TAMU-CC Accounting Professor Pens Tax Novel, Uses it as Unique Teaching Tool

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Accounting Professor Dr. Larry Crumbley is using a novel tool to help his students better understand complicated tax and accounting concepts.  

“The Ultimate Rip-Off: A Taxing Tale,” a mystery accounting novel written by Crumbley, focuses on investigative accountants as crime-solving detectives. Crumbley, who works in the TAMU-CC College of Business on the RELLIS campus in Bryan, noticed that by only using traditional textbooks filled with technical writing, students weren’t fully grasping complicated concepts. Crumbley found instead that creating plots with characters to teach about accounting, taxation, public finance, and tax research was a more effective teaching tool. 

“Dry textbooks are hard to read, so if there is excitement and a plot, a person is more likely to read the material, learn, and remember longer,” Crumbley said. “Filling out a tax return is not exciting, but necessary, yet catching a tax cheater is memorable. Filing a financial statement with the SEC is not exciting, yet necessary, but catching a fraudster is memorable.” 

One of Crumbley’s prevailing mottos is that to be a good accountant, an individual must be a good detective. Crumbley has even been known to enter his classroom donning a trench coat, black fedora, and magnifying glass to immerse his students in the lesson. Accounting major, Hannah Raabe ’23, explained that Crumbley’s novel presents accounting in a way that is more engaging than traditional textbooks. 

“Textbooks give us definitions and general information, but Dr. Crumbley’s novel shows me the subject in real-life scenarios and gives me an intriguing story to go along with it.” Raabe said 

In the novel, the two sleuths use their knowledge of finance and taxation to catch their suspects red handed. Crumbley’s protagonists utilize accounting information such as net worth statements and financial records in the same way a detective would handle a gun. Crumbley uses regular plot points in his novels, such as public finance concepts, political controversies, contemporary individual and corporate tax planning, and tax fraud and avoidance. A principle called scenario-based learning is a primary factor for Crumbley to write his educational novel. 

“The scenario-based principle explains that a person remembers material that includes a person and action, like cases and stories,” Crumbley said. “A novel, like the ‘Ultimate Rip-off,’ is merely a series of cases. We remember the unexpected, unusual, exciting things that happen to us – not the normal, mundane events.” 

Because the topic of taxes is so prevalent – especially each spring –  and the rules and regulations in accounting are always progressing, Crumbley also has to keep his work updated to educate the next generation of financial organizers accurately and efficiently. “The Utimate Rip-off” is now in its sixth edition.