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14 posts from February 2014

A Look Inside the Oscars

Oscar-statueWe are now a couple days away from one of the most watched and tweeted awards shows, the Academy Awards. Earlier this week the AICPA's CPA Letter Daily polled its readers to see which movie they thought would win the Best Picture Oscar. “12 Years a Slave” was the top vote getter, with 31.71% of the vote. Coming in next was “American Hustle” (19.59%) followed by “Gravity” (13.79%). We will just have to wait and see if the readers predicted correctly.

A highlight of most award shows, at least for CPAs, is not necessarily who won what or what they were wearing, but rather those 30 seconds of fame for the CPAs featured on stage during the national broadcast. Most years the CPAs wave from the stage, sporting briefcases embossed with their firm’s name. However, some years, they get a slightly different mention, as the cast of “The Big Bang Theory” gave CPAs two years ago at the Emmys.

In January, PwC, which has overseen the balloting process for the Oscars for the last 80 years, announced that Brian Cullinan, CPA, chair of PwC’s U.S. board of partners and managing partner of PwC’s Southern California practice, joined the leadership team managing the 2014 balloting process alongside Rick Rosas, CPA. They will be the only two people in the world who know the identities of the Oscar winners before they are revealed on Sunday.

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Hidden Traps for Small Employer HRAs in 2014

Surprised-businessLike many small employers with under 50 full-time equivalent employees, I thought my company would be relatively unaffected by the Affordable Care Act. I was surprised to discover that my company Healthcare Reimbursement Arrangement is legal, but is now completely unworkable.

I have offered for several years to full-time employees a standalone HRA for which they get pre-tax reimbursements for out-of-pocket medical expenses and health insurance premiums, up to the annual predetermined dollar limit. HRAs generally fall under Code Section 105(b) and are considered employer self-insured accident or health plans. By design, HRA plans have dollar limits on annual and lifetime benefits provided to participants. However, to be a qualified group health plan in 2014, the plan must provide minimum essential health benefits without annual or lifetime dollar limits. My company’s HRA fails to meet this basic requirement. 

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No Matter What You Call It, Valuation Standards Apply

Business-valuationSince Statement on Standards for Valuation Services No.1 was released in June of 2007, I have received numerous questions about when SSVS No. 1 applies. It is important to note that all AICPA members are required to follow all AICPA standards, and many state boards of accountancy require CPAs to follow AICPA standards as well. 

SSVS No. 1 was promulgated for one reason: To protect the public and the reputation of CPAs. Before SSVS No. 1, both CPAs and non-CPAs would tell their clients the value of their business based on what amounted to a rule of thumb measurement. The client would then rely on that number for tax returns, transactions, employee stock ownership plans and many other purposes, sometimes with negative consequences for their own clients.

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A Golden Opportunity: Performing IPSAs of Conflict Minerals Reports

Mound-of-goldHave you read about conflict minerals in the news? Apple Inc. recently stated in its supplier responsibility report that the company’s entire supply of tantalum used in its products was verified as conflict free, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. The report also noted that “we’re pushing our suppliers of tin, tungsten, and gold just as hard to use verified sources.”

This news relates to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s final rule issued in August 2012 which required public companies to disclose their use of “conflict minerals” in their manufacturing processes and supply chains. The term “conflict minerals” describes certain minerals—tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold—that are mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its surrounding areas. Public companies might be required to file a Conflict Minerals Report, which may also be subject to an Independent Private Sector Audit. As a CPA, you are the premier provider of such an audit and the AICPA provides resources to help with inquiries you may be receiving from your clients.

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AICPA’s Legacy Scholars Giving Back to their Communities

Thiswaytocpa_logo_webThe AICPA recently announced that undergraduate and graduate level accounting students may now apply online for scholarships for the 2014-2015 academic year.

In addition, the AICPA has created a new scholarship for students who have earned a finance-related associates degree and declared their intent to major in accounting at a four-year college or university. The AICPA Foundation Two-Year Transfer Scholarship will provide $1,000 to five qualified recipients.

The AICPA Foundation Two-Year Transfer Scholarship joins the AICPA/Accountemps Student Scholarship, AICPA John L. Carey Scholarship, and AICPA Scholarship for Minority Accounting Students to comprise the AICPA Legacy Scholars program.

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How Would a U.S. Bitcoin Transaction be Taxed?

Accepting-bitcoinsOverstock.com, the Sacramento Kings and a few countries have all taken positions on what they will do with Bitcoins.  The two major Bitcoin positions are treatment of it as property, as Singapore has recently adopted, or as currency, as Germany has chosen.  

Much has been written on the creation of the Bitcoin, and its rise in popularity – and value – from 5 cents in 2010 to over $1,200 in 2013.  Bitcoins were born from combining electronic commerce and communications with mathematics, cryptography and privacy – as they only exist when your computer is functioning (or your iPad, smartphone, tablet, smart watch or Google glasses!), and they have no intrinsic value, save for what value people are willing to give.

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Building a Foundation for the Future of Management Accounting

CGMA-wordcloudThe strength of the tallest buildings lies within their foundations. As the CGMA designation continues to grow, I’d like to tell you a little about the foundation that makes it so strong. 

The CGMA designation was created to help people and businesses succeed. As we head towards 2015, there are a several major releases from the AICPA and CIMA, culminating in a universal exam in January 2015. These releases are the foundational building blocks of the designation.

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Emotions at Play: To Spend or Save?

Whether we like it or not, emotion plays a part in almost everything we do; from making a move at the end of a date to hitting the snooze in the morning before work. Emotion is that little bug in your ear that can sway your decision making, no matter how logical you may try to be. That’s why strong emotions, such as love, can make you feel so crazy. 

Pig - Love 2I’ve worked on the Feed the Pig campaign for several years, and as a member of its target audience I know firsthand that emotional spending is a common struggle for my peers. This is especially true when it comes to holidays, like today, Valentine’s Day, when Americans feel compelled to spend that extra dollar to show someone that we care, no matter how unnecessary and unrealistic it may be.

A few weeks ago, we sat down with National Financial Literacy Commission members Kelley Long, CPA/PFS, and Clare Levison, CPA, for a Facebook chat with consumers about finances and the role that emotions often play in our decisions. Here are a few of the top Q&As from the event:

 

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Relief for Missed Portability Elections

In this podcast, Bob Keebler covers Revenue Procedure 2014-18, which provides a simplified method for certain taxpayers to obtain an extension of time to make a portability election. Rev. Proc. 2014-18 provides an automatic extension for certain estates of decedents dying in 2011, 2012 and 2013 to elect portability. The extension applies to estates that would otherwise not have had a filing requirement, and allows the estates to file a return to elect portability until December 31. It includes the estates of same-sex decedents who were not eligible to elect portability until after the Windsor decision. Access more resources in the Planning After ATRA and NIIT Toolkit, including more podcasts, new charts by Bob Keebler as well as webcast recordings and Forefield Advisor alerts/videos, and the complete four-volume set of The CPA’s Guide to Financial & Estate Planning, recently updated for ATRA and NIIT, and much more.

Relief for Missed Portability Elections

 

 

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4 Resolutions for Business Solution Implementation Projects

Solution-implementationAt the beginning of a new year, many people create lists of resolutions or goals for the future. Just like you, companies make resolutions, too. Sometimes companies devise intricate ways to monitor and measure results against these goals. Yet, even with these seemingly adequate preparations in place, one continues to hear and read about project failures with nearly 50 percent of enterprise system implementation projects deemed failures. After a poor go-live, there is plenty of finger-pointing, usually at the external implementation and vendor team.  But, from my perspective, there is also a significant amount of blame that should be shared by the user organization.

So as a CPA and consultant, I would like to offer some resolutions for companies to keep when implementing a new computer system or undertaking an upgrade effort. These resolutions are based on an aggregation of observations during my work troubleshooting and resolving problems after the fact, and are not unique to any one client experience but are common to many engagements.  

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A Firm’s Strategy for Offering the FRF for SMEs Framework to Clients

AICPA-FRF-for-SMEsThe firm I work for, RubinBrown, prides itself on supporting small business. Our three offices are in America’s heartland – St. Louis, Kansas City and Denver. As an accountant, auditor and adviser for Main Street, private company financial reporting has always been an important issue to us. So, of course, last June we were excited to see the AICPA release its Financial Reporting Framework for Small- and Medium-Sized Entities. We quickly put in place a strategy to offer FRF for SMEsTM-based financial statement preparation to our clients who do not need GAAP-based financial statements.

For me, seeing what works for others and how they accomplish their goals helps me figure out an efficient and effective path for my own initiatives. If you are interested in expanding your firm’s services and serving your clients by using the FRF for SMEs, you may find our firm’s approach and experiences informative.

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Downton Abbey’s Death Duty Explained

Highclere CastleHighclere Castle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spoiler Alert: This blog post contains spoilers if you have not seen the first episode of season four of “Downton Abbey.”

“Downton Abbey,” the British period drama that takes place in the early 1900s, has made death taxes… fun. If you are not familiar with the show, I will set it up for you. The Crawleys are part of the British aristocracy as the Earl and Countess of Grantham. Robert Crawley is the fifth Earl of Grantham and has only one heir, Matthew Crawley. Matthew is Robert’s third cousin, once removed (at this time in history, women still could not inherit property or title). In season three, Matthew marries Mary, Robert’s daughter, to keep the estate, title and money in Robert’s direct line of descent. Almost immediately after the birth of Matthew and Mary’s son, Matthew dies in a car accident.

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Governing and Managing IT Investment and Spending

Return-on-investmentEvery organization wants to get the most out of its IT initiatives – without spending more than is needed or realizing that you have not spent enough to get the job done until it is too late. The key to achieving this depends on how your organization governs and manages its IT investment and spending – and having effective policies and procedures in place can help you to do just that.

The issue of governing and managing IT investment and spending was one of the top 10 technology initiatives in the AICPA’s 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Survey results, which was conducted jointly with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada. Governing and managing IT investment and spending ranked eighth in the top ten technology initiatives in the U.S. and was the fifth biggest concern in Canada. However, only 38% of survey respondents in both countries felt confident or highly confident in the ability of their clients’ organizations or their organizations to address this technology initiative.  So, how can you elevate those confidence levels?  By determining how to effectively maximize your IT ROI.

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Super Bowl Was More than Just a Game to Celebrate

Super-bowl-xlviii-logoYesterday’s Super Bowl was a chance for players and fans to celebrate the culmination of another great season. For the past three years, CPA Letter Daily readers have been asked to pick the winner of the Super Bowl. Readers correctly predicted the winners in 2011 (Packers) and 2012 (Giants), but not for 2013 (readers selected the 49ers over the Ravens). This year CPA Letter Daily readers overwhelming chose the Denver Broncos as the Super Bowl champions (73.34%). Unfortunately, their prediction was wrong as the Seattle Seahawks trounced the Broncos.

Super Bowl XLVIII was more than just a triumph for the Seahawks. It also was a celebration of a number of football firsts. It was the first Super Bowl to be held outdoors in a cold weather state, to be hosted by two states and to have a majority of attendees arrive via mass transit.

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