A Counting School - Hardcore Chartered Accountancy

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Don't be too proud to admit you've made a mistake
It's good to be proud of your work. If you've done a good job, you can take pleasure in the fact that it's error free. And yet, people may say things like, "are you sure you didn't double-count those items?" You may be 100% correct in saying, "of course I didn't," with a self-righteous huff. That doesn't mean you should , though. Let's assume that you are in fact correct. Rather than scorn those who are helping you by examining your work to avoid embarassing mistakes, thank them for their concern and interest. Then let's assume that the people asking you are very knowledgeable, and they aren't just asking the question to give you a hard time. Now stop and ask yourself, "why are they asking me this?" Is it, perhaps, because your work may in fact be entirely correct, but you didn't present your thought process in a very clear and logical manner? Are you hiding some important facts or assumptions which cause people to second...
G20 Saturday: Violent Rumble
I missed out on the madness downtown today. I followed it on my phone, but missed all the live TV footage which no doubt justifiably enraged my friends. I did catch stills like this one which from a local Toronto photographer show why the city was on edge all week long. It's perhaps best I wasn't around - I could've had my camera smacked down to the ground by an imported officer from Peel region. Of course he might've been on edge - not sure if this was before or after one of those police cars was set on fire. The you'll "be on Youtube" response, while accurate, was rather snarky to the point of inviting an assault. Not justifying, of course - this is clearly a criminal offence by a police officer. Also freakish: random arrest videos by plainclothes officers. I should point out that some well-meaning people naively claim that when store windows got smashed in, the "peaceful" protesters should've taken action to stop the anarchists and ne'er...
Do I have to drink to fit in?
New hires at accounting firms land in what may be a completely new culture. After a hard week or month of audits, some people look forward to spending time with their families, but given the number of young bucks and does in a large Big Four office, heading down to the local bar(s) will also be a popular option. One CA student is worried about this phenomenon, particularly at formal firm-sponsored functions, asking "you think it will be a problem if I don't drink at the cocktail party due to religious reasons? I'm just worried they'll think I won't "fit in"?" This is an easy answer - no, not at all. In any mature firm people will understand if you have personal reasons - be they philosophical, spiritual, practical ("$15 for a mixed drink, what?") or simply rational ("no, I'm driving"). Having said that, there's always a wrinkle: as you can imagine, I'm sure there are cliques of people who never escaped their frat boy days...
What do I do if I find a glaring error in an audit by a Canadian CA firm?
Sometimes you read things online and wonder, "gee, what if someone in charge of this enforcing The Rules found out what's going on?" Would some audit firm get in a mess of trouble if things weren't being done properly? Consider this quote from a lively AuditLand discussion board : " Having worked for Big 4 firms for almost four years, I feel that Big 4 firms often lack ethics. We learn about ethics in different courses in University. I feel that none of the ethics I learned is being applied in the workplace. Generally speaking, managers do not perform all the Audit procedures in gathering evidence. For example, we take data given to us without validating them. The managers don’t offer its workers any directions or help. When I was in my third month at the firm, I went to audit the inventory of a computer hardware warehouse with another auditor. We had no idea what we were doing. We simply made up numbers that we thought made sense and we left. We compiled those numbers...
CA Magazine: Afraid of the "L" word!
This month's CA magazine features a mention of Stefano Picone, CA , founder of mycasite , but before you can read that you may read the following unrelated trainwreck of a paragraph - read it and guess what went wrong here : " Firms only interested in training CA students who wish to practise public accounting but lack the audit hours to do so should also consider hiring experienced CA students who have already completed the required chargeable audit hours at another firm. CA students can complete their practical experience requirements for qualification at your firm and may be eligible to practise public accounting. The current economic situation has resulted in the availability of a number of experienced CA students ready and able to take on new opportunities. " Did you see it? Avert your eyes children! Did they just casually say "current economic situation"? I'm sorry, I think the editors must have accidentally hit "find and replace" on the more...
I got banned by PwC, for offering UFE case writing tips
I try to help people, they turn me down. That's about par for the course, I should say - auditors are used to not getting much respect. With the exception that other auditors usually listen to what we have to say. If I offer help to someone, they're usually happy to get it. My UFE mentees are a prime example. They listen carefully to my suggestions, and pass their exams. It's a strong symbiotic relationship - I'm happy to share knowledge. With that in mind, imagine my surprise when, while stationed a day's drive north of the city, I checked my mail in the morning to find an unusual e-mail from another writer. What I received was a polite e-mail from PriceWaterhouseCoopers explaining why my commentary isn't welcome at Nisha's PwC blog , part of the new "PwC Connect" recruiting site that's gradually rolling out. That they don't want to permit my voice to be heard at their site doesn't concern me too greatly as I have - oh, my own little soapbox...
How much time will you get to take off for CA your exams?
Part three in the series of "vacation question" posts. Click here for part two . Another reader's question: Is it common for juniors to take extra unpaid time off to study for CKE, SOA, and UFE? If so, on average how many unpaid days/weeks do people take for each of those tests? Using paid time off (PTO) is both common, and essential. Most companies will give you some paid time off to study, in addition to your vacation time. So you're looking at anywhere between 20 and 50 paid days off to study - most likely a number somewhere in the middle of that range. At the upper end, 50 days translates to 10 5-day weeks. Most juniors take a week or two off for the CKE - the Christmas holidays help you save some of that precious PTO. I never knew the joy of travel during my UFE writing year. But then I didn't show up to work for an entire month the following spring - guess when I took this photo? - so I feel like things balanced out nicely. The SOA is the next big 'sink'...
What are the tricks to score choice vacation time?
This is part two, continuing a series of three posts. Previous post . A reader asks: I assume it's next to impossible to take vacation during the busy season, so that leaves April to October, and maybe mid-late December open for vacation requests? But as a junior staff accountant, how hard is it to get vacation during this period, with so many things going on (CKE/SOA/UFE exams)? From your experience, are there any legitimate "tricks" that would maximize one's chances of getting vacation requests approved (e.g. submitting requests at a certain time)? First off, if you're going to take time off during your first year, it means unpaid time off unless you have the Most Generous Employer Ever . I'll explain why tomorrow in part three, but in a nutshell, all your vacation time will be "spent" on study leave, so if you want to take a vacation it's doable, but it'll cost you. If you insist on submitting a vacation request for your first year, do it...
How can new CA students avoid heavy workloads?
I just wrote about the importance of taking your vacation time - and got some great comments and questions in response. In fact, I'm running a three-part response. This is part one. One of the comments I received points out that the mere ability to think about going on a decent vacation depends on where you live: It may sound insane to not take as many paid vacation days as possible, but it is a common practice in Asian countries, notably in Japan and Hong Kong. Even though employees are entitled to vacation days on paper, most of them do not take them. It is a given that employees should work just as hard as their bosses. This is not only done to impress the bosses, but also because this kind of brutal work culture is so entrenched in the society that this is simply "the way it is." That's a good point. And is yet another reason why I'm not to keen on working out there. Visiting, sure. Transfers, no thanks. Smoking is not a recommended way of dealing with the stress...
When can I transfer out of audit?
Shortly after writing about how to get hired to work in audit , I got another question from another reader: "when can I transfer out?" There are two issues - how do you transfer, and when do you transfer? The when is relatively easy: anywhere after about a year after joining the company you're at. But let's get specific. Most people stick around until they write the UFE. Note I didn't say "pass", just write One of my friends took off before the results even came out! Most, however, will wait until they find out if the passed. If they did, it's easy to pick between departments, though most will wait another year or so - once you're a "senior" or on the verge of hitting the rank for those with two years of experience, many more doors begin to open. They stay open as you become a manager too - so there's no rush either. If, unfortunately, you fail, you'll be more likely to stick around for another year to attempt to write. Some companies...
It's always a good time to talk about the slow season
Funny, without an audience giving you feedback, you write about what strikes your fancy and will hopefully appeal to people. With people telling you what's on their mind, though, you can apply a laser-like focus on what interests them instead. This assumes you have something intelligent or useful to share about their interests. And so thanks JC , for revealing that at least one person out there finds the things Neil and I write about somewhat useful . JC's question, posted on Neil's blog, was regarding the 'slow season'. Someone new to the profession will think, quite logically, if you have a 'busy season', then perhaps you may have little or nothing to do during the slow season. At the risk of making some broad, sweeping generalizations, I'll tackle this question by drawing upon many years of busy seasons, both from my personal experience and those of others who have shared their stories with me over time. Before jumping into a few myths or scenarios, I'll...