5 Tips for Navigating the Road to Leadership

RoadMy first job out of college was the best and worst experience of my life, and it taught me a lot about leadership. I started my career at Target, and because I had studied business, they had me running an area with five people reporting to me. My staff ranged from workers with little apparent interest in their jobs, to team leaders who were reporting to me. The challenges of running such a varied team can be overwhelming, but the job also gave me a tremendous range of responsibilities and leadership experiences, forcing me to learn quickly and be decisive. In the end, it was a good first job that certainly stretched me and helped me see that I could be a successful leader.

Taking the reins of leadership can be daunting, but along the way I have learned a number of useful lessons for current and aspiring leaders.

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The One Personality Trait All CPAs Share

Patrick Lee medalsAs Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month comes to a close, we share the story of one CPA, his remarkable achievements and the traits that were instilled in him growing up in a Chinese-American household. 

In my five years working closely with CPAs of diverse backgrounds, I am increasingly seeing one very consistent trait all CPAs seem to share, no matter what their background: drive. I know CPAs who have faced frustrating, even heartbreaking obstacles in pursuit of their credential. Even through the obstacles those same CPAs also strive for excellence in every aspect of their lives. 

That certainly seems to be the case with Patrick B. Lee, CPA. It’s not something he can shut off. Whether he’s teaching or running a marathon, he always seems to be devising new strategies to do things better and faster.

As someone whose instinct tells him to analyze and problem-solve, Lee, an assistant professor of accounting at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, finds that drive creeping into all areas of his life.

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4 Things Advisers Should Know about Technology Today

Voice recognition in a carAs practitioners, we have a responsibility to our clients and to ourselves to stay up to date on the latest tools and techniques of our trade. Most CPAs providing advice to individuals do an admirable job of staying current on tax and financial planning techniques, but not as well staying current on technology issues facing their firm. Here are some technology-related issues practitioners should be focusing on today.

The Pace of Change in Financial Technology (FinTech)

A revolution in financial technology has taken place over the last several years. If anything, the pace of change is accelerating, with implications for all financial service professionals. Until recently late adopters of technology were not penalized for being late to the game, because most of their local competitors were also late adopters. Technology has broken down regional barriers, so today you are not only competing against other local providers, but national and perhaps international providers as well. In addition, new players have entered the marketplace. FinTech startups from Silicon Valley and elsewhere are becoming a disruptive force, raising the technology bar and putting pressure on margins. The bottom line for readers is this: If you are not reviewing and upgrading your firm’s technology at least annually, you are falling behind. If there isn’t someone at the firm specifically responsible for this, the odds are that it won’t get done.

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Learning from Prince’s $250 Million Mistake

Prince 2Finally, almost a year and a month to the date of his death, a judge confirmed Prince’s six siblings to be his rightful heirs – after more than 45 people came forward claiming to be his wife, children, siblings or other relatives.

Last year, the legendary musician passed away, leaving behind not only a legacy of unparalleled music, but also a $250 million fortune – with no will or estate plan to be found. With the long-anticipated announcement that his siblings will inherit his fortune, we’re reminded again of the importance of planning ahead and hiring trusted experts to carry out your wishes.

Whether you have people clamoring after your money or not, it’s important to consider hiring an expert to sort through the, at times, very complicated process of estate planning. There are DIY websites and software packages that may seem attractive (and cheap!), but more often than not, you get what you pay for. More complicated life situations, such as children from a prior marriage, children with special needs, or capital gains from property appreciation, require the hands-on insight of an expert.

If you are a CPA or a lawyer, you might consider yourself the expert – but just as authors have other writers proofread their work, it’s important to have an unbiased third party look over your documents. Even U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who died in 1995, should have relied on estate planning experts to prepare his estate plan – but instead he took it upon himself, and his family paid over $450,000 in taxes because of his errors.

To be better prepared than Prince and Chief Justice Burger, seek out the assistance of an attorney or a CPA to draft a will and do estate planning, respectively. An attorney will help you navigate a will, and a CPA is best positioned to help with more complicated estate planning.

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It’s Time to Speak the Same Language on Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity 3Recent massive ransomware attacks on organizations around the world demonstrate how disruptive—and in some cases destructive—cyberattacks can be. The “WannaCry” malware incident is just the latest alarm on the ever-urgent call for companies to immediately address and manage their cybersecurity risks. Every organization is susceptible to cyber assaults, making a clearly defined, flexible and robust risk management program essential to a business’s ongoing success.

Addressing an Increasing Market Need

With cyberattacks on the rise, organizations are not only reinforcing their ability to prevent attacks, but also taking steps to demonstrate that they are doing all they can to detect, respond to, mitigate and recover from attacks on a timely basis. Customers, investors, boards of directors and even government officials want to know more about what companies are doing to address cybersecurity.

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Tips for Stress-Free Summer Travel

TravelAt long last, the winter coats have been washed and relegated to the back of the closet (or they’ll sit on the laundry room floor until next October waiting to be washed—don’t worry, I don’t judge) and you’re thinking about your summer travel plans. Perhaps you’d like to spend a glorious week at the beach, or take a road trip to visit historical sites. Maybe a lake house is your thing, or you’re jetting half way around the world to stay in an overwater bungalow in the Maldives* before they sink. It doesn’t matter whether your vacation will be via the family SUV or a private jet, there will be some element of drudgery—finalizing itineraries, packing, renting cars, making reservations. And if you’re traveling with young kids, face it: you’re going on a trip, not a vacation. The good news is that there are ways to minimize your vacation stress from the planning stages through the duration of your trip, no matter your destination or the company you keep.

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What Motivates Donors to Give?

Shutterstock_583541458In the summer of 2014, dumping a bucket of ice water on your head while being filmed was all the rage. My Facebook newsfeed was filled with videos of friends voluntarily drenching themselves for all to see. This activity was sparked by the ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge, a brilliant fundraising effort designed to increase awareness and support research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). In one month, the ALS Association raised more than $100 million. How could other not-for-profits recreate this success to benefit their organizations? While I don’t have the answers, I would recommend that you consider why donors give as a starting point.

Donor motivations have been researched, but results are not as straightforward as they may sound. What donors say is not always consistent with what donors do. So, what looks good on paper, is not always going to translate into success.

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Top 5 Reasons to Dig into the CPA Exam Blueprints

BlueprintThere are many things you don’t do unless you have the proper materials, information or training. You just don’t.  

Construction crews don’t build a 100-story skyscraper without a structural design plan. An amateur runner doesn’t jump into the New York City Marathon without having logged a substantial number of miles and completing a qualifying race. And neither you nor I can simply hop into a rocket and head off for a leisurely space walk without extensive training.

The point is, as a CPA candidate, when you finally set foot in a testing center, you should have thoroughly studied and become familiar with the Exam’s content. One of the best ways to do this: Study the AICPA’s CPA Examination Blueprints.

As the Exam’s developer, the AICPA publishes the Exam Blueprints, which is an in-depth, section-by-section guide for candidates preparing to test. If you’re planning to sit for the Exam and said to yourself, What are the Blueprints?, you need to dig in right away because you’ll:

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Just Kidding: Humor at Work

HumorI bought the world’s worst thesaurus yesterday. Not only is it terrible, it’s terrible.

I recently read a CGMA Magazine article which reported that more than 75 percent of CFOs in an Accountemps survey said that an employee’s sense of humor was very or somewhat important for fitting into the company’s corporate culture. I was intrigued by this and inspired to do a little more research on the importance of comedy in the workplace and what I could be doing to add a little levity to my remit. Here’s what I found:

  • There’s a reason we call funny people “witty;” a good sense of humor makes you appear more competent and confident
  • Research suggests that teams who joke more, communicate better (WSJ)
  • It matters what “kind” of funny you are, always be authentic and humble (HBR)
  • Use the right medium; humor rarely goes well over email (CGMA Magazine)
  • It’s OK to tell an unfunny joke; it’s not OK to tell an inappropriate joke (HBR)

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7 Ways to Improve Workforce Diversity

Shutterstock_241967758Do leaders of your organization put an emphasis on recruiting and retaining diverse talent? If the answer to that question is yes, then you are off to a good start. However, if your employer does not look to hire both entry-level staff and c-suite leaders of diverse backgrounds (including gender, age, ethnicity etc.), you may want to reconsider your strategy. Employing diverse individuals throughout the ranks of your organization is important. Diverse leaders in the c-suite provide unique perspectives and serve as role models for younger diverse staff. These leaders encourage a highly engaged workforce capable of effectively doing business in diverse and multicultural markets. Additionally, younger, less experienced staff members of diverse backgrounds are also crucial to an organization’s success. These individuals have opportunities to grow with your organization and fill the talent pipeline.   

Last spring, the AICPA answered the call for more workforce diversity education by conducting its first webcast series entitled “Unconscious Bias” which attracted over 3000 attendees. The conversations continued with the “Workplace Diversity” webcast series this past fall and the “Attracting and Recruiting Diverse Talent”, “Retaining and Advancing Diverse Talent”, and “How to Effectively Coach, Mentor, and Sponsor Diverse Talent” workshops this spring. Archives of these webcasts can be found here. Outlined below are seven workforce diversity best practices.

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How One Next-Gen CPA Dreams Big: Part 2

Jeff Badu - CopyWe spoke with Jeff Badu shortly after he launched his own firm, Badu Tax Services, LLC. Jeff has a bold, intrepid, entrepreneurial spirit and is passionate about helping people and giving back to society. He recently started Badu Investments and is preparing to take the PFS exam this summer so he can broaden the range of services he offers to his clients, who are primarily millennials. In this second part of the interview, we continue to explore Jeff’s journey.

AICPA: We learned a great deal about what drives you in the first part of our conversation. You spoke about your passion to help people and your entrepreneurial spirit. And you’re planning to take the PFS exam this summer. What is motivating you?

Jeff Badu: As a CPA, I get to help people solve some of their most challenging financial problems. I am very passionate about helping people in general, and with their financial future in particular. I work mainly with millennials, like me, and use different strategies to help reduce their income tax liability and maximize retirement and other savings. I find that people tend to prefer working with someone they can relate to, and my clients come to me because we identify with each other.

I have been interested in taxes since I was in middle school. It seems natural to me that tax compliance and planning are key ways to help people plan for their future. It’s very important to me to increase people’s understanding of the significance of making wise financial choices, which I try to do with my radio show, website and social media presence. Being able to increase my own expertise and offer a range of services so that I can be seen as the go-to trusted adviser is what’s prompting me to take the PFS exam this summer.

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How to Get the Most Out of a Virtual Conference


Virtual ConferenceConferences are a great way to network, earn CPE and stay up-to-date on new developments in the profession, but for some professionals, the travel time and expense can be obstacles. Virtual conferences offer the same content and CPE credits, but with some features that are unique to the online experience. You may even find that it’s more appealing than attending on-site.

Benefits of virtual conferences

Perhaps the best reason to attend an online learning event is the flexibility to view sessions when and where you want. With a virtual conference, you’ll get to choose from all the same thought-provoking sessions and speakers as on-site attendees. Plus, you’ll likely receive the handouts and presentations in advance of the sessions. This can help you prepare your questions ahead of time if the session includes a Q&A period. You’ll also be able to access sessions that are held concurrently via the archive, so there’s no need to choose between two interesting topics; you can view one via livestream and watch the other later. And if you missed that key point the speaker made, you can go back and listen again.

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3 Tips to Manage Sustainability Risks and Drive Value

Shutterstock_559076716What would happen if you had to make decisions about your company using only a portion of the financial information that is available to you? Without a holistic understanding of your company’s financial situation and value drivers, it would be tough to assess the organization’s performance, risks, challenges, and opportunities and drive long-term growth. Planning without all the information could potentially put the company at a competitive disadvantage and expose the company to greater risk.

However, that’s what happens in many organizations when they fail to fully consider the operational and financial implications of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks. Examples of how these risks can play out in the market include:

  • A beverage company’s production drops or they lose their license to operate due to drought conditions in water stressed regions in which the company operates.
  • A technology company faces employee turnover and sinking revenues because it fails to encourage or accept the innovative ideas of its highly skilled labor force.
  • An apparel company experiences a stock price drop after reports allege its suppliers are committing human rights violations.

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Thanks, Mom: What We Learned from Our Mothers

It might take 20 (or 30 or 40) years, but eventually, most people recognize that between telling you to pick up/put away/tuck in/eat/clean/don’t stay out too late, your mom probably imparted you with some pretty good wisdom. In honor of Mother’s Day, we asked people to share what they’ve learned from their mothers.

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Find Answers to Your Cash and Tax Basis Questions

Shutterstock_123504565Why do cats purr? Why are pizza boxes square when the pizza is round? Sometimes it’s hard to find a single answer – let alone the right answer - to your questions. Do you know where to turn to when you have a question about the income tax basis or cash basis of accounting? Practitioners frequently ask questions about how to account for transactions using these special purpose frameworks. What they quickly find is a lack of authoritative guidance. Searching and googling can give you umpteen answers. But you need the right one.

The Center for Plain English Accounting, AICPA’s national accounting and auditing (A&A) resource center, often answers questions about the tax and cash bases of accounting. For example, the following two questions were recently posed by members:

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Don’t Let Clients’ Retirement Fall into This Trap

TrapHave you ever been at a party where the owner of a company was bragging about how he used a 401k to start his business? Or heard a story about how a couple’s individual retirement account (IRA) is invested in real estate and that’s going to allow them to live in the lap of luxury when they retire?

They’re talking about self-directed retirement vehicles. And much like real vehicles, when they are driven improperly, the result can be disaster.

What Are Self-Directed Retirement Vehicles?

Self-directed IRAs and self-directed 401ks are increasingly popular. While the usual custodians of IRA and 401(k) accounts will only allow certain investments (e.g., stocks, bonds, etc.), a self-directed IRA or 401(k) allows the owner to invest in such things as real estate, precious metals, businesses, etc. and make all the investment decisions. Profits from the investment build up tax-free until the owner reaches retirement and begins to take distributions, usually when the owner’s tax rate is much lower. Sounds good, right? What could go wrong?

Well, actually, a lot can go wrong. As a matter of fact, if you have clients in one of these situations, they could lose substantial amounts, if not all, of their retirement income. How can this happen and what can you do to help?

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Back to Basics with "Money Minutes"

Money mattersImagine a world where high school graduates confidently understand the pros and cons of credit cards, recognize the significance of an emergency savings fund and even have a strong grasp on what student loans mean for their financial future. Does it sound utopian to you? Maybe, but at the AICPA we strive to provide students with resources to obtain this kind of knowledge each and every day.

A recent financial literacy test given by the National Financial Educator’s Council found that test-takers from 15-18 years old scored an average of only 63.17%. To experts, personal finance topics are seemingly common sense, however, there is a huge discrepancy between what is taught in school and what students are expected to know upon graduation and beyond. To help combat this issue, the AICPA launched Money Minutes, a video module series that gets back to basic concepts of financial management for high school students.

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7 Tips to Get the Most out of Your Next Accounting Technology Event

Tech conferenceThe biggest benefit to attending an accounting technology event is the convenience of having many vendors, thought-leaders and your peers in one location that also provides CPE credits. These events provide the perfect opportunity to problem-solve, learn and investigate technology during a condensed timeline. Whether you have a project planned or if one is on the horizon, being able to talk to your peers and multiple vendors at your next accounting technology event is a convenience and may shorten your investigation time.

Consider these tips to get the most out of your next accounting technology event. 

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11 Things You Need to Know About Your Millennial Co-workers

MillennialsMove over, Gen X; millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Look around your office and you’ll likely see that one in three of your coworkers is a millennial (born between 1977-1995; a.k.a. Gen Y). Currently there are over 83 million Gen Yers in the United States, and that number is expected to grow. As this generation continues to mature and enter the workforce, understanding millennials and what motivates them has never been more important.

For the first time in U.S. history, four generations are working together, and the age gap between co-workers can be as wide as 60 years. You’ll find traditionalists, baby boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers working side by side in many offices. Each of these generations has defining traits that are shaped by a variety of factors. These factors include parenting styles, economic trends, technology advancements, historical events and lifespan. This results in different work and communication styles, career goals and values.

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Valuing Contributions to Major Advancements in Medicine

HeLa cellsHow do you place a value on human cells that have changed the entire trajectory of cancer treatment and have paved the way for medical breakthroughs in diseases like polio, HIV and HPV?

The best-selling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – now also an HBO movie starring Oprah Winfrey – examines how, in 1951, cancer cells were harvested during a biopsy of an African-American woman without her knowledge. Those cells, known as HeLa cells, are the oldest and most commonly used human cell line in biomedical research and have had a significant impact on medical research and advancements in treatment for decades.

The story of Henrietta Lacks raises moral and ethical questions about patients’ rights. To start, the Lacks family was unaware their mother’s genetic tissue was taken and being used for research. Further, they never received any form of financial compensation for the profits gained by the medical community for more than 65 years. To this day, Lacks’ eldest son continues the family’s fight for compensation.

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How One Next-Gen CPA Dreams Big

Part I

Jeff Badu - CopyOn a mission to help people and entrepreneurially spirited, Jeff Badu represents the next generation of CPAs. At 24 years old, he runs his own firm, hosts a weekly radio show, volunteers his time, and is preparing to take the PFS exam this summer. The AICPA spoke with Jeff about his passion for the profession and his dedication to helping millennials save on their taxes and plan for their financial future.

AICPA: You’ve accomplished quite a bit for someone in their mid-twenties. Can you give us some background on yourself and how you became a CPA?

Jeff Badu: I came to the United States from Ghana when I was just 8 years old. My family settled on the north side of Chicago, where I still live. I have always been a numbers guy, but it was very early on that I discovered my love for accounting and business, and the opportunities those industries present. I was introduced to my first tax return in the eighth grade, and that was when I knew I was interested in this sort of work.

Graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with both a Bachelor’s of Science and a Master’s of Science in Accountancy, I began doing tax returns for friends my freshman year of college and really enjoyed it, and that helped me set a path for my future. I developed a business plan and mapped out my road to the CPA. I only took one class my second semester of graduate school so I could focus on it. I was the first person in the library every day, and the last to leave at night. I was ecstatic – and exhausted – when I found out I passed.

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5 Silent Killers of a Financial Plan

Silent killer“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

As it turns out, poet Robert Burns was onto something. All too often, CPAs and advisers construct tax, estate, retirement, risk management and investment plans that are either never implemented or are misaligned with their clients’ values. Some common missteps could keep a client from adopting a well-crafted financial plan, thus diminishing the value you add to the process.

Let’s take a look at some of these silent killers and how to avoid them before another financial plan goes awry.

Unrealistic Expectations
Perhaps the most common (and avoidable) mistake is building a financial plan on highly aspirational, or worse, totally unrealistic expectations. A sound financial plan is only as good as its inputs, so it’s important to ensure that you are forecasting an appropriate rate of return, inflation rate and honest gauge of spending and cash flow needs. Digging into the client’s cash flow today can help determine a realistic spending level in retirement.

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Will a New EBP Audit Proposal Enhance Quality?

Shutterstock_502885915Enhancing quality in various areas of the audit and various kinds of audits is a top priority for us at the AICPA. We recently issued an exposure draft entitled Forming an Opinion and Reporting on Financial Statements of Employee Benefit Plans Subject to ERISA. Its goal is to provide a report that clarifies audit procedures and the responsibilities of auditors and management, thus improving quality and transparency. The Auditing Standards Board (ASB) is encouraging auditors and preparers who are involved in audits of the financial statements of Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plans to familiarize themselves with this proposal, and we are very interested in receiving feedback on the proposed changes. Comments should be sent to Sherry Hazel at Sherry.Hazel@aicpa-cima.com by Aug. 21.

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How One CPA Got the Chance to Edit the Journal of Accountancy

Lindsay StevensonHave you ever wanted to try something completely opposite from your everyday norm? Maybe BASE jumping from a mountain or zip-lining through the jungle? For me, writing and journalism have always been that out-of-the-ordinary experience that would be radically different from my everyday CPA-related work. (Don’t judge; it can be as exciting as BASE jumping in some circles!)

So when the team at the AICPA’s Journal of Accountancy (JofA) reached out and asked me to join a small group of young CPAs to guest edit the May 2017 issue, I jumped at the chance.

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Finding Success by Prioritizing Diversity & Inclusion

RichardcaturanoThe basic reason for diversity and inclusion (D&I) is obvious: supporting people from various diverse backgrounds is the right thing to do. The business drivers are also becoming more widely recognized—D&I fuels innovation, increases business performance, attracts top talent and more. Specifically within accounting, when we recruit, retain and advance diverse individuals, our profession is more reflective of the clients and the communities we serve.

Despite these excellent reasons, there’s still a hesitation within the accounting profession to fully embrace D&I—perhaps due to a perceived lack of time, resources or understanding of where to begin or how to move forward. So how can D&I make its way to the top of an accounting firm’s agenda?

Leadership can send a powerful message, by elevating D&I to a strategic priority and going beyond just adopting it as a philosophy. Leaders who are bringing success to their organizations by prioritizing D&I also accept that it must be ever-evolving. They recognize that it is a business imperative that not only keeps them competitive but also resonates with their personal values.

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Bingo Balls, Atomic Elements and Passing the CPA Exam

Bingo ballsThe number 75 has various meanings around the world. It can sometimes denote a diamond anniversary. It’s the age limit for a juror in England and Wales. Science junkies know it as the atomic number for the chemical element Rhenium. And here in the U.S., it’s the number of balls in a standard game of Bingo; something which I’m sure fans of the game are quite aware of at their Friday night get-togethers.

But, the number 75 holds no greater significance in this world than for the 100,000-plus of you who sit for the Uniform CPA Examination each year. Achieve that number or higher on any of the four sections of the exam, and you’re one step closer to licensure.

A common misconception for those new to the CPA exam is that 75 is a percentage or number of questions answered correctly. No, you don’t get a “C” on the exam if you score a 75. It’s simply the passing mark that signifies you have demonstrated the minimum knowledge and skills necessary to protect the public interest as a CPA.

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Thriving with Autism: One CPA's Story

Tom IlandAccording to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one in every 68 American children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A newer government survey boosts the prevalence of this condition to one in 45 children. Though the frequency of autism remains debatable, it’s undeniably among the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S., with diagnoses having increased 119.4% since 2000.

Now, pivot to the inevitability of Generation Z, post-millennial youths constituting 20% of the workforce by 2020. When you consider the staggering prevalence of autism in this particular age group and combine those occurrences with the even more daunting unemployment rate of people with autism, the implication for our economy’s future is alarming.

Enter: Tom Iland, who at 13 was diagnosed with autism. Affectionately called The Calculator by his junior high schoolmates, Tom discovered at a very young age that, despite certain shortcomings, he was a wiz with numbers. Among his many mathematical talents, he can – in no more than a second – provide the sum of a word by adding its letters’ corresponding numerical values:

If A=1, B=2…Z=26, then autism = 83.

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Documentation: A Key Ingredient for Audit Success

Pound cakeYou’re trying out a pound cake recipe, but when you pull your pan out of the oven, you realize the cake didn’t rise. Instead of being fluffy and moist, it’s flat and dense. You double-check the recipe and stop short when you see baking powder on the ingredient list. You left that out because you didn’t have any and you figured it wouldn’t matter. You did everything else perfectly, so how could leaving out this one ingredient have such a big impact?

You may never have thought there could be a similarity between baking and auditing, but in both cases, leaving out one key ingredient can ruin the outcome. You’d be amazed how often it happens.

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Top Issues for Not-for-Profits This Year

Shutterstock_81589264As auditors and management begin to prepare for June 30 year-end audits, it’s a good time to share some of the top concerns for not-for-profits this year. How can not-for-profits reassure donors that their contributions are in safe hands? What key implementation issues on new accounting standards updates are not-for-profits grappling with? Outlined below are four topics that should not be overlooked.

  1. Cybersecurity

In addition to common hacking risks, not-for-profits that accept electronic contributions are targets for credit card fraud. While retailers collect certain personal information to set up customer accounts and ship goods, not-for-profits often forgo requiring that level of detail to make donating simple. Unfortunately, this makes not-for-profits an easier testing ground for stolen credit card data. Not-for-profit entities with real-time credit card authorization and settlement are even more likely to fall victim because real-time verification makes the stolen data more valuable. These organizations then bear the burden of repaying fraudulent donations in addition to paying fees related to the refunds. Organizations that use electronic methods to accept contributions should consider adopting appropriate controls to ensure revenues are properly recognized and that cash receipts are safeguarded.

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A Call to Action for Young Leaders

Applying to the AICPA’s Leadership Academy Could be the Boost Your Career Needs

Leadership Academy group photoHey, you. You made it over the hurdle of getting your CPA license, and you’re eager to take the next step in your career development… But you’re not quite sure what that looks like. Professional development takes on many shapes and sizes. Some people like online learning and self-study, while others are drawn to a classroom setting. Many people focus on developing their soft skills, while other prefer to keep their knowledge base sharp with more technical sessions.

One often overlooked aspect of development is building a strong network of contacts in your chosen profession. If you’re interested in connecting with some of the best and brightest young CPAs in the country, look no further than the AICPA’s Leadership Academy.  This selective event exposes the next generation of CPAs to a strong ethic of leadership and service to their profession that CPAs are known for.

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Why Playing Games is a Brilliant Move

GamesWhether you’re rolling the dice to move past “Go” or speeding around curves like Mario, numerous studies show playing games of almost any kind stimulates thinking. Board games, chess, word games, games of strategy and the like are obvious choices. But did you know shooting hoops, playing interactive video games, golf, even playing charades in your living room, are all brilliance-builders too? Name the game and chances are it helps you think better and think faster, but note that different types of games enhance different parts of your intellect.

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Tax Refunds and Financial Responsibility

Tax refundThe very same week our accountant (my father) informed us we would be getting a $1,550 tax refund (thank you, 2016, for the purchase of our first home and birth of our second child), my husband and I discovered a sizeable leak in our garage roof. So now, instead of using that money for a home repair we actually wanted to make, or to boost our savings account, or add to college savings plans, or more likely, to help pay for two kids in diapers and daycare, we’re buying a new flat roof. Lucky us. But this episode got me thinking—what do most people do with tax refunds? And what do CPAs advise they do? Is there a happy medium between fiscal responsibility and fun?

Aim for No Refund at All

First and foremost, the goal, according to most CPAs, is to not get a refund. While many people love getting a large chunk of change every spring, it indicates you’re overpaying and essentially giving the government an interest-free loan. Getting no refund at all means you’re paying the IRS exactly the right amount. Of course situations change from year to year (see my home purchase and birth of kid references above) so you might not always get it right.

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Employers: 5 Tips to Make Work from Home Policies Successful

Part II

Remote workersWorking from home brings with it a special set of challenges and benefits for employees, covered in Part 1 of this series. But what if you’re the employer? An increasing number of employers – from boutique firms to huge organizations – offer their employees everything from flexible work arrangements to full-time remote work. Many have found that with the right protocols in place, flexible work arrangements benefit employers as well.

Increasingly Small World 

There’s an online video featuring two co-workers...they walk, stop for coffee, cab to work…they’re apparently working on a project together. At first they seem to be in the same place at the same time. Then it hits you – the locales are different, the cultures are different, even the time zones. But when they work, they work as one.

This concept of working together from a variety of locations has been around for years – particularly for CPA practices. Many small, medium and large firms have incorporated the idea of a remote workforce. Technology has completely changed the profession by [more easily linking employees and in] opening up new ways to add value for practices, employers, employees and even clients.

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Advice From Your Peers – 6 Tips to Acclimate to A New Role

Joining a new teamThere’s no doubt that starting a new role, whether in the same company or a new one, can be stressful. Between learning the culture of the organization and remembering all the new names, your first few weeks can be overwhelming. Half the battle is learning the inner workings of your new teammates – so how do you manage this?

To find out how CPAs deal with this life change, we put out a call for responses on AICPA social media channels; here’s the advice we heard.

David Pope, CPA, CGMA

“Learn the personalities and the culture of the team. Watch for cues about the motivational drivers for each member and develop an understanding of what you can expect from each. This will help you to integrate quickly and to know when to push and when to back away.”

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5 Upcoming GAAP Changes Not-for-Profits Should Know

Shutterstock_574620880Wrapping your head around the accounting standards changes on the horizon is no easy task—let alone figuring out which ones deserve the most attention. To help with this, I have highlighted five Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Accounting Standards Updates (ASUs) that not-for-profit accounting professionals should consider prioritizing this year. The following updates have fast-approaching effective dates, so it is important to familiarize yourself with these standards now.

Going Concern Requirements

For the first time in history, U.S. GAAP addresses management's responsibility to evaluate and disclose whether there is substantial doubt about an entity's ability to continue as a going concern. This change is significant because it shifts primary responsibility for the entity’s going concern assessments from auditor to management. Auditors should also be aware that FASB’s issuance of ASU No. 2014-15 prompted a change in the related auditing standards. The AICPA Auditing Standards Board (ASB) issued its going concern standard (SAS No. 132) in February 2017. SAS No. 132 has key changes that auditors will want to pay close attention to, including the required timeframe for considering going concern issues.

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Master Your Money: Golf Lessons for Financial Fitness

Sergio GarciaIf you watched the Masters this past weekend, you were most likely sitting on the edge of your seat. Sergio Garcia from Spain clinched the title from English player Justin Rose in a playoff that turned golf rookies into fans for life.

The most notable part of Garcia’s victory wasn’t the nail-biting 18th hole, but that he had nearly two decades of tournament experience – and this was his first major victory. Although considered one of the best players in golf, he never rose to the top like Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo, Jack Nicklaus and other golf “greats.” Until now.

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5 Tips to Make Working from Home Successful

Part I

Working from homeBy now you’ve probably seen the viral video that made Marion Kelly, 4, the poster girl for working from home gone (adorably) awry. A boisterous Kelly gleefully bounced into her father’s home office in South Korea while he was being interviewed by BBC on live television. A secondary star of the interview? Her little brother James who rolled into the frame in his walker, quickly followed by their flustered, horrified mother who scooped them up and retreated.

Over the past decade, flexible work arrangements have become increasingly common. Employees are no longer expected in the office Monday through Friday without question. The prevalence of widely accessible Wi-Fi, video conferencing, and web-based work-sharing tools make working remotely relatively painless. But if you ask anyone who has worked from home with some degree of regularity, they will each have their own Marion Kelly story for you—an interrupting child, a home repair disaster, Wi-Fi disruptions. Life happens.

To make working from home as seamless as possible, there are steps you can take to optimize your remote work set up.

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5 Emerging Services Set to Transform the Accounting Profession

Shutterstock_515980906What’s on the horizon? How are changes in the business marketplace creating new opportunities for the accounting profession? What are the implications of up-and-coming technologies like blockchain?  These, among a host of other emerging trends were discussed recently at the AICPA’s Assurance Services Executive Committee (ASEC) meeting. The committee, composed of the profession’s leaders in assurance and advisory services, engaged in an insightful discussion about issues that are gaining traction internationally and in the United States.

In addition to discussing ideas for potential future projects, the committee also spoke about the projects they have currently underway that facilitate new opportunities for practitioners to provide value-added services to clients. These include five emerging service opportunities:

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Getting Started with Innovation

InnovationInnovation and Accounting may sound like an odd pairing. But they don’t have to be!

Innovation is often used to describe the act of doing something new, creative and risky. This definition - especially the part about risk - may not align with traditional accounting ideals. But consider this, if you are not the disruptor, you will likely get disrupted. Innovation may seem risky, but ignoring it could prove fatal.  Given the magnitude and speed of change throughout the world, innovation is a necessity for your career, your clients and the profession. Done well, embracing innovation can help reduce risk as you cast a keen eye on what lies ahead rather than hold on to the past. Let’s explore three simple steps (plus a bonus step) to get started with innovation.

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Candidates: Take Note of CPA Exam Score Holds in 2017

The Q2, Q3, and Q4 2017 score release dates are posted to the Score Release Timeline page of the AICPA’s CPA Exam page. Candidates should pay special attention to the tables below as scores will only be released once following the close of each testing window. The score holds were previously announced in December 2016. For complete information regarding Exam scoring, please visit the Examination Scoring and Scoring FAQ pages.

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

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5 Data Backup Gaps and How to Fix Them

World Backup DayMarch 31 is World Backup Day. Why March 31? Because you don’t want to be an April fool according to World Backup Day’s organizers.

Human error, equipment failure and theft are just a few ways your organization could be at risk of data loss. Today, no firm or company can afford to be without a cybersecurity risk management program. If you’re like most CPAs, this is not news to you. In fact, if you’re somewhat of a data backup fanatic, you might already be paying for secure offsite storage of paper files as well as digital backups. Still, experts say even the most diligent often have gaps in their backup practices. Let’s look at some of the most common considerations and how to address them.

  1. Do you know exactly how to retrieve your backups? For starters, knowing the person in your office who you think knows how to retrieve your backups doesn’t count. Knowing the name of one of your cloud backup vendors is not enough. Retrieval is an often underdeveloped but equally important aspect of backup planning (see #5 below). Unfortunately, there’s no single, all-encompassing solution for backing up your systems. Even in a small firm, you’ll likely need three or four different backup systems. Tax preparation, bookkeeping and auditing software packages often have integrated, cloud-based backup options. There’s the information on your office network and server(s)—here you can choose a cloud-based solution or an onsite backup system that updates each night. Then you have your desktop and laptop PCs. And, finally, you have smart phones, tablets, watches, etc. Organize your retrieval information for ALL systems and test it—like a fire drill. If your test goes off without a hitch, you can skip the rest of this post.

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6 Ways to Up Your Networking Game

Networking blog post (002)I used to be afraid of networking. As an avowed introvert with a moderate case of shyness, too often I would pass up opportunities to meet and connect with people. Much later in life I would discover that networking was an acquired skill and was well within my reach. I let go of my fear of rejection when I realized that networking was not about me, but was about building relationships and finding ways to be helpful to others. I can do that. You can too.

Networking, at its essence, is the simple but profound activity of creating, freshening and strengthening an array of mutually beneficial professional relationships with a diverse cross-section of people. Here are a few tips that will help you up your game, especially when meeting people at events or in large groups.

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21 Songs to Motivate You for the Busy Season Homestretch

Shutterstock_233268223The end of March is here, which means that the end of busy season is just a few weeks away. Congratulations! You have accomplished a great deal so far.  I know it is easy to get discouraged at this point. You are likely feeling sleep-deprived and stressed about your looming deadlines. How will you ensure that you will finish this season strong? Maybe you stay motivated by thinking about the time you will have to catch up on your favorite shows, work out at the gym, or relax with family and friends once April 18 rolls around. Or maybe you push through to the end by turning up the music.

Whether you look for tunes with inspirational lyrics and catchy beats or songs that promote focus, there are numerous options out there, so why not create a motivational playlist?

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Female Perspectives: 3 AICPA Chairs’ Success in the Profession

Women's history monthMarch is Women’s History Month, a chance for the world to acknowledge the contributions of women.  

The AICPA is on a mission to shine light on successful, female CPAs who have cracked the proverbial glass ceiling. We interviewed three women who have recently shared their talents with the AICPA by taking on the role of board chair.

Meet the first female chair to be elected in 1998, Olivia Kirtley, fourth female chair, Tommye Barie elected in 2014, and present chair Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, who made history as the first African American woman to be elected. These pioneers discuss their climb to the top and what it took for them to reach their position.

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"Inconvenience Everybody Equally" and Other Management Tips

Global meetingsMuch has been written on how best to manage virtual teams, but my favorite tidbit is one I recently picked up from Harvard ManageMentor that suggests managers “inconvenience everybody equally.” What I love about this philosophy is that it's as effective as it is simple.

The issue plaguing June Delano, Partner, ClearLake Group (a management consulting firm), was that her team of 17 was spread out across 10 different countries and time zones. They had to meet at least every other week, but scheduling was tough. After a bit of trial and error, June implemented her “inconvenience everybody equally” rule. By rotating the time of the meeting, somebody was always up in the middle of the night and somebody was always in the middle of their workday. Everyone else fell at another point on that spectrum. “It meant that everybody got a chance to be drowsy and falling asleep and everybody got a chance to be wide awake and full of energy,” she said.

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4 Simple Ways to Squeeze in Exercise During Busy Season

ExerciseDuring tax season, accountants become accustomed to burning the midnight oil. Our long days turn into nights and nights into weekends. In the midst of our busy routines, it’s hard enough to balance career, family and a multitude of other obligations, let alone give adequate attention to physical exercise.

Carving out time for regular exercise is vital. Not only does it come with a variety of health benefits, but it also helps your mind work more efficiently. By investing in yourself and devoting energy to daily exercise, you will reap the rewards of better physical and emotional health as well as enhanced cognitive function – something we all need in order to conquer the busy season.

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That Time I Told Mark Cuban He Was Wrong About the CPA Profession

Mark cuban 1Last Wednesday afternoon, I read that Mark Cuban said he would not want to be a CPA right now because advances in technology mean it isn’t a profession for the future.

Wednesday night, I sacrificed sleep so I could write a lengthy blog post explaining how Mr. Cuban clearly didn’t consider the many ways the accounting profession is getting ahead of change and anticipating the future needs of the marketplace.

And by Thursday afternoon, I was explaining my argument to him in person.

How?

I was editing the first draft of my blog post on Thursday when a colleague walked into my office to announce that, according to rumor, Mr. Cuban was in the lobby of our office building at that very moment. Could life be so serendipitous that I could get a photo with the subject of my blog post? Naturally, I had to investigate.

The lobby of our office building was quite empty that day, so I immediately saw that the rumors were true. Sitting right there in front of me was the individual that had caused my writing fury. He was engaged in a conversation, but made eye contact with me and smiled kindly. I took that as my opportunity to introduce myself.

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Why the ACA Executive Order Doesn’t Void the Rules for CPAs

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.

--Abraham Lincoln

ACAOn Inauguration Day, President Trump followed through on his campaign position regarding the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) and issued an Executive Order (“EO”) with the stated intent of minimizing the economic burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) pending repeal. Sec. 2 of the EO Addresses removing certain burdens from both the government and taxpayers surrounding compliance with the ACA. 

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FASB New Not-for-Profit Standard: Maintaining Auditor Independence

Shutterstock_314848547 (1)Although the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s new not-for-profit financial reporting standard (ASU 2016-14) does not go into effect until 2018, it includes significant changes that both not-for-profits and auditors should begin preparing for now.  

ASU 2016-14 will require several modifications to the existing framework of the financial statements as well as new required disclosures related to liquidity, availability of assets and board-designated net assets. Further, it may require organizations to revise certain policies and procedures, update financial reporting practices and make net asset accounting adjustments. All of this could seem overwhelming. 

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Here’s the Skinny on Driver’s License Information for State Tax Returns

LicenseAs you have probably heard, several states have added a request or a requirement for a driver license number (or other state identification number) to be entered into the tax software system for the return to be electronically filed. As practitioners, you likely understand the reasoning for the request – this information helps states confirm the identity of taxpayers, which aids in reducing identity theft. However, the logistics of obtaining the information and explaining this requirement to your clients may prove to be difficult.

Here are some frequently asked questions (and answers) to help you with this issue.

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