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16 posts from April 2014

IRS E-Services: Where are We Now? And Where are We Going?

QuestionsAs the staff liaison for the AICPA’s Internal Revenue Service Advocacy and Relations volunteer committee, I am in the unique position to listen to our members’ concerns and discuss those issues with the IRS.  When the online e-services of Power of Attorney and Electronic Account Resolution were terminated on Sept. 2, I heard concerns from numerous practitioners.  In fact, we received more calls regarding this issue than all other issues combined last year. 

The AICPA adamantly voiced members’ frustrations and concerns to the IRS.  The backlash the IRS felt from the AICPA and other members of the practitioner community was so severe that IRS officials made it clear they never wanted this situation to repeat itself.  This was a top priority to then-Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel.  The IRS also quietly looked into different possibilities to bring back these online e-services.

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Want to Focus More? Stop Multi-Tasking

Multi-taskingI confess: I am a multi-tasker. At any one time, I am working on 10 different projects, planning what to have for dinner, looking up which movies are playing and pondering what really happened to Eddie Wilson of Eddie and the Cruisers. You probably have similar habits and consider yourself a multi-tasker. We wear this label as a badge of honor. And who can blame us? Technology has made it so easy to multi-task.

Nevertheless, how many times do you intend to check the weather on your smartphone, only to be distracted by another app? Then you get a text message, which leads to an app notification and pretty soon you’re looking at cat photos on Facebook, forgetting all about the reason you picked up your smartphone to begin with (it was to check the weather, in case you forgot).

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5 Key Regulations to Get Right in Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding-keyFrom the newest design inventions to the Thai food truck that showed up in your town last week, the crowdfunding movement is allowing individuals to unleash their entrepreneurial spirit and turn their dreams into reality. By sharing their ideas on the web, users can raise funds to support the launch of their small businesses.

Numerous crowdfunding platforms exist, many focusing on the type of project being funded. For example, certain platforms serve non-profits and philanthropic causes, music, theatre, small business and so forth. Even with such specialization, investing comes with risk. Crowdfunding indeed opens investment opportunities to a new pool of potential stakeholders.  Many of those investors may not fully understand the risks involved. During the next few weeks on AICPA Insights, we will look at the benefits and risks of crowdfunding.

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Social Media Fear? To Quote the Eagles: “Get Over It”

The Eagles band from California. From left to ...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I saw the Eagles play the PNC Arena in Raleigh a few weeks ago. You know… Hotel California. Desperado. Witchy Woman.

It was a rocking show from a band—and a brand—that has been going at it for more than 40 years. I’m a huge fan and I wanted all my friends to know I was there.

Which is why I was pretty disappointed to see signs at the security gate, banning phones, texting, photos and videos inside the arena. I thought it was a joke, but… no. The Eagles were dead serious and the arena staff was fully empowered to enforce the rules. Several times, I saw ushers scolding concertgoers, keeping them from posting selfies from this historic event.

Come on, guys! Take it easy!

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3 Tips to Find Your Professional True North

CompassFinding your professional true north, a path you can be passionate about and one that will provide you with direction in the future, is attainable – when you have the right navigation. Whether it is honing your personal skill set, positioning your practice for growth or transforming your organization’s technology infrastructure, it is important that you be the navigator. There are endless possibilities to explore, pursue, master and achieve, and it is important you arrive exactly where you want to go.

Keep in mind that finding your way often means asking for directions and talking with others who have already arrived at your desired destination. They can tell you what is not on the map and the best roads to follow to enhance the quality of your journey. Here are three quick tips to find your professional true north:

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Succession Planning: The Talk You Need to Have

Succession-planStrong planning skills are a must for anyone who wants to be at the top of their field. CPAs have these skills in spades. Our fingerprints can be found on the successful business plans of companies throughout the country—from the mom and pop store down the street, to the Fortune 500 company with thousands of employees, and everything in between. Helping organizations chart their long-term future makes us indispensable threads in the fabric of the U.S. economy.

Why, then, do so many of us not engage in planning for the long-term future of our own firms?

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In the News: It’s Never too Early to Think About Taxes

ReceiptsThe deadline to file your 2013 taxes – or file for an extension – passed earlier this week. What’s the significance of that? It’s time to think about planning for the 2014 filing season.

As many CPAs will tell you – taxes are something to consider year round. And one of the best ways to ensure that you are best positioned to pay no more than you owe is by being meticulously organized throughout the year. Enterpreneur.com recently posted an article suggesting some technology tools that will keep you organized in advance of next tax season – and no, a shoebox to hold all your receipts is not one of them.

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Tax Planning is a Critical Factor in Financial Planning

Financial-planning-consultationCongratulations on making it through another tax season! From those long hours, including rigorous reviews and meetings with clients, you’ve gained unique insight into their lives—insight into their incomes, spending habits, investments and life events. Income tax planning and estate planning elements have become a more critical part of overall personal financial planning with the enactment of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 and the Net Investment Income Tax. While reviewing those 1040s, you are able to envision potential tax impacts of financial decisions and begin considering tax planning strategies for your clients, which broadens your relationship. This is a great first step in helping them meet their overall financial planning needs, including making estate, retirement, investment and risk management planning decisions to move them toward their long term goals.

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5 Tips for a Culture of Inclusivity

Female-leadersWhen it comes to success, we often see and hear more well-intentioned plans and how-tos than we could ever use. Websites, blogs, consultants, colleagues and for many of us, our friends and family, all have opinions on what can help businesses stay on course. But what if one of today’s best resources for success is right inside our own companies and it just isn’t being developed as strongly as it needs to be?

I found some great insights into that issue recently when I attended Tomorrow’s Company’s launch of their report, Tomorrow’s Global Leaders: How to Build a Culture that Ensures Women Reach the Top.Tomorrow’s Company is a London-based global think tank that helps guide senior executives in leadership, talent, sustainability, governance and other top management areas.

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Volunteer This Financial Capability Month

Volunteer-april
April is National Financial Capability Month, an annual event designed to help Americans improve their understanding of finances. As a CPA, you can significantly increase its value and impact, and help ensure the month is more than just a reminder to consumers to save and spend wisely. When you get involved, you can:

  • Help Americans build their financial understanding and capabilities
  • Strengthen and advance the CPA profession
  • Give young CPAs an opportunity to develop leadership skills
  • Volunteer and build your network at the same time

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Confessions of a Tax Season Junkie

Dancing-womanAs I shot up in bed last night in a cold sweat, I realized that a nightmare must have interrupted my peaceful night’s sleep. Waking up during tax season in a panic was pretty common during my over 20 years in public accounting, but why now? As a recent convert from tax practice, this spring is the first one since the early ‘90s that I am not preparing tax returns.

After some reflection, I discovered my dream was, in fact, about tax returns: phones ringing, emails and all of the anxiety-causing triggers for CPAs during tax season. Having sold my practice after last tax season, the only tax return I have to worry about is my own, so what was my trigger? 

I realized that the source of my anxiety was a recent project where I had to draw on my prior tax season experiences. I was preparing for the AICPA’s Tax Power Hour webcast on managing tax season burnout. To truly empathize with the participants, I mentally placed myself back at my old office during the height of tax season. I could hear the phones ringing and the postage machine humming, I could smell the hot printers being overused, and I remembered the sight of peers walking into my office to ask a “quick question.”  The experience was so real for me that I actually felt the urge to pick up my computer and hurl it at the wall.

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4 Steps to Conquer the Difficult Assignment

Busy-businessmanYou have just been handed the project. You know the one – the assignment no one else wanted, and even though you thought you were flying under the radar, the project still landed in your lap. Now what?

You have two options: run away from your boss’s office or face the project head on—and come away a victor. It’s up to you.

Don’t Daunt It, Flaunt It

I think we all face the “dreaded project” at some point or another in our careers, probably on more than one occasion. It can be particularly daunting as a young CPA to get an assignment that’s outside what you consider your realm of expertise, and sometimes, you just can’t say “no.” Yet, to think you will come out of the experience unscathed might not be realistic. Nevertheless, it’s my experience that you will learn and become empowered for the next big challenge.

Here are a few tips to help you handle the difficult assignment—and conquer it:

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The Many Advantages of Defining Your Firm’s Value

Business-meeting

It all began when I did some research on how our firm members could better understand their worth and confidently present their value to clients and others. We settled on an approach in which participants answer questions about who they are, what they do, how and why they do it, what sets them apart and why clients should do business with them. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn by really considering the answers to such seemingly simple questions.

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10th Anniversary of Computerized CPA Exam

CPA-Exam-10-Year-Anniversary

Computerization of the CPA Exam has led to momentous benefits for candidates, the boards of accountancy and the CPA profession. Here are some interesting facts in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the first computerized CPA Exam delivery on April 5, 2004.

The candidate test-taking experience has improved with computerization, resulting in more available days to sit for the CPA Exam and faster score reporting. During the pencil-and-paper days, candidates could take the CPA Exam twice a year – either in May or November. The CPA Exam is now available 243 days a year (and 244 during a leap year). Before computerization, candidates waited 90 days to receive their scores. Score reporting now ranges from seven to 45 days, depending on when a candidate sits for the CPA Exam.

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3 Succession Planning Tips from Comedy’s Best

The AICPA hears a lot from CPA firms that are in need of a succession plan, and challenged by acquiring new talent or engaging the next generation of staff. In figuring out how to leave their firm in good hands, I think the profession can learn many lessons from today’s comedy leaders like Lorne Michaels of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and Harold Ramis, as Bill Sheridan pointed out in his Feb. 26 post on CPA Success. They’re working a smart succession planning model. They each gather together a group of gifted staff and give them the opportunity to develop their strengths, making for some very valuable broadcast properties.

Through SNL, Lorne Michaels has nurtured a long list of actors who went on to movie or television stardom after cutting their teeth on the show, including Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus,  Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Daily Show alumni Stephen Colbert and John Oliver each have their own shows, and Steve Carrel has had both television and movie hits. A lot of talented people have left each program, but that’s alright because the shows’ successes—and the achievements of their alumni—attract new generations of promising young people who want to come on board.

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How CPAs Can Manage Vendors and Still Focus on Their Core Business

SLAOrganizations must focus on their core business – and that often means hiring vendors and service providers to perform tasks which fall outside of that core.  A prime example of this is upgrading your organization’s information technology structure.  While you may know exactly what you want and how to go about getting it done, chances are that most CPAs lack the time or staff to make that goal a reality – without some outside help.

Managing vendors and service providers ranked among the top ten technology initiatives in both the U.S. and Canada according to the AICPA's 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Survey Results. Although overall confidence levels have declined, the survey showed some interesting differences between how public accounting firms and those in business and industry in both countries ranked the issue. In the U.S., public accounting firms rated the issue of managing vendors and service providers as the eighth most important; however business and industry organizations rated it tenth. 

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