The 10 Commandments of CPAs

Jun 6th 2010
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10 Commandments of CPAsThe 10 Commandments of CPAs

(As told to the Prophet, the Barefoot Accountant, by the Lords of Public Accounting, after many years of sweat, slavery, and servitude at public accounting firms in the Valley of Tears of Hartford County, Connecticut)


I. Thou shalt always hire employees that show well.

Never hire nerdy looking accountants.  Always hire attractive personnel, even if they are not the best accountants in the world.  People are superficial, including clients, and will judge you more by appearances than a few errors committed by a curvaceous staff member.  In addition, good-looking employees are so much more pleasing to gawk at, since you’ll be spending most of your time in the office with them, when they are not out in the field being gawked at by your clients.

II. Thou shalt not pay thy employees by the hour.

Never pay them by the hour:  the over-time will kill you.  Always pay them a salary so you can work them slavishly 80 hours per week during tax season without paying a shekel extra.  Learn from the Pharoahs.  Build your pyramid of success upon the sweat of slave labor.

III. Thou shalt always dangle a carrot to staff.

Always promise your employees the opportunity of partnership in order to pay them less and retain them longer.  Of course, as most experienced staff have discovered only after many years of toil and thousands and thousands of hours of overtime without a dime to show for it, you can always find an excuse later not to deliver—or, at least, to delay— on your promises of partnership.  As the most astute partners of public accounting firms have known and practiced for years with the dexterity of a politician promising the world to a gullible constituency, always discuss the far-off distant partnership opportunity in the most general terms, always hiding the sordid details, namely, that the aspiring staff member would be required to buy you out at a ridiculously exorbitant price, necessitating the mortgaging of his home, wife, and first born.  And lest ye forget, promises cost nothing.

IV. Thou shalt always get a retainer.

If possible, try to get full payment up-front.  If your clients are struggling paying taxes to keep their home and stay out of jail, what makes you think they will pay you upon completion of your services?  And even if your clients do pay you, it may be years before you recover all of the monies, well after you have been driven into bankruptcy because of your trickling cash inflow.  Consequently, never do any work on credit.  Why work for the sake of working?  Remember always you’re doing it for the money, not for love.  (If you want love, get a dog.)  It is always better to have no work than a ton of work for which you will receive no payment.  Get the moolah ASAP.

V. Thou shalt not quote a fixed rate.

Never quote a job for a fixed rate.  Avoid committing yourself to a fixed fee—or, for that matter, to anything in life—unless there is absolutely no alternative; however, if you rack your brain or someone else's long enough, you are bound to find an alternative!  If a client insists on a quotation—and only after you have run out of every known ruse employed by scoundrels since the beginning of time—give an “estimate”, allowing you to squirm out of that amount later and squeeze every remaining drop out of your client.  Always remember that you are a professional, just like lawyers and doctors, who are experts in over-charging and gouging.  Did you ever receive a fixed quotation for a triple by-pass procedure?  Take heed.  Learn from the pros.

VI. Thou shalt not answer thy telephone. 

Clients call you so they won’t be charged for picking your brains.  And no one enjoys being billed for telephone conversations:  that’s why attorneys are despised by everyone, including their wives!  Always have your receptionist screen your calls or hide behind voice mail, and if forced to return calls, pick the time when your clients are least likely to be available, e.g., at 7:00 AM in the morning.  And end your message with the ever-effective deterrents, “I haven’t received your retainer yet” or "when can I expect you to drop off a check for your overdue balance".  That’ll stop their persistent, annoying, and mooching calls for sure.

VII. Thou shalt charge as much as thou can.

Never compete on price.  If you charge less than your competitors, your clients will think they are getting less.  Clients believe that idiotic saying, “You get what you pay for”.  (I prefer the much wiser saying, "A fool and his money are soon parted".)  So if you save them a ton of money, they will, of course, think they are getting less.  Furthermore, when you get more money for your services, you will feel better, and your spouse will say nicer things about you and appreciate you much more at the end of the day:  frankly, isn't this ultimately why we work as slaves all day?

VIII. Thou shalt not jeopardize thy license to practice public accounting.

Never let a client con you into jeopardizing your license.  Be vigilant for fraud when preparing tax returns and audit reports.  Your clients won’t respect nor appreciate what you’ve done for them, even when you are carted off to jail.  If they insist on being crooked, let them go to jail rather than you...unless you secretly desire Buster as a cell-mate.  If you do, seek professional help quickly.  I pity you.

IX. Thou shalt not volunteer thy services.

Never volunteer to be the treasurer of an organization.  Nonprofit organizations often attract board members unable to secure full-time employment and, consequently, have nothing better to do with their time than spout crazy and impractical courses of action for the organization, driving you completely mad with all of their nutty ideas.  If these individuals were practical, they would be gainfully employed and not wasting their time serving on boards of nonprofits.  More importantly, you’ll end up working for free, and you won’t obtain any business from doing so, especially from the organization itself.  Furthermore, if you attempt to straighten out the finances of the organization, you may generate a bad press for yourself from the very members causing the mess from their repeated dippings into its till.  Charity begins at home and at your public accounting firm.  So never volunter.  Read my article, "1,001 Excuses to Give to Nonprofit Organizations Asking You to be their Treasurer" to weazle out of their repeated requests.  And stop feeling like Mother Theresa of the Missionaries of Charity, unless you want to practice public accounting in Calcutta.

X. Thou shalt not pay for promises.

Don’t pay for any marketing services promising you fantastic results.  Marketers (now more commonly referred to as "spammers") typically promise the world, guaranteeing everything but delivering nothing but a big bill, typically charged to your credit card or withdrawn directly out of your business checking account.  That's their job!  And that's why they make so much more money than CPAs!  Marketers are experts at selling, conning you out of every remaining shekel in your pocket.  They promise, even guarantee, to obtain you leads and new clients, only to make 1,001 excuses later, always passing the blame onto you for their failures.  Learn from them!  And do unto others as they do unto you:  turn the con back onto the con artist by promising—better yet, guaranteeing—to pay these marketers a commission on any clients obtained from their efforts, but only after those clients have paid you.  This reverse-con ploy has been found to be the most effective spam killer yet, especially from all of those marketers from India, China, and the Philippines, who yet have been provided a suitable script in English in order to reply persuasively and convincingly to this reverse-con ploy.  Enjoy the moment of frustrating the hell out of them, listening to their rote, repetitive, non sequitur ”pwomises” and “gwuaranteeeeeeeeees”.

This article is provided for informational purposes and is not intended to be construed as legal, accounting, or other professional advice.  For further information, please consult appropriate professional advice from your attorney and certified public accountant. 

Have a tax or an accounting question?  Please feel free to submit it under "Comments" at Accounting, QuickBooks, and Taxes by the Barefoot Accountant.  For information and assistance on any tax and accounting issue, please visit our website:  Accountants CPA Hartford, LLC.

If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose. The above tax advice was written to support the promotion or marketing of the accounting practice of the publisher and any transaction described herein. The taxpayer recipients of this offering memorandum should seek tax advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor .


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