Category Archives for "Technology"

readers digest - information for CPAs
Feb 14

Reader’s Digest: Information for CPAs

By Charles Hall | Accounting and Auditing , Technology

Here are a few articles (and one TED talk) that I believe you will find of interest as a CPA.

readers digest - information for CPAs

What AI Is--and Isn't

This TED talk provides you with a better understanding of artificial intelligence (AI). Educator and entrepreneur Sebastian Thrun is interviewed by Chris Anderson. Watch What AI Is--And Isn't. In the talk, Sebastian discusses how Udacity students created self-driving code in forty-eight hours.. In another AI example, he demonstrates the use of AI to diagnose skin cancer--even better than board-certified dermatologists. 

Revenue Recognition: A Private Company Disclosure Guide

Many of you are in the middle of adopting ASC 606 - Revenue from Contracts with Customers. As you have discoverd, there are many new disclosures to include in your financial statements. If you're looking for 606 disclosure examples for private companies, you'll find them here. Liz Gantnier with Dixon Hughes Goodman has created a wonderful guide. See section D. 

Langley Air Force Base Secretary Faked Payroll for 17 Years, Giving Herself an Extra $1.46 Million

This articles proves again that fraud schemes don't have to be complicated to be successful. In 2017, the fraudster's base pay was $51,324 but she took home $119,585. Between 2001 and 2018, she falsely claimed 47,8247 overtime hours. Read the article here.

Lease Accounting: Bus Example

This article provides a great summary of GASB 87 lease journal entries. It also shows you how to compute the right-of-use asset and lease liability. Check out Lease Accounting: Bus Example from BakerTilly. (You'll see a link to download the presentation.) If you audit governments or work for one, you'll find this article useful. The effective date of GASB 87 is years beginning after December 15, 2018. 

White House proposes folding PCAOB into SEC by 2022

The White House is proposing to fold the PCAOB into the SEC. Read about it here in an Accounting Today article.

Book Recommendations

If you missed my book recommendations last month, you'll see five that I recommend here. They will make you a better CPA--and person.

Save Time with Online Meetings
Feb 10

CPAs Save Time with Online Meetings: Getting Started

By Charles Hall | Technology

CPAs save time with online meetings. At least, they do if they know how.

Are you tired of driving hours to see clients? Or maybe you drive two hours to meet with a customer and realize you left files on your office computer. Online meetings solve these problems and make you more accessible. Below I show you how to get started. 

Save Time with Online Meetings

Pick an Online Meeting Solution

First, you need to choose a video conferencing solution.

Some popular alternatives include:

Here is a PC Magazine article that compares these products (and others). All of these packages offer free trial versions. And they all provide similar abilities. The main thing is they allow me to share what’s on my computer monitor and my voice. 

So, what video conferencing software do I use? Zoom. Why? It is easy to use and reliable. While Zoom offers a free version, I use their paid Pro version. Below I demonstrate a Zoom session so you can see just how easy online meetings are.

 

The point of this article is not to sell you on a particular online meeting product (though I do like Zoom), but to sell you on the concept. I have spent years of my life (at least it feels that way) driving to and from clients’ offices. So when I heard about online meetings, I gave it a try.

My First Online Meeting

My first online meeting sold me. A few years ago I was assisting an attorney with a forensic project. My final report was several hundred pages long. Rather than making a 4.5-hour trip to meet with my client, I did the following:

  • Opened the draft report on my center computer screen
  • Opened supporting documents on my two side computer screens
  • Shared my center computer screen using my online meeting software—the attorney, once he clicked the link I emailed him (see the next bullet), could see my screen
  • Sent the attorney an email (with a hyperlink) to join the meeting—my online software automatically created the email as I invited him 
  • Called the attorney with my cell phone and went hands-free so I could use my mouse (you can use your computer audio, I just prefer using my phone)
  • When the attorney answered my call, I told him I had sent him an invitation email, and I walked him through connecting (which took less than two minutes)
  • We reviewed the draft report from my center computer screen
  • When needed, I moved supporting documents from my two side screens to the center display (and then moved them off as needed)—think of this as moving information on and off stage

The meeting lasted one hour. Once done, the attorney said to me, “This is one of the best meetings I’ve ever attended.” 

So rather than taking 5.5 hours (4.5 hours of driving and the 1-hour session), the meeting took 1.5 hours (including setup time). I saved four hours—and I didn’t even have to sit in the attorney’s lobby and wait for him. Also, I didn’t have to stop and refuel my vehicle—or file an expense report.

If sharing video works with an out-of-town client, does it work with in-the-office staff?

Online Conferencing in My Office

Yes, online meetings work with others in your office as well. Why? For the same reasons. I can share any information from my computer screen. And I can invite several people to the meeting at the same time. They can view what I am sharing from the comfort of their offices. Believe me, it’s better than several people huddling around one computer.

Other Online Meeting Thoughts

Here are some additional thoughts about online meetings.

Though I don’t do so often, I can record my online meetings in Zoom. Then if I need to watch the session, I can.

Once you are in a Zoom meeting you can share your mouse. This allows your client to control your computer. I find this useful when my client wants to show me something. Rather than the client telling me where to click, I simply hand the mouse control over to her. Then she can move around in the documents we are viewing.

Are there any downsides to online meetings? Yes. Some people don’t want to be seen. Perhaps they are working from home and are still in their pajamas. If they have their camera on, you will see them, and if your camera is on, guess what? Yep. They can see you. You can, however, turn your camera off. And they can as well.

For a more professional look, consider buying a video camera. I use a Logitech 930e (cost is $71.50). It sits on top of my right monitor. Why buy a camera? For higher quality video. Additionally, the camera has a microphone. If you’re wondering about the quality of the video from this device, see the recording above. I used the Logitech 930e for that one.

Sharing Video with a Client

What if your client is too busy for an online meeting? Record a video and share it. I can do so from Zoom, but I use Camtasia to record my videos. (A single license is $249.)

Say you need to explain the details in a lease document. And you want to show and explain the related journal entries. Turn Camtasia on and shoot the recording with your Logitech camera. Whatever appears on your monitor (e.g., lease agreement in a PDF; journal entries in Excel) is captured in the video. Once done, save the video and send a link to your client. And why do this? So your client can watch the presentation at her convenience.

Don’t want to be seen on video? Then turn it off. Camtasia provides that option. You can record what you present on your monitor and your voice narration–with no video.

I store my videos on Screencast. The cost is $99.95 per year.

You may wonder why I use Camtasia and Screencast, especially when I can record and store video with Zoom. The short answer is I create training videos. Camstasia gives me better editing capabilities. And Screencast was built for the purpose of sharing videos. So the two products (both made by TechSmith) work well together for the creation and sharing of video.

Sharing Video with Your CPA Firm Members

I create and share videos with my partners and staff. Once a video is created, I store it on my Screencast site. Then I share the video link on our firm intranet. That way I can demonstrate something once and share it with everyone. 

Your Thoughts

Do you already use online meeting or video capture software? If yes, what solutions do you use? Share your suggestions below.

sum of selected cells
Dec 26

Excel: The Sum of Selected Cells Saves Time

By Charles Hall | Technology

Are you using Excel’s sum of selected cells feature? You should be.

CPAs love their ten-keys.

But a roll of adding machine tape on the floor does not mean I’m efficient. The sum of selected cells feature in Excel saves time and increases accuracy. Here’s how.

 

Now, isn’t that better than using a ten-key? Notice also that Excel provides you with a count, the number of items in the selected cells. Additionally, you can see the average as well. All at the bottom right-hand corner of your spreadsheet. 

accountant's scanning system
Aug 27

Accountant’s Scanning System: How to Build

By Charles Hall | Technology

Are you overwhelmed by stacks of paper? Do you find it difficult to locate the information you know you have? Today, I teach you how to build an accountant’s scanning system.

accountant's scanning system

Accountant’s Scanning System

I have the privilege of visiting other CPA firms, and our firm has about 120 people, so I have the opportunity to see plenty of offices. It is my observation that some CPAs are paperless, but many are not.

One problem with “paper everywhere” is we can’t find what we need. We have it (somewhere), but we can’t find it. Scanning is the easiest way to capture and organize the paper monster.

To create order, take three steps:

  1. Buy a scanner
  2. Build a scanning structure
  3. Build scanning habits

1. Buy a Scanner

My scanner is a Fujitsu iX500. (There is a newer model now, the iX1500.) It sits just to my right in my office (see picture below), so I don’t have to leave my desk to scan. Convenience is key to creating order. Otherwise, you will think I’ll scan that later, but it doesn’t happen. Then the paper litters your desk–and distracts you.

accountant's scanning system

Picture of my office

The iX1500 costs $420, so it’s not a huge cash outlay. The scanner’s footprint is small (the dimensions are 11.5 x 6 x 6.3 inches) and it weighs 7.5 pounds. Also, the scanner comes with  software (ScanSnap) that offers you destinations such as these:

accountant's scanning system

ScanSnap File Locations

I often scan to Evernote, my cloud-based library. (Amazon also offers Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 Document Scanner with Evernote Premium.) If I were buying my first scanner and didn’t have cloud-based storage, this would be my choice.

Another favorite destination: Caseware, our paperless engagement software. 

2. Build a Scanning Structure

So, of course, when you scan, you need final resting places for your documents.

My two primary file locations are:

  • Evernote for non-engagement documents
  • Caseware for engagement documents

Non-Engagement Documents

If you’ve followed my blog, you know I’m a raving Evernote lunatic. Why? 

  • Ease of use 
  • Notebooks (you use notebooks to organize your documents)
  • Tags (you can tag each note with multiple tags, making it easy to find the material)
  • Feed-ability (I can feed Evernote from my scanner, email, clip-apps, drag and drop, and many other ways)
  • Find-ability (Evernote even recognizes hand-written notes making it possible to search electronically and find keywords–even if written)
  • Accessibility (I can access Evernote from my iPhone, iPad, and desktop)
  • Cost (paid version starts at $7.99 per month; they do offer a free version but with limitations)
  • Allows storage of a variety of documents (including Excel, Word, PDF, Audible files)

There are other cloud-based storage systems such as OneNote and Dropbox. Pick one and learn it well.

Engagement Documents

If your audit and tax services are not already paperless, consider making the leap. We have used Caseware for years and, personally, I love it. We use this software for storage of the following engagement files:

  • Tax
  • Audit
  • Reviews
  • Compilations
  • AUPs

My firm has built templates for each of these services, so everyone in our firm knows where documents (including scans) belong.

To scan promptly, you need to build habits, so creating a repeatable, mental system is critical to the process.

3. Build Scanning Habits

Build your scanning habits. My system is as follows:

  • If it takes less than two minutes to scan, scan now
  • If it takes more than two minutes, I place the paper in a file tray where I will later batch process
  • Scan all paper by the end of the day
  • Don’t leave unscanned paper on my desk (it’s a distraction)
  • Keep a shred box just below my scanner (where I place sensitive paper documents)
  • For long documents (e.g., CPE workbook), ask an assistant to break down the paper copy, scan it, and email it to me (I don’t use my Fujitsu scanner for heavy-duty scanning. We have a copy machine that will convert large scans to PDF.)

Like any new habit, new scanning actions will–at first–feel awkward and inconvenient. But push through the pain and the actions will become routine. (Some of the above thoughts come from David Allen’s book: Getting Things Doneone of the best productivity books you’ll find.)

Act Now

You may feel like the above will take too much time to implement, especially if you have lots of paper. So how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Schedule your scanning plan. Pick two days a week and put one hour a day on your calendar. Then attack. Slay your paper monster. I dare you.

More Evernote Information

For more information about Evernote, check out these posts:

Evernote for CPAs

Seven Ways to Feed Evernote

Tips on Searching Your Evernote Account

iPad Apps for CPAs
Jun 17

iPad Apps for CPAs: The Tried and True

By Charles Hall | Technology

Here is a list of iPad apps for CPAs. You’ll find each one helpful in your daily work.

iPad Apps for CPAs

Checkpoint – A library of accounting and auditing publications by Thomson Reuters. You must pay for the books, but Checkpoint provides powerful search capabilities.

Notability – The best app I’ve found for taking notes. You can also record audio as you take notes and then quickly return to a specific part of the conversation by touching a written word with your iPad Pencil. I use this almost daily.

OmniFocusA high-end to-do list. It provides contextual listings, including a hotlist (to help me remember the most important things). You can add, for instance, a to-do item for a particular client or a trip to the hardware store. This app takes some time to understand, but very powerful. Consider taking David Sparks online OmniFocus class. I found it helpful.

Box – A secure file storage system in the cloud. Very powerful. I started using Box about six months ago. There’s a learning curve, but it’s worth it. It’s pricey. I use this storage system for business files.

Dropbox – Cheaper than Box. A cloud-based storage system in the cloud. Dropbox is easy to use. I tend to use Dropbox for personal data. Dropbox seems to integrate more easily with other apps than Box does. I store large video or audio files here (rather than Evernote). This app feels like a large electronic sandbox.

Evernote – Storage app. I create “notes” inside Evernote and store whatever I desire. Evernote is my electronic library. I have saved thousands of articles and research. Apply several tags to each note, so you can quickly find the information you need.

Keynote – A slide presentation app. I use Keynote more than Powerpoint. The Keynote background slides are the best. I find it easier to create slide decks with my iPad than with my desktop.

Weather – Weather app. I start my day by checking the weather, and, when I’m going out of town, I check my destination’s weather before I leave.

Outlook – Email app. I tried Gmail for a while but returned to Outlook. It’s just easier to use. And it integrates with Office 365.

Scanbot – I take pictures of multiple pages, and the scan automatically loads to a specified Box folder.

Holy Bible – You Version Bible app. I start each day with this app. You Version is free and provides several different translations.

Explain Everything – Want your clients to see what you are drawing while you are online with them? Pull up a PDF and write on it with your iPad Pencil. Instantly your client sees what you are doing. Record the presentation (including sound) and store it. Then share the conversation with anyone. Crazy. 

Audible – Audible book app. I listen to books while I’m on the road (or when I am exercising). 

iThoughts – Want to brainstorm visually? iThoughts is your app. Create color-coded maps of your ideas. Watch their video example here

Pocket – An easy-to-use use app to capture internet articles as you see them. Don’t have time to read an article? Save the piece with Pocket with one click. The app shares the captured articles across platforms.

Documents – Write on PDFs or annotate them in other ways (like adding a red box to highlight an area). I don’t take paper copies of agendas or additional information to meetings. They are all here in Documents. It’s a great file manager that connects to file storage systems such as Dropbox. Documents works with all types of files, including Excel, Adobe Acrobat, Word, video files, images. 

Apple Pencil – While not an app, consider using an Apple Pencil. Mine cost about $100. I use it daily to write on electronic documents. See my demonstration here. (If you’ve tried other styluses and they’ve not worked. Try this one. I had almost given up on electronic writing instruments. Then the Apple Pencil came along.)

Your Thoughts?

What apps do you find most helpful?

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