Thinking It's Time To Leave Big4

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    Hi all,

    Just a little background about me. I started at a Big 4 firm in the midwest working in SALT a year ago. When I first started it was busy season so I helped out a lot on income tax compliance which I actually enjoyed. Once thing's began to slow down I started to get more indirect tax work (property and sales and use). At first I didn't mind this work because I didn't know much about it and was eager to learn. As this past year progressed my interest for it started to fade. I started to look at exit opportunities and it seems like there is not many. I had expressed that I would like to get more income tax work to management countless times and each time was assured I would get some and as the months progressed I have yet to see any income tax work. I am now in a position where I have zero work given to me and am at the office for 8 hours a day pretty much just studying for my last exam (REG) which isn't all that bad but at the same time not excelling my career at all. My performance reviews were pretty solid for a first year associate so I am not sure why I have virtually been cut off of all work as nobody has really given me purely negative feedback on my work.

    I know this a long post, but I guess what I am asking the dojo is what is your advice? If I am being frank with everyone, at this point I am trying to maximize my income as much as possible and just from a high level search, I can definitely make more going to industry but the goal when I went into accounting was to open my own firm. Do you think going to industry is the wisest move or finding a small CPA practice that will give me the option to buy in as a partner in the near future is the better rout. Any advice is appreciated as I am feeling VERY defeated right now.

    AUD - 76
    BEC - 75
    FAR - 77
    REG - 81
    "No need to worry, my accountant handles that" - The Notorious B.I.G.


    Let me say upfront, I know nothing about mid-west nor the big 4. Here are a few points to consider:

    1. We know you want to open an accounting firm, but have you already decided that you want to spend your life on SALT, property tax or sales tax? The private market is not very big in these and you will have to have lots of clients (unless your client is BIG).

    2 Have you consider switching out of tax? Or relocate to another Big 4 (or another HQ)? What is your current ranking in the Big 4? If you are kinda new (3 years or less), switching out might get you high pay, but if you are not at least rank 2 or semi-management, your new boss might not value your Big 4 exp that heavy. We hired someone switched out from Big 4 with 3 years of audit exp, give her good salary, then discovered that she can't even handle an audit on her own. She's also not fit for regular accounting work, and her teammate give her a negative evaluation under the table (on her promotion or rank up as manager).

    3. It's a rumor (in north east) that if they don't want you there, or want to remove you, they will give you no work and perfect evaluation, to switch you out. If this is not the case, have you actually think what your senior wants? Maybe you and the senior are not on the same goal / target? Sometimes complaining doesn't work. Boss get annoyed if you just keep complaining, they don't even want to see you. I try to talk to my staff and find ways to work with them, but if they just keep complaining regardless, after 3 attempts I kinda just let them be.

    NY - License Approved December 2020.

    Professional firms, especially behemoths like the Big 4, are about not only client relationships, but (perhaps more importantly) managing relationships with others in the firm. It probably wasn't a great idea to express discontent with your assigned duties so often, especially at your rank. We're all replaceable, and you sometimes have to do work you don't like. It would have been better to develop relationships with a few Managers or Senior Managers in income tax (SALT or otherwise) and express your interest and offer your assistance from time to time, or ask them if they'd go out for a coffee with you to learn more about what they do. But that's okay, you didn't know, and you can do things differently next time.

    If what I described sounds terrible to you, then an industry job might be better for you. Otherwise, since you still have good reviews, it might be a good idea to pass REG and then apply to other firms. (not necessarily Big 4 if you hate it) Certainly, if you want to become a partner in an accounting firm down the road (or open your own firm), public accounting experience will be necessary, and you'll need to slog to at least Manager with a few years experience, more realistically Senior Manager, before you get a sniff at partnership at even a very small firm. Also, if that is your ultimate career goal, it would probably be more important to get into a PCS practice and get experience working with small businesses and individuals on a wide range of issues rather than trying to be selective about what kind of tax work you do.

    AUD - 79
    BEC - 88
    FAR - 89
    REG - 80
    Manager, Big 4 Corporate Finance, CPA (WA)

    My advice is to be patient. You are one year into your career and in the grand scheme of it all it is not that much time, but a blip – I don't say that to seem demeaning in any way. I am 36 years old and I know that when I was young I wanted everything to happen all at once. I wanted all of the opportunities that interested me come my way. It doesn't always work that way. Sometimes we get derailed off the path we decided for ourselves. If your ultimate goal is to own your own firm/practice you know that you need to become an expert at all things tax. Big 4 positions you to look at very complex matters on a large scale, with a lot of resources to back you up. It is a good place to start. When youre in your first year you just have to accept that the things you want won't always go your way. You have to be flexible. It maybe that on one of these detours you take you find a different passion or ambition. You need to demonstrate the flexibility to meet the demands of the firm first. Ultimately, the end goal is to have your own shop. I would eventually go to a smaller firm. The smaller firm will give you a higher volume of different cases, maybe not as complex as big 4, but you will have a lot more traffic of work/exposure/diversity. Just be patient. No matter what you're on you're still learning and growing as a professional.

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