Holiday Shopping: A Cautionary Tale

Holiday present

 Holiday Shopping: A Cautionary Tale

As a teenager, every year I knew where I would be the Saturday before Christmas: getting dragged from store to store by my father, who inevitably waited until then to go shopping for my mother’s gifts. This annual exercise in procrastination and family bonding was a recipe for arguing and, more importantly, left my dad no opportunity to shop around for the best deals.

Here’s how you can avoid these holiday shopping pitfalls and get good deals, stay on budget, and remember to factor in more than just gifts when you calculate your holiday spending goals.

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Women's Initiatives Executive Committee CPA Firm Gender Survey

18866-386 WIEC CPA Firm Gender Survey Infographic_HighRez

Click here to download a PDF of this infographic.

How to Retain Retirement Planning Clients – For the Long Term

Retirement planThe latest AICPA PFP Trends Survey, a quarterly poll of CPA financial planners, yielded interesting insights into the impact of strong client relationships.

This year’s market fluctuations could have really thrown clients into a tailspin of concern about their retirement savings and resulted in them making impulsive decisions about leaving the market. Despite the market volatility, a majority of CPA financial planners’ clients exhibited resolve, with only 16% of their clients contacting their CPA with concerns about getting out of the market. The survey quantified the impact of specific reasons for this tenacity, including client education, age and their relationship with their CPA financial planner.

You can have an impact on your clients’ anxiety, or lack thereof, about market fluctuation and long-term financial planning. According to the survey:

Exposure to a CPA financial planner positively impacted their clients’ response to market swings. Clients who have a long-term, more established relationship with their CPA were more confident than new clients. The scale of 1 (fearful) to 5 (confident) has more established clients rating a 3.6, with newer clients feeling slightly fearful at 2.5

Furthermore, clients who were educated about the market rated their confidence level at 3.4 versus 2.4 for those with little interest or knowledge.

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Six Tips from a 30-year EBP Auditing Veteran

EBP auditsI tackled my first employee benefit plan audit in 1984. It was a full-scope defined benefit plan audit, and I’m proud to say that I still have that same audit client today. As a sole practitioner with three staff members, I spend about 30% of my time conducting 12 EBP audits annually. I also peer review EBP audits for other firms.

Much has changed since 1984. Between 2006 and 2015 alone, the AICPA Employee Benefit Plans—Audit and Accounting Guide increased two to three times in size. The number of service providers and the types of investment options have also grown. Some firms used to use EBP engagements as “fill work” during slow periods, but with the complexities that we now see in these plans, specialization is a necessity.

When I speak at conferences and visit firms as a peer reviewer, I often get questions from CPAs looking to get into EBP auditing or to improve their practices. The following are some frequently asked questions and answers that I hope you’ll find helpful:

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CPAs Give Back This Veterans Day

VeteransIn this country, we owe a debt of gratitude to veterans. Each year, more than 180,000 service people exit the U.S. Armed Forces after their loyal service. As they return to civilian life, veterans can find financial advice, guidance on how to run a business and help planning for the future from local CPAs.

Since 2011, the AICPA has partnered with the mentoring and training organization, SCORE to connect veterans with CPAs across the country. Through the Veteran Fast Launch Initiative, CPAs have an opportunity to volunteer and provide up to five hours of free financial advice to veterans about starting or growing a business.

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How to Help Your Clients Get Ready for Retirement

Retirement pigClients approaching retirement may be eager to make lifestyle changes, find a second profession or hobby, or even punch out their bucket list. Before they retire, they should consider income tax planning, healthcare coverage, long-term recordkeeping and housing options as part of their preparation plans.

Minimizing Taxes and Healthcare Costs

Clients want to know how much retirement is going to cost and how you can help them minimize those costs. Here are four strategies to consider with your pre-retiree clients:

Before collecting Social Security: Help your clients lessen their tax brackets in retirement by timing ROTH IRA conversions or traditional IRA withdrawals to fully use lower tax brackets each year from ages 60 to 71.

When transitioning from employer-sponsored health coverage to retirement health coverage: Your clients must consider COBRA along with Medicare and Medicare supplemental policies so they can avoid gaps in coverage. Help them do this by offering them education and guidance. Also understand that Medicare supplemental policies do not consider COBRA as creditable coverage, so make sure you consult with a qualified professional that specializes in Medicare and Medicare supplemental policies whenever your clients have COBRA or are continuing work with employer or union coverage after age 65.

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Important Changes to LinkedIn Groups Have Arrived

LinkedInAcross the social media space, LinkedIn is one of the most widely adopted platforms among CPAs. In an effort to simplify the platform for users, LinkedIn will be making some changes to its popular groups feature over the coming weeks. Below are some of the key changes that will improve the experience.

  • All groups are now member only. Simply put, this means that every group will require a request to join. Before, some groups and conversations were open to the public. However, now you will have to be a member of any group you would like to participate in.
  • Standard vs. Unlisted. All LinkedIn groups will fall into these two categories, compared to the multiple settings previously offered. One of the biggest impacts this change will have is that unlisted groups will no longer show up in search results. If you’re having trouble finding a group, visit the website of the organization that runs it. They will typically have the links to all social networks they have a presence on.

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How to Create a Retirement Savings Policy Statement for Your Clients

LIVE FOR TODAY“Live for today – plan for tomorrow” has always been my firm's mantra, yet clients and advisers have often understood this reality far too late in the client's earnings years.

As retirement nears, clients are often so excited to spread their wings that they sometimes forget how spending money on travel and luxury items, for example, impacts their long-term savings. The key is to help them create a Retirement Savings Policy Statement (RSPS), a detailed summary of savings guidelines and how to measure retirement life choices. Doing this earlier in their working years helps increase the likelihood that they will have the necessary funds for retirement.

The RSPS takes into account current savings and a lifelong approach to increase saving for the future. It requires a client to be realistic about goals and plans in case something changes, such as an unexpected illness or family crisis.

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Post-Mortem Planning: Helping Clients Make Decisions About Their Money

End of the financial rainbowWhat happens to your money when you die? While it’s never too early to sit down with your clients to discuss their plans for how their money should be disbursed upon their death, it can certainly be too late. Meeting with them sooner rather than later can generate more income beyond their lives for their family and beneficiaries.

The best plan is to meet with your clients to determine their goals on this topic. This isn’t an easy conversation for anyone, let alone someone who is very much with us now and, hopefully, for years to come. When I’ve met with my clients on this topic, I’ve been surprised by some of the issues. For example, the client may have concerns about a spouse spending too much money too quickly, a child mishandling a large amount of money, a situation regarding a handicapped or special needs child or asset allocation worries.

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4 Ways to Help Clients Plan for Unexpected Medical Expenses

Medical expensesHealthcare costs are rising faster than inflation, so it is no wonder that a recent AICPA survey of CPA financial planners found that clients were most concerned about running out of money, partially due to unpredictable healthcare costs, as well as market fluctuations and lifestyle expenses. One unexpected costly illness could cause significant financial distress for many Americans. Here are four ways you can help your clients avoid this particular fate and better secure their future.

1: Medical expenses toward the end of life can create significant tax deductions. The moment you hear that a client or a client’s spouse is having a healthcare crisis, moving into a nursing home or incurring significant healthcare expenses, you should start thinking about the best approach to fully utilize healthcare deductions. For example, the client may benefit from taking money out of an annuity, doing a Roth conversion or simply taking more money out of an IRA than the Required Minimum Distribution calls for. Rather than reacting to the need for immediate cash, you can help your clients plan for “seemingly” unexpected expenses. I say “seemingly” because all of us can expect to incur end-of-life expenses; we just don’t know when they will occur, of course.

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Maintaining Relevance in a Transformative Time

Tommye_barie_headshot2It seems like only a short time ago that I was beginning a very exciting year as AICPA Chair of the Board of Directors. I’m amazed at how quickly time has passed, and at how much has occurred in the business world during the past 12 months.

My year began with an unforgettable visit to Rome for the World Congress of Accountants (WCOA) last November. The Imperial Sponsor of the event was the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation, a joint effort of the AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). WCOA gave me an opportunity to represent the profession, position the AICPA as a global thought leader, and discuss accounting issues with leaders from around the world. The pasta was pretty good, too.

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5 Tips to Make the Best of an Open Office

Open officeA vast, open office space without doors or interior walls. Sleek, floor-to-ceiling glass windows. An office dog, unlimited free snacks, and maybe some music. Sounds fun, right? For years, spurred by the second tech revolution (Facebook, Google and their ilk of Silicon Valley giants), open-office floor plans — and some of the above-mentioned perks — grew in popularity. But if you actually talk to the employees who have to work in these offices, you might find they aren’t the halcyon spaces that were intended.

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Does More Money Make You Happier When You Retire? Not Always

Hapy retirementMany of us imagine a future in retirement when we leave the obligations and stresses of our work life behind; but few of us take the time to create a plan for what we will actually do when we retire and who will share that life with us.

CPA financial planners help clients achieve their financial retirement goals, but there’s more to retirement planning than making sure there’s enough money in the bank. The biggest challenge is ensuring there’s financial stability along with investing in developing a meaningful social network that will create a fulfilling retirement.

Here are some things you can share with your clients so they can create a well-rounded plan.

1. For those of us who are savers, the good news is that data from a nationwide Health and Retirement Study states that financial wealth does make us happier, and the effect is generally linear—higher wealth groups are significantly happier, but there’s a limit. At about $3.5 million of savings, retirees actually become less satisfied. This may be because they have more money than they could ever spend in retirement, and essentially feel burdened with the additional stress of managing it.

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Need Help? 3 Simple Steps to Find CPA Talent

Hiring“I just cannot decide which one of these tax manager candidates to hire”…

Says the rare CPA firm these days.

It is no surprise to CPAs in tax practice that finding and keeping talented staff is no easy task. Gone are the days of a waiting area filled with navy suits, briefcases, and overly qualified CPAs, each praying he or she will be the one chosen for the position. I imagine, instead, a desperate employer fumbling through Internet job sites, which serve as a digital wall too tall and wide to see around, with talented people all over the world on the other side, yet often seemingly unreachable to the employer.

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Tackling the Systems Side of the New Revenue Recognition Standard

Red phoneAre you ready to implement the new revenue recognition standard? Due to the deferral of the effective date of ASU 2014-09, public organizations must apply the new revenue standard to annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2017, while nonpublic entities have until December 15, 2018 to adopt the new standard. We at Telephone and Data Systems Inc., a telecommunications company headquartered in Chicago, are working hard to ensure that we are prepared in time for the effective date.

Under the current guidance, amounts billed to customers via the billing system are generally the same as the amounts recognized as revenue in the accounting records. Under the new revenue recognition standard, however, this is unlikely to be the case. The new standard requires a reallocation of transaction price between performance obligations under a five step model, resulting in the creation and amortization of contract assets and liabilities. Although the customer experience will not change, we will have to alter how we recognize and report revenue. Given that we have millions of customers, it would be impractical for our company to manually support the requirements under the new standard. For this reason, we have determined that a system solution is necessary.

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Technology and International Opportunities Key to Future, Say AICPA Members

One of my greatest joys is talking to members and sharing with them how the profession is evolving. Whether at state CPA societies, conferences or other events, members and I often engage in dialogue about trends and the profession’s path to maintain relevance in an ever-changing marketplace.  

Over the last few months, as part of my presentation, I’ve asked firm leaders, state CPA societies and members of our governing Council a series of poll questions, intended to gauge what members are seeing and experiencing in the marketplace. Are CPAs and the profession’s stakeholders affected by the convergence of macro trends? Do they capitalize on opportunities enabled by technology? What are they doing to attract and retain a talented and diverse workforce? Is their business crossing borders more than ever before?

The answer in each case was a resounding ‘yes.’ Below is a summary of some of the questions and analysis of what the results mean for our profession.

“By 2020, where do you think the profession needs to be on the technology adoption curve?” and… “Where are you on the curve?”

The technology adoption curve was made popular in the 1990s by Dr. Geoffrey Moore and was later referenced again in a whitepaper called “Accounting Services: Harness the Power of the Cloud,” which was based on research conducted by Dr. Moore. Barry polls

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How Cultural Inclusion Leads to Professional Success

Ed RamosTwo years ago, I was nominated to serve a three-year term on the AICPA’s National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (NCDI). The NCDI was formed to serve as a champion and advisor within the accounting profession, proposing strategies to recruit, retain, and advance underrepresented minorities in the profession. As I look back at my time serving on the NCDI, I am amazed by the progress made in such a short period. However, there is still much work to be done.

My family moved from Puerto Rico to Tacoma, Washington which is where I was born and raised; I always felt most comfortable surrounded by my family. Throughout my journey as a minority student in accounting, I found myself lost without direction in the profession. I did not have anyone to push me to the next level, nor did I realize the value of networking and how it could help guide my career. It was not until I discovered the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA) that my eyes opened to the full potential of my career.

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5 Tips to Increase Profitability by Leveraging Technology

TechnologyDoes your practice make the best use of some of the relatively straightforward technology solutions available? I have to admit, my firm did not always take advantage of steps that could have improved our relationships with clients, opened up service opportunities and, ultimately, enhanced our profitability. Here’s what we did to change our approach and improve our results:     

Improve efficiency by utilizing targeted solutions. Firms have many targeted technology solutions to choose from -- everything from online bill management services and workflow automation to cloud-based accounting and financial management software, payroll and more. My firm started by looking at’s partner solutions. The products we selected allowed our firm to provide better and faster service. And best of all, it saved our firm and our clients’ money. We use an automated bill payment system which allows us to manage our accounting services clients’ payables effectively and efficiently. Additionally, after seeing how a cloud-based financial management and accounting system could improve productivity, reduce costs and speed growth at our firm, we decided to offer this valuable service to clients in various industries. By doing so, we have expanded our service offerings and tapped into a new revenue stream. 

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17 Game Changing Ideas for CPA Firms to Join Forces and Get Ahead

HamburgerAre you ready for the McWhopper? Recently, fast food behemoths Burger King and McDonald’s announced they would partner up to create a pop-up venture featuring the hybrid mega sandwich for a charitable cause. With such heated competition in the quick-eats restaurant industry, the two companies have struggled to maintain marketshare. While a merger is nowhere on the horizon, a short-term partnership, which has already garnered the two some much-needed positive PR, seems like a win-win.

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Is Your Organization Prepared for a Disaster?

Disaster preparednessTen years have passed since Hurricane Katrina caused $135 billion in damages along the Gulf coast. Unfortunately, businesses in New Orleans learned the hard way about the importance of disaster preparedness. Like many charities, the Greater New Orleans Foundation could not stop working. It simply was not an option, as the Foundation’s leadership was called upon to help with disaster relief.

Below are a number of steps you can take to prepare your organization for a disaster:

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Back to School: Budgeting 101

College student moneyFor CPAs, budgeting is as easy as debits on the left, credits on the right. It is simply the way it is. But not everyone is a talented budgeter. A recent AICPA survey revealed that college students aren’t as monetarily savvy as they think they are.

Just how much do college students need to brush up on their budgeting skills? While 57 percent of students surveyed rated themselves as having excellent or good personal financial management skills, nearly half reported having less than $100 in their bank account at some point in the last year, 38 percent said they had borrowed money from friends or family in the last year, and 11 percent had missed a bill payment. It is clear that college students’ perceptions of their financial skills and reality are not aligned.

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3 Ways Gen Xers Are the Key to Leading Millennials

Sheryl sandbergOdds are that if you manage a business unit or a large team of employees, you’re part of the group of 74.9 million Baby Boomers. This year, for the first time in your life, your generation will no longer be the largest demographic group in the United States.

Millennials now number 75.3 million, according to the Census Bureau, and due to immigration are projected to increase to 81.1 million by 2036. Although demographers differ on the birth range of Millennials (also known as Generation Y), most fall between 1981 and 2000, which means that the oldest are 34 and the majority are in their 20s.

Millennials have a profoundly different approach to the way they find, use and share information—both socially and at work. They don’t read newspapers, watch TV news shows or use the yellow pages. They read—a lot—but it’s not likely to be on printed paper. They’re great networkers, but the majority of their conversations take place electronically rather than face-to-face or by phone. Many find the constraints of working regular office hours—from the office—burdensome and old fashioned. But that doesn’t mean they’re unwilling to work long hours.

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5 Ways to Create a Sense of Belonging through Sponsorship

Men sponsorshipThis blog post is the second part of a two-part series on intentional sponsorship, or dedicated efforts at a firm to ensure that everyone with leadership potential has access to a sponsor.

At HORNE, we launched a formal sponsorship program at our 525-person firm because we recognized first and foremost from a business case perspective, for us to be relevant in the future, we must develop a diverse leadership team.  Collaboration, connecting and creativity require diverse leadership and we cannot win with less than half the leadership talent.  Failure to develop a diverse leadership team will limit our ability to grow, to attract great talent or to have a sustainable succession plan. We also estimated our tangible cost of our turnover at $3 million a year which includes recruiting, onboarding and training.  We excluded the additional costs of lost knowledge and lost client relationships. 

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Cyber Liability Insurance for CPA Firms

CoveredWe see the mega data breaches on the news, and wonder if our personal information has been stolen.  If some of the world’s largest companies cannot protect personal data with their large budgets, what can a small firm do? One step is to purchase cyber liability insurance. This is a relatively new product offered by a few insurers, and often under a different name and with varying levels of coverage. Being a relatively new product, there’s a lot of catching up to do – so let’s start with the basics for partners to think about.

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Digital Estate Planning: More Than a Lifeline

Digital willWhether you think of our connected world as a benefit or as a time waster, there’s no escaping the complex red tape associated with providing access to our digital assets after we pass away. What lives online is neither easy to access nor is it clear cut as to who can get to it.

This is an important focus for all of us, our families and our companies, but it also provides an opportunity for CPA planners to understand digital estate planning in order to help their clients plan for their future.

Not having a digital estate plan as part of your clients’ wills is the same as not having a will at all. In other words, if there is no specific direction given to provide designees access to files, email and even social media accounts, the clients’ wishes may not be able to be carried out. Although there have been small strides made by some states in this digital space, a digital estate plan is absolutely necessary to avoid any questions or ambiguities. Idaho, Indiana and Oklahoma addressed legislation providing access to social media and blogging accounts, while Connecticut and Rhode Island have dealt with access rights to email.

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Changing the What, When, Where and How of Learning

Do you remember when there was one basic kind of accounting and all accountants did pretty much the same thing?

CompetencyNeither do I. But I do know that the demand for broad business knowledge is increasing exponentially. Finance and management disciplines – such as strategy, human resources, risk management and data analysis, to name just a few – are converging, and in today’s business environment, companies expect employees to demonstrate their competence in these areas. This means that CPAs and CGMA® designation holders who want to support their organizations’ growth must develop new competencies.

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4 Steps to Developing Professionals through Sponsorship

Women sponsorshipPromising professionals ascend through the ranks based on their knowledge and abilities, but many also benefit from the support and advocacy of other influential members of the organization—often referred to as sponsorship. It is important to note the difference between a mentor and a sponsor. A mentor talks with you about your career development while a sponsor talks about you. Sponsorship may be formal and methodical or informal, but by its nature is intentional and it can have a significant impact on assignments, visibility and advancement.  

In an effort to develop and retain staff, professional services firms across the U.S. are engaging in formal sponsorship, or dedicated efforts to ensure that everyone with leadership potential has access to a sponsor.

This blog post is the first part of a two-part series featuring one firm’s experience with intentional sponsorship.

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AICPA Accounting Competition Challenges Undergraduates

I’m a pretty competitive person. Whether it’s pickup soccer, playing against my friends in our fantasy football league, or a game of Yahtzee with my wife – I enjoy the thrill of competition. The process of giving it my all is one of the things that keeps me motivated in both my professional and personal lives.

In the spirit of competition, the American Institute of CPAs recently announced the opening of the 6th annual AICPA Accounting Competition. This year, the AICPA is challenging undergraduate students to think like management accountants as they help a business hone its strategic plan. This means students will be analyzing complex financial issues and business operations in the context of the market environment and recommending strategies for growth and sustained success.

The competition has a number of different steps. Fifteen teams will be selected from the first-round submissions as the semi-finalists for the competition. The top three teams will each earn $10,000 as well as an opportunity to present their cases to an executive panel of judges at the AICPA’s offices in North Carolina. Faculty advisors will accompany their teams to support them as they present. The teams will compete for a first place prize of $5,000, a second place prize of $3,000 or a third place prize of $2,000 to be awarded to their schools.

With the deadline for first-round submissions coming up soon (2:59 pm ET on September 28), I sat down with AICPA’s Erin Carson, Manager of Student Recruitment and Engagement, for more details on the competition and what students need to know to put their team in a position to succeed. 

Case Competition Pyramid Infographic-02

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5 Ways CPAs Can Add Value in the Event of a Cybersecurity Attack

Mission impossibleIt’s been 19 years since the first Mission Impossible movie sprang from 60s television and graced the silver screen. This summer, the fifth installment of the Impossible franchise premiered. When we first met Ethan Hunt, it was 1996 and the BMW Z3 made its debut as Agent Hunt’s stylish ride. Despite all the high-tech gadgetry depicted in the film, in real life, the Y2K debacle was the biggest IT security crisis businesses faced. Fast forward nearly two decades; driverless cars are a reality, and a car hacking crisis has put drivers of 1.4 million cars at risk.

Back when Mission Impossible first thrilled us with espionage and national security fantasies, cybersecurity was merely an IT concern. “It’s now a C-suite problem,” former secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, said recently at the AICPA CFO Conference in Denver.

Given the frequency of cybersecurity attacks today, it is important for CPAs to understand their role in this arena. CPAs are well equipped to strengthen the process and evaluate cybersecurity risks. Below are a few examples of where CPAs can add value: 

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5 Ways Not-for-Profits Can Detect and Prevent Fraud

Internal controlsThroughout my career, I have worked with small businesses and not-for-profits, auditing their financial statements and helping them improve their internal controls. On one hand, I love working with nonprofits and discovering their mission and how they are working to improve society. On the other hand, I do not love discovering one or two people taking advantage of poor internal controls to steal from the organization. Many of my clients conduct their work with limited funding, and some rely on volunteers to perform key roles. When I discuss internal controls with my clients, they are often surprised to learn that small improvements can go a long way in preventing theft of assets and unsubstantiated spending, two of the most common types of fraud in not-for-profits.

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Change is Scary, but Can Inspire Progress

ChangeEarlier this year, the AICPA decided to phase out the “free/no CPE” option for attending section-sponsored webcasts. This “mixed model” was creating CPE compliance concerns so it was replaced with a selection of free events with CPE while maintaining the event archives for viewing content without CPE.

When the Taxation Team learned that the change would also apply to the Tax Power Hour (TPH), a monthly practice management webcast series, we were concerned about the impact it might have on our members. However, the team quickly came to realize this change was a blessing in disguise.

We had become complacent and had not really followed our own advice: always spend time working on your business, not just working in your business. We had stopped working on our business and were completely consumed with working in our business of serving members with new fresh resources. I’m falling on my sword with a public ‘mea culpa’ in the hopes that our members can learn from our mistakes with this valuable resource. As writer Phyllis Theroux said, “Mistakes are the usual bridge between inexperience and wisdom.

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In the News: CPAs in the Corner Offices Increasingly Concerned about U.S. Economy

Business executives are increasingly less optimistic about the state of the U.S. economy. That’s according to the 3rd Quarter Economic Outlook Survey, a poll of AICPA members serving as CEOs, CFOs and other senior accounting positions.

The survey, which was released late last week, found that respondents who were optimistic dipped below 50 percent--to 48 percent--for the first time since early 2014. The impact of worldwide economic slowdown and domestic regulatory concerns helped fueled this slide.

EOSThe CPA Outlook Index -- a comprehensive gauge of executive sentiment within the AICPA survey -- fell one point in the third quarter to 71, the third consecutive drop from a post-recession high of 78 in the fourth quarter of 2014. 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. 


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Help Shape the CPA Exam's Evolution

CPA exposure draftWhether you’re a recently licensed CPA or seasoned veteran with decades of experience, think back to when you first took the Uniform CPA Examination. Were you sitting at a computer in a modern test center or packed into a large hall with pencil and paper in front of you? Everyone has their story, but regardless of how or when you took the Exam, this rite of passage is the great equalizer for all CPAs. Passing the Exam means you have the knowledge and skills required for initial licensure as a CPA.

Since the Exam was first used in the licensing process nearly 100 years ago, alignment to professional practice has been its hallmark. Over that time, the AICPA has led the Exam’s evolution, ensuring its content consistently captures the needs of a dynamic profession that regularly faces changes in technology, business practices, and standards. 


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Deflategate, Binkygate & Disclosing Open Tax Years

DeflategateNot many things capture our collective attention like investigations into controversial cases. The NFL’s investigation into underinflated footballs, or the ongoing allegations of corruption in FIFA, to whether or not David Beckham is a shoddy parent for allowing his daughter to continue to use a pacifier at age 4 are just a few examples. The accounting profession has its investigations into controversies too. A recent example is the investigation the Center for Plain English Accounting (CPEA) conducted about the applicability of the disclosure requirement of open tax years associated with FASB Interpretation No. 48, Accounting for Uncertainty in Income Taxes. The CPEA issued a report on this investigation in March.

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Are You Prepared for a Cybersecurity Attack?

Cybersecurity 1Is your firm or organization prepared to respond to a cybersecurity attack? What about your clients? A cybersecurity breach could occur at any time. No organization is too small to come under attack, so it is best to be prepared. When a breach occurs, companies without a plan may waste valuable time trying to organize a core team and put a strategy in place. Below are steps that you should consider as you develop a cybersecurity response plan.

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Keeping the Business in the Family

DallasThe fate of a family business can be tricky when the owner is no longer able to remain at the helm. Is there an obvious successor? Is there a succession plan in place? Encouraging your clients to think about succession planning for their businesses is difficult; none of us want to think about the day we can no longer work. However, when the business is a closely held family business, the discussion as to whether to leave the business in the family is often more emotional. After all, we’re talking about a different kind of relationship than we have with our staffs or colleagues.

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How Our Partnership with CIMA Challenged My Thinking and Changed My Perspective

International perspectivIn 2012, the AICPA partnered with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) to develop the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation. Since launch, more than 150,000 individuals have obtained the designation, making it the most popular management accounting designation worldwide and setting the new standard for global recognition of management accounting.

The joint venture between the AICPA and CIMA provides our organizations, respective leadership teams and employees with a unique opportunity to learn and grow, develop and nurture relationships with interesting and inspiring colleagues, face challenges and step outside of comfort zones from time to time. Additionally, as the relationship between the AICPA and CIMA grows, I’m seeing directly how partnerships allow us to capitalize on each other’s strengths and combine them to serve members—or clients—with excellence.

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Back-to-School: How to Pay for College

529 plansSleepless nights are an unfortunate reality when you become a parent. And nothing can get parents tossing and turning like thinking about how they will pay for their son or daughter’s college. For the very financially minded, this worry may arise as soon as you find out you’re expecting. Others may not start to worry until much later. No matter your child’s age, the staggering cost of college is likely to become a concern at some point. Consider this: a four-year education at a private college is on track to cost $323,900 by 2033. Might as well give up now, right? Wrong. You can build your child’s college fund slowly and steadily as you go from changing diapers to handing over the keys to the family car. The solution? A tax-deferred savings plan.

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5 Misconceptions Small Business Clients Have about Risk

CGMA REPORTWhen small business owners want or need to address risk, they often turn to their CPA as a trusted adviser for guidance. Risk is a significant issue for companies of all sizes; in a recent CGMA report, “Global State of Enterprise Risk Oversight, 2nd Edition,” the AICPA and its partner, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, examine the challenges facing large and small companies and consider how investment in enterprise risk management can strengthen an organization’s resiliency and agility. 

When organizations, particularly small ones, search for ways to minimize risk, there is a tremendous opportunity for CPAs to provide value. That’s because many companies misunderstand or underestimate the risk factors they face. Here is a look at five misconceptions that your small business clients may have about risk. 

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3 Late Night Comedy Trends that Mirror the CPA Profession

Jon StewartTwo weeks ago, Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, tearfully stepped out of the studio after 16 laughter-filled years, passing the baton to relatively unknown South African comedian Trevor Noah.

Like many Boomer-aged CPAs across the country, late night hosts have been stepping away from their microphones and focusing attention on the next phase of their careers. Not long ago, Jay Leno handed the reins of the Tonight Show over to the lovable Jimmy Fallon. More recently, Late Night’s David Letterman named his successor—the already-established Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report.

Late night television’s transition to a new generation would not be possible without attention to three very significant trends – all of which reflect what is happening in the CPA profession: leveraging technology, supporting emerging leaders and presenting a diverse and broad perspective. These trends offer lessons on how the CPA profession is on the verge of evolving over the coming years.



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Planning a Fundraising Event? 5 Steps to Avoid Pitfalls

Fashion showIn the summertime, many of us who work with not-for-profits and their philanthropy efforts are gearing up for our fall fundraisers. Thanksgiving and holiday giving season is an ideal time to hold special events to raise money and recruit supporters for our causes, but the planning starts now.

Before joining the AICPA, I worked at a community foundation that carried out a variety of events, including golf tournaments, festivals and charity balls, across my home state of North Carolina. Our most successful event attracted hundreds of people for beachfront food and wine tastings and cooking competitions. Today, I serve on the board of a volunteer center that holds an annual fashion show featuring couture gowns by local designers that are inspired by the work of not-for-profits in the area.

While fundraisers like these are fun and have the potential to raise a lot of money for your cause, it’s important to be aware of the regulatory and financial concerns. As you plan your fundraisers this summer, here are some steps you can take to avoid pitfalls:

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AICPA Trends Report finds Accounting Enrollments Reach an All-Time High

TRENDSLast week, the AICPA released the 2015 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report. The report found that enrollments in undergraduate and graduate accounting programs increased in the 2013-14 academic year, and combined to cross the 250,000 threshold for the first time. On the recruiting side, accounting firms hired a record number of accounting graduates in 2014, representing a seven percent increase from the previous survey.

In addition, there was optimism from both universities and firms that the growth of the accounting profession will continue. Ninety-seven percent of bachelor’s programs and seventy percent of master’s programs stated that they expect their enrollment to be the same or higher within two years of responding to the survey.

Building upon the record levels of hiring, 91 percent of firms reported that they expect to hire at the same or an increased level in the following year. Larger firms are particularly optimistic about future hiring levels. All firms employing more than 200 CPAs reported their hiring will either increase or stay the same in the next year. This indicates that job prospects for current enrollees in accounting programs, as well as recent graduates, remains extremely bright.

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Back to School: The Hidden Costs of Applying to College

Money and graduation capThe 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.

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AICPA Member Spotlight: Sarah Hughes

Sarah HughesThe 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.

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Due Date Changes– A Way Station on the Journey

Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.
― Lewis Carroll

JourneyIt 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.

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Educating Your Clients About End-of-Life Care Costs

End of life careNo 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.

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Making the Next Tax Season a Better One

Tax lessonsReflections on Tax Season

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.

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5 Financial Tips for Newly-Employed Young People

PitbullSummer. 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”

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3 Answers to Common SSARS No. 21 Questions

Peyton ManningThe 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.

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“Courteously” Connecting with IRS Service Needs

Phone cut offWords 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. 

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