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15 posts from May 2014

3 Tax Planning Tips for Parents-to-Be

BabyMy husband and I, both CPAs, are expecting a baby boy in August. Of course, being the fun-loving accountants that we are, as soon as we found out about the good news, we started thinking about tax planning for our new addition. Names, nursery theme, telling our family about the good news – those items could wait.  But, tax planning, that was a today item.

I’ve been fortunate to work with many clients with children in my public accounting days, so I knew the general tax items that we needed to think about, such as tax credits, flexible spending accounts, household employee/nanny rules, etc.  However, I wanted to refresh myself on these items and share some insights with anyone who has or will have a family. Here are some tips for you parents-to-be:

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Beyond the Tax Return: Transition to Trusted Adviser

Trusted-adviserIs this a scenario you could relate to during busy season? It’s one of those days. Your schedule is jam packed. You’re working in overdrive to get it all done. The next thing you know, the receptionist buzzes you with news that one of your clients is in the lobby to drop off some paperwork. They would like to see you if you have a few minutes.

“ARGGHHH…not today!” you’re thinking. “I just don’t have time.” As tempting as it would be to decline the last minute request, you’re mindful that a client is right there in your office. That means you have the opportunity to amp your trust factor while they’re visiting. Maintaining a hands-off approach can make client retention tough. In my practice, the biggest complaint we hear from prospective clients who are considering a new firm is that their current tax expert never talks to them.

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10 Years in the Making: The New Revenue Recognition Standard

It’s here! The new revenue recognition standard, that is. I believe it is the most pervasive and across-the-board important topic that the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the International Accounting Standards Board could have tackled. This new standard eliminates the transaction and industry-specific guidance found in current U.S. GAAP and replaces it with a principle-based approach. Also, it applies to all public, private and not-for-profit entities. I implore you, no matter what your professional discipline, to pay attention to this new standard.  And please, don’t get comfortable because the effective dates seem far off.

Are you sure the final words in the new standard are consistent with what you have been hearing to date about this project? Are you comforted in having specific revenue recognition rules replaced by a more principle-based approach?  Are you confident that unwritten industry norms of accounting practice formed over decades are consistent with the new standard? In this video, AICPA Senior Technical Manager for Accounting Standards Kim Kushmerick provides an overview of the standard, in addition to highlighting key items to consider and helpful AICPA resources.  

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Crowdfunding’s Impact on the Finance Sector

Crowdfunding-intlCrowdfunding is a popular but complex term. To some, it refers to a large campaign to raise money for charity. To others, it involves pre-ordering products that will be financed by the received contributions. Another form is equity crowdfunding, also known as crowd investing.

The concept of crowdfunding is not new. For hundreds of years, similar local models included citizens of a village or town have coming together to fund a project. These days the Internet makes it possible to operate similar models on a larger scale. It is an effective, transparent and democratic model to raise financing.

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Celebrate Memorial Day by Giving Back

Memorial-dayMany service men and women encounter challenges upon returning from active duty, including finding employment. Starting a business is an attractive option, but like many entrepreneurs, veterans need support. The good news is that CPAs are in a great position to offer help.

Thanks to the Veteran Fast Launch Initiative, U.S. veterans have the opportunity to gain free help from experts. Through AICPA’s partnership with SCORE, an organization that provides mentoring and training to entrepreneurs, this program connects veterans with CPAs across the country. CPA volunteers provide up to five hours of free financial advice to veterans on starting and growing a business.

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Your Professional Image - What 10 Minutes on LinkedIn can Do

LinkedinI review LinkedIn profiles almost every day. By now, I have seen at least 2,000, and I just cringe when I see things that could or will hinder someone’s professional image.  I am not in a position to advise people individually, so this blog is the next best thing.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn goes beyond looking good for recruiters.  Even if you are not interested in a new job, your online image still needs attention. If anyone Googles you - a potential client or employer, your company’s VP, a former supervisor, a reporter or even a prospective date - your LinkedIn profile could easily be the first thing that shows up. You want your best foot forward all the time.

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Understanding the ACA’s Mandates

I am at the AICPA Tax Strategies for the High Income Individual conference in Las Vegas. This popular conference features national experts who dig keep into new tax policies and offer strategies for navigating new laws so that CPAs can advise their high-income clients with confidence.  

Today I am live blogging the "Affordable Care Act: Understanding the Individual and Employer Mandates” session with speaker Eddie Adkins, a partner with Grant Thornton LLP. This session delves into challenges and responsibilities faced by employers and individuals to comply with the provisions of the complex health care reform law, and technical aspects of the responsibility provisions and traps for the unwary. 

Follow along with the live blog below (email subscribers can view the live blog on our website).

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5 Facts Recruiters Need to Know about Millennials

Young-professionalIs your CPA firm involved in the scramble for talent? As I give presentations and work with CPAs around the country, it seems like many CPA firms are in hiring mode. Increasingly, I’m telling these firms that to remain competitive, they must understand their younger recruiting candidates—Millennials. Millennials are the generation born roughly between 1980 and the early 2000s.  I tell CPA firms, if they want to get into the Millennial brain, they should be aware of five important facts.

Fact #1: Millennials are poised to take on more responsibility. The oldest members of this generation have now entered their thirties. With about 10 years on the job, they have built the kind of experience that CPA firms need to remain successful. However, if they don’t believe the firm offers them the opportunity to grow and contribute, these younger professionals won’t hesitate to move on to a better option.

The takeaway for CPA firms: Employee surveys or one-to-one discussions can help you better understand staff expectations.

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AICPA 2014 Spring Governing Council #AICPAGC14

The AICPA governing Council’s spring 2014 meeting is taking place this week, May 18 to 20. Focused on the profession’s future, the governing Council will discuss topics such as future learning opportunities and continued audit quality. AICPA leaders from each of the 50 states and U.S. territories are attending the meeting. You can follow along with Council action with the hashtag #AICPAGC14 or view the stream below. (Email subscribers can view the stream on our website.)

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Protecting Your Good Name Online

Online-reputationIt is probably understood, but here it is anyway: You should not post photos of yourself doing questionable activities to social media. This is just common sense when it comes to managing your online reputation, right? Yet, you would be surprised how many people forget their professional etiquette when posting. Sure, it is fun to share your weekend escapades with all your friends, but do not ignore the business aspects of your online presence as well.

Thanks to the Internet, you most likely developed an online reputation without even knowing it. Now it’s up to you to protect your good name—or do a little damage control. As Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

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Accounting Careers and the Boiled Frog

LillypadMost of us are familiar with the story of the frog that was dropped into a pot of boiling water and immediately jumped out to save itself. The same frog later found himself in a pot of water at room temperature. The temperature was gradually increased and the poor frog, not noticing the danger, remained in the pot to suffer an untimely demise. Although not scientifically accurate, the anecdote serves as a metaphor for one’s inability to notice gradual change.

In our careers, we can all feel like we are that frog at times. Just like temperatures, careers can change for the worse, often gradually and without notice. However, if we pay close attention to the red flags in our careers, we can know when to jump long before the water starts to boil.

I would like to share a few thoughts from my own experiences that may help you – whether on a partner or CFO track – detect the warning signs along your career path and keep yourself out of hot water. 

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Money Matters for Mothers and Daughters Alike

Triumphant-womanThis Sunday is Mother’s Day. While many mothers may be treated to flowers and breakfast in bed, it’s also a day to celebrate the strength that comes with being a mother. But sometimes, that strength can waiver when it comes to finances. 

"Be Prepared, Not Scared" is what I have been telling my clients for years. This is especially important for female clients. According to a 2012-13 Prudential Research Study on the financial experience and behaviors among women, only 22 percent of women feel “very well equipped” to make wise financial decisions. A likely reason for this is that, in male-female relationships, most often the “chore” of planning is handled by the husband. My goal is to change that. While most of my married clients are men, we push to get wives involved at the earliest point in their personal financial planning engagement.

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Crowdfunding Isn’t Like Shopping Retail

In our last blog post on crowdfunding, Charles Landes, CPA took a deep look at equity crowdfunding, specifically how the Securities and Exchange Commission rules are shaping up as required by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012. However, equity crowdfunding is not typically one’s first introduction to this new funding approach. Many are first introduced to crowdfunding through one of the various crowdfunding platforms that exist, such as Kickstarter. If you are not familiar with crowdfunding through a platform like Kickstarter, the concept is relatively simple. A person or company comes up with an idea, determines the cost to create this idea and sets a funding due date. Projects also feature rewards based on the contribution, for instance, backers may receive a T-shirt or the actual product they are supporting. If the project fails to meet its finance goal by the set date, then the project is not funded.

Backers have funded all types of projects, from virtual reality systems, like Oculus Rift (which was recently acquired by Facebook), to dream cars, like a DeLorean Hovercraft. Other projects have gone on to win an Oscar and be featured at the Cannes Film Festival. However, not every project makes it. What happens when a funded project fails to deliver on its promise?

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A Business Model with No Managers? Yes, it Works

Lone-businessmanThere’s a lot of talk within public accounting about altering the existing business model to adapt to a changing marketplace and the evolving needs of our clients and staff. At my six-person firm, we decided to take a leap into the future by completely rethinking our business model. In July 2012, we went from a traditional firm—one with an office and a hierarchy—to a digital practice where there are no managers. Virtual means a lot of things to different people, and for us it meant closing our doors on our traditional office location. We tried it as an experiment beforehand, and it worked so well we decided to switch completely.

At the same time, we also instituted a Results Only Work Environment, in which we rate performance, not attendance. For us, that also meant doing away with the management structure. I lead the firm and set our future direction, but I don’t know what anyone is doing throughout the day. In fact, no one oversees what our team members do all day—or tracks their vacations or time off--as long as they achieve the required results for the firm.

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A Strong Professional Network is an Invaluable Resource

NetworkingMany people think of networking as either schmoozing or as a purely social activity. In reality, a strong professional network is an important resource for an up-and-coming CPA. A strong network is diverse and includes clients/customers, peers, senior professionals, business partners and vendors. A strong network helps to build us as professionals and provide better solutions to the organizations we serve.

Just imagine if everyone you had in your network were just like you. How would you find the variety of insights you need to deal with complex issues? We need more varied perspectives and knowledge to make better decisions.

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