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22 posts from May 2013

In the News: Paying for a Summer Studying Abroad

Graduation-abroadAs a recent – and I use the word recent liberally – college graduate, one of my few regrets is that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to spend a summer studying abroad. I generally excuse this away because I had my hands full juggling my course work and extracurricular activities and was always eager to return to my native New York. If I was being honest with myself, the real reason was that I could never seem to navigate the financial and administrative aspects of applying to take classes overseas during the summer.

For those of you who are still in school and seeking to broaden your horizons, Michael Eisenberg, a Los Angeles-based CPA/PFS, recently spoke to U.S. News & World Report to educate their audience on how to pay for short study-abroad trips.

The article encourages students to look for scholarships and aid to pay for the parts of a short-term educational trip not eligible for 529 plan funding.

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Small Businesses and Health Care Reform – What Now?

Health-care-reformThe Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform) seeks to change the way health insurance premiums are established, just as the Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care did in Massachusetts. As CPAs’ small business clients begin to implement the requirements of health care reform, CPAs need to understand two significant ways in which their small business clients, and their own small practices, may be affected.

The Small Group Insurance Market and Increasing Premiums

The first big change that health care reform brings is the prospect of “merging” (formally or via rating rules) the small group insurance market with the individual insurance market. The individual market typically has the highest costs of all the health insurance markets due to the actuarial risk of a single covered life and the time and expense of selling single policies. The small group market, historically 50 employees or less, but in the case of health care reform, 100 employees or less (mandated to expand the risk pool base of small businesses who might also absorb the cost of the merged individual market), is significantly less risky and thus has lower premiums. As has been the case in Massachusetts, if the formal merger of the two markets’ risk pools takes place in your state, it may cause small business premiums to increase dramatically. If you or your client presently have more than 50 employees and are covered in your state’s existing large group market risk pool, premiums could rise once the small group level increase to 100 employees becomes effective in 2014.

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Celebrate Memorial Day: Serve a Veteran

Memorial-dayNow that you’re back to work after this year’s Memorial Day celebrations, you and your colleagues may be looking for additional ways to say thanks to the men and women who protect the U.S. and its interests. Good news! There is an exciting opportunity for CPAs to use your talents to do just that.

It is all part of the Veteran Fast Launch Initiative, a combined effort of the AICPA and SCORE. The program connects veterans who want to start and grow their own businesses with CPAs from across the country. The aim is to help veterans, their spouses and families succeed as small business owners. Practitioner volunteers provide up to five hours of time at no charge to veterans.

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10 Skills for Mapping Your Journey to Partnership

Partner-handshakeDo you have firm partnership in your sights? If so, good for you! Although there is no “one size fits all” approach for a senior manager to become partner, there are steps CPAs can take to strengthen their skills, expand their knowledge and develop personal characteristics that can bring them closer to achieving their goal. Beyond working hard to stand out, here are some things we did that helped us better position ourselves to become partners at our firm, Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain, PC. You may want to consider these tips as you set out on the road to partnership.

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A Smooth Transition to the Cloud

Digital-cpaA small business gains access to sophisticated technology it could not previously afford. A mid-size company reassigns its IT staff to strategic projects that encompass far more than day-to-day tech operations. A large organization is able to tap into enhanced business intelligence and put it to work more quickly. 

These are some of the success stories associated with cloud computing. Cloud technology is quickly becoming an integral part of everyday business life, smoothing the way to valuable business process outsourcing opportunities and making it easier to identify and use critical business intelligence. In fact, over 65% of IT security professionals reported using some type of cloud technology for mission-critical applications and data, according to the AccelOpps Cloud Security Survey 2013. And CPAs are integrally involved in many organizations’ shift to the cloud.

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How Unlimited Vacation Works in My CPA Firm

Exotic_vacationBefore starting my own CPA firm, I worked at a large, national accounting firm and found I was never actually able to use up my three weeks of annual vacation time. However, when I went to work for a local boutique CPA firm, I only got ten annual vacation days. There was also no policy for telecommuting and no flexible schedules or incentives for being more efficient than expected, such as being rewarded with more paid time off. “Face time” in the office ruled. Initially, I was okay with limited vacation, but a couple of years in, I realized that I would really value more flexibility as part of my compensation package.

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7 Tips to Help Others Find Your Videos on YouTube

Youtube_logoThere are tens of thousands of hours of video being uploaded into YouTube every day. Don’t let the hard work you put into producing a video for your firm or practice get lost in cyberspace.  Implement a few basic optimizations to make it easier for users to find your videos as they browse and search.

1. Use keywords in your filename
Rename your video’s filename to match the topic of the video. For instance, if your video is about small business accounting, rename your video file from “video.mp4” to “small-business-accounting.mp4.”

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Wrap Up of AICPA Spring Governing Council Meeting 2013

The 2013 AICPA Spring governing Council meeting kicked off on Sunday and just wrapped up. Take a look at the three-day meeting through the eyes of social media. (Email subscribers: View the full story on AICPA Insights.)

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Virtual Work Teams Are Coming

Virtual-teamAs the economy continues to recover, the impending retirement of our nation’s Baby Boomers will create a labor shortage far greater than any we have experienced in the U.S. Professionals with the right skills will have their choice of employment opportunities, which will drive demand – and salaries – up. CPA firms that provide truly motivational and engaging environments will win the recruiting and retention race.

That’s why learning to manage the challenges and possibilities of virtual work teams is a must for today’s current and emerging partners. The need for increased workplace flexibility generates passionate conversations by CPA firm leaders and team members. Employees are challenged to keep a steady balance between their work and their personal lives as demands in each continuously change. Some aren’t willing to make the firm their top priority.

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In the News: 4 Helpful Quotes from CPAs

Cpa-quote (3)I read so many great quotes from CPAs every day and have such a limited space to summarize them on the blog– it can get to be a bit frustrating.  As I began drafting my bi-weekly ‘In the News’ post, I decided to switch things up this week.

I present to you four helpful quotes from CPAs. Hey – everyone can use a little help now and then.

As Kelli Grant reports in MarketWatch, going to summer camp may be a rite of passage for children, but for parents, it seems more like an initiation into the woes of tuition payments.

What parents might not know is that camp expenses can translate into a tax break.

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5 Things CPAs Need to Know about Integrated Reporting

Integrated-reporting-word-cloudLast week, my blog post discussed that Integrated Reporting <IR> represents an important shift in corporate reporting in which CPAs can play a key role providing consulting services, implementation or report preparation. In today’s blog, I’m drilling down into some of the key concepts of the recently released Consultation Draft of the International <IR> Framework that are important for CPAs to understand.

Five features of the Draft Framework are:

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Tax Reform: The Crystal Ball Never Lies

Crystal-ballPeople often ask me, “Ed, when do you think we’ll finally see tax reform?”

“Not before 2014,” I respond with assurance.
“How can you be so sure, Ed?” they say.
“My crystal ball never lies!

But I started getting a bit nervous about sounding so confident.  After a little digging, I found out my crystal ball had once predicted that the Titanic was unsinkable, yet it went down on April 15, 1912. How’s that for foreshadowing?! That forced me to do some soul searching and thinking.

Flash back to November 2011. I was sitting next to Pat Thompson, who chaired the AICPA Tax Executive Committee.  We were listening to Don Longano, former House Ways and Means Committee Chief Counsel and Washington tax insider, share his views on the prospects for tax legislation at the National Tax Conference.

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SEC Using XBRL to Flag Reports for Review

Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commi...Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not too long ago, I heard Craig M. Lewis, Director and Chief Economist of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Risk, Strategy and Financial Innovation, give a presentation on the SEC’s new predictive accounting quality model, nicknamed “RoboCop” by the trade press, which will enable the SEC to monitor and flag reports for further review.

What makes AQM so useful, Mr. Lewis said in an interview with Merrill Compliance Solutions, is that, by using XBRL, the tool can be “applied broadly to the entire filer space.” Previous versions of the tool used Compustat data, which did not include all filing companies. With XBRL, 100 percent of filing companies will be analyzed by AQM.

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Student Debt Delays Spending, Saving and Marriage [INFOGRAPHIC]

According to a new survey conducted for the AICPA by Harris Interactive, only 39% fully understood the burden student loan debt would place on the future and 60% have at least some regret over the choice of education financing.  Furthermore, 75% have made a personal or financial sacrifice--such as delaying a home purchase and postponing marriage and children--because of monthly student loan payments. The press release includes tips for parents and students on both saving for college and managing loan payments. The below 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy infographic, Realities & Regrets of Student Debt, highlights the findings.  

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Evolution of Corporate Reporting: Integrated Reporting

Integrated-reporting-word-cloudCorporate reporting in the U.S. and around the world has often developed as disparate strands of reporting.  Stakeholders have grown to seek more and more information in a number of different reporting vehicles, but do they really seek the details or are they trying to drive better corporate practice?

Integrated Reporting <IR> represents an evolution of corporate reporting that focuses attention on how an organization creates value in the short, medium and long term.  An integrated report, a key output of Integrated Reporting, is a concise report primarily intended for investors of financial capital, although other stakeholders who have an interest in the organization’s ability to create value will also benefit from such communications. 

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Issues Not-for-Profit CPAs Are Managing [PODCAST]

The not-for-profit accounting and auditing landscape has undergone significant change in recent years. In this podcast, CPA not-for-profit experts Chris Cole, Jennifer Hoffman, Frank Jakosz and Andrew Prather discuss current NFP issues that face CPA preparers and auditors and describe how the AICPA’s newly updated Not-for-Profit Entities Audit and Accounting Guide can be a resource for NFPs. Discussion topics include recent Financial Accounting Standards Board updates, changes in the NFP investment arena, revenue recognition, gifts-in-kind valuation, and taxes and regulatory considerations. Ken Tysiac, senior editor for news with the Journal of Accountancy, moderates. [Email subscribers: Visit AICPA Insights to listen to the podcast.]

 

(If you have issues loading the audio player, visit the Journal of Accountancy podcast page to listen.) 

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3 Things to Know About Proposed Ethics Code Revisions

CPAs know how seriously our profession takes ethics. The AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct applies to all AICPA members. In addition, many state CPA societies and state boards of accountancy either incorporate it by reference or use it as a starting point for their codes. The Code of Professional Conduct provides guidance on areas such as client relationships, maintaining independence and adhering to the technical standards of GAAP, GAAS and others.

The AICPA's Professional Ethics Division acts as the steward of the Code of Professional Conduct, taking a 360 degree view of ethics. It publishes a free newsletter, Ethically Speaking, which helps CPAs better understand ethics-related issues (send an email to [email protected] to subscribe). The Professional Ethics Division establishes, interprets and enforces these standards. To carry out its charge, the Professional Ethics Division provides a hotline that helps members understand and apply the Code of Professional Conduct properly. What’s more, monitoring hotline inquiries is one of the ways the Professional Ethics Division identifies topics that require standard setting. Using this real-time feedback, the Professional Ethics Division has been able to tackle topics that are important to the profession. 

The latest exposure draft issued by the Professional Ethics Division reorganizes the Code of Professional Conduct to make it easier to navigate, understand and apply. Watch this video to learn more about the Ethics Codification project.

 

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How Would an Unlimited Vacation Policy Work in Your CPA Firm?

Tropical-island-getaway-vacation

After this crazy, compressed tax season, you and your employees are certainly ready and deserve a vacation. But do you give your employees enough vacation time? How much paid vacation time is enough? Can you imagine that the answer might someday be “as much as they want?” Some companies are shifting toward an unlimited vacation policy because they believe it can enhance morale and minimize stress. Although only 1% of organizations offer unlimited paid time off, according to a Society for Human Resource Management survey, it is surprisingly most often used at smaller organizations. There are a number of advantages to offering unlimited vacation time in your CPA firm. They include:

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In the News: Americans are Feeling the Effects of Money Stress

Money-stressFor many Americans money stress brought on by lighter paychecks this year is affecting more than their wallets — it’s taking a toll on their waistlines, friendships and the amount of sleep they get. That’s according to results of a new survey fielded for the American Institute of CPAs by Harris Interactive in recognition of National Financial Capability Month.

The telephone survey, conducted between March 14 and March 17, asked 1,011 U.S. adults to name all the ways financial stress is affecting their lives. Of those who rate their financial stress “very” or “somewhat high,” almost half, 47 percent, said they are sleeping less; 43 percent said they have less patience with friends or are seeing them less often and 31 percent are eating more junk food or gaining weight.

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Live from the AICPA Sustainability Workshop

I live blogged from the AICPA's Sustainability Workshop that took place May 2 to 3 in New York City. The workshop is part of the Executive Boardroom Series from the AICPA and the Enterprise Risk Management Initiative at the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University. Below is a replay of the entire two-day event.

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Be Prepared for Major Changes in Key GAAP Standards

GAAPGet ready to tackle some major revisions in accounting standards. After years of consideration, the Financial Accounting Standards Board is finalizing its approaches on three major issues: revenue recognition, leases and financial instruments. Each of these accounting areas affects virtually all companies in the United States no matter what their size or whether they are public or nonpublic. And that means virtually all CPA firms are affected too.

From an advocacy standpoint, the AICPA continues to monitor the progress of these important standards and to comment on the exposure drafts on members’ behalf. Our goal is to help make sure the standards are effective and can be implemented with as much ease as possible. Moreover, the AICPA will help members understand and implement the new standards so they can continue to provide high-quality services and comply appropriately with the rules.

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2013 TTI Survey Lists Top 10 Technology Initiatives in U.S. and Canada

TechnologyTechnology allows CPA firms to better understand, manage and grow their practices. Yet, it can come with its own set of challenges when trying to manage and retain data, secure IT environments and stay in compliance, according to the latest top technology initiatives survey from the AICPA’s Information Management and Technology Assurance Division.

The 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Survey, conducted jointly by the AICPA and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, asked accounting professionals in public accounting, business and industry, consulting, government, not-for-profit and other organizations about their top 10 technology initiatives in 2013. Here's the top 10 in the U.S. and Canada:

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