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Presented By: Kevin P. Suhanic
August 15, 2003
You would think that three years of school, half a dozen accounting classes and about thirty business courses would prepare someone pretty well for an accounting internship. While I will admit that I may have missed a few classes, I doubt that is why my time at Cohen & Company taught me more about accounting and business than anything I have taken in school. I worked on tax research. I worked on large, complicated tax returns. I helped audit a non-profit and a 401K plan. I worked on litigation support projects. I helped pick software for a niche project. I had a huge variety of experiences and was fortunate to get the opportunity to work with so many different (and extremely talented) people. But the most important part of all this is that I was asked to do important tasks and given challenging assignments across this broad spectrum of experiences. That is what sets Cohen apart for me, and it is what made my internship special – Cohen & Company will challenge you to take on as much as you can, even if it means making mistakes the first time around. With little over a week under my belt at Cohen, Steve Wank took me out on a 401K plan audit where I tested to make sure the plan had accurate records of participants and had followed the plan document in allocations, loans and other issues. I asked Steve a lot of questions about why we did certain things, and even more questions that had nothing to do with the part I was working on at all. Each time Steve made sure I understood his answers, and that I grasped the whole process instead of just telling me how to do my part. As we worked, issues came up that needed the controller’s clarification, and after our first set of questions, Steve just told me to go ask about any issues I had on my own. I thought it was really trusting of him to let the new intern just ask what I felt was appropriate, and while it may shock those with cubes near mine, I became a bit unsure about myself raising issues about the plan with a controller who had nearly forty years in age on me.
I also was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to do substantial work on a non-profit audit with Kathleen Murphy and Darcy Aldous, and I completed significant portions of the audit program, especially on the assets portion. It was really neat to work on a small entity, because I really got a feel for how each part of the financial statements gets audited, assets & liabilities, revenue and expenses. This audit really helped me get the “big picture” as to what auditors do. I also worked with Kathleen on HUD compliance filings, which at first seemed like boring data entry, but I soon had to learn a lot about government grants and subsidized housing as Darcy explained the changes that had to be made. Yet again I found myself learning quite a bit about a topic that I knew nothing about before coming to Cohen! Another assignment that I spent considerable time on was doing Personal Property Tax (PPT) returns, which sharpened my balance sheet skills and taught me about the different types of property that businesses held. I also picked up some miscellaneous PPT’s later on, because I was so familiar with doing them in Accountware. Most of the ones I did later in the summer were for companies with little or no taxable personal property, and they never exceeded the $10,000 minimum deduction. When I saw the new Ohio Tax Bill repealed the filing requirement for companies whose property did not exceed this minimum deduction, I thought it was very smart to reduce this unnecessary paperwork and cost to companies. It was a rare thing for me to see a change in filing requirements have a direct effect on my life. (Although the sales tax increase has had a lot more effect on my checkbook.) During a few weeks things got kind of slow, and Kevin Noss gave Tricia and I a project involving researching State of Ohio business tax incentives and loan programs. While it did not seem to be a great assignment when it was given, I think it was a good exercise because in the
future I might work with a client and with the knowledge I have gained I may be able to help them find ways to save taxes or procure financing through some niche program. Another project I worked on for Radhika Reddy and Annette Stevenson was reviewing loan software for the New Markets Tax Credit Program. I had to interact with various vendors and express concerns about their programs, explain what we needed to salespeople who would call, and finally express an opinion about what I felt was the best option. In the interim, I also learned quite a bit about what Radhika does, and began to realize the possible cost savings and efficiency gains that could be made by clients outsourcing services or buying materials from overseas. I really think that Cohen international could be a tremendous asset in the future, because as time passes the world only becomes more integrated. Also, as more companies become involved in international trade, we as accountants can provide a lot of valuable services, especially in the areas of currency risks and credit evaluation. Cohen International may help to bolster the ‘I’ in SQIF into the next decade. The Tax Department also supplied me with several learning opportunities this summer. Mike Harding gave me a great assignment when he presented me a thick tax file, and told me to do an 1120S, FT-1120, 1139, and local returns. While I had read about carryforwards and carrybacks in my tax class, I had little idea how these were actually used to generate refunds. Mike just let me take a crack at it and see what I could figure out, which probably created a ton of headaches for me, but it gave me the opportunity to really understand the forms and I also learned Go System Tax pretty well, albeit by trial-and-error. Mike made sure I wasn’t totally lost, but he let me learn my own way, and that really helped me understand both where the numbers come from and how moving different numbers to different places affected the amount of tax. It was a great learning experience for me, and though I may have bit off more than I
could chew in trying to do the form 1139 to utilize the NOL carryback, I know a lot more about corporate income taxes just from doing this one return (Maybe it has to do with the fact it took me two and a half days also.) I also worked on some odds and ends as an intern, notably converting our depreciation files from FAS to CSI for the Mentor Office. Matt Griswold also took me along to an inventory observation for a Baker Tilly Affiliate, where I met Guy, the warehouse manager and also a shipping manager. A few weeks later I volunteered to sell programs at Harborfest to benefit the Rotary Club of Cleveland (Mike Harding brought me the opportunity, and I still think I outsold him ... but I digress) and I again met Guy, the warehouse manager and we talked for several minutes about his daughter learning how to golf and some other stuff we had talked about when I was at the client. It was a minor event, but I could tell he thought it nice that I remembered he was taking his daughter golfing after the inventory. This made me realize how important relationships are in business, and how a personal connection or a chance encounter could potentially lead to a business relationship. My internship was not all work and no play though. The events and opportunities Marla put together were well planned, well executed, and very beneficial to me personally. The journal was a good idea not so much that I wanted to write what I had been doing in there, but that it made me think about my weeks as a whole and get some perspective, rather than be upset at something I screwed up on Monday and happy about something I did right on Wednesday. Our intern meetings were also a good way to see if I was having the same successes and failures as the other interns. The social side of Cohen & Company was perhaps the biggest surprise to me. Recruiting material had talked about how the employees cared about each other and had fun doing things
together, but many firms would make such claims. I found that these were not just tag lines in a glossy brochure, but rather they were real relationships between the people who fill our offices. I enjoyed the softball games, happy hours and the like not because people went to these company events, but because people WANTED to go to these events. Our events, planned or spontaneous, really made me feel like I fit in here, that Cohen was sort of an extended family. That is the kind of thing is not reflected in one’s salary or office size – but rather it is reflected in the mirror, because people smile when they are happy to go to work at Cohen & Company. I found myself happy to go to work each day, and with my college lifestyle I would not have believed that was possible, but our people made it possible. As I proofread and revised this paper, I recognized that I demonstrated poor English by changing perspective from “I” to “Our” in the middle of this paper. But as I went to change it, I realized that perhaps that transition represents the transition that I made while working here. Initially Cohen was just an accounting firm that I worked at, sometimes on good projects, sometimes on bad. But as I worked more closely with the people here, I began to realize that we were something special. That we would get as many opportunities as our hearts desire and our skills could meet. I realized that our culture was what set us apart, and that the greatest assets Cohen & Company, Ltd. held were not on the books, but rather in the seats.
Heilind Electronics\Baker Tilly - Inventory Observation Tax returns Harding tax NMTC FAS-CSI
NOFT Tour West Side Market Visit Cedar Point??? Happy Hour Softball Games Interviews
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