5 Scenarios Where Proper Workplace Decorum is Essential

WorkingWhile workplaces have become increasingly less formal and more business transactions are taking place outside traditional office settings, the line that separates business from personal can blur. It is important to maintain a certain level of workplace decorum, whether you are in the office or out at an office mixer. Be sure to observe the following pointers, which address a variety of scenarios:

  • In-person meetings. How you conduct yourself during an in-person meeting will leave a lasting impression on your boss and colleagues.
    • Be considerate of others’ time and communicate the purpose, duration and the items for discussion in advance. Thank attendees for their participation, and demonstrate your appreciation by promptly circulating a recap or minutes that document their contribution.
    • Don’t monopolize the conversation. Ensure that everyone has had a chance to speak their mind before ending the meeting.
    • Never assign an action item to someone not present until you have had an opportunity to negotiate it with them.
    • If you are attending another person's meeting, be respectful and resist the urge to multi-task. If you are waiting for an important phone call, turn your phone to vibrate or silent, and excuse yourself before answering. Otherwise, turn your devices off.

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Time to Clean House with Asset Retirement

TimeRegardless of the size of your business, somebody should be responsible for maintaining your company's fixed asset or depreciation schedule. Since in most cases this is not a full-time job, it may be neglected. Updating accounting records is unavoidable for most of us. However, many of us are incredibly busy. Who has time to pull out a fixed asset list - just to make an addition? If your company is large enough to employ an asset manager, you may be up to speed with fixed assets. If not, who is responsible for managing this schedule and do they have the information they need? New tax regulations that went into effect Jan. 1 allow organizations to go back and write off those assets on the books that are long gone. The regulations even allow for partial dispositions of "units of property" that previously were not permitted.

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12 Revenue Recognition Concerns

BridgeMany preparers and practitioners have been anxiously awaiting the new, converged revenue recognition standard for quite some time. The standard was released by the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the International Accounting Standards Board on May 28. How can we prepare for a smooth transition to the new standard? What major changes will we encounter as we begin implementing it? The new standard is principle-based, which is a big shift from the industry-specific guidance we have today. In preparation for this change in approach, the AICPA has established 16 industry task forces which are developing a new accounting guide containing helpful tips and illustrative examples for applying the new revenue recognition standard.

As the co-chairs of the Construction Contractors Revenue Recognition Task Force, we have been thinking about our major implementation issues for a while now. Here are our top 12 concerns so far.

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3 Tips to Practicing Good Business Etiquette

Business-relationshipIn an ideal world, we would all be judged on merit, and managers, co-workers and clients would take the time to get to know us before formulating an opinion. Unfortunately, in the time-crunched real world, we don’t always have that luxury. People often make flash assessments based on limited interactions, or piece together opinions about our ability and professionalism from disparate impressions gleaned from superficial encounters. Alas, when it comes to others’ perceptions of us, the devil is in the details, providing us limitless opportunities to make a bad impression.

That’s where etiquette can help. Whether you are collaborating with co-workers, schmoozing potential clients or trying to impress the boss, relationships are critical to your career success. The diversity of the modern workplace and the hurried pace of business provides ample room for social missteps, but adhering to the basic tenants of business etiquette can insulate you from the most egregious offenses.

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Time to Change the De Minimis Amount for Tangible Property?

FeedbackSince the release of the final tangible property regulations, practitioners and taxpayers have shared numerous concerns about their complexity and administrative burden.  One of the most common complaints is the de minimis safe harbor election. 

The de minimis safe harbor provision, if elected, allows a taxpayer to immediately deduct amounts paid to acquire, produce or improve tangible property and gives the taxpayer additional protection from future Internal Revenue Service examination adjustments.  The safe harbor provision has two separate thresholds ($500 for taxpayers without an applicable financial statement and $5,000 for taxpayers with an AFS).  A certified audited financial statement is considered an AFS but reviewed or compiled financial statements are not.    

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4 Tips for Young CPAs to Maximize Networking Opportunities

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Build-a-networkIf you’re like me, the answer to that question has changed over the years. I’ve answered everything from “shortstop for the Kansas City Royals” to “managing partner of a CPA firm,” and everything in between—and there is a lot in between. But, whatever your career aspirations are, no matter what position you hope to have, or what industry you hope to be in when you retire, you will need people to help you get there.

People who turn lofty dreams and career aspirations into reality almost always have one thing in common: a tremendous network of people. How do you develop this network when you’re a young professional? Where do you begin? It seems daunting to think of going from the seemingly insignificant network you graduated with to the “who’s who” list that some partners at your firm carry with them. While you could go to every one of the grip-and-grin networking happy hours offered every month, how effective is that? Is that really the kind of interaction you’re seeking?

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A Tale of Two Cities: The Power of Hashtags

HashtagLast month, two big events happened in my professional world: DigitalNow, a conference for association professionals, in Nashville and AICPA governing Council’s spring 2014 meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz.  I wanted to actively participate in both events, but how could I be in two places at the same time? Introducing…the hashtag.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is an online search term, most widely used on Twitter, which allows users to follow activity around certain topics. 

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4 Career Resources for the Management Accountant

Career-resourcesThere’s no need for media reports to tell us that business has changed more in the last few years than we could ever have imagined. We’ve seen first-hand how our role has moved in new directions, markets have become more competitive and a commitment to learning has risen as a must-have for success. Ironically, along with these challenges are tremendous benefits that have brought us greater leadership opportunities and job satisfaction, stronger team and organizational performance, and the latest in professional development.      

As widespread as these benefits are, attaining them calls for resources designed for today’s business environment and the finance teams that drive it day after day, year after year. Yet, it can be overwhelming choosing from so many leadership and career resources on the market. To help ease the process, here are four recent CGMA releases:

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Taking the Leap Toward Sustainability

Wind-farmIs the United States somewhat behind the rest of the world when it comes to embracing sustainability practices and reporting? Some seem to think so.  However, a shift has occurred over the last couple of years as companies are beginning to recognize that sustainable business practices are simply good for business. This point was made in a conversation between Susan Coffey, AICPA Senior Vice President, Public Practice and Global Alliances, and Jessica Fries, Executive Chairman and Board Director of the Prince of Wales Accounting for Sustainability Project, also known as A4S. Many companies around the world are beginning to take notice of risks within their business models, such as their reliance on non-renewable forms of energy or their excessive water consumption, and are working toward replacing these practices with sustainable solutions.

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11 Easy Ways to Build Good Client Relationships

HandshakeIt is important that we, as CPAs and trusted advisers, work on creating long-term relationships with clients at every opportunity. We cannot forget that public accounting has and always will be a people business. While it has a little bit to do with number crunching, most clients want to hire and retain a professional they trust and respect.

That includes you. Whether it is your first year as a CPA or you are a seasoned senior CPA, you are making direct contact with clients on a more frequent basis than many of your managers, directors and partners. As a result, your daily interactions with clients should not just be about getting the answers you need to complete your work papers. Instead, your client interactions should include a conscious effort to build credibility and a personal relationship.

Here is a collection of easy things you can do to start building positive relationships with new and existing clients.

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America Counts on CPAs - Updated Infographic

Developed by the AICPA, this updated infographic highlights the role CPAs play in business and financial decisions. From Main Street to Wall Street, CPAs are the most trusted and objective financial experts. The below infographic has been updated with recent data.

America-Counts-on-CPAs-Infographic-Updated

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Live Coverage: AICPA Practitioners Symposium #PSTECH

The 2014 AICPA Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference runs June 9 to 11 in Las Vegas and is the premier conference for CPAs. If you were unable to attend or just want to see what else is happening at the conference, you can explore the social media feeds below or follow the hashtag #PSTECH on Twitter. (Email subscribers can view the live stream on our website.)

 

CPA Exam Q3/Q4 2014 Score Release Timetables

 The Q3/Q4 2014 CPA Exam score release timetable is now available. Score release timelines are updated biannually on AICPA Insights and on the CPA Exam website. For more information about score release and the scoring process, please visit the Psychometrics and Scoring web page.

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy releases the scores to candidates and state boards of accountancy based upon the target score release dates listed in the tables below.

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In the News: CPAs Provide Financial Tips for a Stress-Free Summer

Dollar-chaiseSummer was always thought of as the time for sunny days at the beach, BBQs and bonfires. But these days most American adults equate summer with financial anxiety, according to a recent telephone survey conducted for the AICPA by Harris Poll.

According to the survey, about 6 in 10 U.S. adults (59 percent) said their financial tension during the summer matches or exceeds the stress they feel during the year-end holiday season. The AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission has been reaching consumers with tips to help them alleviate the stress of summer by making smart financial decisions.

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Decoding the Gray Areas

Ethics-moral-principlesSuppose you are the owner of a convenience store. You purchase newspapers at a fair wholesale price from a man named Harry. Each morning Harry delivers a stack of newspapers to your shop by 6:30 a.m., prior to the morning rush.

At 6:00 a.m. one morning you are walking in your neighborhood and see Harry taking a stack of newspapers from a corner.  Harry places the papers in his backpack and continues on his way.

Soon after, Harry arrives at your shop to make his usual delivery. Should you continue your business with him now that you have observed him taking those newspapers?

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Why the Revised Ethics Code is So Irresistible

In 2008, the AICPA Professional Ethics Executive Committee and the AICPA Professional Ethics Division undertook a project to update the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct. The new code has been launched this week. Help us spread the news by sharing this infographic!

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Audit Quality Drives Continued Audit Relevance

Business-peopleAuditing is at the very core of our profession; only CPAs are authorized by law to conduct financial statement audits. In today’s business environment, entities are increasingly interdependent and information and accountability have assumed a larger role in society. As a result, the CPA’s independent audit of an entity's financial statements is a vital service to investors, lenders, sureties, businesses, regulators and other participants in the marketplace. Mergers, acquisitions, the capital markets and credit sources depend not only on the information that management provides in financial statements, but also on the CPA’s audit opinion as to whether the financial statements are free of material misstatements, whether caused by error or fraud.

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5 Things You May Have Missed During Tax Season

Missing-puzzle-pieceWhether you’re new to tax season or an experienced pro, there were probably times in the months leading up to April 15that brought new meaning to the term “multi-tasking.” Helping clients sift through back-up material, preparing and filing returns and keeping abreast of tax news, is an all-consuming process. Yet, tax season is also a time when you can easily overlook opportunities to improve your practice, strengthen client relationships and foster your professional development.

With April 15 comfortably behind you, now is the perfect time to look back and identify opportunities that can help grow your practice or help manage your staff. Here are five AICPA resources you might have kept on the back burner while you were in the throes of tax season.

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3 Tax Planning Tips for Parents-to-Be

BabyMy husband and I, both CPAs, are expecting a baby boy in August. Of course, being the fun-loving accountants that we are, as soon as we found out about the good news, we started thinking about tax planning for our new addition. Names, nursery theme, telling our family about the good news – those items could wait.  But, tax planning, that was a today item.

I’ve been fortunate to work with many clients with children in my public accounting days, so I knew the general tax items that we needed to think about, such as tax credits, flexible spending accounts, household employee/nanny rules, etc.  However, I wanted to refresh myself on these items and share some insights with anyone who has or will have a family. Here are some tips for you parents-to-be:

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Beyond the Tax Return: Transition to Trusted Adviser

Trusted-adviserIs this a scenario you could relate to during busy season? It’s one of those days. Your schedule is jam packed. You’re working in overdrive to get it all done. The next thing you know, the receptionist buzzes you with news that one of your clients is in the lobby to drop off some paperwork. They would like to see you if you have a few minutes.

“ARGGHHH…not today!” you’re thinking. “I just don’t have time.” As tempting as it would be to decline the last minute request, you’re mindful that a client is right there in your office. That means you have the opportunity to amp your trust factor while they’re visiting. Maintaining a hands-off approach can make client retention tough. In my practice, the biggest complaint we hear from prospective clients who are considering a new firm is that their current tax expert never talks to them.

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10 Years in the Making: The New Revenue Recognition Standard

It’s here! The new revenue recognition standard, that is. I believe it is the most pervasive and across-the-board important topic that the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the International Accounting Standards Board could have tackled. This new standard eliminates the transaction and industry-specific guidance found in current U.S. GAAP and replaces it with a principle-based approach. Also, it applies to all public, private and not-for-profit entities. I implore you, no matter what your professional discipline, to pay attention to this new standard.  And please, don’t get comfortable because the effective dates seem far off.

Are you sure the final words in the new standard are consistent with what you have been hearing to date about this project? Are you comforted in having specific revenue recognition rules replaced by a more principle-based approach?  Are you confident that unwritten industry norms of accounting practice formed over decades are consistent with the new standard? In this video, AICPA Senior Technical Manager for Accounting Standards Kim Kushmerick provides an overview of the standard, in addition to highlighting key items to consider and helpful AICPA resources.  

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Crowdfunding’s Impact on the Finance Sector

Crowdfunding-intlCrowdfunding is a popular but complex term. To some, it refers to a large campaign to raise money for charity. To others, it involves pre-ordering products that will be financed by the received contributions. Another form is equity crowdfunding, also known as crowd investing.

The concept of crowdfunding is not new. For hundreds of years, similar local models included citizens of a village or town have coming together to fund a project. These days the Internet makes it possible to operate similar models on a larger scale. It is an effective, transparent and democratic model to raise financing.

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Celebrate Memorial Day by Giving Back

Memorial-dayMany service men and women encounter challenges upon returning from active duty, including finding employment. Starting a business is an attractive option, but like many entrepreneurs, veterans need support. The good news is that CPAs are in a great position to offer help.

Thanks to the Veteran Fast Launch Initiative, U.S. veterans have the opportunity to gain free help from experts. Through AICPA’s partnership with SCORE, an organization that provides mentoring and training to entrepreneurs, this program connects veterans with CPAs across the country. CPA volunteers provide up to five hours of free financial advice to veterans on starting and growing a business.

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Your Professional Image - What 10 Minutes on LinkedIn can Do

LinkedinI review LinkedIn profiles almost every day. By now, I have seen at least 2,000, and I just cringe when I see things that could or will hinder someone’s professional image.  I am not in a position to advise people individually, so this blog is the next best thing.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn goes beyond looking good for recruiters.  Even if you are not interested in a new job, your online image still needs attention. If anyone Googles you - a potential client or employer, your company’s VP, a former supervisor, a reporter or even a prospective date - your LinkedIn profile could easily be the first thing that shows up. You want your best foot forward all the time.

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Understanding the ACA’s Mandates

I am at the AICPA Tax Strategies for the High Income Individual conference in Las Vegas. This popular conference features national experts who dig keep into new tax policies and offer strategies for navigating new laws so that CPAs can advise their high-income clients with confidence.  

Today I am live blogging the "Affordable Care Act: Understanding the Individual and Employer Mandates” session with speaker Eddie Adkins, a partner with Grant Thornton LLP. This session delves into challenges and responsibilities faced by employers and individuals to comply with the provisions of the complex health care reform law, and technical aspects of the responsibility provisions and traps for the unwary. 

Follow along with the live blog below (email subscribers can view the live blog on our website).

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5 Facts Recruiters Need to Know about Millennials

Young-professionalIs your CPA firm involved in the scramble for talent? As I give presentations and work with CPAs around the country, it seems like many CPA firms are in hiring mode. Increasingly, I’m telling these firms that to remain competitive, they must understand their younger recruiting candidates—Millennials. Millennials are the generation born roughly between 1980 and the early 2000s.  I tell CPA firms, if they want to get into the Millennial brain, they should be aware of five important facts.

Fact #1: Millennials are poised to take on more responsibility. The oldest members of this generation have now entered their thirties. With about 10 years on the job, they have built the kind of experience that CPA firms need to remain successful. However, if they don’t believe the firm offers them the opportunity to grow and contribute, these younger professionals won’t hesitate to move on to a better option.

The takeaway for CPA firms: Employee surveys or one-to-one discussions can help you better understand staff expectations.

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AICPA 2014 Spring Governing Council #AICPAGC14

The AICPA governing Council’s spring 2014 meeting is taking place this week, May 18 to 20. Focused on the profession’s future, the governing Council will discuss topics such as future learning opportunities and continued audit quality. AICPA leaders from each of the 50 states and U.S. territories are attending the meeting. You can follow along with Council action with the hashtag #AICPAGC14 or view the stream below. (Email subscribers can view the stream on our website.)

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Protecting Your Good Name Online

Online-reputationIt is probably understood, but here it is anyway: You should not post photos of yourself doing questionable activities to social media. This is just common sense when it comes to managing your online reputation, right? Yet, you would be surprised how many people forget their professional etiquette when posting. Sure, it is fun to share your weekend escapades with all your friends, but do not ignore the business aspects of your online presence as well.

Thanks to the Internet, you most likely developed an online reputation without even knowing it. Now it’s up to you to protect your good name—or do a little damage control. As Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

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Accounting Careers and the Boiled Frog

LillypadMost of us are familiar with the story of the frog that was dropped into a pot of boiling water and immediately jumped out to save itself. The same frog later found himself in a pot of water at room temperature. The temperature was gradually increased and the poor frog, not noticing the danger, remained in the pot to suffer an untimely demise. Although not scientifically accurate, the anecdote serves as a metaphor for one’s inability to notice gradual change.

In our careers, we can all feel like we are that frog at times. Just like temperatures, careers can change for the worse, often gradually and without notice. However, if we pay close attention to the red flags in our careers, we can know when to jump long before the water starts to boil.

I would like to share a few thoughts from my own experiences that may help you – whether on a partner or CFO track – detect the warning signs along your career path and keep yourself out of hot water. 

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Money Matters for Mothers and Daughters Alike

Triumphant-womanThis Sunday is Mother’s Day. While many mothers may be treated to flowers and breakfast in bed, it’s also a day to celebrate the strength that comes with being a mother. But sometimes, that strength can waiver when it comes to finances. 

"Be Prepared, Not Scared" is what I have been telling my clients for years. This is especially important for female clients. According to a 2012-13 Prudential Research Study on the financial experience and behaviors among women, only 22 percent of women feel “very well equipped” to make wise financial decisions. A likely reason for this is that, in male-female relationships, most often the “chore” of planning is handled by the husband. My goal is to change that. While most of my married clients are men, we push to get wives involved at the earliest point in their personal financial planning engagement.

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Crowdfunding Isn’t Like Shopping Retail

In our last blog post on crowdfunding, Charles Landes, CPA took a deep look at equity crowdfunding, specifically how the Securities and Exchange Commission rules are shaping up as required by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012. However, equity crowdfunding is not typically one’s first introduction to this new funding approach. Many are first introduced to crowdfunding through one of the various crowdfunding platforms that exist, such as Kickstarter. If you are not familiar with crowdfunding through a platform like Kickstarter, the concept is relatively simple. A person or company comes up with an idea, determines the cost to create this idea and sets a funding due date. Projects also feature rewards based on the contribution, for instance, backers may receive a T-shirt or the actual product they are supporting. If the project fails to meet its finance goal by the set date, then the project is not funded.

Backers have funded all types of projects, from virtual reality systems, like Oculus Rift (which was recently acquired by Facebook), to dream cars, like a DeLorean Hovercraft. Other projects have gone on to win an Oscar and be featured at the Cannes Film Festival. However, not every project makes it. What happens when a funded project fails to deliver on its promise?

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A Business Model with No Managers? Yes, it Works

Lone-businessmanThere’s a lot of talk within public accounting about altering the existing business model to adapt to a changing marketplace and the evolving needs of our clients and staff. At my six-person firm, we decided to take a leap into the future by completely rethinking our business model. In July 2012, we went from a traditional firm—one with an office and a hierarchy—to a digital practice where there are no managers. Virtual means a lot of things to different people, and for us it meant closing our doors on our traditional office location. We tried it as an experiment beforehand, and it worked so well we decided to switch completely.

At the same time, we also instituted a Results Only Work Environment, in which we rate performance, not attendance. For us, that also meant doing away with the management structure. I lead the firm and set our future direction, but I don’t know what anyone is doing throughout the day. In fact, no one oversees what our team members do all day—or tracks their vacations or time off--as long as they achieve the required results for the firm.

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A Strong Professional Network is an Invaluable Resource

NetworkingMany people think of networking as either schmoozing or as a purely social activity. In reality, a strong professional network is an important resource for an up-and-coming CPA. A strong network is diverse and includes clients/customers, peers, senior professionals, business partners and vendors. A strong network helps to build us as professionals and provide better solutions to the organizations we serve.

Just imagine if everyone you had in your network were just like you. How would you find the variety of insights you need to deal with complex issues? We need more varied perspectives and knowledge to make better decisions.

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IRS E-Services: Where are We Now? And Where are We Going?

QuestionsAs the staff liaison for the AICPA’s Internal Revenue Service Advocacy and Relations volunteer committee, I am in the unique position to listen to our members’ concerns and discuss those issues with the IRS.  When the online e-services of Power of Attorney and Electronic Account Resolution were terminated on Sept. 2, I heard concerns from numerous practitioners.  In fact, we received more calls regarding this issue than all other issues combined last year. 

The AICPA adamantly voiced members’ frustrations and concerns to the IRS.  The backlash the IRS felt from the AICPA and other members of the practitioner community was so severe that IRS officials made it clear they never wanted this situation to repeat itself.  This was a top priority to then-Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel.  The IRS also quietly looked into different possibilities to bring back these online e-services.

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Want to Focus More? Stop Multi-Tasking

Multi-taskingI confess: I am a multi-tasker. At any one time, I am working on 10 different projects, planning what to have for dinner, looking up which movies are playing and pondering what really happened to Eddie Wilson of Eddie and the Cruisers. You probably have similar habits and consider yourself a multi-tasker. We wear this label as a badge of honor. And who can blame us? Technology has made it so easy to multi-task.

Nevertheless, how many times do you intend to check the weather on your smartphone, only to be distracted by another app? Then you get a text message, which leads to an app notification and pretty soon you’re looking at cat photos on Facebook, forgetting all about the reason you picked up your smartphone to begin with (it was to check the weather, in case you forgot).

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5 Key Regulations to Get Right in Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding-keyFrom the newest design inventions to the Thai food truck that showed up in your town last week, the crowdfunding movement is allowing individuals to unleash their entrepreneurial spirit and turn their dreams into reality. By sharing their ideas on the web, users can raise funds to support the launch of their small businesses.

Numerous crowdfunding platforms exist, many focusing on the type of project being funded. For example, certain platforms serve non-profits and philanthropic causes, music, theatre, small business and so forth. Even with such specialization, investing comes with risk. Crowdfunding indeed opens investment opportunities to a new pool of potential stakeholders.  Many of those investors may not fully understand the risks involved. During the next few weeks on AICPA Insights, we will look at the benefits and risks of crowdfunding.

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Social Media Fear? To Quote the Eagles: “Get Over It”

The Eagles band from California. From left to ...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I saw the Eagles play the PNC Arena in Raleigh a few weeks ago. You know… Hotel California. Desperado. Witchy Woman.

It was a rocking show from a band—and a brand—that has been going at it for more than 40 years. I’m a huge fan and I wanted all my friends to know I was there.

Which is why I was pretty disappointed to see signs at the security gate, banning phones, texting, photos and videos inside the arena. I thought it was a joke, but… no. The Eagles were dead serious and the arena staff was fully empowered to enforce the rules. Several times, I saw ushers scolding concertgoers, keeping them from posting selfies from this historic event.

Come on, guys! Take it easy!

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3 Tips to Find Your Professional True North

CompassFinding your professional true north, a path you can be passionate about and one that will provide you with direction in the future, is attainable – when you have the right navigation. Whether it is honing your personal skill set, positioning your practice for growth or transforming your organization’s technology infrastructure, it is important that you be the navigator. There are endless possibilities to explore, pursue, master and achieve, and it is important you arrive exactly where you want to go.

Keep in mind that finding your way often means asking for directions and talking with others who have already arrived at your desired destination. They can tell you what is not on the map and the best roads to follow to enhance the quality of your journey. Here are three quick tips to find your professional true north:

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Succession Planning: The Talk You Need to Have

Succession-planStrong planning skills are a must for anyone who wants to be at the top of their field. CPAs have these skills in spades. Our fingerprints can be found on the successful business plans of companies throughout the country—from the mom and pop store down the street, to the Fortune 500 company with thousands of employees, and everything in between. Helping organizations chart their long-term future makes us indispensable threads in the fabric of the U.S. economy.

Why, then, do so many of us not engage in planning for the long-term future of our own firms?

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In the News: It’s Never too Early to Think About Taxes

ReceiptsThe deadline to file your 2013 taxes – or file for an extension – passed earlier this week. What’s the significance of that? It’s time to think about planning for the 2014 filing season.

As many CPAs will tell you – taxes are something to consider year round. And one of the best ways to ensure that you are best positioned to pay no more than you owe is by being meticulously organized throughout the year. Enterpreneur.com recently posted an article suggesting some technology tools that will keep you organized in advance of next tax season – and no, a shoebox to hold all your receipts is not one of them.

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Tax Planning is a Critical Factor in Financial Planning

Financial-planning-consultationCongratulations on making it through another tax season! From those long hours, including rigorous reviews and meetings with clients, you’ve gained unique insight into their lives—insight into their incomes, spending habits, investments and life events. Income tax planning and estate planning elements have become a more critical part of overall personal financial planning with the enactment of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 and the Net Investment Income Tax. While reviewing those 1040s, you are able to envision potential tax impacts of financial decisions and begin considering tax planning strategies for your clients, which broadens your relationship. This is a great first step in helping them meet their overall financial planning needs, including making estate, retirement, investment and risk management planning decisions to move them toward their long term goals.

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5 Tips for a Culture of Inclusivity

Female-leadersWhen it comes to success, we often see and hear more well-intentioned plans and how-tos than we could ever use. Websites, blogs, consultants, colleagues and for many of us, our friends and family, all have opinions on what can help businesses stay on course. But what if one of today’s best resources for success is right inside our own companies and it just isn’t being developed as strongly as it needs to be?

I found some great insights into that issue recently when I attended Tomorrow’s Company’s launch of their report, Tomorrow’s Global Leaders: How to Build a Culture that Ensures Women Reach the Top.Tomorrow’s Company is a London-based global think tank that helps guide senior executives in leadership, talent, sustainability, governance and other top management areas.

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Volunteer This Financial Capability Month

Volunteer-april
April is National Financial Capability Month, an annual event designed to help Americans improve their understanding of finances. As a CPA, you can significantly increase its value and impact, and help ensure the month is more than just a reminder to consumers to save and spend wisely. When you get involved, you can:

  • Help Americans build their financial understanding and capabilities
  • Strengthen and advance the CPA profession
  • Give young CPAs an opportunity to develop leadership skills
  • Volunteer and build your network at the same time

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Confessions of a Tax Season Junkie

Dancing-womanAs I shot up in bed last night in a cold sweat, I realized that a nightmare must have interrupted my peaceful night’s sleep. Waking up during tax season in a panic was pretty common during my over 20 years in public accounting, but why now? As a recent convert from tax practice, this spring is the first one since the early ‘90s that I am not preparing tax returns.

After some reflection, I discovered my dream was, in fact, about tax returns: phones ringing, emails and all of the anxiety-causing triggers for CPAs during tax season. Having sold my practice after last tax season, the only tax return I have to worry about is my own, so what was my trigger? 

I realized that the source of my anxiety was a recent project where I had to draw on my prior tax season experiences. I was preparing for the AICPA’s Tax Power Hour webcast on managing tax season burnout. To truly empathize with the participants, I mentally placed myself back at my old office during the height of tax season. I could hear the phones ringing and the postage machine humming, I could smell the hot printers being overused, and I remembered the sight of peers walking into my office to ask a “quick question.”  The experience was so real for me that I actually felt the urge to pick up my computer and hurl it at the wall.

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4 Steps to Conquer the Difficult Assignment

Busy-businessmanYou have just been handed the project. You know the one – the assignment no one else wanted, and even though you thought you were flying under the radar, the project still landed in your lap. Now what?

You have two options: run away from your boss’s office or face the project head on—and come away a victor. It’s up to you.

Don’t Daunt It, Flaunt It

I think we all face the “dreaded project” at some point or another in our careers, probably on more than one occasion. It can be particularly daunting as a young CPA to get an assignment that’s outside what you consider your realm of expertise, and sometimes, you just can’t say “no.” Yet, to think you will come out of the experience unscathed might not be realistic. Nevertheless, it’s my experience that you will learn and become empowered for the next big challenge.

Here are a few tips to help you handle the difficult assignment—and conquer it:

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The Many Advantages of Defining Your Firm’s Value

Business-meeting

It all began when I did some research on how our firm members could better understand their worth and confidently present their value to clients and others. We settled on an approach in which participants answer questions about who they are, what they do, how and why they do it, what sets them apart and why clients should do business with them. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn by really considering the answers to such seemingly simple questions.

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10th Anniversary of Computerized CPA Exam

CPA-Exam-10-Year-Anniversary

Computerization of the CPA Exam has led to momentous benefits for candidates, the boards of accountancy and the CPA profession. Here are some interesting facts in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the first computerized CPA Exam delivery on April 5, 2004.

The candidate test-taking experience has improved with computerization, resulting in more available days to sit for the CPA Exam and faster score reporting. During the pencil-and-paper days, candidates could take the CPA Exam twice a year – either in May or November. The CPA Exam is now available 243 days a year (and 244 during a leap year). Before computerization, candidates waited 90 days to receive their scores. Score reporting now ranges from seven to 45 days, depending on when a candidate sits for the CPA Exam.

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3 Succession Planning Tips from Comedy’s Best

The AICPA hears a lot from CPA firms that are in need of a succession plan, and challenged by acquiring new talent or engaging the next generation of staff. In figuring out how to leave their firm in good hands, I think the profession can learn many lessons from today’s comedy leaders like Lorne Michaels of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and Harold Ramis, as Bill Sheridan pointed out in his Feb. 26 post on CPA Success. They’re working a smart succession planning model. They each gather together a group of gifted staff and give them the opportunity to develop their strengths, making for some very valuable broadcast properties.

Through SNL, Lorne Michaels has nurtured a long list of actors who went on to movie or television stardom after cutting their teeth on the show, including Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus,  Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Daily Show alumni Stephen Colbert and John Oliver each have their own shows, and Steve Carrel has had both television and movie hits. A lot of talented people have left each program, but that’s alright because the shows’ successes—and the achievements of their alumni—attract new generations of promising young people who want to come on board.

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How CPAs Can Manage Vendors and Still Focus on Their Core Business

SLAOrganizations must focus on their core business – and that often means hiring vendors and service providers to perform tasks which fall outside of that core.  A prime example of this is upgrading your organization’s information technology structure.  While you may know exactly what you want and how to go about getting it done, chances are that most CPAs lack the time or staff to make that goal a reality – without some outside help.

Managing vendors and service providers ranked among the top ten technology initiatives in both the U.S. and Canada according to the AICPA's 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Survey Results. Although overall confidence levels have declined, the survey showed some interesting differences between how public accounting firms and those in business and industry in both countries ranked the issue. In the U.S., public accounting firms rated the issue of managing vendors and service providers as the eighth most important; however business and industry organizations rated it tenth. 

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Before Your Clients Run to the Cloud, Remember SOC

Service-organization-control-markYou keep hearing about “the cloud.” You have read articles and attended conference sessions encouraging the use of cloud services. It is clear that the cloud is increasingly becoming a part of our business processes and solutions. Your clients are starting to clue in. This is for good reason. The cloud may enable them to reduce costs, better use their resources and perform more efficiently.

As your clients seek cloud services, how are you advising them?

Your clients should understand the importance of Service Organization Control reports. It is essential that they have trust in their cloud service providers and are assured that their information is being protected by the necessary security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, privacy controls and/or internal controls over financial reporting.

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