descriptions of accountants' lives?
April 15, 2010 3:13 PM   Subscribe

[Accountancy Filter:] nonfiction about what it's like to be an accountant?

So, it's tax day in U.S., and unlike every other year, I actually got my returns filed weeks ago, or at least my account did. After working through the process (admittedly not overly complicated, in my case), I've become curious about the mentality and lifestyle of folks who do this stuff professionally.

Less interested in details about the subject itself (that's what wikipedia's for) than portrayals of what the lived experience is like (whether books, articles, essays, etc.; preference for nonfiction over novels if possible).
posted by 5Q7 to Grab Bag (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Seriously though, there are accountants and then there are accountants. I know a lot of CPAs who don't do much of anything until January, then its all tax returns for four months. Most of them are pretty normal.

I have a few full-on tax professionals as well, who spend all year helping people plan and working with trusts and big portfolios of stock and stuff, and, well, they're pretty normal too.

Really, you just have to decide it's something you can do for a profession. I've thought of doing it because I really (honestly) like filling in forms. But I like my current profession a bit more.
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:47 PM on April 15, 2010

There are many kinds of accountants, and their jobs differ as much as do those of people in "sales." Sure, an accountant is generally involved in the tracking of value through a transaction chain, but stepping down from that very general description, one quickly gets to jobs as different as "manufacturing cost accountant" and "tax accountant."

The guy who is out on the manufacturing floor 3 days a week, checking scrap levels, verifying industrial engineer time studies for various operations, and making sure that correct labor codes are applied on work tickets, has a much different day to day experience of the profession than the tax accountant probably does. In his other 2 days a week, he's probably summarizing and reporting his findings to management, making adjustments to standards and cost figures in the firm's ERP system, and answering questions from sales and operations people about product costs that seem uncompetitive. Once or twice a year, he may be put to work in the warehouse, as part of the accounting team responsible for conducting physical inventory, and reconciling it to inventory book value.

The tax accountant is perhaps seeing retail clients, or at least clients of his larger firm, to minimize and report their tax liabilities from the prior year. Perhaps, for his more sophisticated clients, he is researching and presenting various wealth and income shifting strategies, to minimize tax liability over the long term, or to meet personal and family goals for wealth transfer and philanthropy. He might meet regularly with lawyers to craft documents that put various strategies to work, and with tax authorities to explain complex tax returns he has prepared. He probably spends a fair amount of time each year in on-going education, keeping up with tax changes, and he may do some "business development" by calling on new potential customers and clients, or by appearing at social events or industry conferences where new clients might become aware of his or his firms services.

You might want to follow the "Careers and Lifestyle" section of Accountancy Magazine's Web site, for a while, to get a greater understanding of the diverse careers in the accounting field.
posted by paulsc at 1:28 AM on April 16, 2010

Well, you might want to check out Who's Counting, a business "novel" about implementing Lean Accounting in a manufacturing firm. One clear takeaway: there's no one "right" way to measure all this stuff, and different factions in a firm can put a lot of pressure on the accountants to measure it in the ways best suited for them.

Also, there were a lot of juicy accounting scandals during the bust. Somone had to have written a book or two about those (can't recommend anything specific though, sorry). There was some passing mention of accouting schemes (though not accountants/lifestyles) in The Smartest Guys in the Room (about the rise and fall of Enron), e.g.
posted by zanni at 3:54 AM on April 16, 2010

It's pretty much exactly like this. And this.
posted by Menthol at 5:49 AM on April 16, 2010

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