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12 posts from December 2017

All I want for Christmas is…a rabbit onesie?

Leg lampLet’s be honest: at some point in our lives we have all felt like Ralphie from A Christmas Story. We wanted the latest and greatest toy and instead received … a rabbit onesie from our Aunt Clara. Even though Ralphie wound up receiving his dream present after all, some of us here at the Association were not so lucky.  

To bring a laugh to you this holiday season, and as a reminder that not all gifts have to be expensive to leave a lasting impression, we asked our staff to share the weirdest gifts they’ve ever received. Here’s what they had to say:

 “Last year I was invited to a white elephant gift swap and I got a pair of cashmere socks. Nice, right? But they were missing a tag and when I took a sniff they had definitely been worn recently.” – Alexis Rothberg, Communications Manager

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4 tips for not-for-profit accounting staff

We know the feeling. You already have a lot on your plate. And now there are significant changes coming down the pike in the form of Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) accounting standards updates and tax reform. If you find yourself hoping the nonprofit accounting environment will settle down in 2018, you’re not alone. But alas, we’re here to help. Consider these tips:

Start at the top.

Having a well-run not-for-profit board is important for making sure strategic objectives are met even as changes occur. If you have open seats, be sure you select new board members carefully. Identify a diverse range of skills and experience that you’re looking for when recruiting board members. These may include finance, information technology, human resources, marketing, fundraising or law. For more advice, check out these governance and management FAQs and this blog post on 5 tips for an effective not-for-profit board.

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Bitcoin may burst. You still need to learn about it.

Bitcoin 2On December 19, 2017, Bitcoin was trading at just over $17,700 – an increase of more than 34,000,000% over its 2011 price of $0.05. Almost all this exponential growth has been in 2017, which has people asking if Bitcoin is a bubble.

My opinion? Yes. It has many of the classic signs.

Bitcoin’s value has increased dramatically in a short time, attracting novice investors. Its valuation is extremely difficult since it’s not backed by anything tangible like gold or silver. Lastly, as an investment, Bitcoin doesn’t pay interest or dividends. To make money, investors will have to sell their Bitcoins. For these reasons, I think the Bitcoin bubble will burst eventually. I’m just not sure what the triggering event will be or when it will happen, but it will happen.

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5 cookie recipes for the best holiday ever

Happy Bake Cookies Day! Yes, there is an entire day dedicated to baking cookies, and it conveniently happens to fall close to the winter holidays. So, if you’d like to celebrate what is, in my humble opinion, the best holiday ever, or if you’re just looking for a way to fill your time away from the office, warm your heart (and your oven) with one of these cookie recipes crowdsourced from Association employees.

Hungarian Butter Cookies

Hungarian butter cookies
This one is a family recipe from Communications Manager Alexis Rothberg. I can confirm that Alexis’s dessert skills are top notch, so this one is bound to be a winner.

Ingredients

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

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Your five-step guide for using data analytics in an audit

Data analyticsYour clients have a lot of information. And you, being the forward-thinking CPA that you are, want to use new technologies and techniques to get the most out of that data. So where do you begin?

Audit data analytics (ADAs) is a great place to start. Using tools you already have – Excel, for example – you can analyze entire populations, find anomalies and identify patterns. To help you on your way, we’ve outlined five basic steps for planning, performing and evaluating the results of an ADA used to perform an audit procedure.

  1. Plan the ADA.

The first step is to develop a solid plan. Figure out what information you’ll be reviewing and what you want to get out of it. Are you performing a risk assessment procedure, substantive analytical procedure, or test of details? Or are you seeking to form an overall conclusion from the audit? Once you know your objective, then think about the population of data you have available. Give preliminary consideration to how available, relevant and reliable it is (you’ll consider this in more detail in step 3). Finally, identify which specific ADA procedures, techniques and tools you’ll use.

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Tax reform: Steps to implementation

Tax reform 2“Lobbyists are in many cases expert technicians and capable of explaining complex and difficult subjects in a clear, understandable fashion.”  – John F. Kennedy

I once told a new acquaintance that I was a lobbyist, and he looked at me like I was the devil. Really. So, I greatly appreciate President Kennedy’s complement as generic as it might be. And in the case of tax reform, I wish it might be true. Frankly, finding anyone who knows the answers would make me happy. What am I talking about?

As you might have followed in the news, a comprehensive tax reform bill has moved a few steps closer to the president’s desk. It’s possible the bill will be signed before Christmas.

But the president’s signature is not the end of the story.

As we saw in 1986, the signing of the tax reform bill will set off a regulatory and legislative chain of events that will take years to complete.

After signing, the Joint Committee on Taxation will likely issue a “committee report,” or general explanations of the final bill. This will offer insight into how the new bill will affect revenue.

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Credit losses: A new scope

BB8

If you have put off reviewing the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s (FASB) new Credit Loss standard since its effective date is “in a galaxy far, far away,” you are not alone.

This is the largest accounting standard change affecting depository institutions (and other industries) within the last 40 years, so it can be intimidating for management to get started. Plus, the amount of flexibility and professional judgement allowed within the standard itself has caused confusion and fear, making it hard even to begin.

Do not give into your fear. “Fear is the path to the Dark Side.” Instead, read below to digest the new standard piecemeal, and to understand what it does and doesn’t say. Then you will have the tools needed to take the steps to implement it. 

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Procrastinators beware, the nonprofit audit is not the place to drag your feet 

NFP cartoon 1

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Santa baby, all I want is a robot

Robot 2An artificial intelligence holiday wishlist

Everywhere I turn, there are articles about artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, the rise of robots and what it means for employees in all types of businesses. (Note: As you may have read in some of our previous blog posts, we think the accounting profession will fare a-ok.) Driverless cars and trucks are already a reality and have had both their first accidents and delivered their first kegs of beer. Not at the same time. While it is still a little difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact my son and daughter may do minimal driving as adults, I am more than ready for robots to lend a hand in a few other departments. Because isn’t the point of these things to take on tasks that consume too much time allowing me to focus on what really matters?

1. Holiday shopping. Every year, I spend hours hunting for the perfect gifts for my husband, who just wants Adidas to start making his favorite wind pants from 1997 again. (Note to Adidas: please don’t.) He wants nothing else and is generally horrible to shop for. I would gladly outsource this job to a robot. Who can then wrap the presents.

2. Clean my house. Where is Rosie (the Jetsons robot maid) when I need her? I know I could buy a Roomba, but a Roomba can’t dust, or change the diaper pail, or scrub the shower or toilet, or do my laundry.

3. Make repairs. Since my husband and I bought our house a year and a half ago, a tree fell through our fence, our garage roof needed to be replaced, our entire plumbing system got clogged and our upstairs toilet intermittently starts running for no reason. A fix-it robot would come in handy.

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7 key steps to master revenue recognition implementation

Deadline loomingStandard setters have made game-changing revisions to revenue recognition standards, and the effective date for implementation is fast-approaching. The new standard replaces the existing transaction- and industry-specific revenue approach with a principles-based approach. Is your organization ready for this shift?

The new standard was originally issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board as Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (the International Accounting Standards Board has also issued guidance with the same name), and several clarifying amendments have since been issued. The guidance affects all entities—public, private and not-for-profit—that have contracts with customers. The standard’s original effective date was postponed because of the complexity involved.

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5 easy strategies to help your candidates pass the CPA Exam

CPA Exam prepAs a recently licensed CPA, the long study hours, time commitment and life balancing I did to prepare for the Uniform CPA Examination is still fresh in my mind. After reading the Journal of Accountancy article in which members shared their personal exam experiences, I started thinking back to my own journey as a candidate.  

I can remember the moment I finally received the results of my last exam section. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of relief and, of course, pride. My commitment to accounting had paid off. But one thing that stands out to me is when I prepared for the exam, I focused on a few strategies for success. 

I know your firm’s CPA candidates will each have their own way to tackle the exam. But as someone who has been through the experience, I think it’s helpful for you to share your knowledge and personal experience. Don’t hesitate to talk about what worked and what didn’t. Let them know you understand what they’re facing.

So, where to start? Ask your candidates a basic question: “What’s your exam strategy?” If you get the long, awkward pause, here are five quick tips to share:

  1. Understand the candidate requirements

For anyone pursuing the CPA, this is where it all starts. The exam process requires quite a few steps, so it’s best to know the lay of the land ahead of time. My journey began with a seminar hosted by the New Jersey Society of CPAs. I learned all about what I needed to do, what the requirements were and which exam partners I needed to turn to for guidance. The key is doing your homework before you jump into testing.

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Preparing for busy season after natural disasters

WildfiresYour clients are counting on you to be up-to-date on the latest in tax. This means keeping them informed on how major storms, floods, and wildfires could affect their returns.

We saw the hurricane headlines, and they were shocking. Three major storms stood out for their ferocity and damage. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma killed more than 100 in the United States and caused more than $150 billion in property damage. Puerto Rico was hit hard by Hurricane Maria. The island lost all power and nearly all cell service. In some places, these services have yet to be restored.

And it wasn’t just hurricane season that was unusually active. Wildfire season has been one of the worst on record. Almost 9 million acres have burned in wildfires across the western states.

And the year isn’t over just yet.

In November, TEC Chair Annette Nellen, CPA, CGMA, spoke on this topic and offered advice at the National Tax Conference in Washington, D.C. Here are some of the key considerations she shared to get you and your clients ready for busy season.

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