James Schiavone Feed

James Schiavone

Media Relations Manager
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 scours the news for articles relevant to the accounting profession and the finance industry. From the front page of the New York Times to obscure blogs in the back corners of the Internet, James finds the news CPAs need to know and shares it with them through the AICPANews Twitter account. He does proactive media outreach, tracks, analyzes and reports on the AICPA’s media activity and manages the AICPA’s Press Center.

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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.

Continue reading "In the News: Tips for Choosing a Tax Preparer from the AICPA" »

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.

Continue reading "In the News: Economic Outlook, Outstanding Govt CPA" »

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.

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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.”

Continue reading "In the News: Financial Literacy, Mortgage Interest" »

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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