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14 posts from September 2011

In the News: PCGAAP, Accounting Jobs, Sustainability

Happy Friday, dear readers – it has been a while. My weekly news wrap up post will now appear bi-weekly, with a post which spotlights interesting content from around the web appearing on alternate weeks. Should you want more frequent updates of news related to the accounting profession, please consider following AICPA Media Relations on Twitter @AICPANews or subscribing to the Media Relations RSS feed.

Now let’s get to the news, shall we?

One of, if not the most, pressing issues facing the accounting profession is the debate over the creation of separate reporting standards for private companies. The chorus of voices on one side of the issue got a lot louder this week with the announcement that thirty-three state CPA societies have joined the AICPA in calling upon the Financial Accounting Foundation to create a separate standard setting board for privately held companies. Michael Cohn of Accounting Today writes that AICPA advocates a separate board for private company accounting standards independent of the Financial Accounting Standards Board, under the oversight of the FAF. AICPA Chairman Paul Stahlin, CPA, said “after over 30 years of research by numerous diverse and independent groups, the only conclusion is that an autonomous standard-setting body under FAF to set differential standards for privately held companies must be created.”

Continue reading "In the News: PCGAAP, Accounting Jobs, Sustainability" »

New Score Release Timeline for the CPA Exam

CPA Exam Score Report AnswersStarting in the fourth quarter of 2011 the U.S. CPA Exam will begin releasing scores earlier and more predictably. Initially this may not seem very interesting; however, the change will mark a major shift in the U.S. CPA Exam experience and the strategies that prospective CPAs employ as they work toward passing the exam.

With the transition from a pencil and paper exam to the computerized format in 2004, came a shift in the strategies and expectation of CPA candidates. In particular, the ability to take one exam section at a time and nearly year-round scheduling opportunities has dramatically changed the way CPA candidates prepare and plan for the exam. After the transition to computer based testing, one of the most common requests received from CPA candidates is for faster score releases so they can start planning the next steps in their test taking process.

Continue reading "New Score Release Timeline for the CPA Exam" »

CPAs: Professional Development Gurus

CPAs are known for providing sound guidance. We are, after all, called trusted advisors for a reason —whether our area of knowledge is related to tax planning, estate planning, spending and saving or making business decisions.

Over the last year, I’ve found my CPA colleagues are a particularly good source of advice regarding professional and personal development. Since the AICPA launched its BusIndNews monthly newsletter in the fall of 2010, readers have been writing in to provide their career profiles, insights into how to advance within an organization, tips on how to be the go-to-person in your office, how to find professional development opportunities and how to enjoy a happier, more successful or more balanced career.CPA Professional Development Guru

The profiles and tip articles your colleagues have submitted demonstrate how interesting and diverse the work of a CPA is. Most important of all, there’s a running theme in all of the submissions we’ve received: CPAs love their jobs and are enthusiastic about making them more interesting, challenging and fulfilling.

Do you have a story to share or any tips to help your fellow CPAs in personal or professional development? Tell us how you go the extra mile at work, maintain a better work/life balance or motivate your staff. We’d love to read about it!

Carol Scott, CPA, Vice President - Business, Industry and Government, American Institute of CPAs.

CPAs: Showcase your Volunteerism with LinkedIn

CPAs are passionate about giving back and lending their expertise through volunteer work. But how many of your peers, coworkers or clients know about your volunteerism or the causes you support? There was no area to feature these accomplishments on LinkedIn…until now!

Highlight your Passions

In early September, LinkedIn launched a new feature allowing users to add volunteer positions, causes they care about and organizations they support. It’s simple to use. Here’s how:

Continue reading "CPAs: Showcase your Volunteerism with LinkedIn" »

CPAs to the Rescue

 As Hurricane Irene spun her way up the East Coast, the spotlight brightened on disaster planning.

And on CPAs.

CPAs have long been leaders on emergency preparation. Members of the AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning section a few years ago partnered with the American Red Cross and the National Endowment for Financial Education to produce guides to help consumers prepare for and recover from disasters. You can see the expertise included in these guides and the insight of our members on display throughout the media when natural disasters occur.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, for instance, CPA financial planners Michael Eisenberg and Mitchell Freedman were quoted in this Wall Street Journal story: Insurance, Records Are Key In Storm's Wake.  Eric Rigby, a CPA financial planner in New Orleans, was interviewed live on the Weather Channel about disaster preparation.

The PCPS Section today is hosting a webinar, “Disaster Losses: From Start to Finish,” to empower AICPA members with information to help clients during a disaster. Louisiana practitioner Jerry Schreiber, who has presented numerous seminars on disaster loss, will cover topics including:

  • The emotional toll on clients
  • Accumulating the information to document a loss
  • Reporting the loss on the tax return.

The free webinar will take place from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EDT today. Be sure to register and reserve your space.

Be sure to check out other disaster planning and recovery resources available from the AICPA, including the guides and checklists from 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy. It is powerful information that you can use with clients or in your communities to demonstrate the value that CPAs deliver every day.

Andrea Millar, CPA/PFS, Sr Technical Manager - PFP, American Institute of CPAs. Andrea leads the AICPA Personal Financial Division. Her responsibilities include working with the PFP Executive and PFS Credential committees to drive the advocacy, education and other initiatives on behalf of the 7,500 AICPA members who specialize in providing estate, retirement, tax, investment and insurance advice to their individual clients.

Tips for a Financially Fit Fall

Teaching Financial LiteracyMany would agree that a significant amount of what we learn is learned at home. In fact, almost 50  percent of those who closely monitor their finances say that they learned about personal finance from their parents or at home. Yet, only 34 percent of parents have taught their teen how to balance a checkbook, and 93 percent of parents with teenagers report worrying that their children might make financial mistakes, such as overspending or living beyond their means. While awareness of the need for greater financial education has grown in recent years, there is still work to be done.

Here are some tips to share with your family and clients to strengthen their financial understanding.

Continue reading "Tips for a Financially Fit Fall" »

In the News: Dividends, PCGAAP, Deductible Loss

Barry Melancon, CPA Multiple news outlets, including Tax-News.com and Accounting Today covered the news that more than 2,600 letters have been written to the Financial Accounting Foundation demanding differential financial reporting standards for private companies and a separate independent board to oversee those standards. “Ninety nine percent of the letters from the privately held company constituency demanded that the FAF create differential standards for privately-held companies,” said Barry Melancon, CPA, AICPA president and CEO.

Paul Stahlin, CPAPaul Stahlin, CPA, AICPA chairman, said “now is the time for the FAF to take the bold step of creating a separate board to set relevant standards that privately-held companies sorely need. We call upon more CPAs and business leaders within the privately-held company constituency to push the FAF to make these changes.” The AICPA developed a letter writing tool to help members write letters to the FAF in support of a private company board.

Continue reading "In the News: Dividends, PCGAAP, Deductible Loss" »

Future Accountants Leverage Competition as Career Prep

Last week’s CPA Success post “Labor Day 2011: Laborers Wanted” cited Rick Telberg’s CPA Trendlines blog indicating that 34,800 more jobs in accounting and bookkeeping were posted in August 2011. Even as the market continues to struggle and the outcome of President Obama’s jobs plan remains unknown, this is still good news for the profession. In fact, it puts pressure on the AICPA, educators and other accounting influencers to ensure that there are skilled candidates to fill these positions and the many more that will be available when the economy finally rebounds.

The AICPA is rising to this challenge and encouraging young people to learn more about the accounting profession.

Continue reading "Future Accountants Leverage Competition as Career Prep" »

The Incredible eXtensible Business Reporting Language

Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commi...Image via Wikipedia

Back in 1998, Charlie Hoffman, a CPA, embarked on a quest to revolutionize the way the world creates and shares business information. Based on eXtensible Markup Language, a new document markup language at the time, the eXtensible Business Reporting Language was created. Hoffman took his idea to the AICPA, which funded and championed the project. By 2000, XBRL 1.0 was published and interest had grown beyond the borders of the U.S. into the international community. Countries from Australia to Spain were signing up and applying XBRL to form better business information.

Continue reading "The Incredible eXtensible Business Reporting Language" »

In the News: Economic Outlook, Outstanding Govt CPA

Carol Scott, CPAEarlier this week, the AICPA released the results of the 3rd Quarter Economic Outlook Survey, which showed a decline in optimism among CPA’s who serve as chief financial officers and other high-ranking financial decision-makers. WRAL Tech Wire reported that AICPA found that 61 percent of the respondents think it's "somewhat" or "very" likely that the U.S. is heading into the second trough of a double-dip recession. The News & Observer noted in their coverage that "turbulence in the political and economic environment eroded the sense earlier this year that a recovery was taking hold," according to Carol Scott, AICPA vice president of business, industry and government. Accounting Today pointed out in their article on the results that only 9 percent of CPAs in executive positions expressed optimism about the U.S. economy in the third quarter, down 24 percentage points from the 33 percent who said they were optimistic in the second quarter.

Continue reading "In the News: Economic Outlook, Outstanding Govt CPA" »

Remembering the Heroes of 9/11

Statue of libertyTen years – a decade in time – but with memories embedded so vividly in our minds, it is as if it could have been yesterday. Our thoughts are still with the 3,000 Americans who were killed, and the more than 6,000 who have died in ensuing military actions. Our country came together after September 11, with people of all colors and political beliefs flying American flags outside their doors. Candles lit our windows; yellow ribbons hung from our doors and mailboxes, and tears streamed from our saddened and disbelieving eyes.

Having a view of the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan from my Jersey City apartment where I grew up, the skyline has always been a natural part of my life.

The skyline morphed over the years and after the early 1970s, the twin towers became the dominant focal point to the breathtaking view of downtown Manhattan.

Continue reading "Remembering the Heroes of 9/11" »

Death and Taxes: Not Quite as Certain as You Think

Solve tax mysteriesIn 1789, Benjamin Franklin now famously observed in a letter to French physicist and writer Jean Baptiste Leroy, “Everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  However, 222 years later, Americans have much uncertainty with taxes, particularly those related to death. 

One such tax mystery that is still unraveling is the estate tax.  It started over 10 years ago with the enactment of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA), which lowered tax rates and increased exemptions on estates starting in 2002 through 2009, until the tax was finally repealed in 2010.  Then, unless a later Congress took further action, the higher pre-EGTRRA rates would return starting in January 2011.

Continue reading "Death and Taxes: Not Quite as Certain as You Think" »

Succession: It’s Not Only About The Golden Years

Polls in CPA Letter Daily offer an insight to the readers’ opinions about topics taking place in today’s world.

Last week’s poll question, with nearly 500 responses: Does your organization have a formal succession plan in place?

  • Yes, my organization has a formal succession plan in place. - 23.71%
  • Yes, but it is an informal succession plan. - 21.99%
  • No, but my organization plans to develop one. - 18.93%
  • No, and we do not have plans to create one.- 35.37%

There’s a saying that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.

For many years, the AICPA has been encouraging firms of all sizes to take a serious approach to and place a heavy focus on succession planning.  With 44,000 firms in the U.S., combined with an aging population, it’s simply an imperative. I’ve seen many firms that are so busy taking care of “today” that they never get around to planning for tomorrow.

Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4Image via Wikipedia

Recently, Apple demonstrated the importance of having a succession plan when CEO Steve Jobs stepped down, amid health concerns. His sudden announcement triggered a plan that was put in place well before his health forced him to step down. This preparation allowed Apple to seamlessly transition to new leadership and continued success. This plan was well communicated to employees and investors for months, reducing the potential for negative reactions. Examples like this, unfortunately, are the exception, rather than the rule.

In the last month, another event led me to believe that awareness regarding succession planning is both timely and needed, especially in the case of an unexpected life event.   

Continue reading "Succession: It’s Not Only About The Golden Years" »

In the News: Hurricane Irene, Cloud Computing

Hurricane Irene Disaster PreparednessAs Topical Storm Irene left a trail of devastation in its wake, initial estimates of damages were in the billions. For individuals struggling to put the pieces of their life together, the aftermath can be extremely difficult to navigate. Michael Eisenberg, CPA/PFS, told MarketWatch that gathering the facts and carefully evaluating contractors was the prudent approach. “As much as somebody wants to jump in and do something now, you need to step back a little bit, take a breath, get your wits about you before you start making decisions,” said Eisenberg. Mitchell Freedman, CPA/PFS, advised readers that in the article if their house is unlivable, they need to find out whether their insurance policy covers the expense of a hotel or rental apartment.

In related news, the AICPA wrote a letter to the IRS asking them to extend the Sept. 15 filing deadline for business tax returns for tax payers and preparers in areas impacted by Hurricane Irene. Mike Cohn of Accounting Today reports that the AICPA asked the IRS to use its administrative authority to grant at least a two-week extension of the deadline for those in the areas affected by the hurricane. Patricia Thompson, CPA, chair of the AICPA’s Tax Executive Committee, also asked that any relief apply to situations in which the taxpayer, tax return preparer or the records are located in areas ravaged by the hurricane. The Tax Adviser reports that the IRS announced September 1 that taxpayers in certain areas affected by Hurricane Irene have until October 31 to file certain returns and make payments normally due before then. The areas eligible for relief include parts of North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, and Puerto Rico; the IRS expects to provide similar relief to other places affected by the hurricane, such as Vermont

As many business are considering transitioning to cloud computing, a CFO.com article tackles the not-so-simple question of what it means to ‘move to the cloud.’ As CPA firms who have adopted the cloud model likely know, there are a number of different options for companies looking to make the switch. In the article, Timothy Chou provides real life examples and breaks down six distinct different ways to make the move.

Going Concern recently covered the AICPA’s announcement of the second annual accounting case competition. The article notes that the contest asks college students to flex their fraud and forensic skills in advising a fictional client on a major overseas expansion. “The competition is an opportunity for students to get a hands-on, real-life understanding of one of the fastest-growing interest areas in accounting: fraud and forensics,” said Jeannie Patton, AICPA vice president for students, academics and membership. The top three teams will strut their stuff in Washington D.C. and the one that does the best job keeping the project on track — and on the right side of the law — gets $10,000.

If you come across a recent article of note about the profession, please let me know in the comments section or send me an email.

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