Excel: Text to Columns

In my last blog, I discussed taking text from separate cells and stringing them together. Today, we’ll discuss the opposite: separating text from a single cell. This function is referred to as “Text to Columns” and is found under “Data” on the ribbon bar menu.

Figure 1

Often times, we download a CSV formatted file in which all the data is listed in a single cell, instead of being formatted in separate columns. The “Text to Columns” function will make separation of the text a simple process. In Figure 2, we have an example of a bank transaction download. Notice how selecting cell A8 shows the string of text.

Figure 2 – CLICK TO EXPAND

To separate out the text, highlight the cells or row containing the text. Click on the “Text to Columns” as shown in Figure 1. You will then see a pop-up box, where you will click next to “Delimited,” not “Fixed Width” and then click “Next” (Figure 3).

Figure 3 – CLICK TO EXPAND

On the next pop-up screen, choose whichever delimiters you have. This is the item type that separates the data you want in different columns. This is why you may be familiar with the term “Comma Delimited” file format. This would mean there are commas between the text that should be split into different columns. With our example, we will be choosing “Space” for the delimiter (Figure 4). Note how when you make a choice it gives you a preview of how the text will separate into different columns. This is helpful before committing to the split.

Figure 4 – CLICK TO EXPAND

If you are happy with the data preview, click “Finish” and watch as your text magically separates into different columns! (Figure 5).

Figure 5 – CLICK TO EXPAND

There are many different options how data is split or delimited. If you’d like more information on what else the “Text to Columns” can do, CONTACT ME for further help or comment below with a specific question.

A Little Fun for Tax Time

With the tax filing deadline just a mere five days away – yes, you get an extra 3 days this year! – I thought I would amuse my readers with some fun and interesting facts about taxes and their history in the U.S. If you still need to file, you better get crackin’, or at least file for an extension.

History of Taxation

Before income taxes, the U.S. initially relied on tariffs. In the event of war, new taxes were imposed but often expired once the war was over. The first income taxes were imposed during the Civil War but did not last since they were not very well supported.

The 16th Amendment granted Congress the power to collect income taxes, which was done in the same manner as today through pay withholdings.  Form 1040, the first income tax form, was released in 1914 by the IRS’s predecessor, the Bureau of Internal Revenue. During this test run year, many people complained about the complexity of the form. (If only they knew how complex it would get!)

The 1913 version Form 1040 was a mere three pages and today it can be up to 174 pages long. The tax code itself is currently over 9,000 sections.

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Strange Taxes

  • Pennsylvania has a tax on coin-operated vacuum machines at gas stations.
  • In California, fresh fruit bought through a vending machine is subject to a 33% tax (Um, shouldn’t we be encouraging people to buy fruit over junk food?).
  • In New Mexico, people over 100 years old are tax-exempt, but only if they are not dependents (I know where I’m moving when I hit triple-digits!).
  • The IRS taxes stolen property. The 1040 instructions say that you should report it as stolen property. However, doing that would be self-incrimination, from which we are protected by the Constitution; therefore, one has the option of reporting it as “other income”.
  • In South Carolina, one can get a $50 deduction if they donate a dead deer to the poor.

Presidential Tax Returns

I think it’s pretty neat that we can see copies of past presidential tax returns. Here are some I personally found interesting.

Not everything about taxes is inherently boring. You can actually learn some interesting things about people by reading their tax returns! If you enjoyed reading any of these facts, check out the full list on Efile.com’s page .

 

 

 

My Gritty Start-Up

In my last blog I talked about grit and my grittiest semester as an undergrad. Needless to say, I survived that semester and ever since then have been on a crazy adventure in the accounting profession. The latest chapter of my adventure consists of my second attempt to be my own boss. Yes, SECOND attempt. In November of last year I transitioned from working as a full-time corporate accountant to being an independent accountant. It’s been a long, arduous process but I am finally starting to see my dreams come into fruition. That was not the case the first time around.

In 2014 I was working as an assistant controller for a commercial property manager. I loved coming into a new company and using my niche for lean accounting and business process improvement and whipping the books into tip-top shape. Things were no different at this place, but soon enough I would be faced with a huge career-changing dilemma. I discovered an on-going process that was illegal and needed to be rectified. I felt especially committed to exposing it because it dealt with payroll and labor laws. When I met with the Controller about it, he shrugged it off and said that’s just how things were done there. So I proceeded next to the CFO and I got the same dismissive attitude.

How on earth could I continue working for a place that did not align with my ethical standards? I knew once I had my CPA license that ethics played a major role in being able to retain your license in good standing. I was not yet licensed but I felt morally obligated to treat any current situation as though I was. This work day made me reflect on whether it would ever be worth it to sit at a desk all day and feel like I was not making a difference or to experience recurring challenges of moral distress. I knew that I would not be happy until I was working for myself, where I could control every situation to ensure it complied with my ethical values.

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The very next day I QUIT. I had no clients lined up, I had no network to speak of, and I had NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL I WAS DOING. I did not even have a plan. Maybe I should have read “5 Steps to Take Before Quitting Your Job to Become an Entrepreneur” and consider my options if things didn’t pan out so well. Because that’s exactly what happened. I was reckless with my first meddling in entrepreneurship. I owned a home with no income from roommates. I pulled out $20,000 from my credit cards to fund my personal expenses. I did not know how to build a client base and the one big project I worked on was probably the worst client I could have worked with. It was so discouraging.

6 months later, with no clients and mountains of debt, I put my tail between my legs and started job hunting. I felt like a complete failure. I felt like maybe I wasn’t cut out for my dream. I worked the next job for about a year, slowly – ever so slowly – paying off that $20,000 cash advance, which amounted to ridiculously high monthly interest. Then I decided to pick up my entire life and move to Reno, NV, where I worked a couple more corporate jobs. It was at my most recent job that an opportunity presented itself that I could not pass up. An opportunity to give entrepreneurship another try. But this time things would be different and failure was not an option.

I was working as a senior accountant for the Reno Aces and they were willing to support me by becoming my first client. Since then I have immersed myself in the business community. I joined Dynamic B2B, a wonderfully supportive and educational networking group that focuses on small businesses. I aim to genuinely connect with as many people as possible and constantly take initiative to reach out, whereas previously I was more selling focused instead of relationship focused. I truly want to help other business become more efficient and obtain more meaningful financial information and I’m continually working to make that resonant in my branding.

I still have a lot of work ahead of me to make this second venture successful. The experience is a complete 180 from the first time. I go to tons of meetings each week, I’m working long hours, and I’m absorbing as much as possible in my MBA program. The best part of it all is I’m loving every minute of it!

My favorite meetings are those where I get to talk with other entrepreneurs who have either been in my shoes or are in my shoes right now. Hearing other’s stories keep me motivated and invigorated so if you have a gritty story I would love for you to share it in the comments below! Or even better, shoot me an email so we can grab coffee 🙂

My Gritty Undergrad

I’m currently reading “Grit” by Angela Duckworth (@angeladuckw) for one my MBA courses and I am in love! I’ve always been an avid reader and genuinely enjoyed school growing up – one reason I’m tackling my MBA – so the psychological backing behind what grit is and how you get it is right up my alley. I think reflecting on my own adventures to find grit portrays what type of entrepreneur I am and the level of dedication I have to my profession and those that I serve.

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According to Duckworth, grit is a combination of passion and perseverance for a singularly important goal. Not only that, but she also speaks to how grit can grow. We move from identifying a self-oriented interest (ie: job), to learning self-disciplined practice (ie: career), and finally to a revelation of a larger purpose and meaning (ie: calling). I can recall two particular experiences in my career life where grit was essential to avoiding setbacks or complete and utter failure. I will speak of one today and the second on my next blog.

In the fall of 2006 I transferred from junior college to a University to get my Bachelor’s in Accountancy. Since high school I had always worked a full-time job while attending college part-time. I knew I was not on the usual four-year track to obtaining my Bachelor’s but I had no idea just how far behind I was. At the rate I was going I still had another four years to go. This news was very disheartening but I did not allow myself to feel discouraged for long. I made a bold decision: get a part-time gig and go full-steam with school.

In the fall of 2008 I accepted a position as an entry-level accountant for a property management company. I work worked 24 hours a week, being on-site Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and filled my time closing out the monthly books for over 15 different properties and joint ventures.

That same semester I did the unthinkable: I enrolled in 24 units (8 classes) at CSU Sacramento – and not just any 24 units – they were all upper-division (aka HARD) accounting units. This is a double full-time class schedule and was recommended that students not work any hours at this unit level. Well, I wasn’t having any of that. I knew I had it in me to get the work done so I got permission from the school to do so.

My two days off from work I was in class from 7:30am-4pm, back to back with no breaks. I usually got to school an hour early and left as late as 9pm to get in extra study time. Monday and Wednesday I had one class after work, plus an online-based class. I essentially ate, drank and slept school during those months. I admit, it was hell. I struggled to have any kind of social/family life at all, but I managed to survive the semester. I finished with 4 A’s and 4 B’s and I was floored at the accomplishment and relieved it was over. I already knew I had found my passion and I pushed through a treacherous semester so that I could graduate over a year sooner. I can say with certainty that I could never have gotten through it if I hadn’t had the passion and perseverance for my interest in accounting.

I am working on transitioning my interest from just a career to my true calling. Find out how I’m making that happen in my next blog this week, where I discuss using grit to persevere through a business failure in order to get back up and try again.

Things to Consider When Choosing Accounting Software

Whether you are a small start-up or a large established company, there are things to consider when choosing an accounting software. Who will be using it? How much functionality will you require? Here are some guidelines to help you start your search for the best-suited software.

Who will be using it?

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Most software has limitations on how many users can access the software, either at any given time or altogether. It is important to know what your needs are and what your needs may grow to in the future. It could be costly to upgrade later on or find out you need different software entirely. For example, QuickBooks offers various levels with increasing number of users allowed (“number of people who can access QuickBooks Online” near the end of the list).

It is important to consider what roles within your company will need access to the software. If your sales manager or payroll clerk receive value from access, you should choose a software that has security access variability. You may not want certain individuals seeing confidential employee information or sensitive financial statements.

How much functionality will you require?

If you are a self-employed individual, you may only require simple functionality such as invoicing and bill payments. A mid-size company may require additional functionality to include budgeting and payroll. A large company may require layers of functionality when other software must integrate into the accounting software and serves as a sub-ledger.

Knowing which different software programs “talk” to each other and the ease with which they communicate is essential. Integration can entail complex processes and it’s important to understand how to locate and fix discrepancies. An example would be a payroll system – such as Paychex – that only sends over summary amounts to the accounting software to ensure confidentiality.

What else is unique about your company?

Each company and entrepreneur will have unique needs as it relates to their financial needs. Do not assume that because a company is similar to yours that you should jump right in to using the same accounting software. Not only should you identify your company’s need and wants in the software, but you should consider the cost-benefit of each one. Will that software that costs twice as much cut down on manual input? There is more that goes into a full cost-benefit analysis than the cost of the software itself.

Choosing an accounting software can be a daunting task, but having an experienced accountant assist with the process can help ensure a better fit. Contact me HERE if you’d like to get started on an accounting software evaluation, or comment below with your question.