NEW YORK–Amidst a blizzard of white, yellow, and pink forms in triplicate, a jubilant crowd of more than 800,000 accountants jammed Times Square Saturday night to ring in the fiscal new year.
"Fiscal Year 2001–02!" shouted one unidentified CPA, a tie wrapped around his forehead and a paper-bag-covered bottle of caffeine-free Diet Coke in his hand. "The expense-accrual forms are completed and the statutory salary recovery requests are in. Now it's time to par-tay!"
The man then climbed atop a garbage can and wildly waved a copy of a PricewaterhouseCoopers end-of-year report before falling back into the crowd.
"Oh, yeah!" yelled 49-year-old Deloitte & Touche accountant David Gelfand, tearing off his shirt to reveal the phrase "In The Black" painted on his chest. "Anyone looking for final approval for payment vouchers subject to post-payment audit can forget it. The Office of Accounting is officially closed for the year! Whoooooo!"
Many present for the annual Times Square mayhem wore hats and carried noisemakers, and floating through the air were thousands of balloons emblazoned with the logo of the Big Five accounting firm Ernst & Young, the event's official sponsor.
Accountants began to gather as early as noon in anticipation of the official countdown to midnight, April 15. At first, the mood was calm and genial, with accountants discussing tax code and sharing their Fiscal New Year's resolutions with one another. But as day turned to night, the scene changed, with celebrants yelling, climbing onto parked cars, and throwing items from their briefcases, including pocket calculators, spill-proof coffee mugs, and Parker pen sets. By 9 p.m., the size of the roiling throng had forced police to close off Broadway from 34th Street to 57th Street and reroute all vehicular traffic.
Shortly after 10 p.m., a portion of the crowd began to chant, "Excel! Excel!" in unison, prompting another group to defend its preferred spreadsheet software with shouts of, "Lotus 123! Lotus 123!" As the two sides' intensity increased, the impassioned yelling turned to shoving, and police had to escort several accountants out of the crowd.
Throughout the evening, the Times Square Jumbotron showed clips of accounting highlights from FY 2000–01, as well as reflections on the past fiscal year by celebrities such as Gerard Truman, author of The Truman Formula For Estimating Loss Leader Profitability Returns.
"There's no question that 2000–01 was one incredible fiscal year," said Truman, his words echoing through Times Square. "Microsoft released Windows 2000, everyone changed their methods to accommodate the Euro, and Office Max released its biggest catalog ever. But now, after a long, hard year of accounting, it's time to turn off our NQS batch queues and just enjoy ourselves."
One minute before midnight, the traditional countdown began as the three-ton, Tiffany-made Fiscal Ball slowly descended from the sky at One Times Square.
"That Fiscal Ball is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," said Peter Timmins, 38, a KPMG budget analyst from Philadelphia. "Back when I was getting my master's in accounting at Georgetown, we'd all sit glued to the live annual broadcast of John Kenneth Galbraith's Fiscal New Year's Rockin' Eve. And now I'm actually experiencing it in person."
Lou Dobbs, former star of CNN's Moneyline, officially closed the ceremonies, addressing the crowd from atop a giant adding machine shooting reams of number-filled streamers into the crowd below.
"Let us now, for but a moment," Dobbs said, "look back fondly on FY 2000–01–the mergers and acquisitions that made it special, the new information systems that came into our lives, the new tax strategies we may have discovered in places we weren't even looking."
Dobbs paused shortly, waiting for the crowd to quiet, before bursting into song.
"Should auld accountants be forgot..." sang Dobbs, lifting his voice as the swaying crowd of accountants linked arms and joined him in song.
"This is so amazing," said Amanda Lakewood, a tax-code accountant who traveled all the way from Merced, CA, to be part of the Times Square festivities. "When we're all here together, it doesn't matter if you work in budget analysis, auditing, or management accounting. It doesn't matter if you work for the government, a privately held corporation, or a public accounting firm. When we're together here like this, we're all just accountants, every one of us. Happy Fiscal New Year!"