Shifting Trends in the Accounting Profession with Dan DeLau (Part 1)

Hosts & Guests

Tram Le, State and Local Tax Senior Manager

Meredith Smith, State and Local Tax Senior Manager

Daniel DeLau, former co-founder of TaxOps and Associate Professor of Accounting at Colorado Christian University


Meredith Smith: Hello everyone. It's another episode of SALTovation. We have a special guest host with us today. Tram is here in place of Judy, and we're going to kind of pivot a little bit and talk about, maybe not so much super tax focused, but some related pieces. Tram has very relevant kind of insight into that.
For our conversation today with Dan Delay, the law amongst his accolades, he was a founding partner of TaxOps. So, Dan, thank you for being with us today.
[00:00:47] Dan DeLau: Well, you're quite welcome. I look forward to the discussion.
[00:00:50] Meredith Smith: Yes. And so, you have seen it. You were Big Four, EY, came to TaxOps as a founding partner, and then you went in house, did huge international tax for a very, very large, well-known company, and now you are in academia.
So, what are, some of the highlights you would say from your accounting background that have shaped your views as a professional in all of those capacities?
[00:01:27] Dan DeLau: The first thought that I have [00:01:30] is, you know, over the last, uh, 35 plus years, uh, the, the, the term that comes to mind is globalization. I think there's been a significant change in, uh, business over the last, uh, few decades and. I, I can summarize that with globalization and to a large extent that was, uh, uh, facilitated by the internet.
Uh, so, uh, for example, we've got businesses now that can [00:02:00] operate out of their home, but have an extensive reach, not only within their local community. But in a variety of other states, if not a variety of other countries. And so, there's been a significant move in globalization over the last few decades, but that in turn has created more complexities as well as a whole host of changes in tax laws.
That have been put in place to respond to that globalization, uh, co [00:02:30] complexities associated with accounting principles that have been implemented and changes in tax loss. So, for example, you've got that little company maybe based in Colorado, that working out of their home, but now they have a more global reach.
A number of years ago, they didn't have to be concerned too much about, uh, sales and use taxes. But we've had a change in tax law with, with respect to the Supreme Court case of, uh, [00:03:00] Wayfair, and that has put a whole host of additional requirements. On these smaller organizations, which never had to contemplate, do I have sales tax liability in some other state?
Well, now they do. And that added complexity has just added to the additional requirements of, of individuals that are familiar with that to be able to advise and, uh, is leaving open to exposure, uh, liabilities to these small [00:03:30] organizations don't, that don't recognize the tax implications that. Uh, getting into because of their operations, because of these changes in laws.
[00:03:40] Meredith Smith: No, exactly. And it's, it's like you knew that you were on a, a podcast called Cultivation. With that answer, do you find with some of your students that. It might be easier to explain some of that because it, like, [00:04:00] it feels more tangible to them where they see maybe potential like sales tax showing up on invoices or you know, do you see any of that?
You know, kind of. Wide kind of view of kind of like marketplaces and all that, something that like your students can relate to or make sense of versus kind of this kind of, more of like an overarching [00:04:30] thing of like, oh, well, a tax provision, you're talking about deferred and or, you know, and current expenses and all that, that this seems more tangible to, to the youth
[00:04:39] Tram Le: out there,
[00:04:41] Dan DeLau: one of the, uh, focuses we have at our university and that I.
I, I really try to bring into the classroom is the practical application associated with, uh, all of these rules and tax laws and so forth. So, [00:05:00] uh, it's not just a nebulous conversation about. Oh, we've got to pay sales and use tax. But let's get into the nitty gritty and talk about what does that physically look like.
Let's pull up an actual, I was doing bank reconciliations in my fundamental accounting class this morning, and so it's, let's actually pull up a, an example of what the bank statement actually looks like and why we have outstanding checks, because some of these students. Don't bother reconciling their own account.
They're just [00:05:30] using a debit card and it comes out and they never really know how much is in there, so there is no reconciliation. And so, uh, uh, but very, from a very practical standpoint, trying to work with them and make sure that they understand when you get out into business, these are the, uh, particular procedures and processes that are put in place to maintain control and to ensure the integrity of our overall financial state.
[00:05:56] Tram Le: Yeah, and I, and I think Dan, I see I [00:06:00] actually teach state and local tax to masters of tax students at, uh, the University of Texas at Arlington. And I definitely see an awareness you know, it's an elective class to, to all these students, but there is definitely an awareness of, you know, the globalization, right?
Like they get the internet, they grew up in. Internet age. And when I bring up the word marketplace, a lot of them the light bulb comes on and they talk about, oh yeah, is like Etsy [00:06:30] a marketplace because I have an account. It's almost like, yes, you already get it. My goal when I'm, you know, teaching or speaking to these students is to help them identify those issues associated with this new globalization.
You know how the business world works and interacts now,
[00:06:50] Dan DeLau: Absolutely. I think the more practical application that we can present to the students, it's going to put them in a better position to, to apply [00:07:00] those concepts once they get out and enter into the business world.
[00:07:06] Meredith Smith: Now I think, you know, there's been some articles, some publications maybe, you know, both Dan, you and Tram have seen this from like an enrollment perspective.
You know, do you think maybe kind of this real-world application that you can see might bring people back into the accounting profession? Maybe, probably not. Who knows? . [00:07:30]
[00:07:30] Dan DeLau: We would like to hope that that's the case. I, but I, on, on, on the alternative, I would say that some of these complexities are driving some people away from the profession.
The fact that there are, so many changes in laws, so many complexities that have to be dealt with. Some people just don't want to deal with that. And so, uh, they would. Pay somebody else to, to, to figure that out, which is great for [00:08:00] consultants in the accounting and, and tax realm. But at the same time, it's at the detriment of a situation where we don't have as many people going into accounting to begin with, to focus on those particular areas.
[00:08:16] Tram Le: I completely agree. It's more of a barrier to enter into the profession because it is more complicated and more difficult to achieve, you know, some of those career goals and aspirations [00:08:30] when things are a lot more complicated. And quite honestly the numbers are not in our favor with, you know, fewer enrollments.
So, it's like the smaller, the population, the fear you. Of those students who actually choose to go into accounting. And so definitely I've seen a big slash in enrollment. I've been teaching for six years now at the university, so I've seen enrollment like in just my class decline over like 50%.
Really? [00:09:00] Yeah.
[00:09:02] Dan DeLau: Yeah, and I think there's a variety of reasons for declining enrollment. I mean, if you look at it's not something that's happened just in the last six years. It's happened over the last 20 or 30 years, and I think there's a variety of reasons for that. One of them is if you look at the traits of, uh, of a good accountant, it's things like good time management skills, tension to [00:09:30] detail, good organization, right?
Those are all good traits of an accountant, and those actually are the same traits that are important for somebody that wants to focus in computer, computer information systems. And so, Over the last 20 or 30 years, we have people that maybe historically would've gone into accounting, but now they have this whole other world of Computer Information Systems (CIS) that's available to them.
And so that is pulling [00:10:00] people away from accounting because it's those same traits that we want to have within the accounting profession as well. And so, they're getting pulled over into CIS. So, I think that's one of the reasons why we have less people going into accounting. Uh, I don't think that the 150-hour requirement for CPAs is beneficial for getting more people.
I, I agree that it makes sense. To have 150 hour requirement, [00:10:30] we want our CPAs to be trusted business advisors, and in order to be a trusted business advisor, we need the, the, uh, accounting, uh, background, uh, that you receive within an undergraduate degree in accounting, but also we want those additional business classes to make a well-rounded, trusted business advisor.
And so, I agree with the 150 hours, but [00:11:00] I think it's also a limitation for some individuals. Because again, I can go into CIS and I don't have to have 150 hours to make a good career in the CIS side, but that is what I need if I want to go into become a, a certified public accountant. Right.
[00:11:18] Meredith Smith: It's kind of like a mandatory fifth year, a mandatory extra $30,000 or whatever.
Yep. The price of. You know, the, the cost of a year of schooling [00:11:30] is right. And
[00:11:31] Dan DeLau: Meredith, I think it's even worse because I've got students that come in and they're like, Hey. I don't, I don't even want to be here for four years. I'm only going to be here for three years, you know, and do whatever classes I need to take to get my 120 hours and graduate.
Yep. So that I can get out and I can avoid a whole year of education. Well, if that's the case, I mean, a lot of the students that I see, uh, that go into [00:12:00] my fundamental accounting class, it's not until their sophomore year. And so, they're taking that fundamental accounting class their sophomore year. Well, I've got another, at least another eight or nine classes just in accounting that they need to take in order to graduate with an accounting major.
And there's just not enough time if they want to fulfill their requirement within a three-year period.
[00:12:22] Tram Le: Yeah. So, Dan, are you also seeing this is what in Texas, what we've been talking about in terms of, [00:12:30] you know, this, the, the limitations and then also other options for students. I mean, you know, some of the competing.
Fields are going to be the finance even or even data analytics where they don't need that extra year of education. And then in Texas we have that one 50, but I think most states have allowed candidates to, to sit, when they've had 120 hours. But then that's true. But then become certified at one 50.
But in Texas, [00:13:00] we are still at one 50. Oh, even to take the. Correct. And so, I mean, that's even, you know, a. Another big hurdle
[00:13:09] Dan DeLau: that's, think that's a, that's another limitation, ex. Yeah. Yes. I, I think you're right. I think a lot of states allow you to take the exam after you've finished your undergraduate degree, 20, right.
And continue to work towards, you know, your, your extra 30 hours. And then again, some states require a master's in accounting. Other states say, [00:13:30] I just need 150 hours. Uh, so we've got a program here. For example, you can get your whole 150 within a four-year period. You're working pretty hard. You're taking maybe 1821 credits every semester.
You're doing something over the summer, but it is possible mm-hmm. , uh, to limit that cost. But at the same time, it's. Hurdle that a number of individuals don't want to have to overcome in order to [00:14:00] excel in the profession. And so, I think that's another reason for, uh, the, the decline in individuals. Uh, I think the other one is, and something we really need to, to work on is, I've got a handful of individuals that come into the university knowing that they're going to be an accounting major.
Uh, really my only, I have to put on my sales hat and really try to entice them to pull the trigger on an accounting major, but they're not going to [00:14:30] know that until after they've taken that first, uh, fundamental accounting class. And so, I put on my sales hat, and I talk about the benefits associated with the profession.
For many of them, they, for many of them that ultimately become an accounting major, they do have those traits, those organizational skills, the communication skills, attention to detail and so forth, and they just get it and they're like, I can do this. [00:15:00] I. It's kind of like a big puzzle sometimes. So, they like putting the different pieces together and using their critical thinking skills in order to, uh, come up with the, the, the answer.
And for many of them, that's engaging to them and they like that. Uh, and if I can get them from going into cis, then they can be a good accounting major. I mean, ultimately, I want them to go into. They need to go into and what's going to be best for their careers. But at [00:15:30] the same time, I want to make sure that they understand what the benefits of participating in a, uh, the accounting profession can provide to them.
[00:15:41] Tram Le: Yeah, no, I, I mean, I definitely see, and I'm, I'm not sure if you are one of the few or maybe one of the many. Professors, accounting professors who are kind of the career mentors for students, because I mean, I think a lot of the times, you know, when you're younger people talk [00:16:00] about different careers and like they want to become a lawyer or they want to become a doctor or a firefighter or, you know, some of these other more known careers.
But then, in terms of becoming an accountant, I, I felt like I was recruited by. He was my advisor in undergrad, and he happened to be an accounting professor who encouraged me to go into this path Other. I'm not sure if I would be in this field, if, if not, but, but for that professor who, who did the career [00:16:30] mentoring for me.
[00:16:34] Dan DeLau: So, I don't know if, if that's what you're seeing too or if  I, all of the professors here try to focus on, let's look at their capabilities. Do we think that they would be good and could excel mm-hmm. in the accounting world? And if so, let's have a conversation with them. Let's explore the avenue and see whether they're interested in pursuing, uh, an accounting degree.
Uh, I've got. Spreadsheets and so forth. I can lay it [00:17:00] all out for them. Here's, here's what that timeline looks like. Here's what's going to have to be required. Here's what you need in order to become a certified public accountant. Uh, going through all of the requirements there. So, I lay it all out and I tell them, look, it's a lot of work, right?
I mean, there's a lot to get done and then we've got the CPA exams.[00:17:30]

Topics Discussed in this Episode:

  • How globalization and the internet have changed tax laws 
  • The decline in accounting enrollment over the past 30 years
  • Present-day hurdles to excelling in accounting and tax law

What You Will Discover:

  • [01:44] Daniel DeLau on globalization
  • [07:35] Complexities in the accounting profession
  • [13:10] State-by-state requirements for obtaining an accounting degree


  • “There are a majority of reasons we have seen a decline in the profession over the last twenty to thirty years. One of them is if you look at the traits of a good accountant they have good time management skills, pay attention to detail, and have good organizational skills. Those are the same traits that are important for someone who wants to focus in computer information systems.” – Daniel DeLau [09:13]
  • “In finance and data analytics students don’t need that extra year of education. In Texas, we require one hundred and fifty hours, but in most states candidates need one hundred and twenty hours to sit and take the accounting exam. It is another big hurdle.” – Tram Le [12:38]
  • “I have to put on my sales hat and entice students to pull the trigger on an accounting major today. I talk to them about the benefits associated with the profession but many of them ultimately have those critical thinking skills you need and they just get it. It is like a puzzle to them and they enjoy solving it.” – Daniel DeLau [14:19]
  • “I think when you are younger people talk about different careers. But in terms of becoming an accountant, I feel I was recruited by my advisor in undergrad who was an accounting professor. He encouraged me to take this path and I’m not sure I would be in this field if it wasn’t for career mentorship.” – Tram Le [15:48]

Relevant Links:

  • TaxOps Home –