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30 Years - Part 1

Posted by Mark B Lackie CPA Posted on Sept 19 2014
On February 2, 2015, I will have been working in public accounting for 30 years.  I thought it might be of interest to share some of my memories of how my profession has changed in that time.

When I first entered public accounting, we processed tax returns on an IBM system 34 computer. The computer was a size of 2 large legal file cabinets, side by side.  We processed individual tax returns by entering the data on input sheets with a control page at the end. After the sheets were reviewed, they were entered by a data entry person and then a batch of returns were processed at once. And then the tax returns were printed on 3 part preprinted forms (with the good old holes in the side). All the page ones were printed, then all the page twos, and then all the Schedule As, etc.  All of those forms were laid out on a conference table, and then the individual returns were "assembled" by our clerical staff who went around the room looking for all the matching social security numbers.

And then the returns were sent to "Post Review" where all the data was verified against the controls and verified all the forms were included. In most cases, 7 different people would touch a return and each of them billed their time to each client. We billed in quarter hour segments and thus 1.75 hours of time was built in with just all the different people touching the return. 

Immediately after the final deadline, the data services people would backup our data on 8 inch floppy disks (remember the original PC was 5.25 inch floppy disks) and ship it to our vendor in Michigan for them to prepare the data for the next year. And after that point, a delinquent return had to be prepared by hand. No computers for computations etc.  We physically had to prepare them by hand. And to be honest, I think that is one of the things that helped me today, I had to do those returns by hand and learned why things occurred and how the numbers flow.  

I wonder if I could do some of those returns today as the tax computations have become so complicated with regular tax, alternative minimum tax, minimum tax and capital gains taxes all impacting a single individual return.

Next Up: Our original process of a business tax return.