that usually take a toll on your team during the busy season.

Pick the right partner

Is the outsourced accounting company that you would be working with a good fit? Not only should the outsourcing provider be able to provide proper technical support, but they should also have good communication skills, a faster turnaround time, and an easy onboarding process. They should have a complete understanding of the business needs and then deliver an outsourcing strategy to suit your firm. This will ensure that you get the support you need when you want it.

Define the scope and the goals

It is essential to communicate your expectations and the steps included in the tasks for the accounting firm. When the requirements and expectations are laid initially, the outsourcing service provider can perform better and provide timely delivery.

Even with the current challenging situation, every day, we’re hearing stories of accounting teams who are using outsourcing as an opportunity to learn and scale.

QX Accounting Services is a reliable and professional outsourcing company that caters to more than 500 clients in the UK, USA, and Canada. It has been ranked as the Top 100 Outsourcing Firms in the World by IAOP. With over 1000 experienced accountants and 5+ years of experience, QXAS is a trusted partner that can help your firm scale and reach the heights you always envisioned.

If you are an accounting practice owner looking for strategic solutions to the capacity challenges, call +44 208 146 0808 or click here.

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A Few EY Partners Didn’t Get the Auditor Independence Rules Right

The SEC on Dec. 10 decided that two EY partners and one principal didn’t take the auditor independence rules seriously and doled out a few fines and sanctions. And like many of these auditor independence violations that get firms in hot water with the SEC or the PCAOB, the flagrant rules bending by EY had to do with providing non-audit services to an audit client. In this particular instance, the audit client was Cintas Corp:

This matter involves aiding and abetting and causing violations of the auditor independence rules arising from Ernst & Young LLP (“EY”), a public accounting firm, performing non-audit services for its audit client Cintas Corporation (“Cintas”) on a contingent fee basis.

EY billed and received payment from Cintas on invoices calculated on a contingent fee basis for tax credit and incentive services (“C&I services”) performed between July 2009 and August 2018. An audit firm is not independent of its audit client if it provides any non-audit services to the audit client for a contingent fee. As a result, EY was not independent of Cintas during that time period, and Cintas filed annual and quarterly reports with the Commission that were not audited or reviewed by an independent public accountant, as required by Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act and Rules 13a-1 and 13a-13 thereunder.

Philip Hurak

During that time period, Philip Hurak, Alan Greenwell, and Adam Bering also blissfully ignored Rule 2-01(c)(5) of Regulation S-X which says “[a]n accountant is not independent if, at any point during the audit and professional engagement period, the accountant provides any service or product to an audit client for a contingent fee … or receives a contingent fee … from an audit client.” The SEC also found out that EY’s policies and procedures also prohibited billing audit clients on a contingent fee basis.

As Cintas’s auditor, EY had to obtain pre-approval from the company’s audit committee in order to provide non-audit tax services to Cintas, according to the SEC administrative order. In obtaining pre-approval from the audit committee to provide those services, EY said it would bill for C&I services on a time and materials basis. The audit committee gave its blessing.

But …

Despite EY’s … representations that EY would perform C&I services for Cintas on a time and materials basis, in fact EY improperly billed Cintas for C&I services based on a percentage of the relevant tax credit or incentive secured. Specifically, from July 2009 through August 2018, EY charged, and Cintas paid, fees of approximately—sometimes exactly—10% of the benefit Cintas received for federal tax credits and 15% of the benefit Cintas received for state and local tax credits resulting from EY’s C&I engagements.

For example, from 2009 through 2018, EY assisted Cintas in obtaining certain federal tax credits related to hiring. Initially, EY billed Cintas for this work annually at exactly 10% of the credits Cintas obtained. In later years, EY billed Cintas for this work on a quarterly basis and reconciled the bills at the end of the year so that EY’s annual fees were approximately 10% of the total credits Cintas obtained for that year. Certain EY bills to Cintas summarized the amount of each credit and then stated the applicable charges. It was clear on the face of the invoices that the charges were 10% of the amount of the tax credits.

During that time period, Greenwell, who was the tax account leader for tax services EY provided to Cintas, including C&I services, failed to investigate red flags indicating that EY was billing Cintas on a contingent fee basis for C&I services, according to the SEC.

For example, in February 2016, Respondent received an email from Cintas indicating that, for 2014 and 2015, EY had billed Cintas estimated amounts for federal tax credit work and that a reconciliation would occur once the precise amount of the federal tax credits was known. The email suggested that the final fee would be contingent on the amount of credit Cintas received for the work, which Respondent failed to investigate.

Similarly, in March 2017, Respondent was copied on several emails regarding an EY invoice to Cintas for certain state tax credits. In the emails, EY managers told Cintas that the final invoice would be calculated and sent to the company once Cintas had secured the expected incentives. This suggested that EY’s fees would depend upon the final amount of the tax credits, and Respondent again failed to investigate.

During the relevant period, Respondent completed audit work papers certifying that EY complied with applicable auditor independence requirements. Respondent also verbally told Cintas’s audit committee that there were no issues that impacted EY’s independence. As described above, EY was not independent of Cintas. Respondent failed to investigate red flags indicating that EY was performing certain C&I services for Cintas on a contingent fee basis, which violated the auditor independence rules.

Hurak, who was an engagement manager for certain C&I services that EY provided to Cintas from April 2013 to August 2018, reviewed and approved certain EY invoices sent to Cintas for C&I services, including those services provided to Cintas on a contingent fee basis.

For example, in November 2016, Respondent approved billing Cintas for obtaining a large federal hiring-related tax credit. The invoice listed both the amount of the credit and the amount of the fee. The amount of the bill was almost exactly 10% of the credit amount that Cintas received. Cintas paid the invoice in January 2017.

Similarly, in September 2017, Respondent emailed Cintas an invoice for C&I services relating to three federal tax credits. The email also summarized the amount of each federal credit and the charges for each credit. Those charges were approximately 10% of the tax benefit Cintas received for each credit. Cintas paid the invoice in October 2017.

Bering, who was the engagement partner for C&I services that EY provided to Cintas from July 2009 through June 2018, failed to perform a reasonable inquiry in response to information that EY staff under his supervision were billing Cintas for C&I services on a contingent fee basis, according to the SEC.

By at least 2016, Respondent became aware of information that EY staff under his supervision were billing Cintas for C&I services on a contingent fee basis. In March 2016, in response to questions he raised to EY staff about Cintas invoices, an EY manager emailed Respondent that “[h]istorically [Cintas] has agreed to pay us fees that reflect the amount of benefit we bring.” In that same email, the EY manager included a chart showing Cintas’s tax credits and EY’s corresponding fees, which were a percentage of the tax credits. Respondent failed to investigate the information in the email suggesting that a contingent fee arrangement existed between EY and Cintas.

In January 2017, Respondent did not respond to an email from an EY manager specifically raising concerns that EY had been invoicing Cintas on a contingent fee basis for C&I services. When the manager followed up during a phone call, Respondent directed the manager to discuss the issue with the person responsible for invoicing Cintas and otherwise failed to perform a reasonable inquiry as to the manager’s concerns.

Alan Greenwell

Hurak, an attorney licensed in the state of Ohio who became an EY principal on July 1, 2018 before resigning from the firm in February 2019, agreed to pay a $20,000 fine and to cease and desist from future violations of auditor independence rules. He is also suspended from appearing or practicing before the SEC as an attorney for two years. He is currently a shareholder with accounting and advisory firm Clark Schaefer Hackett, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Greenwell, a partner throughout the relevant time period who left the firm involuntarily in March 2019, agreed to pay a $15,000 fine and to cease and desist from future violations. In addition, he is barred from appearing or practicing before the SEC as an accountant for two years. Greenwell currently is a shareholder and Cincinnati markets leader at tax and accounting firm Brixey & Meyer, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Adam Bering

Bering, an attorney licensed in the state of Ohio and current principal at EY, agreed to pay a $10,000 fine and to cease and desist from future violations. He also is suspended from appearing or practicing before the SEC as an attorney for one year.

In addition, Scott Clark, an accountant and former vice president of corporate taxation for Cintas, had his wrist slapped by the SEC for negotiating and approving payment of EY’s contingent fee invoices on Cintas’s behalf. He was fined $30,000 and agreed to cease and desist from future violations. Clark was also suspended from appearing or practicing before the SEC as an accountant for one year.

Related article:

EY Learns the Hard Way Not to Screw Around with the SEC’s Auditor Independence Rules

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How can firms remain competitive alongside cloud-native practices?

Like many other industries, the pandemic forced practices to think on their feet and adapt. Many adopted digital, automated cloud-based tools tailored specifically to the needs of accountants to consolidate their operations. The ease of use and scalability of these tools also gave rise to hundreds of new firms. In just the month of March 2020, a record 636 new accountancy practices were founded.

These ‘cloud-native’ firms can streamline lengthy processes and tasks, becoming the de facto standard of any practice starting out due to their affordable pricing, ease of use and efficiency. All of which enables accountants to focus on offering clients higher-value advisory services. Many established firms have moved their operations either fully to the cloud or are in the process of migrating from desktop. In fact, over 70% of our customers are in the cloud, despite the pandemic and continued economic uncertainty. With this tsunami of migration, competition in the accountancy profession is as fierce as ever.

Join the cloud-native party

To keep up with competition and stay ahead in the market, change doesn’t have to be big, audacious, or even expensive. Making incremental adjustments can lead to a world of difference.

The starting point should always be providing clients with better informed advice and insight. This could be as simple as tweaking current processes to provide clients with services they didn’t even know they needed.

Small changes can also have a big impact on culture and recruitment. If practices want to stand out as a desirable place to work in today’s job market, they need to consider evolving internal operations and working styles to attract the best talent. Not only will attracting and retaining top candidates positively impact clients through the services they provide, it will also help practices plan for the future in the knowledge they have the best people best placed within their organisation.

To successfully deliver the best services and advice to clients, all the while enhancing culture in the process, accountants need digital-first solutions that access real-time and accurate data across every aspect of their firm.

Life on the cloud

Powered by the cloud, real-time data enables accountants to metaphorically ‘look over the shoulder’ of clients and gain a thorough understanding of what’s happening in their business. This increases the touchpoints between both parties, widening the scope for additional collaboration.

The cloud provides actionable data that helps accountants give forward-looking advice rather than just completing year-end tax filings – the general bread and butter. It also provides aggregated insights from across a firm’s client base, amalgamating the data and performance of businesses in the same sector. These services are now essential as accountants deal with the busy festive period, Making Tax Digital (MTD) and rebuilding from the pandemic.

The benefits of cloud-based tools aren’t even strictly restricted to servicing clients – practices can also benefit internally. Post-pandemic, employees now expect different working experiences and styles. The cloud enables employees to work from anywhere, provided they have a laptop and an internet connection. Not only is this appealing for Millennials and Gen Z who seek greater flexibility in the way they work, it helps other employees with commitments, such as single parents who can choose the hours they work to fit in with their life using cloud-based tools and systems.

For Becky Homer at Farnborough-based practice Jones & Co., access to flexible accountancy software opened up the possibility of effectively managing being a parent with a heavy workload. Becky said, “I’ve even been to Thorpe Park for the day, and the kids have gone off on the rollercoasters and I’ve sat in a coffee shop and been able to work as if I’m in the office…”.

In a world of digitisation, the accountancy profession is sometimes guilty of being slow to innovate – I know a number of firms that still use outdated technology. This reluctance to modernise is harmful and damaging the value proposition of accountants. Ultimately life on the cloud simplifies long drawn out and inefficient processes, so it’s no wonder firms that have already adopted these tools are thriving.

Take one step to the right

Accountancy professionals are a critical part of every business, helping them stay on track and grow in good times and bad. However, to remain competitive and stave off competition from cloud-native new-comers, they need to successfully deliver the best services and advice to clients. To do this, accountants need digital-first solutions.

Using real-time, accurate data across every aspect of their firm to create workflow efficiencies, accountants can ensure they have the tools needed to thrive and transform their firms and clients’ businesses today, and tomorrow.

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Steps for Initiating Your Startup Business

Starting your own business is a daunting task. So how can you get your startup off the ground?

Starting your own business is a daunting task. Entrepreneurs will need the proper planning and strategizing to get any business off the ground successfully. There are a few key steps that any new business owner will need to tackle before launching their own business. No matter what type of business it is, these steps will usually be quite similar. Here are the initial steps that any entrepreneur needs to take to thrive in the business world as an owner. 

Conducting Market Research

Knowing your industry is one thing. But, knowing what your clients or audience needs and wants become integral to any successful business. Market research is a great way to find more information on your demographic and how your service or product fits within the industry or field itself. The reality is, understanding what potential customers need and want is the best way to provide those things to your future consumers. This instantly gives you a much better competitive advantage as you step into the business world as an entrepreneur. 

Writing A Proper Business Plan

Executing and writing down your business plan becomes increasingly important for any successful business. Your business plan will serve as the foundation for your business — so you’ll want to make sure that it is effective and thorough. The reality is, even if you are new to the business world, there are so many resources available to you to help execute a business plan effectively and efficiently.

dequate Funding For Your Business

Within your business plan, you’ll need to dedicate space to determine how you plan on funding it. There are various options available to people when it comes to starting their own business and gaining access to capital to help it grow and thrive. Looking at all your options is just a phone call or Google search away. As a result, getting in touch with professionals who understand the nuances associated with starting your own business can make the process much easier than you may have thought! 

Trust the Professionals at the Harding Group

Unlike other accounting firms, The Harding Group, located in Annapolis, MD, will never charge you for consultations and strive for open communication with our clients. 

Are you interested in business advising, tax preparation, bookkeeping and accounting, payroll services, training + support for QuickBooks, or retirement planning?  We have the necessary expertise and years of proven results to help. 

We gladly serve clients in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore, Severna Park, and Columbia. If you are ready to take the stress out of tax time, contact us online or give us a call at (410) 573-9991 for a free consultation. For more tax tips, follow us on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and LinkedIn


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