Art of Accounting: The Vanishing Write-up

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IMGCAP(1)]Write-ups are extinct. When I started in 1963, most small CPA firms primarily did write-ups. After I started my practice in 1969, it became an embarrassment to say I did write-ups. It connoted something beneath my “professional” status. I think a problem today is that write-ups no longer exist for younger staff.

Write-ups were literally writing up a client’s cash disbursements and receipts journals, entering sales and purchases, reconciling the bank accounts, taking off a trial balance and accounts receivable schedule, making some adjusting and recurring journal entries and preparing a financial statement.

It also included writing out and mailing customers’ statements, and where purchase journals were used, preparing an accounts payable schedule. We did the client’s bookkeeping. Where the client was a little larger and had a bookkeeper, the CPA did the posting to the general ledger. Making the adjusting entries and preparing the financial statement was the accountant’s function. With today’s software, the write-up is done as a byproduct of entering the original transactions.

One of the things learned from write-ups was how a business operated financially: how money came in, how it went out, how sales were recorded, customers’ buying patterns and how they paid their bills, what our client purchased and received, and how they paid their suppliers.

Sometimes a client’s receivables were factored, or the client needed financing of overseas purchases, and then you really learned how money flowed. When you are young and start out, you do not necessarily appreciate what you are asked to do because you think you are working on the lower level of less important things. However, what I eventually learned is that everything has a place and purpose, and beginners need to start at the beginning. Write-ups were for beginners.

I think an effective training program for young staff today would be a hands-on overview of how transactions flow through an organization, something similar to the write-ups I did when I began my career. Maybe that is a project I will get to one of these days.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is a partner in WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He has authored 20 books and has written hundreds of articles for business and professional journals and newsletters plus a Tax Loophole article for every issue of TaxHotline for 27 years. Ed also writes a blog twice a week that addresses issues his clients have at He is the winner of the Lawler Award for the best article published during 2001 in the Journal of Accountancy. He has also taught in the MBA graduate program at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Tax Court. Ed welcomes practice management questions and he can be reached at WithumSmith+Brown, One Spring Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, (732) 964-9329,

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