Prince’s $250 Million Mistake

PrinceWith songs like “Purple Rain” and “Little Red Corvette,” Prince wrote the soundtrack of a generation.

However, his failure to write a will could spell trouble for his $250 million fortune. Last week, people around the world mourned the death of this gifted singer and songwriter, and many were shocked to hear that Prince didn’t have a will or an estate plan in place. Even though he was a notoriously hands-on negotiator who meticulously controlled the intellectual property rights of his song collection, this unfortunate lack of planning has left uncertainty for Prince’s heirs. The future inheritance process could cost tens of millions of dollars in legal fees, and state and federal estate taxes. Surprisingly, he’s not the first famous person who left this world without a plan.

Not yet famous with a quarter billion dollar estate to leave loved ones? It’s still important to draft a will and keep it up-to-date based on changing personal and financial situations. Here are a few tips to make sure you have an effective will:

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How to Clean Your Data and Make it Look Slick


HouseEvery day we are inundated with articles, infographics and news reports that quote statistics that we are just supposed to accept at face value. Consider online real estate prices. If you search in your local area, you will find varying figures for median price, price per square foot and return on investment. The volume and variance in data leads to many questions: Who is supplying this information? What types of property does it include? What period does it cover?

As accountants, this unsubstantiated reporting should make us uncomfortable. We are a profession that prides ourselves on transparency and disclosure. When that isn’t forthcoming, our red flags should go up. How can we trust what we are reading when we know nothing about the source and quality of the underlying data? With all the advances in technology, accountants are uniquely positioned to be the champions who set higher standards for reporting. By giving the audience access to the data, we achieve the ultimate transparency. It’s not as hard or expensive as you may think.

I recently challenged myself to create a case study that analyzed real estate sales in my community—Panama City, Fla. Like many other resort areas, our beachfront county experienced wild fluctuations in property prices over the past decade. I was curious about property values, whether they were selling at a gain or loss and if the values used for tax purposes were fair.

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Change: As Necessary as it’s Inevitable

Arleen Thomas Current Photo (2)At a state society member event in El Paso, Texas, an older gentleman told me about his daddy that had passed away 53 years ago, and if he were to come back today, he wouldn’t understand very much about the modern world. He wouldn’t understand the phone he had in his pocket, the computer he used every day, or the car he drove. But, he went on to explain, he would understand that times change and we have to let them.

The profound respect this gentleman had for his father continues to resonate with me as does the lesson his father imparted: Change can be scary and intimidating, but it is necessary — and it’s inevitable.

Consider for a moment what happens if we don’t embrace change. Consider Kodak. It didn’t fail because it did not create a product for the digital age. In fact, Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975. It failed because it didn’t embrace new technology and adapt to a marketplace with new consumer attitudes.

There are many other examples, of course. The point is flexibility and adaptability are integral to remaining relevant. You need to focus on your market, your surroundings, and what your customers need in order to succeed.

That’s what the AICPA and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) have done with a proposal to create a new accounting association to represent and advocate for the entire accounting profession, while preserving the member bodies of both organizations. The AICPA Board of Directors, governing Council, Business and Industry Executive Committee and Government Performance and Accountability Committee have all endorsed the proposal and 52 state societies have passed resolutions of support. It also has broad support from finance and firm leaders across the profession. Now they’re asking for you to vote ‘yes.’

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Say “Yes” to Advancing Our Profession


Barry and timFor nearly 129 years, the accounting profession has preserved an esteemed reputation through a commitment to protecting the public interest and upholding the profession’s core values of competence, integrity and objectivity. Each and every day, CPAs live those values through the work they do for their organizations, employers and clients. You now have a new opportunity to further strengthen our profession and play an integral part in its vitality for the future.  

On March 24, the AICPA governing Council voted to proceed with a member ballot on a proposal that would enhance our profession and position us for continued success far into the future. The proposal already has strong support: 52 state CPA societies; leaders from many CPA firms of all sizes; finance leaders from businesses and organizations worldwide; and the AICPA’s Business & Industry Executive Committee, Private Companies Practice Section Executive Committee, Government Performance and Accountability Committee, Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee, Pre-certification Education Executive Committee, and National Accreditation Commission. We urge you to vote “yes” as well.

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Tax Season Wrap Up

End of the roadCongratulations – you have made it through another tax season! 

Take the requisite time to mourn the loss of your time, sleep and missed social events.  Enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation with an activity of your choosing.  Then, if you have not already done so, take the advice of Kool & the Gang and celebrate!

No matter how many years pass, this song always manages to lift me up. So, whether this is your first or 50th tax season, it is an accomplishment and should be celebrated. Embrace the hard work that you have put in and give yourself a pat on the back.

Even as a perpetual optimist, I too fall victim to feeling down when I am exhausted, have hit a roadblock or have experienced a failure. In my many years in tax practice, I often came out of tax season telling myself this was my last. But guess what? By the beginning of the next tax season, I was hyped up and couldn’t wait for those first returns to come in the door.  

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