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18 posts from March 2017

5 Data Backup Gaps and How to Fix Them

World Backup DayMarch 31 is World Backup Day. Why March 31? Because you don’t want to be an April fool according to World Backup Day’s organizers.

Human error, equipment failure and theft are just a few ways your organization could be at risk of data loss. Today, no firm or company can afford to be without a cybersecurity risk management program. If you’re like most CPAs, this is not news to you. In fact, if you’re somewhat of a data backup fanatic, you might already be paying for secure offsite storage of paper files as well as digital backups. Still, experts say even the most diligent often have gaps in their backup practices. Let’s look at some of the most common considerations and how to address them.

  1. Do you know exactly how to retrieve your backups? For starters, knowing the person in your office who you think knows how to retrieve your backups doesn’t count. Knowing the name of one of your cloud backup vendors is not enough. Retrieval is an often underdeveloped but equally important aspect of backup planning (see #5 below). Unfortunately, there’s no single, all-encompassing solution for backing up your systems. Even in a small firm, you’ll likely need three or four different backup systems. Tax preparation, bookkeeping and auditing software packages often have integrated, cloud-based backup options. There’s the information on your office network and server(s)—here you can choose a cloud-based solution or an onsite backup system that updates each night. Then you have your desktop and laptop PCs. And, finally, you have smart phones, tablets, watches, etc. Organize your retrieval information for ALL systems and test it—like a fire drill. If your test goes off without a hitch, you can skip the rest of this post.

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6 Ways to Up Your Networking Game

Networking blog post (002)I used to be afraid of networking. As an avowed introvert with a moderate case of shyness, too often I would pass up opportunities to meet and connect with people. Much later in life I would discover that networking was an acquired skill and was well within my reach. I let go of my fear of rejection when I realized that networking was not about me, but was about building relationships and finding ways to be helpful to others. I can do that. You can too.

Networking, at its essence, is the simple but profound activity of creating, freshening and strengthening an array of mutually beneficial professional relationships with a diverse cross-section of people. Here are a few tips that will help you up your game, especially when meeting people at events or in large groups.

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21 Songs to Motivate You for the Busy Season Homestretch

Shutterstock_233268223The end of March is here, which means that the end of busy season is just a few weeks away. Congratulations! You have accomplished a great deal so far.  I know it is easy to get discouraged at this point. You are likely feeling sleep-deprived and stressed about your looming deadlines. How will you ensure that you will finish this season strong? Maybe you stay motivated by thinking about the time you will have to catch up on your favorite shows, work out at the gym, or relax with family and friends once April 18 rolls around. Or maybe you push through to the end by turning up the music.

Whether you look for tunes with inspirational lyrics and catchy beats or songs that promote focus, there are numerous options out there, so why not create a motivational playlist?

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Female Perspectives: 3 AICPA Chairs’ Success in the Profession

Women's history monthMarch is Women’s History Month, a chance for the world to acknowledge the contributions of women.  

The AICPA is on a mission to shine light on successful, female CPAs who have cracked the proverbial glass ceiling. We interviewed three women who have recently shared their talents with the AICPA by taking on the role of board chair.

Meet the first female chair to be elected in 1998, Olivia Kirtley, fourth female chair, Tommye Barie elected in 2014, and present chair Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, who made history as the first African American woman to be elected. These pioneers discuss their climb to the top and what it took for them to reach their position.

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"Inconvenience Everybody Equally" and Other Management Tips

Global meetingsMuch has been written on how best to manage virtual teams, but my favorite tidbit is one I recently picked up from Harvard ManageMentor that suggests managers “inconvenience everybody equally.” What I love about this philosophy is that it's as effective as it is simple.

The issue plaguing June Delano, Partner, ClearLake Group (a management consulting firm), was that her team of 17 was spread out across 10 different countries and time zones. They had to meet at least every other week, but scheduling was tough. After a bit of trial and error, June implemented her “inconvenience everybody equally” rule. By rotating the time of the meeting, somebody was always up in the middle of the night and somebody was always in the middle of their workday. Everyone else fell at another point on that spectrum. “It meant that everybody got a chance to be drowsy and falling asleep and everybody got a chance to be wide awake and full of energy,” she said.

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4 Simple Ways to Squeeze in Exercise During Busy Season

ExerciseDuring tax season, accountants become accustomed to burning the midnight oil. Our long days turn into nights and nights into weekends. In the midst of our busy routines, it’s hard enough to balance career, family and a multitude of other obligations, let alone give adequate attention to physical exercise.

Carving out time for regular exercise is vital. Not only does it come with a variety of health benefits, but it also helps your mind work more efficiently. By investing in yourself and devoting energy to daily exercise, you will reap the rewards of better physical and emotional health as well as enhanced cognitive function – something we all need in order to conquer the busy season.

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That Time I Told Mark Cuban He Was Wrong About the CPA Profession

Mark cuban 1Last Wednesday afternoon, I read that Mark Cuban said he would not want to be a CPA right now because advances in technology mean it isn’t a profession for the future.

Wednesday night, I sacrificed sleep so I could write a lengthy blog post explaining how Mr. Cuban clearly didn’t consider the many ways the accounting profession is getting ahead of change and anticipating the future needs of the marketplace.

And by Thursday afternoon, I was explaining my argument to him in person.

How?

I was editing the first draft of my blog post on Thursday when a colleague walked into my office to announce that, according to rumor, Mr. Cuban was in the lobby of our office building at that very moment. Could life be so serendipitous that I could get a photo with the subject of my blog post? Naturally, I had to investigate.

The lobby of our office building was quite empty that day, so I immediately saw that the rumors were true. Sitting right there in front of me was the individual that had caused my writing fury. He was engaged in a conversation, but made eye contact with me and smiled kindly. I took that as my opportunity to introduce myself.

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Why the ACA Executive Order Doesn’t Void the Rules for CPAs

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.

--Abraham Lincoln

ACAOn Inauguration Day, President Trump followed through on his campaign position regarding the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) and issued an Executive Order (“EO”) with the stated intent of minimizing the economic burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) pending repeal. Sec. 2 of the EO Addresses removing certain burdens from both the government and taxpayers surrounding compliance with the ACA. 

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FASB New Not-for-Profit Standard: Maintaining Auditor Independence

Shutterstock_314848547 (1)Although the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s new not-for-profit financial reporting standard (ASU 2016-14) does not go into effect until 2018, it includes significant changes that both not-for-profits and auditors should begin preparing for now.  

ASU 2016-14 will require several modifications to the existing framework of the financial statements as well as new required disclosures related to liquidity, availability of assets and board-designated net assets. Further, it may require organizations to revise certain policies and procedures, update financial reporting practices and make net asset accounting adjustments. All of this could seem overwhelming. 

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Here’s the Skinny on Driver’s License Information for State Tax Returns

LicenseAs you have probably heard, several states have added a request or a requirement for a driver license number (or other state identification number) to be entered into the tax software system for the return to be electronically filed. As practitioners, you likely understand the reasoning for the request – this information helps states confirm the identity of taxpayers, which aids in reducing identity theft. However, the logistics of obtaining the information and explaining this requirement to your clients may prove to be difficult.

Here are some frequently asked questions (and answers) to help you with this issue.

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Will You Accept This Rose? Determining Which Clients Stay and Which Go

Nick ViallTonight on The Bachelor, Nick Viall will presumably propose to one of two women in what the television network promises is the “most dramatic finale yet.” At the start of the season, 30 women were all vying for the bachelor’s attention in the hopes of becoming his fiancé. Each week, as part of the journey to find “the one”, he had the difficult, and sometimes awkward, task of sending women home during the rose ceremony. Even though Nick is a veteran of reality television dating shows (he was the runner-up on two seasons of The Bachelorette and also appeared on Bachelor in Paradise), he often expressed how challenging it is to say goodbye to the women.

Now I know that CPAs do not distribute roses to their clients that they wish to retain, however, like contestants on The Bachelor, practitioners often explain how “breaking up” with a client is far from easy. Luckily, the AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) has tools to help with this process so that your client isn’t crying in the limo ride home.

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Passing the CPA Exam: One CPA’s Journey

As many of you know, the journey to becoming a CPA is like no other—interesting, challenging, stressful, but nonetheless so rewarding in the end. Such was the journey of Shakor Jukes, CPA. An AICPA Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop (ASLW) alumnus and currently an Audit Associate at RSM US LLP, Shakor credits his success to family, faculty, ASLW and his pure determination to succeed.

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What the Personal Financial Planning Body of Knowledge Means for You

Shutterstock_431851066Early in 2016, I heard tax icon Sid Kess speak about how important it is for CPAs to understand what housing alternatives our clients might need to consider as they grow older. I thought, well that’s an interesting aspect of our work that I hadn’t considered, and began to educate myself about the options and opportunities in the communities I serve.

That advice couldn’t have come too soon: within a month, my dad began expressing concerns about taking care of his home and asked to look at some local housing alternatives. While I had made myself aware of a few, I quickly realized there are so many choices that I didn’t have time to explore them all. Unfortunately, my father’s health declined rapidly and we had to move him three times: from his home to senior living; from senior living to a nursing home; and from the nursing home to hospice care where he passed away.

What this really brought home is that the work we do as CPAs is not cut and dried, and goes beyond what many people envision when they think of our profession. It’s probably also more than many budding CPAs—and those long in the profession—think we do. But the fact is that we must continue to deepen our knowledge and expertise as our clients’ needs expand and grow.

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Celebrating International Women’s Day: Inspiration for Women in the Profession

Shutterstock_483351991Today, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. Though the day’s theme was recognized as early as 1909, it wasn’t until 1977 that the United Nations General Assembly asked member countries to proclaim March 8 of every year as the official day to celebrate women around the world. This year the UN theme is, “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.”

That “50-50” is packed with advantages. In 2015, a McKinsey Global Institute report concluded that $12 trillion could be added to the global gross domestic product if countries work to bridge gaps between men and women in the work world—and that’s just if all countries were to perform as well in making strides as the most progressive countries in their regions. In a best-case scenario, in which women and men achieve true parity in the work place internationally, the potential rises to $28 trillion. With this kind of upside, it’s plain to see why leaders around the world have a keen interest in advancing women in the workplace, and driving for greater workplace equality.

This year’s theme is of particular interest in the accounting profession. Women have played a critical role in the changes occurring in the profession. With that in mind, we solicited comments from women in the profession. They are meant to inspire and motivate women to enter accounting; but even if you are already in the profession, you might take inspiration from some of these words of wisdom.

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4 Things to Know About the New Going Concern Auditing Standard

Shutterstock_101041396The 2008 financial crisis demonstrated how quickly change can occur in the financial markets and in individual businesses, as established organizations like Lehman Brothers collapsed and other businesses, large and small, teetered on the verge of failure. The crisis was a reminder that adverse events can threaten the stability of any entity, or its ability to continue as a going concern. “Going concern” refers to the concept that users of financial statements can expect that the company will continue to operate in the near future unless conditions or events occur that may contradict that assumption. Even in a strong economy, companies can lose significant contracts, face cash flow problems or be in danger of missing loan payments.

In the past, guidance on going concern issues for private companies was only included in auditing standards, not in the accounting literature. The lack of accounting guidance often created tensions between CFOs, preparers of the financial statements and their auditors who were responsible for examining those financial statements when going concern issues arose. That problem has been addressed in recent years with the issuance of accounting standards by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

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The Pieces to Make Tax Reform Happen are Lining Up: Knight to H3?

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"Today only happens once in a lifetime. Make the most of it."

-Michael Ray, Country Music Singer

It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven months since I blogged about tax reform; I guess I was distracted by IRS service issues. But here we are again and it looks like the stars are aligning for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for tax reform. Or in my case, a twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  I was around in 1986 for that monumental tax act and 15,000 changes later, here we are again.  Our legislative process is part of the price we pay for democracy and that isn’t all bad.

(Chess and the legislative process have a lot in common, hence the reference to Knight to H3, the dangerous but noble move Ron Weasley makes to achieve checkmate in the movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.)

Magic, however, is not one of the optional responses to the test I’ve given in my tax reform blogs:  “What will be the greatest driver of tax reform?”

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Social Security and Divorce: What Clients Need to Know

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Put powerful emotions in the same cauldron as money and you get a volatile and highly flammable mix. If your clients need one reason to involve a trusted CPA in their divorce process, that argument is as strong as it gets. As a financial professional, you have likely seen first-hand that divorce has the potential to uproot the financial stability of your clients (see more in this latest trend survey released by the AICPA Personal Financial Planning Section). If splitting the family possessions and bank accounts weren’t complex enough, there is also Social Security and Medicare to consider.

By asking the right questions, CPAs can steer their divorcing clients around pitfalls and help them make smart choices that maximize their financial outcomes.

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Elder Financial Abuse: How CPAs Can Help – Part 3

Shutterstock_293152349The face of America is showing its age: According to the National Institute on Aging, the number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to double in the next 25 years, with those 85 and older constituting the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. These Americans are increasingly becoming targets for elder financial abuse.

Extent of the Problem

The phenomenon of elder financial abuse is not new. But today, increasingly sophisticated tactics are being used with significantly higher stakes. Assets totaling approximately $23 trillion are the target.

The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) reports that the rate of elder financial abuse is extremely high, affecting 1 in 20 older adults. However, at the same time, only 1 in 44 cases of elder financial abuse is reported. The greatest number of reported abuses were perpetuated by family or others known to the victim.

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