Second Screen Gold: #Sochi2014

Olympics-sochiSocial media has the power to connect people across the globe who are interested in a common topic. Over the past few weeks, millions of users flocked to social media to share insights about the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. 

As with other high-profile televised events, using social media gave viewers the opportunity to create a very interesting ‘second screen’ experience during the Olympic Games.  According to Mashable, the term ‘second screen’ refers to “…the use of an additional monitor (e.g. tablet, smartphone) while watching television. It allows the audience to interact with what they’re consuming whether it’s a TV show, video game or movie.”

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A Look Inside the Oscars

Oscar-statueWe are now a couple days away from one of the most watched and tweeted awards shows, the Academy Awards. Earlier this week the AICPA's CPA Letter Daily polled its readers to see which movie they thought would win the Best Picture Oscar. “12 Years a Slave” was the top vote getter, with 31.71% of the vote. Coming in next was “American Hustle” (19.59%) followed by “Gravity” (13.79%). We will just have to wait and see if the readers predicted correctly.

A highlight of most award shows, at least for CPAs, is not necessarily who won what or what they were wearing, but rather those 30 seconds of fame for the CPAs featured on stage during the national broadcast. Most years the CPAs wave from the stage, sporting briefcases embossed with their firm’s name. However, some years, they get a slightly different mention, as the cast of “The Big Bang Theory” gave CPAs two years ago at the Emmys.

In January, PwC, which has overseen the balloting process for the Oscars for the last 80 years, announced that Brian Cullinan, CPA, chair of PwC’s U.S. board of partners and managing partner of PwC’s Southern California practice, joined the leadership team managing the 2014 balloting process alongside Rick Rosas, CPA. They will be the only two people in the world who know the identities of the Oscar winners before they are revealed on Sunday.

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Hidden Traps for Small Employer HRAs in 2014

Surprised-businessLike many small employers with under 50 full-time equivalent employees, I thought my company would be relatively unaffected by the Affordable Care Act. I was surprised to discover that my company Healthcare Reimbursement Arrangement is legal, but is now completely unworkable.

I have offered for several years to full-time employees a standalone HRA for which they get pre-tax reimbursements for out-of-pocket medical expenses and health insurance premiums, up to the annual predetermined dollar limit. HRAs generally fall under Code Section 105(b) and are considered employer self-insured accident or health plans. By design, HRA plans have dollar limits on annual and lifetime benefits provided to participants. However, to be a qualified group health plan in 2014, the plan must provide minimum essential health benefits without annual or lifetime dollar limits. My company’s HRA fails to meet this basic requirement. 

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No Matter What You Call It, Valuation Standards Apply

Business-valuationSince Statement on Standards for Valuation Services No.1 was released in June of 2007, I have received numerous questions about when SSVS No. 1 applies. It is important to note that all AICPA members are required to follow all AICPA standards, and many state boards of accountancy require CPAs to follow AICPA standards as well. 

SSVS No. 1 was promulgated for one reason: To protect the public and the reputation of CPAs. Before SSVS No. 1, both CPAs and non-CPAs would tell their clients the value of their business based on what amounted to a rule of thumb measurement. The client would then rely on that number for tax returns, transactions, employee stock ownership plans and many other purposes, sometimes with negative consequences for their own clients.

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A Golden Opportunity: Performing IPSAs of Conflict Minerals Reports

Mound-of-goldHave you read about conflict minerals in the news? Apple Inc. recently stated in its supplier responsibility report that the company’s entire supply of tantalum used in its products was verified as conflict free, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. The report also noted that “we’re pushing our suppliers of tin, tungsten, and gold just as hard to use verified sources.”

This news relates to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s final rule issued in August 2012 which required public companies to disclose their use of “conflict minerals” in their manufacturing processes and supply chains. The term “conflict minerals” describes certain minerals—tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold—that are mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its surrounding areas. Public companies might be required to file a Conflict Minerals Report, which may also be subject to an Independent Private Sector Audit. As a CPA, you are the premier provider of such an audit and the AICPA provides resources to help with inquiries you may be receiving from your clients.

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AICPA’s Legacy Scholars Giving Back to their Communities

Thiswaytocpa_logo_webThe AICPA recently announced that undergraduate and graduate level accounting students may now apply online for scholarships for the 2014-2015 academic year.

In addition, the AICPA has created a new scholarship for students who have earned a finance-related associates degree and declared their intent to major in accounting at a four-year college or university. The AICPA Foundation Two-Year Transfer Scholarship will provide $1,000 to five qualified recipients.

The AICPA Foundation Two-Year Transfer Scholarship joins the AICPA/Accountemps Student Scholarship, AICPA John L. Carey Scholarship, and AICPA Scholarship for Minority Accounting Students to comprise the AICPA Legacy Scholars program.

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How Would a U.S. Bitcoin Transaction be Taxed?

Accepting-bitcoinsOverstock.com, the Sacramento Kings and a few countries have all taken positions on what they will do with Bitcoins.  The two major Bitcoin positions are treatment of it as property, as Singapore has recently adopted, or as currency, as Germany has chosen.  

Much has been written on the creation of the Bitcoin, and its rise in popularity – and value – from 5 cents in 2010 to over $1,200 in 2013.  Bitcoins were born from combining electronic commerce and communications with mathematics, cryptography and privacy – as they only exist when your computer is functioning (or your iPad, smartphone, tablet, smart watch or Google glasses!), and they have no intrinsic value, save for what value people are willing to give.

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Building a Foundation for the Future of Management Accounting

CGMA-wordcloudThe strength of the tallest buildings lies within their foundations. As the CGMA designation continues to grow, I’d like to tell you a little about the foundation that makes it so strong. 

The CGMA designation was created to help people and businesses succeed. As we head towards 2015, there are a several major releases from the AICPA and CIMA, culminating in a universal exam in January 2015. These releases are the foundational building blocks of the designation.

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Emotions at Play: To Spend or Save?

Whether we like it or not, emotion plays a part in almost everything we do; from making a move at the end of a date to hitting the snooze in the morning before work. Emotion is that little bug in your ear that can sway your decision making, no matter how logical you may try to be. That’s why strong emotions, such as love, can make you feel so crazy. 

Pig - Love 2I’ve worked on the Feed the Pig campaign for several years, and as a member of its target audience I know firsthand that emotional spending is a common struggle for my peers. This is especially true when it comes to holidays, like today, Valentine’s Day, when Americans feel compelled to spend that extra dollar to show someone that we care, no matter how unnecessary and unrealistic it may be.

A few weeks ago, we sat down with National Financial Literacy Commission members Kelley Long, CPA/PFS, and Clare Levison, CPA, for a Facebook chat with consumers about finances and the role that emotions often play in our decisions. Here are a few of the top Q&As from the event:

 

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Relief for Missed Portability Elections

In this podcast, Bob Keebler covers Revenue Procedure 2014-18, which provides a simplified method for certain taxpayers to obtain an extension of time to make a portability election. Rev. Proc. 2014-18 provides an automatic extension for certain estates of decedents dying in 2011, 2012 and 2013 to elect portability. The extension applies to estates that would otherwise not have had a filing requirement, and allows the estates to file a return to elect portability until December 31. It includes the estates of same-sex decedents who were not eligible to elect portability until after the Windsor decision. Access more resources in the Planning After ATRA and NIIT Toolkit, including more podcasts, new charts by Bob Keebler as well as webcast recordings and Forefield Advisor alerts/videos, and the complete four-volume set of The CPA’s Guide to Financial & Estate Planning, recently updated for ATRA and NIIT, and much more.

Relief for Missed Portability Elections

 

 

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4 Resolutions for Business Solution Implementation Projects

Solution-implementationAt the beginning of a new year, many people create lists of resolutions or goals for the future. Just like you, companies make resolutions, too. Sometimes companies devise intricate ways to monitor and measure results against these goals. Yet, even with these seemingly adequate preparations in place, one continues to hear and read about project failures with nearly 50 percent of enterprise system implementation projects deemed failures. After a poor go-live, there is plenty of finger-pointing, usually at the external implementation and vendor team.  But, from my perspective, there is also a significant amount of blame that should be shared by the user organization.

So as a CPA and consultant, I would like to offer some resolutions for companies to keep when implementing a new computer system or undertaking an upgrade effort. These resolutions are based on an aggregation of observations during my work troubleshooting and resolving problems after the fact, and are not unique to any one client experience but are common to many engagements.  

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A Firm’s Strategy for Offering the FRF for SMEs Framework to Clients

AICPA-FRF-for-SMEsThe firm I work for, RubinBrown, prides itself on supporting small business. Our three offices are in America’s heartland – St. Louis, Kansas City and Denver. As an accountant, auditor and adviser for Main Street, private company financial reporting has always been an important issue to us. So, of course, last June we were excited to see the AICPA release its Financial Reporting Framework for Small- and Medium-Sized Entities. We quickly put in place a strategy to offer FRF for SMEsTM-based financial statement preparation to our clients who do not need GAAP-based financial statements.

For me, seeing what works for others and how they accomplish their goals helps me figure out an efficient and effective path for my own initiatives. If you are interested in expanding your firm’s services and serving your clients by using the FRF for SMEs, you may find our firm’s approach and experiences informative.

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Downton Abbey’s Death Duty Explained

Highclere CastleHighclere Castle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spoiler Alert: This blog post contains spoilers if you have not seen the first episode of season four of “Downton Abbey.”

“Downton Abbey,” the British period drama that takes place in the early 1900s, has made death taxes… fun. If you are not familiar with the show, I will set it up for you. The Crawleys are part of the British aristocracy as the Earl and Countess of Grantham. Robert Crawley is the fifth Earl of Grantham and has only one heir, Matthew Crawley. Matthew is Robert’s third cousin, once removed (at this time in history, women still could not inherit property or title). In season three, Matthew marries Mary, Robert’s daughter, to keep the estate, title and money in Robert’s direct line of descent. Almost immediately after the birth of Matthew and Mary’s son, Matthew dies in a car accident.

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Governing and Managing IT Investment and Spending

Return-on-investmentEvery organization wants to get the most out of its IT initiatives – without spending more than is needed or realizing that you have not spent enough to get the job done until it is too late. The key to achieving this depends on how your organization governs and manages its IT investment and spending – and having effective policies and procedures in place can help you to do just that.

The issue of governing and managing IT investment and spending was one of the top 10 technology initiatives in the AICPA’s 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Survey results, which was conducted jointly with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada. Governing and managing IT investment and spending ranked eighth in the top ten technology initiatives in the U.S. and was the fifth biggest concern in Canada. However, only 38% of survey respondents in both countries felt confident or highly confident in the ability of their clients’ organizations or their organizations to address this technology initiative.  So, how can you elevate those confidence levels?  By determining how to effectively maximize your IT ROI.

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Super Bowl Was More than Just a Game to Celebrate

Super-bowl-xlviii-logoYesterday’s Super Bowl was a chance for players and fans to celebrate the culmination of another great season. For the past three years, CPA Letter Daily readers have been asked to pick the winner of the Super Bowl. Readers correctly predicted the winners in 2011 (Packers) and 2012 (Giants), but not for 2013 (readers selected the 49ers over the Ravens). This year CPA Letter Daily readers overwhelming chose the Denver Broncos as the Super Bowl champions (73.34%). Unfortunately, their prediction was wrong as the Seattle Seahawks trounced the Broncos.

Super Bowl XLVIII was more than just a triumph for the Seahawks. It also was a celebration of a number of football firsts. It was the first Super Bowl to be held outdoors in a cold weather state, to be hosted by two states and to have a majority of attendees arrive via mass transit.

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In the News: The State of Accounting Jobs

We-are-hiringI don’t really recall my mindset when applying to college (it’s been more than five 15 years), but I can confidently say I should have spent more time thinking about my future employment prospects. Planning ahead would have allowed me to spend less time in college worrying that it would be difficult to find a job related to my major.

Luckily for high school students interested in accounting and college students planning to become CPAs, the job-related news about the profession lately has been very positive.

According to data from a survey conducted in November 2013 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 61% of accounting majors from the class of 2013 had received at least one job offer – the third highest percentage of any major.

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Super Bowl’s Hidden Treasure… the Jock Tax

Super-bowl-hotelAs the focus here in New Jersey switches from “Bridgegate” to “tailgate,” we think about the things that we love best about the Super Bowl. A few of mine include eating wings, drinking beer and, of course, watching those witty commercials. However, as the players gear up to battle the elements this week, one other thing separates this Super Bowl from the others: the proverbial taxman. Many states impose an income tax on nonresidents’ earnings and New Jersey is one of them. To professional athletes, it is known as the “jock tax.” 

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Top 10 Tax Resources for the 2014 Tax Season

Top-tenCaffeine, check. Office supplies, check. Patience for lost or late documents, check. What else do you need for tax season besides, of course, sympathetic family and friends?  Knowledge and technical resources help, as does convenience in finding them – so keep these resources from the AICPA bookmarked to help you prepare returns, manage your office, advise and communicate with clients, and even keep a sense of humor.

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Interview with Team Who Wrote Net Investment Income Tax

Bob Keebler interviews David Kirk and Adrienne Mikolshek, part of the team who wrote the Net Investment Income Tax regulations, to help members understand the new IRS Form 8960, Net Investment Income Tax for Individuals, Estates and Trusts and the draft instructions. Access more resources in the Planning After ATRA and NIIT Toolkit, including more podcasts, a customizable letter to send to clients to illustrate why it is important that they meet with you and new charts by Bob Keebler as well as webcast recordings and Forefield Advisor alerts/videos and the complete four-volume set of The CPA’s Guide to Financial & Estate Planning, recently updated for ATRA and NIIT and much more.

Interview with David Kirk and Adrienne Mikolashek

 

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Project Management: Getting Results and Seeing the Big Picture

Project-managementIt’s hard to believe I’m roughly one quarter of the way into my term as Chairman of the AICPA Board of Directors. In that role, I travel around the country extensively, meeting many members as I attend conferences, participate in meetings and give presentations, often at state CPA societies. I’m always excited to talk about the issues and opportunities facing our profession.  One area CPAs have been particularly eager to discuss is the concept of project management. And that was very interesting to me because I have long been a firm believer that strong project management skills are essential to getting your job done, growing your career and becoming an effective leader.

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Explore the New IRS Form for Net Investment Income Tax

Bob Keebler goes line by line through Form 8960, Net Investment Income Tax for Individual, Estates and Trusts, to help members understand key elements they need to know for tax season. Access more resources in the Planning After ATRA and NIIT Toolkit, including more podcasts, a customizable letter to send to clients to illustrate why it is important that they meet with you and new charts by Bob Keebler as well as webcast recordings and Forefield Advisor alerts/videos and the complete four-volume set of The CPA’s Guide to Financial & Estate Planning, recently updated for ATRA and NIIT, and much more. (Email subscribers can listen to the podcast on our website.)

IRS Form 8960 Draft Instructions

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Authoritative Guidance Issued for CPA Personal Financial Planners

Personal financial planning is projected to grow at a rate double that of the accounting profession through 2017. The expansion of services in areas such as estate, retirement, risk management and investments and the increased demand for these services have led the AICPA to further enhance its authoritative guidance in the delivery of personal financial planning services for the benefit of AICPA members' clients and practices.

The AICPA Statement on Standards in Personal Financial Planning Services provides AICPA members with comprehensive, enforceable guidance and a roadmap for delivering PFP services consistently and confidently. The standards are built on the cornerstone of the CPA profession – the public interest – and align with the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct, which upholds the highest levels of integrity, professionalism, objectivity and competence. Following the statement ensures that members’ clients receive the information they need to make sound financial decisions and that the standard of care expected of members holding out as trusted advisers is met.

A robust toolkit has been developed to help members understand the depth of the statement and put it into practice by the effective date of July 1. The toolkit is available to PFP Section members and CPA/PFS credential holders as a member benefit. It is also available for purchase

This informative podcast covers the ins and outs of the standards and how you will benefit from having a framework to guide your work with clients. (Email subscribers can listen to the podcast and see the slides on our website.)

Understanding and Applying the Statement on Standards in PFP Services

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Celebrating a Life of Service

MLK-Day-of-Service“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a day commemorating the extraordinary work and sacrifice of an incredible man; a day when people across the country strive to answer King’s question by coming together to serve their neighbors and communities. King is best known for his dedication to the advancement of civil rights, and, in his later years, poverty eradication and economic justice.

The MLK Day of Service is part of United We Serve, the President's national call to service initiative, asking Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.

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Cheater’s High? Let’s Talk About the “Auditor’s High”

According to a recent blog entry on the New York Times’ website, researchers have found that people who cheated, and got away with it, experienced a thrill, self-satisfaction and a sense of superiority. While that sensation was not as strong as the high that rats apparently get from eating Oreo cookies, it illustrates how exciting cheating can be. Take for instance the following:

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Understanding the 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax and Its Effects

In this podcast, Bob Keebler discusses the impact of the regulations on net investment income tax. Access more resources in the Planning After ATRA and NIIT Toolkit, including more podcasts, a customizable letter to send to clients to illustrate why it is important that they meet with you and new charts by Bob Keebler as well as webcast recordings and Forefield Advisor alerts/videos and the complete four-volume set of The CPA’s Guide to Financial & Estate Planning, recently updated for ATRA and NIIT and much more. (Email subscribers can listen to the podcast and see the slides on our website.)

Understanding the Net Investment Income Tax

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Tax Relief for Disaster Victims: We Can Do Better, Sooner

Hurricane-sandyIn 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit landfall along the Gulf Coast, the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005 (H.R. 3768) was introduced and passed by Congress in less than two weeks.

Unfortunately, this prompt response is not the standard model each time a disaster occurs.    Relief offered through the tax system varies, and as explained in the AICPA’s comment letter submitted to Congress last November, “this process results in taxpayers receiving different treatment for similar losses and not knowing what tax treatment they will receive until Congress enacts some form of relief, which frequently occurs long after the disaster.”

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AICPA Scholarship Applications Now Live [INFOGRAPHIC]

The AICPA’s Legacy Scholars Program, which awarded more than $370,000 in scholarships in the 2013-2014 academic year, has announced that applications are now live for 2014-2015. The application deadline is April 1 for the four scholarship programs that comprise the AICPA Legacy Scholars Program. In addition to financial assistance, the scholarship recipients gain real-world experience and develop the skills employers want to see.

Check out the infographic below for more information on the program.

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Get “Unstuck” in 2014

Fish-getting-unstuckLike so many of you, I am passionate about both leadership and learning. Recently, the thought struck me that on occasion, my desire for personal and professional growth might actually get in the way of my leadership and learning.

I’m sure you can relate to the feeling of “sprinting to the finish” on various projects. But how often do you really feel like you’ve reached the finish line? Instead, what if we’re actually like hamsters on a wheel, essentially stuck in one place? This was an “ah ha” moment for me—a realization that my logical mind had some trouble laying bare.

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How CPAs Can Prepare Clients for Healthcare Reform

Health-care-fileCurrently, there is a massive amount of confusion in the business community and among consumers – the very same people that are CPAs in public accounting’s clients – with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Change, of course, creates opportunity, and knowledgeable CPAs can expand their role as trusted advisers by gaining an understanding of the implications of the ACA on businesses and individuals.

The changes in insurance primarily affect two client types: small business and individuals who do not get insurance from their employer. This latter group would include self-employed individuals and their families who do not qualify under the definition of “small business” for purposes of the ACA’s insurance market rules. There are provisions for large employers that go into effect in 2015.

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In the News: CPAs Providing Financial Guidance for 2014

New-year-resolution

In a recent post I detailed a number of articles highlighting tax tips provided by AICPA staff and members that individuals can use to save themselves money when they file their 2013 returns.

As the calendar flips to 2014 (the year of the polar vortex), AICPA members and staff have been providing guidance on how to ‘recover’ from holiday spending, save more in 2014, and outlining tax changes that may impact consumers.

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Women and Leadership: The Path Not Yet Taken

Business-womenWhat are the consequences if organizations aren’t making the most of up to half of their potential talent?  Unfortunately, that’s the case in many firms, according to recent AICPA trends data, which found that the percentage of women in leadership positions in the profession has actually dropped from 23% in 2010 to 19% today. As you can imagine, this trend was a hot topic of conversation at the AICPA Women’s Global Leadership Summit, which was held in Washington D.C. in October. Those who attended the Summit found those statistics particularly troubling because among those present were a number of very talented and vibrant women. If firms and companies are not working to create opportunities for talented women to live up to their full potential, then these organizations are missing out on a lot.

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Trust But Verify – Another Perspective on Comfort Letters

Back in March, AICPA Senior Vice President Susan Coffey wrote about the dangers of providing client comfort letters. Since then, we’ve been hearing from more and more members that they are seeing a rise in requests from third parties for some sort of assurance on client accounting and tax information, or financial condition. I think Edward Karl said it best in CPAs and Comfort Letters: The New Chocolate (from the July edition/DC Currents column of The Tax Adviser) when he described them as requests for “verification, confirmation, certification, corroboration, authentication or substantiation of their clients’ financial information.” You name it, we’ve been asked to validate it. On the bright side, an increase in these requests confirms the faith, confidence and trust that business owners, decision makers and the public have in CPAs.

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The Value of Self-Regulation and the Tools that Help Drive It

Peer-Review-25-YearsSuccessful organizations know the importance of learning from the past while, at the same time, looking forward. For the past 25 years, the AICPA Peer Review Program has helped firms do just that by evaluating firms’ accounting and auditing practices and providing them with opportunities for improvement through combined educational and remedial aspects. 

The core value of the Peer Review Program is self-regulation.  Aside from allowing CPAs to learn effective practice techniques from one another, self-regulation comes with many other benefits that positively affect firms, clients, the profession and the public, including:

  • Monitoring adherence to the highest professional standards;
  • Uncovering and helping to correct firm service deficiencies and inefficiencies; and
  • Educating reviewed firms in professional standards and sharing best practices.

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Happy New Year from AICPA Insights

Welcome to 2014 and happy New Year! 2013 was an amazing year and we are looking forward to what 2014 brings. If you haven't taken a look yet, explore the top 10 blog posts of 2013. And if one of your resolutions for 2014 is to stay up-to-date on accounting news, be sure to signup for AICPA Insights' RSS feed or email updates. To celebrate 2013, enjoy this look back at all of the profession's accomplishments in 2013.

CPA Exam Q1/Q2 2014 Score Release Timelines

The AICPA continues to post regular updates regarding the CPA Exam score release schedule in an effort to keep CPA Exam candidates informed. Updated score release timelines are announced twice annually on AICPA Insights and are also posted on the CPA Exam website. To eliminate confusion, candidates can use the table below to easily find their score release dates.

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Being THAT Guy

“When she said ‘I just paid off my student loans,’ I thought, WOW how did she do that. It makes you think what’s important and what’s not.”

“I like the positive role model thing.  I want to be this guy.”

These quotes are just a small sampling of feedback from the Feed the Pig’s target audience (25-34 year olds) after viewing the campaign’s newest PSAs during focus groups held earlier this year. Each TV spot highlights both the positive financial behavior—buying a home, saving in a 401(k) and paying off student loans—of one young adult or couple paralleled with the spending habits of their peers, who simply cannot believe there’s any money left over at the end of the month to save. (View all the new PSAs on the new Feed the Pig website.)

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Accounting Doctoral Scholars Making an Impact in the Classroom

Ads2The first graduates from the Accounting Doctoral Scholars Program taught their first semester of college accounting courses this fall. The ADS Program, which was designed to address the nationwide shortage of accounting faculty, has supported more than 110 audit and tax professionals in their pursuit of PhDs in accounting. The first 12 graduates of the program have obtained jobs on college campuses.

“Having the first Accounting Doctoral Scholars begin teaching undergraduates is a real milestone for both the program and the profession as a whole,” said Steve Matzke, Director of Faculty and University Initiatives at the AICPA, who has managed the ADS Program since its launch. “While there is still more work to be done, we are confident that the ADS Program will ultimately fulfill its mission of helping secure the future of the profession by incrementally increasing the current number of accounting faculty who hold PhDs.” 

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Top Blog Posts of 2013: Vote for Your Favorite

Top-10

As 2013 comes to a close, I thought it would be interesting to see what topics “moved” and “shaked” the CPA profession this year. Specifically, we thought you would be interested in the AICPA Insights blog posts that most resonated with you and your peers, as measured by pageviews. Surprisingly, no one particular topic overly dominated this list. Additionally, most of these blog posts originated in 2013, but one actually went live in 2012 and had enough staying power to carry over to 2013. See our top stories and catch up on the year's news below and then vote for the one you like best, or write in your own top choice!

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Hot Topics and FAQs from the A&A Technical Hotline

The AICPA Technical Hotline provides non-authoritative advice to members on matters of accounting and financial reporting, audit, attest, compilation and review service standards. This podcast, the AICPA Insights Live webcast on Nov. 22, addresses some of the more commonly asked questions over the past year in the areas of audit, attest, compilation and review engagements. Highlights include the new clarified audit standards, verification requests, supplementary information and Service Organization Controls reporting. (Email subscribers can listen to the podcast on our website).

Hot Topics and FAQs from the A&A Technical Hotline

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Avoid These Holiday Social Media Scams

Scam-alertAccording to USA Today, the holiday season is a big time for online scams, and this year the focus will be on phones and social media. While most of us can spot spam in our email inbox, social networking scams are becoming more common and aren’t quite as easy to detect. Research shows one in 10 users have fallen for a social media scam. And to be honest with you, I am one of those who have been duped. It seemed so simple: share an image on Instagram, add a hashtag and BAM…free Ray Bans. Needless to say, I never received the sunglasses.  Luckily, I quickly came to my senses and changed my password.

It’s easy to get caught up in a bogus offer, but remember if it seems too easy to be true…it likely is!

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Volcker Rule Could Affect Community Bank's Year End Bottom Line

English: Paul Volcker, former head of the Fede...Paul Volcker, former head of the Federal Reserve Board . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Dec. 10, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Securities and Exchange Commission released their rule “Prohibitions and Restrictions on Proprietary Trading and Certain Interests in, and Relationships with, Hedge Funds and Private Equity Funds,” otherwise known as the Volcker Rule. This rule has some real implications on the banking industry, including community banks, of which CPAs should be aware.

Under the Volcker rule, ownership interests in covered funds (in other words, investments) will not be permissible and will have to be divested by 2015. Ownership interests in covered funds subject to the Volcker rule include many pooled trust preferred collateralized debt obligations, certain collateralized loan obligations and possibly Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduits. At this conjuncture, the full scope of investments impacted is unknown.

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Final Tangible Property Rules – A Win for Small Business?

Black-eyed-peaOne of the New Year’s superstitions says that you should eat black-eyed peas for good luck and financial prosperity. If you (or your client) are a business owner who hates black-eyed peas, don’t worry. You got a bit of luck already. In issuing the final tangible property (aka repair) regulations, I believe the IRS went above and beyond to make the final regulations more taxpayer friendly and tried to reduce the administrative burden from the draft regulations. 

When a business buys equipment for their business, it may qualify for an immediate tax savings by expensing the full purchase price instead of depreciating it over its useful lives (e.g., the section 179 deduction and 100% bonus depreciation). However, these options have restrictions. For example, the section 179 deduction requires taxable income and imposes an overall deduction ceiling and the bonus depreciation has a new property requirement (e.g., refurbished assets are not eligible). With well thought out planning, businesses can maximize the tax savings using both options.  

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Does Your Organization's Information Architecture Support Effective Reporting?

Data-analyticsIn order to make the right decisions, you have to have the right information. While that statement seems overly simple, the truth is that many organizations often rely upon the wrong information when making important strategic decisions. The issue of Enabling Decision Support and Analytics was one of the top ten technology initiatives reported by the 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Survey, a joint effort between the AICPA’s Information Management & Technology Assurance Division and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada.

Sometimes having the right information to make the right decisions does not happen when an organization's information architecture does not support effective reporting or management has not supported an investment in business intelligence-related projects. As a result, management may receive inaccurate or incomplete reports and may be at greater risk of making poorly informed business decisions. The issue of enabling decision support and analytics is a concern for many organizations as better technology can provide more data in less time than ever before. 

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Q&A with Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, AICPA President & CEO

Q&AWhat opportunities and challenges does the head of the AICPA foresee for the CPA profession in 2014? What were the profession’s significant achievements in 2013? Barry C. Melancon, CPA, CGMA, AICPA president and CEO, answers these questions and offers insights on how the profession will continue to adapt to today’s changing environment, addressing clients’ and employer’s needs. Citing successes with regulation, legislation, recruitment and positioning the profession for the future, Barry strongly believes CPAs will build on a solid foundation.

1. What were the AICPA’s legislative or regulatory priorities this past year and what’s in store for 2014?

We continued to have success in the advocacy area in 2013. In one significant victory for the profession and the public, the Securities and Exchange Commission exempted CPAs from registration as municipal advisers when they are providing certain accounting or attest services. We urged the SEC to exempt CPAs from the definition of municipal advisers after it had indicated that anyone performing accounting services for governments would be defined as a “municipal adviser.” It was critical that our voices be heard on this issue because such a broad definition would have made it more difficult for CPAs to serve governments and potential investors without taking on unnecessary and duplicative costs or compliance burdens.

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CPAs in Business and Industry Optimistic for 2014 Revenue Growth

Revenue-growth-2014The end of the year is always a good time to reflect on the past and consider the future. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the latest AICPA Business and Industry Economic Outlook Survey has inspired me to share some of my reflections and thoughts with you.

Thinking back to the fourth quarter of 2012, CPAs in industry were deeply concerned about the economy, especially with the “fiscal cliff” looming large. Fortunately, we had a last minute resolution to the dilemma on December 31, 2012 and concerns about the overall economy and politics abated somewhat in the first half of 2013. Optimism about the US economy improved, and the number of CPAs saying they were optimistic about their companies and having plans to expand also increased.

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Latest Trends Affecting CPAs

In our last live blog from the 2013 AICPA Insights Live webcast series, Jim Metzler, CPA, AICPA Vice President - Small Firm Interests, Public Practice and Global Alliances, discusses the trends affecting CPAs, the challenges and opportunities practitioners face, as well as best practices being used at successful firms across the country. (Email subscribers: Read the live blog on our website.) Don't forget to register for the last AICPA Insights Live webcast, Worst IT Practices CPAs Can Advise Businesses to Avoid, 1 to 2 p.m. ET on Dec. 20.

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In the News: Year-End Tax Moves for Businesses and Individuals

TaxesAs the calendar turns to December, AICPA experts have been speaking to reporters to educate the public about tax moves they can make before the end of the year. A number of these tips involve tax breaks that will either expire, or whose futures are uncertain and the steps that businesses, individuals and homeowners can take now to save themselves money when they file their 2013 return.

Businesses

Jeffrey Porter, chairman of the AICPA’s tax executive committee, spoke to CFO.com about corporate tax provisions which are set to expire after 2013.

According to Porter, one of the most important of the temporary tax provisions set to expire after 2013 is the 50 percent bonus depreciation, which was enacted as part of economic-stimulus legislation.

“Let’s say you’re a CFO, and you know you need to purchase a million-dollar piece of equipment. If you purchase it before the end of the year, you can get a $600,000 write-off in the first year,” says Porter.

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PCC Standards for Goodwill: What Valuation Specialists Need to Know

Valuation-specialists-goodwillA new standard establishing how private companies account for goodwill is not expected to cause immediate challenges for valuation specialists, but the impact could be more significant if the new rules are adopted for public companies down the road.

The standard is the work of the Private Company Council, an advisory group to the Financial Accounting Standards Board formed last year to address possible necessary changes to U.S. GAAP for non-issuers.  On Nov. 25, the FASB endorsed a PCC proposal to provide alternative accounting for goodwill by private companies. Goodwill typically arises from business combinations. In financial reporting, goodwill is the residual amount remaining after the fair values of all identified assets acquired less liabilities assumed have been subtracted from the acquisition price.

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10 Things You Should Know About Internal Controls

The following podcast is from the AICPA Insights Live webcast series and covers 10 things one should know about internal controls as presented by Findley Gillespie and Steven Gin of Moss Adams. The list includes: 

  1. Why a Training on Risk and Controls?
  2. Assessing the State of Controls at Your Organization
  3. Controls Maturity across the Three COSO Objectives
  4. Entity-Level Controls
  5. Information Technology Controls
  6. Segregation of Duties Controls
  7. Fraud Prevention Controls
  8. Documenting Policies and Procedures
  9. Responding to Deficiencies
  10. Recognizing Common Deficiencies

10 Things You Should Know About Internal Controls

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Running Your Business Like an Olympic Athlete

Turin-olympic-ice-skatersOlympic athletes generally train every day – continuously monitoring their progress to make sure they're performing to the best of their abilities. Can you imagine an Olympic athlete training once a year and then trying to compete against those who kept to a strict, regimented training schedule?  Like top athletes, successful businesses need to keep a constant pulse on how they're doing so they can address what's working and what needs to be tweaked – in order to always be on top of their game.

Companies can add value to their activities by utilizing Continuous Auditing and Monitoring, which is supported by tools and programs that can assist in mitigating risks and detecting fraud. Additionally, Continuous Auditing and Monitoring provides a powerful deterrent to those tempted to commit fraud, as these functions can take place frequently or continuously throughout the year. 

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