Help for new CA’s

Sometimes people email me asking for help and occasionally I meet up with readers to share some advice.  If you’re new to the game, stressing out about busy season, thinking of switching to a new firm or just want to bounce ideas off someone let me know.  Shoot me an email


  1. Hello I had a few questions that are work related I am an accounting student returning to the fields after a two year absence

    -If you are taking to long how do you work fast and efficiently and make up for it, would you work during lunch after work ect basically how do you hide time
    -should I ask lots of questions being at an entry level or is this looked down upon
    -what if I make a mistake and someone just goes on a rampage on me, who do I turn to
    -what if they make a mistake and make it look like it did.
    -In terms of training how did you understand what to do. Did you look at last years file, what was your approach, how did you learn the job.
    -How do you budged time, I mean if your on a project and your not gonna make it how would you hide the time to get work done
    -I haven’t been out of accounting for two + years should I relearn basic accounting, tax and auditing, what should I focus on as I will be a staff accountant. I literally have no idea what I am going to do
    -how much time should be nonchargeable
    – how do you ensure you don’t mess up on an original spread sheet

    Any other advice would be greatly appreciated

  2. I could answer these questions, but I don’t think it will help you at all. It seems like you’re nervous and you’re just looking for some reassurance about what to do in some tough spots. You’re better off going in with the right attitude vs. “what do I do when…”

    Always keep in mind…

    Listen more/talk less/take tons of notes
    Never lose your humility
    Remember that you’re in a service business, so at the end of the day make sure the client is happy.

  3. That was probably the best reply I imagine you could give. Simple and to the point.

    If I could add anything, I’d say:
    1. Work a file from every angle as far as you can go until you get stuck, then see your senior manager or someone who can help at one time for all questions. Then get back in the saddle.
    2. That take notes comment could have been an understatement. Don’t ask how to do the same thing twice.

    The light bulb went off for me about a year or so into public. I picked up some work for a not-for-profit that had combined financials. I hit some major bumps, but after doing what it took to get the work done, I came out the other side with more confidence in what I could do and figure out alone than ever before.

    Now, what really scares me? heh….reconciling an individual return for fed to state tax differences over a whole ton of investment and business K-1’s.

  4. Hi,

    I had a question regarding auditing capital assets. I cant seem to figure out the most efficient way to audit disposals.

    With additions, we vouch all additions over our testing threshold, whatever we calculate that to be. With disposals, do we take our sample based on significant items removed from capital assets? Is it based on the gain/loss account (ie choosing the sample based on those disposals with the significant gains or losses)? Is it a mix of both?

    I just cant seem to figure this out, so any help would be appreciated!

    • I think you’re getting a little lost in the weeds here. A few things to remember;

      – Make sure the NBV is taken out, so look to see that the original purchase price is credited as well as the remaining depreciation.
      – Vouch the disposal price to whatever docs you have. If they’re scrapping it assume a zero value.
      – Look at the gain/loss to see if it makes sense.

      How you pick your sample isn’t as important as making sure it’s large enough to include material disposals. Make sense?

      • Hi, Thanks for the quick reply and I apologize for not responding sooner.

        I see what you are saying in that the main idea is to ensure that the correct amt of nbv has been removed. And I see that I would want to make sure that the gain loss has been calculated correctly by vouching to sale documentation (such as maybe cash deposit depending on risk and/or source of sale documentation?).

        I guess I am just a bit confused about how I would sample or select which items to test. Do I test all significant items the client has adjusted for in the capital asset continuity? Or do I base the sample off the gain/loss detail? I would think I would need to cover both accounts off, but that doing one does not necessarily cover off the other.

        My understanding is that I would need to cover off all material items being removed by the client from capital assets. If I am doing that I will likely be looking at the sale documentation to ensure that it was correct to dispose of the item, which means I may as well test the gain loss since I will have all the info. But when looking at the gain/loss account I will also need to test all significant items going through there, which may not have been covered off through the testing of the capital asset continuity. It just seems like if I cover off both those accounts I may end up testing everything, which doesnt seem very efficient (at least I don’t know of many cases where we end up testing whole accounts).

        Hopefully that makes some sense, and thanks again for your input!

  5. Dude, focus on a section. If you’re doing capital assets think about accuracy and recalculate the additions, disposals and depreciation for the period. If there’s a disposal with a resulting gain or loss then recalculate it to make sure it’s correct.

    Get a continuity schedule of your gain/loss account and cross reference the significant ones back to your cap asset section.

    Test all material additions/disposals to capital assets. Stop thinking so hard.

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