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AI and Automated Bookkeeping

Oct 12, 2018 01:10 PM

When someone mentions AI, minds in the dairy business immediately think about artificial insemination. However, this article will focus on a different type of AI.  Regardless of our personal views on the issue, Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) technology is here to stay and should not be ignored.  Maintaining a competitive advantage in any industry requires that we continually look for and implement changes that will increase efficiency and decrease operating expenses.  AI arguably is, and will continue to be, at the forefront of efficiency innovation. 

 

One area where AI is effecting automation and operational efficiency is bookkeeping.  In this article I will be providing a general overview of the AI technology used in bookkeeping platforms, discussing the benefits of implementing automated bookkeeping technology, and how AI should change your relationship with your accountant.  The bottomline is it is time to embrace the possibilities of AI and what it can do for your business.

       

TECHNOLOGY OVERVIEW

 

The AI currently in use in the accounting industry should be enthusiastically welcomed.  It is designed to automate the mundane and redundant tasks that occupy much of the time or resources of business owners that could be spent on higher value activities.  Just as the advent of automated milking machines and electronic monitoring devices have improved dairy operation, accounting AI promises similar results.  

 

There are currently two AI technologies of note in use in the accounting industry.  These are 1) bank feed technology, and 2) Optical Character Recognition (“OCR”). 

 

Bank feed technology is not new and is likely currently being used by your business.  This technology connects to a bank account through “Read-Only” access.  It permits downloading of transactional history, check images, and statements automatically rather than requiring a visit to the institution’s website to initiate a download.  To illustrate, QuickBooks users have the ability to connect bank accounts and have transaction information pulled directly into QuickBooks to be accepted and categorized.  Also, rules may be written so that reoccurring transactions are automatically classified. 

 

OCR scans and analyzes printed text or numbers and converts it to a form a computer can recognize and process.  This eliminates the need to retype the material in order to include it in your accounting software.  Although extremely efficient, this process is far from perfect.  At this stage of AI evolution, accountants typically verify the imported information and ensure the OCR operated correctly, fixing any mistakes they may find.  Even with this secondary human review, the cost is a fraction of employing a bookkeeper or having an accountant be the bookkeeper.  However, please remember the adage, garbage in equals garbage out.  The higher the quality of information submitted to the system, the more effective and efficient the process will be.  I.e., if a check is written without a description, or the document is in an unusual font, then a human must intervene to ensure accurate recording of the information.  While many OCR systems can handle a wide variety of fonts, it performs best when a font is one that is widely used. 

 

These technologies are merely two forms currently used by AI.  Technology firms continue to innovate in order to improve the function, accuracy, and efficiency of these technologies as well as develop additional technologies to perform more complex tax and accounting functions.  If embraced and used correctly, AI technology will be a game changer for small businesses.

 

BENEFITS OF IMPLEMENTING TECHNOLOGY

 

Replacing or supplementing the human element of bookkeeping with AI will eliminate most of the mistakes made during data entry, provide more time for higher value activities, provide reports on a timely basis, and allow advisers to provide better advice based on operations. 

 

Whether an accountant or a member of the business performs the data entry duties for a business, that task is prone to error and disproportionately costs more than other higher value added activities.  Unfortunately, inaccuracy in bookkeeping and data entry ends up costing the business much more when tax returns are prepared due to time spent correcting mistakes before the return can be begun.  AI virtually eliminates data entry errors through internal checks, subsequently reducing both bookkeeping and tax return preparation costs as well as streamlining financial statement preparation 

 

Every quarter our firm prepares financial statements for our dairy clients.  Preparation of financial statements is expensive and time consuming, however, financial institutions require these on a quarterly basis as part of loan covenants.  Bookly, www.bookly.co, a leader in automated bookkeeping platforms, has a real-time financial statement creation and viewing option.  Were our clients on this platform, or one similar to it, the cost to prepare financial statements would decrease exponentially and turnaround time would improve significantly.  Another benefit is a business may know its cash position at any point in time.  This insight will be invaluable when making financial decisions and consulting with an advisor.

 

Tax planning and tax return preparation are not the activities of choice for many accountants.  True fulfillment comes when clients seek advice regarding streamlining business operations, analyzing an expansion or a sale, or other projects that improve the business and increase profits.  Unfortunately, this is often more of the exception than the rule, especially when the client’s budget is spent on tax returns and tax planning.  With reliable and useable information available in real-time, more time should be spent with clients learning their business needs and goals and devising ways and means to accomplish them.  With AI this is all possible.  It is incredibly exciting to think of the prospect of being a true business advisor rather than primarily a tax return preparer.

 

While AI will inevitably shift priorities of accounting firms from tax and audit work to advising, it promises to provide business owners with more discretionary time and operating capital.  Without the time and financial constraints associated with the repetitive tasks required for business operation, a business owner can shift that time and those resources to higher value activities.  Zach Olson, CEO of Bookly stated: “[o]ur focus has been to reimagine how cutting-edge technology can improve the lives of business owners – no matter their area of expertise.  It is almost impossible to quantify what extra time would be worth to a business owner.  Whether that time is spent developing a new product or service line, investing in new equipment, spending more time with family, or another activity of interest, AI has the potential to make it possible. 

 

HOW AI SHOULD CHANGE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITIH YOUR ACCOUNTANT

 

Innovation drives growth and distinguishes the leaders from the followers.  Often, it is asked if the accounting industry fears the advent of AI.  The answer has been and should continue to be a resounding ‘NO.”  AI promotes innovation and efficiency and should change your relationship with your accountant for the better by: 1) Reducing the amount of time spent on traditional accounting functions; and 2) Increasing the time spent advising on business operations. 

 

It is not unreasonable to anticipate AI replacing the bookkeeping, accounting, and tax functions performed by an accountant.  Therefore choose an accountant that has the capability to become more of a financial advisor.  This is not to say the accountant should be completely removed from the traditional accounting processes.  They will still play a very important role in reviewing the information created by the AI to ensure compliance with tax code and optimization in accordance with client specific situations and scenarios.  However, these tasks should take a mere fraction of the time now spent.  These saved funds should then be funneled into consulting and advising services to improve your business operations. 

 

Actionable data is the catalyst for innovation.  Some may think their accountant and financial advisor are the same person, but this is not always the case.  An accountant analyzes financial information in order to build a picture of what happened to a business in the past.  A financial advisor needs to be able to read your history, extrapolate trends, and formulate a financial strategy for future operation and growth.  Actively seek to build this type of relationship with your accountant.

 

While it may be disconcerting to rely on AI to perform financial functions, the benefits far outweigh the potential downsides. When fully understood how beneficial automated bookkeeping can be for your business by freeing capital and human resources for more valuable work, making the switch to a reputable automated system should not be difficult.  Please evaluate automated bookkeeping as you would evaluate any other new technology you have implemented in your operations.      

 

Originally written for Progressive Dairyman Magazine. Learn more about the author, Mark Fetzer, JD, MBA, here.

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Tommy Gwinn Quoted on Bitcoin filings

Brooke Eppa
Mar 22, 2018 06:01 PM

Tommy Gwinn of our Pocatello office quoted in the Idaho Business Review.

Make sure you file your Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency gains and losses correctly on your taxes!
 
 
Learn more about Tommy Gwinn here.
 
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Kimberlee Lystrup Recognized Under 40

Brooke Eppa
Apr 21, 2016 12:10 PM
Congratulations to our Kimberlee Lystrup on her nomination for “TWENTY Under 40”!!  What an honor to be nominated!
Though she didn't win the award, we're extremely proud of all Kim's accomplishments, both internally and out in the community. The awards ceremony for the winners was held Tuesday, April 19th, 2016. 
 
Kimberlee Lystrup, CPA, Pocatello, Idaho, Idaho State University, nominated
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Marilee Allison named Friend of the Fair

Brooke Eppa
Aug 8, 2014 06:25 PM
Marilee Allison, CPA, was recognized this year for her volunteer efforts and contributions to the Jerome County Fair. She has been involved with the fair since her own childhood when she showed livestock. 
 
 
Marilee Allison
Photo Courtesy of Laura Skinner Photography
 
 
Times News Article clipping of Marilee Allison
News Clipping from the Times News
 
Marilee started with Cooper Norman in 1977 and has been a partner in the firm since 1995. She is a great asset to any organization, and we are lucky to have her.  You can read more about Marilee in her bio.
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Disclaimer

Brooke Eppa
Jun 9, 2014 10:17 AM
Any material appearing in communication or shared third party content from Cooper Norman is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal, accounting, or tax advice provided by Cooper Norman. Opinions expressed in communications from Cooper Norman professionals or shared third party content do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Cooper Norman or its associates. These communications are not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a legal relationship, including, but not limited to, an accountant-client relationship. Often these materials have been prepared by professionals, but the user should not substitute these materials for professional services, and should seek advice from an independent advisor before acting on any information presented. Cooper Norman assumes no obligation to provide notification of changes in tax laws or other factors that could affect the information provided.
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Reactions to Numbers Investigated by Dan Packard

Brooke Eppa
Apr 30, 2014 01:06 PM
Certified Fraud Examiners (CFEs) utilize several techniques to detect and deter fraud. Daniel Packard, MAcc, CPA, CFE recently published an article exploring the link between human psychology and traditional forensic detection procedures.  The article was published in the May/June issue of Fraud Magazine, titled “Emotional reaction to numbers.”  Perpetrators continually display psychological behavioral traits consistent with the stress or fear of committing fraud, including living beyond one's means, having an unusually close association with vendors or customers, irritability, suspiciousness, defensiveness, complaining, addictive problems and excessive control issues. While fraudsters' circumstances may vary, all are subject to the psychological behavior traits inherent to perpetrating fraud.  Daniel’s article endeavors to substantiate that of all the sophisticated tools used to detect fraud, a fraud examiner's most powerful and effective instrument is the ability to emotionally and psychologically profile the perpetrator. Furthermore, a CFE could potentially generalize and exploit other subconscious responses associated with the stress and fear of perpetrating fraud in the computational detection of fraud.
 
Daniel Packard, MAcc, CPA, CFE, Accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, Cooper Norman, Idaho Falls, Idaho  
Published in Fraud Magazine May/June 2014
 
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Christy Stein Outstanding Masters of Accountancy

Brooke Eppa
Mar 19, 2014 10:11 AM
Christy Stein works as a CPA in the Idaho Falls office of Cooper Norman. She was recognized in "The Business Bulletin" Winter/Spring 2014 edition from ISU as the 2013 Outstanding Masters of Accountancy Graduate.
 

 
Christy Stein named Outstanding Masters of Accountancy graduate, Cooper Norman, CPAs, Business Advisors, Idaho Falls, Accountant, CPA
 
Visit Idaho State University's page and see the full business bulletin here.
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Celebrating 60 Years

Brooke Eppa
Jan 10, 2014 01:02 PM
2014 is a big year for Cooper Norman. We celebrate 60 years in the accounting practice, and as Jonas Salk once said, "The greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more." We are grateful for these past years and excited for all the new ones to come. Thank you to all our clients, owners, employees, and greater communities who have made this history possible!
 
A little bit about Cooper Norman's history:
 
The Firm dates back to 1954 originating with E. LeGrande Nelson in Twin Falls, Idaho. LeGrande began his career in Twin Falls, Idaho working as a Revenue Agent for the Internal Revenue Service.  As the IRS was going through a major reorganization in 1953-54, LeGrande obtained his CPA license and left the IRS to join John Peterson, one of Idahoís first and oldest CPAs, with an office in Twin Falls, Idaho.  After a short while, with John Peterson, LeGrande left and started his own CPA firm. A formal announcement appeared in the Times News on December 10th, 1954. The Firm originally went by the name, "Nelson & Tullis Certified Public Accountants".
 
December 10, 1954 opening announcement for Cooper Norman, Times News, Twin Falls, Idaho
 
 
Several of the firm's early clients were individuals and businesses audited by LeGrande as a Revenue Agent.  The Tom Callen family (with sonís Jerry & Doc Callen) and the Pickett family were two of those clients. Gordon E. Beckstead joined the firm in 1965. The Firm grew substantially as a result of Beckstead's talent for attracting quality professionals and his ability to gain the confidence of a large number of business clients. 
In 1972, the Firm merged with a regional CPA practice based in Nampa, Idaho called Severn Ripley Doorn. The entire company was acquired in 1975 by the national public accounting firm Deloitte, Haskins & Sells. David M. Cooper joined the firm in 1974 as a tax senior after working as a revenue agent for the Internal Revenue Service for three years. Robert A. Norman also joined the Firm in 1974 after working for three years with the national public accounting firm of Arthur Young in San Jose, California. 
In 1978 Beckstead and Cooper separated the Twin Falls office from Deloitte, Haskins & Sells. The Firm became known as Beckstead Cooper Co. Robert Norman was admitted as a partner in 1979 to bring his accounting and auditing expertise to the practice.
The Firm expanded in 1981 by opening an office in Las Vegas which was headed up by Beckstead who moved from Twin Falls to start the Nevada office. In 1984, Dave Cooper was named Managing member of the firm under the Firm name Beckstead Cooper Jirovec. In 1985 Beckstead retired from the Firm and from public accounting. The Las Vegas office was subsequently sold to a national CPA practice and the name of the Firm was then changed to Cooper Norman.
J. David Stoddard joined the Firm in 1981, after practicing public accounting in Utah for two years. He became a partner in the Firm in 1987 and moved from Twin Falls to Idaho Falls in 1988 to open the Firm's next office. The Idaho Falls office was started by acquiring the accounting practice of Donald W. Ferguson and Oran D. Rooks who had practiced public accounting in eastern Idaho for several decades. Ferguson retired shortly after selling his portion of the practice to Cooper Norman while Rooks stayed on another nine years before retiring. In 1983, the firm concluded that the partners should develop niche industries to target market our services. Dave Stoddard championed the firm's pension administration business segment which flourished througout the 1980s and 1990s and was ultimately sold to a Utah pension administration firm in 2011. 
Ronald L. Belliston joined the Twin Falls office of the Firm in 1982 after serving seven years in the United States Marine Corp. Ron Belliston championed the dairy industry niche for the firm beginning in 1984. The dairy niche became the firm's largest industry niche about 2004 and remains the largest today. Ron became a partner in 1992 and was elected the firm's managing partner in 2004.
The Firm departed from a traditional fraternal accounting firm ownership structure and adopted a corporate (operating) form of ownership and management in 1991. In 2000, the Firm adopted the Cooper Norman Practice Unit Participation Plan or PUPP trust. This trust funcitons essentially as an Employee Stock Option Plan. Professional staff are eligible to purchase shares in the company after completing 3 years of service and support staff are eligible after 5 years of service. The shares are held in a trust and are otherwise identical to the shares owned by the other partners. The managing partner serves as the trustee for this trust.
Clint Tavenner became a partner in 1996. In 2003 Clint Tavenner took on the role of Partner in Charge of the Idaho Falls office, and in January of 2004, the Firm opened an office in Boise headed up by Dave Cooper who moved from Twin Falls to start the office. Dave Stoddard retired in 2008 followed in 2010 by Dave Cooper and Robert Norman.  
An American Falls office was opened in late 2012 and was moved to Pocatello to merge with a new office there in October of 2013. The Boise office was closed in October 2013. Clint Tavenner took over the role of Managing Member in June of 2013.
Today the Firm employs nearly 80 total personnel between its three offices in Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, and Pocatello and enjoys the reputation of being one of the largest and most respected firms in Idaho.
60 Years, Partners in your success since 1954
Information about Cooper Norman's history was contributed by Ron Belliston (partner since 1992) and Marilee Allison (partner since 1996) and Dave Cooper (partner from 1978 to 2009). 
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Retirement Means Big Decisions for Farm Families

Brooke Eppa
Jan 8, 2014 10:12 AM
Retirement can be a tricky business to plan for. The article "Retirement Unlikely for Some Blue-collar Americans" tackled some of the issues, and our own Mike Salisbury weighed in.
'Farmers, loggers and other agriculture workers often have their wealth tied up in their homes or work property. Business consultant Mike Salisbury of American Falls, Idaho, has spent more than three decades helping farmers plan their financial futures. He said the biggest concern for most is succession _ whether any children want the farm once a farmer retires.

 

"Now, statistics pretty well show that about two-thirds of farm families do not have successors interested in coming back into the business," Salisbury said.

 

Without someone to take over the family business, farmers look for an exit strategy, he said. "There are some really complex tax ramifications for when a farmer decides to stop farming."

 

He said farmers approaching retirement want to know how to convert the equity in their land, fixtures, buildings and machinery into cash without having to pay the upper tax rates or having to pay taxes in a lump sum the day assets are sold.

 

"We like to think of our farmers as just barely getting by and dirt poor," Salisbury said. "For the vast majority of farmers today, the ones that survived the economic crash of the `80s, they're probably in pretty good shape."'

"Retirment Unlikely for Some Blue-collar Americans" By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS Associated Press

Find a copy of the whole article here.

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CN Mobile App

Dec 13, 2013 06:10 PM
Cooper Norman is proud to announce the release of CN Mobile, an Apple-based app to help you with your everyday business needs.  Cooper Norman recognizes that mobile applications have become a fundamental expectation of the modern taxpayer. Our team is focused on resolving your ongoing needs and is dedicated to keeping you connected and informed.

 CN Mobile is designed to help individuals and business owners manage their day-to-day operations quickly and efficiently. CN Mobile is perfect for when you're on the go, need to make a quick reference, or need to calculate the implications of a business decision. CN Mobile connects you to today’s financial news or market trends. CN Mobile also keeps you involved in tax law changes and offers planning ideas.

 

CN Mobile features the following:

 

  • Blog Feed to Cooper Norman’s most recent news and events.
  • Web resources to help you quickly navigate to frequently referenced sites.
  • Current and pertinent tax facts, including our annual tax fact brochure.
  • Business and financial calculators, INCLUDING:
    • Basic Calculator - The basic calculator is designed to perform basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division functions. Great for quick use and reference.
    • Breakeven Analysis - The breakeven analysis calculator is designed to demonstrate how many units of your product must be sold to make a profit.
    • Cost of Missing a Discount Calculator - Cost of missing a discount is the equivalent annual interest rate of a discount on early payment to a supplier. Calculate the annual cost of missing a discount.
    • Economic Order Quantity Calculator - Economic order quantity is used to determine the most efficient order size for a company. EOQ applies only when demand for a product is constant and each new order is delivered in full when inventory reaches zero.
    • (iPad Only) Financial Ratio Analysis - The financial ratio analysis offers insight into the profitability, performance, and solvency of any given company's operations.
    • Idaho Investment Tax Credit Calculator - Determine the amount of Idaho income tax credit you qualify for based on capital expenditures made in Idaho during the current year.
    • Like Kind Exchange - If you exchange either business or investment property that is of the same nature or character, gain can be deferred. This calculator is designed to calculate recognized loss, gains and the basis for your newly received property.
    • Loan Calculator - Enter the total loan amount, the annual interest rate, and the number of years the loan will be in existence to determine your monthly payment and total interest.
    • (iPad Only) Net Present Value/Capital Budgeting Calculator - Annual cash flows are used to analyze potential investments by companies, known as capital budgeting. Projected cash flows are generated, and analyzed to determine whether a project meets required criteria for approval.
    • Pay or Play Optimization Calculator - Determine whether it is more advantageous to provide your employees qualified health coverage or subject yourself to the penalties imposed by healthcare reform.
    • (iPad Only) Regular Income Tax Calculator - Use this calculator to get a general idea of what your eventual tax liability may be. Begin by selecting your filing status.
    • Retirement Plan Contribution Calculator - Use this calculator to determine your maximum contribution amount for the different types of small business retirement plans, such as Individual 401(k), SIMPLE IRA, or SEP IRA.
    • (iPad Only) Self Employment Income Tax Calculator - Normally, these taxes are withheld by your employer. However, if you are self-employed, operate a farm, or are a church employee, you may owe self-employment taxes.
  • Portal Access to your personal tax and financial information.
  • Links to Cooper Norman’s social media, as well as comprehensive information about Cooper Norman and the services offered.
  • For iPhone users, quick phone links to each office.

 CN Mobile App, Cooper Norman, CPAs and Business Advisors, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Idaho, Accountant, Calculators

Download the app today!  In celebration of our  60th anniversary, Cooper Norman is making the mobile app free to download during the month of January, 2014.
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