Welcome to AICPA Insights, the official blog for the American Institute of CPAs. AICPA Insights features posts from AICPA staff and accounting professionals on a variety of topics affecting the accounting profession, the AICPA and its members.
The cost of college—continuously rising, constantly scrutinized and always in the news—is nothing new. For students enrolling in 2015, the average projected total cost of education (tuition and fees) at a private four-year college is $134,600 and a public four-year college is $39,400. The most expensive four-year colleges (think Ivies and other top-tier universities) are already $272,000, or $68,000 a year. These numbers are enough to make even the most financially prepared parents gasp. But, before you get to actually paying for college, a host of expenses must be taken into account.
The AICPA has many talented members with unique stories. This new Member Spotlight series will showcase the stories of members throughout the organization. We sat down with Sarah Hughes, CPA/PFS, executive director of EY’s Private Client Services in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For more than 15 years, Sarah has worked on her clients’ holistic personal financial and business planning needs. Below she shares some of her knowledge and experience
AICPA: In 2001, you were a tax accountant for a local firm; what motivated you to move to EY?
Sarah Hughes: The regional firm that I worked for was where I really learned the fundamentals of taxation on partnerships, S corporations, individuals, tax-exempt organizations, estates, and other areas. I found myself gravitating toward the individual trust and estate planning area, and relatively speaking, that was a small area of focus at the regional firm. EY had, and still has, a large group solely dedicated to these areas, so I have the support and am able to focus on a part of the accounting profession I find really interesting. Many of my clients are also connected to family-owned and private businesses; the background I brought with me to EY has helped in these areas as well.
Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality. ― Lewis Carroll
It started like most things we do: AICPA members needed it done. One after the other, after the other, and on and on, we heard from members who were tired of receiving complicated K-1s on October 13, 14 or even 15. “Please help us” they asked, so we turned to our Tax Executive Committee and said: “what makes sense?” And so, a multi-year, imaginative effort to craft a solution ended in a “way station” of success on July 31 when President Obama signed into law the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 (H.R. 3236).
The law provides for a more logical flow of a broad array of returns. The main idea was to have flow-through returns completed before the returns in which the information is reported – Forms 1040 and 1120; give folks enough time to breathe and digest the flow-through information. And so calendar-year partnerships are due March 15 and calendar year C corporations are due April 15. Partnership returns are due a month earlier than they had been, but six-month extensions are now available. Other fixes were made, too, to Forms 990, 1041 and 5500. Also, the due date for FinCEN Form 114 (FBAR) moves from June 30 to April 15, but for the first time, taxpayers will be allowed a six-month extension.
No one wants to think about death, much less how much it will cost. But as the population ages and life expectancies rise, it is likely that your clients will need to think about and prepare for their later years, including the possibility of age-related illness. End-of-life care is a financially and emotionally complicated topic, but starting the conversation with your clients long before they might face age-related illnesses is an important first step.
As we head into the second part of the 2015 filing season (with the 2016 season not far behind), some thoughts come to mind. Many practitioners felt as though recent tax law changes and related guidance was vague, late and not well supported. As a result, the 2015 filing season was more demanding than previous seasons, with uncertainty surrounding the final “repair regulations,” complex financial products and late receipt of client 1099s and brokerage statements.
Summer. A time for barbeques, trips to the beach, ice cream and, for many teenagers and young adults, their first jobs. What better time, then, to educate the newly employed about sound financial practices, before they’re tempted to spend all of their hard earned income having a good time?
For many Americans, the pursuit of fun is more of a priority than saving money. Just turn on the radio and you’ll hear any number of songs about frivolous consumerism. In the case of one of this summer’s ubiquitous songs, Time of My Life, the rapper Pitbull (né Armando Christian Pérez) celebrates the disastrous practice of spending money he doesn’t have:
“I knew my rent was gon' be late about a week ago I worked my [butt] off, but I still can't pay it though But I just got just enough To get up in this club Have me a good time, before my time is up Hey, let's get it now”
The National Football League’s Denver Broncos will have a new head coach in the upcoming season, Gary Kubiak, a former quarterback and later assistant coach for Denver who most recently was offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. Kubiak brings a new offensive playbook featuring zone blocking schemes and play-action passing to his new team.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has been playing at an All-Pro level for the vast majority of his career. Now he will need to learn Kubiak’s system – and quickly. It’s a challenge for Manning, but he knows that his new coach’s system has proven successful and can improve the Broncos’ chances of winning games.
Despite its lack of physical aggression, the accounting profession has quite a bit in common with these developments in the world of professional football. Consider this: Like Manning, you’ve been doing your job as an accountant at a high level for quite a while and you know what you’re doing when it comes to compilations and write-up work at your clients. Now Statement on Standards for Accounting and Review Services No. 21 has been issued and represents a new playbook for accountants in public practice who prepare financial statements.
Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.
—Edgar Allan Poe
Courtesy disconnect. You may have heard about it. The telephone hold times during this past filing season were so long that the IRS hung up on callers when the hold time reached two hours. Callers were warned they were about to be dropped — hence the courtesy disconnect.
We heard from so many members about IRS service issues that we conducted a survey of all AICPA members to find out what exactly was going on correctly — and to give everyone an opportunity to be heard. The survey, conducted right after busy season, included a question about courtesy disconnects. Ten percent of respondents were courteously disconnected once; 12 percent twice; and 17 percent disconnected three or more times. Give our members credit, though. Thirty-nine percent indicated they were too busy to hold on for two hours so they courteously disconnected themselves.
Finally, a week cleared off your work schedule and you are staying put. Now you can tackle all the weeds, catch up on your reading, take the dog to the vet, repair the fence, see a movie, buy that new appliance or laptop, organize your files, clean out your car, closet or basement, get to the dentist and go visit Mom or Dad.
Easy there, tiger! Remember the “cation” part of this? Being productive is rewarding, but a week goes by fast and a staycation warrants some rest and relaxation. I know, I just took one and I learned from the last one, which ended on a frustrating note because I felt that I tried to do too much, with only bits of fun sandwiched between the errands and organizing.
Health care coverage issues are continually evolving and are extremely complex. Clients turn to their CPAs for advice when choosing a health care plan that suits their needs. With the Supreme Court’s recent ruling ensuring that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is here to stay, CPAs should take this opportunity to explain three key areas of Medicare and the Affordable Care Act to help their clients avoid missteps. These areas include enrollment periods, provider networks and qualifying events.
Some of the key findings from the report highlight the need for the development of risk management leadership—particularly in light of the many types of risk an organization might face. Sixty percent of organizations acknowledge that they face an increasing number of risk issues, yet less than 35 percent have a formal enterprise risk management (ERM) program in place. In this same vein, 70 percent would not describe their risk management oversight as mature, and 40 percent or less are satisfied with risk exposure reporting to senior management.
In simpler times, all you needed to welcome a new baby into your family was love and an empty drawer in which he or she could sleep. In 2015, babies are expensive and modern parents need a lot of gear: diapers, cribs, strollers and car seats—not to mention child care. The list can seem endless. And, it all adds up fast. When my husband and I were expecting our son Connor, now 10 months old, our first trip to Buy Buy Baby left us dazed and concerned about how we would afford all of it.
The good news is, there are more ways than ever to offset the considerable costs related to having a child. If your clients are expecting or planning to have a child, the seven tax tips below might help.
For couples facing infertility (roughly 10 percent of the U.S. population), costs can start mounting long before the much-coveted positive pregnancy test. In fact, couples who require medical assistance to conceive often get hit with a one-two punch—the emotional pain of infertility and the fear of not being able to afford treatments.
I recently attended the AICPA’s Spring Council session in Washington, DC where I had the pleasure of going to a fascinating session on fueling the accounting profession pipeline. I’ve had some time to reflect on what I think the research means in terms of active steps that CPAs and state CPA societies should take to ensure there is a bright, talented and diverse applicant pool available for new and experienced hires.
Below are three main areas that research indicates impact an individual’s decision to commit to a career in accounting, as well as suggestions for how we can leverage these areas to help foster the greatest number of young professionals entering the accounting field.
Roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 14-and-a-half years. And many of them are preparing to retire. For some, this prospect is daunting—how much money do they need to maintain their current lifestyle? Can they afford to retire? The answer, very often, is “it all depends.”
From an asset perspective, these are trying times to retire. Yields on bonds and forecasted returns for equities are low, significantly affecting the safety of a withdrawal strategy. Many financial planners note the safety of the “4% Rule,” in which a retiree withdraws 4% of his or her initial balance upon retirement and then increases the amount of each withdrawal over 30 years—while factoring in inflation. The market has shifted, however. If we use a model that better approximates our current market and incorporates forecasts, a lower initial withdrawal rate—3%, for example—would be necessary to achieve the same financial outcome.
One of the most popular crypto-currencies available today is Bitcoin. Launched in 2009, this digital currency is similar to real currency in that it holds value which can be used to buy goods and services. More noticeable, however, are some of the key differences between Bitcoin and real currency:
Bitcoin operates independent of a central bank;
Bitcoin does not have legal tender status by any government; and
Bitcoins are treated as property by the IRS for tax purposes.
With the rising prominence of social media, becoming an influencer isn’t as hard as it once was. Social media levels the playing field, giving everyone an outlet to speak their minds.
In the past, LinkedIn had a restricted number of users permitted to publish articles to LinkedIn Pulse. These elite few were named Influencers. Recently, however, LinkedIn has opened this experience to anyone with an account, calling it Long-Form Post Publishing.
Taking advantage of long-form posting can establish you as a thought leader or influencer in your field. It gives you the opportunity to share your professional expertise without taking on the responsibilities of starting a blog or using other publishing platforms.
In less than a decade, Millennials (born 1981-1996) are expected to make up 75 percent of the U.S. workforce. Simultaneously, nearly 65 percent of CPA Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) say that they do not expect to retire at age 65, but will work beyond that age, according to a 2012 AICPA poll.
As a result, these groups will likely work side by side for the foreseeable future. Because of this, it is critical for Baby Boomers and Millennial CPAs to find common ground in order for their organizations to succeed. One key to developing a strong relationship is focusing less on differences and more on understanding each other’s unique skill sets.
But, perhaps there’s something even more important than that—understanding the motives behind why each group does what it does.
For instance, Baby Boomers may be aware that many Millennials are delaying marriage, and believe it is primarily because attitudes have changed. However, 34 percent of Millennials say financial reasons are holding them back. Additionally, most Baby Boomers are aware that many Millennials carry a heavy student debt load. But they may not realize college tuition and fees have increased 559 percent since 1985, making it nearly impossible for most students to fund their education without assistance.
No dessert is more time and energy intensive than ice cream hand cranked in an old fashioned, salt-lined churner. When you’re making it at home using this method, a gallon of ice cream is an all-day event made with love and a small gang of helpers. Now, imagine producing more than 12 million gallons. Those making ice cream on such a large scale have a number of additional variables to consider and may choose to incorporate sustainable practices into their business model.
Many companies are embracing the triple bottom line. Rather than solely focusing on financial information, organizations committed to sustainability are taking social and environmental aspects into account as well. Under this model, success is not only defined by a business’s annual profit. The well-being of employees, the environmental impact of the company’s activities and contributions to the community are also part of the overall equation representing the organization’s value.
In my eight months as chair of the AICPA Board of Directors, I’ve done a lot of travel and gained perspective on the size of our country and our planet. But beyond that, I’ve learned how business is becoming much more interconnected and how CPAs fit into a broader business ecosystem made up of other professions, clients and stakeholders. A recent trip to the other side of the world showed me just how connected our profession really is and made me optimistic about its prospects for the future.
After traveling to the World Congress of Accountants in November and countless domestic trips since, I found myself back aboard an airplane in February for a whirlwind journey to Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand, for meetings with CPA Australia and the Chartered Accountants Australia/New Zealand, respectively.
Rich or not-so-rich, running out of money in retirement is a major concern for 57% of clients, according to results of the inaugural quarterly AICPA Personal Financial Planning Trends Survey. Initiated by the AICPA’s PFP Division, the new survey seeks regular insights from CPA financial planners, provides valuable feedback on client emotions related to finances and the future, and helps trusted advisors understand where their expertise can best address client concerns.
High levels of concern over adequate retirement funding, as indicated by the first quarter 2015 survey, suggest demand is up for retirement peace of mind--a priceless service that CPAs offering personal financial planning services are uniquely qualified to provide.
While companies that most effectively use disruptive technology continue to make headlines -- and profit -- many organizations have a heightened interest in innovation. Their staff are being asked to focus on future growth opportunities rather than defending the status quo; embrace failure through small and quick learning experiments; and reinvent business models to create value for their customers and themselves.
My colleagues and I on the AICPA’s Innovation team seek to drive member value by encouraging staff to work collaboratively to convert ideas into new services. We’re here to help foster a culture of innovation across the profession.
Throughout the year, I talk with practitioners from around the country to understand their pain points. They’re often relieved to hear that other firms are grappling with similar issues and the challenges they face are among the top concerns for the profession as a whole. These discussions help inspire the solutions my team -- the AICPA Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) -- creates for our firm members. Another important source of information for practitioners and the AICPA is the PCPS 2015 CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, which gathers information from practitioners nationwide to identify the concerns at the top of firm leaders’ agendas.
Many CPA financial planners have had the heartbreaking experience of seeing a client, or a client’s loved one, end up in an assisted living, skilled nursing or memory care facility due to cognitive decline. Although this is a difficult time for the patient’s family, CPA planners and tax practitioners are in a unique position to help them understand the tax treatment and possible deductions for expenses incurred at these facilities.
Alzheimer’s, a type of dementia and a degenerative disease that leads to death, is one of the most common examples of cognitive decline. At advanced stages, the patient can no longer live safely on his or her own, and may have to move into a care facility. If certain conditions are met, the cost of living at the facility, including room and board, is deductible as a healthcare expense. For those aged 65 and older, medical expenses must exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income in 2015 and 2016 in order to be deductible. The threshold increases to 10% in 2017.
According to IRS Publication 502, qualified long-term care services include “… maintenance and personal care services that are 1) required by a chronically ill individual, and 2) provided pursuant to a plan of care prescribed by a licensed healthcare practitioner.”
This year, taxpayer identity theft took a maliciously clever turn: phony tax returns were filed that looked very much like the taxpayers’ previous years’ returns. Standard pattern deviation software would not catch this type of filing. How could this happen?
It turns out that rather than just using stolen names, birthdates, street addresses and Social Security information to file tax returns with made-up numbers, criminals used the stolen information to access the taxpayers’ previous returns to make up believable numbers to file for tax refunds. The criminals were successful in about 100,000 out of approximately 200,000 attempts to acquire taxpayer information on the Get Transcript section of the IRS website, which requires other personal verification questions that only the taxpayer is supposed to know.
FINALLY! This is the year that we get tax reform done. More than 26 years since the last tax reform, the stars are finally aligned: the Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the Administration all agree the tax code is too complex and needs to be fixed. Oh wait, that was 2012, and surprisingly (not) tax reform did not happen, but Washington will get it done in 2013. No, of course that did not happen either. Clearly tax reform would not happen in 2014 because it was a mid-term election year, but just wait until 2015, that will be the year for comprehensive tax reform, because after all, we now have one party leading both houses of Congress. OK, maybe not comprehensive reform in 2015, but you just wait until 2017…that will be the year!
The Q3/Q4 2015 score release timetable is now available. Score release timelines are updated biannually on AICPAInsights and on the CPA Exam website. For more information about score release and the scoring process, please visit the Psychometrics and Scoring page.
Like many of you, my background is in auditing. We launched our careers playing a vital role on an audit team. From those early days, with every engagement, we gained increased confidence in this complex discipline. We developed the understanding that our exemplary abilities to perform the audit are fundamental to the public’s trust in our profession.
In recent years, audit quality and audit relevance have become focal points for both public and private companies. It’s more important than ever for the profession to remain vigilant and uphold excellence. That’s why I’m proud that the AICPA has developed another plan, a bigger and bolder one than ever before to make this happen.
Business executives grew less confident about prospects for the U.S. economy over the past quarter. That’s according to the 2nd quarter Economic Outlook Survey, which polls AICPA members who serve as chief executive officers, chief financial officers and controllers. The survey found that while the majority (52 percent) of respondents still expressed optimism about the U.S. economy, there has been a significant slide in sentiment from the first quarter level of 68 percent.
The CPA Outlook Index -- a comprehensive gauge of executive sentiment within the AICPA survey -- fell two points in the second quarter to 72, the second consecutive drop. The index is a composite of nine, equally weighted survey measures set on a scale of 0 to 100, with 50 considered neutral and greater numbers signifying positive sentiment.
It’s 7:05am and I just popped into my local Starbucks for my regular morning fuel: a venti iced chai tea latte. At this hour, the only thing “green” I am looking for is the Starbucks logo on my coffee cup. However, if I pause to take a look around the coffee shop, I notice there are actually quite a number of “green” initiatives happening all around me. Trash cans are split down the middle with half designated for landfill and half for recycling, the wall is covered with options for reusable mugs and the cup in my hand has the recycling logo on it.
Starbucks, like many other dominant players in almost every industry, has taken significant steps to make its business model more sustainable and records these steps in its Global Responsibility Report. Unlike U.S. GAAP-directed financial statements, these reports—often called “sustainability reports” have limited guidelines for form or content. They can include nonfinancial factors ranging from environmental stewardship to employee health initiatives, community involvement and ethical sourcing in supply-chain practices.
A new era of business is dawning as organizations look for finance staff—from the C-suite to entry-level—with a broader mix of competencies that include the application of financial disciplines in the management of the business. Employers are looking for finance professionals with management accounting skills, business skills and the potential to be strategic business partners.
CFOs have plenty to worry about these days—but the one issue that continues to arise is talent. “It’s all about people,” said Nick Araco, CEO of the CFO Alliance in a recent CGMA Magazinearticle. “Most of the dialogue we’re having is going back to talent, regardless of whether we’re talking about strategy, or capital structures, or regulatory environments, the people side pops into every conversation.” The fact is, there is a shortage of finance professionals with business-partnering skills.
Open the newspaper, and you’ll find no shortage of stories about sensitive corporate information getting into the wrong hands. How can you ensure this doesn’t happen to your organization? Solid IT policies and procedures. They are critical components of an organization’s umbrella IT strategic plan and are designed to prevent serious operational problems. In general, security policy and procedures include assessing your organization’s assets and holdings, evaluating them against threats or risks for exposure and having the right tools and techniques in place to manage those threats and risks.
Last month marked my fourth Financial Literacy Month at the AICPA. It’s amazing how much the landscape and messaging has changed in just a few years. While our outreach and exposure for the program has grown, our actual messages to individuals have become shorter. We have moved from lengthy articles on our websites, to a few sentences on Facebook and now to singular images on Tumblr. In a world where younger audiences are looking increasingly to online sources for financial advice, how do we accurately communicate financial literacy lessons with just one animated photo and a few words?
Many retirees see their home as a symbol of comfort and independence that they want to keep as long as possible. However, far too often, reality turns out differently. Most conventional homes present accessibility problems that impair the comfort and independence of elderly people, requiring expensive modifications or an unplanned move to an assisted living facility caused by a health crisis.
Whether you’re advising clients ten years into their retirement or helping middle-aged clients plan for their golden years, you’re doing them a disservice if you don’t bring up the sometimes uncomfortable discussion of retirement housing and end-of-life care.
There are roughly 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States. Many of them are grassroots organizations run by well-meaning volunteers who are committed to the group’s mission, but who may not have knowledge of the numerous complicated rules governing not-for-profits. I learned of these complexities when I joined the board of an all-volunteer sports league in my community. I'm sure many practitioners can relate: because I am a CPA, of course, I was elected treasurer. In this role I gained a deeper understanding of not-for-profit finances. As a result, I've learned three things not-for-profits need to understand about their finances in order to run a more effective organization.
We all know that staying current and embracing the latest trends in business are key to running a successful CPA firm. Years ago, accountants relied on columnar pads and general ledger books, while working from 8-5 in the office. Today at most firms, those tools and practices are replaced by accounting and cloud computing software, with flexible schedules and virtual offices. CPAs continue to implement new tools and strategies to optimize the changing professional environment to best meet client and staff needs. Interested in learning more, I sat down with two trailblazers to hear firsthand about their experiences.
Alan Long, CPA, CITP, CGMA, is the managing member of Baldwin CPAs, based in Richmond, Ky. Alan explained that his firm has been an early adopter of technology. For example, the firm has been paperless since 2002, in the cloud since 2004 and has supported a multiple monitor environment for nearly a decade. Baldwin CPAs uses electronic signatures for all engagement letters and consent forms, saving the firm both time and money. Additionally, all professional staff are given iPads, allowing them to be accessible while offsite.
One of the most important decisions working parents will make is deciding who will get the honor of taking care of their little one during the day. My husband and I decided to hire a nanny to watch our sweet little boy, Henry. We liked the idea of Henry getting excellent one-on-one care from an experienced caregiver, and daycare can present challenges for us in terms of picking up and dropping off our son each day – we may be parents, but our career demands still exist. Hiring a nanny worked well for our situation, but there are certainly administrative and tax responsibilities to consider when making this decision:
Nannies are household employees
Though most families want to consider their nanny an “independent contractor” to avoid costly payroll taxes and the associated administrative duties, nannies are household employees. The instructions for Form 1040, Schedule H are pretty clear on this matter.
Ready for some peace and sunshine in your life? In a recent blog, we speculated about TV characters who would make truly awful clients (Walter White, members of the Walking Dead, you get the picture). Now we are focusing on fictional clients who could really take the stress out of life. Which one of these would be your dream client?
CPAs serve as trusted advisers and provide their clients with expert guidance on a variety of topics. It’s no surprise that they are frequently cited by the media for their expertise in areas such as tax, financial planning and even cyber security best practices. I’ve summarized a few recent examples of CPAs helping people make informed decisions about their financial lives.
The AICPA is committed to ongoing evaluation and improvement of the CPA Examination. Thoughtful enhancements help maintain the relevance of the exam for the current practice realities for newly licensed CPAs. Last year, the AICPA launched a practice analysis, a comprehensive research project to inform the development of the next version of the CPA Exam.
An important part of the practice analysis was an Invitation to Comment called Maintaining the Relevance of the Uniform CPA Examination. The ITC was designed to address the changing landscape of the CPA profession and asked a wide range of stakeholders to weigh in on possible changes to the next version of the Exam. In September 2014, the ITC was issued to members, boards of accountancy, firms, academia, standards setters and regulators, and business and industry.
As with any service-oriented profession, it is considered a best practice for accountants to stay in touch with clients and provide solutions to their most pressing problems. CPAs can do this in a number of forward-thinking ways, even when their assistance doesn’t necessarily fall within the realm of services the firm provides.
For example, last summer, my firm, Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman staged a learning and networking event in partnership with the president of a not-for-profit industry group that was driving significant change within not-for-profit business operations. The area of change did not have anything to do with the audit or accounting services our professionals provide to hundreds of nonprofits annually. Rather, the purpose was to help not-for-profits face an emerging industry issue--one for which we had the right connections to allow for an informative and helpful session.
Not surprisingly, more than twice the usual number of clients and friends attended the event, including several from prominent not-for-profits we had never met before. Our audit and accounting events always bring a respectable number of participants, but this event delivered more because our approach meant caring less about whether the topic was a fit for our firm and more about whether it simply provided helpful information about a pressing industry need.
As Financial Literacy Month draws to a close, it’s important to reflect on the essential role CPAs play in helping improve the financial knowledge of Americans. Educating consumers about their finances is the volunteer cause of the CPA profession. Through the AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program (360), thousands of CPAs from all over the country volunteer their time to speak with consumers of all ages about their finances. Increasing our citizens’ financial education is critical to our country’s financial success, and the AICPA is leading the way for the CPA profession.
During my tenure as chair of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, CPAs across the country achieved much and celebrated many milestones in financial literacy. I have been involved with developing and releasing several rounds of creative from Feed the Pig, the AICPA’s PSA campaign with the Ad Council, and, along with the rest of the Commission, participated in releasing the AICPA’s first consumer publication, Save Wisely, Spend Happily, authored by Commission member Sharon Lechter, CPA. Commission members promote 360 and its related programs, and represent 360 before the media and national organizations. Our members are essential in promoting 360 with AICPA leadership, committees, state society leadership and key accounting organizations. I am proud of the work Commission members do and the leadership they provide.
CPAs in public service have also played an important role in the profession’s financial literacy efforts. On April 22, U.S. Representative and Congressional Caucus on CPAs and Accountants member Michael Conaway, CPA (TX-11) gave a speech on the House floor highlighting April as Financial Literacy Month. Representative Conaway noted the important role that CPAs across the country play in improving the financial literacy of Americans, and how, for over 10 years, the AICPA, members and state CPA societies have worked together through 360.
Have you ever accepted a new project even though your plate was already full? Many of us have been in this position. We are so driven to succeed that we say yes to these new assignments without much thought. As a result, we find ourselves stretched thin, making us overwhelmed, discouraged and ineffective. This in turn affects our productivity, negatively impacts the firm or company and derails our priorities.
If you are a young CPA with aspirations—whether your goal is to take on a leadership role, move into management or simply make your current role align more with your vision of the future—there is an approach you can take that will help you get ahead without having to say yes all of the time. It’s called “managing up.”
What was technology like 25 years ago? In 1989, when the AICPA conducted its very first Top Technology Initiatives survey (TTI), the most popular technologies discussed were the spreadsheet and, of course, something called the Internet.
It’s 2015; dial-up is a relic and cloud-based alternatives to physical backups are much more common. Today’s technologies thrive on a 24-hour, cloud environment that enables cross-platform collaboration.
The 25th anniversary North American TTI Survey conducted in 2014 expounded on this trend in the profession and broke down the top IT priorities in the United States and Canada, with more than 3,000 CPAs and chartered accountants weighing in on the most pressing issues affecting their delivery of service in firms, and in business and industry.
Here is a list of the top 10 U.S. initiatives ranked by priority. I will elaborate on the top IT concern below.
It is no secret that IRS service during this past tax season plunged to a level that I can only describe as unacceptable. The anecdotes from members keep coming in, and from what we hear, the predicted 53-minute average wait time to reach someone on the IRS Practitioner Priority Hotline is not so much an average as it is wishful thinking. That prediction came from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who said in November that the IRS will try “to do as well as we can. As well as we can is still going to be miserable.”
Taxpayers trying to get through to a representative are not faring much better as discussed in recent news reports and shown in the chart below. In its annual report to Congress, the National Taxpayer Advocate deemed this to be the most serious problem facing taxpayers.
In a few short months, millions of new college graduates will enter the job market with an average of $30,000 in student loans. Student loan default rates are rising as recent graduates struggle to pay down their debt. The reason? New graduates will have degrees that have prepared them for careers or graduate school, but most will not have the knowledge to make sound financial decisions. That is why financial literacy is so important.
April is Financial Literacy Month and this year the AICPA marks the occasion with a renewed sense of purpose. With CPAs as our champions, the AICPA has advanced the financial literacy cause for over a decade, and we will continue to provide leadership in improving the financial understanding of future generations. It is critical not only for their individual success, but for the financial success of our country. For more than 10 years, the AICPA, its members and state CPA societies have been leaders in financial literacy by providing free programs, tools and resources for consumers, educators and more. The AICPA’s flagship 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program is the national volunteer effort of CPAs to help all Americans understand their personal finances through every life stage. The program combines grassroots advocacy with free public resources and tools for CPAs to educate Americans of all ages. In addition, Feed the Pig, the AICPA’s award-winning public service campaign with the Ad Council, provides tools and resources aimed specifically at Americans aged 25-34, an age group that is making major life decisions, often with little financial experience or guidance.
As you transition from tax season and begin thinking about new business, you may find that some of your highest quality leads are right in front of you. Many CPAs tell me they want to begin offering financial planning as part of their practice, but just don’t know how to get started.
One of the best places to start is probably right in from front of you – your clients’ federal individual income tax returns. The return is your easily-accessible roadmap to their financial planning needs.
Learning about Medicare is similar to the story of the blind men and the elephant. The story of differing perceptions is said to have originated in India. In the tale, several blind men are allowed to touch an elephant, but each man may touch only one part. One man touches the tusk, one a leg, one the trunk and one the tail. After they are finished, they get together and discuss what they discovered. Of course, each man’s description of the elephant is different from the others. Each man is correct, but each man is also wrong.
Medicare is much like the elephant and the blind men. Each beneficiary has his or her own perception of what Medicare is -- or what it is not. One beneficiary may focus on the cost of Medicare, the monthly premiums, and the various co-payments and co-insurance that must be paid. Another beneficiary may focus on the freedom to select a physician or other healthcare provider without having to obtain prior authorization, while yet another person may focus on the prescription drug coverage and the problems in obtaining a particular prescription drug.
Yesterday we asked CPA Letter Daily readers: “How do you celebrate the end of tax season?” More than a majority of the respondents stated that they would celebrate by either taking time off or planning a staff dinner, happy hour or party. Another 32 percent plan to continue working by moving on to the next task on their list. Here we share tips for how to rejuvenate, plan and prioritize the next steps for your practice.
Figuring out how to rest can be stressful in itself, especially if you have a larger than expected backlog of work either from returns that still need to be prepared or non-tax work postponed until “after April 15.” Consider the following ideas to get your groove back:
The Reinventing Mi Retirement initiative was introduced by Governor Snyder in June 2014, and it focuses on providing financial education to help Michiganders better prepare for retirement. The initiative officially kicked off in October 2014 with eight locations in Michigan offering free informational sessions for community members. CPA members participated at locations across the state to provide free financial checkups, helping attendees gain a better understanding of budgeting and financial preparedness. Attendees also received an incredibly thorough financial toolkit, which our members contributed to as well. The event came together in just a few months due to the strong partnership we have with the State of Michigan and the incredible commitment of our member volunteers. We look forward to new initiatives planned in 2015, including events targeting younger people who maybe aren’t thinking about retirement yet, but need to be!
What keeps CFOs up at night? Quite a few things, as it turns out. Increased global competition, the volatile economy, cybersecurity risks and an overwhelming amount of big data—to name a few topics. But it’s another subject which consistently comes up in my conversations with CFOs and other finance leaders, that hits even closer to home: talent. Today’s finance departments have a real need for the right team with the right mix of skills and competencies, not only in accounting, but in business, leadership, communications and other non-financial disciplines.
I’ve spoken to many executives whose organizations don’t have the resources or funding (or neither) to provide the full range of learning opportunities to their employees. According to a study by Deloitte, “Leadership and learning have dramatically increased in importance, but companies seem less capable to address those challenges. While the importance of learning and development quadrupled compared with last year, companies have struggled to redesign the training environment, incorporate new technologies, or employ digital learning tools.”