How CPAs Can Leverage Social Media

Today I am live blogging from the 2013 Digital CPA Conference and the social media session, "How the Digital CPA Leverages Social Media," with Tom Hood, CPA, CITP, Executive Director & CEO, MACPA. Tom shares his experiences as one of the top social media leaders in the CPA profession since he started with his blog in 2006. He updates us with real stories of CPAs and adds the latest research on social media. He also highlights more resources to get you started, including e-learning, and on-site training available from the Business Learning Institute. (Email subscribers can see the live blog on our website.)

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Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Come Together and Others Don't

I am live blogging from the 2013 Digital CPA Conference taking place in D.C., today and tomorrow. Today's live blog is covering Simon Sinek's keynote, Start with Why. Simon is an author and leadership expert. The keynote includes a panel of experts from the CPA profession, including:

  • Tom Hood, CPA, CGMA, CEO Maryland Association of CPAs
  • Rick Solomon, CPA, CGMA, Chief Executive Officer, RAN ONE Americas
  • Rene Lacerte, CEO, Bill.com
  • Chris Ekimoff, CPA, Manager, Investigative Accounting and Financial Litigation, Hilton Worldwide

The best way for a team to confront danger to not only survive but to thrive is...together. When the conditions in our organizations are right, we naturally trust each other and cooperate. But when leaders neglect the environment in which their people must work, politics, silos, cynicism and self-intrest prevail; all things that make it even more difficult for us to work together. The best leaders know how to build those conditions and the best organizations are the ones in which the people work together to confront danger and seize opportunities. And the best part is that these "best conditions," seem to mimic the conditions in which we lived 50,000 years ago. Simon will explain what it takes to create a culture in which people work as they were designed - together. It is under these conditions we are at our natural best. (Email subscribers can view the live blog on our website.)

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Increase in IRS Audits – A Positive Trend?

As the newest member of the AICPA Tax team, I was awestruck during my experience at the National Tax Conference. I had a front row seat for Acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Danny Werfel’s address; alternated between laughing my head off and cheering at National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen’s candid presentation; and instinctively ducked under the table so as not to be called out by the Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility.

But the presentation that hit me the most? Faris Fink, Commissioner of the IRS Small Business/Self Employed Division, who spoke about the division’s initiative to provide advanced partnership examination training to their revenue agents (aka “auditors”). The goal is to increase audits of partnership tax returns with an emphasis on administrative matters in addition to the usual compliance issues.

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Stop the Mad Dash, Create Your Future

CPA-career-developmentCPAs are no strangers to life-long learning. In fact, life-long learning is as fundamental of a core competency for CPAs as integrity, independence and objectivity.

This country has hundreds of thousands of CPAs who every day commit themselves to professional development and improving their professional competency. However, when a CPE reporting deadline approaches, you will find CPAs everywhere scrambling to fulfill their compliance requirements.

Your professional development is important, so make it a priority and put an end to the mad dash. Start by asking yourself the following questions to begin creating a plan.

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KC Chiefs’ CFO Has a Winning Game Plan for Management Accounting

I recently watched a new video featuring Dan Crumb, CPA, CGMA and CFO of the NFL Kansas City Chiefs. The video brings to life one of so many unique paths for CGMA designation holders. Dan says that he never thought he’d work for a football team. Now, as the Chiefs’ CFO, he leads finance, IT and the ticket office. His job is to make sure that all systems are functioning 100% of the time so that the Chiefs can focus on football.

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Generation Next: AICPA Leadership Academy, Class of 2013

2013-AICPA-leadership-academy-class-photo
The American Institute of CPAs recently announced the 2013 class of Leadership Academy graduates.

As part of an ongoing effort to inspire, nurture and empower the next generation of CPA leaders, the AICPA established the Leadership Academy in 2009 to provide rising stars in the profession with advanced leadership training and access to well-connected professional networks.

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Preserving Cash Accounting

Cash-accountingHumorist Art Buchwald once described tax reform as taking the taxes off things that have been taxed in the past and putting taxes on things that haven’t been taxed before. Buchwald’s amusing analysis notwithstanding, tax reform is an arduous task. There are a lot of moving parts being studied on Capitol Hill at the moment. And one part in particular is of great concern to the nation’s CPAs.

As Congress considers the most significant attempt at tax reform in almost 30 years, the House Ways and Means Committee has produced a small business tax reform discussion draft that focuses on simplifying the tax codes for small businesses, including individuals and passthrough entities. While supportive of the Committee’s efforts to simplify the tax code and responsiveness to taxpayer concerns that the code is too complex, the AICPA strongly opposes a proposed limitation on the use of the cash basis method (for the non-CPAs among us, the cash method recognizes revenue and expenses when cash is received or disbursed rather than when earned or incurred. It is simpler in application, has lower compliance costs, and does not require taxpayers to pay tax before receiving the income being taxed). 

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Fall Review of State Legislative and Regulatory Issues: Part 2 of 2

Across the county, state legislatures considered numerous issues that impact the CPA profession.  In part two of this two-part post, we review issues dealing with: CPAs providing services for marijuana-related businesses, state board of accountancy reorganizations, sales tax on professional services and peer review.

Marijuana Businesses and CPAs

Colorado-capitolAn issue with implications for the CPA profession centers on the legalization of marijuana for both recreational and medicinal use.  While the sale and use of marijuana is illegal at the federal level, state governments and voters are increasingly showing a willingness, in certain jurisdictions, to decriminalize the drug. In November 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot measures legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.  A total of 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws permitting the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The AICPA, with input from the Colorado and Washington state CPA societies, has developed an issue brief that gives an overview of U.S. recreational and medicinal marijuana laws, the current legislative/regulatory environment and information for CPAs considering providing services to businesses that operate in these industries (including a list of questions for CPAs to ask themselves before considering this line of work).

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Year-End Financial Planning: Bracket Management [PODCAST]

Because of the multi-dimensional tax environment that now exists post-American Taxpayer Relief Act, CPA financial planners must look at the tax impact on clients’ financial plans through a 5 to 10 year horizon. Ordinary income tax rates from the Bush Administration were made permanent. The capital gains rate increased from 15% to 20% for taxpayers with income greater than the threshold amounts. Phase-out of personal exemptions and limitations on itemized deductions (Pease) become critical in managing tax brackets by shifting income and deductions into certain years. This podcast from Bob Keebler provides a overview of theory, strategies and case studies in bracket management. Visit the AICPA PFP Section’s Post ATRA & NIIT Toolkit for more in-depth resources on planning in preparation for year-end. (Email subscribers can listen to the podcast on our website.)

 

Year-End Financial Planning: Bracket Management

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CPA Profession’s Journey of Greatness

Road-journeyI am honored to write to you in my first blog as the new AICPA Chairman of the Board of Directors. I truly look forward to being able to engage with you through these bimonthly posts. We have an exciting year ahead of us, a year which will focus on the quality of our work and the members of our profession.

As I begin my term as chairman, I have found myself reflecting upon my early days as a staff accountant. From the time I graduated college and began pursuing my career as a CPA, I have been surrounded by inspirational leaders who helped shape me into the man I am today. My firm, Postlethwaite & Netterville, is named after two such extraordinary role models, the late Mr. Alexander Postlethwaite (whom I never addressed by first name) and Jake Netterville, a former AICPA chairman. These great men taught me that quality service and passion are two key ingredients needed to achieve success.

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Real World Stories from Experienced Fraudsters

I am live blogging from today's AICPA Insights Live webcast, Voices of Fraud: Learning from the Perpetrator. This webcast is part of a new fraud series entitled "Voices of Fraud" and will focus on real world stories from experienced fraudsters. By analyzing the fact pattern that allowed the fraud to occur, we'll learn how to detect fraud within an organization. The webcast also focuses on methods to help prevent opportunities for fraud to occur in the future. (Email subscribers can read the live blog on our website.) Be sure to explore the other webcasts in the AICPA Insights Live series.

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Year-End Financial and Tax Planning Strategies [PODCAST]

In the third webcast in the AICPA Insights Live webcast series, Beth Gamel, CPA/PFS, Robert S. Keebler, CPA, Ted Sarenski, CPA/PFS and Scott Sprinkle, CPA/PFS, CGMA came together to discuss year-end financial and tax planning strategies, specifically to address the American Taxpayer Relief Act and the Net Investment Income Tax. Below you can find an audio recording from the webcast, as well as the accompanying presentation. (Email subscribers can listen to the podcast and see the presentation on our website.) Be sure to explore the other webcasts in the AICPA Insights Live webcast series.

 

Year End Financial Tax Planning Strategies ATRA Net Investment Income Tax

 

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Preventing vs. Responding to Computer Fraud

Computer-fraudMany organizations understand that preventing computer fraud is an important technology initiative and have instituted programs to recognize and prevent fraudulent activity. However, when preventive measures fail and computer fraud does occur, very few organizations have a plan to address and respond to the fraud attempt.

The issue of preventing and responding to computer fraud is among the top ten technology initiatives, according to the AICPA's 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Survey, which ranks preventing and responding to computer fraud at number six out of ten for U.S. organizations and at number nine out of ten for Canadian organizations. 

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Nuts and Bolts of IRS Audits

I am at the AICPA National Tax Conference today and tomorrow in National Harbor, Md. The conference features regulators, including Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel, and tax practitioners. When it comes to tax laws and legislation, we live and work in a world of constant flux: updates to the American Taxpayer Relief Act, tax jurisdictions, taxes in multi-states, flow-through entities and the new 3.8% Medicare surtax regime, to name a few. It’s a recurring cycle of predicting what’s coming up, knowing how to plan and explaining critical details to your clients.

Today I am live blogging the "Nuts and Bolts of IRS Audits" session with speaker Charles Rettig, Esq. of Hochman Salkin Rettig Toscher & Perez, PC. This session provides practical advice for real-life client issues that focus on current IRS tax enforcement priorities and procedures, practitioner representation strategies and techniques and recent developments in tax controversy and procedure. (Email subscribers can read the live blog on our website.)

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The 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax [PODCAST]

The 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax became effective Jan. 1, 2013, and applies to all taxpayers whose income exceeds a certain threshold amount, thereby raising the marginal income tax rate for affected taxpayers. NIIT includes interest, dividends, annuity distributions, rents, royalties, passive activity income and net capital gain from the disposition of property; it excludes salary, wages, IRA distribution from qualified plans, self-employment income, gain on sale of an active interest in a partnership or S corporation and items which are otherwise excluded or exempt from income under tax law. The threshold amount is the key factor in determining NIIT; thresholds are not inflation protected.

Strategies for reducing net investment income include municipal bonds, tax deferred annuities, life insurance, rental real estate, oil and gas investments, choice of accounting year for estate/trust and timing of estate/trust distributions. Strategies for reducing modified adjusted gross income include Roth IRA conversion, CRTs, non-grantor CLTs, and installment sales. Join Robert Keebler, CPA of Keebler & Associates LLP in this podcast as he walks you through year-end planning for the 3.8% NIIT. Visit the AICPA PFP Section’s Post American Taxpayer Relief Act and NIIT Toolkit for more in-depth resources on planning in preparation for year-end. (Email subscribers can listen to the podcast on our website.)

 

Year End Planning Net Investment Income Tax

 

 

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In the News: Award Winning Achievements

The AICPA held the fall meeting of its governing Council last week. The big news out of the meeting in L.A. was, of course, Bill Balhoff being named the AICPA’s 101st Chairman. In addition to Bill being named chairman, which is the highest AICPA volunteer position, a number of AICPA members were honored at the Council meeting for their contributions to the profession and the Institute.

Medal of Honor

Bob Graham, former U.S. Senator and former Florida Governor, was awarded the AICPA Medal of Honor, which recognizes an individual whose work has had a significant impact on the profession. The medal ofhonor is the highest AICPA award for a non-CPA.

“Senator Graham has served as an ambassador between the CPA profession and the American public, helping the AICPA Board chart the Institute’s course and the profession’s growth with the needs of all citizens in mind,” said Richard Caturano, CPA, CGMA, AICPA Chairman of the Board of Directors (2012-2013).

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Spotlight on Health Care Reform with AICPA Insights Live

Health-careEveryone seems to have an opinion on the Affordable Care Act. But what about the facts and what about the impact for your clients?

Ted J. Sarenski, CPA/PFS, CFP, AEP, provided straightforward answers to these questions during the second webcast session of AICPA Insights Live on Oct. 18. His presentation, titled “What CPAs Need to Know to Advise Clients on Healthcare,” covered the latest developments regarding health care reform, including requirements, deadlines, the individual mandate, penalties and federal subsidies, as well as his predictions and advice for clients in 2014.

To start, what’s changed with the Affordable Care Act? Sarenski recapped the new ground rules for health insurance with a quick rundown:

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CPAs Wanted for Lead Role in Sustainability

SustainabilityIf there’s one realism that has emerged since it first appeared on the leadership front more than 30 years ago, it’s that sustainability is neither a passing fad nor a fleeting priority. Time has proven that a focus on sustainability initiatives, linked to business strategy, as a top organization priority, can deliver measureable bottom-line and reputational returns far beyond initial expectations.

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Help! I Have a Bad Review on Yelp

This week I had the pleasure of discussing social media with CPAs at a CPAConnect meeting in Nashville, TN. At the end of our session, a gentleman approached me with a very interesting question: “What do you do when you get a negative review on Yelp?”

YelpYelp is a website with local search, social networking and discounted deal content. The site includes business listings, directory information, and user generated reviews. Yelp is increasingly popular for people seeking services, including CPAs. Not sure if anyone has reviewed you or your firm? Do a simple search on the site to find out.

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A Business Case for Women in Your Organization

In my final live blog from the Women's Global Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., we look at the business of women’s initiatives and the importance of linking your efforts to strategic imperatives for alignment and buy-in. Panelists for this session, "Finding the Right Balance: A Business Case for Women in Your Organization," include:

  • Michael Bach, CCDP/AP, founder and CEO, Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion, Canada
  • Mary Bennett, MBA, CIA, CEC, chair of AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee, founder, MLBennett Consulting LLC, Asheville, NC
  • Todd R. Mitchell, CPA, CGMA, CEO Solutions LLC, Greer, SC

Mary Bennett is an expert in helping the accounting industry build business-focused initiatives relative to retaining and developing women. She has helped hundreds of firms in the U.S. and Canada to understand their business reasons for investing in these efforts. Male and female partners and managers in these firms come to understand the myths and misperceptions about “women’s initiatives.” They begin to understand where the real business risks are and what their specific scenario indicates in terms of strategy application. (Email subscribers can read the live blog on our website.)

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Engage in New Opportunities and Challenges

Kicking off day two of the Women's Global Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. is Edie Weiner, president of Weiner, Edrich, Brown Inc. The global economy is fundamentally changing and, with it, much of what we have learned about the world we live in. It is difficult to escape from the mental anchors that hold us at bay in yesterday’s world, yet as professionals, women and potential leaders, we have to work on changing our perspectives and becoming engaged in the new opportunities and challenges we face. Join me as I live blog today's keynote session as our resistance to change is exposed and we open up to the world of change that is emerging. (Email subscribers can read the live blog on our website.)

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Katty Kay on Womenomics: Women in the Workplace

Katty Kay, Lead Anchor, BBC World News America, and co-author of Womenomics: The Workplace Revolution That Will Change Your Life, is the keynote speaker for day one of the Women's Global Leadership Summit taking place Oct. 24 to 25 in Washington, D.C. I am live blogging from her keynote session, "Womenomics: A New Path to Business Success." (Email subscribers can read the live blog on our website.)

At the 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos, International Monetary Fund Chief Christine Lagarde called the advancement of women the greatest economic opportunity of our time. She is recognizing what Kay calls “womenomics” — the extraordinary value of women in the workforce. Global studies show that companies that employ more senior women make more money. They have more degrees and are ideally suited to the demands of our talent-driven economy. But to keep them in the economy, the workplace must adapt to their needs. Too many women in their mid-30s hit the brick wall of kids vs. career. But we cannot afford to keep losing them. Kay marshals evidence from employers large and small to show how possible it is to satisfy the demands of family and career. Flexible work schedules prove to be a win-win; when companies take the clocks off the wall and choose to measure output instead of input, they see productivity rise by an average of 40%. What starts as talent retention becomes a profit bonus any company would be happy to have. She gives an inspirational boost to women and a practical guide to employers, drawing on her own juggles as the working mother of four children. This presentation provides research- and experience-based advice to companies looking to retain and recruit valuable female employees.

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To Match or Not to Match? 1099-K Notices Bewilder Taxpayers

Confused-womanDo you have tax clients who run small businesses or decided to sell their household items on eBay this past year? Or perhaps you are a CPA who accepts credit card payments from your clients? If so, you may have already received a notice from the IRS or should be aware of the latest updates on the IRS push for information matching with Form 1099-Ks (Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions). Some AICPA members have received 1099-K mismatch notices assessing thousands of dollars in penalties.  

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Finding the Silver Lining in Succession

Succession-planWhen people talk about succession, they tend to focus on issues such as valuations, buyout amounts, deferred compensation, partnership agreements, the development of new leaders and client retention. Not much is said about the emotional side of succession. Let’s face it: As with any transition, succession hurts. Owners struggle with letting go of the business and the relationships they’ve built,  and the new owners struggle to gain a foothold in their new roles.

Even in a well-planned and executed succession, there are a number of events and circumstances that cause some level of discomfort.  Succession tests the personal and leadership strength of the outgoing owner and, when not recognized, can deflate the excitement of the incoming owners and even threaten their future success. If we acknowledge this side up front, we’ll be better able to set ourselves on a smooth and successful journey. So, what tough challenges should we prepare for on the road to succession?

 

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Fall Review of State Legislative and Regulatory Issues: Part 1 of 2

CPA-Mobility-MapAcross the county, state legislatures considered numerous issues that impact the CPA profession.  In Part one of this two-part post, we review legislation that affected CPA mobility, including streamlining military family licensure processes, promoting film tax credits and creating state tax tribunals.  Part two will cover state board reorganizations, sales tax on professional services, new peer review laws and CPAs providing services for marijuana-related businesses.

Currently, 49 states and the District of Columbia have passed individual CPA mobility laws and the remaining U.S. jurisdictions are working toward this goal.  These laws allow CPAs to operate across state lines without obtaining reciprocal licenses in each state in which they practice.  New state legislation is sometimes proposed in a way that can have unintended consequences on the profession’s mobility regime.  This year, there were three particularly noteworthy areas where CPA cross-border practice could have been put in jeopardy.  These included:

  1. the easing of occupational licensing requirements for members of the military and their spouses;
  2. the creation of film tax incentives requiring audits by in-state CPAs; and
  3. the establishment of state tax tribunals wherein CPAs would seek to represent taxpayers.

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Integrating Retirement Planning with Your CPA Practice

Social-securityWhat do the 77 million baby boomers have in common over the next 15 years? They are all going to face retirement in one form or another. Never before in U.S. history has such a large generation transitioned to retirement with so many years still ahead of them. Are they ready? Can they afford it?  What does it look like? Who will answer these and other questions they have? Who else but the CPA has the financial, economic and analytical education, and ability coupled with the highest ethical standards of placing objectivity and integrity at the forefront of all advice. CPAs have a huge opportunity to expand their practices into the area of retirement planning as the natural progression from guiding their clients through the accumulation years.

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In the News: AICPA to Congress: Consolidate Small Business Retirement Plans

The AICPA is gearing up for our Fall Meeting of Council, which begins Oct. 20 in Los Angeles. Be sure to follow @AICPA_JofA and @AICPANews on Twitter and subscribe to the AICPA’s Press Center RSS feed to keep up with all the news and information coming out of the meeting.

In the meantime, I’ve highlighted a few recent accounting articles in the news that you may missed over the last week.

US-capitolAccounting Today covered the recent written testimony that the AICPA submitted for the record of the House Small Business Committee’s hearing on retirement savings for small employers. In the testimony Jeffrey A. Porter, AICPA Tax Executive Committee chairman, suggested several ways to simplify the complexity of the retirement planning universe.

“When a small business grows and begins to explore options for establishing a retirement plan, the alternatives, and the various rules, can become overwhelming,” he wrote in his testimony.

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Finance’s Vital Role in Managing Organizational Risk

Rope-light-bulb“Accountants have a vital role in translating the impact on the financials in three metrics: operating performance, balance sheet strength, and volatility,” said Gregory Case, President and Chief Executive of Aon at a CGMA event held in partnership with the London think tank Tomorrow’s Company. “The whole role of the accounting profession, the language of finance, is absolutely essential and critical.”

According to a recent article in CGMA Magazine, “the aggregate level of risk to businesses is rising at an unprecedented pace. Cybersecurity challenges threaten businesses and even the stock exchanges where value is traded. Social media’s expanding influence can draw attention to risks, crush reputations and cause investors to flee.”

I’m continuously impressed by how CPA, CGMAs are applying their strengths and knowledge to help organizations adapt and embrace innovation. During our visits to large multi-nationals, we learn how the finance teams in highly successful companies are harnessing innovation. In addition, we invited senior executives to share their experiences at events in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Their insights and our research results are captured in the CGMA report, “Managing Innovation: Harnessing the power of finance.”

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The American Dream Extends Beyond Our Borders

Rich-caturano-brazilWhen I became chairman of the AICPA Board of Directors a year ago, my first blog post addressed several key issues for the profession. But mainly I talked about the accounting profession as a path to the American Dream. That’s my life experience – humble beginnings and following my role-model neighbor who was the first CPA I ever knew. Having represented the United States accounting profession at a Brazilian conference in August, I now fully understand that the American Dream is a universal desire and our profession is a way to achieve it.

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10 Risks Facing Nonprofits [LIVE BLOG]

We thought it only fitting that we live blog from our first AICPA Insights Live webcast. Follow along here or on Twitter at #AICPAInsightsLive. The first webcast in this series covers the top ten risk issues that need to be understood and managed, with practical tips and advice on juggling risks while keeping your mission aloft. (Email subscribers can catch up on the coverage on our website.) Don't miss out on the other webcasts in this series and sign up for the bundle today.

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Am I “Preparing” Financial Statements?

Financial-statements-wordartI meet many members throughout the year at various AICPA conferences and their input is truly valuable. We discuss the issues they are encountering in practice and guidance that would help them. Over the past few years, a common question concerned whether members have “prepared” financial statements for their clients.

Each of their scenarios has provided their own unique set of circumstances and it has been insightful talking through how they make judgments about whether the accountant should follow the reporting requirements for compilation engagements. The AICPA has provided a great deal of guidance on the topic but, with the increased use of cloud applications, the questions just keep coming up and becoming even more complex.

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It’s Extension Time! Checklist for Reporting Foreign Assets

Tax-checklistAs we come to an end of the filing season, keep in mind important foreign information reporting requirements that may affect your client’s income tax return.  On this year’s Form 1040, did you check “yes” that the client has a foreign bank account on Schedule B and list the location of the account? 

How about completing Form 8938 Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets?   The purpose of Form 8938 is to report an interest in specified foreign financial assets, which include, but are not limited to:  foreign bank accounts, brokerage accounts, interest in foreign entities and any “foreign financial instrument or contract that has an issuer or counterparty that is not a U.S. person.” Once your client meets certain reporting requirement thresholds, Form 8938 is required.

Here are some last-minute reminders to help you through the Oct. 15 tax deadline: 

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Have You Hugged Your CPA Today?

Young-CPAsMore than sixty-five million Americans are serving as volunteer caregivers for vulnerable loved ones – and as baby-boomers step into senior status, that number will rise. Caregiving for someone with a disability, lengthy illness or aging issues is challenging enough, but adding money concerns to the mix can create a massive strain on individuals and families. Caregivers find themselves thrust into roles they are poorly suited to maintain. Juggling medical, relationship and job-related matters can often pale in the face of the financial pressures of caring for someone who is chronically ill or disabled. 

The key is sustainability – and in order to manage the massive bills, extra costs and nuances of the tax code, I have found that I require the help of a trained professional, specifically a CPA.

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Introducing AICPA Insights Live: Weekly Webcast Series

AICPA-Insights-LiveEarlier this year, AICPA Insights turned three years old. Through that time we have explored different ways to provide news and information on hot topics to our readers. One of the more popular methods of sharing information has been our podcasts. This led us to a new feature that we’re pleased to introduce to you this week: AICPA Insights Live.

AICPA Insights Live is a new weekly webcast series, which will occur Fridays at 1 p.m. ET starting Oct. 11. A hot topic that is important to AICPA members and the accounting profession will be covered each session, starting with the top risks facing nonprofits. Currently scheduled topics include year-end tax planning, internal controls and more.

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Federal Government Shutdown - It’s Deja vu All Over Again

Government-closedThere’s an old adage that “there’s nothing new under the sun” and so it is inside the Beltway.  As you are well aware, the federal government suspended most of its operations on Oct. 1 after Congress failed to pass a bill to extend funding to mid-November, the first such shutdown in 17 years. Strong political discourse is alive and well in America and it is part of the price we pay for democracy.  It was that way in 1996 when a shutdown lasted three weeks. Hopefully a compromise can be reached quicker this time around.

On the tax front, with more than 85,000 Internal Revenue Service workers now furloughed until Congress reauthorizes spending, many non-essential IRS functions have shut down, including all taxpayer services, as well as examinations. The closure of taxpayer and practitioner hotlines is particularly challenging for those individuals who must file a Form 1040 by Oct. 15 and need to contact the IRS. Nevertheless, no filing deadlines are postponed and returns must be filed. We have urged the IRS to consider the substantial burden imposed on taxpayers (and practitioners) by the inability to communicate with and obtain information from the IRS.

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How You Can Manage the Risks of a System Implementation

System-implementationManaging a system implementation is not an easy task. And if done incorrectly, can cause significant headaches for your business and your customers. There are ways, however, to identify the risks of a system implementation and manage those risks more effectively.

It's fair to say that an organization’s strategic goals drive the systems it implements. However, if those goals and the implementation are not aligned, your organization risks realizing only part of the implementation's expected value, or worse – realizing no value at all. Having other risk factors such as errors in converting or migrating data come to fruition only add to what may already seem like a monumental undertaking.

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Updates and Resources from the CPA Exam

CPA-Exam-CandidateThere are a few updates being implemented to make the candidate experience more user-friendly when taking the Uniform CPA Examination.

We are adding a comma to the calculator on the CPA Exam. The comma is meant for large numbers such as 1,000 and above to make them easier to read. We are also updating the tutorial to reflect a few recent changes to the CPA Exam, and at the same time we’re updating the technologies we use to present the tutorial.  These changes will make it much easier for candidates to access the tutorial on a variety of hardware platforms. Both the tutorial and comma go into effect Oct. 1.

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AICPA Forensic Accounting Credentials Are Attorneys’ Top Choices

Expert-witnessWhere do attorneys turn when they need to make a compelling case on a critical financial issue? That question can be answered by considering what kind of expert witness they employ. In a recent compilation of accounting expert witnesses who have been mentioned in court opinions or decisions in 2013, the vast majority were CPAs. (Disclaimer: The article was by Ashish Arun with Expert Witness Profiler. AICPA FVS Section Members receive a discount to Expert Witness Profiler, but we were not involved in this study.) Among the 189 accounting experts cited, 166 were CPAs. For those with specialized credentials on top of the CPA, the AICPA’s credentials were clearly preferred over those of other credentialing organizations. The Certified in Financial Forensics credential took the number two spot at 58 experts and the Accredited in Business Valuation credential took number three with 54 testifying experts. The CVA at 31, CFE at 30 and the ASA at 18 were well behind the AICPA credentials on this list.

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The Tax Realities of “Breaking Bad”

Breaking-bad-taxThe final episode of “Breaking Bad” is here. But I don’t want to discuss what happens in the finale or even this season. Instead, I want to focus on the tax implications of what Walter White and his alter ego Heisenberg have done. (SPOILER ALERT: There are no spoilers contained herein from any episodes airing in 2013, but there may be some if you haven’t caught up to the last season).

Tennessee's "crack tax" (struck down as unconstitutional not long after its creation) notwithstanding, the Internal Revenue Service has a history of charging those involved in illegal activities with tax evasion. Al Capone and Soviet Spy Aldrich Ames both were charged with tax evasion after they did not report the money made from their illegal activities. After all, the IRS instructs taxpayers to report any illegal activity income on line 21 of the Form 1040, where other income is reported. So in reality, someone committing crimes and earning revenue for this activity could avoid tax evasion charges by reporting it on line 21. But then of course you've just admitted to conducting illegal activities. While technically confidential between you and the IRS, the common belief is that the IRS will find a way to alert the authorities, either through disclosure in an audit or interdepartmental alliance. So, most people don't report their illegal activities, don't incur tax and go on tax-free until they get caught.

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EXTRA! EXTRA! Meet the Brains Behind @AICPANews

Hello_my_name_isAICPANewsTwitter has increasingly become the go-to place for industry news. Recently I sat down with James Schiavone, AICPA media relations manager and the brains behind the @AICPANews Twitter account, to discuss what he has learned from managing this thriving social media channel.

Q) The @AICPANews account was stated in March of 2009. More than 3,500 tweets and 17,000 followers later, what have you learned?

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Beyond Compliance: The Benefits of XBRL

XBRL-tabletData is the next great commodity resource. The equivalent of all the data that existed up to 2003 is now generated in two days, and 90% of the world’s total data was created in the last two years alone. Now comes a powerful new form of data, one that speaks the language of business. By the nature of its format, XRBL, or eXtensible Business Reporting Language, brings transparency to business information so investors can analyze data more easily and make informed investment decisions.

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Audit Data Gathering in Ten Minutes or Less

Whether you were the auditor or the management in charge of an audit and even if you’ve tried to forget it, I’m sure you remember your first audit. Do you remember how long it took? A couple of hours? A few weeks? What was it like for the audit team to get all the data together? A picnic, right? I could be wrong, but I’m going to guess that’s not likely.

Imagine a world where it only takes 10 minutes to gather company data. Imagine putting standards and processes in place that could provide you with the data you need today. You may think that’s impossible, but we’ve seen it done. Whether it is for internal analysis, external audits, or company oversight, it is becoming increasingly important to obtain data on demand.  With the help of the AICPA’s new, non-authoritative audit data standards, this is now possible.

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Assurance Services 101: New Tool for Providers and Users of Business Info

Business-meetingImagine this scenario: On the hunt for additional funds to jumpstart their business, a potential client comes to you. The CEO has just visited the local bank, but the bank manager will not agree to lend the needed funds without assurance on the business’ ability to generate profits. Now, the potential client is at your doorstep asking if you can provide assurance.  

“Perfect,” you say. Your firm provides assurance services that instill confidence and assist clients in making insightful decisions. Here’s the thing: your prospect has no background on assurance services. Where do you begin to explain?

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In the News: CPAs Predict Uptick in Hiring

AICPA Economic Outlook SurveyIt is--and has been--a tough time to look for a job in the United States (unless, of course, you are an accounting graduate). However, there may be some hope on the horizon for the legions of unemployed.

Business executives--while still expressing caution--continue to raise their expectations for hiring in the coming year. That’s according to the third quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey, a survey of 1,228 CEOs, CFOs, controllers and other CPAs in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles.

The CPA Outlook Index—a comprehensive gauge of executive sentiment within the survey—remained unchanged from last quarter at 69 points. The index is a composite of nine, equally weighted survey measures set on a scale of 0 to 100, with 50 considered neutral and greater numbers signifying positive sentiment.

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The Real Obstacle to Tax Reform? Let’s Look in the Mirror

Self-reflectionIn one of the better teen movies of the '80s, "Better Off Dead," a paperboy ruthlessly stalks the main character in an intense pursuit of what he is owed, repeating, “I want my two dollars.”  

Johnny the paperboy is not alone, as the senators who proposed a blank slate approach to tax reform found out.  And of course, taxpayers want a lot more than two dollars.   I admit, I am one of those “what’s in it for me?” taxpayers but I am slowly coming around to a different philosophy. 

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Lifelong Learning: The Fuel Driving Value Within an Organization

At the last meeting of the AICPA’s governing Council, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion between three esteemed colleagues--all of whom are CGMA designation holders. Along with Bill Schneider, CPA, CGMA, Deirdre O’Connor, FCMA, CGMA and Ash Noah, CPA, FCMA, CGMA, I spoke about the latest issues affecting management accountants in business and industry--and how the education and experience that lead the earning the CGMA designation, and the continued learning that each of them do, helps them shape their unique, but equally phenomenal careers.

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IRS Guidance Following DOMA Decision

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision invalidating a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service announced on Aug. 29 that “same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes.” The IRS also issued a revenue ruling (Rev. Rul. 2013-17) and FAQs providing guidance on the topic.

In short, regardless of what state the same-sex couple currently lives in, if they were legally married in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriages as legal and valid, then same-sex spouses are married for all federal tax purposes. This podcast from Bob Keebler covers Revenue Ruling 2013-17, background on the DOMA decision, income, estate and gift tax planning implications, as well as portability, IRAs and retirement plans.

IRS Guidance Following DOMA Decision

Robert S. Keebler, CPA, MST, DEP, Partner, Keebler & Associates, LLP. Bob is a 2007 recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Estate Planners award from the National Association of Estate Planning counsels. From 2003 to 2006, Bob was named by CPA Magazine as one of the top 100 most influential practitioners in the United States. He is the past Editor-in-Chief of CCH's magazine, Journal of Retirement Planning and a member of CCH's Financial and Estate Planning Advisory Board. His practice includes family wealth transfer and preservation planning, charitable giving, retirement distribution planning, and estate administration.  

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Vets Need Our Help: Now

Military-savingsThroughout history, our returning veterans have always faced challenges. However, recent reports have troubled me, showing that returning vets are facing more challenges than ever before.

According to a March 2013 study published by the Institutes of Medicine at the request of Congress, almost half of the 2.2 million troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan report difficulties on their return home.

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Would You Recommend the CPA Profession to Your Kid?

Professional-kidsWould you recommend the CPA profession to your kid? This is a question I used to ask the partners of my firm in Buffalo. I did our firm’s recruiting and felt this was an important question, because every new hire was someone’s kid. And in a small market like Buffalo, chances were, I actually knew their parents. I had to look those parents in the eye and tell them that when their child accepted a job with my firm, it was the right career move. I felt it was important for the partners to understand, if there was something in the firm that wasn’t good enough for their own kid, they had the power to fix it.

That same question sparked some lively discussion when I posed it to a group at the AICPA’s E.D.G.E. conference in Austin, Texas, this month. It goes without saying that the CPA profession provides virtually unlimited opportunities, offering a solid set of core competencies that can be put to work in a wide range of situations. Our CPA training and credential have formed a solid stepping stone for many of us, myself certainly included, to a very rewarding career.

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New Gmail Tabs Could Hinder Efforts to Reach Your Customers

Not too long ago, Gmail started rolling out a new layout which features different tabs to group your emails. By default, Gmail users see three tabs: Primary, Social and Promotions. Users can now find their emails on one of these tabs, based on Gmail’s settings. This change doesn’t just affect Gmail through your browser, but also through the Gmail app on your smartphone. (If you access your Gmail through IMAP or Exchange settings on your smartphone, you will still see all emails in one inbox.) Google says it made this change to give users more control of their inbox.

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