Industry Trends

Rolling with the PPPunches

Caleb Newquist Editor-at-Large, Gusto 
remote work

April 9, 2020

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PPP

My pal Greg Kyte hosted a webinar a couple weeks back about two superpowers that all accountants have: risk-taking and change management. Now, if that sounds utterly contrary to what you know about yourself or accountants in general, then that’s fine. I think when most people—many accountants included—think about accountants, they think of static, rule-following, risk-averse spreadsheet jockeys. Greg’s webinar brought to light a mountain of evidence that completely debunks this notion.

Just think about how frequently and significantly the US tax code changes. Or think about the fundamental changes to revenue recognition that occurred in just the last couple years (and some are still getting to). Or think about the technology that is transforming not only auditing, but also how small businesses are run. Apparently, accountants can endure change as well as anyone.

As if we needed more evidence to support this hypothesis, enter the Paycheck Protection Program, aka PPP. Unless you’ve been spending your days staking out toilet paper deliveries at your local grocery store, you are probably aware that the PPP is a loan/grant provision of the CARES Act. The PPP is intended to support small business payrolls, so they can avoid laying people off.

Before the ink was dry on CARES, accountants across the land were asking pointed questions about the details of PPP. And to be fair, a lot of those details were unclear! It took a couple of “interim final” rules and more guidance from the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration to clarify some of the critical points.

“Why didn’t they ask an accountant to help write the bill?” some of them cried (because accountants always ask this when a new law that impacts their livelihood is passed). And I think that at least part of the answer is: “Because they know you can deal with it.”

Which is what we saw in the past week. Accountants of all stripes were trying to make sense of things, kept asking questions, keeping payroll people like Gusto on their toes. All because you’re trying to figure out how small businesses can keep paying people. The whole thing is quite a mess, and it took quite a bit of bellyaching from everyone involved, but some important things got cleared up, and accountants took it all in stride. Really, it was just another day at the office. But it was more like a week, and you were at home surrounded by distractions, so that’s even more impressive.

WFH: The other stuff you’re planning to get to

Last week we discussed how working hard might be the best thing for us right now. That’s obviously a privileged position to be in since many people can’t work from home or are without work altogether. But for the vast majority of accountants, there’s virtually not a moment when a client couldn’t use your advice right now, and that’s a good thing. It keeps you busy, gives your clients a fighting chance, and hopefully gives you reprieve from the fact that there’s a global pandemic going on outside.

But because this is America, it’s not enough to lock yourself in your home and do your job well. Oh, no. Not only must you stay inside, take care of business, know your spouse/significant other’s schedule as well as your own, keep your kids alive (if applicable), and not lose your mind, some weirdos out there are insisting you make the most of all the DOWNTIME:

As the coronavirus outbreak has brought life largely indoors, many people are feeling pressure to organize every room in their homes, become expert home chefs (or bakers), write the next “King Lear” and get in shape. The internet — with its constant stream of how-to headlines and viral challenges — has only reinforced the demand to get things done.

Look, I’ll admit that I have my own “King Lear” aspirations that I’d like to get down on paper, but now? Like, NOW now? There’s a pregnant woman and a strong-willed 2½-year-old in my house. You people are lucky this newsletter made it to your inbox AT ALL.

What’s worse is that people are falling for it!

Maggie Schuman, 32, is facing [a] quandary now that her family is taking part in a Peloton challenge through the workout platform’s app.

“Every day everyone sends around a green check mark, and for some reason, now that I have that in my head of this thing I’m supposed to be doing, I’m not doing it,” Ms. Schuman, a product specialist in California, said. “I feel a bit like a failure.” She also ignored her sister when she tagged her in a push-up challenge on Instagram.

Let me help, Maggie. You are not a failure. Those green check marks are meaningless. And ignoring your sister’s stupid push-up challenge on Instagram is precisely the right thing to do. As for the rest of you, if one of your insufferable relatives is blowing up your social media feeds with unsolicited feats of strength or their latest loaf of sourdough, I give you permission to heckle them.

To the extent that you do have downtime, you also have my permission to not be productive. Reading is fine. Bingeing on Tiger King is fine. A puzzle is fine. Even exercise is fine. But doing nothing is also fine. Let’s just agree that wasting time is fine, and cramming every spare moment with another tip from Lifehacker is annoying.

COVID news you can use

This new section will feature programs, assistance, and other coronavirus-related information from the past week. It is not meant to be a comprehensive list, so if you see something that we should include here, let us know, or check out our relief resources post that is frequently updated.

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Updated: January 22, 2021

Caleb Newquist
Caleb Newquist Caleb is Editor-at-Large at Gusto. In 2009, he became the founding editor of Going Concern, the one-of-a-kind voice on the accounting profession, serving in the role for 9 years. Prior to Going Concern, Caleb worked as a CPA for nearly 6 years in New York and Denver. He lives in Denver with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.

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