Stress Ball

coffeeThis last couple of weeks have been rough, especially this week. I am sure it is a conglomeration of worry about my parents, about my husband’s graduation, my job, etc. I just haven’t slept more then five hours a night (even though I work from home three days a week).

Take for example today, everything was going great. I wrapped up work and took Jello to a movie, then was heading to dinner when I get a call and email from work. One of the employers I audited and found owing over 20k in taxes is freaking out. He has called lawyers, a newspaper, etc and trying to call me out. He is doing anything he can to avoid having to pay. Fortunately I know I did everything correct. However, being an investigator/auditor on businesses that are avoiding tax (whether intentionally or unintentionally) means I don’t have a popular job, even though I think it a much needed job and I have found several MILLION dollars in unreported wages in last six months. Obviously my position is needed when fraud and tax avoidance are so common.

Normally I would instinctively worry about my job. When newspapers call, people are shouting and my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss has to get info from me I worry (yes that puts the person around second or third man in our state capital). That happened Monday afternoon, then today it was only my boss’s, boss’s boss (Director of our department) that needs info. However, all three bosses above me have reassured me that nothing is untoward, that this is normal cause of problems.

So rationally I know my bosses like me, they think I am doing fine and there are no problems. However, the little hamster in my head still freaks out. It shuts me down where I don’t want to do anything except hide as I freak out that I am going to be unemployed soon (contrary to what happened at the county, I know logically that this isn’t going to happen).

The overall issue, is this results in becoming a stress ball. I am tired of being a stress ball.

Telecommute?

coffeeThis week has been both a very short and very long week at work. I have only gone to work three days last week. Monday I took off for an appointment with my husband, and then Friday to go to Norwescon. sadly, Norwescon didn’t work out, but I did get to hang with him.

My supervisor called me on my day off. It sort of freaked me out when she called. I was worried I must have done something wrong. She was actually fairly excited on the phone and said she wanted to tell me something about my part time telecommuting application. If it had gone through I would get to work from home three days a week.

With the part time telecommute I would still need to drive two days a week to the office, and when I have audits I would have to go to them (and the distance is about the same for audit days since most audits are south of my office). However, I wouldn’t have to drive those three days just to the office. I would try and arrange my audits to be on those two days to minimize excess driving as much as possible.

My boss however said that I, along with a few others, have been selected to do a pilot program. 100% telecommute. I would still be driving long distances, but my home office is my house (and I would have all the necessary equipment given to me). It means every time I hit the road I would get back at least a couple dollars in mileage (some audits I would lose money on the gas, but some audits would gain more then I drove).

However, the absolute best thing about this would be none of the travel would occur outside my 8 (or 9 with lunch) hour shift. Right now I put in about 2-3 hours extra time into travel a day. This is why I leave for work around 5am, not because I want to, but that is the only way to keep my commute of 30 miles down to only an hour each way (at the height of rush hour its sometimes 2 hours). With full time telecommute it means I work 6-2 (or 3 if I take a lunch) but I never have to leave earlier (I can get up at 5:45, hop in shower then sit at computer by 6am instead of current 4am). It also means all driving is during work hours, I clock in at my house, and I clock out at my house.

I believe she said on the phone it will start the 27th (but I haven’t been in to confirm, nor can I be sure now that is the exact day). I am excited, this will alleviate a lot of stress. Another advantage is once the hubbie graduates and is working steadily, if I am still working here it will be easier to take classes at night for my MBA.

I realize this is a pilot program so it may not be permanent (but they are getting rid of all the tax office so something is going to be happening) and even if it went to part time telecommute that would be great. So things are looking up.

Job stuff

I figured I would give you guys an update on job stuff/possibilities.

Current Job: Honestly the job itself isn’t that bad. I investigate businesses that pay employees under the table. I ensure that unemployment insurance is paid by the employers, protecting the employees and ensuring they get unemployment insurance if they get laid off (if they get paid under the table they don’t get unemployment).

I have been picking up a lot of businesses who are avoiding taxes (surprisingly, or maybe not software companies are a big issue, along with housecleaners and dog groomers/sitters/walkers). I don’t feel bad auditing them, nor do I feel bad when we find they owe money. Does that make me bad? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

I have a lot more to talk about my current job, but I figure some of them deserve their own posts so I will wrap this up saying I do have a few dislikes about my current job.

The issues are the commute sucks (I-405 to Bellevue and then I spend half the day driving to different audit sites) but I can deal with that. The pay is very low, especially compared to what I was getting paid at my prior two jobs and while I think the job is fairly flexible and honestly I like busting people avoiding taxes, the actual scope of the job is very limited. I am so used to doing full GAAP/GASB based audits and this would only represent a very tiny portion in duties.

DoD: I had a weird thing happen with the Department of Defense job. I wasn’t picked up in the first round of hirings, my app was returned to central place for HR, but then the next day my app got returned to DoD management and I was told by email to disregard all prior notices (it sounds like there was a mistake made) and that it was forwarded to management. Does this mean they will hire me? I think its an eventuality, but it is a federal job and if it does happen it can take months. So, while I am interested I won’t hope too much.

State Auditor’s Office: Now this is the real news. I got a call on Friday from a friend who works for the Seattle team. She asked if I was interested in coming back (I made a lot more there then I do with ESD there and I had a lot more authority). Evidently their team is short people, and extremely short trained people (most of their team are new auditors). Evidently one of her assistant managers asked her to talk with the main manager about me.

So Rae called me to verify if I would be interested in coming back. I am not sure how interested I would be in coming back to my old team, but the Seattle team is a new team and I plan on working down in that area anyways. It also doesn’t hurt that the Seattle team gets paid a 5% boost in cost of living due to the area (but its the same cost of living as where I live now so it would be a boost over my old wages).

I told Rae that I would be interested (after talking to Jello). I miss auditing, and if there is office drama at least it would be a new place and new issues. So Rae talked with her manager at a meeting and they both looked me up in the system. Evidently my old resume/application had already been expunged (they dump apps/resumes after 90 days) and so he (the manager) told Rae to have me put in my resume ASAP and then call one of the HR people on Monday to confirm it went through.

I think that is a good sign, and if it worked out at minimum I wouldn’t be living on the edge of my paycheck (having to use credit cards on occasion with no paying them more than minimum). It would be at least $800 more a month, the commute would be comparable with no driving during the day except for special items (unlike now, I put 100-200 miles on my car a day). Plus, after getting past probation I could take a job down in the Vancouver office if one opened up and live near Portland (I know Jello really wants that, and I would like it).

Is it definite? Absolutely not, but it is ok either way. I would go back to SAO, and if that doesn’t pan out I can get by on my current job (I should be telecommuting part time in a month, that would make up a lot at that time for the low pay). Will I take the Department of Defense job either way? I think I would. Jello has been telling me for a long time to take the jobs I want, not to work at any place out of a misguided sense of loyalty. I should have listened to him last year, I had debated many times (and had a couple of options) to dump the County, but I felt I owed the County at least a year before I started looking for other jobs. Obviously that was an erroneous thought as the county dumped me in less than a year when I wouldn’t agree to do things that weren’t acceptable to an auditor viewpoint.

So everything is still in the air, so I thought I would just blab to all of you.

Starting the new job

I realize it has been a week since I last posted, but times have been tiring. My new job seems pretty cool still. I am really looking forward to the telecommuting part three days a week when I am fully trained. Of course there will still be a lot of driving to audits, but it will give me a relief on the commute.

The duties seem fairly straightforward. My co-workers do have a lot of responsibilities, but I do notice that the technical skills required for this job are fairly specific. When I audited governmental agencies, I was required to keep up with all GAAP and GAGAS requirements (both the new accounting requirements for all types of entities and governmental requirements). I would perform financial statement audits, federal contract compliance audits and other audits that determined if the government was following state and local laws, along with following their own policies. These types of audits are specifically for one type of item, and totally different then any of the above things I did. It requires less accounting/auditing knowledge utilizing CPA firm type knowledge and more of a focus on specific tax codes. A bit more like an IRS Revenue Agent.

I found I get to investigate whoever I feel is at risk for avoiding taxes in our District Tax Office area. I have a quota of 3 UE audits (Underground Economy audits which means I have to find, audit and fine 3 businesses a month once I am fully trained) with an additional 2 program audits. Program audits are randomly selected businesses and they do not need to be shown to owe money, they are just audited to conform with the requirements from the Department of Labor (Fed agency for unemployment). It makes me nervous to not only have the power to select and investigate businesses but also to assess any fines. Along with that responsibility (which I have no problem with) I do have a quota I have to reach a month. I don’t think I would abuse it, but any person who has a quota, has the power to select and fine/penalize people makes me uncomfortable.

Although I have to say the people in my office seem really cool. None of them are UE (Underground Economy Auditors) I will be the only one for my office (they all do the randomly assigned program audits) who investigates people. It also makes me nervous that none of them volunteered to take this position. My position is actually on a higher pay grade than the rest of the auditors (even though it maxes out way below my last job). When I asked why no-one went for the opening, they all told me they like their current jobs (they have all been there years and years). Makes me nervous about this position, BUT I have to say everyone (including management, and people in Olympia) have been nothing but supportive. So I think its worth giving a chance.

Oh, last thing I forgot to mention was this is a perfect resume job if I ever try and hop to the IRS (which if the DoD doesn’t work out, is my next target). This is almost exactly like an investigative revenue agent, except instead of income tax I am looking for unpaid unemployment taxes.

 

First day of work

Well today was my first day at my new job. My official title is Underground Economy Auditor (Tax Specialist 4). Basically I am responsible for investigating and auditing businesses that are not registered with the state or are not paying the proper unemployment tax.

I do have a quota system, meaning I have to do five audits a month (but no money recovery requirements, I just have to investigate at least 5 a month). The things to look for are businesses that seem to have more employees then they report, or new corporate officers that they haven’t waived their unemployment insurance (or a dozen other types of things). Casual labor I guess is a big thing.

Now, the commute initially is about 1.5 hours in each direction. The job itself is only 27 miles away, but the traffic is so bad it takes about three times longer than it should. This is one of the biggest things that was worrying me, it means my 9 hour day becomes a 12 hour day due to traffic (8 hours plus an hour lunch).

My superior though was awesome though. After being very warm and friendly she immediately approved that my work schedule switch from 8-5 to 6-3. Now it does mean I still have to get up at ungodly early (430-445) I save almost an hour each way in commute time. I should be home before 4pm instead of 630 or later.

I also found out (and this is the coolest thing) that once I am fully trained I get to telecommute three days a week. I will still have to drive a lot, but that is directly for auditing and is directly towards my time at work (as opposed to 3 hours a day before and after work). The idea that eventually commuting only two days a week to the office made my day.

I guess I am the only UE Auditor in the Tax office I am at, the rest of the staff are TS 3’s and they are responsible for investigating claimants and businesses that are officially registered. They get a list of places and people to audit. I have to find my own people/businesses (after all I am looking for people who are either not registered or haven’t registered changes, not something that the office knows about).

It does make me a bit nervous, but I am told that the UE Auditor for Seattle has found enough leads in his area to “last a 100 years”. So evidently it won’t be hard to find places/people to audit. I am a bit uncomfortable that I get to choose and then audit prospective problems.

It isn’t that I can’t handle it, but rather a bit nervous about that kind of power to determine who to audit (an example given to me is a restaurant that seems to have a lot of employees and when I look them up in their registration they have registered less employees I can then consider auditing them). I don’t think I would abuse that ability, but I worry others would.

I have stopped looking for other work at this time. There are a few fed jobs I would take though. I would happily audit for the DoD, or work as an IRS agent (btw this job is perfect work background to get into the IRS), but other than that I think I will try this job out. The perks seem pretty cool, a good work/life balance. The only downside is a 25% pay decrease from my last job. However, Jello and I can get by until he graduates, then its party central baby!