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16 posts from April 2017

Finding Success by Prioritizing Diversity & Inclusion

RichardcaturanoThe basic reason for diversity and inclusion (D&I) is obvious: supporting people from various diverse backgrounds is the right thing to do. The business drivers are also becoming more widely recognized—D&I fuels innovation, increases business performance, attracts top talent and more. Specifically within accounting, when we recruit, retain and advance diverse individuals, our profession is more reflective of the clients and the communities we serve.

Despite these excellent reasons, there’s still a hesitation within the accounting profession to fully embrace D&I—perhaps due to a perceived lack of time, resources or understanding of where to begin or how to move forward. So how can D&I make its way to the top of an accounting firm’s agenda?

Leadership can send a powerful message, by elevating D&I to a strategic priority and going beyond just adopting it as a philosophy. Leaders who are bringing success to their organizations by prioritizing D&I also accept that it must be ever-evolving. They recognize that it is a business imperative that not only keeps them competitive but also resonates with their personal values.

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Bingo Balls, Atomic Elements and Passing the CPA Exam

Bingo ballsThe number 75 has various meanings around the world. It can sometimes denote a diamond anniversary. It’s the age limit for a juror in England and Wales. Science junkies know it as the atomic number for the chemical element Rhenium. And here in the U.S., it’s the number of balls in a standard game of Bingo; something which I’m sure fans of the game are quite aware of at their Friday night get-togethers.

But, the number 75 holds no greater significance in this world than for the 100,000-plus of you who sit for the Uniform CPA Examination each year. Achieve that number or higher on any of the four sections of the exam, and you’re one step closer to licensure.

A common misconception for those new to the CPA exam is that 75 is a percentage or number of questions answered correctly. No, you don’t get a “C” on the exam if you score a 75. It’s simply the passing mark that signifies you have demonstrated the minimum knowledge and skills necessary to protect the public interest as a CPA.

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Thriving with Autism: One CPA's Story

Tom IlandAccording to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one in every 68 American children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A newer government survey boosts the prevalence of this condition to one in 45 children. Though the frequency of autism remains debatable, it’s undeniably among the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S., with diagnoses having increased 119.4% since 2000.

Now, pivot to the inevitability of Generation Z post-millennial youths constituting 20% of the workforce by 2020. When you consider the staggering prevalence of autism in this particular age group and combine those occurrences with the even more daunting unemployment rate of people with autism, the implication for our economy’s future is alarming.

Enter: Tom Iland, who at 13 was diagnosed with autism. Affectionately called The Calculator by his junior high schoolmates, Tom discovered at a very young age that, despite certain shortcomings, he was a wiz with numbers. Among his many mathematical talents, he can – in no more than a second – provide the sum of a word by adding its letters’ corresponding numerical values:

If A=1, B=2…Z=26, then autism = 83.

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Documentation: A Key Ingredient for Audit Success

Pound cakeYou’re trying out a pound cake recipe, but when you pull your pan out of the oven, you realize the cake didn’t rise. Instead of being fluffy and moist, it’s flat and dense. You double-check the recipe and stop short when you see baking powder on the ingredient list. You left that out because you didn’t have any and you figured it wouldn’t matter. You did everything else perfectly, so how could leaving out this one ingredient have such a big impact?

You may never have thought there could be a similarity between baking and auditing, but in both cases, leaving out one key ingredient can ruin the outcome. You’d be amazed how often it happens.

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Top Issues for Not-for-Profits This Year

Shutterstock_81589264As auditors and management begin to prepare for June 30 year-end audits, it’s a good time to share some of the top concerns for not-for-profits this year. How can not-for-profits reassure donors that their contributions are in safe hands? What key implementation issues on new accounting standards updates are not-for-profits grappling with? Outlined below are four topics that should not be overlooked.

  1. Cybersecurity

In addition to common hacking risks, not-for-profits that accept electronic contributions are targets for credit card fraud. While retailers collect certain personal information to set up customer accounts and ship goods, not-for-profits often forgo requiring that level of detail to make donating simple. Unfortunately, this makes not-for-profits an easier testing ground for stolen credit card data. Not-for-profit entities with real-time credit card authorization and settlement are even more likely to fall victim because real-time verification makes the stolen data more valuable. These organizations then bear the burden of repaying fraudulent donations in addition to paying fees related to the refunds. Organizations that use electronic methods to accept contributions should consider adopting appropriate controls to ensure revenues are properly recognized and that cash receipts are safeguarded.

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A Call to Action for Young Leaders

Applying to the AICPA’s Leadership Academy Could be the Boost Your Career Needs

Leadership Academy group photoHey, you. You made it over the hurdle of getting your CPA license, and you’re eager to take the next step in your career development… But you’re not quite sure what that looks like. Professional development takes on many shapes and sizes. Some people like online learning and self-study, while others are drawn to a classroom setting. Many people focus on developing their soft skills, while other prefer to keep their knowledge base sharp with more technical sessions.

One often overlooked aspect of development is building a strong network of contacts in your chosen profession. If you’re interested in connecting with some of the best and brightest young CPAs in the country, look no further than the AICPA’s Leadership Academy.  This selective event exposes the next generation of CPAs to a strong ethic of leadership and service to their profession that CPAs are known for.

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Why Playing Games is a Brilliant Move

GamesWhether you’re rolling the dice to move past “Go” or speeding around curves like Mario, numerous studies show playing games of almost any kind stimulates thinking. Board games, chess, word games, games of strategy and the like are obvious choices. But did you know shooting hoops, playing interactive video games, golf, even playing charades in your living room, are all brilliance-builders too? Name the game and chances are it helps you think better and think faster, but note that different types of games enhance different parts of your intellect.

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Tax Refunds and Financial Responsibility

Tax refundThe very same week our accountant (my father) informed us we would be getting a $1,550 tax refund (thank you, 2016, for the purchase of our first home and birth of our second child), my husband and I discovered a sizeable leak in our garage roof. So now, instead of using that money for a home repair we actually wanted to make, or to boost our savings account, or add to college savings plans, or more likely, to help pay for two kids in diapers and daycare, we’re buying a new flat roof. Lucky us. But this episode got me thinking—what do most people do with tax refunds? And what do CPAs advise they do? Is there a happy medium between fiscal responsibility and fun?

Aim for No Refund at All

First and foremost, the goal, according to most CPAs, is to not get a refund. While many people love getting a large chunk of change every spring, it indicates you’re overpaying and essentially giving the government an interest-free loan. Getting no refund at all means you’re paying the IRS exactly the right amount. Of course situations change from year to year (see my home purchase and birth of kid references above) so you might not always get it right.

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Employers: 5 Tips to Make Work from Home Policies Successful

Part II

Remote workersWorking from home brings with it a special set of challenges and benefits for employees, covered in Part 1 of this series. But what if you’re the employer? An increasing number of employers – from boutique firms to huge organizations – offer their employees everything from flexible work arrangements to full-time remote work. Many have found that with the right protocols in place, flexible work arrangements benefit employers as well.

Increasingly Small World 

There’s an online video featuring two co-workers...they walk, stop for coffee, cab to work…they’re apparently working on a project together. At first they seem to be in the same place at the same time. Then it hits you – the locales are different, the cultures are different, even the time zones. But when they work, they work as one.

This concept of working together from a variety of locations has been around for years – particularly for CPA practices. Many small, medium and large firms have incorporated the idea of a remote workforce. Technology has completely changed the profession by [more easily linking employees and in] opening up new ways to add value for practices, employers, employees and even clients.

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Advice From Your Peers – 6 Tips to Acclimate to A New Role

Joining a new teamThere’s no doubt that starting a new role, whether in the same company or a new one, can be stressful. Between learning the culture of the organization and remembering all the new names, your first few weeks can be overwhelming. Half the battle is learning the inner workings of your new teammates – so how do you manage this?

To find out how CPAs deal with this life change, we put out a call for responses on AICPA social media channels; here’s the advice we heard.

David Pope, CPA, CGMA

“Learn the personalities and the culture of the team. Watch for cues about the motivational drivers for each member and develop an understanding of what you can expect from each. This will help you to integrate quickly and to know when to push and when to back away.”

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5 Upcoming GAAP Changes Not-for-Profits Should Know

Shutterstock_574620880Wrapping your head around the accounting standards changes on the horizon is no easy task—let alone figuring out which ones deserve the most attention. To help with this, I have highlighted five Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Accounting Standards Updates (ASUs) that not-for-profit accounting professionals should consider prioritizing this year. The following updates have fast-approaching effective dates, so it is important to familiarize yourself with these standards now.

Going Concern Requirements

For the first time in history, U.S. GAAP addresses management's responsibility to evaluate and disclose whether there is substantial doubt about an entity's ability to continue as a going concern. This change is significant because it shifts primary responsibility for the entity’s going concern assessments from auditor to management. Auditors should also be aware that FASB’s issuance of ASU No. 2014-15 prompted a change in the related auditing standards. The AICPA Auditing Standards Board (ASB) issued its going concern standard (SAS No. 132) in February 2017. SAS No. 132 has key changes that auditors will want to pay close attention to, including the required timeframe for considering going concern issues.

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Master Your Money: Golf Lessons for Financial Fitness

Sergio GarciaIf you watched the Masters this past weekend, you were most likely sitting on the edge of your seat. Sergio Garcia from Spain clinched the title from English player Justin Rose in a playoff that turned golf rookies into fans for life.

The most notable part of Garcia’s victory wasn’t the nail-biting 18th hole, but that he had nearly two decades of tournament experience – and this was his first major victory. Although considered one of the best players in golf, he never rose to the top like Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Jack Nicklaus and other golf “greats.” Until now.

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5 Tips to Make Working from Home Successful

Part I

Working from homeBy now you’ve probably seen the viral video that made Marion Kelly, 4, the poster girl for working from home gone (adorably) awry. A boisterous Kelly gleefully bounced into her father’s home office in South Korea while he was being interviewed by BBC on live television. A secondary star of the interview? Her little brother James who rolled into the frame in his walker, quickly followed by their flustered, horrified mother who scooped them up and retreated.

Over the past decade, flexible work arrangements have become increasingly common. Employees are no longer expected in the office Monday through Friday without question. The prevalence of widely accessible Wi-Fi, video conferencing, and web-based work-sharing tools make working remotely relatively painless. But if you ask anyone who has worked from home with some degree of regularity, they will each have their own Marion Kelly story for you—an interrupting child, a home repair disaster, Wi-Fi disruptions. Life happens.

To make working from home as seamless as possible, there are steps you can take to optimize your remote work set up.

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5 Emerging Services Set to Transform the Accounting Profession

Shutterstock_515980906What’s on the horizon? How are changes in the business marketplace creating new opportunities for the accounting profession? What are the implications of up-and-coming technologies like blockchain?  These, among a host of other emerging trends were discussed recently at the AICPA’s Assurance Services Executive Committee (ASEC) meeting. The committee, composed of the profession’s leaders in assurance and advisory services, engaged in an insightful discussion about issues that are gaining traction internationally and in the United States.

In addition to discussing ideas for potential future projects, the committee also spoke about the projects they have currently underway that facilitate new opportunities for practitioners to provide value-added services to clients. These include five emerging service opportunities:

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Getting Started with Innovation

InnovationInnovation and Accounting may sound like an odd pairing. But they don’t have to be!

Innovation is often used to describe the act of doing something new, creative and risky. This definition - especially the part about risk - may not align with traditional accounting ideals. But consider this, if you are not the disruptor, you will likely get disrupted. Innovation may seem risky, but ignoring it could prove fatal.  Given the magnitude and speed of change throughout the world, innovation is a necessity for your career, your clients and the profession. Done well, embracing innovation can help reduce risk as you cast a keen eye on what lies ahead rather than hold on to the past. Let’s explore three simple steps (plus a bonus step) to get started with innovation.

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Candidates: Take Note of CPA Exam Score Holds in 2017

The Q2, Q3, and Q4 2017 score release dates are posted to the Score Release Timeline page of the AICPA’s CPA Exam page. Candidates should pay special attention to the tables below as scores will only be released once following the close of each testing window. The score holds were previously announced in December 2016. For complete information regarding Exam scoring, please visit the Examination Scoring and Scoring FAQ pages.

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy will release scores to candidates and state boards of accountancy based upon the target score release dates listed in the tables below.

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