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12 posts from February 2017

3 Pitfalls Valuation Professionals Should Avoid

Shutterstock_366281486When you hear the word measurement, what comes to mind? For most of us, measurement implies an exact science. However, there are situations, especially in the financial sector and broader business community, where measurement is not so easily defined or performed. And one of those situations is fair value measurement.

What makes fair value measurement such a challenge is that, unlike real property and other tangible assets (which can be objectively measured and valued), there’s tremendous subjectivity and diversity within the available and applicable valuation resources, guidance and methodologies. This diversity often manifests itself in inconsistent application and documentation which, in turn, can result in valuation deficiencies.[1] The reaction to these valuation deficiencies can be seen in heightened regulatory scrutiny and diminished investor confidence.

As regulators and investors continue to push for greater transparency in financial markets, both domestically and internationally, financial statement disclosures that rely on professional judgment generally – and fair value measurement specifically – will continue to receive scrutiny.

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3 Workplace Lessons from the Movie "Hidden Figures"

Shutterstock_550217752Some of history’s best stories are the ones we haven’t heard.

Until the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures” premiered, few people knew a group of pioneering African-American female mathematicians helped propel the U.S. forward in the Space Race.

Thanks to the prominence of the movie, these trailblazing women are finally earning recognition. “The true story also demonstrates the crucial value of diversity in the workplace,” says Kim Drumgo, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the AICPA.

“A diverse workforce exposes employees to the value of different perspectives and experiences,” Drumgo adds. “It fosters innovation and a growth mindset.”

As the U.S. and the AICPA celebrate Black History Month, Drumgo shares three lessons we can learn from “Hidden Figures”.

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3 Reasons Every Client Should Complete a FAFSA

Shutterstock_538627324Are you wondering if all of your clients should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for their college-aged children even if they don’t anticipate qualifying for any federal aid?

Consider the following scenario: A successful couple own and operate a business and have two children in college. At 58 years old, the husband suddenly and unexpectedly passes away from a heart attack, rocking the family and ending the business.

The family, however, had faithfully completed the FAFSA annually for their children, although they had never previously qualified for financial aid. Within one week of the death of the father, both universities contacted the children with financial aid packages that allowed them to stay in school.

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5 Ways to Develop Your Professional Skills Through Digital Learning

Shutterstock_264713135Disruption in the marketplace, changes to regulations, tax reform, technology advances and globalization make developing professional competencies more important than ever for CPAs. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, “continuous and persistent learning isn’t merely a decision. It must become a habit. And as such, it requires careful cultivation.”

Ongoing skill development is critical for maintaining your professional relevance. You need to dedicate time to continue your competency development. But where do you start, and how do you fit it in to your schedule? Digital learning activities provide opportunities to incorporate learning into your daily life and offer flexibility that a traditional classroom can’t. Here are five digital learning activities to try:

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Want Brady’s Mental Toughness? 10 Inspirational Movies to Watch

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Shutterstock_151134017If you’re one of the 111 million people who watched the New England Patriots power their way out of defeat at the Super Bowl, did you think it was just about over in the third quarter when the Atlanta Falcons were leading 28-3? I admit, I did. Even paid my tab and headed home. We were in for a surprise as the Patriots (led by quarterback Tom Brady) charged ahead and turned the game around to win 34-28.

As a perennial backer of the underdog, I was rooting hard for the Falcons but that doesn’t lessen my respect for a team that resisted falling into a “it’s a lost cause, let’s just get this over with” mentality. Let’s face it, we’ve all been at that point: whether it’s a career challenge, relationship or financial difficulty, or perhaps a health problem, some hurdles seem impossible.

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Continuing Care Retirement Communities: Helping Clients Choose

Shutterstock_242465323With a rapidly aging population, more people will turn to their CPA in the coming years as a trusted source of guidance, especially when making senior living decisions. A popular, but also rather complex choice is the continuing care retirement community (CCRC or “life plan community”). 

By combining independent living with a continuum of care, CCRCs offer a viable solution for older adults who are healthy today but seek the peace of mind of having care services readily available in the future. Your client’s specific needs will likely determine which CCRC is best for them. There is no “one size fits all” approach here. Yet, due to the financially significant nature of the CCRC decision, it is important to make sure their first choice is the right choice, so you owe it to them to be well-educated and informed on this topic.

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4 Ways to Move Toward Practice Transformation

Shutterstock_538091704“Practice gratitude.”

“Be authentic.”

“Consider your story as you craft your goals.”

Not your typical soundbites from a gathering of CPAs.

When I leave an AICPA conference, I always bring home the best technical thinking in the profession and new and deepened relationships with peers across the country. This content and camaraderie is what brings me back year after year to these events.

As I gathered my thoughts after the recent AICPA Personal Financial Planning Summit, I noticed a shift in the tone of the key takeaways that I was anxious to implement in my firm. This innovative and intimate event sparked new thinking about how I – and other CPAs and planners who serve individual clients with their tax, estate, retirement, risk management and investment needs – can shape our practices for the future. Here are four challenges and some questions to consider from this year’s summit:

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7 Benefits of Cybersecurity Penetration Testing

Shutterstock_388491619Security breaches are prevalent in today’s business environment and reports indicate that these threats are not going away any time soon. As a result, organizations need to take steps to safeguard their confidential data and other sensitive information. Smaller-sized organizations like small businesses and not-for-profit entities are particularly vulnerable. A recent study by Symantec found that 43 percent of phishing campaigns affected small businesses in 2016, a significant uptick compared to 2011 when just 18 percent of attacks targeted small businesses.

Even organizations with limited resources have affordable and effective options for protecting valuable data. I recommend penetration testing, a type of cybersecurity vulnerability assessment, to my clients working in the not-for-profit sector. Many of my not-for-profit clients feel compelled to conduct cybersecurity penetration testing when they consider how accepting online donations may create vulnerabilities for not only for themselves but also for their donors. Potential donors may feel more comfortable donating online once they hear that the organization has safeguards in place to protect their information. Penetration testing is performed by an outside, third party and can be tailored to the needs, or concerns of the organizations.

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Enhancing the Uniformity of Fair Value

GlassesIn 2014, valuation professionals responding to an American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) survey identified a 30% rise in demand for fair value for financial reporting. Specifically, the survey highlighted both fair value and intangible assets as emerging issues. This comes as no surprise given an increasingly global market rife with corporate acquisitions beyond borders. Also reported was an increase in the prevalence of complex assets such as intellectual properties, whose values cannot be calculated with complete objectivity. The growing demand for fair value – coupled with the subjectivity of valuing entities and intangibles – carry with them an obligation for the profession to protect the public interest by lending clarity, consistency and transparency to fair value practices.

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Medicare Patients to be MOONed Soon

Signing medical formYou may soon be MOONed by your hospital. Beginning March 8, 2017, hospitals must now provide patients with the standard Medicare Outpatient Observation Notice (MOON).

When a Medicare beneficiary is admitted to a hospital as an inpatient most of the cost of the stay is paid under Part A, which covers the cost of a hospital stay. In 2017, the only cost the beneficiary must pay for stays of 60 days or fewer is the $1,316 deductible.

Most beneficiaries do not realize that they can also be admitted to a hospital as an outpatient. Your status as an outpatient has nothing to do with where you receive care or the type of care received. You may not even be aware of your status. You can be admitted to the hospital, be assigned a room and receive services as if you were an inpatient, all the while having been admitted as an outpatient by your doctor. Observation status gives the doctor time to decide if he or she should write an order to admit you into the hospital as an inpatient.

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Elder Financial Abuse: How CPAs Can Help – Part 2

SeniorsIn our first blog post of this series, we looked at three typical examples of elder financial abuse and some of the reasons why seniors are attractive targets. Helping safeguard your clients from financial abuse as they age, or experience a serious health problem, is one of the most important and meaningful things you can do for them.  In this article, we will delve deeper into types and signs of financial elder abuse, and ways to prevent it before it starts.

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Is Your Firm Seaworthy?

Shutterstock_264369773The parallels between sailing and audit quality came to mind recently when I was speaking with a practitioner who is passionate about sailing. His comments about his enthusiasm for sailing reminded me of the profession’s passion and ongoing commitment to quality.

When sailors go to sea, they depend on their ships to get them to their destinations quickly and safely, conquering instability, uncertain weather conditions and unexpected obstacles along the way. In many ways, they place the same faith in their vessels as CPAs place in their firms. CPAs rely on the firms they’ve built to achieve their goals – to help them serve their clients and business communities, uphold the public interest and create thriving workplaces – as they navigate the many challenges of a fast-changing and increasingly complex environment. In both cases, a strong discipline and commitment to quality is critical to success.

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