4,000-Year-Old Case of Tax Avoidance

On today's episode, we're checking out how Excel influencers are taking TikTok by storm, and raking in major bucks for their trouble. Then, we'll shoot 4,000 years backwards, and examine one of the first written descriptions of tax evasion, or avoidance. Also, NASBA is going silent on CPA exam performance, but we've got tips from Liz Kolar on how to keep prepping students for the Evolution. We'll look a case of warehouse work paying more than entry-level accounting work, and talk about Grant Thornton's ploy to bring in people with bigger, better perks! We've got news from the Thomson Reuters Synergy Conference, and why they're delaying release of a new product. Just in time for regular tax season, Claudell is back! We'll see what she's been up to, and get the details on the TurboTax Live Full Service offering. In app news, we've got Xero updates, word from Microsoft Teams, Apple, and much more!

[00:00:00] Thank you to our sponsor, OnPay

David Leary: Many times when choosing a payroll service, you have to choose between a new startup with a great app, or an established company whose tech may feel behind the times. With OnPay, you get the best of both worlds - a great app from an established company that's been providing payroll services for over 30 years in all 50 states. Stay tuned to hear more from our sponsor OnPay later in the episode.

[00:00:18] Episode Preview

David Leary: But here's the amazing one- Kat Norton. So, she videos June of 2020 under the name @miss.excel. She has 650,000 followers. She's one of app's most popular Excel influencers, and she's leveraged this into some tutorial software business, and she's making $100,000 a day. That's more revenue than a lot of startups that are valued at a billion dollars, right now.

Blake Oliver: What does she do that makes a hundred thousand dollars a day? Consulting?

David Leary: Classes on Excel, I guess?

Blake Oliver: Oh my God. David, this makes me feel like we're just in the- we're failures-

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Blake Oliver: Today is Sunday, December 5th. This is The Cloud Accounting Podcast. I'm Blake Oliver.

David Leary: And I'm David Leary. Where are you at now?

Blake Oliver: Uh, I'm still at home, but I have a flight at 7:00 AM to go to the Digital CPA Conference in Nashville, where it will be a balmy 40-something degrees, I think.

David Leary: When you're there, make some news happen. This was kind of a ho-hum week. I think there was some news that came out, but I mean, there's nothing to get the pulse racing; that's for sure.

[00:01:36] The CPA Evolution of Silence ...?

Blake Oliver: Well, it gave me the opportunity to dig through some of the old stories I've been holding onto. I've got some stats. I've got some advice. I got some stuff. There was some news about the CPA exam. Uh, NASBA is going to stop giving universities info on the CPA exam performance for many years, I guess until possibly 2025, when CPA Evolution is complete. And I'm not really clear why. I didn't see a reason given.

Well, I guess here it is. Here's the reason. NASBA said in an email: "Due to the necessary and important focus on bringing CPA Evolution to its fruition, including significant changes that must be made to NASBA's technology and platforms to reflect the new exam, and licensing structure, NASBA has ceased publishing the candidate performance on the Uniform CPA Examination publication until this important transition is completed.” like, I'm not clear on what exactly- why changing the exam changes whether they can publish that thing because-

David Leary: Maybe it's just the focus of their energy, and resources. They just don't have the bodies, or budget to do it.

Blake Oliver: That could be I mean, it's like, literally, like the report is, pass rates number of students. It's not super-complicated data points.

[00:02:52] How to Prepare Students Now for the CPA Evolution

David Leary: Well, maybe that's good. I saw an article that came out on AccountingWEB that was titled, "How to Prepare Students Now for the CPA Evolution.” Kind of an open letter, um, written by Liz Kolar. She's the Executive Vice President of Financial Education at Surgent, and she's basically giving instructions to professors of accounting programs; things they should be doing to, uh prepare their course offerings and what they should be offering in them to prepare students for the future test. So, publish the statistics and it gives, time for professors to reassess what they're teaching.

Blake Oliver: -that was what I thought maybe was the real reason they were doing this is like, let's- everyone a couple of mulligans until they get their stuff together. like what are the things, high-level, that professors, accounting departments should be doing to prepare their students according to this?

David Leary: A lot of it still- about explaining various accounting technologies and describing their use cases, participating in case studies. For example, students could explain which workflows they could create during a journal entry testing by an audit. It's that kind of stuff. But then, she does get to a little bit more about introductory classes should begin by incorporating Excel; intermediate classes should include assignments related to Alteryx, Tableau, Microsoft Power BI.

Blake Oliver: That's great.

David Leary: Then maybe some classes should start utilizing robotic process automation tools.

Blake Oliver: Yeah! That sounds great!

David Leary: So, there's some suggestions of stacking some technology into these courses.

Blake Oliver: That would be I- accounting education had none that. didn't even use Excel, which is believe. I wonder, actually, what percentage of students even use Excel in the classroom in accounting programs today. I'd be really curious to know that stat because that would tell us a lot; not to mention actual accounting software, tax software, which I bet is very

David Leary: I think when I was in managerial accounting, you had to build a whole- basically, you built whole GL-functioning Excel spreadsheet with multiple tabs, and it all populated through-

Blake Oliver: Oh, you did? Wow. I didn't get to do that.

David Leary: -'97, maybe '96.

Blake Oliver: That's cool. Well, you got- you clearly got a better accounting education than I did.

David Leary: Maybe. That was it. That was the peak. That was it.

Blake Oliver: Yeah. Well, the thing is, and this is the thing about an exam is you don't really actually need to do any of that practical stuff to pass the exam because the exam is still very much memorize definitions and that sort of thing. Memorization of information. It doesn't get taught that much, the actual doing of it.

And, as we've talked about in many recent episodes, I just think we need more practical knowledge in accounting programs, so that people come out knowing how to actually do stuff, and they don't have to go learn it at a firm. That would actually improve accounting- entry-level accounting salaries is if people were actually ready to do the job.

[00:05:43] "I finished my accounting degree, but the entry level pay is too low ..."

Blake Oliver: And it's funny, I saw a post on Reddit. I was talking last episode, too, about how Reddit, or one of our listeners, Eric, said, go on Reddit, if you want to see like the problems in accounting right now. I was just on there earlier today, and I saw a post that I want to share with you, which is called, "I finished my accounting degree, but the entry level pay is too low.”

Here's the post: "I finished my accounting degree a couple of months ago, and I haven't been able to find a job that pays anywhere near the current warehouse job I work at. This makes ...”Warehouse job, David. "This makes it sort of unjustifiable financially to make the switch right now, even though eventually I'll have to. Is there anyone out there who was in this boat that knows of outside certifications that I can work towards on the side to be qualified for a higher-level position, excluding the obvious ones - CPA, CBA ...”

David Leary: QuickBooks Live bookkeeper.

Blake Oliver: "As I can't afford grad school right now?” He says, or she says, “Excluding CPA because I can't afford grad school right now.” So, that's the fifth-year thing, right there, stopping this person from wanting to get the CPA. They have an accounting degree. They want to get another certification, or license, and they're saying I can't afford grad school.

David Leary: Because of this, they may not even enter the field of accounting at all.

Blake Oliver: This person seems fairly determined, and probably will, as they said, but they're having trouble justifying it because they make more money at a warehouse job than they can in an entry-level accounting job. The end of this statement is: “Also, do you know of any programs or software that helps you keep sharp on accounting practices, so I don't forget everything before I even start in the field?” So-

David Leary: Like an accounting video game.

Blake Oliver: Yeah, I don't know. Someone suggested certified fraud examiner. That's not expensive, and there's only one exam.

David Leary: I mean, I would start with the Xero certification, QuickBooks certification. Start with those- Microsoft certifications.

Blake Oliver: Somebody suggested go into public, then jump into industry, but you're not going to get great pay to start. [Browntown07] said, "My first accounting job salary out of college was $38,000; it's at $105K, though. So, it's definitely a further into career thing for money than starting pay at entry level.

[00:07:55] Grant Thornton Wants You!

David Leary: I mean, I saw- he could go to Grant Thornton. I saw Grant Thornton has made some big announcements; they're adding a lot of benefits to entice new employees, and also retain their existing staff.

Blake Oliver: Tell me, what are they doing?

David Leary: So, they're doing- this sounds like a tech company in the Bay Area. They're offering flexible work arrangements, reduced work schedules, compressed work weeks, and flexible days, regardless of your level in the firm; family care benefits, including parental leave, access to childcare, eldercare, pet care, meal planning, housekeeping, and just other resources to help support your quality of life at home.

Um, they're actually including- I know Melio does it for, uh, Melio employees. We get to use a meal delivery service, like Uber Eats, or Grub hub, or one of those things - I think it's called Seamless - and we can have meals subsidized, the delivery services. They're going to start offering that. They're going to offer 40 hours of chargeable time annually to encourage volunteer activities, and career development. And then, they're also going to have "quiet hours,” to reduce the video conference fatigue in remote work. So, you just build that time on your calendar where- just quiet.

Blake Oliver: Were there any specifics about these programs? You said- hours for- 40 chargeable hours for charitable work or something?

David Leary: Yeah. You can do volunteer or could work on your personal development.

Blake Oliver: What about like the flexible time thing 'cause, like, I think a lot of firms say, "We have flexible schedules,” but then in reality it isn't-

David Leary: It says, "Along with flexible time, allow employees to disconnect from work as needed instead of tapping into a predetermined set of pay days off.” It’s not very-

Blake Oliver: That sounds like very PR, press release, but what does it really mean? I mean, does that just mean unlimited PTO, and you're never actually going to get to take it, you know, that kind of stuff?
David Leary: And expanding their mental health benefits on their insurance, and virtual counseling, and that type of stuff. They have a quote in here that research has- pet is helping younger professionals contend with the and loneliness of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, if you're a young professional, you have your accounting degree, and you- a pet, might- be your route to go.

Blake Oliver: I guess so. Oh, yeah-

David Leary: -for this generation, these younger workers- pet- just as valuable as a company providing a 401(k).

Blake Oliver: Come on. Give us some credit. I mean, that just sounds idiotic.

David Leary: Have you ever taken your dog to the vet? You have to get a loan your 401(k), usually, to pay for some of the services.

Blake Oliver: Oh, yeah, no, I'm heartless. I'm like, if it- if it's going to cost more than a thousand dollars I'm sorry ...

David Leary: But, you know why it cost so much? Insurance. Before there was insurance, vets were affordable.

Blake Oliver: -driven up the price

David Leary: They see what's happened to- for us humans; it's now happening to the- the veterinarian industry-

Blake Oliver: I have to buy pet insurance now. Okay-

David Leary: Kind of ... Yeah, if something major happens.

Blake Oliver: Nine months ago, on Reddit, somebody posted, "Hello, Grant Thornton- introduced an unlimited leave policy.” So, the unlimited leave policy is probably what they're talking about in that- unlimited PTO is what they're talking about in that press release, but like in reality, unlimited PTO doesn't work well in public accounting, at least based on what I've heard, because now you still can't take your time off, you can't get it approved, right, so you can't take it, and then, you don't get the payout when you leave, because it's no longer accrued to you. That's the trick.

David Leary: I see.

[00:11:16] Thank you to our sponsor Rewind

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[00:12:21] From the Annals of Tax Evasion History ...

Blake Oliver: I got a weird YouTube video that I saw the other day. I'm digging deep on my list-

David Leary: Is this weirder than, uh, your money in the pig?

Blake Oliver: Well, no, this is actually really cool. So, it's possible-

David Leary: Oh, so it's a cool weird ...

Blake Oliver: Yeah, so, it's possibly the oldest documented case of tax evasion. 4,000 years ago in Assyria- so, do you remember learning about the, uh, Silk Road, the old trade routes that led over land from China all the way to Europe, and Assyria was right in the middle of this? And so, there were these ancient Assyrian trading posts, and those old Sanskrit tablets that have been dug up in the desert. And there's some of the oldest writing in the world. All sorts of incredible documents have been discovered; some of great consequence, like these legends of heroes, and some just transactions. -lot of time -documentation, it was a deal, or a letter.

In this YouTube video from the Curator's Corner at the British museum, which is just fascinating, by the way- the British Museum YouTube channel is an amazing gem. In this video, a curator, Mathilde Touillon-Ricci shares her research into the letters of old Assyrian traders and the sometimes-surprising ways in which they get around paying taxes. And she picks up this tablet in the video, and she reads it, translates it for us. It's basically a trader writing a letter to an employee or a business partner telling them, uh, essentially, “I don't think that you should do this, but if you were going to smuggle, here's how you should do it. Smuggling meaning you take this trade route, then- well, ideally, you should take this trade route and avoid the taxes, but then if you have to go the normal route, uh, hide it in your underwear”

Mathilde Touillon-Ricci: And this letter, that is written by a certain Bazazu to his trading partners, Bazazu is calling off a smuggling operation, but is nevertheless detailing how the smuggling would have taken place if it had. In there, Bazazu is saying that if the narrow track, which is the smuggles route, is available, then do take the narrow track. If not, then please ask the transporters to gather the tin into small parcels and enter the town with the parcels hidden in their underwear.

David Leary: Is this the first thing of tax fraud, or is this the first documented tax advisor?

Blake Oliver: Well, this tax evasion, and advisors are not supposed to give- on tax evasion-

David Leary: All that ethics stuff's new. That didn't exist back-

Blake Oliver: So, the joke here -comment, is, "Five minutes after we invented tax- avoidance.” Of course That's incorrect. It's tax evasion in this case. So, the idea is, too, that it might be a plausible deniability kind of situation. You know, you tell your client, "Well, I wouldn't recommend that you do this, but if you were going to do it, here's how you should do it.” Anyway ... Um, I'll put the link to this video in show notes. It's a good one.

[00:15:37] Who's Your Daddy, Excel?

David Leary: So, I guess I could tie this next story back to CPA and getting experience. So, you don't get experience from your university, it seems like- turning to TikTok get experience, and expertise on Excel.

Blake Oliver: On TikTok.

David Leary: Apparently, Excel on TikTok is now one of the best communities on the platform because you don't have a lot of trolls. There's a- #Excel has 1.8 billion views now in total.

Blake Oliver: Really?

David Leary: And there's a couple of these folks, uh- one called Excel.Friend. @excel.Friend is the handle; has a platform with 2.7 million followers, and 9.7 million likes. But here's the amazing one- Kat Norton. So, she videos- June of 2020 under the name @miss.excel. She has 650,000 followers. She's one of app's most popular Excel influencers, and she's leveraged this into some tutorial software business, and she's making $100,000 a day. That's more revenue than a lot of startups that are valued at a billion dollars, right now.

Blake Oliver: What does she do that makes a hundred thousand dollars a day? Consulting?

David Leary: Classes on Excel, I guess?

Blake Oliver: Oh my God. David, this makes me feel like we're just in the- we're failures-

David Leary: We're just amateurs. But the format of all these videos is kind of funny. Apparently, they all have the theme ,where it's like, "boss asked me to do this,” then they show something in Excel that's really cool. It's like, "My boss asked me to these first names, and last names-”

Blake Oliver: I was going to ask, how do you- TikTok's like a short-format video app. So, how do you fit an Excel tip into a video that's like 15 seconds ... I mean, they're longer than that, right?

David Leary: I don't know. These numbers are amazing.

Blake Oliver: I'm going to watch one of these. I'm gonna watch one of these right now. should I watch Miss.Excel? Okay. I'm gonna check this one out. Let's see the latest video. I think I have to context to that because there was no- there was just a song. Yeah, so it says, “Boss, which items are over budget?” and then it says, “Control + A to highlight; ALT + HLHL + O; all done.” So, you're, you're highlighting ... I don't understand how anyone can learn-

David Leary: So, I was just going to say, this is great as you're scrolling through, and you get this, and you see it, but- of you, like, remembering that ... ' Cause you can't really search for these based on what you need to do, or does TikTok have good SEO now, in the context of their videos?

Blake Oliver: I mean, I guess you just- you just have to go try it right away and remember it, but also Miss.Excel is dancing underneath the, uh, screen capture with an Excel screen up above her dancing, then she's like ... We're in the wrong line of business; wrong line of work, David. Podcasting, no. TikTok is where it's at ...

David Leary: I guess so ...

Blake Oliver: I guess it's my turn-

David Leary: But this is proof, right? People are not getting their Excel skills in the university and in their CPA exam prep; they're not getting Excel skills, so they have to turn to TikTok.

Blake Oliver: All right. We're just going to continue with-

David Leary: This is it! This, this is our exit! Let’s go start the CPA Evolution TikTok channel. We'll just start having training videos new CPA Evolution content.

Blake Oliver: Well, but that's what these people are doing. So, this Excel training is what students should be getting in college in accounting. We should be spending ... You should all- in every single course, you should be doing everything in Excel, if we really wanted to get people ready, and then, and then, add on the other tech, right? But we don't even have the Excel in a lot of classes. So, this is, this is the future.

[00:19:22] Disgruntled HR Employee Trashes 1-800-ACCOUNTANT Property

Blake Oliver: I'm going to continue on with bizarre news, okay? We're just- we're just going off the rails- this episode. Have you heard of 1-800-ACCOUNTANT? There was a story in MarketWatch back in August, "Disgruntled HR executive trashed personnel files and deleted 17K resumes after being fired.” I don't even know how you say her name. Last name is C-A-L-O-N-G-E; (ca-long)? She is 41 from Tampa, Florida. She was let go in June 2019 after just six months working for 1-800-ACCOUNTANT; fired for poor performance, and then apparently logged into the personnel files and deleted 17,000 resumes.
She was able to log in from outside the computer system, like outside the building, and deleted a bunch of resumes, and then left profanity throughout the files, as well. A good, good reason to, when you- use single sign on, and- access- all systems. That's- good reason to use-

David Leary: Or you remove it before you terminate, like you prepare-

Blake Oliver: Do it in advance-

David Leary: -have the IT department standing by.

Blake Oliver: Yeah. Apparently it cost the company $100,000 to get the system working.

David Leary: What a mess.

[00:20:33] Thanks to our sponsor, OnPay

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[00:21:42] Why Are People Quitting Their Jobs?

David Leary: I think I have something about why people are quitting their jobs.

Blake Oliver: Tell me; I mean, there's lots of reasons, I think, but I'd love to hear what you-

David Leary: This was an, uh, Inc. Magazine. Apparently, there's new data showing why people are quitting their jobs, and it says- not because they're lazy. Now., I must admit-

Blake Oliver: Who thinks that people are quitting because they're lazy?

David Leary: I thought maybe his data, it might not be best data here, but 12.7 million people quit their jobs in July, August, and September, including you- of those.

Blake Oliver: Yeah. I quit my job to start my own business.

David Leary: This person had a theory before, and one of the theories was, could a lot of these people leaving, trying to become their own bosses? Which, kind of what you've done, to some extent.

Blake Oliver: Yeah. Yeah.

David Leary: But it's really hard to get data on that. Now this person feels like they have some data. The Labor Department data shows There were 500,000- unincorporated self-employed workers than there were at the start of the pandemic. -now 9.44 million. So, that's 500,000 more. Uh, the number of new applications for federal ID numbers jumped 56% between 2019-2021. That one, though, I don't buy, because I think there was a lot of those- were applied to get PPP money, right? Like massive numbers. We don't know if those are real businesses. -mean, yes, there are more federal tax IDs being issued-

Blake Oliver: Right, right.

David Leary: -much of those are actual- And then, as this data- I feel like it got weaker. Then ,he gets to the point where he's like, "In September 2019, online marketplace Etsy had 2.6 million active sellers. -the same time this year, the number was 7.5million.

Blake Oliver: Yeah, I hear you.

David Leary: Millions of people are just quitting to- sellers? So, I don't know.

Blake Oliver: I think there's a lot of factors here at play. And one of them that I have heard is lack of reliable childcare. Omicron i s, uh, causing this to continue where we keep having these variants pop up. It creates childcare problems because you don't know if schools are going to shut down or not. And so, it's hard to go back to work if you're a caregiver, and you think, "Well, my kids might get sent home from school again.” That’s a big reason. And then, you also have a lot of older folks who are retiring early. We're having that happen in the accounting profession, or saying, "Well, I'm not going to go back to work until I don't have to worry about the virus because I'm older, and I'm more concerned about my health as a result."

These are two huge groups, and the accounting profession has both of them in large quantities. I think that's a good example of folks um that are just like not participating. And that's why we had these weird numbers in the employment numbers last week, where jobs created was way lower than economists had been hoping, but the unemployment rate is also down to where it was before the pandemic, like 4.2%, I think. And the unemployment rate is low, even though we still haven't gotten the jobs back, because people aren't looking; like all those people who left are not going back and looking for jobs, so they don't get counted. You don't get counted unless you're actively looking, like as unemployed, right? If you could just say, “I'll wait,” then they're not going to count you in that number. So, it's a weird situation, right? Like we have people who are sitting on the sidelines, sitting it out.

David Leary: I think we can jump into the app news. I think that's it.

[00:24:57] Finding Synergy with Product Release Delays

Blake Oliver: Well, Thomson Reuters had a conference. Their Synergy conference in Nashville in November It's kind of interesting. Uh, you know, you usually expect to see new product releases, and new partnerships, but they also announced the delay of something they had been hoping to announce. I guess it was a big product.

They have this product called Onvio Cloud, and I guess they got up on stage and talked about how they decided not to announce it. Onvio is this collection of products, and it was going to be making it available in the cloud. So it's cloud-based tax and accounting practice management software. Onstage, Elizabeth Beastrom, President of Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting, said that "We made the decision that we're not launching Onvio at Synergy this year. We've had a lot of conversations with clients on the focus of it, the technology, AI, machine learning, and really integrating all of our products into one place. That was a really good discussion area and had of focus, with reiteration from our customer base, that this remains the right vision where they want to see their desktop products go.

We continue to talk about the roadmap, and where we are going with this. It's more of a vision in line with the mega trends in technology about having cloud-based solutions.” She continues, "The original timeline had- rolling out this conference, and we made the decision to delay that. It was a decision that was hard to make, but it- based on the feedback from our customers. We've doubled down on the investment in Onvio, and that's the main for 2022 Uh, what they did release is a new product called Determination Anywhere. It's a tax engine for state and local tax, which they call indirect tax; indirect taxes, -taxes. Um, never heard them called indirect taxes. That's interesting.

David Leary: So like a competing product to an Avalara-type product?

Blake Oliver: I guess.

David Leary: In that same space.

Blake Oliver: Yeah, they, they said that it's cloud-based tax technology platform that sits on top- company's existing infrastructure in the cloud, or on premises. Determination- uses edge computing technology to give it better proximity to transaction systems professionals can leverage the tax determination engine at any point of a transaction within any channel, and it just goes on and on. I can't actually figure out, from this article, what exactly it does, but it does sound like an Avalara kind of competitor.

David Leary: Did you hear about the-

Blake Oliver: Sorry. There's one more thing I wanted-

David Leary: Oh, sorry. Sorry, continue.

[00:27:23] More Thomson Reuters - Three New Partnerships

Blake Oliver: One more announcement, and this is one that ties us a little more is the partnerships. Thomson Reuters announced three new partnerships, one with SurePrep; one with Verity, and third, Practice Ignition.

David Leary: Wait. Don't they, in theory, have a competing product?

Blake Oliver: Do they do proposals? I don't even know. If they- not that-

David Leary: -more practice management.

Blake Oliver: Practice management. Yeah. SurePrep is a product that automatically populates tax documents. So, gathering data, putting them into tax documents. Verity is cryptocurrency. And then, with Practice Ignition, it is to- didn't really announce exactly what it's going to do at least in the article, but they're gonna add that on.

David Leary: Historically speaking, they have not- much of a cloud company. And is this kind of the route, they're just going to partner with a cloud stack of some type; kind of white label it?

Blake Oliver: I mean, they are building this Onvio product; it just got-

David Leary: I mean, it is 2022 now. I mean, you probably need a cloud ...

Blake Oliver: They're having trouble. They're having trouble is they're having difficulty-

David Leary: Eight years ago, if your another year, it probably wasn't a big deal, but yeah, it's a-

Blake Oliver: Yeah. I don't know. I guess there's- maybe there's just not- demand. Like, I feel like if there was a ton of demand, this would have been built already.

David Leary: Well it's skills. It's very hard to pivot your company from a -company to-

Blake Oliver: Yeah.

David Leary: Honestly, I think there's- to be like business use case studies decades from now looking back at Intuit, and how they moved from a desktop company to a cloud company, and that transition that took place under Brad Smith. I mean, the way they basically did it though is you lay off 800 people, and you rehire a different 800 with a different skillset-

Blake Oliver: You have to change the company itself. You have to-

David Leary: -that every year for about six years.

Blake Oliver: No.

David Leary: -eventually, you have the different types of talent to do that. So, did you see the news on Square, and Twitter this week?

[00:29:15] Name That Square ...

Blake Oliver: They changed their name.

David Leary: So, Square has changed its name to Block, and Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, who also founded Square, has now stepped down from Twitter. So, he's no longer gonna be- of Twitter.

Blake Oliver: And he's just going to focus on Square.

David Leary: I saw an article. This is from the Business Insider; Scott Galloway is writer. He wrote an article last week in New York Magazine about super apps. I think talked about these before on the show; these super apps - they're a chat app; they have your shopping in it; they have your paying people back and forth; you can order your groceries through these apps; they're just like these super apps. And his argument is by Square renaming a) to Block - get it? Blockchain, Bitcoin, right? Some of it's being named to that - but it's really the march towards the super app.

So, you're going to have company, Block- we'll have Square, merchants, but you also have Cash App, right? You have Afterpay; you have Caviar, which is their food delivery service; you have music streaming, which is through- they purchased Tidal. And then, full circle, it takes us right back- you know, what else these super apps all have? This kind of chat component, which takes you right back to, will Block just buy Twitter, at the end of the day? Twitter's just going to be rolled into this eventually and being acquired. Now, here's my bigger question: Block, or Square- remember Square bought the tax product from Intuit, which was the Credit Karma tax software. How, how does H&R Block allow them to rebrand as Block, when they are doing they offer a tax product?

Blake Oliver: We'll see, I don't know. Maybe, maybe they feel confident they can win that battle.

David Leary: I mean, I think I remember for years, H&R Block, and TurboTax would sue each other every year when all the ads came out ... Every year, they'd sue other. It's gotta be happening, as we speak; maybe next week's news, or something. There's way H&R Block can allow this 'cause H&R Block even does a lot of their marketing as just Block. So I don't know; it feels like there's a lot of overlap to me.

[00:31:20] Intuit Updates ProConnect Tax Online

Blake Oliver: I talked about Thomson Reuters. It seems like it's also the season for other vendors to update their tax-prep tools. Intuit announced a slate of improvements, updates, and enhancements to its tax-prep tools in anticipation of the coming tax season. They have updated ProConnect Tax Online with the following.

You have the ability to drag and drop a client's tax documents directly onto their return with no manual data entry needed. You get smart navigation features that intelligently predict the needed tax forms and suggest what is needed for a client based on data and common workflow patterns; the ability to assign and sort client returns by staff members, then reassign each return as it changes hands. The ability to auto-lock e-filed returns to prevent manual-entry errors, and calculation and the ability to get a full view- users working on- return to avoid version conflicts.

Ah, version the scorn of desktop software; although online ProConnect Tax Online. There's a whole list of other- like Lacerte, and two- seems like small stuff, like nothing huge. I don't want to bore everyone by reading this, but-

David Leary: I think it's just that time of the year. Like everybody's- all the tax is going to ramp up here. This is probably the two or three weeks where folks that have taxed practices are paying attention to the news for the last time until-

Blake Oliver: I guess. Yeah. So, I'm certainly not going to change tax software now.

[00:32:43] Claudell is Back! This time, with Turbo Tax Live Full Service!

David Leary: No, you're not gonna change tax software. Intuit also has announced the launch of TurboTax Live Full Service.

Blake Oliver: TurboTax Live Full Service.

David Leary: And again, it's our friend, Claudell. She arguably is the most influential person probably in accounting. Claudell's, um, in this video, but it's essentially full service. You just upload your docs. They give you updates as they're working on it. If they have to ask you a question, they do but they do your taxes from start to finish.

Blake Oliver: Is this the first year they've done this?

David Leary: I think the full service, yes.

Blake Oliver: Wow. Okay. So, this is really, I am a full-service tax-prep fir m competing now with everybody. TurboTax Live. I mean, sounds like a tax practice.

David Leary: It's that next march-

Blake Oliver: It's that next step, yeah- I wonder how they're going to do- for context, Claudell is- face of TurboTax Live, right? She's the-

David Leary: She's a real ProAdvisor; she's a real person. I wish they would've brought her to QuickBooks Connect before. I don't know if anybody's actually her, but she- know I definitely know she exists. I've tracked her down on LinkedIn. She exists for sure. She's a real person. It's not a marketing-created person.

[00:33:54] Thank you to our sponsor Reach Reporting

David Leary: This episode of The Cloud Accounting Podcast is sponsored by Reach Reporting. I use Canva weekly to create original, professional-looking artwork for The Cloud Accounting Podcast from easy-to-use templates. One of the templates Canva offers is financial reports. The templates are beautiful, and any accountant, or bookkeeper would amaze their clients if they handed the client a quarterly report from one of these templates.

But, then I realized how much of a headache it would be to take the data from the accounting system - Excel, Google Sheets, etc. - add it to the report. Copy, paste, copy, paste, copy, paste, and God forbid, if the data got updated or changed. In my brain, I got to thinking it'd be nice if Canva could do some sort of mail-merge functionality, but with financial data, or data I have in a table, or a spreadsheet.

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[00:35:10] Live from Canada - NoCode Development!

Blake Oliver: Since I'd mentioned TurboTax competing with traditional firms, here's something from a- well, it's not a traditional firm, but it's a small firm and, uh, on the cutting edge. LiveCA; liveca.ca - because they're up in Canada - has come up with a NoCode development team and service offering. NoCode development.

This makes so much sense because in cloud accounting firms, these days, we're often doing a lot of NoCode development in our own firms. It's almost a given at this point that you're using Zapier, and Airtable, and other types of automation technology to get stuff into Xero, or QuickBooks, and do an automated invoicing, and all this stuff, right?

So, what they've done is come up with a standalone offering where we can, or LiveCA can move spreadsheet data into Xero, or a custom-developed app to run your invoicing process, that sort of thing. I just think it's so great to have this on their website as a service. So here's some examples-
David Leary: -other firms can take- of this, possibly; if you have a client, and you don't have time to get something automated, you could- them, get it automated.

Blake Oliver: Yeah- and then they can take your, then they can take your client, right? It's great because the-

David Leary: But I mean, like as a service. I mean, there are services that do nothing ... It was QB Hero. I think it was- at one time, and they had to rebrand, but he basically built a service other firms All he does is he takes the desktop files, converts them to QBO-

Blake Oliver: Right, right.

David Leary: -'cause it's a lot of work to do that, and he just converts them over, and there's some manual scraping he does, and pulls out spreadsheets, and massages the data, and gives you back a good QBO file to hit the ground running with your line. So, there's totally a service like this. You don't have to; you don't have to steal people's clients. He actually makes a lot more money not stealing the probably.

Blake Oliver: certainly possible, and they could do- but I think it's a better lead-generation for your bookkeeping services. A client- a prospect has- problem, want to automate something, and they find you online- you know how do- hire you- that one thing. Then, you're so good at it, they say, "Oh, -you improve my entire- process?” Before you know it, firm is doing- that's how would use something like this. Essentially, that's what I did with my firm. We did a lot of consulting and ended up getting them as bookkeeping We did a lot of setups, and cleanups, and we'd get the ongoing work. Yeah, this is just such a neat example. Um, liveca.ca/nocode-development, and I'll get that -show notes eventually, as well. And they've got great landing page for that.

[00:37:47] H&R Block Chooses Xero's Platform for Their Assisted Bookkeeping Service

David Leary: We just spoke about H&R Block. So, H&R Block is offering assisted bookkeeping services, and they've officially chosen Xero as their platform for their cloud accounting, bookkeeping- assisted bookkeeping services. So, it's kind of like Bookkeeping Live, or QuickBooks Live; it's H&R Block offering these services and they're using Xero.

Blake Oliver: Except with H&R Block, they are a franchise model, so, it's the franchisees that are doing it, right? Like, it's not some centralized-

David Leary: -they also use it for their firm, but this is for them to provide bookkeeping services to small business clients.

Blake Oliver: Right. No, I understand that, but what I'm saying is the difference H&R Block, and a QuickBooks Live is, with QuickBooks Live, it's just Intuit. One entity that hires and manages all the bookkeepers.

David Leary: Yes. It's one company versus a franchise. It Starbucks versus McDonald's.

Blake Oliver: Right, and with H&R Block, you're getting a bookkeeper in a specific location, right? It's not assigned to a specific office or something. I Maybe I'm wrong. I dunno. I guess, I guess my question is, is it corporate? Are the bookkeepers on the corporate team, or are they on the franchise team- franchisees team?

[00:38:58] Xero December Updates

Blake Oliver: Xero has some updates for December that I can run through. I'll just do the global updates. So, now you can connect data from Shopify quickly. They've got a new Xero, and Shopify app that's available in both the Shopify app store and the Xero app store. So, it's like a new app separate from Xero in Shopify?

It says you can see how much revenue and profit is being made each day; send sales transactions to Xero for easy bank reconciliation, and easily track your cashflow. I've got to look at this on the Xero app store. It's confusing how they wrote it. No, it's just a new integration. It's not a new app. it's just an updated integration. Okay. There's a new way to view transactions on the reconciliation screen. Oh, this- we talked this before. So, they had the enlarged- that enraged people.

David Leary: Yeah, 'cause you could only see three transactions; -it slightly better. You can see six. -an even better version now?

Blake Oliver: No, no. This is just the same thing. You can just toggle between a slightly smaller view, and it literally looks like all it's doing is changing the size of the text. It's pretty funny ... They're trying; trying to appease people, but like you they should've just made it look like a spreadsheet- accountant view.

David Leary: I still think using software diff tools to determine differences in files, and folder structures, or code- I always thought that the bankrupt would be interesting like that. And I think when you're at a FloQast, they started building -reconciliation tool that kind of reminded me of diff tool, but so far, if you think from a reconciliation standpoint, I think what we saw at Sage Intacct was kind of the best representation of a tool like-

Blake Oliver: Are you thinking the one we saw at SuiteWorld for NetSuite, where they had like the visual reconciliation?

David Leary: Was that at -SuiteWorld?

Blake Oliver: -it's blending together, isn't it? I think It was SuiteWorld, where they showed the boxes.

David Leary: -like boxes. Exactly. So, you could drill down on the differences; here's all the ones that match; -ones that don't, and you drill down. There's lots of room for improvement on these matching reconciliation screens.

Blake Oliver: Some more Xero updates. I'll just run through these. They're rolling out slowly machine learning algorithms to automatically code transactions to predict your transactions, contact, and account codes using all the reconciliations across Xero. So, previously in Xero- tell me how QuickBooks does this, David, but in Xero, it would use machine learning based on your historical trends to suggest coding of transactions in the future. Use this contact, use this account, based on what you did in the past. Now they're expanding this to use what people are doing across the whole database, across all files. Does QuickBooks do that?

David Leary: Yeah. It's been across for a while.

Blake Oliver: So that's going help, hopefully, speed things up.

David Leary: And I think, like, you know, it's going to- as standardized chart of accounts come around, it's going to- a lot more reliable.

Blake Oliver: They're continuing to update the reports for Xero projects. There's a new report center that allows you to do headings. I feel like some of this was- they did this in November, too; I'm getting déjà vu right now on some of these releases. There's also a new executive summary that- be available soon in the new report center, and it will include features that have been requested, such as flexible date ranges, more comparative periods, the ability add commentary text.

You'll also have the ability to save custom reports. It- available customers- U.S first- by other regions. -different than usual.. There's new design of the budget variance report, and you'll be able to add more detail to your reports than ever, being able to quickly- year to date, and total columns, show, or hide decimal places, or opt to display your report on a cash accrual basis. Those options very much easier to access.

The cash summary report will soon include a number of additional features, including more flexible date ranges with comparative options, full layout editor control, visual performance indicators, and the ability to save custom reports. Plus, the More will offer the ability to by account code, as well as show percentage of income. And there's a bunch of country specific features. They're updating the 1099 report for the U.S., of course, just in time for January.

[00:43:06] The Super-Cheap Microsoft Teams - Essentials

David Leary: Microsoft is releasing what they're calling Microsoft Teams Essentials. It's going to be a super cheap $4/month per user version of Microsoft Teams that- you know, if somebody does not need Office 365, they can get this instead, and think about it as a super-streamlined Slack, but unlike-Slack like product, and a Zoom competitor. For $4, I mean, to be honest, even for me, I'm like- maybe stop paying $40 a month for Zoom for just some simple video calls.

Blake Oliver: Fort 40 bucks a month for Zoom?

David Leary: I think I pay $29, or $39.

Blake Oliver: Did you sign up for webinars or something?

David Leary: No, then it gets really expensive. Yeah The point is Microsoft released this. If your clients just need to have some chatting with the other employees of their company, it's pretty good value at $4. You can't beat that if they need some video.

[00:44:00] Apple's SMB Device Management Play

David Leary: And then, did you see Apple is now pushing into small business kind of administration. I don't know if you saw Apple's, um, small business device management called Business Essentials.
Blake Oliver: Yeah. I saw that. They historically have not been very helpful with small businesses that had a fleet of Apple laptops, and you had to use some sort of third-party solution to manage them. Whereas with Microsoft Windows, like that's the thing they are at is manage a fleet of PCs. So, this must be part of Apple's big push into services.

David Leary: Yeah. So, it's going to basically let a small business push apps, updates to devices, onboard new devices, track the device locations, and it comes with iCloud storage, and Apple support. And it's really designed for small businesses- are smaller than 500.

Blake Oliver: That's great.

David Leary: It's like mobile device management software. Essentially, the cost on this is 7 bucks a user per month and supports three devices per user.

Blake Oliver: So, this is from their acquisition of Fleetsmith. acquired a third-party solution for this, and they've rebranded it as Apple, and now, it's full Apple. How much is it per month did you say?

David Leary: Um, it was in this tab over here; $6.99 per user/per month.

Blake Oliver: Wow, that's great. That's a good deal.

[00:45:15] Apple Business Essentials - A Complete Solution?

David Leary: Now, what was interesting about this is there was a second article. This was in a Small Business Trends, and has a quote in here that talks about, "Apple's Business Essentials is designed to help streamline every step of the employee device management within a small business from setup, onboarding, and upgrading to accessing fast service, and prioritized support while keeping data backed up, and secure so companies can focus on running their business.”

When you read that line: "from setup, onboarding and upgrading,” it sounds a lot like some of the services Rippling offers. I wouldn't doubt it if other payroll companies start offering these of services. So, then my brain starts churning because there's another part of this article. It says, "Apple's Business Essentials aims to be a complete solution.” Like, what else? Employee onboarding ... What else? They'd start looking at payroll?. Is Apple going to get in the payroll game?

Blake Oliver: No-

David Leary: Where does this stop?

Blake Oliver: I would be really surprised if that happened, but-

David Leary: That was my prediction this year. We were going to see somebody getting that space that we didn't expect.

Blake Oliver: Well, we did, didn't we? We saw something happen.

David Leary: Yeah, Amazon; I mean, Netflix doing payroll. I mean, there's a lot suddenly trickling in this, but ...

Blake Oliver: Well, David, I think that's all the time we've got today for rambling assortments of Uh, if people want to reach you online, the best place for them to do that?

David Leary: I'm on all the socials. I'm at @DavidLeary. If you do LinkedIn, say, "I'm not a Bot,” but please, everybody ... news is a little weak right now. It's kind of the season. There's not a lot happening. So, if there's anything that catches your eye, and you're like, "Oh man, David, and Blake should look into this,” please, please, please send it our way.

Blake Oliver: I am @BlakeTOliver. I'll be back next week with my report from Digital CPA. Talk to you then.

David Leary: That'll be exciting. If it's boring, make some exciting news there, Blake.

Blake Oliver: I'll do my best-

David Leary: Kick over a table or something.

Blake Oliver: Okay, well, I'll try not to cause- I'll not to get arrested in Nashville. How about that? All right. Talk to you then-

David Leary: That'll be news! Get arrested in Nashville, and now we have news.

Blake Oliver: Bye.

David Leary: Bye.

David: Time for the classifieds.

[00:47:14] Fast track a scalable 7-figure firm with Future Firm Accelerate

David: If you're looking to quickly grow a scalable, systematic seven-figure accounting firm without having to work 50-plus hours per week, check out Ryan Lazanis' online coaching membership, Future Firm Accelerate, designed around Ryan's experience taking his cloud firm from scratch to sale, so that you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

You'll get online learning, and topics that help you automate, and systemize all aspects of your firm. You'll get coaching when you need help with implementation, and you'll also join a collaborative community of hundreds of other forward-thinking firm owners. For more details, head over to www.futurefirmaccelerate.com.

[00:47:51] Oh My Fraud: A True Crime Podcast for Accountants

Blake: Hey, podcast listeners, it's Blake, and I wanted to let you know about a new show I'm working on with CPA/comedian, Greg Kyte, and blogger/former CPA, Caleb Newquist. It's called, Oh My Fraud, and it's a podcast all about financial crimes. That's right, a true crime podcast for accountants by accountants.

Caleb, and Greg are going to come together every couple of weeks to unpack their favorite frauds, and explore the circumstances, psychology, and interpersonal dynamics involved. They also fully indulge in victim blaming the defrauded widows, orphans, infirm, and feebleminded because who can resist?
If you fancy yourself a trusted advisor or prefer your true crime with spreadsheets instead of corpses, listen to this show to learn what to watch out for, and to keep your clients, your firm, and even yourself safe. To subscribe, go to ohmyfraud.com, or search "oh my fraud” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.


[00:48:51] How to advertise in these classifieds

David: Want to get the word out about your newsletter, webinar, party, Facebook group, podcast, e-book, job posting, or that fancy Excel macro you just created? Why not let the listeners of The Cloud Accounting Podcast know by running a classified ad? Hit the show notes for the link to get more info.

4,000-Year-Old Case of Tax Avoidance
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