New figures show the state of accounting jobs, and other news you may have missed
Big banks are warning that their participation in the PPP scheme won’t turn a profit: so how come smaller lenders are bragging about their successes?
EIN requests are at 3.2 million in 2020 — up from 2.7 million at the same time in 2019, according to new research, which indicates the uncertainty caused by COVID has seen more Americans starting new businesses.
EisnerAmper has released its own “return to work” app, complete with a space management feature and contact tracing. And it’s giving it to its clients for free.
On two recent episodes of the Cloud Accounting Podcast, David and I talked about how various companies and individuals are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic: some more positively than others.
EisnerAmper has built its own app to help employees return to work safely, which will help the accounting giant better manage workspace capacity and provide it with contact tracing capabilities. Oh, and it’s offering the platform to clients for free. Meanwhile, developers cheered when Intuit finally enabled third-party apps to run recurring transactions through its API.
Plus, we look into a couple of developments at Intuit, including the purchase and rebranding of ecommerce platform TradeGecko (now QuickBooks Commerce).
💼 More Americans are starting businesses
Finally some good economic news, especially for accountants serving small businesses. The Wall Street Journal reports that a potential silver lining to the economic shutdown caused by COVID-19 has emerged, in the form of more Americans starting their own businesses. Requests for employment identification numbers (EIN) — the number you need to start a business with employees — are up significantly, at 3.2 million in 2020 compared to 2.7 million at the same time in 2019. People whose jobs were put on hold or destroyed by the pandemic have used the economic upheaval to pivot into approaches tailored for the “new normal,” for example getting into telehealth or bike repairs.
The bottom line: As with everything in 2020, there are caveats. Small business revenue is down overall, by 21% in mid-September compared to January. And another thing you need an EIN for is requesting a PPP loan — which could be a coincidence, or could be a sign that millions of Americans think they’ve figured out a way to get their hands on some of that sweet, sweet government money. But more small businesses is good news for people who lost out on income and for their future accountants, not to mention firms selling entry-level accounting software.
🧾 Accounting jobs are down, especially in payroll services
CPA Trendlines has reviewed the data on just how badly the year is going for CPA jobs, and the news is mixed. Compared to the overall economy, the accounting profession is relatively sound, depending on which sector you work in, but it’s still down 2%for the year. Employment at CPA firms and in bookkeeping are both down 1.2%, while tax preparation services are slightly worse off, down 1.4% for the year. Payroll services have taken the most significant hit, according to this data. Although the number of payroll jobs went up slightly in August, it’s down 13.5% for the year.
The bottom line: With so many businesses laying off employees, it’s sad but not surprising to see that payroll professionals have been affected more than others in the accounting industry. The data also looked specifically at the impact on women working in accounting. Overall, the number of accounting jobs held by women is down 2.2% for the year, worse the average. The exception, however, is in CPA firms, where jobs held by women are only down 0.5%.
👨⚖️ Blackbaud hit with lawsuits over ransomware attack
Non-profit accounting software provider Blackbaud is still dealing with the fallout of a ransomware attack that occurred in May. Many hospitals and healthcare providers use Blackbaud, and more than three dozen data breaches related to Blackbaud have been posted to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) HIPAA breach portal, aka the “Wall of Shame.” By law, businesses must report any breaches of the protected health data of over 500 individuals to HHS. The total count of people whose data may potentially have been leaked thanks to the ransomware attack on Blackbaud is around six million.
The bottom line: File this under yet more evidence that the ransomware business is lucrative for hackers and a nightmare for victims. And Blackbaud’s response made the situation even worse. Although the company paid the ransom, it has nothing to prove that the hackers actually deleted the information except for their not-exactly-reliable word. And it waited until June and July to inform its customers that its database had been stolen. Blackbaud is now facing 10 lawsuits over the breach. See this as your regularly programmed reminder to create multiple offsite backups.
🦎 Intuit relaunches TradeGecko as QuickBooks Commerce
If you missed the news that Intuit acquired e-commerce inventory automation platform TradeGecko at the beginning of August, opening the latter’s website today clarifies it in no uncertain terms. Intuit launched the newly renamed QuickBooks Commerce with a complete visual overhaul, branded to match the Intuit aesthetic. Despite the new look and new name, the platform formerly known as TradeGecko is still officially a separate product from QuickBooks Online.
The bottom line: Intuit pulled off a remarkably thorough makeover in just a few weeks, a good sign that the company is out to show competitors it means business. The fact TradeGecko is based in Singapore may also have sweetened its appeal as a warning to rivals. Asia is widely cited as the next big market for cloud accounting, and Intuit competitor Xero has already made moves to double down there.
😊 Intuit delights developers by opening up recurring transactions to third-party apps
Intuit made developers very happy by finally making it possible for third-party apps to set up recurring transactions through its API. Instead of having to keep track of these transactions separately, it will now be possible to sync with QuickBooks, making for a more efficient process and fewer user headaches.
The bottom line: It’s always nice to have an app update that will make a process run a little more smoothly. And developers have been asking for this for a long time, so they appreciate the fact that Intuit has taken note and finally granted their wish.
🏢 EisnerAmper releases in-house app to get employees back to work safely
Getting employees back to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a minefield for large companies, but EisnerAmper has come up with a tool it hopes will help. Led by chief information officer Amir Segev, the Top 100 firm has built an app in house, called the EisnerAmper RTO platform (RTO as in “return to office.”) Features include a required training module that ensures everyone has at least been told about the rules, a system for managing workspace capacity, and contact tracing capabilities. On the backend, the app tracks how space is being used in the office, to help the firm better manage workspace capacity.
The bottom line: With many companies still relying on clunky systems like Google Sheets to monitor who’s in the office at any given time, this app gives EisnerAmper a technical advantage when it comes to returning to maximum efficiency. And with a respectable 75% adoption rate, it appears most of its staff are on board. Even better for clients, the firm has made the app available to them free of charge.
🕑 Sage Intacct rolls out AI timesheet app
AI is best used to do jobs humans hate, so the news that Sage Intacct is applying AI to timesheets will raise a collective sigh of relief. Called Sage Intelligent Time, the app is built directly into Sage Intacct Cloud. It will automate many of the processes involved in recording time sheets by scouring users’ calendars, emails and previous actions. It’s not just a fancy timer: it will also suggest and create entries automatically.
The bottom line: This is another example of Sage closely studying the needs of users in a particular vertical and working to meet them. It’s not the first timesheet software, but it is the first to cater to the enterprise level. An early version is already available on Sage Intacct, with plans to roll out through partners in the next quarter.
📱 Accounting Today releases list of must-have accounting apps
Narrow down your must-have app list with the help of a panel of accounting heavy hitters (most of whom are friends of the show.) Accounting Today has released its list of experts’ choice apps, with a focus on forecasting, budgeting and cash-flow management. All the apps selected are intended as extensions of primary accounting platforms: most integrate with popular accounting software while others stand alone but nevertheless offer value.
The bottom line: In 2020, it’s not surprising that apps that make long distance work easier and minimize technical difficulties came out ahead.
🏦 Big banks claim that PPP loans won’t make them much profit
According to a report by the New York Times, big banks are making the argument that all that PPP lending won’t make them much money. Bank of America, for example, has said that it expects low profits, if any. All of which is confusing, given that the median fee the government paid out was 3% of the loan volume. Estimates have the largest lender, JP Morgan, collecting $881 million, while Bank of America should be looking at a not-insubstantial $667 million. Meanwhile, smaller lenders have been bragging about how well they did from PPP loans.
The bottom line: Most banks haven’t revealed their exact figures, but something seems off here. Do we really buy that the bigger banks have managed to spend this potential payout to cope with the pandemic already? Admitting that you expect to make a tidy profit from PPP loans doesn’t exactly build a case for the much-wanted government bailout. Big banks know how to distribute profits creatively, so opening up about the financials isn’t exactly in their best interest.
⚔️ Man attempts to defraud PPP using ‘Game of Thrones’ names
If you must try to defraud the PPP initiative, at least learn from the mistakes of one North Carolina man who’s been busted for attempted fraud. According to Business Insider, he chose to name his fake companies using terms from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” — one of the most popular shows in the world. He submitted 14 PPP loan applications using the names, for a total of $6 million, even including false tax filings, fake documents and fictional employees.
The bottom line: Assuming no one will be suspicious about 14 companies with names like White Walker and Khaleesi is a basic error. And the larger the fraud, the more likely you’ll get caught. This man actually managed to get two of his applications approved, which would have netted him $1.7 million. It’s the greed that catches up with you.
💳 Apple Card confuses tiny Texas tax firm
Being name dropped by Apple sounds like a dream publicity opportunity — except when your name is on their customers’ bills with no explanation. Dallas-based tax preparation and consulting firm Waters Hardy & Co. started receiving phone calls from Apple Card users, demanding to know why the 10-person company was billing their cards. Further investigation showed that it was a mishap with the names: The charge was actually for the users’ AT&T bills, but for some reason the name was wrong.
The bottom line: Waters Hardy & Co. received so many calls that it had to turn its phones off. The company has reassured Apple Card holders that it hasn’t received any of the money, AT&T has said it’s had no problems processing payment, and Apple told the Verge, which reported the story, that it had fixed the problem. That name recognition could still pay off for Waters Hardy & Co. when tax season rolls around.
💻 How to make a great website now that in-person networking is off the cards
Since networking with potential clients in-person is now a health hazard, your website has to pull more weight than ever. Accounting Today has a useful list of ways to improve your website, including basic but essential tips — like make sure it’s optimized for mobile and for Google, to more specific advice about educational content to showcase your expertise.
The bottom line: Simply having a website is the minimum standard. Including extra features and making sure your site looks good and is easy to use will set you apart while the virtual world is your strongest source of leads.