Friday, February 29, 2008

Bookkeeping stalls American Tower report

Fourth-quarter revenue rises 12% at wireless towers operator, but possible accounting errors delay release of more data.

BOSTON (AP) -- American Tower Corp., which owns wireless communication towers, said Monday fourth-quarter revenue rose 12%, but it delayed reporting additional financial information while it resolves a tax issue.

The Boston-based company is reviewing past tax accounting for its former satellite and fiber network access unit, Verestar, and said it may take non-cash adjustments to past revenue and net operating loss carry-forwards -- which are used to determine tax bills.

"The company has discovered potential prior period errors associated with certain non-cash tax-related items," American Tower said in a statement. "The company is in the process of completing its analyses, including an evaluation of the materiality of the potential errors and any impact on prior period financial statements."

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Software can save when filing your taxes

Unless you've always dreamed of quitting your day job and becoming a CPA, there's only one reason for you to do your own taxes: to save money.

The average tax-preparation fee for a federal return with itemized deductions and a state return is $205, the National Society of Accountants says. If you don't itemize, the average fee is $115.

But with tax software, you can prepare your own return for less than half that amount. Taxpayers with adjusted gross income of $54,000 or less can prepare and electronically file their federal returns for free via the IRS Free File program.

Desktop programs cost more than online programs, but they let you keep your financial information on your computer until you e-file your returns (or print them out and mail them in). If you're uncomfortable typing sensitive financial information into an online program, you may prefer a desktop program. The most popular desktop programs also let you prepare more than one return — a handy feature if you need to file returns for several family members.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Home and small businesses are a $427 billion-a-year industry, and if you've been planning to launch your own venture, now may seem like the right time to do it. But before you go into business, try to convince yourself why you shouldn't, says Paul Stappas, founder of Bookkeeping Administration Management, a service provider to small businesses. That approach will help you minimize the risks associated with impulse-driven decisions and insufficient research prior to starting your business. According to Stappas, it can also function as a litmus test: "If all the analysis is positive, then you know you have an objective, rather than emotional, reason for going into business." Here are his top five tips for starting a successful small business:
  1. Determine if there is a market for your product or service. Just thinking you have something of interest doesn't make it a product people would want to buy. Test the market to see if there will be demand for your product or service: go to trade shows and network with other professionals in your line of business, subscribe to trade publications, set up an informal focus group (even if that means only your friends and family) to gather opinions. Census figures can also help you learn about your demographic. Analyze your findings to determine whether your idea is viable, then make adjustments, including the toughest one -- letting go of your concept and finding another one, if necessary. Remember that it takes on average six months to a year to do proper market research.

  2. Analyze the competition. For an informal competitor analysis, look in the Yellow Pages and on the Internet. That will give you an idea of how many businesses in your area offer services or products similar to yours, how established these firms are and how many people they reach. For a more precise analysis, gather competitive intelligence from public sources, such as competitor sales literature, press clippings and annual reports.

  3. Develop a five-year business plan. That lets you know what kind of capital you need to get started and succeed. A good plan encompasses overhead expenses (including the owner's potential salary), cash flow (the frequency with which a client is going to pay you) and start-up capital. "Never go in with less money than you should," says Stappas. "Partial funding can easily slip into a black hole, and then you'll need even more money than you initially did to offset the loss and continue setting up your business."

  4. Get your books in order. Having your bookkeeping done accurately and on time tells you whether you're making a profit. That, and not sales, should be your focus, according to Stappas, who says the majority of small-business owners mistakenly focus on the latter. For example, sales alone won't tell you if your vendor has increased its prices, and you might not realize it in time to pass along the markup to your customers.

  5. Incorporate your business to separate your financial and personal assets. Incorporating protects you from personal liability and from exposing your personal assets. What this means is that if your business goes bankrupt, or if an employee gets into a car accident while on company business, you won't have to forfeit your house or car to cover litigation and losses. In addition, incorporation provides certain tax benefits, such as long-term-care insurance, which if bought by your corporation would be 100 percent deductible.
Source :

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Area mid-sized accounting firms bulking up

Mid-sized accounting firms throughout the Washington area are taking on additional office space to to make room for ongoing staff expansions.

Fueled by increased demand for their services, including audit, business consulting or tax advisory work, local accounting firms are growing, adding new workers, occupying more space and in some cases, opening new locations.

RSM McGladrey Inc., which has 600 workers at a handful of offices from Baltimore south to Richmond, Va., has opened an officeat 9737 Washingtonian Blvd. in Gaithersburg.

About 115 workers are housed in the nearly 20,000-square-foot office, with ample room to expand. The firm decided to set up shop in Gaithersburg because it is between other area offices in Frederick and Tysons Corner. It has additional offices in Baltimore, Timonium, Md., and Richmond.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Bookkeeping program works for peanuts

Small-business owners can pay hundreds of dollars for bookkeeping software. In fact, you can pay hundreds of dollars a day for bookkeepers to run your expensive bookkeeping software. Nothing wrong with those scenarios if you're Bill Gates.

For most of you who run small businesses, there's an easy-to-use, business-friendly program for Windows PC with a name that's a snap to remember: Bookkeeper 2007. Compared with other bookkeeping programs, it's a bargain.

When you open the box, you'll find two seemingly identical CDs. The one that says "Vista" is the Vista-compatible program; the other disc is for earlier versions of Windows. Once you've chosen the correct version, you can customize the program for your business, whether you're running an advertising agency, a beauty salon, farm, construction firm, property management company or just about any other small business.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Seven tax tips to put more in your pocket

Taxpayers can find tax breaks in charitable donations, private mortgage insurance, and higher education, experts say.

There weren't many changes with income-tax legislation in 2007, but there's always something going on in Washington – an odd twist here or a screwball trap there.

So it pays to, well, pay attention to what's new as the April 15 filing deadline draws closer. You might not have been reading yourself to sleep at night with fresh copies of changes to the Internal Revenue Code. But Barbara Weltman and Mark Steber were. They are, respectively, a contributing editor to JK Lasser's tax guides, and an expert on taxes at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, and it's their job to stay on top of this sort of stuff.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Audit reveals deficiencies

A newly released audit of financial statements from three years ago revealed significant deficiencies in a number of Luzerne County row offices, according to a Feb. 12 letter sent to county commissioners.

The findings of 2005 financial records ranged from old bookkeeping systems and lack of duties among accounting and clerical staff to inadequate cash control with the Sheriff’s office and missing funds from the Recorder of Deeds.

Sugarloaf Township-based Jones Kohanski & Co. performed the audit and listed the following:

Bookkeeping system: A double-entry bookkeeping system was never established in some row offices of the county. In 2005, most of the offices became computerized. There are some still kept in written ledgers that don’t include “a self-balancing, double-entry bookkeeping system.”

Segregation of duties: There is a lack of segregation of duties in each row offices because of the size of accounting and clerical staff. The audit recommended emphasizing proper segregation of duties, including an independent individual for the cash and accounting functions.

Reconciliation of prothonotary poundage accounts: There is a malfunction in the computer software used to record transactions in the Prothontary’s Office because the system does not generate consistent reports and “increases the risk of fraud or errors occurring without being detected in a timely manner.”

Sheriff’s office cash controls: Internal controls over cash in the county sheriff’s office are “not adequately designed to prevent and detect defalcations (theft or misuse of funds) or errors.” Cash receipts were kept in an unlocked cabinet and not always deposited on a daily basis.

Recorder of Deeds office cash control: In 2005, funds were missing from the Recorder of Deeds office. Recommendations ranged from improving file storage and recordkeeping to reviewing cash processing procedures.

Source :

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bookkeeping blues

Once again, Fort Worth City Hall is having bookkeeping problems. There's no money missing and no criminal wrongdoing suspected, but the bean-counting bungles are still troubling to taxpayers concerned about whether their hard-earned dollars are being accounted for properly.

City staffers, while working on past-due annual financial reports for 2006 and 2007 and examining whether the city can afford proposed midyear employee pay raises, discovered that changes were needed to ensure conformance with Government Accounting Standards Board rules.

As a result, the city has had to reduce the amount of money identified as unencumbered funds. That in turn significantly reduced the city's "rainy day" reserve fund for emergency and unexpected expenditures.

The readjusted reserve fund balance is $29.1 million, or $17.7 million short of the city's desired level of $46.8 million as of Sept. 30 -- the end of the 2007 fiscal year.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Daily Recording of Transactions

In order to take control of your financial recordkeeping, you must accurately record your day-to-day sales, purchases, and other transactions. Specifically, you need to record:
  • Sales and revenue transactions
  • Cash transactions
  • Accounts receivable, if you extend credit to your customers
  • Accounts payable, if you purchase from your suppliers on credit
  • Summaries of transactions in your general ledger
Do you have more than one product line or department? If possible, you may want to keep a separate set of books for each. Separate accounting will provide you with more meaningful information. It may show you that one product line or department is profitable, and another is not. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to keep a separate set of books for each product line or department. For example, some or all expenses may not apply to only one department, but must be allocated among departments. You should seek the advice of an accountant before setting up an accounting system of this nature.

There are many computer programs on the market to help you automate your accounting procedures. Shop around. Accounting software is sold in office supply stores, software outlets, electronics stores, mail order houses, and directly from software publishers. Ask for your accountant's opinion. Your accountant may want you to use a program that is compatible with the system he or she uses.

If you have employees, look for accounting software that permits the use of passwords to control access to all or some of your accounting transactions. In order to prevent irregularities by your employees or others, it's wise to restrict access to your accounting records.

Whether your business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, always keep your personal transactions separate from your business transactions. For example, using business funds to pay for personal expenditures complicates your recordkeeping and can lead to serious tax problems. It can also result in some hefty accounting fees as you pay your accountant to sort it all out.

Source :

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Free: Risk of Delegating Bank, Bookkeeping Responsibilities

With the increasing demands placed upon attorneys, it is inevitable that a greater number of tasks will routinely be delegated to others, including bank and bookkeeping responsibilities. Some firms assign this responsibility to a partner, an associate, a trusted non-lawyer employee, or possibly an independent bookkeeper or accounting service. Whether the bank and bookkeeping tasks have been delegated within the firm or outsourced, every signatory on the account ultimately has a fiduciary responsibility to oversee and review the account. Unfortunately, the trust and reliance vested in others may provide a false sense of security if those individuals do not fully appreciate the importance of preserving the integrity of client funds. As supervision decreases or disappears, the risk to the funds on deposit and to the ethical liability of those in control escalates.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Well-kept books will make tax time easier

NEW YORK — Income tax-filing season is often a trying time for small-business owners, but the Internal Revenue Code is usually not the culprit — tax professionals say it's procrastination and poor record-keeping that causes most of the problems.

The owners who are frantic at tax time are often ones with very small companies and few or no employees, so they do everything themselves. They may have the best of intentions, but they just don't get around to inputting income and expense data into the accounting programs in their PCs because they're so busy working with customers or coming up with new products or services. Or, they never bother to learn tax and accounting basics that are critical for keeping their companies healthy.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Focus keeps accounting firm on track

Southfield accounting firm Clayton & McKervey PC has nurtured revenue growth of 40% in the past three years by focusing on growing, middle-market, private companies that have a global reach.

The Southfield firm's staff has grown by 30% in the same period, to nearly 65 from 50.

Managing partner Don Clayton and shareholder Kevin McKervey attribute the firm's growth to their focus during the past four years on defining and then sticking to the one thing that they can be best at, what "Good to Great" business reference author Jim Collins calls a company's hedgehog concept.

In Clayton & McKervey's case, that is helping entrepreneurial companies from other countries expand to the United States and U.S. companies do business in other countries.

Using its own people -- its 65 staffers speak 14 languages -- along with foreign partners at affiliate offices of PKF International, a worldwide association of accounting firms, Clayton & McKervey helps businesses navigate the sometimes confusing paths for establishing and maintaining foreign systems.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Companies aim too low on outsourcing

Companies are still failing to attain crucial non-financial benefits in outsourcing despite 89% of outsourcing activities achieving a return on investment of more than 25%, new research has found.

Deloitte's 2008 outsourcing survey revealed that executives were still missing out on achieving strategic benefits with only 37% of executives saying a primary driver in their decision was to improve customer value, and 27% said they hoped to gain competitive advantage through outsourcing.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Accounting Software Can Be Sophisticated Or Simple But Rarely Both

Accounting software is a system of recording financial transactions on a computer across a full range of accounting options almost invariably dependent upon the size of business being catered for. Accounting software can vary from multi million pound solutions for major public companies to simple managed lists of income and expenses.

The requirements from accounting software are diverse with the most complex and comprehensive financial accounting packages incorporating financial reporting information and managed by teams of qualified accountants supported by accounts clerks, bookkeepers and substantial input from automated data sources. At the other end of the scale a self employed sole trader might use accounting software themselves and produce a set of financial accounts for the year in an afternoon.

Different accounting standards are required from accounting software dependent upon the fitness for purpose and client needs. Double entry bookkeeping automated through a database system and probably arranged in financial modules would normally be the choice of the majority of public companies. Single entry bookkeeping would not be an acceptable accounting solution for a limited company due to audit requirements and statutory obligations.

Single entry bookkeeping does however have its place in the market place for the smaller less complex businesses who maintain financial control through a close intimate knowledge of every financial transaction. The main objective of a sole trader is more likely to be the production of the tax accounts and complete the periodic and annual tax return forms.

The most sophisticated level of accounting software in the largest companies mirrors the accounting functions in those organisations with various financial modules for accounts receivable, accounts payable, stock control, general ledger and fixed assets. These accounting modules may also be integrated with non accounting functions such as production and dispatch functions and also divided into separate modules within the accounting function.

In larger companies the sales daybook and data entry of sales turnover would often be the responsibility of one department while the accounts receivable function might be split with a specialist credit control function within that accounting module. A further division may also include sales administration and customer records. Similarly the accounts payable function might be split between the purchasing department, accounts purchase invoice department and a legal function for overdue payments.

Accounting software for smaller companies and organisations is commonly a system of data entry of prime transactions which include sales income, purchase expenses and cash and bank transactions. The prime entry of these documents being to a database which automates the double entry accounting principles and produces both accounts receivable, accounts payable and general ledger databases.

Some accounting knowledge is usually required tom operate a database accounting software system and that financial knowledge is usually available within the company as most companies that use database accounting software also employ a bookkeeper or accounts clerks to input data and in slightly larger small companies also qualified accountants to manage the accounting function.

The need for accounting knowledge in a database system is partially to understand the data entry principles and the relevancy of the rules that need to be followed but essentially understanding of accounting principles is required to understand what is happening ton the information after input. And most important, a qualified accountant has the financial knowledge, training and experience to know what the system should be producing and how to query the database to retrieve that information.

In addition to inputting the prime income and expenditure details the most benefit of a database accounting system is the level of financial control the information it contains can provide the company management and financial directorship. The accounting function also has the security of producing trial balances, periodic profit and loss accounts, balance sheets and other financial and statements for tax and control purposes.

Accounting software packages requiring little or no accounting knowledge are available.

Small limited companies must obtain accounting software based upon double entry accounting principles as in addition to producing a profit and loss account and a trial balance to demonstrate accuracy and integrity of the financial records plus a balance sheet is required for reporting purposes. Accounting standards require the limited company to have a system of financial control and accounting software is an essential tool in achieving this.

Some accounting knowledge either from the management or outsourcing the bookkeeping services is usually required with even the simplest database accounting solutions eve3n if this requires the understanding of what accounts receivable ledgers, accounts payable ledger and control accounts mean.

There are other possibilities and those businesses with a minimum of accounting knowledge can consider spreadsheet based accounting software. Accounting software compiled from spreadsheets is less flexible and often does not have the range of options a database system has due to the lack of database queries available. These disadvantages of flexibility being compensated by the fact that all entries are visible, transparent and changes can be made more easily.

Financially at the sole trader and self employed end of the business spectrum then the requirements from accounting software may be completely different. Gone are the sophistications of control accounts, trial balances and many aspects of financial control. The most important aspect of self employed accounting software is often to produce a set of accounts for tax purposes.

Self employed small business that do not require a balance sheet can use accounting software based upon single entry bookkeeping rather than double entry and with the reduced requirement for financial control then less financial queries to the system are required. In these respects the simpler an accounting solution the better and in this market an accounting solution written on spreadsheets that can produce the net taxable profit would meet the requirements.

About Author :

Terry Cartwright, CEO DIY Accounting, a qualified accountant designs UK Accounting Software on excel spreadsheets and Payroll Software for small to medium sized business providing a complete accounting solution and also supplies Company Formation packages for new limited liability companies .

Monday, February 11, 2008

Squitiro says campaign fund discrepancy is a bookkeeping problem

Mayor Mark Funkhouser’s campaign treasurer — his wife, Gloria Squitiro — acknowledged Wednesday that the couple should have kept a closer eye on how campaign funds were accounted for.

But Squitiro said it’s wrong to conclude that $80,000 is missing from the campaign’s accounts, despite a discrepancy found in spending reports revealed by The Kansas City Star.

“We should have stayed on top of it and we didn’t,” Squitiro said. “That’s completely our fault.”

Squitiro added that she was certain the discrepancies would quickly be reconciled. “I know this will all come out in the wash, because there’s nothing improper,” she said.

However, Squitiro said the bookkeeping problems extend beyond the most recent report. An accountant working as a volunteer for the campaign is trying to reconcile the entire campaign’s finances, which totaled more than $390,000.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Your February tax to-do list

Don't rush to file -- you may end up regretting it

Eager for the stimulus-package rebate, taxpayers are filing tax returns prematurely. One taxpayer in South Dakota filed his tax return, got his refund -- and then received another W-2. Sure, that's one filing strategy, but it's fraught with error.

Slow down. The rebates aren't coming anytime soon. The IRS still has to tool up. See full story.

You have plenty of time to wait for all your W-2s and 1099s. You even have time to wait for the second round of correct 1099s from the brokerages and investment houses, which send out the first round just to comply with the January 31 deadline.

What can you do in the meantime? Consider these seven to-do items.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Is Your Tax Preparer Lawful?

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb 07, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Every year thousands of Californians fall prey to tax scams or misinformation. The California Tax Education Council (CTEC) has the most common scenarios to help you separate fact from fiction.

Scenario #1: The preparer can only offer years of experience, client references or a college degree as his/her professional qualifications

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

TxDOT makes $1 billion accounting error

In a Texas Senate hearing Tuesday, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) came under fire from legislators for a $1 billion oversight department officials admitted to making.

TxDOT officials told legislators the agency had made a $1.1 billion accounting error by counting some proceeds from bond sales twice. That mistake means TxDOT committed to road projects it couldn't actually take on.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tax advisor shortage: US returns prepared in India

As many as 360,000 US tax returns were prepared in India in 2006, according to a report prepared by Pune-based ValueNotes, a leading provider of business intelligence and research.

The report says that at least 1.6 million returns will be prepared in India by 2011, but adds that this estimate is quite conservative and the potential is much larger at 22 million returns per year by 2011.

Actual offshoring could be limited by CPA firms' (US's Certified Public Accountant) inhibitions about outsourcing the work to India, but competitive pressures could force many more firms to offshore, the report says.

Glen Keenan, president of Xpitax, a facilitating outfit, says: "The whole outsourcing business requires a shift in thinking for the CPA firms, so comfort factor has to be really high in order to do that."

The accounting and audit services are relatively new in offshoring and are gradually gaining maturity with each passing tax season. Unlike other services, which are traditionally outsourced due to cost pressures, the demand for tax returns offshoring stems from the lack of accountants and excessive workload during the 'tax season.'

The number of CPAs and other qualified accountants in the US are just not enough to meet the increasing demand from increasing tax compliance, Sarbanes--Oxley related work, estate planning, advisories, et cetera. The demand-supply mismatch has led to severe competition for experienced accountants and salaries are skyrocketting, even at starting levels.

CPA firms are discovering that offshored tax returns are not only turned around faster, but are also 40% to 60% cheaper. CPA firms after initial success with tax returns preparation is slowly sending more work offshore: bookkeeping, financial statements analysis, etc.

ValueNotes CEO Arun Jethmalani says: "The industry will quickly move beyond 1040s. Both the vendors and buyers are at an inflection point on the maturity graph, and we expect tax returns preparation will drive penetration into a wider range of offshored professional accounting services."

The Indian offshore services provider landscape consists of captives of the Big Four audit firms (KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and Touch, and Ernst & Young), American facilitating firms / agencies (Xpitax, SurePrep, CCH, IFR), Tier-1 multi-service BPOs (MphasiS, Datamatics, OPI), Tier-2 BPOs (PB Tech Impact Solutions, Cosmic Internet Technologies) and F&A BPOs owned/ controlled by Indian chartered accountants (GKM Management Services, Business Accounting Services, Accountant Anywhere, Enablizer).

Pratibha K, analyst at ValueNotes, feels that "facilitators like Xpitax and SurePrep are best positioned to service CPA firms, while Indian CA BPOs are well placed to operate as complete back-offices for accounting firms."

Based on the analysis that included extensive primary research, ValueNotes picked three winners from the current crop of vendors: Xpitax, GKM Management Services and Business Accounting Services.

Karthikeyan, managing director, GKM Management Services, says, "As chartered accountants, we feel our biggest advantage is that we can speak the global language of accounting with the CPAs. We feel this is a good differentiating factor for us compared to the large corporate vendors. CPAs are bound to trust us more than the tech companies because of our common accounting background."

The ValueNotes report 'Offshoring Tax Return Preparation to India' -- said that tax return preparation will also set the stage for other accounting services to be sent to India.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Tax tip: Finding a new tax professional takes some effort

I have used the services of the same tax specialist at the local tax office of a national chain for years. She has now retired and I am not nearly as confident that her replacement is as competent. What should I do?

You are clearly in the market for a new tax professional. Before you begin your search, you should ask yourself what you want from your service provider.

At minimum, you will want competent, timely tax preparation to legally minimize your tax liability. You should also be looking for someone who keeps current with new laws and offers fair billing and accessibility for your questions.

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Hiring Good at Accounting Firms

While U.S. markets are getting squeezed and Wall Street firms hand out pink slips by the hundreds, accounting firms are expected to buck the hiring trend.

The Big Four accounting firms plan to hire roughly the same number _ or more _ of interns and entry-level employees for 2008 as they did last year. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers' 2008 job outlook survey, accounting is the No. 1 bachelor's degree in demand by employers.

Fortunately for these firms, the number of undergraduate and graduate-level accounting majors keeps rising.

"It's often the case that accounting hiring is countercyclical to the strength of the economy," said Ira Solomon, head of the department of accountancy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"It's not the case that as the economy goes down, the demand for accountants goes down," he said. At Solomon's school, ranked second among college accounting programs by U.S. News & World Report, the number of undergraduate and graduate accounting students rose 27 percent in the past two years to 653 students.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Is the financial services sector finally warming to BPO?

My interest has been piqued by the recent announcement of Sunlife of Canada outsourcing its UK customer services operation to TCS's Diligenta subsidiary in a $200m deal. This comes hot on the heels of some financial services captive buy-outs in India. The financial services sector has long been the problem child of the BPO industry, with operational executives extremely reluctant to relinquish control over business processes - especially finance and accounting. As I have said on record several times, it will only take a few big deals to hit and many others will follow in a domino effect. Bottom-line, the large BPO providers have capacity and are willing to invest in clients to gain an edge in this market. Most of the near-term deals will more likely be captive acquisitions like the two mentioned above, but this is the clear strategy some of the providers are following to build out a global delivery infrastructure.

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