Why assess audit risk? So you don’t get lost in the woods

Risk 3Picture this: You’ve finally made it through busy season. You’ve booked a family trip to a remote cabin in the mountains to unplug and relax. Your out-of-office message has been turned on and you’ve planned plenty of outdoorsy activities for you and your family. You’ve written out a packing list and checked off every item: Clothes? Check. Hiking boots? Check. Bug spray? Check. Snacks and entertainment to ward off your kids’ boredom- and hunger-related complaints during the long car ride? Check.

The car’s all packed, everyone’s buckled in and your GPS is set up on the dashboard. Now that you’re ready to embark on a journey to the middle of nowhere, you reach for your GPS…

…and throw it out the window.

Probably not the best way to get where you need to go, right?

Continue reading "Why assess audit risk? So you don’t get lost in the woods" »

Beyond robotics: How AI can help improve the audit process

Shutterstock_664115017The CPA profession has been hearing a lot about Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a software technology that can help auditors sift through structured data. But RPA can only do so much. Abigail Zhang, a PhD student in the Department of Accounting and Information Systems at Rutgers Business School, explains why auditors should also consider Intelligent Process Automation (IPA).

What is IPA?

Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) includes:

  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Cognitive Computing (CC)
  • Other technologies

Continue reading "Beyond robotics: How AI can help improve the audit process" »

Calling all tax CPAs: help quality reviews take center stage

GettyImages-494755316Data breaches happen daily. We see it in the news, and we hear it from our clients. Clients trust us with their private information including Social Security numbers, paystubs, birthdays and other data valuable to identity thieves.

We need to maintain security and provide the best service for our clients. To do this, we must observe two things: integrity and adherence to the quality of services we deliver. And both require obedience to specific standards of behavior.

In the case of quality, there are many ways to prove we’re adhering to standards. Reviews of our work are one. But doing so can raise significant concerns for practitioners, particularly when it comes to logistics.

Continue reading "Calling all tax CPAs: help quality reviews take center stage" »

5 lessons learned from the closing of a historic candy company

Shutterstock_1067246603NECCO Wafers are one of America’s most historic candies. Union soldiers carried them in the Civil War. Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan stocked them on his voyage to northern Greenland in 1913. The United States Army issued them to GIs in World War II. Generations of kids begged their parents for them at gas stations and checkout lines across the country.

After 170 years of operation, in May 2018, the bankruptcy court auctioned off the New England Confectionery Company’s (NECCO) assets. Round Hill Investments, of Greenwich, Conn., agreed to buy NECCO for $17.3 million. Though, just this week on July 24, 2018 and according to the Boston Globe, Round Hill abruptly shut down its operations and closed the doors at the Revere, Mass., candy factory. The company stated it had sold NECCO to another candy manufacturer but didn’t disclose the details. How could a company that survived catastrophic fires, wars, recessions, the Great Depression and so many other trials fail in today’s environment?

Continue reading "5 lessons learned from the closing of a historic candy company" »

Could IRS reform mean smoother waters for tax practitioners?

Ed Karl blog image - 7-22-2018“. . . once again there is an historic opportunity to overhaul the IRS and transform it into an efficient, modern, and responsive agency.” - Report of the National Commission on Restructuring the IRS, 1997

Last year, I wrote a blog about tax reform and quoted country singer Michael Ray that [t]oday only happens once in a lifetime.” I talked about how I was around for the 1986 tax reform process and passage of the legislation, so happening once in a lifetime might be twice for me, as tax reform was then developing. I’m also hoping that twice in a lifetime refers to IRS reform.

Continue reading "Could IRS reform mean smoother waters for tax practitioners?" »

Taming your to-do list

Shutterstock_1135852721“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” ~Peter Drucker

Two things trip up most leaders’ attempts at managing their time. The first is the fact that the best systems and best intentions quickly run into dynamics in the real world: You’ll get interrupted, there will be an unforeseen obstacle or crisis, you’ll go through motivation and energy ups and downs, and so much more. Translating your intentions into practice often fails through small compromises you feel you must make in your day to day activities. The second is that most principles in time management focus on how you spend your time, but that philosophy just puts you on a “hamster wheel” that doesn’t move you forward. It isn’t about how you SPEND your time, it’s about how you INVEST your time.

Continue reading "Taming your to-do list" »

5 podcasts for your summer road trip

Shutterstock_407042977Taking a family road trip is one of the rites of passage that we all go through during summer. The kids have their iPads and books, the dog has his bone, and that just leaves the adults to find ways to make the long hours go faster. You can either click the radio buttons a thousand times to find a station remotely tolerable, you can listen to the kids fight about who is touching who, or you can find an alternative.

Enter the podcast

A podcast is a great way to make the miles fly by. Of the more than 550,000 podcasts you can listen to, you’ll find educational, entertaining, or just plain random content. Did you know that there is a 51% chance that a flipped coin will land on the side that was facing up when it was flipped? A fun fact and I learned it from a podcast!

Continue reading "5 podcasts for your summer road trip" »

I jumpstarted my productivity in 15 minutes – and you can, too!

ReadingIt was early January 2014. The Kansan plains were covered in a crunchy layer of frozen grass, the overcast sky giving little indication that the ice would soon melt. Staff at Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Lloyd – a small accounting firm – were eager to step in from the cold to start their day. But this day would start differently than others. No one opened their laptop. No one phoned clients. No one crunched numbers. Instead, everyone, from partner to administrative assistant, had their heads down in a nonfiction book of their choice. They read uninterrupted, untethered from technology, for 15 minutes. You see, this firm had taken the first step in a journey that would evolve from an experiment into a successful on-the-clock reading program. And that reading program would evolve them too. 

Admittedly, The First 15 reading program took some time to get off the ground because, although everyone agreed to the merits of reading, no one had time for it. That’s when Chet Buchman, managing partner and eventual architect of the reading program, suggested paying for people to read on the clock. “You can’t control what people have going on at home…but you do have the ability to influence what happens when they’re on the clock.” 

Continue reading "I jumpstarted my productivity in 15 minutes – and you can, too! " »

5 tools to help your firm operate effectively

IStock-173737815Summer is a time for relaxing vacations, outdoor concerts and barbecue gatherings. It’s also a time to hit the recharge button and revisit the goals you planned to achieve by year’s end. Many CPAs set aside time during the summer months to focus on their firm’s operations and growth opportunities. The good news is that there are resources available to AICPA members to help you reach these goals and improve your firm’s overall success. Here are some tools for efficient firm management:

  1. Gain perspective with benchmarking metrics.

Metrics provide you with invaluable information. The PCPS/CPA.com National Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) Survey is a unique benchmarking resource that provides firms of all sizes with the key performance indicators they need to make many important management decisions such as firm realization, billing rates and compensation, net remaining per owner and more. The 2018 MAP survey has been significantly streamlined to make it even easier and faster to take. If you want to know where you stand compared to other firms in your region or nationally, I’d urge you to take the survey before it closes this month. Firms that participate receive a customized report comparing their responses to those of firms with similar net client fees, firms in the same region, and against top performing firms. PCPS members also get additional tools, including PowerPoint trend reports and the ability to run customized reports utilizing filters.

Continue reading "5 tools to help your firm operate effectively" »

Summer reading list

Shutterstock_288888452It’s that time of year: trips are being planned, office cubes seem emptier than normal and social media is flooded with pictures of vacation spots. But, nothing says summer to me like relaxing with a good book, so I joined forces with my colleagues to present you with a collection of books for your next trip or staycation.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
You don’t even have to be a history buff to become fully engrossed in this novel. It’s a remarkable story of one Jewish family who – torn apart by World War II – fought for survival without knowing if they’d ever see each other again. The most unbelievable part is it’s based on a true story. While the topic is a tad heavier than a typical beach read, I couldn’t put this one down!
Sonia Bauer, Senior Manager - Corporate Communications & Public Relations

Continue reading "Summer reading list" »

Is hiring a CPA worth it in 2018?

GettyImages-863565040When people hear I’m a CPA who specializes in tax, the question invariably comes up — what do I think about the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (also known as “tax reform”)? I’m not one to talk about politics, so to be neutral, I say “it’s certainly an exciting time to be a CPA in tax.” No question, many of the provisions of tax reform bring added complexity to areas of the law that were not simple to begin with. 

Some individuals will continue to feel comfortable using tax preparation software, but there are circumstances where “you don’t know what you don’t know,” requiring you to call in the help of a CPA. A great CPA can provide much more value than just the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your forms are correct. They can provide planning and tax advisory services, consultation, business and international accounting, forensic accounting, business valuation and more. 

Read on to learn four reasons why it’s worth hiring a CPA.  

Continue reading "Is hiring a CPA worth it in 2018?" »

8 tips to help recent grads establish financial independence

Shutterstock_309048455School's out for summer! And, for some, school is out for good. In honor of America declaring its independence, here are 8 tips from the American Institute of CPAs' National CPA Financial Literacy Commission to help recent college grads declare their own FINANCIAL independence now and for the future:

1. Have a plan to repay student loan debt. While paying off significant debt takes time, establishing and sticking to a plan will put you on a good path toward your financial independence. The AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website has free resources to help create a plan to reach your financial goals.

Continue reading "8 tips to help recent grads establish financial independence" »

An insider's look at avoiding ethical violations

GettyImages-590617706Ethical dilemmas can occur at any time during the career of a tax practitioner. Sometimes, the practitioner doesn’t even know they did anything wrong. As a former IRS Office of Professional Responsibility attorney, cases just like that would come across my desk.

A vast majority of these cases came from simple misunderstandings of ethical responsibilities — practitioners were not aware they were violating Circular 230 or the practitioner just had a bad day and made a one-time mistake. Review these stories and learn a little more about how easy ethical violations can happen if you aren’t paying close attention. (Note: details have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved).

Continue reading "An insider's look at avoiding ethical violations" »

Ones and zeros aren’t always heroes

Shutterstock_161746904In 1984, an entire profession that had survived more or less intact for 600 years found itself facing a monumental, earth-shattering change. It was that year Apple Computer released the Macintosh. Laughably underpowered by today’s standards, it nonetheless represented the literal future of computing with its graphical user interface (something the consumer market had never seen before) and suite of creative software.

Quickly following its release, industrious programmers took advantage of the available printing abilities of the machine—robust for its time—and created the first desktop publishing software. Just like that, businesses, government agencies, churches and even families who once turned to professional print houses to design, typeset and print everything from flyers and post cards to catalogs, were able to bring at least the design portion of the equation in-house. Suddenly, everyone was a “designer.” It was a game-changer for markets, but it also led to a lot of truly awful design and typesetting, perpetrated by amateurs with little to no training in visual arts.

Continue reading "Ones and zeros aren’t always heroes" »

Goooooooooal: Planning your way to financial victory

AICPA_LifeDecisions_Info_FinalHave you ever been to the gym the first week in January? It’s usually packed with folks looking to improve their health. Many of these newcomers are there as part of their New Year’s resolution, while others may be trying to rebound after a particularly indulgent holiday season. And that’s a noble pursuit. However, very few of them are likely to still be going to the gym a few months later. I’m not a psychologist, but it seems to me that human nature responds to a setback or feeling of being stuck in a rut with a flurry of positive changes. Unfortunately, once our memory of what caused us to want to make those changes fades, we tend to slip back into our old ways.

I sat down with Neal Stern of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission to talk about how Americans can make some positive changes to their financial plans – and stick with them for the long term.

Continue reading "Goooooooooal: Planning your way to financial victory" »

IRS guidance still needed on key tax reform issues

GettyImages-621474914As a CPA in tax, you know it’s vital to stay on top of tax reform. That means you’re watching the news coverage. You’re reading the articles. You’ve subscribed to e-News and various news alerts. You’re joining webcasts and taking self-study courses.

But there’s still a lot to learn, and some information just isn’t available yet.

The U.S. saw the most significant overhaul of its tax code in more than three decades at the end of last year. And when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was finally signed, it set off a guidance chain reaction at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

While processing its typically heavy busy-season workload, the IRS also focused on issuing guidance on several high-priority changes to allow for effective implementation of the new law. The IRS continues to issue news releases, notices, instructions and other forms of informal guidance on the most pressing items.

Continue reading "IRS guidance still needed on key tax reform issues" »

AICPA to IRS: we need guidance on virtual currencies

GettyImages-678790644More and more people are investing in virtual currencies (also known as “cryptocurrencies”), such as Bitcoin. A recent study says that one in ten Americans owns some kind of virtual currency. Given this rise in popularity, tax preparers need to ask their clients whether they own or trade any virtual currency.

The first thing tax preparers wants to know is, “what is virtual currency and how is it taxed?”  Most people do not know the answer to this question, and they’re not alone. The AICPA has developed multiple comment letters on this issue because we hear from our members across the country that virtual currency is an emerging area they want to understand and learn more about. 

Continue reading "AICPA to IRS: we need guidance on virtual currencies" »

7 risks small businesses need to consider

Shutterstock_481198423Except for an expanding waistline, what could be risky about ice cream? Ask the small business owners overseeing an ice cream shop on the boardwalk that caters to summertime beach crowds. They’re a small, family-run business and their main revenue is generated in the months of June, July and August. The income from those months must sustain them through the slower months. What happens if they aren’t prepared for an event that affects their shop? Will their business survive? That’s where you come in.

Risk, schmisk?

Risk is a relative term to your clients. Some risks are minor and easily handled in the moment; for example, an employee fails to show up to work. Other risks pose an existential threat to the business, such as an accident, natural disaster or fire.

Continue reading "7 risks small businesses need to consider" »

4 tips to smart budgeting for new graduates

Shutterstock_690887317What if you put together a budget but forgot about income taxes that would be deducted from each paycheck? That’s what happened to me when I graduated from college, so I can tell you: It would be a disaster! My first paycheck was a huge shock, since I was taking home much less than I had expected. But incorporating a few easy budgeting tips can help set you up for a path to prosperity and avert potential disasters.

Start early. Right after graduation, create a budget before committing to long-term expenses – like rent – so you start with a clean slate. The largest part of any budget will likely be housing costs. A good rule of thumb is that they should not add up to more than 30% of your salary. For example, if you make $50,000 a year, your total rent should be no more than $15,000 a year, or $1,250 a month. If you live in a high rent area, then 30% may not be realistic for an entry-level salary – which means you may have to scrimp on other items or find roommates.

Continue reading "4 tips to smart budgeting for new graduates" »

3 tips to help your clients through hurricane season

Shutterstock_494660788With some areas still dealing with the impact of last year’s disastrous hurricane season, it’s hard to believe we’re yet again in the midst of another one. This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts there will be 10 to 16 named storms, including up to four Category 3 or higher hurricanes. This is slightly above the 30-year average of 12 named storms, including three major hurricanes.

The extent of devastation in 2017 may have your clients wondering how they can prepare financially for worst-case scenarios. As their trusted advisor, you can help. Share these helpful tips, all of which can be found in the Disasters and Financial Planning guide for preparedness and recovery:

Continue reading "3 tips to help your clients through hurricane season" »

A Father’s Day wish list

Shutterstock_1059277193First celebrated in 1910, Father’s Day is a day that goes far beyond greeting cards. It’s a day everyone honors fathers and all that they do for us. Whether it be advice, help from a handyman or just a hug, they deserve to be celebrated.

We asked CPA dads what they’re hoping to receive on their special day. Here’s what they said:

Continue reading "A Father’s Day wish list" »

4 ways to jumpstart the career you really want

GettyImages-180409192Some career paths move in a straight line. Others take twists and turns. Opportunities sometimes crop up when we least expect them, and we have to weigh the pros and cons to determine our next steps. If you were asked ten years ago to accurately describe your career path over the next decade, could you? I know I couldn’t.

I started my career at a large firm in audit and now I’m on an entirely different path that I would have never predicted. The winding road that led me to where I am today was built upon a series of experiences and intentional decisions along the way. Could your career course use more direction? Here are some tips to get on track, based on my own personal experiences throughout my career:

Continue reading "4 ways to jumpstart the career you really want" »

Public vs. Private Blockchains: What CPAs should know

GettyImages-917325314The word “blockchain” has been tossed around as if all blockchains are the same. Real-time access to information, increased transparency and encryption are standard benefits of any blockchain. However, there are two different types of blockchains: public and private, both of which are important for CPAs to understand so you can decide which option is better for your organization or firm.

Public blockchains

The idea of a public blockchain is what most people think is, and what technology purists would consider, the “real blockchain.” Completely decentralized and open to any individual or institution to join (known as members in blockchain parlance), the most well-known example of a public blockchain is the one that runs Bitcoin.

While a purely public option does include many of the benefits associated with blockchain technology, these same attributes can make implementing a blockchain less than ideal for business purposes. By allowing anyone and everyone to join a public blockchain, the approval and consensus process can take too long for it to be it useful for the volume of daily transactions. And depending on how data is approved, the electrical cost can be too expensive for practical use, considering the sheer volume of information processed by most organizations.

 

Continue reading "Public vs. Private Blockchains: What CPAs should know " »

We’re helping CPAs improve their audit quality—here’s how

In a rapidly evolving business environment with new technologies changing the way we work, it’s more important than ever for CPAs to commit to performing high-quality audits. That’s why the AICPA launched the Enhancing Audit Quality initiative, or EAQ, in 2014. Through EAQ, the AICPA analyzes data to determine the areas where firms need to improve quality most. Then, we develop relevant, free resources and education firms can use in their practice.

In the past few months, EAQ has helped the profession make further progress toward improved audit quality. Read the “Enhancing Audit Quality: 2018 Mid-Year Progress Report” below to learn more about that progress and to access free resources you can use to improve your audits.

Continue reading "We’re helping CPAs improve their audit quality—here’s how" »

Practitioners division can help IRS put taxpayers first

Shutterstock_1055588426“Wouldn’t you know IRS extended filing season an extra day the year I retire.”

- Nameless but real CPA

On April 17, what was supposed to be the final day for Americans to file 2017 tax returns, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) hardware issues resulted in the outage of several key online systems. The timing couldn’t have been worse. The website crash forced the IRS to delay the tax deadline by one day. It also served as a warning sign for those of us advocating for the agency’s modernization. And don’t tell that CPA that he actually got an extra three in his last busy season. Gravy, as it were.

The day after the technology collapse, the Taxpayer First Act — described as the most transformative revisions to the IRS in 20 years — won unanimous passage in the U.S. House of Representatives. The package of nine bills is intended to redesign the IRS to emphasize customer service, new taxpayer appeal rights, improved responsiveness to victims of identity theft and modernization of technology.

Continue reading "Practitioners division can help IRS put taxpayers first " »

5 TV shows to teach your kids about business

Shutterstock_702291805Entrepreneur Mikaila Ulmer founded Me & the Bees Lemonade when she was just four years old. At age 12, Mikaila won funding from Shark Tank investor Daymond John. Now 13, her product line is available at Whole Foods Market stores. Mikaila represents a growing movement of young entrepreneurs throughout the country.

Children are watching their entrepreneurial parents every day and they’re picking up on best practices. Kids are much further ahead in their understanding of the business world than what we, as parents, realize.

You can help your kids get involved and start thinking about business. Here are five TV shows you can watch with your young children this summer. All shows are age appropriate and have an element of excitement to get your child’s business ideas flowing:

Continue reading "5 TV shows to teach your kids about business" »

5 tips for the best sleep of your life

Shutterstock_450863191You know the feeling. You toss and turn and periodically look at the clock. Your mind is racing, thinking about the challenging conversation you had earlier in the day with a client as well as all of the tasks you have to get done in the morning. You are stressed. Because of this, you are having difficulty falling asleep. The next day when you arrive at the office, you are lethargic, irritable and definitely not your best self. Research indicates that sleep deprivation negatively impacts work productivity. Can this sleepless night routine be prevented? With these simple tips, you bet it can.

Continue reading "5 tips for the best sleep of your life" »

AICPA cybersecurity framework highlighted in Congressional testimony

IStock_000035601216_FullEarlier today, Bob Sydow, EY Americas Advisory Cybersecurity Leader, testified in front of the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on cybersecurity risks to financial services.

Sydow outlined three main challenges EY’s clients face regarding cybersecurity:

  1. Emerging interconnected technologies that drive fundamental transformations and create complex third-party ecosystems
  2. The volume, velocity and precision of attacks
  3. A shortage of cybersecurity resources and skilled professionals

Continue reading "AICPA cybersecurity framework highlighted in Congressional testimony" »

4 best practices for working from home

IStock_59008810_XXLARGEI’m more relaxed than I used to be. Some days you’ll find me working after midnight. Others I’m cranking out emails at 5 a.m. This year I’ve made it to all but one of my kids’ daytime events. I exercise more, too. If any of this sounds familiar, you might work from home like I do.

From a tech perspective, most professionals can do their jobs from home. But there’s far more to working from home than technology. If you work from home, are considering working from home or manage employees who work from home, I hope the following suggestions help you set up a strong work-from-home strategy.

Continue reading "4 best practices for working from home" »

5 tax tips for the newly engaged couple and their CPA

Shutterstock_645344572I’m getting married in June, and for me, wedding planning has been relatively simple and drama-free. I’ve buttoned up the budget, signed every contract, booked travel and have a final headcount for the caterer. There’s just one thing that’s still unsettling my mind.

What’s going to happen to my taxes?

It seems like such a straightforward question, but newlyweds often find themselves on the wrong side of a tax bill. Couples may think it’s silly — or even awkward — to think about taxes just after getting engaged, but a financial head start could do wonders for a marriage (money issues are often cited as a cause of divorce). 

As a tax practitioner, you are in the unique position to help guide clients like me through this financial milestone. Knowing what to look for and how to spot potential red flags can be key to keeping them on track. For a little insight, I reached out to Tax Practice & Ethics team members Susan Allen, CPA, CGMA, CITP, and Henry Grzes, CPA.

Continue reading "5 tax tips for the newly engaged couple and their CPA" »

Needed now: female financial planners

GettyImages-748335013Mind-blowing. That is the word that pops in my head whenever I see the statistics on women needing financial planning and the corresponding number of women planners available to provide those services. The numbers tell a story that needs a new ending:    

  • Women age 65 and older are three times more likely than men to be widowed, and 46% of women over 75 live alone.
  • 55% of women between 25 and 34 prefer working with female financial advisors.
  • Women represent only 15.7% of the financial planning industry
  • Only one third of women surveyed by Prudential in 2015 said they were either on track or ahead in their retirement plan.

Continue reading "Needed now: female financial planners" »

College grads: How to save for retirement when you can barely pay your rent

RetirementGraduated from college. ✓

Got a good job. ✓

Started saving for retirement. WHAT?!

I know what you‘re likely thinking: “I have plenty of time to save! Why would I start now?” I get it, the idea of saving for anything, let alone your distant retirement years, seems crazy. You’re not alone. You might be shocked to hear that only 46% of non-retired Americans believe they will reach their retirement goals and 20% don’t believe they ever will.

Continue reading "College grads: How to save for retirement when you can barely pay your rent" »

A Mother’s Day wish list

GettyImages-671753690Mother’s Day is a time when everyone comes together to celebrate the women who gave us life. It’s an opportunity for us to show our appreciation for the love, advice and support these women offered us throughout our lives. We asked CPA moms what they are hoping to receive on their special day. Here’s what they said:    

Continue reading "A Mother’s Day wish list" »

Post-busy season spring cleaning tips

Spring cleaningAs another busy season fades away, you have likely started seeing the email auto-responses and vacation pics on social media of colleagues who are finally getting some much-needed rest. Following the bulging work weeks, tax law changes, phone calls from clients and other demands put upon CPAs during spring, a vacation is well-deserved.

However, you should be wary of setting cruise control while coasting through the summer downtime.  Although it’s easy to do and often ideal, sailing into the active fall season without some spring cleaning at your firm is not a good idea. Taking time to address any obstacles that your firm faced during busy season will generate major benefits down the line.

Continue reading "Post-busy season spring cleaning tips" »

Kentucky Derby - it’s more than just the hats

Shutterstock_286553204It’s that time of year again. The Kentucky Derby is back, and people from all over the world are coming together to watch the race. It’s an exciting (and expensive) day. This year, ten racehorses were purchased for more than $300,000 each. In fact, one horse had a price tag of $3 million.

All of the owners certainly are hoping for the $2 million purse — and many of the viewers are hoping for their own payday. The Kentucky Derby, one of the biggest betting events of the year, drew a record $209.2 million in wagers in 2017. So, what if all those dreams of instant wealth come true?

Continue reading "Kentucky Derby - it’s more than just the hats" »

Give feedback that feeds performance

Listening
As a training and leadership development consultant for accounting firms, I’ve found that providing feedback is one of the top challenges for management. When it’s done well and promptly, giving performance feedback can yield huge benefits – more productivity, better relationships, and more loyal, engaged employees. However, providing consistent, timely and honest feedback is something many managers struggle with.

The performance review is a prime example of inconsistency in how many supervisors provide feedback. In written reviews managers often address issues that they’ve avoided in face-to-face discussions. By the time the employee reads the review, they feel blindsided. Without a dialogue, how can they share their perspective? How can they fix a problem they never knew existed? This pattern applies to many, if  not all, other industries, to the point that major companies such as General Electric are scrapping annual reviews altogether.

Continue reading "Give feedback that feeds performance" »

These tools can automate parts of your audit

GettyImages-850496336You’ve heard a lot about data analytics. But do you know how to use them to automate parts of your audit? From journal entry testing to inventory counts, a new AICPA mapping guide shows you how data analytic products on the market today align with general audit procedures.

The free Audit Data Analytics to Audit Procedures mapping document provides a direct link for nearly 100 audit procedures, covering areas like risk assessment, journal entries, accounts receivable, inventory, intangibles, accounts payable, income taxes, and more.

Continue reading "These tools can automate parts of your audit" »

Offbeat vacation ideas for the adventurous CPA

TravelBusy season is officially over.

You’ve been powering through all season. Returns are in, and extensions are filed. And most importantly, your clients are happy because you’re a powerhouse CPA. Now that you have free time on your calendar, it’s time to take your superhero-self on vacation.

Deciding where to go on vacation can be challenging, which is no surprise, considering many Americans spend up to 10% of their household income on vacations every year.

That means your vacation should be memorable and offer experiences and sights you’ve never encountered — perhaps because you didn’t even know they were there.

Take a gander at these offbeat vacation ideas to get your creative mind going and help you prepare for your best post-busy season yet.

Continue reading "Offbeat vacation ideas for the adventurous CPA" »

7 tips to have an influence on future standards

StandardsStandards are amended, and new ones are issued. But did you know that it is possible to express your opinion—and even make a difference—in the standard-setting process? If you’ve never done so before, here are some tips based on my own experience.

Your opinions are welcome! Standard setters actively solicit comments – not only from those who are directly impacted by the exposure draft but also from any other interested parties. They do read and carefully consider all comments submitted.

The explanatory memorandum is a helpful guide. With any exposure draft, you’ll want to understand the key issues and what they mean. Exposure drafts generally come with explanatory memoranda that offer a quick introduction to the proposed standard. It can tell you, among other things, the key issues addressed and changes proposed. Many explanatory memoranda include questions to consider when drafting your response.

 

Continue reading "7 tips to have an influence on future standards" »

How to find your volunteer niche

VolunteerOne of the biggest hurdles in volunteering is knowing where to start. While some may say “just get out there and do it,” it’s not so easy when it comes to volunteering in financial literacy. As a CPA, you have the knowledge you need, but finding the right opportunity that best matches your skills and interests can be a challenge. Luckily, the AICPA has volunteer tools to help.

Continue reading "How to find your volunteer niche" »

Send the right message without saying a word

Body languageSend the right message

Actionable Professional Body Language Tips

Do you remember the last time that someone changed your mind at work? What did the person say that convinced you to change your thoughts? Was it the words they said or how they said it to you?

In professional settings, the nonverbal messages people process consciously and subconsciously change the way they perceive messages. Are you a person that conveys positive and powerful non-verbal cues in your interactions with others? Body language plays a crucial role in how people respond to your words and retain the information you transmit.

Continue reading "Send the right message without saying a word" »

SOC 2 reports get an update

SOC 2 updatesSOC 2® standards have been updated. If you perform these engagements, you need to check out the recently updated SOC 2 guide to make sure you are performing these services according to AICPA standards.

Released last month, the updated guide is a “how to” for service auditors performing SOC 2 examinations to report on a service organization’s system controls relevant to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentially, or privacy. There are three major updates practitioners will want to pay attention to:

  1. Alignment with clarified attestation standards
    The guide conforms with the updated SSAE No. 18 (Clarified Attestation Standards) – meaning it is a vital tool for practitioners to use in developing standards-compliant reports. For example, it includes updated information on requirements related to requesting written assertions and performing risk assessments.

Continue reading "SOC 2 reports get an update" »

How to take the stress out of debt

Infographic_Millennial_Debt_AICPA (002)If you’re like most Americans, you probably have debt. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, according to a recent telephone survey of 1,004 U.S. adults conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs, nearly three-quarters of Americans are living with debt driven by factors like everyday expenses, a lack of income, mortgage costs and student loans. More concerning is the number of Americans whose debt is making them anxious, keeping them up at night and causing problems in their relationships.

I sat down with Dr. Sean Stein Smith, CPA, member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, to talk about how financial planning can help Americans whose lives are negatively impacted by debt.

Jonathan Lynch: For many Americans, living with debt is a mental as well as financial burden. In fact, because of their debt, three-in-ten Americans admit to stressing about everyday financial decisions. For those who feel overwhelmed by their debt, what steps would you suggest they take to take back control?

Dr. Sean Stein Smith: The first thing to realize is that if you are worrying about debt, you are not alone, and this is nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t matter how much money you make – there are steps you can take to get back in control.

Continue reading "How to take the stress out of debt" »

Everyone fails: Here’s how to bounce back

BounceEpic fail. We’ve all been there — set out to do something great, only to come up a little short of our expectations. But that’s when the real test happens. Do we choose to throw in the towel or do we push through and use our experience with failure as motivation?

Author J.K. Rowling, who experienced some disappointments before publishing her first blockbuster Harry Potter novel, said that “it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case, you fail by default.”

If you’re preparing to take the CPA exam, you may be wondering about the possibility of failure. Did you know a significant number of successful CPAs don’t actually pass the exam the first time around? In fact, an average of 50% of test takers fail at least one section. The average candidate sits six to seven times before passing all four sections. So, if you’ve had a setback in one or more parts of the exam — or are worried that you might — don’t stress. You’re not alone.

Continue reading "Everyone fails: Here’s how to bounce back" »

6 guilt-free food ideas for busy season

Farmers marketSnacks continually rank near the top of everyone’s favorite workplace perks. Having food available in the office during busy season is an even bigger plus. Celebrate World Health Day by offering healthy alternatives, because worrying about gaining weight or blowing up unhealthy indicators like blood pressure and LDL cholesterol is stress we just don’t need right now!

Consider these tips for serving healthy snacks in your office this busy season:

  1. Set up a snack box. Build your own snack box using a serving tray with drawer organizers or a large basket. You can pick these up at a neighborhood retailer or order them online. If you’re short on time, vendors such as Naturebox and Snack Box Pros (also available from Office Depot and Sam’s Club) offer pre-assembled healthy snack boxes or allow you to build your own from their menu (see healthy snack tips below for help with selections).

Continue reading "6 guilt-free food ideas for busy season" »

The one game changing skill you should focus on for success

Competitve intelligenceWhy is it that some people rise to higher levels of success than others? Is it simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time? Or are some people born with certain qualities that make them more capable of success than others? When comparing star performers with average ones, a consistent unique strength does emerge, but it has nothing to do with intelligence, education or natural-born talents. The “it factor” these super stars possess is called emotional intelligence (EQ). Recent studies show 90% of high performers at work are also high in EQ. Additionally, people with high EQ make about $29,000 more per year on average than those considered to be low in EQ. The great news is this game-changing skill can be learned by anyone willing to focus.

Continue reading "The one game changing skill you should focus on for success" »

One topic investors agree is critical to decision making

Water leafCape Town’s Day Zero has been postponed—for now. That’s the term being used to describe the impending extreme water crisis in my native South Africa. I’ve seen how it affects the people who live there, as they scramble to hold off what seems inevitable. My friends in Cape Town only shower twice a week and save their shower water to water their gardens. Local pools around the city are empty, hotels can’t wash linens as often as in the past and the agriculture sector has been hit.  The severe water shortage threatens employment, tax revenues and municipal credit ratings. The trickle down (a term that has never been so literal) reaches business owners and investors as they consider the rising costs of a resource they once took for granted.

 

Continue reading "One topic investors agree is critical to decision making " »

Introducing our newest heroes: “The (CP)A-Team”

CPA TeamPop culture seems to be obsessed with the 1980s.

Remakes of popular blockbuster hits are now the norm for movie-goers. From “RoboCop” to “21 Jump Street” to “Footloose,” today’s entertainment is all about nostalgia.

So, it’s no surprise that television’s favorite action drama, the “A-Team,” would make a comeback. Updated for 2018, the reboot is coming to prime time. And this time, the fearsome foursome is taking on the single greatest threat to our security: cybercriminals.

Airing at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on your television or tablet is America’s newest special task force: “The (CP)A-Team.” Each half-hour episode features the all-CPA unit as they travel the world detecting and responding to cyberattacks and data breaches.

Cyberattacks are on the rise. Personal information is swapped for pennies on the dark web. Ransomware is lurking in the shadows of your desktop. And one team perseveres against it all to expose cyberthieves and other scoundrels.

In 2002, this crack team of auditors met on the job. Fresh out of college and stepping into the vast world of accounting, they found in each other a bond that nothing could shake. Once they graced the cubicles of Metro Zero, New York City’s finest financial institution. Today, they survive as practitioners with a purpose: protecting millions from the loss of sensitive personal and corporate information.

Jane “Caesar” Jones is a master of disguise. She is most commonly seen portraying beauty school dropout “Mrs. Bentley,” a salon owner who uses weak passwords and unsecured wifi devices as part of a ploy to entice small-time hackers. As the leader of the group, it was Caesar’s idea to go rogue after discovering Metro Zero shared client data. Now on the run, she and her team aim to level the playing field and repair the damage done.

Nick “N.N.” (Negative Nelly) Nichols is the muscle for the (CP)A-Team. N.N. is always in a bad mood but is the first on the scene when things get hairy. Armed with only a laptop and personal hot-spot, N.N. attacks hackers before they can reach your server. A reformed hacker, his secret past is known to only Caesar.

Continue reading "Introducing our newest heroes: “The (CP)A-Team” " »

7 things every nonprofit should know about restricted assets

Restricted cashYour nonprofit is on a mission. Like any other business, your work requires careful accounting and financial reporting. Unlike other businesses, your not-for-profit organization has special requirements on the use and reporting of restricted assets.

As an auditor specializing in the nonprofit sector, I get a lot of client questions about restricted assets. The following are some of the most common issues we encounter and tips for dealing with them.

  1. Fundraisers can create unintended restrictions. Donors like to support programs and projects near and dear to their heart. Your fundraising staff is skilled at designing heartfelt appeals. If you’re not careful, overly specific fundraising language can create restrictions that limit your ability to operate. Keep your accounting staff looped into the fundraising communications planning and approval process to avoid problems down the road. When in doubt, run it by your auditor.
  2. “Restricted cash” may include more than you think. Many nonprofits present cash and cash equivalents that have restrictions in multiple line items on their statements of financial position. In some cases, these line items are labeled something other than “restricted cash” or “restricted cash equivalents.” 

Continue reading "7 things every nonprofit should know about restricted assets" »

Blockchain could be your solution to spreadsheet fatigue

Block chain 2Over 25 million Americans are still dealing with repairing airbags from one of the largest series of recalls in U.S. history. Car owners are waiting months for repairs – and many are unable to drive their cars while they wait for them to be fixed. Talk about inconvenient, expensive and frustrating.

Now imagine if airbag recalls didn’t have to be such a mess. Blockchain offers an intriguing solution.

Blockchain is a distributed ledger system that can be put to work managing our supply chains. Think of a big spreadsheet or Google doc that you use to record every transaction in a supply chain – from manufacturer to end user. Now imagine that every supplier, manufacturer and seller in the chain has access to that spreadsheet at the same time as you and is updating it with verified information in real time. Except, unlike a Google doc, you can’t retroactively alter information on the blockchain – making it extra secure.

Continue reading "Blockchain could be your solution to spreadsheet fatigue" »

Cookie Consent Banner

Subscribe

Subscribe in a reader

Enter your Email:
Preview

CPA Letter Daily