by William Brighenti, CPA, the Barefoot Accountant
But who needs to count and add today anyway? We have the sum command in Excel and calculators that can fit in a shirt’s pocket. We don’t need to foot or cross-foot any longer: QuickBooks never fails to produce a trial balance displaying the equality of debits and credits, except for that one client in Toledo.
And who needs to know the tax code any longer? To do taxes, just fill in the blanks of any number of tax software on the market, and anyone can spit out tax returns. Don’t believe me? Just walk into any discount tax store and see the employees without a college degree (all that their employers require is a GED) banging out tax returns. And what about all those tax accountants in India preparing tax returns for CPAs here in the USA: do you think they have read, studied, and understand the Internal Revenue Code and the Treasury Regulations, all written in a very difficult variant of English? Have you ever reached New Delhi after experiencing a problem with your internet, cable TV, computer, or cell phone, only to have the customer service representative ask you the very same questions that you already answered initially through the company’s automated answering system and consume 30 minutes of your time, before referring you to level “two” support in California, Texas, Florida, or Massachusetts?!? Do you really believe that they understand the complexity and nuances of our tax code, written in that Swiftian or Joycean language of legalese?
I have an excuse for not being able to count or add: I’m old. The other day while in a bookstore, I turned around and noticed an attractive lady smiling at me. Her face was familiar, but for the life of me, I couldn’t recall her name. And then it occurred to me: it was my wife. I had learned years ago it was much safer to call her “honey” and not by her first name since if I had suffered a memory lapse, particularly at bedtime, it could prove embarrassing—if not dangerous—calling her by another woman’s name. (OK, OK, I confess: I did this once….OK, OK, I did this more than once.)
For those CPAs who are nearing CPA Heaven like me, isn’t it embarrassing when clients call you on the phone and you can’t remember who they are? You kind of recognize the name or the voice, but that’s about it, not recalling their particular situation and circumstances. Unfortunately, there are no faces to assist your recall of who in the world they are. Usually I play along, saying innocuous things such as, “so what have you been up to lately”, waiting for additional clues to emerge, like a Jessica Fletcher. However, unlike Jessica Fletcher, even after an hour’s time on the phone—by which time Jessica would not only have solved the entire crime but also would have had the bloke placed in handcuffs and been back in Cabot Cove waiting for the next murder to occur in that deadly New England town (there must have been a thousand murders in that town of a population of only 3,000!)—I sometimes am still at a complete loss as to whom I am speaking. And if you cannot recall who Jessica Fletcher is, you, too, may be suffering from dementia, alzheimer’s, or both. But just remember to call her or him “honey”…always.
But I still remember jokes. Why is it that when you age, you can remember useless information, like jokes, but not critical information, like where did you leave the car keys, or where did you leave your car in the shopping plaza parking lot? For instance, at this very instant, I just lost my train of thought and forgot where I was going with this blog entry…but I just remembered another joke. See what I mean?! So here’s the joke, before I forget it.
An accountant is walking along the beach and he finds an old lamp. So he picks it up, rubs it and, of course, a genie appears.
The genie says “I am the most powerful genie that has ever lived. I can do great and wonderful things and I can grant you your dearest wish. But only one.”
Unlike most accoutants, this particular accountant is a deeply caring individual. He pulls out a map of the Mediterranean area and says, “My dearest wish is that you solve the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. The genie strokes his beard and looks worried. “Oh dear, ” he says , staring at the map. “That’s a tough one. Those people have been fighting for eons. No one has been able to come up with a successful solution, not even Hillary Clinton. I’m not sure if I could do any better. You should probably make another wish.”
The accountant is understanding and says, “All right. Listen, the IRS has asked me to re-design their 1040 form so that everyone can understand it. Can you help me with that?”
There’s a long silence and finally the genie says, “Let’s have another look at that map.”