James Schiavone Feed

James Schiavone

Senior Manager, Public Relations
American Institute of CPAs

Born and raised in New York City, James graduated from Tulane University with a BA in Sociology and English minor. In his role on the media relations team, he manages media outreach efforts for the Institute’s financial literacy programs and personal financial planning division, placing articles and creating thought leadership. James also provides strategic public relations counsel for many AICPA’s teams, spotlighting the Institute’s initiatives. You can find James on Twitter at @AICPANews, where he shares information CPAs need to know..

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CPAs to Federal Government: Reduce the Debt

Money-on-fireMost Americans greeted the news that the “fiscal cliff” had been averted with a mix of relief that a worst case scenario had been averted and frustration with the seemingly endless process. What has been lost on some casual observers is that, as a result of the deal, the U.S. deficit will actually increase an additional $4 trillion dollars in the next decade, according to the Centralized Budget Office.

Earlier this week, the AICPA released the results of a survey* asking members questions regarding the economic sustainability of the United States. The survey found that the vast majority are calling on the federal government to demonstrate more fiscal responsibility. In fact, seven in ten U.S. CPAs are concerned that both individuals and families will be severely affected if policy makers are unable to reduce the federal debt.

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4 Articles That Made CPAs Smile in 2012

Young-manI initially chose to write a feel-good year-end reflection because that’s what all the cool, popular bloggers on the internet do. And I want to be cool and popular, too. But as I started going back through all the news from 2012, I quickly realized that it was an extremely eventful year, even by the lofty standards established by previous years (I’m looking at you, 2002!). That said, an on-the-go CPA could surely be forgiven if they were too busy to notice the top* four articles, which gave us a reason to smile during the course of the year.

As noted right here on AICPA Insights in March, a survey from Careerbliss.com found that being an accountant is the eighth happiest job in America. Employees were asked to rate 10 factors that affect workplace happiness, including one's relationship with the boss and co-workers, work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture, company reputation, daily tasks and control over the work one does on a daily basis.

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CPAs Outlook on U.S. Economy Drops for Third Straight Quarter

CPAOI 4qDespite the traditional festive mood of the holidays and consumer confidence at a 6-month high, CPAs in business and industry are not impressed.

In fact, CPA financial executives reported their dimmest view of prospects for the U.S. economy since 2011 in the results of the AICPA’s fourth quarter Economic Outlook Survey. Why so sad? The main reasons cited for increased pessimism are the threat of the looming fiscal cliff, combined with concerns over future sales and profitability.

While optimism has declined over the past three quarters, the fourth quarter survey did not include any silver lining as every major measure of economic expectations fell, both quarter over quarter and year over year. 

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In the News: AICPA Advocates for Fiscal Responsibility

National debtAs many of you may recall, in an effort to bring attention to how and why the financial sustainability of our nation is at risk, earlier this year the AICPA developed What's at Stake? A CPA’s Insights into the Federal Government’s Finances, which explicitly spells out the issues for policy makers and the public.

Following up on those calls for solutions to our nation’s financial problems, Accounting Today reported that the AICPA’s board of directors recently voted to adopt a resolution calling on lawmakers to do more to ensure the long-term fiscal health of the United States by better controlling the growing national debt. One aspect of this resolution involves the AICPA supporting two non-partisan efforts, the Campaign to Fix the Debt and the Comeback America Initiative, both of which align with the AICPA’s goals of putting America on a better path toward fiscal responsibility.

As AccountingWEB notes, the resolution will also be shared with state CPA societies as the AICPA continues to seek ways to advocate for reduced complexity for American businesses and individuals. Stay tuned.

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In the News: Now is the Time to Lower your 2012 Tax Bill

Tax planningFall, or autumn if you’re a season snob, is a busy time of year at the AICPA. Earlier this week, we held our Fall 2012 Governing Council Meeting – but you know that already because we’ve covered all the news earlier in the week. In addition to The World Series and beautiful foliage, fall is also the time to get proactive and take steps to lower your 2012 tax rate if you haven’t already done so.

This year, it is particularly important for taxpayers to pay close attention to the planning process with the uncertainty surrounding the potential expiration of the Bush tax cuts and many widely-used tax cuts which have not yet been renewed for the 2012 tax year . Susan B. Garland spoke to Melissa Labant,director of taxation at the AICPAabout this issue for a recent article in Kiplinger's Retirement Report focused on this issue.

The article calls attention to the fact that one of the biggest changes on the books for 2013 is a 3.8% surtax on investment income for singles with a modified Adjusted Gross Income of more than $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples). The tax applies to the smaller of net investment income or the amount by which taxable income exceeds the thresholds.

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In the News: AICPA Financial Literacy Survey Featured on the Today Show

Yesterday, Al Roker and Jean Chatzky of the Today Show discussed the issue of kids and allowance, citing the results of AICPA’s recent survey with Harris Interactive on the subject.

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In the News: CGMAs Can Bridge the Gap in Human Capital Management

CGMA logoDavid McCann at CFO.com spoke with Arleen Thomas, CPA, CGMA, AICPA SVP of management accounting, about a recent talent management survey for Chartered Global Management Accountants conducted jointly between the AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The report found that 43 percent of the CEOs, CFOs and human resource directors surveyed said their companies have missed financial goals in the past 18 months because of inadequacies in human capital management. Almost the same number, 40 percent, indicated that such shortcomings—which could include insufficient systems, processes or management information—have hindered their ability to innovate. “We believe that talent and the human dimension drive business growth and companies haven’t focused enough on that,” said Thomas. “Too many companies look at talent in terms of what they have to do to comply with labor laws and regulations, rather than understanding that it can be a competitive differential.”

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In the News: Executives Pessimism Towards Economy Erodes Confidence in Own Organizations

CPA Outlook IndexWith the announcement yesterday that the Federal Reserve is launching a third quantitative easing in an attempt to generate momentum for the stalling recovery, the economy—and unemployment—are back in the spotlight.

The AICPA’s 3rd quarter Economic Outlook Survey results were released last week, which provided insights into the direction of the economy from 1,365 qualified CPAs who hold leadership positions, such as chief financial officer or controller, in their companies. Their gloom was reflected in last week’s jobs report, which showed the labor market continuing to stagnate and served as one of the reasons behind the Fed’s actions yesterday.

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In the News: Making Allowance a Teachable Moment

360 Degrees of Financial LiteracyWhen I reflect upon my childhood, I fondly recall my elementary school days at P.S. 116 in Manhattan. Despite enjoying school, my favorite time of the year was when I would proudly present my parents with my final report card of the school year. The reasons for this were two-fold: like most kids, I always looked forward to my summer vacation, and I knew that if I got good grades my parents would reward me with a gift of my choice (usually a Nintendo game).

As I turns out, I wasn’t the only kid being compensated for doing well in school. According to a recently released AICPA survey on how parents treat the subject of money with their children, 48 percent of parents say that they pay their kids for getting good grades. As CNN Money noted, the survey showed that the going rate for an ‘A’ is $16.60, which makes me think my parents were getting off easy back in the day.

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In the News: Accounting Student Paul Wright Wins Medal of Inspiration Award

PaulThe AICPA recently announced Paul Wright, a student at Western Washington University, as this year’s winner of the Beta Alpha Psi’s Medal of Inspiration Award. Danielle Lee of Accounting Tomorrow reports that the AICPA-sponsored award, which includes a $5,000 cash stipend, honors a student who has experienced extreme hardships in his or her life and demonstrated an unusually high level of success in face of this adversity. Wright was born with arthrogryposis, a disability which includes stiff joints and missing muscle, requiring multiple surgeries before he turned 16. AccountingWEB noted that, despite his disability, Wright enrolled in Western Washington University, declared an accounting major and last April joined Beta Alpha Psi, an honorary organization for financial information students and professionals. He has worked with the university’s disability resource center and local BAP chapter to stream meetings to students who couldn’t attend. “A key lesson I learned while growing up is that true strength comes from the heart,” said Wright. “I know that I work harder for everything and that makes me feel even prouder of my accomplishments.”

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CPAs Stress the Importance of Long-Term Care

Long-term care for retirementThere is no way to sugar coat it, readers - we are all getting older. I remember when I was a teenager, I would complain about the aches and pains I would get from playing sports and my father would say to me with a wry smile “wait until you get older.” My health was not an issue I wished to consider back when I was a teenager, and I don’t particularly like thinking about it now – but there is certainly no getting around the fact that the older we get, the more important it is to have a plan in place to deal with health issues as they arise.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2010 and 2050, the U.S. is projected to experience rapid growth in its older population. In 2050, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is projected to be 88.5 million, more than double its projected population of 40.2 million in 2010. This means that an increasing number of Americans will be making important decisions about their long-term health in the coming years.

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In the News: Pathways Commission Releases Report on Future of Accounting Education

Pathways CommissionBoth Accounting Today and Inside Higher Education covered the release of a new report from the Pathways Commission on Accounting Higher Education. The Commission, put into place in 2010 and co-sponsored the by the AICPA and the AAA, was tasked with studying the future structure of higher education related to accounting and developing recommendations to engage and maintain the strongest possible academic community in accounting. Their report summarizes two years of collective effort by more than 50 individuals representing a diverse array of stakeholders in the accounting profession.

The report presents seven main recommendations and provides ideas on implementation efforts. The recommendations range from attracting a more diverse population of students to the profession to reforming accounting education so that teaching is respected and rewarded. Additionally, the commission recommended establishing an implementation process to address their suggestions by creating a continuous, sustainable process.

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Outlook for the Global Economy Declines in Latest CGMA Forecast

CGMA accounting management businessOn July 10, the AICPA and CIMA released the results of the most recent CGMA Global Economic Forecast, which showed the world’s CEOs, CFOs and senior management accountants hold an increasingly pessimistic outlook for the global economy over the next 12 months. The shift to a more negative sentiment appears to reflect the worsening of the sovereign and financial crisis in Europe and its effects on other regions, as well as slower growth in China and political and fiscal uncertainty in the U.S.

The CGMA Global Economic Index – a comprehensive gauge of executive sentiment within the Forecast – declined 7 points to 58 from the first quarter 2012 reading of 65. The Index is a composite of 10 equally weighted survey measures on a scale from 0 to 100, with 50 considered neutral and numbers above that signifying positive sentiment.

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In the News: Accounting Firms Regain 87% of Jobs Lost During the Recession

This week’s ‘In the News’ post comes from the AICPA and CPA/SEA Interchange conference in St. Louis. I’ve been learning a lot at the sessions and having a good time networking with my colleagues at the state societies and sharing ideas and information. There has been a lot going on in the profession recently and I’ve been trying my best to stay on top of it all. I’ve highlighted a few of the more interesting articles I’ve seen in the past week and shared them with you below. If you see something that you think was particularly important, send me an email or let me know in the comments section.

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In the News: Preparing for the CPA Exam is Now Easier

The AICPA has recently taken steps to make preparing for the Uniform CPA Exam easier for international students and candidates on the go with two exciting new developments.

Recently, the AICPA announced it had expanded its website, ThisWaytoCPA.com to students overseas who may now register and create profiles.

The website, designed to educate college students and CPA-exam candidates about the path to becoming a CPA, now contains information to help international students understand the process of registering for the CPA exam and becoming a U.S. CPA while living overseas.

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In the News: Leave that Savings Alone

A Bankrate.com article titled “Four Ways to Avoid Dipping Into Your Savings Account” quoted Kelley Long, a Chicago CPA, personal finance coach, and member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. In the article, Long provides prudent advice on how to keep the money currently in your savings account right where it is. She suggests savers don't get an ATM card or sign-up for Internet account access - because it provides the user with hassle free access to their savings. For more savings tips, please visit 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, a free program of the nation’s CPAs to help American’s understand their personal finances through every life stage.

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Fostering a More Ethical Business Culture

CGMA logoA few weeks ago, I shared with you my (reasonable and totally understandable) enjoyment of data points and survey results in all their shapes and sizes. I have also always been a huge fan of The Ethicist column in the New York Times Magazine, and put serving as ‘The Ethicist’ near the top of my dream jobs list. Needless to say, the recent results of the global business ethics survey from the AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants were right in my wheelhouse.

It’s encouraging to see that four out of five businesses worldwide report that they have committed to ethical performance. But according to Managing Responsible Business, a global survey of almost 2,000 CGMAs, the rhetoric does not always match the reality. While 80 percent of organizations provide a code of ethics to employees, only 36 percent collect ethics information such as the number of employees attending ethics training and actions taken on hotline reports. The report suggests that companies need better processes to really operationalize their ethics programs.

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In the News: U.S. Economy Takes Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

CPA Outlook IndexIn the midst of continued uncertainty, the nation – and by extension, news coverage - has been increasingly focused on the economy. Yesterday, the AICPA released the results of the second quarter Economic Outlook Survey, which showed that CPA business executives who hold leadership positions, such as chief financial officer or controller, in their companies, had grown more pessimistic about the U.S. economy, compared with last quarter.

The survey results were covered in the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics Blog, which noted that the CPA outlook index slipped to 67 this quarter from 69 in the first quarter. A reading above 50 indicates a generally positive outlook with increasing activity. The index has ranged between 60 and 70 for the past two years.

“What we're seeing is the same ‘two steps forward, one step back’ cycle we encountered last year,” said Arleen R. Thomas, CPA, CGMA, the AICPA’s senior vice president for management accounting. “There's no question survey takers have grown more pessimistic about the U.S. economy, and, with expectations muted for profit, revenue and employment growth, there appear to be few catalysts to change that view.”

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In the News: Private Company Standards are Coming

BarryspeechThe big accounting news this week was the Financial Accounting Foundation’s Wednesday announcement that it was creating a body to set differences in U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, where appropriate, for privately held companies. The private company standards set by the new Private Company Council might make it easier for the roughly 28 million privately held companies in the United States to follow certain accounting standards.

The AICPA announced its support for the Private Company Council on Wednesday shortly after the news broke.

Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, president and CEO of the AICPA, spoke about the developments in a video to members.

“With the news announced today by the FAF, we recognize and appreciate that the FAF has taken solid steps in the right direction regarding the Private Company Council. The AICPA is encouraged by this approach and awaits more of the details of the FAF decision.  We look forward to continuing to work together to effect meaningful changes in U.S. GAAP for private companies and the users of their financial statements,” said Melancon,

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And The Survey Says... Increasing Demand for Forensic Accounting

forensic accountingInfographics may be the rage these days, but I still like good old-fashioned statistics, data points and most of all, survey results. Maybe it's because I spent a lot of time watching Family Feud as a child, but when I look at survey results the voice in my head announces ‘and the survey says…’

If 100 CPAs across the country were asked ‘what is the fastest growing area in accounting,’ it is highly likely that forensic accounting would be one of their top answers. Backing up what many in the profession have long suspected to be true are the latest results from the AICPA Forensic and Valuation Services Trend Survey: and the survey says that forensic accountants are seeing a noticeable increase in demand for their services.

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AICPA Tells Congress to Keep Oversight of Investment Advisers with SEC

As the AICPA gears up for our 125th Anniversary next week, here’s a wrap up of a few interesting accounting topics recently making the news. You can follow @AICPANews on Twitter to stay on top of all the latest official AICPA news as well as articles impacting the profession.

Barry MelanconCFO.com wrote that the AICPA raised concerns over the Investment Adviser Oversight Act of 2012 and urged Congress to keep oversight of investment advisers with the SEC. Introduced in the House of Representatives on April 25, the bill would transfer oversight of investment advisers from the SEC to a self-regulatory organization."Many of our members work for a firm that is registered as, or affiliated with, a registered investment adviser," Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, AICPA president and CEO, said in a statement. The AICPA's stance is that the system proposed under the bill would cost advisers much more in fees than current SEC oversight would.

On January 19, 2011, the SEC issued a staff report that found the current SEC-registered investment-adviser examination program faces hefty capacity and funding challenges. Three options were proposed to offset these challenges.  One would be to impose "user fees" on SEC-registered investment advisers to fund oversight. A second would authorize one or more SROs to examine investment advisers, with oversight from the SEC. A third choice would be to authorize the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a leading broker-dealer SRO, to examine dual registrants for compliance with the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. All three options require congressional action. "We believe that the SEC's core mission to protect investors requires adequate regulation of the investment advisory profession. The SEC remains the proper regulatory body to protect the public's best interest." Melancon said, "Providing the SEC with resources to properly enforce their rules is the best solution for investors and the public."

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4 Tips to Stay in the Loop on your Finances

The loopI recently read a blog post that talked about ‘the loop,’ which is essentially the browsing cycle we go through on the internet. This caused me to reflect upon my own habits on the web when I’m home relaxing in front of the computer. I found out that I have a regular routine of scanning the news, checking for any new sports information, seeing what my friends had for breakfast on social media and ensuring any emails are responded to promptly. I do this two or three times on an average night and as many as a dozen times on the weekends (please don’t judge me).

However, I’ve recently made it a point to expand the loop at least once daily to include checking my bank account and recent credit card spending, as well as my 401(k) and investment portfolio. Because as Jordan Amin, CPA, chair of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission puts it, “the first rule of personal finance is be informed.”

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Technology Risks and Rewards: A Balancing Act

Smartphone or data riskThe AICPA has long recognized the impact that technology has on the accounting profession. In fact, for over two decades, we’ve been reaching out to members and key stakeholders to better understand how it can be effectively harnessed through our Top Technology Initiatives Survey.

Back in the early 1990s when the survey debuted, the technologies we take for granted today would have been impossible to fathom. In an era when only early adopters had digital answering machines, the idea of a personal computer, which could obtain almost any piece of information in the world was beyond most people’s comprehension. Now, we carry these devices around in our pockets, take pictures with them and call them phones.

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In the News: Tax Tips for Procrastinators

IRS tax Form 1040I’m a procrastinator by nature. I can’t help it. I wait until the last possible second to do things - even important things that I know I need to do, like file my taxes. Many of you reading this may be in the same boat as me, staring at the calendar and wondering how it’s possible you still haven’t gotten around to filing yet.

I hear you, and I also hear the clock ticking as it counts down to the April 17 deadline.

As luck would have it the AICPA has helpfully compiled the 10 Top Last Minute Tax Tips to help get us through the process as painlessly as possible. In fact, one of the most helpful last minute tax tips for me was the news that I can have my CPA e-file for me. So this year, even though I waited until the last minute I won’t have to sprint up the steps of the Post Office just to make the deadline, as I have in years past.

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In the News: Accounting named one of the Happiest Jobs in America

We’ve got a lot of big things on the horizon at the AICPA: April Financial Literacy Month (we’ll be releasing survey results on the financial state of Americans) and in mid-May, we’ll be celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the AICPA at our Spring Council meeting in Washington D.C.

Barry Melancon, CPA, Testifying in front of CongressWhich is not to say that we’ve haven’t been busy lately! Just in the last week we released the results of our CGMA Global Economic Forecast and Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, president and CEO of the AICPA, testified before the House Capital Markets Subcommittee Accounting and Auditing Oversight Hearing. Melancon told members of the subcommittee that AICPA supports a strong, balanced and independent regulatory structure that protects investors but does not restrict the flow of capital.

During busy season and year-round, you can keep abreast of all the most important AICPA news by subscribing to the Media Relations RSS feed or following @AICPANews on Twitter. On to news of note from the last few days.

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In the News: Optimism on U.S. Economy hits Post-Recession High

CPA Outlook Index

The Wall Street Journal’s CFO Report covered yesterday’s release of the AICPA’s Economic Outlook Survey results, noting that 14 percent of those surveyed plan to hire this quarter – up from 10 percent in Q4. The AICPA Economic Outlook Survey polls chief financial officers, controllers and other CPAs in executive and senior management roles about their thoughts involving the economy and their hiring plans in the next year. The Triangle Business Journal cited the rise of the CPA Outlook Index,  a composite of nine indicators, which measured a 69, a post-recession high (see the chart to the left) that matches the index score from the first quarter a year ago. The Raleigh News & Observer, noted that the CPA respondents’ views are seen as a leading economic indicator because they oversee corporate finances and help devise strategy. Carol Scott, CPA, CGMA, AICPA vice president for business, industry and government, was quoted by WRAL.com in their article on the survey. Scott said "optimists now outnumber pessimists on the U.S. economy by an almost 2-to-1 margin, which is a striking change from six months ago." The results of the survey will be discussed on a webcast 2012 Economy: Real Recovery or Roller Coaster Ride?, scheduled from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. ET on March 22. The webcast has free CPE for the first 2,000 AICPA Members who register.

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In the News: Clients Increasingly Turn to CPAs for Financial Planning

Financial planning consultation

While economic uncertainty persists and conflicting economic indicators make predicting the progress of the recovery tough, stocks have been on the rise since late 2011. With the Dow crossing the 13,000 threshold earlier this week, many investors may be considering a return to the market. Before making any important financial decision, it’s essential to develop a plan that addresses the specific situation and ensures alignment with one’s goals for the future. As a number of recent news articles below demonstrate, individuals are increasingly turning to their CPA for help making investment decisions and planning their financial future, and the AICPA is ensuring that CPAs have the tools they need to best advise their clients.

Investment News reports that, as a result of increased demand from their clients, more CPAs than ever before are offering financial planning services. CPAs, who are trusted advisors to their clients, may have an advantage on other investment professionals. “We're in a natural position of trust with clients to expand into financial planning,” said Lyle Benson, CPA/PFS, of the executive committee of the AICPA's Personal Financial Planning section. The economic conditions in the U.S. have only added to the perception that CPAs are one of the best options for financial planning, and the AICPA is ensuring that members who wish to expand their financial planning services have the resources they need. “With the uncertain times, our members are seeing a lot more demand from clients for financial planning services,” said Andrea Millar, CPA/PFS, senior technical manager of the AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning section. “In recent years, we've expanded our efforts to help them add that to their practices.”

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In the News: Tips for Choosing a Tax Preparer from the AICPA

1040 formsEach year the news media seems to begin their coverage of tax season a little earlier than the year before. The Media Relations team at the AICPA works year-round to educate reporters and provide accurate and actionable information for filers. This helps ensure that during tax season the public understands the value of a CPA as a tax preparer who can help them navigate the complicated and constantly changing IRS rules. With two months until the deadline to file most 2011 returns, I present to you, dear readers, some recent articles quoting AICPA staff and volunteer leadership on tax season issues.

Eileen Connelly of the Associated Press spoke to Melissa Labant, CPA of the AICPA’s Tax team for an article on how filers can find a tax preparer who they can trust. Labant suggests that, if you're expecting to claim a lot of business-related expenses, ask colleagues from work or professional organizations if they know a CPA who focuses on your industry. And along the same lines, if you own a small business, it’s crucial to ensure that the CPA has experience with small businesses. If they’ve worked with small businesses in your industry, that’s even better.

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In the News: Accounting Graduates Earn 20% More than Average

multi ethnic graduation studentsThe National Association of Colleges and Employers recently released the findings of their latest Job Outlook survey, which contained good news for current accounting students as well as recent accounting graduates. According to the survey, accounting majors who graduated in 2011 earned an average starting salary of $50,500, up 3.7 percent from the previous year and roughly 20 percent more than the average starting salary of all graduates. This increase isn’t an anomaly, according to Andrea Koncz of NACE, who told FINS.com that "entry-level accounting and finance jobs tend to see steady growth from year to year."

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In the News: Easy Steps to Save $1,000

Mackey McNeillDo you happen to be one of the many people who has resolved to make saving money a priority this year? Do you also find yourself in the category of those who feel they cannot even save $25 a week?  If so, Mackey McNeill, CPA/PFS, a former member of the AICPA’s National Financial Literacy Commission, has offered some actionable tips to help you painlessly save $1,000 this year in an article appearing on depositaccounts.com.

McNeill suggests finding your largest discretionary expense and challenging yourself to spend 5% less. For example, if you spend $400 a month at the grocery store, make it your goal to reduce that figure to $380. The 5% challenge works because it doesn’t feel like a huge sacrifice, but $20 over the course of a month translates to a cool $240 a year (full disclosure: I was a math minor).

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In the News: Big Tax Changes to Come in 2012

1040 tax formsThe Wall Street Journal recently spoke to Melissa Labant of the AICPA’s tax team about tips for taxpayers as they wait to see if Washington addresses major tax questions in 2012; a number of major tax cuts are set to expire at year's end. Labant noted that several changes for this tax year could pose traps for those who are unaware.  Among the changes is the elimination of the charitable IRA donation, which expired at the end of 2011. IRA owners 70½ or older were previously able to donate up to $100,000 of assets per year to a tax-exempt charity. Individuals were able to use this donation as part of their required IRA payout, if they hadn't taken one. Adding to the confusion, many experts expect Congress to reinstate the law at some point in 2012. "If you want an IRA donation to be all or part of your required withdrawal, wait for Congress to act," advised Labant.

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In the News: Saving Money is Top New Year’s Resolution

Hello and Happy New Year to my Insightful readers! I hope the holiday season was full of joy and left you rested, relaxed and most importantly, ready to tackle the year ahead.

The AICPA will be launching a number of exciting initiatives this year and I’m looking forward to getting the news out and continuing to share interesting articles about the profession that you may not have caught. As always, if you happen to see something that makes you stop and say ‘this is important news CPAs should really be aware of it’ – please send it my way and I’ll consider it for inclusion.

Every January many Americans resolve to make beneficial changes to their life. They may decide to start exercising, to spend more quality time with family and friends or to, finally once and for all, get organized. A recent survey conducted by the AICPA and Ad Council has found that, for young adults, saving money in 2012 is at the top of their priority list. The survey was released to coincide with the launch of a new PSA on behalf of the national Feed the Pig financial literacy campaign, which helps 25- to 34-year-olds take control of their finances and make saving a priority. 

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In the News: Year-end Tax Planning, Changes to Offshore Accounts

FATCA FBAR comparison 2012A December 10 Wall Street Journal article titled What’s Next for Offshore Accounts detailed new rules affecting 2011 tax returns. These rules will require taxpayers with assets held offshore to make extensive disclosures to the Internal Revenue Service or risk harsh penalties. The article included a table (click to expand) provided by AICPA indicating which accounts and assets should be disclosed on the new Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets, and/or on Form TD F 90-22.1, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). 

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In the News: AICPA Provides Minority Accounting Scholarships, IFRS Decision Delayed

Theresa YeboahDeanna White of AccountingWEB recently spoke to Theresa Yeboah, a Georgia State University student who was awarded the scholarship three consecutive years, about the impact the AICPA’s Minority Accounting Scholarship has had on her education, as well as her plans for the future. "I have benefited tremendously from the scholarship," said Yeboah. "The scholarship helped me to pay for school and my expenses so I did not have to work so much and could focus my attention on my studies and activities, like Beta Alpha Psi. It gave me more time to devote to my dream of becoming a CPA."  This fall, Yeboah was one of 78accounting students from 36 states across the country awarded the AICPA Scholarship for Minority Students. Recipients are selected based on academic achievement, a demonstration of leadership and volunteerism, and an overall commitment to becoming a CPA. The 2012-13 Minority Scholarship application deadline is April 1, 2012.


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In the News: Financial Literacy, Social Media

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving holiday and has safely emerged from their tryptophan induced coma. It’s been a busy few weeks for AICPA and the profession, with lots of interesting news coming out. I’m particularly thankful (see what I did there?) to be able to spotlight a couple of my colleagues on the Communications Team who were mentioned in the media recently.

WLIFE award LogoMelora Heavey, AICPA senior manager – communications (and AICPA Insights blogger) spoke to Fox Business about some of the ways that companies are taking steps to develop a more financially literate workforce – which serves to benefit both the employees and the organization itself. “Companies are trying to manage insurance costs, and having a workforce that has a thorough knowledge of their benefits and options help them to do this,” says Heavey. How prevalent are these programs? A study by the Society of Human Resource Management found that 30% of organizations surveyed  offered one-on-one financial/investment advice, 24% offered in-group or classroom advice and 22% offered online advice. Companies interested in implementing financial education programs for their own employees can find free resources at wlife.org, the website for the Workplace Leaders in Financial Education Awards, a program co-sponsored by the AICPA and SHRM.

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In the News: Accountant Named a Top Career for Women

Professional female CPAMore Magazine named ‘accountant’ as one of the top ten careers for women who wish to balance a career and a personal life. “Younger people are saying, ‘Yes, I want to telecommute or take a two-year sabbatical and come back where I left off’—and providing these options is helping employers attract and retain talent,” says Mary Bennett, a member of the AICPA. Beyond the possibility of work/life balance, the article noted that the CPA credential also provides the flexibility to work in a field you're passionate about and move among a wide range of industries, since businesses in all sectors need accountants.

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In the News: US and HK sign MRA, Other CPA News

US and Hong Kong Sign Mutual Recognition AgreementThe Knoxville Daily Sun reported that the United States and Hong Kong have signed a five-year mutual recognition agreement establishing reciprocity between CPAs in the U.S. and Hong Kong. The agreement was signed at NASBA's 104th Annual Meeting in Nashville. "This new agreement will allow qualified accountants in the U.S. and Hong Kong to work across borders," said Barry Melancon, CPA, AICPA president and CEO. "Globalization is rapidly changing the way business is done across the globe and CPAs will continue to play a vital role in the financial systems in the U.S. and abroad." Mutual Recognition Agreements facilitate the process for qualified professionals with accounting credentials to become certified and licensed in each other's countries. The agreements are subject to individual state board of accountancy acceptance.

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Groupon's IPO; Siri Talks Back; Facebook vs LinkedIn

We asked our bloggers to tell us what they found interesting on the Internet this week. What would you add to this list?

Heidi Brundage, CPA, SPHR - I had the pleasure of opening the North Carolina Association of CPAs first ever Professional Women’s Conference on Wednesday. More than 200 women were in attendance; it was a day of awareness, networking and encouragement! This post from the Harvard Business Review reminds me that we have so much work to do to bring awareness to the lack of advancement of female CPAs.

Stacie Saunders - On Thursday, Facebook announced it has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Labor and three employment-related agencies in an attempt to decrease the country’s unemployment rate using social media — a project that may eventually include a Facebook jobs posting system. What does this mean for LinkedIn? We will have to wait and see!

James Schiavone - The iPhone 4S wasn't the announcement many Apple fans were expecting, but it did come with one surprise, Siri. The personal assistant, called Siri, makes life easier with reduced typing and heightened potential for your most meaningful exchange of the day to be with your iPhone. I thought I was all cutting edge using my Android to talk-to-text, but apparently I can be edgier and get useful answers to real life questions spoken back to me. Siri is still in beta and promises to become even more advanced in future versions, but folks are having a lot of fun testing it out.

Gregory J. Wright, MBA - Groupon finally filed for its IPO this morning, but is only seeking a valuation of $11.4 billion, less than half the $25 billion it sought earlier this year before their accounting was called into question.


In the News: IRS Tax Preparer Fees

1040 formsPatrick Temple-West at Reuters reports that the IRS is getting ready to impose the first comprehensive regulation of the industry's 730,000 practitioners who prepare tax returns. The IRS estimates the licensing fee for some tax preparers at between $250 and $275, which includes one-time fees to take a competency exam and be fingerprinted. (CPAs are exempt from the exam and fingerprint requirement and fees. For decades, CPAs and other credentialed preparers have been subject to state regulation as well as IRS rules for ethical practice and procedures, but many others were not.) The AICPA supports tax preparer regulation, but has expressed concern over the costs of requiring supervised non-signing staff at CPA firms to be fingerprinted "We have serious concerns regarding the level of burden that the user fee regulations will place on CPA firms, primarily small- and medium-size CPA firms," said Patricia Thompson, who chairs the AICPA Tax Executive Committee. The IRS, which plans to finalize the new fees in coming months, recently said it was open to ways to mitigate costs

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In the News: PCGAAP, Accounting Jobs, Sustainability

Happy Friday, dear readers – it has been a while. My weekly news wrap up post will now appear bi-weekly, with a post which spotlights interesting content from around the web appearing on alternate weeks. Should you want more frequent updates of news related to the accounting profession, please consider following AICPA Media Relations on Twitter @AICPANews or subscribing to the Media Relations RSS feed.

Now let’s get to the news, shall we?

One of, if not the most, pressing issues facing the accounting profession is the debate over the creation of separate reporting standards for private companies. The chorus of voices on one side of the issue got a lot louder this week with the announcement that thirty-three state CPA societies have joined the AICPA in calling upon the Financial Accounting Foundation to create a separate standard setting board for privately held companies. Michael Cohn of Accounting Today writes that AICPA advocates a separate board for private company accounting standards independent of the Financial Accounting Standards Board, under the oversight of the FAF. AICPA Chairman Paul Stahlin, CPA, said “after over 30 years of research by numerous diverse and independent groups, the only conclusion is that an autonomous standard-setting body under FAF to set differential standards for privately held companies must be created.”

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In the News: Dividends, PCGAAP, Deductible Loss

Barry Melancon, CPA Multiple news outlets, including Tax-News.com and Accounting Today covered the news that more than 2,600 letters have been written to the Financial Accounting Foundation demanding differential financial reporting standards for private companies and a separate independent board to oversee those standards. “Ninety nine percent of the letters from the privately held company constituency demanded that the FAF create differential standards for privately-held companies,” said Barry Melancon, CPA, AICPA president and CEO.

Paul Stahlin, CPAPaul Stahlin, CPA, AICPA chairman, said “now is the time for the FAF to take the bold step of creating a separate board to set relevant standards that privately-held companies sorely need. We call upon more CPAs and business leaders within the privately-held company constituency to push the FAF to make these changes.” The AICPA developed a letter writing tool to help members write letters to the FAF in support of a private company board.

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In the News: Economic Outlook, Outstanding Govt CPA

Carol Scott, CPAEarlier this week, the AICPA released the results of the 3rd Quarter Economic Outlook Survey, which showed a decline in optimism among CPA’s who serve as chief financial officers and other high-ranking financial decision-makers. WRAL Tech Wire reported that AICPA found that 61 percent of the respondents think it's "somewhat" or "very" likely that the U.S. is heading into the second trough of a double-dip recession. The News & Observer noted in their coverage that "turbulence in the political and economic environment eroded the sense earlier this year that a recovery was taking hold," according to Carol Scott, AICPA vice president of business, industry and government. Accounting Today pointed out in their article on the results that only 9 percent of CPAs in executive positions expressed optimism about the U.S. economy in the third quarter, down 24 percentage points from the 33 percent who said they were optimistic in the second quarter.

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In the News: Hurricane Irene, Cloud Computing

Hurricane Irene Disaster PreparednessAs Topical Storm Irene left a trail of devastation in its wake, initial estimates of damages were in the billions. For individuals struggling to put the pieces of their life together, the aftermath can be extremely difficult to navigate. Michael Eisenberg, CPA/PFS, told MarketWatch that gathering the facts and carefully evaluating contractors was the prudent approach. “As much as somebody wants to jump in and do something now, you need to step back a little bit, take a breath, get your wits about you before you start making decisions,” said Eisenberg. Mitchell Freedman, CPA/PFS, advised readers that in the article if their house is unlivable, they need to find out whether their insurance policy covers the expense of a hotel or rental apartment.

In related news, the AICPA wrote a letter to the IRS asking them to extend the Sept. 15 filing deadline for business tax returns for tax payers and preparers in areas impacted by Hurricane Irene. Mike Cohn of Accounting Today reports that the AICPA asked the IRS to use its administrative authority to grant at least a two-week extension of the deadline for those in the areas affected by the hurricane. Patricia Thompson, CPA, chair of the AICPA’s Tax Executive Committee, also asked that any relief apply to situations in which the taxpayer, tax return preparer or the records are located in areas ravaged by the hurricane. The Tax Adviser reports that the IRS announced September 1 that taxpayers in certain areas affected by Hurricane Irene have until October 31 to file certain returns and make payments normally due before then. The areas eligible for relief include parts of North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, and Puerto Rico; the IRS expects to provide similar relief to other places affected by the hurricane, such as Vermont

As many business are considering transitioning to cloud computing, a CFO.com article tackles the not-so-simple question of what it means to ‘move to the cloud.’ As CPA firms who have adopted the cloud model likely know, there are a number of different options for companies looking to make the switch. In the article, Timothy Chou provides real life examples and breaks down six distinct different ways to make the move.

Going Concern recently covered the AICPA’s announcement of the second annual accounting case competition. The article notes that the contest asks college students to flex their fraud and forensic skills in advising a fictional client on a major overseas expansion. “The competition is an opportunity for students to get a hands-on, real-life understanding of one of the fastest-growing interest areas in accounting: fraud and forensics,” said Jeannie Patton, AICPA vice president for students, academics and membership. The top three teams will strut their stuff in Washington D.C. and the one that does the best job keeping the project on track — and on the right side of the law — gets $10,000.

If you come across a recent article of note about the profession, please let me know in the comments section or send me an email.


In the News: Women to Watch, Financial Literacy, CPE

A recent AccountingWEB article spotlights the Women to Watch Program, an effort of the AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee, which will be honoring women who have made significant contributions to the accounting profession and to the development of women. Candidates are nominated by their peers and firm. Award winners will be honored at events sponsored by their CPA societies. "The women who are selected for the Women to Watch awards have made some outstanding or unique contribution to the profession. They have been successful in integrating their personal and professional lives. They are more visible because of the awards. They become role models. They prove it can be done," added Yasmine El-Ramly of the AICPA.

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In the News: Auditor Term Limits, IFRS, Technology

Public Company Accounting Oversight Board logo

Jesse Hamilton of Bloomberg reports that the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board voted 5-0 earlier this week to open a public comment period on the idea of establishing term limits for auditors. Proponents said such restrictions may eliminate inappropriate company influence on long-term auditors. The board’s “concept release” would limit the number of consecutive years that an auditor could work for a client. It would combat “the pressure auditors face to develop and protect long-term client relationships to the detriment of investors,” PCAOB Chairman James Doty said. However, the board said it’s open to alternative ideas that would foster auditor independence, as board members expressed reservations. “I have serious doubts that mandatory rotation is a practical or cost-effective way of strengthening independence,” board member Daniel L. Goelzer said.  

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In the News: Financial Literacy, Mobility, CPA Exam

Mackey McNeill, CPA/PFS

The Times Daily in Alabama spoke with Mackey McNeill, CPA/PFS, and member of AICPA’s Financial Literacy Commission, about preparing college students to handle the responsibility of managing their own money. Without an understanding of the impact of their decisions, young adults can easily fall victim to overwhelming credit card debt and get behind on their student loan payments. McNeill says that one of the best ways to avoid that outcome is to begin teaching children about money long before they leave for college. “Our patterns about money are set before college, so if your kids are savers or spenders, you'll know before then; however, that doesn't mean you can't become better aware of the behavior and make difference choices,” she said.

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In the News: Financial Literacy, Mortgage Interest

Jimmy Williamson, CPA

Jimmy Williamson, CPA, and member of the AICPA’s financial literacy commission spoke to the Contra Costa Times for an article about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB, designed as a one-stop place for consumers to file complaints about financial products, is currently only handling credit card complaints. “Like any new federal agency it takes time for it to get its wheels rolling," said Williamson. “It's designed to help consumers make better financial decisions, if they are borrowing money for a home, if they are getting a credit card, those kinds of things. It's designed to improve transparency.”

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In the News: Debt-Ceiling, College Tuition, EDGE

Crashing through the debt ceiling spending taxes

This week’s post comes from Palm Beach, Florida, where I’ve been attending  the AICPA & CPA/SEA Interchange 2011 conference the past few days. It’s been a great experience learning about the issues impacting the profession, including informative forward-looking presentations from Barry Melancon, CPA, president and CEO of the AICPA and Paul Stahlin, CPA, AICPA chairman. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet so many of my colleagues from the state CPA societies around the country and learn about the projects they’ve been working on.

Now, on to the news.

Continue reading "In the News: Debt-Ceiling, College Tuition, EDGE" »

In the News: PCGAAP, Protecting Elderly Clients

Paul Stahlin, CPA

Paul Stahlin, CPA, AICPA chairman, wrote an editorial titled ‘One-Size GAAP’ Does Not Fit All for The CPA Journal, a New York State Society of CPAs publication, on the need for differences in accounting standards for privately-held companies. Stahlin highlights the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Private Company Financial Reporting, including the creation of a separate board with standards-setting authority under the Financial Accounting Foundation’s oversight and changes and modifications to existing U.S. GAAP, where appropriate, for private companies.


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In the News: IRS Tax Preparer Exam, Same-Sex Filings

CPA Profession in the News Accounting Today reports that the AICPA wrote to the IRS offering to help develop the IRS exam for registered tax return preparers by leveraging the AICPA’ s experience with the Uniform CPA Exam. AICPA Tax Executive Committee Chair Patricia Thompson wrote “we believe the examination should address problems faced by tax return preparers that might arise in the preparation of basic Form 1040 returns, including coverage of basic self-employment income.” Thompson noted that the IRS exam should have questions related to ethical responsibilities of tax return preparers and be updated annually to reflect the most current tax laws and regulations.

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