The Accounting Podcast

Blake and David start with a discussion on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's testimony regarding the failure of small and mid-sized banks due to exposure to the commercial real estate sector. They also get into Minnesota's CPA licensure bill for 150-hour requirement alternatives and KPMG's audit findings on the Department of Education and the cost of the federal student loan program. Rounding out the episode, they answer listener questions and comments on topics including the psychological challenges of CPA firm employment, NASBA's lack of customer service, and the high fees for taking the CPA exam internationally.

  • (00:28) - Welcome to the show, how much trouble are small banks in?
  • (06:49) - Minnesota CPA Society's Pathways CPA Licensure Bill advances in Senate
  • (10:08) - Our listener plugs a security hole in tax client portal software
  • (14:03) - The cultural issues that plague the accounting profession
  • (20:57) - Fortune magazine article that CPAs need to tell their stories
  • (24:48) - Should we have a federal CPA license?
  • (27:54) - The government doesn't know the costs of student loans
  • (35:03) - Christy shares a positive message
  • (36:21) - Does starting your career at Big 4 lead to better industry jobs?
  • (40:42) - Alex writes in about problems they had scheduling their CPA exam
  • (45:55) - IRS inviting biggest ERC filers to learn the correct way to file them
  • (50:34) - Tax preparer using basic Word doc to collect information
  • (52:04) - Listener replies to Blake's Accounting Today article
  • (54:27) - The international costs to take the CPA exam
  • (57:45) - The firm and work culture issue
  • (58:52) - Why students don't want to major in accounting
  • (59:39) - Thanks for listening! The new Earmark app is coming soon!

Show Notes
Could CPAs telling their stories be the key to attracting Gen Zers to accounting? A PwC vice chair thinks so
Senate File 1660, the MNCPA-backed bill to broaden the pathways to CPA licensure, advanced in the Minnesota Senate on Thursday.
Powell: ‘There will be bank failures’ caused by commercial real estate losses

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The full transcript for this episode is available by clicking on the Transcript tab at the top of this page

Creators & Guests

Blake Oliver
Founder and CEO of Earmark CPE
David Leary
President and Founder, Sombrero Apps Company

What is The Accounting Podcast?

The Accounting Podcast (formerly the Cloud Accounting Podcast) is the world's #1 accounting, bookkeeping, and tax podcast! Join us weekly for a roundup of accounting news, analysis, and interviews. Plus, earn free NASBA-approved CPE credits for listening with the Earmark app. Learn more at

Attention: This is a machine-generated transcript. As such, there may be spelling, grammar, and accuracy errors throughout. Thank you for your understanding!

Blake Oliver: [00:00:04] So KPMG did an audit of the Department of Education, and they said they didn't have enough evidence to provide an audit opinion. So like yeah, it's nuts to me. Here we are having this debate about the cost of student loans. And we don't actually know what the cost of student loans is. How can you have a debate on something when you don't know what the cost is?

David Leary: [00:00:24] Coming to you weekly from the OnPay Recording Studio.

Blake Oliver: [00:00:29] Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the show. I'm Blake Oliver.

David Leary: [00:00:32] I'm David Leary and Blake. So we recorded last week. And I think at the same time we're recording, uh, the Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, was testifying. You'll never guess what he was testifying about. Tell me the same thing we were talking about. Or you were talking about really? How banks are going to fail. These small community banks are going to fail.

Blake Oliver: [00:00:51] You mean I was right?

David Leary: [00:00:52] You were right. And you should have been testifying to Congress, maybe. Right. I and it's exactly what you said in the episode last week. So he expects some banks to fail due to their exposure to commercial real estate sector, which has been, you know, at risk or exposed, exposed, not the right word, but it's because of the shift to remote work, right?

Blake Oliver: [00:01:13] Right. I mean, we see this. It's yeah. Commercial real estate offices, office space is 50% occupancy or less from what it was before the pandemic. People just aren't going back to work five days a week. Yeah.

David Leary: [00:01:28] And he's really calling out those smaller and mid-sized banks, which was what we talked about last week. Right. And then to quote him here, this is a problem we'll be working on for years more. I'm sure there will be bank failures, he said in the Thursday hearing on the Fed's monetary policy. Yeah, in Senate Banking Committee. Now, he didn't go into any details, but he did say they had identified a list of the banks that are at risk and they're currently having conversations or dialogs with those banks.

Blake Oliver: [00:01:56] So here's what's unfair about this whole thing, because of the accounting treatment that allows these banks to hide their losses, they are able to look better on their balance sheet than they really are. And that hides the truth from investors. Now, the fed may have insight into this that we don't. And I think that investors should the public should be able to see what needs to be written down. But our accounting standards allow these bank executives to. It allows them a lot of discretion in determining when, if and when to recognize losses on these loans.

David Leary: [00:02:35] So so the balance sheet that they're putting out to the street might be different than the balance sheet the FDIC is actually seeing.

Blake Oliver: [00:02:41] Exactly. Yeah. And that is wrong in my opinion. Like we should let the market decide if these banks are undercapitalized. And I think the accounting treatment kind of sweeps that under the rug. And FASB decided not to revisit any of this stuff after, um, you know, Silicon Valley Bank, like, it's all related. It's all the same stuff. It's the it's the same issue that allowed Silicon Valley Bank to hide its losses on its government bonds, as those were declining in value. Basically, the short story is the banks can say, we're going to hold this to maturity, and if they do, then they don't have to disclose a loss, right? They can they can continue to hold that asset on their balance sheet at its book, you know, at its original value. Yeah. Yeah. You know so so I'm not sure exactly how this all works, but I just know that the accounting treatment is what's allowing these banks to avoid recognizing these losses. Um, and they and the code word for this is internal controls. So the banks that suddenly disclose billions of dollars of losses are saying, oh, we didn't have good internal controls around our book of loans. What that means is that somebody at the bank knew that these loans should be written down and didn't do it properly. That's my hot take on this.

David Leary: [00:03:57] So so the disturbing part that he talked that to me disturbs is disturbing. You know, obviously they we had the previous banking crisis almost a full year ago to the day I think was the Silicon Valley bank crisis. And there's been other 35 or 40 bank failures in the last five, six, seven, eight years, whatever it might be. But this sentence, uh, Paul expressed confidence that the fed and financial regulators would be able to contain the fallout and prevent a broader crisis. And I'm always scared when people are really confident, like, no problem. This is not a big deal. We'll handle it. Yeah, that always scares me a little bit.

Blake Oliver: [00:04:32] Well, the big question is like, what percentage of bad loans are on the bank balance sheets that we aren't aware of. Banks are not capitalized as much as people think they are, right. They only keep a small percentage of their deposits in reserve to cover. I don't I'm not even using the right terminology. But basically like banks loan out most of what they take in, right? Yeah. So they don't have that much left in the vault essentially. And and if, if the difference between what they've got in the vault and what they, what they need to like. Write down on those loans is big enough, right? If. They might not have anything left in the vault. It's basically what I'm saying, okay.

David Leary: [00:05:15] And in this country, we have thousands of these smaller banks. Yes, thousands and thousands and thousands. And I the bailout is going to probably be oh, Chase gets to buy them. So we're gonna when this is all said and done over the next five, six, seven, next decade, we're going to have just massive banks chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, these giant banks just eat up all these small banks. I don't know if that's good or not for the economy.

Blake Oliver: [00:05:38] I've tried to get a loan from B of A, and I'll tell you, it's not fun as a business owner compared to working with a smaller bank. So I hope that doesn't happen. But we need to move on. David, I've got another story to share, and this one is about the 150 hour rule. Don't worry, I'll be brief, folks. Uh, Minnesota CPA society sent on over this press release. Pathways CPA licensure bill advances in the Minnesota Senate. So the legislation in Minnesota to create an alternative to the 150 hour rule is moving forward. There's going to be a parallel path, 124 years of education, no fifth year and two years of experience. So what happened on a voice vote? The state and Local Government and Veterans Committee moved the bill to the Minnesota Senate Finance Committee. So we're now in another committee. Um. I want to call out some of the quotes. From the testimony of accounting leaders locally and nationally who spoke to the impact of this legislation. This is Jen Leary, CEO of Cliftonlarsonallen LLP, one of the largest accounting firms in the country that's based in Minnesota. There are multiple studies that show the 150 hour requirement has created barriers for students, especially minority students, to becoming CPAs. There is no evidence that the 150 hour requirement has improved the quality of the profession. We have the power to change this. Minnesota's exemplary actions to broaden the pathways and increase accessibility to the accounting profession have the potential to increase the number of CPAs overall and encourage hard working, diverse talent to join the profession.

David Leary: [00:07:21] And she should know she is the CEO of, I think, CLA or Cliftonlarsonallen. They are a top ten accounting firm, I think. Right. They're huge. Yeah, yeah, I don't know.

Blake Oliver: [00:07:31] Exactly the ranking, but I know they are big.

David Leary: [00:07:33] They probably hire hundreds and hundreds of CPAs every year. Yes, with or without the 150 hour rule.

Blake Oliver: [00:07:38] Mhm. So, uh. Yeah, it's looking good. We're moving there. And the question, of course is going to be what is NASA going to do? What are the I think what is the EPA going to do if this bill advances and Minnesota does create the alternative pathway, are they going to go nuclear, you know, and are they going to try to, uh, stop Minnesota CPAs from having mobility? I think that would be a big mistake.

David Leary: [00:08:02] Uh, one thing in that article, because that was on the Minnesota State Society page, they call out and link to the other states that are also having these conversations Arizona, Virginia, new Jersey. So I think Minnesota is making sure to let everybody know, like, we're not the only state doing this stuff.

Blake Oliver: [00:08:16] So what are the other states that are doing.

David Leary: [00:08:18] That they linked to and called out? They said Arizona, Virginia and New Jersey. Well that are joining joining the conversation.

Blake Oliver: [00:08:25] That's great. Let's get more. All right David. That's it for the news for this episode, because we are going to jump into the listener mailbag. We have much. Uh A. I mean, we got quite a few emails from listeners. Um, please send us your emails and we read them. Email the accounting podcast at earmarked me. That's the accounting podcast at earmarked me. We love to hear from our listeners. And every now and then we share those emails on the show. So we're going to go through these, uh, mostly in order from oldest to newest and try to catch up. So, uh, David, I'm going to let you reach into the mailbag and take your first pick.

David Leary: [00:09:09] I'm going to go to the oldest, deepest part of the bag. I think this was, um, early January. This email's been kind of hanging around here. And the subject line said recipient portals are not secure at all. And it's a long email thread. I hopefully you digested it and you can explain it to me like, yeah, what is the problem here?

Blake Oliver: [00:09:26] So I'm not going to read the whole thing. Uh, because it goes on quite a bit. It's from Sarah Burnham and. Basically the gist is this Sarah is a customer of tax 1099 and has used it for many years and recommended it to all of her clients. And in using it to do 1099 this year, Sarah figured out that there's a whole there was a hole in the security of the portal where client's 1099 recipients would access their documents.

David Leary: [00:10:02] So this is one of those sites where you get the email, you're 1099 ready. I go there, I click the link, I might have to put it my email and then maybe my the last four digits of my Social Security number, and then it'll display the 1099 on the screen. That's kind of the experience at a high level.

Blake Oliver: [00:10:17] And with text 1099, the way that you access the document is you enter a username and password combination. But the defaults, Sarah realized, are not secure. You use the first four letters of your name or business, which is not a secret. Any any. Anyone knows that, right? Of the recipient. And then the business ains are not secure. And you can't change the username or the password. You can't request dual factor authentication. So basically you could figure out how to get into every single tax 1099. Com E-delivery recipient portal and look at all of their forms if you wanted to. And anybody could go and look at yours if they had those two pieces of information, basically your business name and your Ein. Yeah. Which is pretty easy to get, right. Yeah. I mean, I don't think there's any like public database of eins, but but well, let's just say that I sent you a 1099, David. Well, I know your business name and I know your ein. So now I could go into your portal and look at all the other 1099 you've received from other people, and vice versa.

David Leary: [00:11:24] And vice versa and vice versa. Have your right yon and business name. Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:11:28] So Sarah wrote in to the founder of tax 1099 and pointed out the security hole. Now as you know, David, when you've done that in the past, what's the odds that you get a response?

David Leary: [00:11:41] Well, when I email, I usually get responses.

Blake Oliver: [00:11:43] That's because people know who you are, right? Yeah. For most people it just goes into like some customer service hole. Yeah. And the company never does anything about it. Well, the great news is that tax 1099 was very responsive and plugged the hole within days. So they added a new field to create a passcode. And then the consent emails go to the recipient with a passcode. So the only way to get access to the portal is if you have access to their email, which is usually pretty secure, right?

David Leary: [00:12:10] It's a third a third factor of authenticating it. Yeah. Makes sense.

Blake Oliver: [00:12:14] Um, and they solve the problem. So I just wanted to highlight that because it's a great example of one of our listeners finding a security gap in software that thousands of accountants are using and helping to plug it. So if that happens and you find something like that, reach out. And if you don't get a response, email us and we will talk about it on the air and hopefully pressure that company into fixing their security hole. We didn't have to do it in that case.

David Leary: [00:12:39] So I'm just reminds me of a funny story from Joe Woodard. Uh, and I don't know what the app was, but, you know, he got invited to an app. And just for fun, he just typed password as password got right in. He's like, oh, I don't think that bookkeeper should be using this app. Yes. It just reminds me a story like that.

Blake Oliver: [00:13:00] Moving on. This is an email from anonymous. Yes you can. You can send us anonymous emails too if you like. Just make a burner email address. Um. Anonymous said love the show. Everyone talks about the 150 hour rule lately and how this is the pipeline problem for the CPA profession. And I also agree that it is along with the low pay and high hours. But no one talks about the psychological part of the profession and one's mental health as a result. No one talks about firm dynamics and how these have long been a part of both CPA and law firm cultures. Work shifting sink or swim up or out, lack of diversity, hyper competitiveness, nepotism, ageism, conquer and divide tactics. The list goes on. Maybe we should have some more insight on these darker, more ambiguous cultural aspects as well. Even if the 150 hour rule goes away, no one who figures this behavior out after a while is going to want to stick around. And this is probably the idea of the firms who employ these burn and churn type of archaic dynamics. This is why they target young folks with less social and life awareness. Take advantage of who wants to put up with this for 10 to 15 years to maybe become a partner? Not everyone who got their CPA license to find their identity or be a part of some sort of club. Some of us like the work and just want the job security. The CPA is a small sliver of who some of us are. Hopefully most of us.

Blake Oliver: [00:14:27] It's unfortunate that these older, firm core values have plagued so many of us, either knowingly and or unknowingly. These trickle down dynamics have set firms up for failure. We need to make the partnership model more diverse, faster, different, dynamic, and or obsolete. We need to reward perseverance, creativity, balance, and communication as opposed to solely high performance and those who can make partners the richest, the fastest. Not everyone wants to be this caffeinated. We need to reinvent the hierarchy and create more interesting roles. The traditional hierarchy is so boring to even think about. We need to stop gaslighting young folks into thinking this is attainable and a healthy pathway. The system we have now is so out of touch with humans, and solely focuses on money for partners. At the top of the pyramid, it is putting the horse before the cart. Let's talk about the barriers that will prevent people from staying in the profession once they receive their license as well. Firms need to be accountable for this behavior and making these changes that will ultimately determine the well-being and retention of their employees. How is the AICPA going to fix this model? How are current professionals going to fix this for themselves and new upcoming professionals? Is it time to unionize? We need some major market rate increases for CPAs to make it worthwhile. We also need to rinse out these older and unhealthy cultural traditions that are still plaguing the profession. Thanks for reading. That's like a manifesto right there. But I can't say I disagree.

David Leary: [00:15:57] Well, it's another thing that contributes to the problem. If we go back to poor experiences with accounting and accounting 101 150 rule poor experiences at big firms, mental health, like every one of these things, just kicks more people out of the being an accountant funnel, right. And for the young people, their view of of career is different, right? Yeah. Like the youngest people.

Blake Oliver: [00:16:18] Well, I agree that nobody wants to stick around. Very few people want to stick around for 15 years to become partner, which is what it takes on average these days. That's a long time to not have a say, to not have a vote. Um, so I think firms need to figure that out. How do you make people partner sooner? If it was seven years instead of 15 years, that's a different calculation. But also it's the the burnout, the working hard. Um, you know, Chris Vanover has been on LinkedIn posting videos. He's a former audit partner, audit director at the Big four, talking about how partners are working more than the staff. They're putting in crazy overtime hours. So who wants to stick around to become a partner just to end up working more? What's the. Pay off.

David Leary: [00:17:12] There's no yeah, there's no goal anymore.

Blake Oliver: [00:17:15] You make more money, right? But you still don't have time. And if you don't have time to spend your money, what's the point? That's my philosophy. So like, we got to figure out a model for this business that doesn't depend on billing over 2000 hours a year. I mean, that's that's what people are asked to do. They're asked to Bill. More than 40 hours a week. In order to build more than 40 hours a week, you have to work 60 or 70.

David Leary: [00:17:44] This ties to last week talking about workflows and systems and technology, and rolling that out properly inside your firm, getting your employees to take advantage of this to reduce all these work life balance issues. Right. Ultimately.

Blake Oliver: [00:17:58] Anyone who's worked for themselves knows that it's not realistic. When you quit your job to say, I'm going to work 2000 hours, I'm going to build 2000 hours. You never end up billing all the time in your day. If you're lucky, you bill 1000 hours a year, so you have to build your model. So that you can make a full time income working half the time on client work because the other half is running your business, finding prospects, selling deals. So so it's it's it's complete like. Yeah. We just have to bring down the hours and maybe that's it's got to be using technology to do that. But the firms that have an hourly model. They can't. They can't adapt. They cannot change. They are stuck in this hourly billing model. I swear to God, it all comes down to the billable hour.

David Leary: [00:18:54] If you can't, you can't undo it, right?

Blake Oliver: [00:18:56] You cannot fix the culture of firms until you fix the billable hour, because that is the root of all evil in the accounting profession. Treating people like machines that churn out hours like widgets. It's every incentive in the firm, like the firm is built then to overwork you, to get as much as possible out of you like you are a machine. And that's what we've ended up with as a culture in the profession. And the problem is that the only people who stick around are the ones that don't mind it, so they don't see the problem. If you've been in this cult of overwork for 15 years and you become a partner, you just perpetuate it. You have no perspective, and by that time you probably don't know your family that well. Right. You don't have hobbies. Work is your life, so it's hard to see any alternative. That's my theory anyway.

David Leary: [00:19:54] There was an article in fortune magazine, and the title of the article is could CPAs telling their stories be the key to attracting attracting Gen Zers to accounting? A PwC vice chair thinks so, and the argument is.

Blake Oliver: [00:20:08] That guys are so sorry, David. These guys are just so out of touch. They're just this is the problem. Like they have no CPAs. Telling their stories is the reason that we can't attract Gen Z into the profession. But go.

David Leary: [00:20:22] On. Yeah. And this is the quote, there are incredible leadership skills that you'll learn throughout your career at PwC that we probably don't promote enough, she says. Like having hard conversations, that's a leadership skill, whether it be a be with a client or with a team doing talent development. And that's all part of being a CPA. So yeah, basically it's like, yes, you're a CPA, but look at all the other crap you got to do too. Yeah, lots of hard conversations.

Blake Oliver: [00:20:48] That's a real appealing. I love having hard conversations, don't you David. Yes. Yeah.

David Leary: [00:20:54] Yeah it doesn't. Yeah. Like if you.

Blake Oliver: [00:20:58] The big.

David Leary: [00:20:59] Gone down this path. Yeah. And you're going to tell your war stories of I used to work 2600 hours a year, so you better do it too. Yeah. Like, I don't know.

Blake Oliver: [00:21:08] Yeah.

David Leary: [00:21:09] It feels a lot of touch. You are correct. We like to.

Blake Oliver: [00:21:11] Make fun of corporate America. Anyone who's worked in corporate America, right, knows the bullshit that goes on there. And the big four are the worst at it because they're the consultants to corporate America, right? Yeah. The people making the PowerPoint slides that allow, you know, a giant corporation to lay off a bunch of people and justify that to themselves. Right. That's that's what you're doing as a consultant, you know, or you're justifying somebody's business decision. They already made up the decision. You're just brought in there to sire them. You know, it's a lot of just corporate crap. So so that's, you know, like. You got to fix the, um. It's not a there's there's no messaging that you can do to fix that. Yeah. Right. You got to fix the culture of the firm. So that's the problem is it's not like you have. It's not about we need to do a better job telling people about how great it is to work in these big firms. It's you have to actually make it a better place to work.

David Leary: [00:22:11] Yeah, it's a, um. You can't out Mark. You can't market a bad product. Right? If you can't fair a little bit, you'll get a little bump. But then people discover the product's a piece of junk and.

Blake Oliver: [00:22:22] Yeah, exactly. And you can't do it when social media is out there telling everybody the truth, right? You can't you can't fake the reviews anymore.

David Leary: [00:22:31] So let's jump into another piece of mail.

Blake Oliver: [00:22:33] Yeah, let's keep going. Otherwise we're not going to get through this. Um. All right. This is from Courtney on your podcast posted January 12th. There's a lot of talk about mobility for the CPA license. What if there was just a federally recognized CPA license that goes over all the general stuff? And then I think with a big deal with all the states is there are specifics to every state. So you have a general CPA and then you have licensure within each state confirming that you understand the state laws and accounting where you're only taking one additional test if you have to change. And it's based on those state laws and it goes on. But basically that's the idea from Courtney is like, why don't we have a federal CPA license? And then. Have individual tests for the different state rules.

David Leary: [00:23:16] So actually put the AICPA in charge.

Blake Oliver: [00:23:19] Yeah I know and not.

David Leary: [00:23:21] Let the state societies be in charge. Is that the the plan?

Blake Oliver: [00:23:24] Yeah I don't know if that's a better solution or not because then you'd never well I don't know. Would you get more change. The problem right now is like the, the the CPA profession, the way it regulates itself is actually set up very similar to a partnership model in an accounting firm where you have 55 partners. That's the different states and jurisdictions, and they all have to agree to do anything. And that's the reason basically why the CPA says it's too hard to change the model, the one 50 hour rule, because everyone has to change all their individual rules. So maybe there's something to that. Having one CPA license that we all get federally.

David Leary: [00:24:08] But the decisions were made possibly, or changes would possibly happen faster. It would be.

Blake Oliver: [00:24:13] Easier to make changes because you only have to change one set of laws, right? You just get Congress to change the the rule.

David Leary: [00:24:19] But it would take 20 years to come up with the standard across the board for the whole country.

Blake Oliver: [00:24:23] Yeah. So I don't know. I'm torn on this because I also appreciate the federal system we have where states can be innovative. The problem we have now is actually that we've got the worst of both worlds, because we have a situation where the states theoretically have authority to license, but then they are hamstrung by the, you know, mobility thing that we've created. So, like, nobody can change, everybody's frozen because nobody wants to break mobility. So it's it it's the worst.

David Leary: [00:24:57] But do we already have a federal system. When you look at ease, like, do we already have this model existing where there's one federal standard if for ease there there is. And the states don't have to deal with it.

Blake Oliver: [00:25:07] But the ease is a 10th the size of the CPA.

David Leary: [00:25:10] Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:25:11] And it's only for tax and nobody knows what it is outside of. That's true accountants. That's the most accountants don't know, because I see.

David Leary: [00:25:19] Coaches trying to coach accountants on how to become IAS and educate them on what an EA is. But but but we're coming from on that is there's no there's not like each state has its own like process for enrolled agents in each 50 states. It is a national program.

Blake Oliver: [00:25:34] And administered by the.

David Leary: [00:25:35] Irs. Yes. Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:25:37] Okay. Let's keep going. Yep. Uh, this is from Chris. Not sure if you subscribe to Apple News. Saw this article and thought it would be fair to highlight a positive instance of auditors doing their job. I'm no auditor and share similar sentiments to you guys about their relevance. The auditing profession has seemingly become as useful, lame, and expensive as a government agency. But I am a CPA and these are our cousins, so we should give them a shout out for doing something right at the highest profile level. Us Government audit. Although it really begs the question of how bad off the US government accounting is that they don't have the skills to cook the books better than the Nigerians. Um, and so this article that this listener sent in is how much do federal student loans cost taxpayers? House Republicans say the government doesn't know.

David Leary: [00:26:25] Right. Can you repeat that? The cost.

Blake Oliver: [00:26:27] How much do federal student loans cost taxpayers? House Republicans say the government doesn't know. I'm pulling this up right now.

David Leary: [00:26:37] Now I'm going to go back in a time machine because didn't, um, you bring to the show before, uh. The stat that the biggest asset on the government's balance sheet is student loans? Yeah, I think so. I would argue they probably are profitable if that's the biggest asset.

Blake Oliver: [00:26:55] Well, let's let's dig into this. The story here is that Representative Virginia Fox with two exes, a North Carolina Republican and chair of the House Committee on Education and the workforce. Wrote to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, asking him to testify in February about the findings of KPMG's audit of the department's financial report. So KPMG did an audit of the Department of Education, and they said they didn't have enough evidence to provide an audit opinion so they could not issue an opinion. Because of unresolved errors, KPMG identified in the underlying data that the department used to calculate the value of its student loan portfolio. This is the second year in a row that KPMG flagged the way the department calculated costs related to the student loan program. So. The department doesn't have proper underlying data in order to determine the value of its student loan portfolio and the cost associated with it. They could not provide an opinion. Basically, the Department of Education failed its audit. So here we are as a country, debating. Student loans and the cost of student loans to taxpayers in determining all these policy decisions. And the auditors are saying, well, what the numbers that the Department of Education is putting out. You can't we can't, we can't. They don't even.

David Leary: [00:28:25] Know the numbers.

Blake Oliver: [00:28:26] We can't give you an opinion on that. So we don't know. Nobody knows if these numbers are right. So. This is all because politicians have been battling over the the cost of the student loan program, right? Listen, listen. Listen to this quote. Figuring out how much the loans cost can be complicated. Quote. It's not really possible to know the cost of the program in the end, said Jason Delsol, a nonresident senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a think tank. It's not really possible to know the cost of the program. How do you develop policy without knowing the cost of a program?

David Leary: [00:29:05] Or doesn't your department, the Department of Student Loans, or whatever have a budget that they have to track their expenses?

Blake Oliver: [00:29:12] I don't.

David Leary: [00:29:14] Yeah. Or actually, wouldn't the cost be whatever it was budgeted to them?

Blake Oliver: [00:29:18] So what is what are we trying to figure out? We're trying to figure out. The value of the loan program. And in order to know the value of the loan program, you have to know whether the department will get back more money in repayments over time than it lent out in a given cohort of loans. This is like what banks have to do. You you loan out, right? Theoretically. You loan out money and you have to estimate how much you're going to get back. In repayments. But this can be tough to predict because when the government makes a student loan, it can be out there for decades, and repayment behavior on previous loan cohorts isn't indicative of how a current cohort of loans will perform because of changes to the student loan program. So there have been lots of changes, and the bureaucrats haven't been able to keep up with all the changes, of course. And so they don't know they don't have reliable estimates of how many of these loans will be paid back and how much. So basically the auditor said, we cannot give you an opinion on the department's estimates. They don't have good enough data. So the estimates, when they're saying like how much these loans are going to be paid back, we don't know.

David Leary: [00:30:37] The government should just made some fake statements. The auditors would have ate it up. They'd be like, all right, we're good.

Blake Oliver: [00:30:43] Well, this is the auditors doing their job. Yeah. So that's why this was sent to us. Is KPMG did its job here? They did not issue an opinion because they felt like they couldn't do it. So. It's crazy that we're.

David Leary: [00:30:56] Having an opinion. Is actually issuing an opinion. Really? It is. Yeah, yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:31:01] That's funny actually, the way you said that, David, it's true. Not issuing an opinion is issuing an opinion. Yeah. So like, yeah, it's nuts to me. Here we are having this debate about the cost of student loans. And we don't actually know what the cost of student loans is. How can you have a debate on something when you don't know what the cost is? Then it's pointless, right? All right. Thank you so much, Chris, for forwarding us that story. And congrats to KPMG for doing their job. Here's another message from Christy. Christy, youth's professor of accounting at Portland State University. Hi, David. I wanted to take a moment to thank you. And Blake, I am so impressed with all the hard and valuable work you're doing. I'm an accounting analytics professor who has listened to your podcast for ages. A few years back, you too took the time to join my classes. Expert guests. The ideas you shared really resonated with the students then and affect my teaching to this day. For example, you mentioned how automating even small tasks pays off over time. I've built more automation into my courses ever since. Your podcasts are awesome, and even the short clips you post on social media are changing the conversation. I'm pretty sure that your thoughts about the 150 hour requirement are influencing discussions at the Oregon Board of Accountancy. I hope that your ongoing mentions of ethics, the intentional ones and the casual ones are spreading as well. They are so important. You guys are rock stars and I look forward to learning from you and watching your impact grow. Thanks, Christy. Thank you, Christy.

David Leary: [00:32:30] And it's good to know we're influencing students right now that we influenced a professor to be more efficient and use some automation, which will naturally force or force her to teach that to her students. Right. Hey, here's how you can shave a little bit here, a little bit here.

Blake Oliver: [00:32:47] Uh. This is from Daniel, Daniel said with regards to salary, compensation and work hours for new employees at big four accounting firms, it would be interesting to see here a longitudinal study of people that start in Big Four but transition into industry. While many in big four are not paid too well under market and work lots of hours, they are getting exposure experience that helps them transition into careers in industry with a higher career trajectory than those that start in industry. While anecdotal, I've seen this many times where people in industry at higher levels of a company's hierarchy come from big four five, and or companies regularly hire from big four for higher level positions overlooking those that have worked for the same companies for years. The more experienced exposure in big Four then better opportunities in industry. While this is not always true, I think it's something that new employees at Big four need to factor into their career growth compensation considerations. Look at the long Terme career growth potential and this is the best example. The best argument for why you should go. Work hard for a few years to get a big four firm on your resume, because it's a club and people like to hire PwC people and ex Deloitte. People like to hire ex Deloitte people and EY and KPMG same on same same goes for them too. And it's also why the profession has been mostly white and male for so long. Right. Because when everybody looks like you and you hire them and they came from the same background that you do, that's what you get. So yeah, it works. Do you want to perpetuate that? That's the question you have to ask yourself when you go work for those firms. But I also think there's plenty of examples of people who have become CFOs and controllers and CFOs of major corporations that didn't work at the Big four. And you can be really successful and not work there. So. Maybe it's the safe, traditional path, but I don't think you need to do it anymore.

David Leary: [00:34:54] But this would actually be a good study, like he suggests. Um, because they could even test this with resumes. Even fake resumes are applying for jobs. You know, if somebody has two years at one of the big four on their resume and they're applying for X job versus somebody who just worked essentially a similar role, let's just say a controller at some private industry, like. So for those of you in in the educational arena, here's a study. Go answer this question. You know, does it matter? Are those people with that on their resume like more likely to get another job or get hired? Absolutely.

Blake Oliver: [00:35:29] Yeah. I'm going to say without even having to do this, without the study, it's obvious. Um, it would be interesting, though, to see the data and to see if it's changed over time. Like, is it easier now to break in? If you go work at startups, it's more important what you know how to do. You know, not that you came from like a great university, you know, top brand university or firm these days. Sometimes in a startup, too, I've heard plenty of stories of startups that, you know, took somebody out of a consulting firm and like, that person didn't know how to actually do anything. They could just make PowerPoints, you know, they were useless for actual work. So that's the risk you run, right? When you hire people that just pursued the brand the whole their whole career and fake their way through everything. So and I'm not there's really smart people that go work for Big Four. Look, if I'd gone to college for accounting, I certainly would have been the kind of person that wanted to go work at Deloitte, and I would have done my best to go work for a big four firm, and I would have done that, and I probably would've hated my life, right? And then I would have gone into industry and maybe gotten a job as a controller, right, and moved on up the ranks like, I'm I'm exactly that profile. I just chose the wrong major in college, and here I am. I ended up as a podcaster instead. Right. So I'm not saying I make.

David Leary: [00:36:49] You got lucky.

Blake Oliver: [00:36:50] I got lucky, you know, so I yes. So so that's the that's the thing you got to decide is like do you want to do you want to go the traditional path. The thing is that traditional path may not get you where you need to go, and you may be able to do it another way. So let's move on. Is a message from Alex. Alex says hi. I am reaching out as I am a current student at the University of Northern Iowa, and you talk about the shortage of CPAs and roadblocks. Well, right now we have 60 students currently trying to sit for the exam, but Nasba will not approve any of us to sit and has all of us sitting in processing for over a month, and frankly, is a joke and is getting to a point where several people are asking, what's the point if no one can get approved and would love to hear your opinion on this and can offer more information if needed on the situation.

David Leary: [00:37:43] Oh, that would be heartbreaking. You do all the work you put in, all the hours you're ready to do the CPA exam, and you just get blocked from the actual registering for the exam.

Blake Oliver: [00:37:51] So I emailed Alex back and I asked, thanks for listening. I'm sorry to hear about your troubles. Do you know why Nasba won't approve you to sit for the exam? And he said, or she said, we're not sure if all transcripts are posted and uploaded to my profile. I am assuming there's just a major backlog. I have other friends who attend other universities that applied for approval back in October and November, who are still processing when calling and emailing. No responses are pretty much given with hold times that eventually just end with an answering machine, as well as my favorite story of someone calling at 9 a.m. and then getting a sorry, we're out on lunch break.

David Leary: [00:38:28] I mean, we know NAS was slow. I mean, when you had earmark and you had to go through the dance with NASA to get, um, the ability to do CPE for NASA sponsored CPE. Yeah. How long is that of a window?

Blake Oliver: [00:38:42] Uh, it took almost a year. For us to get our application through the process. I think it took eight months for them to even open our application six, seven, eight and then once they did a lot of backlog.

David Leary: [00:38:56] Jeepers.

Blake Oliver: [00:38:58] Well, Nasba is no is not really accountable to any of us. So it's the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. So it's the 50 state boards plus the other jurisdictions. And they fund Nasba. It's a private corporation. And so these organizations elect a board. And then the board appoints managers executives who then hire employees. So the CEO of Nasba is accountable to a board, and the board is accountable to all the state boards of accountancy. It's very, uh, insulated. Yeah, from its customers who are basically, you know, CPAs, future CPAs, current CPAs. And so I don't think customer service is really a priority there. And I wonder what metrics they use to track how quickly they give people exam notices. If you go on Reddit and you just search for Nasba, all you're going to find is people who are really angry at Nasba because they haven't gotten their, um, permission to test whatever these these notices you have to take to the testing center. Ah, I forget what they're called. And and like everything. Just taking a really long time.

David Leary: [00:40:18] Yeah. So like in their mission is ensuring public protection. Right, right. And so if that's your mission, yeah, there's no motivation. Even though you could argue getting more accountants into the funnel faster is better for protecting the public, having more accountants. But yeah, you're right. There's no there's no concept of customers per se.

Blake Oliver: [00:40:38] Yeah. No, they wouldn't even call us that. I'm sure they wouldn't think of it that way. So yeah. Um, Alex wrote another message later with some additional follow up. Uh, the following month, we found out throughout the process that the security of private information is lacking, as several of us during the process would get other people's codes or other people's transcripts in their profile which disclose personal information. For example, I had another person's transcript in my profile from Massachusetts, and I am from Iowa. So how those get mixed up, I am unsure. Also considering two completely different names and social security numbers. Overall, I would say the process has made me realize how inefficient some of these accounting organizations are. Thanks. I am a more recent listener and can say I really enjoy the podcast since discovering it. So if we want to get more accountants in the profession, maybe one of the things that we should do as a profession is streamline the process to get licensed. From an administrative standpoint, if you make it a real hassle to get licensed, people are going to give up or they're going to get a really bad experience, and then they're going to go tell all their friends about the terrible experience they had getting licensed. This is an easy fix for the profession. Improve. Yeah. Customer service.

David Leary: [00:41:53] Like as I get better customer service at the DMV. Then. Yeah. Then with asthma.

Blake Oliver: [00:42:00] If anyone at Nasba is listening would like to care to comment on this, you can email us the accounting podcast at earmarked me. We're curious to know. How does Naspa approach helping CPAs get licensed and making that easier and more streamlined? Is that a priority for your organization? And what are you doing to improve it? I don't have a name on this email, but I'll read it anyway. The IRS is going to invite tax preparers who did a lot of irks to come to in-person seminars about the correct eligibility requirements for a company to get IRC funds. The listener then points us to a press release from the IRS. That's sort of like inviting known bank robbers to a class on how to correctly fill out bank withdrawal slips. Do you really think that they are going to fly back from Thailand or whatever non-extradition country they fled so they can learn how to amend fraudulent irks they filled out? What am I missing here? This is like, uh, FinCEN. So. The more I look into the beneficial ownership reporting requirement. Yeah, the more I realize how ridiculous it is, because the whole point of this is, is for this federal agency, FinCEN. I forget what it stands for to track down money launderers. So their strategy to to catch the money launderers is to tell all of the businesses in the United States, all the small businesses, to report who the owners are and then who the beneficial owners are, which are people who don't own the who aren't on the business registration but who benefit from it. Money laundering is a beneficial owner.

David Leary: [00:43:41] If I'm shady, I do a lot of moving around. I'm supposed to within 30 days.

Blake Oliver: [00:43:46] Report.

David Leary: [00:43:48] Hey, my new address. My new address. Yeah, right. It is kind of. It doesn't make any sense. The shady people are never going to report, right?

Blake Oliver: [00:43:55] None of the people of record who are supposed to file these, like the. You know, if I'm the owner of the car wash. Right. And I'm laundering money for Walter White, who's not the owner of the car wash, do you think I'm going to put him on my car wash? Beneficial ownership information report?

David Leary: [00:44:13] Do you think he's going to want you to be? Yeah, yeah. Do you.

Blake Oliver: [00:44:15] Think he'll. Do you think he'll murder me if I do that? Yeah, I think he will. This is so stupid. It's the. It's the dumbest. It's the it's the dumbest way to catch financial crimes. Nobody. So only the honest people are going to be in this database.

David Leary: [00:44:32] Or the really dumb criminals.

Blake Oliver: [00:44:34] Or the really dumb criminals. Yeah. Which, you know, sometimes that works, right? Yeah. Like my favorite thing. This happened to me. On a side note, this happened to me flying back to Phoenix the other day. I don't know if it's ever happened to you, but have you ever walked out of a plane and there's cops waiting there?

David Leary: [00:44:50] I have to just luckily, a numbers game. Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:44:53] Luckily, I'm not worried that they're there for me. Right. But I'm like, oh, you see a bunch of cops sitting in the in the jetway, right? Or standing there and, uh, I was on a plane and there were like six cops and and they, uh, they, they arrested somebody as they got off the plane. And it's, it's the easy way to get the dumb criminals, because if you've got an arrest warrant out and you fly to a city where you've got an arrest warrant, the airlines, like the police departments, have access to the manifests, right? And they have computer systems that flag people who have an arrest warrant out. So they'll just go get you off the plane and they know you don't have.

David Leary: [00:45:30] You're in that jet bridge. There's nowhere to go.

Blake Oliver: [00:45:32] They know you have no weapons because you made it through TSA, right?

David Leary: [00:45:34] Yeah. So you're right. This is a very safe way to apprehend people. It's just.

Blake Oliver: [00:45:38] Yeah. So, you know, if you've got an arrest warrant out, don't fly. Um, so maybe it'll work. You know, who knows? People are really stupid, so. But the smart criminals, the big money launderers, right? You're not going to get them. All right. Moving on.

David Leary: [00:45:52] Right. Let's skip to the top one. Since since we kind of went through the theme, there is a stupid law. The, uh, the boy reporting go to the top one because I feel like this.

Blake Oliver: [00:46:03] What's the top one for you?

David Leary: [00:46:04] Uh, the, uh, for business tax service.

Blake Oliver: [00:46:07] Oh, yeah. It's not for, uh, it's for this. So this was actually in a private, uh, text message thread, so I'm not going to reveal any of the identities of anyone. Right. Um, this anonymous accountant said one of my clients uses for this to prepare their partnership returns. I just got the business tax organizer for them. It's a word, doc. So you've got one of the top accounting firms in the country sending out the tax organizer. And it's a word doc. Come on. Come on. You. All this money that could be invested in it and technology and systems. And you're sending out the tax organizer, the survey. The client survey to get the information you need to do the return. And it's a word doc.

David Leary: [00:46:54] Well, somewhere people missed this like move to digital like, well we used to print it and mail it out to people, but now we just send them the PDF. We're digital. Yeah. Like they're missing the grand point of this.

Blake Oliver: [00:47:09] Uh.

David Leary: [00:47:11] And again, this ties to young people in the profession. You know, a younger person is like, are you kidding me? I have to mail somebody a PDF, doc. Yeah. And then they're not going to want to work in the profession.

Blake Oliver: [00:47:21] Here's an email from David. The subject is does an audit opinion matter anymore? And this is in response to the article I wrote on accounting today. Does an audit opinion matter anymore? Uh, in which I questioned that given the, uh, second Court of Appeals decision, stating in the Amtrust BDO lawsuit that BDO couldn't be held liable for its audit opinion. Uh, it's failed audit because audit opinions are so generic and standardized as to be useless to investors and therefore are immaterial. So I wrote an article about that, and I pointed out all the problems with the audit profession, because, you know, it's fun to poke at auditors. And I think it's one of the reasons that we struggle to attract people into the profession is that, like, the emperor has no clothes. And it's kind of obvious at this point, especially when a second court of appeals, when a court of appeals in the federal court of Appeals in the United States says the audit opinion is useless. Um, David wrote in and said good commentary. Until we get Melanson and other academic dinosaurs out of our profession, it is only going to get worse. It is time to listen to the people that actually do the work, and they do not happen to be in the Big Ten firms. Smaller firms do better work due to peer review. Your comment about conflicts of interest where companies pay the fee is right on and. That's not something that I came up with. That's something that people have been pointing out for decades. And Ron Baker in particular says that auditors cannot be independent as long as they are paid by their clients. No amount of ethics training or safeguards can make auditors independent when their livelihood depends on that audit opinion.

David Leary: [00:49:14] This is why that audit of the Department of Education. The order is probably paid by the Government Accounting Oversight Board or some. Somebody else is paying them to do that audit. Probably not the school board. Part of education.

Blake Oliver: [00:49:26] So then they feel it worked. They feel like they can say, we can't give you an opinion because they're not paid directly by the Department of Education. I bet you that's the case. It's the Congressional Budget Office. I assume that paid the KPMG. I'd be really curious to know that. Continuing on. This is a message from one of our international listeners. Ali said one thing I could not help but notice is. Uh, you're not discussing is the international CPA exam. Which is the CPA exam offered outside the United States, would not. Dropping the extra fees down a bit help the accountant talent shortage in the US? And I asked, what do you mean by that? And Ali said that. The international fees. The fees for international applicants who want to take the exam are really high for them. $390 for each section us. Now if you live. Elsewhere in the world, right? In a in a country where the exchange rate is, is not that good. 1200 bucks to sit for the CPA exam. I mean, that's a lot of money for us, right?

David Leary: [00:50:43] Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:50:43] That's a that could be like $10,000 for somebody outside the US.

David Leary: [00:50:49] As a percentage of their annual income possibly. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. For their country.

Blake Oliver: [00:50:53] That's a lot of money. So maybe yeah, maybe that's one way we could get more international applicants is to lower these fees. And that's the thing that really upsets me. Like going back to this whole naspa conversation is that the fees are high. They feel very high, but the support and the service feels low. It doesn't seem right.

David Leary: [00:51:15] Well, there's probably a lot of bloat. There's a lot of employees you got to pay that aren't really doing much. And this. And it makes me wonder we've talked we haven't really talked on the show, but offline you and I've talked about all these tech companies. And you know, Elon Musk may have proved it with Twitter just cut 30% of the fat and the product just keeps running. And a lot of these tech companies right now keep laying people off because I think they're trying to figure out, like, how do we keep running the company? And like, could that happen with accounting firms? Are there ways that the accounting firms can, you know, especially these big giant ones or even our, our state, uh, boards or, you know, you look at Nasba, could they cut get a better product out by just cutting a lot of the fat out of the way? Because then you don't have to charge as much for these products. Absolutely. You just have a lot of dead salaries you're paying. Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:51:57] No, I, I promise you 100%. If Nasba hired me to fix their processes and improve their service delivery times, I could do it. Easy. Guaranteed. I mean, if they're doing if they're acting the same way as Faubus, which is sending out a word doc for the tax organizer, if that's the same situation we've got in other respects at Nasba with how they're processing information and moving data around. Um, we could we could use tech. And dramatically solve this issue. I mean, we could we could even the way that like, test scores are reported, right? It's just like there's no reason that there needs to be a delay in reporting these test scores, in my opinion, like enrolled agents, when you take that exam, you get it immediately. You find out if you passed then and there. Why can't we do that with the CPA exam? Why does it take time these days when you're grading an electronic test? You know, I'm sure there's reasons, but I don't think they're probably good reasons. It could be done another way or it could be done a lot faster. Uh, okay. Moving on. We're almost there. Billy said. You guys ever wonder why so many firms pride themselves on falsehoods? Meanwhile, they cultivate the same broken tradition they've the partners have been exposed to over the years selectively burn and churn, hyper competitiveness, work, shifting ageism, controlling personalities, etc.

Blake Oliver: [00:53:19] it's pretty sad to see. Hopefully you will be the ones to promote more change in our industry. It seems like you understand humans a lot more. Thank you. Well, I'm not the only one. There are a lot of smaller firms. That are promoting healthy work cultures with great people running them. They tend not to be partnership models, they tend to be more corporate models. And surprisingly, the corporate model builds a more pleasant firm to work at than the partner model in many cases. And I'm not saying that all partnership models are broken. Not all firms are like this, but especially in big firms. When the firm business model promotes overwork and using people and dehumanizing people, the people that survive that system perpetuate it. And so it's it's like toxic cultures make toxic partners. Here's an email. White kids don't want to major in accounting from Katherine. If you want to know why kids don't want to major in accounting, tax Act professional was having a system issue yesterday and people were losing their minds on Facebook. I saw it at around 930 eastern, so granted it would have been 630 on the West coast, but folks were seriously going code red over a system outage a full two months before the tax deadline.

David Leary: [00:54:32] I've heard a few of the tax players are having a big struggle this year with their technology. That happens every year. Yeah, but I but there's a couple new rollouts. A couple of them are trying to do. And so a firms I've heard that if firms have decided to go down that path it basically it wasn't ready. And it's like oh well I guess you can't start using our new software till March. Good luck. Yeah.

Blake Oliver: [00:54:57] That's all the that's all the listener mail for this quarter. We caught up. So if.

David Leary: [00:55:05] You want zero.

Blake Oliver: [00:55:06] Right inbox zero. So fill up our mail bag again and we'll do another one of these episodes. Uh, the accounting podcast that earmarked me and subscribe to our YouTube channel. We recently passed 10,000 subscribers on YouTube. We have millions of views now. And thank you to everyone who found us on YouTube shorts and has subscribed to the channel and is now listening to full episodes. Welcome! I want to let you know that you can earn free continuing professional education credits for listening to this show and many other amazing accounting podcasts. Uh, go to earmark Cpcomm. Put in your email address and you'll get a link to download our app so you can earn CPE, and we will send you information on future live streams and other ways you can earn Nasba approved CPE credits. You can get your CPA license renewed by listening to podcasts, and it works for enrolled agents for federal tax, and it works for CMAs. If you're a certified management accountant, you can use our credits. And if you're elsewhere in the world, most chartered accountancy organizations, they take Nasba credits because we have the most rigorous CPE requirements in the world. So they usually satisfy the verified CPE or CPD requirement anywhere else.

David Leary: [00:56:27] And the only thing I'd say is if you are not a earmark user yet, because maybe you don't want to install an app on your phone, very soon you'll be able to sit down, have Microsoft Excel open on your computer desktop, and have earmark opened on your computer desktop and take part.

Blake Oliver: [00:56:44] Uh, we are launching the new app this month in March. I'm set it this month. I know I'm never supposed to give a deadline, David, but I just did publicly. So now we have. It's so close. It's so close. It's in private beta right now. We're testing it out. Um, and yeah, you're going to be able to use it on your desktop computer, on the web. And, uh, you know, I think the next step, logically, David, would be to build an Excel plugin. Uh, but, uh, you know, so you could actually in Excel, you could earn CPE for listening to podcasts, right? Well, maybe we'll have a little play icon there in the toolbar. It might be fun. That should be fun.

David Leary: [00:57:18] Yeah, that would be fun.

Blake Oliver: [00:57:19] Maybe you could, like, search through the course listing as an Excel spreadsheet. All right. That's it for us this week. You'll find us here next week. Subscribe to YouTube, send us emails, earn CPE. I think that's it.