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In the News: Optimism on U.S. Economy hits Post-Recession High

CPA Outlook Index

The Wall Street Journal’s CFO Report covered yesterday’s release of the AICPA’s Economic Outlook Survey results, noting that 14 percent of those surveyed plan to hire this quarter – up from 10 percent in Q4. The AICPA Economic Outlook Survey polls chief financial officers, controllers and other CPAs in executive and senior management roles about their thoughts involving the economy and their hiring plans in the next year. The Triangle Business Journal cited the rise of the CPA Outlook Index,  a composite of nine indicators, which measured a 69, a post-recession high (see the chart to the left) that matches the index score from the first quarter a year ago. The Raleigh News & Observer, noted that the CPA respondents’ views are seen as a leading economic indicator because they oversee corporate finances and help devise strategy. Carol Scott, CPA, CGMA, AICPA vice president for business, industry and government, was quoted by WRAL.com in their article on the survey. Scott said "optimists now outnumber pessimists on the U.S. economy by an almost 2-to-1 margin, which is a striking change from six months ago." The results of the survey will be discussed on a webcast 2012 Economy: Real Recovery or Roller Coaster Ride?, scheduled from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. ET on March 22. The webcast has free CPE for the first 2,000 AICPA Members who register.

Laura Raines’ headline in the Atlanta Journal Constitution - accounting changing, but future looks bright - should make any CPA smile. The article focuses on CPA Horizons 2025, a yearlong study by the AICPA released in late 2011, and cites a positive hiring environment for executives with accounting skills. The CPA Horizons project reaffirms the profession’s bright prospects and demonstrates how firms can adapt and respond to today’s technology-driven and increasingly complex global marketplace. With the scope of business more complex, CPAs can’t be relegated to their own departments any longer, said Jim Underwood, principal of Windham Brannon, an Atlanta accounting firm. “It’s still our purpose to ‘synthesize intelligence to insight’ [as the report states], or to gather and sift through all the data and to help our clients understand it so that they can act on it,” he said. “Leaders in the C-suite have a greater need for that expertise, because so much of business is driven by financial decisions.” The accounting profession provides ample opportunities for younger CPAs. As baby boomers begin retiring, firms are looking to add young talent who can carry the firm forward. “I always tell young people that accounting offers outstanding opportunities for the future,” Underwood said. “People may think that all we do is tax work, but we do so much more. The CPA designation translates into lots of career paths.”

Last week, we blogged about the increase in CPAs who serve as financial planners. Mickey Meece recently wrote an article in The New York Times about the need for proactive tax planning to account for living expenses, as well as health, tax, investment and estate issues. It should come as no surprise that she spoke to a couple of CPAs for their expert advice. Andrea Millar, CPA/PFS, senior technical manager of the AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning section said that people face important choices when it comes to Social Security. If they collect Social Security at 62 and earn income, their benefits may be reduced. Additionally, special tax rates on capital gains and qualified dividends are set to expire; capital gains may rise to 20 percent in 2013 from 15 percent, or 10 percent from zero, depending on income level. “There is so much up in the air, you can’t wait to plan,” Millar said. “You have to have a game plan to be ready to act by the end of the year.” “Things are different now,” agreed Mackey McNeill, CPA/PFS, founder of Mackey Advisors of Covington, Ky. “The old rules don’t apply.”



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