Last month through the New Jersey Society of CPAs I was scheduled to speak to two high school classes about public accounting as a career path. I asked Karen Koch, a CPA and supervisor with just under five years’ experience, to join me. She put together some notes to describe her typical day, and I am sharing them with you here.
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“One of the many benefits of working at Withum is the variety of work that we are allowed to take part in. There truly is no typical day in the field of accounting. Instead, each day I wake up excited to go to work—whether my office, the client’s premises, or working from home—and each day is filled with unique and challenging experiences.
“For me personally, I spend most of my time working in the niches of automotive dealerships and health care, particularly physician groups, imaging centers, radiologists, urologists and ObGyn groups. Over the years, I have also worked with clients in wholesale distribution—from flowers to pillows to dollar store items, as well as manufacturing, non-profits, employee benefit plans, and real estate groups.
“In all of the different industries I’ve worked in, the clients and colleagues I work with, there is no such thing as a boring or monotonous day.
“The clients I work with are closely held, which means they are private companies and are owned by usually less than 10 people. Over the course of a year, for example, for a car dealership that we prepare an annual review financial statement for, I will visit the client about four times, usually for a day or two. In the summer or fall, I might be working on compliance issues, which can range from checking that they are calculating and paying their sales taxes properly and on time to reviewing the cash reporting and filing and making sure that the information that car buyers give them is secure. In the winter, before the end of the year, I would look over the year and set up projections for their year-end numbers and tax returns. During the spring—tax season—I would work on the tax returns of the dealership, any related companies, and all of the owners, often the main executives, and usually their children as well. The review financial statement is done in February so it is completed before the busy tax season.
“Of course, in addition to client work, our firm is a strong believer not just in working hard, but playing hard. Yesterday we had a meeting of our firm’s “fun” committee, and we set our planning for a chili cook-off later this month and our office decorating competition for December, as well as an ugly sweater contest at the end of the year.
“Other times, we will be involved in volunteer work, visiting high schools and colleges to talk about accounting or recruiting new hires, going to leadership and continuing education classes, or doing fun activities, such as paintball, softball or a 5K.
“To get back to the question of what a typical day is like, if I think about this morning: I finished up reviewing the financials for a car dealership, which included a meeting with a member of our review department. I reviewed work that a younger staff member had done for a nonprofit client and met with him to discuss his work. I finalized a personal financial statement for a doctor who needs the information for a personal loan with the help of our administrative department. I filed articles of organization to start a new real estate company for a client, and I talked to a client on the phone about some residual effects of the New Jersey gas tax hike. She said some customers were saying that the sales tax decreased, which is true but does not go into effect until January 1.
“The interesting thing is that I didn’t work on any of those things yesterday! Like I said, every day is exciting and different, and involves a lot of human interaction and flexibility. Basically, nothing that created the image of the stereotype of a boring accountant who only does taxes and is holed away somewhere over a calculator.”
Karen can be reached at
Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, published by www.CPATrendlines.com and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition,” published by the AICPA. Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.