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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Will You Accept This Rose? Determining Which Clients Stay and Which Go

Nick ViallTonight on The Bachelor, Nick Viall will presumably propose to one of two women in what the television network promises is the “most dramatic finale yet.” At the start of the season, 30 women were all vying for the bachelor’s attention in the hopes of becoming his fiancé. Each week, as part of the journey to find “the one”, he had the difficult, and sometimes awkward, task of sending women home during the rose ceremony. Even though Nick is a veteran of reality television dating shows (he was the runner-up on two seasons of The Bachelorette and also appeared on Bachelor in Paradise), he often expressed how challenging it is to say goodbye to the women.

Now I know that CPAs do not distribute roses to their clients that they wish to retain, however, like contestants on The Bachelor, practitioners often explain how “breaking up” with a client is far from easy. Luckily, the AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) has tools to help with this process so that your client isn’t crying in the limo ride home.

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Passing the CPA Exam: One CPA’s Journey

As many of you know, the journey to becoming a CPA is like no other—interesting, challenging, stressful, but nonetheless so rewarding in the end. Such was the journey of Shakor Jukes, CPA. An AICPA Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop (ASLW) alumnus and currently an Audit Associate at RSM US LLP, Shakor credits his success to family, faculty, ASLW and his pure determination to succeed.

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What the Personal Financial Planning Body of Knowledge Means for You

Shutterstock_431851066Early in 2016, I heard tax icon Sid Kess speak about how important it is for CPAs to understand what housing alternatives our clients might need to consider as they grow older. I thought, well that’s an interesting aspect of our work that I hadn’t considered, and began to educate myself about the options and opportunities in the communities I serve.

That advice couldn’t have come too soon: within a month, my dad began expressing concerns about taking care of his home and asked to look at some local housing alternatives. While I had made myself aware of a few, I quickly realized there are so many choices that I didn’t have time to explore them all. Unfortunately, my father’s health declined rapidly and we had to move him three times: from his home to senior living; from senior living to a nursing home; and from the nursing home to hospice care where he passed away.

What this really brought home is that the work we do as CPAs is not cut and dried, and goes beyond what many people envision when they think of our profession. It’s probably also more than many budding CPAs—and those long in the profession—think we do. But the fact is that we must continue to deepen our knowledge and expertise as our clients’ needs expand and grow.

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Celebrating International Women’s Day: Inspiration for Women in the Profession

Shutterstock_483351991Today, the world celebrates International Women’s Day. Though the day’s theme was recognized as early as 1909, it wasn’t until 1977 that the United Nations General Assembly asked member countries to proclaim March 8 of every year as the official day to celebrate women around the world. This year the UN theme is, “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.”

That “50-50” is packed with advantages. In 2015, a McKinsey Global Institute report concluded that $12 trillion could be added to the global gross domestic product if countries work to bridge gaps between men and women in the work world—and that’s just if all countries were to perform as well in making strides as the most progressive countries in their regions. In a best-case scenario, in which women and men achieve true parity in the work place internationally, the potential rises to $28 trillion. With this kind of upside, it’s plain to see why leaders around the world have a keen interest in advancing women in the workplace, and driving for greater workplace equality.

This year’s theme is of particular interest in the accounting profession. Women have played a critical role in the changes occurring in the profession. With that in mind, we solicited comments from women in the profession. They are meant to inspire and motivate women to enter accounting; but even if you are already in the profession, you might take inspiration from some of these words of wisdom.

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4 Things to Know About the New Going Concern Auditing Standard

Shutterstock_101041396The 2008 financial crisis demonstrated how quickly change can occur in the financial markets and in individual businesses, as established organizations like Lehman Brothers collapsed and other businesses, large and small, teetered on the verge of failure. The crisis was a reminder that adverse events can threaten the stability of any entity, or its ability to continue as a going concern. “Going concern” refers to the concept that users of financial statements can expect that the company will continue to operate in the near future unless conditions or events occur that may contradict that assumption. Even in a strong economy, companies can lose significant contracts, face cash flow problems or be in danger of missing loan payments.

In the past, guidance on going concern issues for private companies was only included in auditing standards, not in the accounting literature. The lack of accounting guidance often created tensions between CFOs, preparers of the financial statements and their auditors who were responsible for examining those financial statements when going concern issues arose. That problem has been addressed in recent years with the issuance of accounting standards by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

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The Pieces to Make Tax Reform Happen are Lining Up: Knight to H3?

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"Today only happens once in a lifetime. Make the most of it."

-Michael Ray, Country Music Singer

It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven months since I blogged about tax reform; I guess I was distracted by IRS service issues. But here we are again and it looks like the stars are aligning for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for tax reform. Or in my case, a twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  I was around in 1986 for that monumental tax act and 15,000 changes later, here we are again.  Our legislative process is part of the price we pay for democracy and that isn’t all bad.

(Chess and the legislative process have a lot in common, hence the reference to Knight to H3, the dangerous but noble move Ron Weasley makes to achieve checkmate in the movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.)

Magic, however, is not one of the optional responses to the test I’ve given in my tax reform blogs:  “What will be the greatest driver of tax reform?”

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Social Security and Divorce: What Clients Need to Know

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Put powerful emotions in the same cauldron as money and you get a volatile and highly flammable mix. If your clients need one reason to involve a trusted CPA in their divorce process, that argument is as strong as it gets. As a financial professional, you have likely seen first-hand that divorce has the potential to uproot the financial stability of your clients (see more in this latest trend survey released by the AICPA Personal Financial Planning Section). If splitting the family possessions and bank accounts weren’t complex enough, there is also Social Security and Medicare to consider.

By asking the right questions, CPAs can steer their divorcing clients around pitfalls and help them make smart choices that maximize their financial outcomes.

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Elder Financial Abuse: How CPAs Can Help – Part 3

Shutterstock_293152349The face of America is showing its age: According to the National Institute on Aging, the number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to double in the next 25 years, with those 85 and older constituting the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. These Americans are increasingly becoming targets for elder financial abuse.

Extent of the Problem

The phenomenon of elder financial abuse is not new. But today, increasingly sophisticated tactics are being used with significantly higher stakes. Assets totaling approximately $23 trillion are the target.

The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) reports that the rate of elder financial abuse is extremely high, affecting 1 in 20 older adults. However, at the same time, only 1 in 44 cases of elder financial abuse is reported. The greatest number of reported abuses were perpetuated by family or others known to the victim.

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3 Pitfalls Valuation Professionals Should Avoid

Shutterstock_366281486When you hear the word measurement, what comes to mind? For most of us, measurement implies an exact science. However, there are situations, especially in the financial sector and broader business community, where measurement is not so easily defined or performed. And one of those situations is fair value measurement.

What makes fair value measurement such a challenge is that, unlike real property and other tangible assets (which can be objectively measured and valued), there’s tremendous subjectivity and diversity within the available and applicable valuation resources, guidance and methodologies. This diversity often manifests itself in inconsistent application and documentation which, in turn, can result in valuation deficiencies.[1] The reaction to these valuation deficiencies can be seen in heightened regulatory scrutiny and diminished investor confidence.

As regulators and investors continue to push for greater transparency in financial markets, both domestically and internationally, financial statement disclosures that rely on professional judgment generally – and fair value measurement specifically – will continue to receive scrutiny.

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3 Workplace Lessons from the Movie "Hidden Figures"

Shutterstock_550217752Some of history’s best stories are the ones we haven’t heard.

Until the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures” premiered, few people knew a group of pioneering African-American female mathematicians helped propel the U.S. forward in the Space Race.

Thanks to the prominence of the movie, these trailblazing women are finally earning recognition. “The true story also demonstrates the crucial value of diversity in the workplace,” says Kim Drumgo, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the AICPA.

“A diverse workforce exposes employees to the value of different perspectives and experiences,” Drumgo adds. “It fosters innovation and a growth mindset.”

As the U.S. and the AICPA celebrate Black History Month, Drumgo shares three lessons we can learn from “Hidden Figures”.

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3 Reasons Every Client Should Complete a FAFSA

Shutterstock_538627324Are you wondering if all of your clients should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for their college-aged children even if they don’t anticipate qualifying for any federal aid?

Consider the following scenario: A successful couple own and operate a business and have two children in college. At 58 years old, the husband suddenly and unexpectedly passes away from a heart attack, rocking the family and ending the business.

The family, however, had faithfully completed the FAFSA annually for their children, although they had never previously qualified for financial aid. Within one week of the death of the father, both universities contacted the children with financial aid packages that allowed them to stay in school.

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5 Ways to Develop Your Professional Skills Through Digital Learning

Shutterstock_264713135Disruption in the marketplace, changes to regulations, tax reform, technology advances and globalization make developing professional competencies more important than ever for CPAs. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, “continuous and persistent learning isn’t merely a decision. It must become a habit. And as such, it requires careful cultivation.”

Ongoing skill development is critical for maintaining your professional relevance. You need to dedicate time to continue your competency development. But where do you start, and how do you fit it in to your schedule? Digital learning activities provide opportunities to incorporate learning into your daily life and offer flexibility that a traditional classroom can’t. Here are five digital learning activities to try:

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Want Brady’s Mental Toughness? 10 Inspirational Movies to Watch

Click the orange button below to listen to this blog post.

 



Shutterstock_151134017If you’re one of the 111 million people who watched the New England Patriots power their way out of defeat at the Super Bowl, did you think it was just about over in the third quarter when the Atlanta Falcons were leading 28-3? I admit, I did. Even paid my tab and headed home. We were in for a surprise as the Patriots (led by quarterback Tom Brady) charged ahead and turned the game around to win 34-28.

As a perennial backer of the underdog, I was rooting hard for the Falcons but that doesn’t lessen my respect for a team that resisted falling into a “it’s a lost cause, let’s just get this over with” mentality. Let’s face it, we’ve all been at that point: whether it’s a career challenge, relationship or financial difficulty, or perhaps a health problem, some hurdles seem impossible.

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Continuing Care Retirement Communities: Helping Clients Choose

Shutterstock_242465323With a rapidly aging population, more people will turn to their CPA in the coming years as a trusted source of guidance, especially when making senior living decisions. A popular, but also rather complex choice is the continuing care retirement community (CCRC or “life plan community”). 

By combining independent living with a continuum of care, CCRCs offer a viable solution for older adults who are healthy today but seek the peace of mind of having care services readily available in the future. Your client’s specific needs will likely determine which CCRC is best for them. There is no “one size fits all” approach here. Yet, due to the financially significant nature of the CCRC decision, it is important to make sure their first choice is the right choice, so you owe it to them to be well-educated and informed on this topic.

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4 Ways to Move Toward Practice Transformation

Shutterstock_538091704“Practice gratitude.”

“Be authentic.”

“Consider your story as you craft your goals.”

Not your typical soundbites from a gathering of CPAs.

When I leave an AICPA conference, I always bring home the best technical thinking in the profession and new and deepened relationships with peers across the country. This content and camaraderie is what brings me back year after year to these events.

As I gathered my thoughts after the recent AICPA Personal Financial Planning Summit, I noticed a shift in the tone of the key takeaways that I was anxious to implement in my firm. This innovative and intimate event sparked new thinking about how I – and other CPAs and planners who serve individual clients with their tax, estate, retirement, risk management and investment needs – can shape our practices for the future. Here are four challenges and some questions to consider from this year’s summit:

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7 Benefits of Cybersecurity Penetration Testing

Shutterstock_388491619Security breaches are prevalent in today’s business environment and reports indicate that these threats are not going away any time soon. As a result, organizations need to take steps to safeguard their confidential data and other sensitive information. Smaller-sized organizations like small businesses and not-for-profit entities are particularly vulnerable. A recent study by Symantec found that 43 percent of phishing campaigns affected small businesses in 2016, a significant uptick compared to 2011 when just 18 percent of attacks targeted small businesses.

Even organizations with limited resources have affordable and effective options for protecting valuable data. I recommend penetration testing, a type of cybersecurity vulnerability assessment, to my clients working in the not-for-profit sector. Many of my not-for-profit clients feel compelled to conduct cybersecurity penetration testing when they consider how accepting online donations may create vulnerabilities for not only for themselves but also for their donors. Potential donors may feel more comfortable donating online once they hear that the organization has safeguards in place to protect their information. Penetration testing is performed by an outside, third party and can be tailored to the needs, or concerns of the organizations.

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Enhancing the Uniformity of Fair Value

GlassesIn 2014, valuation professionals responding to an American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) survey identified a 30% rise in demand for fair value for financial reporting. Specifically, the survey highlighted both fair value and intangible assets as emerging issues. This comes as no surprise given an increasingly global market rife with corporate acquisitions beyond borders. Also reported was an increase in the prevalence of complex assets such as intellectual properties, whose values cannot be calculated with complete objectivity. The growing demand for fair value – coupled with the subjectivity of valuing entities and intangibles – carry with them an obligation for the profession to protect the public interest by lending clarity, consistency and transparency to fair value practices.

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Medicare Patients to be MOONed Soon

Signing medical formYou may soon be MOONed by your hospital. Beginning March 8, 2017, hospitals must now provide patients with the standard Medicare Outpatient Observation Notice (MOON).

When a Medicare beneficiary is admitted to a hospital as an inpatient most of the cost of the stay is paid under Part A, which covers the cost of a hospital stay. In 2017, the only cost the beneficiary must pay for stays of 60 days or fewer is the $1,316 deductible.

Most beneficiaries do not realize that they can also be admitted to a hospital as an outpatient. Your status as an outpatient has nothing to do with where you receive care or the type of care received. You may not even be aware of your status. You can be admitted to the hospital, be assigned a room and receive services as if you were an inpatient, all the while having been admitted as an outpatient by your doctor. Observation status gives the doctor time to decide if he or she should write an order to admit you into the hospital as an inpatient.

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Elder Financial Abuse: How CPAs Can Help – Part 2

SeniorsIn our first blog post of this series, we looked at three typical examples of elder financial abuse and some of the reasons why seniors are attractive targets. Helping safeguard your clients from financial abuse as they age, or experience a serious health problem, is one of the most important and meaningful things you can do for them.  In this article, we will delve deeper into types and signs of financial elder abuse, and ways to prevent it before it starts.

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Is Your Firm Seaworthy?

Shutterstock_264369773The parallels between sailing and audit quality came to mind recently when I was speaking with a practitioner who is passionate about sailing. His comments about his enthusiasm for sailing reminded me of the profession’s passion and ongoing commitment to quality.

When sailors go to sea, they depend on their ships to get them to their destinations quickly and safely, conquering instability, uncertain weather conditions and unexpected obstacles along the way. In many ways, they place the same faith in their vessels as CPAs place in their firms. CPAs rely on the firms they’ve built to achieve their goals – to help them serve their clients and business communities, uphold the public interest and create thriving workplaces – as they navigate the many challenges of a fast-changing and increasingly complex environment. In both cases, a strong discipline and commitment to quality is critical to success.

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International Perspectives: Chinese New Year

On January 28, nearly one-fifth of the world’s population will begin the 15-day celebration of Chinese New Year. The holiday, also known as the Spring Festival, sets the tone for the year ahead and is a time for family members to reunite and share joy in successes, prosperity and good health. As the world’s borders become increasingly blurred, you may find that you have friends, colleagues or clients who observe the holiday.

Show your appreciation for their culture by familiarizing yourself with the meaning and traditions of Chinese New Year. In this video, Irene Teng, Managing Director of Europe, Africa and Asia - Management Accounting, with the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, highlights some of the customs and shares quick tips on how to greet clients and colleagues during the holiday. You can also learn more here.

For all who celebrate, we wish you a very Happy Chinese New Year!

 

Top 10 Resources for the 2017 Tax Season

FootballAs we prepare this list for all of our current members, we cannot help but feel like a pair of college football coaches rallying the team before the big game. So to everyone out there looking at their screen, we ask you to take a knee (figuratively) and lean in for a huddle.

We are on the eve of the big game. People are watching and will be expecting your all. The competition will be fierce, the plays will change frequently and you can expect someone or something will be coming at you from all directions. But fear not! You’ve got this. (Fist pump).

All your years of training have led to this very moment. Now is the time to stretch your muscles, gather your equipment and focus on the game plan. We want to help by putting some tools at your fingertips to get you warmed up, refreshed and staying sharp.

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Get Ready to Face a Trifecta of Accounting Standards

Shutterstock_401287885The Big 3 Accounting Standards Updates (ASUs) ─ ASU 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, ASU 2016-02, Leases, and ASU 2016-13, Financial Instruments – Credit Losses ─  from the Financial Accounting Standards Board pose significant challenges for CPAs. And, as their effective dates loom near, more and more practitioners are coming to realize the substantial level of work involved in applying these standards.

The Center for Plain English Accounting, the AICPA’s national A&A resource center, is receiving and answering quite a few inquiries about how to apply these standards. We recently celebrated our third anniversary of providing our members with valuable guidance on a wide array of accounting, financial reporting, auditing, compilation, review and preparation topics. Recently, we have been especially focused on providing our members with in-depth and practical implementation guidance on the new revenue recognition, leases, and credit loss standards. Below are three implementation questions and answers that we’ve selected to share with you.

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ID Theft: Two Prevention “Hassles” Worth Your Time

ID theftEven if you aren’t personally a victim of identity theft, as a CPA you still bear the burden of combating it on behalf of your clients. More often than not, for tax practitioners, the big cost is your time.

Recently, to help combat thieves, the IRS implemented various authentication measures, which emerged from the Security Summit. While many of these measures may not be noticed, some are quite visible. One measure, two-factor authentication for e-Services, has already prompted comments and complaints and another, the optional W-2 pilot program, is not being used much by practitioners and I suspect time has a lot to do with that too.

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Elder Financial Abuse: How CPAs Can Help – Part 1

Advising seniors

Scenario 1: Your usually chatty elderly client Nancy has become quiet and refuses to speak with you without her son Chris present. When they come in together, she is timid and acts nervous, while he is combative and secretive about sharing bank statements and other financial information. When you insist, you see discrepancies and unusual cash withdrawals, or other activity that he claims are for “household expenses, which are none of your business”.  

 

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Tax Reform in the 115th Congress?

Shutterstock_184356782 (1)Tax reform has been actively studied and discussed for the past six years by the 112th, 113th and 114th Congresses. At the start of the 112th Congress in 2011, Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI), then chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced the first in a series of hearings on fundamental tax reform to simplify the Internal Revenue Code and improve economic growth and job creation. Since then, Congress has held over 80 hearings on tax reform. In addition, several congressional study groups were formed and various proposals introduced. Yet, despite President Obama and congressional leaders supporting a lower corporate tax rate for international competitiveness purposes, tax reform did not occur in that six-year span.

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What’s in a Name?

Name TagI recently had the privilege of speaking on financial planning to 150 CPAs at a Washington Society of CPAs conference. I began my remarks by asking how many in the audience considered themselves financial planners. Only two raised their hands.

That surprised me. I know that many CPAs help clients with some aspect of financial planning, from tax, retirement and estate planning to succession planning and wealth management. And, frankly, who better to help clients negotiate their financial futures than CPAs? Clients already rely on us to provide trusted advice on other financial matters.

The sparse response got me thinking back about my own experience coming to terms with the term “CPA financial planner.”

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5 Ways to Drive Small Firm Growth

Shutterstock_550988503CPA firms across the country are thriving, according to the 2016 PCPS/CPA.com National Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) Survey. This unique study is the largest and most comprehensive examination of firms’ financial health and practice management approaches and solutions. To enhance the survey’s usefulness, the results are broken down into seven defined CPA firm segments, from small practices with less than $200,000 in annual revenue to large firms with $10 million or more. The latest survey found that firms are indeed doing well, with many practices making the strategic decision to reinvest profits back into the firm to build an even stronger foundation for the future.

Small firms appeared to have a particularly bright future. Firms with less than $200,000 in revenues who completed the survey reported growth of almost 11%—up from 8% in 2014. What trends or decisions are powering small firm growth? Here are some key insights based on the survey findings:

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