Founder Thoughts

Common Form Teams Up With LawnStarter

Common Form has teamed up with tech startup LawnStarter to provide tax preparation software for lawn care companies and landscapers. “Common Form is a huge value add for these guys. They work 60 hour weeks mowing lawns and trimming bushes so our homes can look nice. A 5 minute tax solution is perfect for them” says COO Ryan Farley. Looking for lawn care service here in town? Check out their San Diego lawn care page to learn about the services they provide.

The Top 10 Accounting Schools in the South

  Recently, some folks here at Common Form Tax Software began a virtual journey across the U.S. to find the top accounting schools in each region of the country. As a follow up to our previous rankings of the The Top 10 Accounting Schools on the East Coast, the West, and the Midwest, we are proud to present Top 10 Accounting Schools in the South.


The criteria used to evaluate these schools include:

  • Job placement rates and average starting salary for graduates
  • Awards and recognition
  • Faculty and staff
  • Funds generated and allocated for research


Our fingers still stained with BBQ sauce, we present to you the very best that the South has to offer in accounting education, The Top 10 Accounting Schools in the South.



10. University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Haslam College of Business Administration


University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Haslam College of Business Administration logo


Starting us off at #10 on our list is The Haslam College of Business Administration at University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Tennessee, the birthplace of the blues and the home of Jack Daniels, is known for excellence and Haslam College of Business is no exception. The Haslam school ranked 24th in the Public Accounting Report. The Master of Accountancy program at University of Tennessee prides itself on their commitment to improving the world. Graduates of the Accountancy program find themselves receiving offers from the Big Four accounting firms and other notable companies. There is a 90% placement rate for its graduate accounting students, with expected mid-career average earnings of $77,000. Alumni become a Vol for Life, being inducted into the network that spans the globe.



9. University of Alabama, Culverhouse School of Accountancy


University of Alabama, Culverhouse School of Accountancy logo


The University of Alabama’s Culverhouse School of Accountancy has rolled in at a very respectable 9th on our rankings. Culverhouse is no stranger to being in the top 10, as it has found its way onto TaxTalent’s top 10 rankings as well. The University of Alabama is one of the oldest and largest institutions of higher education in the state. Culverhouse offers a Master of Accountancy with a strong mentor program that provides valuable networking opportunities, coaching, and often leads to job offers. Upon graduation 91% of students find themselves gainfully employed with a mid-career salary of $ 74,000. Roll Tide!



8. University of Virginia, McIntire School of Commerce

University of Virginia, McIntire School of Commerce logo

Coming in at #8 is the University of Virginia, McIntire School of Commerce. We aren’t the only ones who think they're stellar. TaxTalent ranked them 6th in their top 10, and Public Accounting Report has them ranked 23rd nationally. One facet of the program that sets McIntire apart is The Galant Center for Entrepreneurship. Founded in 2008 by proud alumnus Mark E. Galant, their mission is "to encourage, educate, and empower students—past and present— to take on crucial roles in the new venture community, thereby impacting the world in which we live and creating value of all kinds.” 95% of the graduates of the School of Commerce find employment with average Mid-career earnings of $112,000. Wah-hoo-wah UVA!



7. Wake Forest University, School of Business

Wake Forest University logo

Our 7th place pick is a prestigious private school located in North Carolina, Wake Forest University’s School of Business.  Wake Forest University distinguishes itself by providing a small class size and a high faculty to student ratio. Wake Forest professors found that More Female Executives Means Less Tax Evasion, research that was featured in Bloomberg. Wake Fores had the number one CPA pass rate in 2013 and the class of 2014 had a 100% employment rate upon graduation. The average mid-salary earnings of a WFU graduate are $105,000. Well done Demon Deacons!



6. University of Georgia, Terry College of Business



University of Georgia Terry College of Business logo



The Bulldogs using their brawn in research to bully their way into 6th place. The University of Georgia, Terry College of Business is also well known for its excellent faculty. They've been recognized by AAA Auditing Section Outstanding Educator Award and the American Tax Association Outstanding Manuscript Award. Even more impressive is that five of Terry faculty members are considered the most productive researchers being in the top 5% over the last 50 years. With extraordinary faculty like that, it is no wonder the school’s employment placement rate in 2013-2014 was 97%. Alumni of the Accounting program can expect to earn average mid-career salaries of $92,000. Congrats Uga and high-five, Hairy Dawg!



5. University of Mississippi, Patterson School of Accountancy


University of Mississippi logo


Flim Flam, Bim Bam, OLE MISS BY DAMN!  And the #5 ranking goes to the University of Mississippi, Patterson School of Accountancy. University of Mississippi is the largest university in the state and the largest employer in Lafayette, MS. Patterson is unique in that the university made it a separate school in 1979. The school placed fifth in the national rankings of Public Accounting Report. Along with remarkable faculty and small class size, the accounting school is home to the National Tax History Research Center and the National EDP Audit Archival Center. 94% of grads are offered employment within 6 months with average mid-career wages of $84,000. Way to fight Rebel Black Bears!



4. Texas A&M University, Mays Business School


Texas A & M University Mays Business School logo


Texas A&M University, Mays Business School is next, grabbing a top 4 spot on our list. This is one of two premier Texas business schools in our line-up. A&M got its start as a military and agricultural school. Those roots are still visible today in campus architecture and culture, but that hasn't stopped it from developing a top tier accounting school. Mays Business School was ranked #4 in Washington Monthly's 2014 "National Universities Rankings” based on three broad categories: social mobility, research, and service. The Master of Science in Accounting program from Mays provides students with technical accounting skills in addition to soft skills like teamwork and communication. Texas A&M is viewed as one of the nation’s top four (again) most affordable public universities with the highest ROI (what graduates are projected to earn in their first 20 years of careers divided by cost of attendance). The Texas A&M grads become part of an elite alumni network and 96% find employment. They can expect an average mid-salary income of $ 98,000. Gig 'em, Aggies!



3. University of Florida, Warrington College of Business Administration


University of Florida Warrington College of Business Administration logo


University of Florida, Warrington College of Business Administration wins the bronze medal as our third ranked school in the South. Their Master's program offers three tracks, including taxation. The University of Florida is one of the largest research universities in the nation and the accounting department is no exception. Their International Center for Research in Accounting and Auditing focuses on advancing the overall educational and academic goals at the same time as increasing global visibility. As a testament to the fine instruction the students receive, in 2013, Warrington students ranked 12th in CPA pass rate among 262 schools. 93% of graduates receive job offers within 90 days of graduating with average mid-career earnings of $87,000. Give a cheer for the Orange and Blue!



2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan-Flagler Business School


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan-Flagler Business School logo



The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan-Flagler Business School comes in a close second place. This beautiful university known for specializing in medicine and law also has an elite business school. Their accounting program has received top 10 national rankings in U.S. News and World Report, Public Accounting Report, and TaxTalent. Kenan-Flagler’s Master of Accounting program prepares students to “make an impact in the business world.” Their world-class faculty helps students achieve a 98% job placement rate and mid-career salaries $104K on average. A hearty congratulations to the Tar Heels!



1. University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business


University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business logo


Brimming with pride from coming in first place, the blue ribbon winner is the University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business.  True, UT is our CEO’s alma mater, but we're not biased. U.S. News and World Report lists them as the top accounting school in the country in its most recent rankings.  They offer a Master in Professional Accounting (MPA) degree program with a fast track from Bachelor's to Master's in as little as 12 months. Distinguishing McCombs is its focus on creating an individual plan for success in the workplace based on each student’s goals and strengths. The Texas Exes have a tight-knit network of business partners to help students find jobs and 94% do so within 90 days of graduation. The average mid-career salary is a healthy $107,000. Hook 'em Horns!


The Top 10 Accounting Schools in the Midwest

  Recently, some folks here at Common Form began a virtual journey across the U.S. to find the Top Accounting Schools in each region of the country. As a follow up to our two previous rankings, The Top 10 Accounting Schools in the West and The Top 10 Accounting Schools on the East Coast, we braved tornados and the Wicked Witch of the East to find the top schools in the Midwest. While we didn’t find Oz, we did find accounting gold spun out of straw.


The criteria used to evaluate these schools include:

  • Job placement rates and average starting salary for graduates
  • Awards and recognition
  • Faculty and staff
  • Funds generated and allocated for research


We present to you the very best that the Midwest has to offer in accounting education, The Top 10 Accounting Schools in the Midwest.


10. Northern Illinois University, College of Business


Northern Illinois


Starting our list off in fine form with a ranking of #10 is Northern Illinois University, College of Business. This mighty Illinois business school beat out two well-known alternates to secure its rank in our top 10 list. “Finish the Fight!” Well done Huskies! What sets this university apart is the offering of a Master of Accounting Science in Leadership.  A rare degree taught by their notable faculty. This program provides students with leadership skills and the ability to effectively make important business decisions. Having the distinction of being ranked #1 in Illinois by Businessweek for providing the greatest return on investment (calculated by salary earned per annual tuition dollar spent). A degree from NIU is money well spent.  Students from NIU are expected to make a mid-career salary of $ 120,000 with 94% being offered employment upon graduation.


9. University of Missouri, Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business


missouri logo


Next in the line-up with a solid #9 is University of Missouri, Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business and they MIZ BIZ! 2014 was a memorable year for the university, marking the 100 year anniversary of the school’s existence. This birthday hasn’t slowed down the University of Missouri a bit, even if it is a centenarian, as they recently launched their Entrepreneurial Scholars and Interns Program. This is a highly selective entrepreneurial program for students including a 10 week paid summer internship. University of Missouri didn’t stop there. The year was also notable for faculty member Elaine Mauldin, as her research on audit fees was published by the Wallstreet Journal. All this bodes well for students with an advanced degree from Trulaske, as they can expect an average mid-career salary of $125,000,with 96% of students finding employment soon after graduation.


8. Michigan State University, Eli Broad College of Business


Michigan State University Logo


Michigan State University, Eli Broad College of Business pulls in an honorable #8 in our ranking. The Master of Science in Accounting program boasts that it “readies students to become leaders in the accounting industry.” The Eli Broad College of Business ranked #13 in the Accounting Degree Review 2014 Best Accounting School Super Ranking. This ranking combines BusinessweekPublic Accounting Report, and U.S. News & World Report and that is why it is super! Research plays a role in deciding those rankings and Michigan State College of business takes it quite seriously with 6 research centers total. Two of which include the Center for Venture Capital, Private Equity and Entrepreneurial Finance (CVCPEEF)  and the Demmer Center for Business Transformation. The school is also known for the Ernst & Young Communication Center which offers students career preparation, so it comes as no surprise that 99% of Eli Broad graduates find themselves quickly employed with an average mid-career salary rounding out the $92,000 a year range.


7. Indiana University – Bloomington, Kelley School of Business


Indiana University Kelley School of Business logo


Indiana University – Bloomington, Kelley School of Business is Breaking Away from the pack as these Indiana Hoosiers earn the highly coveted lucky #7. The accounting program has also been recognized by U.S. News and World Report and TaxTalent as a top 10 graduate accounting program. The curriculum at Kelley School of Business “mirrors real-world situations.” Students are expected to participate in consulting projects in cooperation with top corporations. Kelley accounting faculty is unrivaled by other larger institutions. Patrick Hopkins was honored by the American Accounting Association for his research uncovering companies that hid poor accounting practices to make their bottom line look better than it really was. With remarkable faculty like Patrick, students are well prepared to take on a career in accounting and are highly sought after for a close to 100% employment rate and an average mid-career salary of $103,000.


6. University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business


Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business


The University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business is located in Northern Indiana and while there is no hunchback lurking in the school bell tower, legend has it that you can still hear echoes of “Rudy, Rudy” being chanted through the stadium corridors. These “fighting Irish” do business as well as they do football, earning a respectable #6 on our list. The Accounting department is recognized for its Center for Accounting Research and Education (CARE), whose objective is to “strengthen the bridges between accounting research, accounting education, and accounting practice.” According to Public Accounting Report and TaxTalent Mendoza College placed 4th in the nation and is a highly favored institution among tax hiring authorities. It makes perfect sense, that 99% of Mendoza College graduates had an immediate job offer and enjoy an average mid-career salary of $119,000 a year.



5. University of Iowa, Tippie College of Business

University of Iowa School of Management logo


University of Iowa, Tippie College of Business comes in at #5 and that is no Field of Dreams! UI is located in the small percentage of the state that is not dominated by farmland. The Tippie Master of Accountancy program puts the power in the hands of the students with four concentrations from which to choose.  Offerings are in Financial/Auditing, Management Information Systems, Managerial Accounting, or Tax. The Accounting department faculty is top in their field. Many have been recognized for their pace-setting curriculum. Ramji Balakrishnan is a bit of a Tippie celebrity on campus with many acclaimed published works in the accounting field, including "The Influence of Institutional Constraints on Outsourcing," published in the Journal of Accounting Research, 2010. 48(4): 767-791. Due to the stellar preparation, Tippie students who took the CPA exam for the first time had an excellent CPA pass rate of around 75%. Graduates of UI often earn an average mid-career salary of $86,000 annually. 93% of students are employed upon graduation.



4. Miami University (Ohio), Farmer School of Business


Miami University logo


Don’t be confused by the name, you won't see any farmer’s tans at the Miami University (Ohio), Farmer School of Business. This business school is nestled in the Ohio Valley just miles from Cincinnati and has earned the #4 spot on our list of 10. Farmer School of Business is no novice to this type of recognition. The graduate accounting program routinely falls in the top 20 of Public Accounting Report’s list of top programs. Farmer is extremely competitive only accepting 20-25 students each year. They are well-known for their Experimental Learning including the Center for Business Excellence (CBE), which serves as a bridge that connects faculty, their students and external stakeholders. Another Farmer innovation in education is the PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Case Competition, which prepares students by requiring them to work in teams to solve hypothetical problems relating to taxes and tax code. It is no wonder that graduate employment rate is 98% with active recruitment by “The Big Four accounting firms.” Their average mid-career salary runs around $81,000.



3. DePaul University


Depaul University Logo


Winning the bronze medal is DePaul University. This school is the highest ranked Chicago business college according to Bloomberg Businessweek's 2014 national rankings of undergraduate business programs. The graduate school was named for Charles H. Kellstadt, the former CEO and chairman of Sears. Roebuck & Co, in 1992. The Accountancy program is credited with three programs ranked in the top 10 according to corporate tax hiring authorities surveyed by The college's Master of Science in Taxation program was ranked No. 2, Master of Science in Accountancy program was ranked No. 3, and the undergraduate accounting program placed No. 6 nationally. Graduates of this fine institution become part of a close-knit alumni network in the accounting field. It follows that an impressive 90% of graduates find themselves gainfully employed within 6 months of graduation and on average earn a mid-career salary of $120,000.



2. The Ohio State University, Max M. Fisher College of Business


Ohio State University logo


Second place is The Ohio State University, Max M. Fisher College of Business. Earning Fisher this distinction is its unprecedented student-faculty ratio of 3-to-1. This individual attention helps students excel and exceed even their own expectations. Fisher College of Business does not only set the pace for learning, their research centers are impeccable. Charles A. Dice Center for Financial Economics is just one of 10 extraordinary research centers setting the standard for innovation and best practices. The College of Business enjoys a ranking of 11th and 12th in U.S News & World Report and Public Accounting Report, respectively. Another aspect of the program that sets the Buckeye’s apart is its flexibility. 78% of the coursework is made up of electives. Students can pick and choose from: financial reporting, managerial decision making, finance, taxation, and auditing. The school has a strong job placement assistance program FisherConnect. Graduates can expect calls from top firms such as: Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, Limited Brands, and Chase, putting the post-graduate employment rate at 92% with an average mid-career salary of $96,000 a year.


1. University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, College of Business


University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign logo


The blue ribbon goes to the third Illinois business school in the line-up, University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, College of Business. University of Illinois, the second centenarian on our list has been running a remarkable accounting program for 100 years. The university is  in the news not only for putting their controversial mascot Chief Illiniwek to rest, the business school ranked in the top 3 in both U.S. News & World Report and Public Accounting Report. Maybe their next mascot should be King ROI, as they were ranked #5 in a national survey for educational return on investment. Additionally, University of Illinois is leader in research. Two highly regarded research programs on campus include KPMG & UIUC Business Measurement Research Program which supports research on new measurement, reporting and assurance concepts. The V. K. Zimmerman Center was originally known as the Center for International Education and Research in Accounting (CIERA). It remains a leader in the nation conducting research on the study and teaching of international topics as they relate to the field of accounting. 98% of graduates quickly find themselves employed and enjoy a highly successful career in the business world, earning an average mid-career salary of $100,000. Bravo University of Illinois!


If you enjoyed The Top Accounting Schools of the Midwest, stay tuned for our next journey through the southern part of the country to find the Top 10 Accounting Schools of the South. It is not all BBQ and Big Hair, many of the country’s finest business institutions call the South home.


Free Tax Software Is Bad

One of the tax industry giants suffered a black eye today when they were forced to stop e-filing state tax returns for a period of time while they investigated a potential data breach. They've since announced there doesn't appear to be breach of customer's data, so what really went wrong? Here's my hypothesis. Federal tax return fraud is huge. It's a growing problem that the IRS is struggling to cope with and it's been going on for years. State tax return fraud has been largely non-existent... so non-existent in fact that USA Today reported the state of Minnesota got suspicious when there were 2 reported cases of fraud. So what's going on and why is TurboTax being called out by these states? The rise in federal tax return fraud has grown steadily in relation to the number of software providers offering a free option... the reason we haven't seen state fraud as rampant is because historically it always cost money to prepare your state return with software. What's new this year besides a dramatic increase in state tax return fraud? TurboTax's Absolute Zero campaign. That's right, a lot more people can file their state taxes for free using TurboTax's software. That may seem great at first blush if you qualify, but an unintended consequence is it's now completely free for a fraudster to file a state tax return in addition to a federal one. And even if this doesn't affect you personally it creates a really expensive bill that's footed by all tax payers. If it does affect you personally even worse; the average time to resolve your case is 6 months and if you're due a refund that's a long time to wait.

Creating good tax software is hard. Sure, the math part of it is easy but you've got to make the interface dead simple (after all, everyone has to do their taxes not just professional computer jockeys). You have to figure out wording that is completely unambiguous despite the necessity of IRS language which may be incredible ambiguous. And think about the liability! If you've got a bug that screws up one person's tax return you've got a bug that screws up thousands of tax returns. You can't write tax software for free. Good engineers cost money, good interface designers cost money, and good insurance costs (a lot) of money. So how do you pay those costs and give your software away for free? Obviously you can't. You have to squeeze the money out somehow and there are really only two viable options:

Option 1: You get users in the door with free and then you upsell upsell upsell! Oh hey you want extra guidance? You'll need to upgrade. Ooooh you sold a share of stock and made a $100 profit? Upgrade. Even better, I'll keep throwing upsell screens at you until you accidentally upgrade or get so concerned the free version isn't trustworthy you upgrade just to make the nagging stop. Oh and don't forget the audit insurance. (protip: audit insurance is a lot like blackjack insurance). You know why I hate this strategy so much? Because when you're doing this to a customer they start to become guarded. They stop believing the tax software has their back and start feeling like it's a solar panel salesman. This is particularly bad when they're trusting you to help with a task they already want no part of. We should expect better.

Option 2: Use the customer's data against them. Data is hot right now. Rich personal data, especially hot. Rich personal and financial data? Shut up and take my money. And what better treasure trove of data than your personal income tax data! Luckily the IRS had the foresight to nip this one in the bud: Section 7216 of the Internal Revenue Code sets up stipulations on what a tax preparer can do with with the information you provide them... namely they can use it only to prepare your taxes. Full stop. Well, full stop-ish. If you give your tax preparer permission to use your data for other purposes they can do that. This includes things like targeted credit card offers, Roth IRA offers, 401k offers, and hey how about a wonderful timeshare in Orlando Florida. AND THEY'RE TRICKING YOU IN TO DOING IT. See this little beauty right here:

This bad boy gives your tax software provider permission to use your tax data to sell you stuff.

I grabbed this screenshot from the most recent version of a popular brand of tax software. If you're not careful it almost looks like something you need to sign; note that while the heading is a friendly and chipper "Sign now, save time later" and the beginning of the disclosure text states "Federal law requires this consent form be provided to you" the meat of this baby is "[company name] needs your tax return information to determine if you are eligible... for benefits beyond your refund." Yep. That's marketer-speak to make money off your data. And given how difficult it is to design a dead simple user interface I can't help but assume this one is designed to make it dead simple for customers to give their consent without realizing the implications.

So here we are. To be a viable business in this industry it costs real money to operate but we're racing to the bottom on price, and as a result we're at an all time high on tax fraud and sneaky pricing practices. Free tax software is bad. So what can you do about it? Well, you can email your congressman and complain that things have gone too far. If we all do this we can out-voice the expensive lobbyists. Or you can carefully wade in to the swamp, being extra careful with the buttons you click while second-guessing every screen you're shown... and as long as there are enough suckers in the herd you'll be ok for a few years. Or you can vote with your wallet and support small providers like us. At Common Form we're running a grand experiment to see if people are willing to pay a fair price for honest service. Can tax software be a viable business without resorting to shady tactics? We hope so.

The Top 10 Accounting Schools - East Coast

  Here at Common Form, we dream in triplicate and we are always interested in finding which higher education institutions are churning out the next Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Russell Wilson of Accounting. In other words, who will we be sorting mail for when we are 65? As a follow up to the previous list we compiled on the Top 10 Accounting Schools in the West, we have now assembled a list of the Top 10 Accounting Schools on the East Coast. If you're looking for schools in other parts of the country, check out The Top 10 Accounting Schools in the Midwest.


The criteria used to evaluate these colleges include:

  • Job placement rates and average starting salary for graduates
  • Awards and recognition
  • Faculty and staff
  • Funds generated and allocated for research


Drumroll please….and here they are the Top 10 Accounting Schools on the East Coast:


10. Binghamton University, School of Management



Beautiful Binghamton University kicks off our list. The campus is spread across 930 acres of wooded hillside above the Susquehanna River in the suburb of Vestal, nestled in the southern-most part of the state of New York, just miles from the Pennsylvania border. The School of Management boasts their undergraduate programs in accounting and management prepare graduates for admission to elite graduate-level programs. 86% of graduates receive job offers and enjoy a beginning average salary of $58,000.



9. New York University, Stern School of Business


NYU Stern


Everyone has heard of NYU, most notably for its theater arts program, but the Leonard N. Stern School of Business is no act! NYU’s undergraduate business and accounting programs are often listed among the best in the country and has earned a solid ranking of #9. One of the greatest draws of NYU’s accounting program is the ability to co-major in general accounting and choose a concentration in any of the following specialties: investment banking, securities markets, tax management, personal financial planning and corporate financial management. Graduates holding a B.S in Accounting from Stern are highly sought-out and have an average starting salary of $65,000, earning an average mid-career salary of $114,000.



8. Bryant University, College of Business

Bryant  Coming in at a very respectable #8 is Bryant University found in the Northern region of the tiny state of Rhode Island. “As a student at Bryant University, you’ll belong to a dynamic community with an atmosphere of purpose.”  Its accounting program is no exception. Their College of Business creates leaders in financial reporting, taxation, auditing and management. Graduates of this program can expect to earn an average starting salary of $52,000 and mid-career salaries of $80,000.



7. CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business



You don't hear a lot about of The Zicklin School of Business at CUNY Bernard M Baruch College, at least out here in San Diego. But according to our criteria, it is a major player and is regularly ranked as one of the premiere business schools in the country. We gave it lucky #7 and deservedly so.  This school attracts top faculty and fosters practical accounting and business practices. Baruch College City University New York is found in the center of bustling NYC, blocks from Wall Street “the financial heartbeat of our nation.” Students are a part of the pulse and reap the benefits with graduates being highly sought after landing well-paying jobs and earning an average mid-career salary of $89,000.



6. University Of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business


University of Maryland


It comes as no surprise that The University of Maryland, College Park’s Robert H. Smith School of Business is ranked #6. University of Maryland may be the queen of online education, but the accounting program at Robert H. Smith School of Business has been recognized by The Wall Street Journal as one of the top 10 in the country. Graduates of this fine institution are a favored source for accounting hires. 90% of degree holders find themselves employed and can expect to earn average wages of $ 93,000.



5. Penn State University, Smeal College of Business


Penn State


#5 in the line-up are the Nittany Lions, Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business. A dominant presence in the state of Pennsylvania, the Smeal College of Business was named in honor of its benefactors Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal, two Penn State University alumni. “WE ARE” now that’s school pride! The accounting program is known for its many certification programs and five year fast track through Bachelor’s to Master’s program. Graduates of this program can expect to earn $ 101,000 with 90% of the student body finding employment upon completion.



4. Boston College, Carroll School of Management


Boston College


We give Boston College, Carroll School of Management a rank of #4, while there is no trophy, the race was hard and BC should be proud! And if not, I think Bostonians could take Villanova accountants in a fight and grab the bronze. Boston College is known for its world-class faculty and the strong success of its graduates. The accounting curriculum with its choice of specialties, adequately prepares graduates for an array of accounting roles. Graduates can enjoy earning an average mid-career salary of $109,000.



3. Villanova University, School of Business


Villanova School of Business


The third place medal goes to The Villanova University School of Business and not because the name and crest seem Italian and expensive, they earned it. Another Pennsylvania school this time Catholic with the moto “ignite change and go nova.” The School is all Business offering an accountancy program that prepares students for their careers by incorporating theory and principles with real life experience in current business practices. What sets Villanova apart are the elective offerings in international, real estate and fraud accounting. Villanova graduates can expect to earn an average starting salary of $55,000 and mid-career salaries averaging $107,000.



2. Bentley University


Bentley University


The dark horse Bentley University pulled in at a surprising and extremely impressive #2. Tipping the scales was the university’s integration of technology with the Howard A. Winer Accounting Center for Electronic Learning and Business Measurement (ACELAB), “students gain firsthand experience with sophisticated technologies that are reshaping the accounting profession.” The prestigious university is located in Waltham, Massachusetts. The accounting program at Bentley University has held the honor of being named one of the best in the entire country and is a contender for our soon to be formulated Top 10 Accounting Schools in the Nation. Graduates of this top ranked business college can expect an average starting salary of $50,000 with an unprecedented 95% post-graduate career placement rate.



1. University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business


Penn Wharton School of Business


And finally, the Belle of the Ball, coming in first place at #1 University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business. The undergraduate accounting program for the University of Pennsylvania is housed in the prestigious Wharton School. Founded by the famous inventor and patriot, Benjamin Franklin, and American industrialist Joseph Wharton, this university has a record of coming in first. The renowned faculty has developed a multidisciplinary curriculum giving students the tools they need to navigate today’s complex economy. Graduates from this elite institution can expect an average salary of $124,000 with 98% of alumni experiencing heavy recruitment and employment.



We hope you enjoyed this compilation of the Top 10 Accounting Schools on the East Coast. Stay-tuned for our next trek through corn fields and cow pastures scouring the “Heartland of America” to find the Top 10 Accounting Schools of the Midwest.



How Obamacare Impacts Your Taxes

Obamacare affordable care act taxes  

How Does Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) impact your taxes? Why does healthcare have anything to do with taxes? We give you the scoop in this short and sweet article.

From a tax perspective, the headline for Obamacare is that everyone must have health insurance, or pay a fine that is enforced when they file their federal tax return. Here are five key things that describe the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in more detail.


1. Fines start in tax year 2014, on tax returns that are typically filed in 2015. The fine amount for 2014 is the higher of these two amounts:

  • 1% of your yearly household income. Only the amount of income above the tax filing threshold, $10,150 for an individual, is used to calculate the penalty.
  • $95 per person for the year ($47.50 per child under 18). The maximum penalty per family using this method is $285.


2. The fines increase significantly over time. If you don’t have coverage in 2015, you’ll pay the higher of these two amounts when you file taxes in 2016:

  • $325 per person for the year ($162.50 per child under 18). The maximum penalty per family using this method is $975.
  • 2% of your yearly household income. Only the amount of income above the tax filing threshold, $10,300 for an individual, is used to calculate the penalty.

In 2016 it’s 2.5% of income or $695 per person. After that it's adjusted for inflation.


3. There are exceptions. You are exempt from the fine under certain hardship conditions. See a full list of the conditions at


4. You may be eligible for a tax credit for some of the health insurance premiums you paid. Use this calculator to determine if you’re eligible and the amount of the credit.


5. You can get coverage from your employer (if they offer it), directly from a private provider, or via the Marketplace at The deadline for Open Enrollment for 2015 is February 15th.


File Your Taxes


This article also answers these questions:

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The Top 10 Accounting Schools in the West

  As a tax software company, we are very interested in the education of the next generation of accounting & finance professionals. To help prospective students chose the college that’s best for them, we crunched the numbers and compiled a list of the Top 10 Accounting Schools in the West. If you're looking for schools in other parts of the country, check out our Top 10 Accounting Schools on the East Coast and The Top 10 Accounting Schools in the Midwest.


The criteria we used to evaluate these colleges include:

  • Job placement rates and average starting salary for graduates
  • Awards and recognition
  • Faculty and staff
  • Funds generated and allocated for research


Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Accounting Schools in the West:



10. Stanford


stanford top 10 accounting schools








Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) is consistently ranked as one of the top programs in the United States. Among American MBA programs, Stanford has the lowest acceptance rate, 6.5%. If you want to be an entrepreneur, there is no better program than Stanford for academic excellence, networking, and proximity to Silicon Valley. Their accounting curriculum is extensive, including a PhD program.



9. University of Arizona

arizona top 10 accounting schools











The Eller College of Management at The University of Arizona offers both graduate and undergrad degrees in accounting. The college is also home to top-ranked entrepreneurship, MIS, MBA, and doctoral programs, and leads the nation’s business schools in generating grant funds for research. This well rounded program comes in at number 9 on our list.



8. University of California - San Diego



UCSD top 10 accounting schools







UCSD’s Rady School of Management is well known throughout the country for both its MBA and undergraduate programs. Their staff is anchored by Dr. Harry M. Markowitz, winner of the Noble Memorial Prize in Economic Science. Their undergraduate accounting program positions students well to earn their CPA as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality curriculum.



7. University of Oregon



Oregon top 10 accounting schools








The University of Oregon's Master of Accounting program at the Lundquist College of Business is very prestigious. Students are well prepared to earn their CPA license and their job placement rates and average starting salaries stack up with any school in the country. And who wouldn't want to spend time in beautiful Eugene?



6. University of California, Los Angeles

UCLA top 10 accounting schools












UCLA Anderson School of Management is an extremely renowned program. In 2009, the UCLA Finance PhD Program was ranked number 1 in the world. This research study ranked them as the top program at enhancing the publication record of its students in the top three finance journals.  They also offer a Master’s degree in Financial Engineering.



5. University of Washington


Washington top 10 accounting schools











The University of Washington’s Foster School of Business Accounting Department contributes more to financial accounting research than any other school. In addition to earning your CPA, students can continue their education with a Master of Professional Accounting or a PhD in Accounting. UDub comes is # 5 on our list.



4. University of California, Berkeley


California top 10 accounting schools











The Haas School of Business is an outstanding school for both graduate and undergraduate students. Through the [email protected] program, students are assigned to projects at both local and global companies, learning through direct experience. Although Cal does not offer a major in Accounting, they offer a full curriculum of Accounting courses to prepare students for careers in Accounting and becoming a CPA. The Wall Street Journal ranked as the eighth best accounting school in the country in 2010.



3. University of Nevada Las Vegas

UNLV top 10 accounting schools













UNLV’s Lee Business School is second to none when it comes to accounting and they proved it by winning first place at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Accounting Competition on Dec. 19, 2014 in Washington, D.C. They prove their financial acumen and learn real world investing by managing a $100K fund known as the Rebel Investment Group (RIG). It's hard to rank them third, and all of the schools at the top of this list have truly exceptional programs.



2. University of Southern California



USC top 10 accounting schools








USC’s Leventhal School of Accounting is one of the best in the west. Part of USC’s Marshall School of Business, their undergraduate accounting program is one of the most exclusive in the country. Accounting has been a critical part of the School of Business at USC since its inception in 1920 and it has a long-standing tradition of academic excellence. They came in a very close second on our list.



1. Bringham Young University


BYU top 10 accounting schools










BYU’s Marriott School of Business has earned numerous accolades over the years. Their professors have won national awards for research and recently the Big Four accounting firm Ernst & Young awarded the school with a $500,000 grant to promote international learning and experience. The Wall Street Journal ranked BYU as the number 1 accounting school in the country in 2010 and we don't see anything to indicate they've fallen off.


Founders Quoted in the Wall Street Journal

Bill Hendricks and Charles Logston, Co-Founders of Common Form share their thoughts on dealing with workplace conflict with Sue Shellenbarger of The Wall Street Journal.  The article titled To Fight, or Not to Fight ran in the paper edition and on on December 17, 2014.  

Quoting the article:

Bill Hendricks and Charles Logston avoided dealing with mounting tensions last January about when to launch a new product, an app for filing simple federal tax forms.Mr. Logston, chief technical officer and co-founder of Common Form Inc., San Diego, wanted to market the app early in the tax season. Mr. Hendricks, chief executive officer and also a co-founder, wanted to wait for Internal Revenue Service approval for using the app for e-filing. Mr. Hendricks says both were working as hard and fast as they could, and “we were sensitive about rocking the boat too much.”


When they did confront each other after a few weeks of tension, it was tough to keep their frustrations in check, and the conversation was more confrontational than they had planned. They agreed on a compromise and launched the app successfully just a couple of weeks later than planned, but both say they wish they had raised the issue sooner.Mr. Hendricks says, “It only becomes harder to deal with, the longer you wait.” Such disputes are common. More than 4 out of 5 corporate employees have conflicts with other employees over priorities, misunderstandings, resources or personality differences, and half of them say they turn out less work as a result, according to a recent survey of 150 employees by Harris Poll for AtTask, a Lehi, Utah, maker of project-management applications.

Read the full article, To Fight, or Not to Fight on


Why simplification of the tax code is never going to happen

Meaningful simplification of the tax code is never going to happen. Congress can’t agree on where to go to lunch, let alone on something as politically charged as tax reform. The right is primarily funded by corporate America and the wealthiest 1% of individuals. These folks benefit greatly from the myriad loopholes and tax breaks in our system, resulting in dozens of hugely profitable companies that pay no federal income tax.  An IRS study found that one in every 189 taxpayers earning $200,000 or more in adjusted gross income paid no income tax in 2009. That's more than 10,000 wealthy households that paid no taxes anywhere in the world. How do people get away with paying little to no taxes? They invest in tax-exempt municipal bonds, which pay interest that you don't have to include as income on your tax return. They make a disproportionate amount of their income from stocks and other investments that are taxed as capital gains (15%) instead of ordinary income (up to 39.6% in tax year 2014). And they hire expensive accountants who know how to hack the system.

The left is no better. They can’t risk alienating their working class base by eliminating popular credits and deductions, like the mortgage interest deduction, property tax deduction, and Earned Income Tax Credit. If the proposed 2 percent floor on charitable giving is enacted, the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would reduce charitable donations in the United States by $3 billion annually. Non-profits aren’t keen on this of course, and they lobby the Democrats accordingly.

Throw in the millions of dollars that the tax prep industry spends lobbying against tax reform, and the headwinds are just too strong. Intuit alone has spent about $11.5 million on federal lobbying in the past five years — more than Apple or Amazon.

Yet the need for a pro forma (pre-filled) tax return remains huge. Tens of millions of taxpayers could use such a system each year, saving them a collective $2 billion and 225 million hours in prep costs and time. The most frustrating part – it’s not hard to do. The IRS certainly has all the data it needs to do millions of American's taxes for them. Even without the treasure trove of data Uncle Sam has, a commercial product could pre-fill a tax return for most Americans rather easily. The info needed is readily available from public data records (property tax records, marriage records) and social profiles (Facebook, Twitter). Throw in a picture of your W-2 or import it from your employer’s payroll provider and bam! Your taxes are essentially done.

Look, the IRS actually wants tax simplification to happen. They’re the ones that feel the pain and expense of processing everyone’s taxes. But it’s not their call, they’re beholden to the gridlocked American political system and an entrenched, multi-billion dollar industry. We’re not. We’re a startup, beholden to no one other than the free market. We can't change the tax code, so we’re doing the next best thing – building a product that abstracts the complexity of it away from tax payers. Please take a look at what we’ve built so far and let us know your thoughts.


Common Form Joins Techstars in Austin Summer 2014 Class

We're thrilled to announce that we'll be joining Techstars in Austin for their Summer 2014 class!  We're one of 11 companies selected to participate out of 1,500 applicants.  We'll be relocating operations to Austin for the summer, y'all.  

Here's the list of companies joining us.  Can't wait to meet them all!

  • Brewbot - Brew beer with Brewbot, the world's smartest personal brewery.
  • Burpy - Delivering same-day groceries and home essentials from a variety of local stores.
  • Cloud66 -  Deploy and manage Ruby apps on any cloud.
  • Common Form - Do your taxes in minutes from your phone or computer.
  • Experiment Engine - Crowdsource your A/B testing to conversion rate experts.
  • Fashion Metric - Taking the guesswork out of sizing.
  • FreeTextbooks - Shop with us and earn free textbooks. Everytime.
  • LawnStarter - The easiest way to order and manage lawn care.
  • NMRKT - Powering eCommerce for blogs, online magazines, and content creators.
  • Pivot Freight - THE "UNBROKER." Discounted LTL shipping rates in a simple interface without the broker margins and fees.
  • Smart Host - Make more money with your vacation rentals.


Techstars provides $118,000 in seed funding, intensive mentorship, and an amazing network of mentors and alumni.  We can't wait!





Forget reform - How hyper-lean can benefit the simple taxpayer

Every year roughly 150 million Americans give up a few hours of valuable time, and more than a few dollars, to deal with one of life's unavoidables – taxes. At that same time, there is a deluge of media about proposed tax code reform, federal ReadyReturn, and all the countries who “do it better.” But it is dismissed. It is dismissed because the likelihood of any such changes seeing the light of day in the immediate future is slim to none. Fortunately technology has opened the door for a new breed of hyper-lean financial services companies to compete on the basic premise of offering a better, uniquely pro-consumer product experience for less. Companies like CreditKarma, Simple and Robinhood are providing services to consumers for free when those services used to command high price tags. They’re doing so by forgoing the expensive ads on the Big Game and the sunk costs of brick and mortar stores, and capitalizing on their competition’s encumbrance caused by organizational indecision and overwhelming technical debt.

The same can be done for taxes.

Almost 50% of what the IRS considers simple returns are prepared via a tax store or accountant. That means each of these simple taxpayers are paying upwards of $100 to prepare a return that is virtually identical to the rest of the 60% of taxpayers who also take the standard deduction and may tack on one of a handful of common credits. The task of preparing a simple return should not consume hours of time and hundreds of dollars, but due to lack of awareness and a lack of quality alternatives, many Americans are left forking over their hard-earned cash to companies that are fully aware of the stagnant industry landscape and the plight of their captive audience.

But it’s not enough to merely lower the cost to consumers. Hyper-lean services are a response to consumers’ heightened expectations of what software can do to make their lives easier. In the age of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and all the others who seem to know us better than we know ourselves, why should a consumer have to inform their tax preparer of choice whether they’re married, have kids, or own a home? Decades ago, the tax business was revolutionized when it transitioned from forms to interview. It’s now long overdue for another transition – from interview to review.

With the ever-growing availability of data, taxes should be little more than an upload of a W-2, followed by a quick review of the information gathered, and then it’s off to the IRS. It’s time to free consumers from refund loans, refund transfers, and hidden fees designed to extract every penny possible. It’s time to make a person’s data do more for them than generate redundant product offers and introductions to singles in their area. It’s time for the United States taxpayer to benefit from the hyper-lean, pro-consumer model, and at Common Form, that's exactly what we're doing.


The Importance of Networking & Professional Karma

Everyone’s heard it. There are highly trafficked websites dedicated to it.  But many people don’t really understand its importance and how to do it well. I’m talking about networking, the single most important thing you can do to grow your career and enhance your professional life. Most people only “network” when it benefits them. When they are looking for a job or need an introduction, they scan LinkedIn looking for someone who can help them. If that’s the only way you’re networking, you’re missing out. To realize the full potential of your network, you have to give as much as you get and you have to be willing to dedicate time to it even if there is no immediate or direct benefit for you. Here’s a recent example from my life that illustrates this point very powerfully.

A few years ago, when I was still at Intuit, an executive recruiter (we’ll call him Tom) from my network introduced me to a Venture Capitalist (we’ll call him Bob) via email. Bob was interested in transitioning from the VC game into an operational role in the software industry and wanted to meet with me to discuss Intuit. This was years before Common Form was conceived of, and I had no plans on becoming an entrepreneur at that point in my life. I was extremely busy and frankly I didn’t feel like making the time to meet with Bob, even for a free lunch. I was hard to nail down and rescheduled on him a couple of times. Then I started to feel guilty and my sense of karma pushed me to make and keep the meeting.

I’m so glad I did, as I had a very enjoyable chat with Bob. Of course, we exchanged contact info and linked up and went on our ways. Fast forward to February 2014. Common Form launches and I share the good news with my network. Bob, who decided to remain in the VC game, reaches out to congratulate me and offers himself as a sounding board for anything we want to discuss. We happily accept this great opportunity, and this time I take him out to lunch. Fast forward to now. Over the past few months, Bob has become one of our greatest advisors and allies. He’s given us priceless feedback on our pitch and marketing tactics, introduced us to over 20 angels and VCs, and he’s likely to invest in the company when we seek funding. This relationship, which grew from a single meeting I almost blew off, is now critical to the success of Common Form and could end up being worth millions of dollars in investment capital.

Remember this story about the importance of networking the next time you think you’re too busy to take a meeting! Even if it doesn’t turn into something as valuable as my relationship with Bob, the help you provide the other person is probably worth way more to them than you realize. And this sort of professional karma is bound to come back to you at some point in your life.