In the News: New Hot Spot for Young CPAs

Young CPA NetworkI’m writing this blog post from the AICPA’s E.D.G.E Conference in Austin, Texas. E.D.G.E. is an opportunity for CPAs to gain management and leadership skills, while networking with leaders of the profession and discussing emerging issues. And since the conference is aimed at CPAs and practitioners with 5-15 years of experience, I’ve had an opportunity to speak to a number of younger AICPA members about the opportunities and challenges they’ve faced in their careers. My colleague and friend Heather O’Connor has posted a couple of great live blogs  from the conference and there are a lot of tweets on the #AICPA_EDGE hashtag you can check out to get a better sense of the content in the sessions.

Conferences are a great place to meet likeminded CPAs, learn about the issues facing the profession and help navigate the next steps in one’s career. Can’t make it to a conference this year? No worries, the AICPA has announced the launch of the Young CPA Network Community to help young CPAs enjoy many of the benefits of conference attendance from the comfort of their laptop or mobile device – like networking and career development.

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Advancement of Women in the CPA Profession [LIVE BLOG]

Today's hot topic at the AICPA's E.D.G.E. Conference in Austin, Texas, is women's professional issues. In this session, Yasmine El-Ramly, CPA.CITP, Project Manager, PCPS – Firm Services, AICPA, and Mark Koziel, CPA, CGMA, Vice President, Firm Services & Global Alliances, AICPA, will describe best practices to promote the advancement of women in the profession at the organizational and individual levels. The AICPA is hosting the Women's Global Leadership Summit, Oct. 24 to 25 in Washington, D.C.

(Email subscribers: See the live blog coverage on AICPA Insights).

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FRF for SMEs Framework Gaining Traction in Marketplace

AICPA Enhances Tools to Assist CPAs with Implementation

AICPA-FRF-for-SMEsPrivate company financial reporting has evolved more in the past year or so than during the previous four decades. In June the AICPA issued an accounting framework for smaller, owner-managed businesses that do not need financial statements based on U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, and the Financial Accounting Foundation’s Private Company Council has proposed alternatives within GAAP for private entities. Both the framework and the PCC have the same goal of improving financial reporting for private companies and both are critically important, as private companies represent the vast majority of the businesses comprising America’s non-governmental economy.

Many owner-managed companies are small or micro in size. They often are called Main Street businesses, mom-and-pop shops or suburbia’s business districts. The AICPA’s Financial Reporting Framework for Small- and Medium-Sized Entities was designed to serve this segment. The FRF for SMEs framework presents the small business community with an opportunity for robust and relevant financial statements that are simplified and cost efficient when U.S. GAAP is not required as a basis of accounting.

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7 Issues Facing Young Professionals [LIVE BLOG]

This week I am live blogging from the AICPA's E.D.G.E. Conference being held in Austin, Texas today through Friday. The first session I am covering is "The Top Seven Issues Facing Young Professionals." In this session, Tom Hood, CPA.CITP, CGMA, CEO, Maryland Association of CPAs, will share the latest research on the issues that are top of mind for the young CPA professional, and share tips and techniques to deal with them. These issues include:

  • Work/life balance
  • Information overload
  • Generational issues and technology
  • Social media
  • Networking 

(Email subscribers: See the live blog coverage on AICPA Insights).

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It’s Not About the Money

table of foodAfter recently being reintroduced to the reality of my student loans and how slowly I was chipping away at them—oy, the interest—I came to the conclusion that it was time for a budget revamp. I sat down, mapped everything out and determined the only solution was to relive my college days and go on the all Ramen noodle diet. While I usually pride myself on being a “frugal foodie,” the thought of hot noodles during the hot summer was not appealing, no matter how many variations I could make. Luckily, I travelled down to Philadelphia the following weekend and was reintroduced to the beauty of fresh farmers’ stand produce through a visit to the Italian market.

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IRS E-Services: Can They Come Back Better Than Before?

GoalThe online world operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  It never closes.  Our society has become accustomed, even dependent, on this real-time environment at its fingertips.  We read the news online, buy everything from clothes to home goods to work-out DVDs online, pay our bills online, even look for a potential mate online.  And we do all of these things whenever we want, and anywhere we want - as long as there is Wi-Fi!

But, soon, there will be something that you as a tax practitioner will no longer be able to do online: communicate with the IRS in certain circumstances.  The IRS announced on its website that as of August 11, it would no longer offer the Disclosure Authorization and Electronic Account Resolution products online due to low usage. This news caused an outcry from the tax practitioner community; many signed petitions to keep them up and running.  We received a flood of emails and phone calls from our members, rightfully concerned about the negative impact that losing these two products will have on their practice.

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Tax Planning Complexity Can Provide Growth for Your Firm

The increased complexity of individual taxation and the overall personal finance environment is leading many CPA firms to explore ways to address areas where tax planning overlaps with retirement planning, estate planning and other personal finance areas.  This approach delivers great value, creates new firm revenues and increases competitiveness.

As Barry Melancon, AICPA president and CEO recently noted in a video to AICPA members, the need for tax planning that integrates personal finance concerns is critical. Clients have many questions about how the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 and the new Medicare surtax affect them, in particular. The retirement savings crisis is getting national media attention and threatens the financial security of Americans.  Post-ATRA, the estate tax may affect only a small number of clients, lessening the focus on planning to reduce taxes and refocusing estate planning on its primary purpose, which is protecting  loved ones through asset protection, asset titling, beneficiary designations and more.

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Managing IT Risks and Compliance: A Growing Major Concern

Managing-riskManaging IT risks and compliance are major concerns for many organizations, including those in public accounting, business and industry, consulting, and government/ not-for-profit. Organizations that do not understand, or have not considered, the risks associated with information technology are generally not prepared to mitigate such risks. As a result they are ill-prepared to face the pressures that accompany increased vulnerability within the IT environment.

According to the results of the first Regulatory and Risk Management Indicator conducted by Wolters Kluwer Financial Services, financial institutions are feeling even greater regulatory and risk management pressures than ever before as issues surrounding IT risks and compliance seem to exponentially increase from year to year. The Regulatory and Risk Management Indicator highlights the concerns that financial professionals have with risk management and the obstacles they face in managing those risks effectively. 

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Tax Reform: How Do We Catch Up with the Maldivians?

Time-for-changeGet ready for a test. What will be the biggest driver of fundamental tax reform?

  • Bipartisan compromise?
  • Congressional leadership changes?
  • Current events?
  • Revenues?
  • Good tax policy?


In my last blog, I predicted that fundamental tax reform would not come before 2014 so we have some time before the test answer arrives. But I do want to talk about good tax policy in this blog.

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In the News: Learning to Lead

Derek-jeterThroughout my career in communications, I’ve sought out every opportunity to develop the skills that will hopefully help me become an effective leader in the future. Almost all of the dedicated and successful professionals I know - in every field - have done the same. Some people, like Derek Jeter and Winston Churchill, are viewed as being great natural leaders – the kind of individuals who can motivate and bring out the best in the people around them. But the vast majority of individuals – even successful leaders - have needed a little guidance along the way to develop and refine the qualities that may eventually allow them to help steer their organizations to great heights.

To help develop the future leaders of the accounting profession, the AICPA recently announced the 2013 Leadership Academy class. This group of 38 rising stars will attend the 5th annual Leadership Academy, held in Durham, N.C. this fall. The five day program will be an opportunity for participants to learn leadership theory and strategic planning techniques, while developing tools for handling complex management challenges.

As a recent article in Accounting Today notes, CPA leaders, including AICPA Chairman Richard Caturano, CPA, CGMA, and Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, the Institute’s president and CEO will engage the participants, all under the age of 36, and discuss the issues currently facing the accounting profession.

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Another Lesson on Unreasonably Low Compensation

Payroll-taxPayroll tax collection continues to vex the Internal Revenue Service despite several court cases that have resulted in rulings favorable for the IRS regarding unreasonably low compensation. A recent high profile case was David E. Watson, P.C. v. United States on which the Eighth Circuit ruled in 2012. Watson was an indirect partner in a CPA firm, practicing through an S corporation that paid him $24,000 of salary per year and between $175,000 and $203,000 in profit distributions. The court adjusted his compensation to $93,000.

It isn’t hard to see why shareholders of S corporations attempt to justify wage levels below what the IRS considers “reasonable compensation” (assuming the understated compensation is below the FICA wage base). Both the S corporation and employee save the 7.65% FICA and Medicare taxes on the wages not reported.

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Opportunities for Innovation: It's Time to Change the Way We Think

Auditors, and others in the accounting profession, think logically. We have to in order to do our jobs. However, as the world changes, so must we – and logic only gets you so far. Aside from logical thinking and reasoning, we also must be creative. It's that creativity, which can often be found in your existing staff, that can provide us with opportunities for innovation.

Take a look around and you'll see that the world is simply moving away from, and beyond, how CPAs have traditionally practiced. While CPAs still give an opinion on a set of historical financial statements, real-time technology is here to stay. People want information now, not later – and there's a big difference in providing one versus the other. That's where our profession, and the future of auditing, must change. It means taking a closer look at technology, standards – and people. I recently filmed a video for the AICPA addressing these issues

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AICPA Report Finds Record Hiring for Accounting Grads

Trends
in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting
RecruitsAccounting has always been a popular major as well as a great career choice, and a new report has shed some light on just how hot the accounting profession is right now.

The AICPA recently released the results of the Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits, which showed a record 40,350 accounting graduates hired by public accounting firms in 2012 and 89 percent of those firms forecasting the same or increased hiring of graduates this year.

In addition to promising demand, the pipeline of future accountants is stronger than ever, with historic levels of student enrollments in accounting programs and record numbers of accounting graduates in 2012.

To gain insight into why accounting is more popular than ever, and to better understand the content of the Trends report, I sat down with Scott Moore – AICPA Director of Students and Professional Pathways, who led the effort to compile the Trends report.

James Schiavone: One of the things that really struck me about the report is that the number of students who are earning their master’s degree in accounting has doubled in the last ten years. Can you explain why we’ve seen such a sharp increase?

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3 Questions You Should Consider for Your Succession Plan

Succession-planThe AICPA’s Private Company Practice Section recently released results of its 2013 CPA Firm Top Issues Survey and succession planning is among the top 5 concerns for firms with 11 or more professionals. It’s no surprise to me. In fact, I’m elated firms have succession on their minds. My only surprise is that succession planning wasn’t cited as a top concern for all survey respondents.

Succession planning is an issue many CPAs have been avoiding for the last decade or so. Like many of our clients who may be uncomfortable discussing planning finances for a family that will continue to exist without them, we CPAs are in a tad bit of denial about our own mortality. We may not even realize the opportunity we have to establish a legacy and mentor others as we plan for the future of our firms.

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Cash and Investment Disclosures in Governmental Audits

City-hallAre you ready for your 2013 local government audits?  Cash and investments are a very important area of disclosure in the financial statements for state and local governments, especially for governments that report pension plans as fiduciary funds in their financial statements. Make sure you’re up to date on these cash and investment disclosure requirements. It’s a good idea that your clients are also well aware of these provisions as they prepare the disclosures, as they can help you to provide adequate audit evidence to support the material accuracies of the disclosures being made in the footnotes relative to cash and investments.

Here are a few important reminders about disclosures in this area: 

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Tax and Estate Planning Following the DOMA Decision [PODCAST]

This podcast from Bob Keebler covers tax and estate planning following the Defense of Marriage Act decision by the Supreme Court of the U.S. Bob discusses the complexity of moving from a same-sex marriage state to an opposite-sex only marriage state, income tax planning for same-sex married couples, estate and gift tax planning, the marital deduction, gift splitting and portability issues, as well as IRAs and retirement plans.  [Email subscribers: Visit AICPA Insights to listen to the podcast.]

 

Tax and Estate Planning Following the 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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Health Care Reform: The Questions Just Got More Complicated

Health-care-file“What will health reform mean to my small business clients?” That was one of the hot topics identified at the recent AICPA Private Companies Practice Section Executive Committee meeting, and it’s a question that I and my colleagues on the PCPS team have been hearing from CPAs across the country. In addition, in the 2013 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, “the effect on firms of new federal and state regulations (i.e., increasing complexity, costs to comply)” was one of the top five issues for sole practitioners, possibly due to increased concerns and client inquiries about implementing provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  PCPS uses the Top Issues Survey results to inform members about the challenges being faced by other firms and to monitor and respond to member needs.

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Finance Chiefs Require Broader Skillset for Their Teams

Amazing-personIn a recent Financial Times article, Sally Fisher of Deloitte noted that while they are not new skills, “you rarely find in one individual strong technical skills, strong commercial acumen and strong behavioral skills.”

She’s right. Fortunately, CGMA designation holders are a step ahead in satisfying the ever-changing needs of their organizations. In the years of experience and education that led to earning their designations, they have worked to complement their financial skills with the business acumen needed to contribute fact-based analysis and recommendations on a range of topics critical to corporate operations and strategy.

Management accountants have a unique opportunity to step in and act as key advisers to their companies by looking at strategic and operational areas outside of finance.

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In Times of Catastrophe and Routine: The Need for Forensic Accountants

Business-continuityIn the aftermath of May’s devastating tornado, the residents of Oklahoma are undoubtedly facing challenges to recovery on multiple fronts… physical, emotional, financial and beyond.

The first responders did their part to begin the recovery process as soon as the storms cleared. But in the weeks and months ahead, CPAs will be providing assistance in their own way, by expertly answering questions and providing essential guidance in the recovery process.

Simply put, we can play a part in reestablishing people’s livelihoods and restoring communities that have suffered great loss.

For example, local business owners dealing with business interruption losses may need answers regarding the optimal time to contact their insurers, how to document the claims or something as fundamental as what their policy will and will not cover.

 

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Placing the Public’s Interest at the Forefront

HandshakeThe CPA profession has a long-standing history of serving the public interest, with more than 125 years of providing services in the highest professional manner. As individual clients’ financial worlds become increasingly complex, many CPAs have responded by expanding their service offerings beyond traditional tax compliance and planning to include investment, estate, retirement and risk management advice.

The landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed in the wake of the economic crisis of 2008, required that the Securities and Exchange Commission conduct a study on the effectiveness of the existing standards of care for financial professionals. The study covers CPAs who provide investment advice and personal financial planning services to their individual clients (download the free CPA’s Guide to Investment Advisory Business Models to determine if you have a registration requirement). Currently, broker-dealers and investment advisers operate under different standards of care.

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We’re Two Years Old!

Two-cakeAICPA Insights® is celebrating its two year anniversary today! Now that we’re two years old, you can expect us to ask “why?” a lot more, refer to our imaginary friends frequently and throw a temper tantrum or two.

Joking aside, it has been an amazing and wonderful journey together. By focusing on news, trends and innovations important to the CPA profession, we’ve reached into 211 countries/territories, received more than 1,000,000 page views and attracted more than 600,000 individual visitors since our birth. Our more than 25 different highly qualified and diverse bloggers will continue providing you with the valuable, thought-provoking information you’ve come to expect from this blog. We’d like to say thank you for your participation and engaging with your colleagues and subject matter experts. Here are some of the top blog posts over the past two years:

You are the reason the blog has become an essential resource. Please take a few minutes to fill out this short survey about your preferences so we can continue to meet your needs.

Thank you again for your readership! 

Two cake image via Shutterstock

Will The Research Tax Credit Be Extended Permanently?

Stop-go-switchThe research tax credit has been around since 1981.  The credit is generally available if you incur research and development expenditures for qualified research that are technology based and intended for the development of new or improved processes, products, techniques, or formulas (among other requirements).

Do you know how many times the credit has expired and been extended since it was enacted back in 1981? The answer is at least eight expirations and 15 extensions.  The credit expired as recently as the end of 2012 but was extended through 2013 with the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.  If you answered that question correctly, I applaud you for keeping up with the changes.  I don’t know about you, but I am getting tired of looking up to see when the credit will be expired.

If you are tired of never-ending expirations and extensions, I have some good news to report. 

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The Moans and Groans of Student Loans

When I graduated from college I thought I had all my finances under control. Sure I had some student loan debt, but I had been able to get through four years with only the equivalent of one year’s worth of expenses and tuition in debt; compared to those with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans, I felt pretty good. Then I entered the “real world” and everything changed. I’ve been out of school four years now, paying the optimal monthly payment on my loans every month, and I’ve barely made a dent. Student-loan-debt-2

As a student applying for loans, I assumed that as long as I made my monthly payments I would see the number go down, plain and simple. I figured that those high school teachers I had that were still paying down their loans in their 40s must have put off payments or took out enormous loans; why else would it take that long? As the reality of the situation sunk in, and I realized the impact of this magical “interest rate,” my student loan debt suddenly felt much heavier. And I’m not alone. According to a recent survey conducted on behalf of the AICPA by Harris Interactive, only 39% of respondents fully understood the burden student loan debt would have on the future, and a whopping 75% have made a personal or financial sacrifice because of monthly student loan payments, like postponing getting married, having children, buying a house and saving for retirement.

This spring I proudly watched my little brother graduate from college, but as I looked out at the sea of graduates, my mind couldn’t help but think of the immense amount of student debt that lay before many of them. Lucky for my brother, working at the AICPA and with our members has given me access to a treasure-trove of tips and information for managing and paying down student loan debt. Here are a few basics that I passed along to him from 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy.

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Social Media: Time Sink or Productivity Booster?

During a recent live chat about social media on the AICPA Facebook page, we asked participants, “Do you think social media is a time sink?” 50 percent said, “No,” and the other 50 weren’t so sure.

Time Sink graph

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IT Security Key Concern for CPAs and Their Clients

IT-securitySecuring the IT environment is a key issue in today's business world as organizations attempt to manage the risks in cloud computing, the use of mobile devices and defending against cyber-attacks. The importance of security is becoming more apparent each day. Earlier this year, Yahoo Japan experienced an IT security breach in which the user names of 22 million people were stolen. Back in 2010, Google reported that it was the victim of a Chinese cyber-attack; a similar attack is believed to have been launched against the U.S. government. But it’s not just big businesses and governments that have to fend off cyber-attacks; small businesses experience the same problems. Securing the IT environment is clearly a universal issue and can be a constant challenge when it comes to identifying threats.

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Gaining a Professional Edge with AICPA Membership Benefits

First-wanted-to-be-a-cpaI take great pride in being a CPA, and I know you do too. Earning the credential is something that gives us tremendous confidence and opportunities in our professional lives. The self-assurance comes from having passed the rigorous CPA exam and maintaining lifelong learning. The endless possibilities stem from our experience, expertise and skills that are highly regarded and necessary in any organization.

Of course, I am able to stay current and knowledgeable about both professional and technical issues through my membership in the AICPA. As fellow members, you know the Institute gives us a professional edge by providing 24/7 access to trusted information and reliable tools. In an increasingly complicated and competitive business world, it’s good to know that I can turn to the AICPA to tap into the information I need when and where I need it.

In addition to technical information, I rely on many other member benefits that make my work more efficient or more profitable. They also may save my firm, my family or me money and some members find the discounts more than pay for membership. Below are some of the member benefits I’ve used:

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In the News: Tax Breaks on Home Sales

Home-saleJust yesterday, The National Association of Realtors announced that its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed last month, increased 6.7 percent to 112.3, the highest level since December 2006.

With many people considering placing their home on the market, a timely Wall Street Journal article examined the taxes and tax breaks available when selling a home. According to Melissa Labant, director of taxation at the AICPA, these rules can be complicated and people often misunderstand or don’t take full advantage of the benefits available.

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Paving the Way to Career Happiness and Success

Painting-roadwayFor many years, I had what I now call an "accidental career."  I didn't put much thought into why I was moving up the ladder, I just climbed because that's what I was supposed to do.  It’s no surprise that I soon found myself unchallenged and feeling like I wasn't making a difference.

When I stopped to evaluate, I realized that the power was mine to make a change. It was time to find out what would happen if I put my whole heart and soul into something. So I quit my job and started a business. I spent my life savings trying to figure it out. Ultimately I learned more about business, life and myself than I ever could have on the safe road.

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4 Ways to Attract New Clients

New-clientWhat’s one thing that CPA firm owners can agree on? While the top issues affecting CPA firms vary based on size, bringing in new clients is a common concern for all. That’s one of the many things we learned from the 2013 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues survey, which asked CPAs what’s keeping them up at night. The biennial survey, conducted by the AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section, reveals the chief concerns of CPA firms like yours.  

We released the results of the Top Issues survey at the AICPA’s Practitioners Symposium TECH+ and AAM Summit on June 11 in Las Vegas. The survey responses are categorized by practice size, with top five concerns lists for sole practitioners and for CPA firms with 2 - 5, 6 - 10, 11 - 20 and 21 or more professionals. The findings offer unique insights into the critical challenges facing practitioners across the country, and enable the AICPA to understand and analyze the trends and challenges, and thus provide appropriate solutions and resources to our members.

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CPAs Bring Expertise, Bipartisanship to Congress

Businesses and individuals trust CPAs for their objectivity, integrity and independence. Those characteristics are what the public also values in elected officials, so we are fortunate that a growing number of CPAs are involved in state, local and federal government.

This year, two more CPAs were elected to Congress: Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL.). That makes a total of 10 CPAs in Congress, plus an additional two accountants in the Senate.

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Health Care Considerations for Employee Benefit Plans

Health-careThe debate continues about how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will impact health care costs in the overall economy. While CFOs may not be interested in the macroeconomics of it all, they will want to keep their own company’s health insurance costs down. It will not be easy. 

Signed into law in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will profoundly affect individuals, employers, health care providers and insurance companies.  In addition to the many new tax rules to offset the cost of these reforms, the law also contains many changes that employers are going to need to consider and how it may affect employee benefit plan operations, internal controls, financial reporting and more.

Here are a few things that may have a larger impact on plans:

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Global Governments Waging War on Corporate Tax Avoidance

Tim-cook-apple-testifyingWhile reading through the Sunday New York Times, I stumbled across an opinion piece on corporate tax avoidance that I think is particularly relevant for business and industry CPAs. In today’s struggling economy, the corporate tax system is a hot button issue both in Washington and around the world. As companies become more global, we as CPAs in industry can continue to add value in this area.

The article, “Who Will Crack the Code?” by David Leonhardt, starts out by talking about the shift in the soda industry from domestic to foreign concentrate production—just one example of a thread that runs through many different industries. Leonhardt notes, “as a result [of moving manufacturing operations overseas], the industry paid a combined corporate income tax rate of only 19.2 percent over the past six years…the average rate for companies in the S&P 500 was 29.1 percent.”

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3 Ways the New COSO Framework May Affect Your Business

Over the past 20 years, change seems to come at the speed of light and has had a significant impact on the way businesses operate. Markets have become global, just about every process can now be outsourced and technology has become integrated into the DNA of every business. If anything, changes in rules, regulations and standards have accelerated. Businesses must now satisfy the high expectations of regulators and other stakeholders regarding governance oversight, risk management and the detection and prevention of fraud. All of this change means that stronger internal control practices must be developed to help to grow, as well as protect, the organization.

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Time is Running Out: Verify Your Clients’ FBAR Obligations Now

HourglassJune 30 will be here very soon – making sure your clients are compliant with the requirement to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts by that date is critical as civil penalties for failure to file are huge – they range from $10,000 up to $100,000 or 50% of the total foreign account balance. Criminal penalties include $250,000 or five years of imprisonment or both.   

If your client is a U.S. resident and has a total of $10,000 or more in all foreign bank accounts combined or has signature authority over a foreign account, he or she must file FBAR Form TD F 90-22.1 annually.  The FBAR is a report and is not to be filed with the income tax return.  What makes the FBAR different from many other forms is that it must be received, not postmarked, by June 30 and it is filed with the U.S. Department of Treasury, not the IRS.  Also, there are no extensions. 

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How Specialization Can Improve Your Service Offerings

In our last live blog session from the 2013 Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference in Partnership with the Association for Accounting Marketing Summit, Jerry Love, CPA, CGMA, ABV, PFS, CFF, CITP of Abilene, Texas, offers insight as to how CPAs can specialize and improve their bottom line. Specializing will:

  • Deepen existing client relationships – with each additional value-added service that you offer a client, they rely on you more heavily as their trusted advisor.
  • Increase the firm’s bottom line with additional revenue streams.
  • Retain staff – specialized services provide staff exposure to a wider array of assignments and fulfilling career paths.

(Email subscribers: See the live blog coverage on AICPA Insights).

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What is the Next Generation of CPA Firms?

Join the new generation of CPA who is finding success by reimagining and recreating the traditional CPA firm for the 21st century at the 2013 Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference in Partnership with the Association for Accounting Marketing Summit.

  • Leverage new technologies.
  • Implement new workflows.
  • Invent new client acquisition and relationship management systems.
  • Improve efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Grow revenues.
  • Optimize profitability.
  • Embrace value pricing.
  • Kill the billable hour.
  • Attract, nurture and motivate the best talent.

Get ready to renew your commitment – and be inspired anew – to transform your life, and the lives of colleagues and clients for the better.

Join Rick Telberg as he moderates this panel of young CPA professionals including:

  • Jason Deshayes, CPA, Vice President, Butler CPAs, Albuquerque, NM
  • Michael Elliott, CPA, Manager, Dittrick & Associates, Inc., Burton, OH
  • Joy Lizotte, CPA, Owner, Joy L. Lizotte, CPA, LLC, Lake City, FL

(Email subscribers: See the live blog coverage on AICPA Insights).

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Are You Using Digital Signatures?

Kicking off day two of the 2013 Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference in Partnership with the Association for Accounting Marketing Summit is the session "What‘s in the Future for Digital Signatures?." Business in general, and the CPA profession specifically, have long sought a solution to the inefficiencies of ink and paper-based signatures. Has technology finally solved the problem or do we continue to wait? There are many popular “solutions,” but do they really solve the problem(s)? This session, presented by Erik Asgeirsson, CEO, CPA2Biz, a subsidiary of the AICPA, and Brian Fox, CPA, founder of Confirmation.com, will define the problems and compare and contrast some of the proposed solutions. (Email subscribers: See the live blog coverage on AICPA Insights).

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AICPA Launches #MainStFinancials (FRF for SMEs)

Earlier today, the AICPA announced the launch of the Financial Reporting Framework for Small- and Medium-Sized Entities. This session at the 2013 Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference in Partnership with the Association for Accounting Marketing Summit covers AICPA Director of Private Company Financial Reporting, Robert Durak, CPA, CGMA, as he highlights key features and benefits of the Financial Reporting Framework for SMEs, as well as important accounting topics within the FRF for SMEs. You can find more information on the framework by following #MainStFinancials. (Email subscribers: See the live blog coverage on AICPA Insights).

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New Taxes and the Cost of Healthcare and Insurance

The 2013 Practitioners Symposium and Tech+ Conference in Partnership with the Association for Accounting Marketing Summit takes place June 10 to 12 in Las Vegas. I am live blogging from select sessions throughout the three days. The first session is "The Impact of Healthcare Reform on Small Business: New Taxes and the Cost of Healthcare and Insurance" with Mark Dietrich, CPA/ABV, of Framingham, Mass. Mark wrote a prelude on AICPA Insights which generated a lot of interest and conversation.

This session covers the Accountable Care Act, which is the most significant and costly social spending legislation since the Great Society programs of the 1960s. Its impact extends beyond health insurance, and envisions a system of regulation and taxation that aims to restrict the impact that income has on access to healthcare, except the wealthiest top .1% (one-tenth of 1%) of taxpayers. (Email subscribers: See the live blog coverage on AICPA Insights).

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CPA Exam Q3/Q4 2013 Score Release Timetables

Cpa-exam-score-release-timetableCPA Exam score release timetables have been such a hot topic amongst candidates that we have decided to post regular updates. Updated score release timelines are announced twice annually on AICPA Insights and also posted on the CPA Exam website. Since we would rather have candidates study for the CPA Exam than spend time notching off business days on a calendar, we have contained the score release timeline in a table below for candidates to easily find their score release dates.

Scores for the CPA Exam are released by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy to individual boards of accountancy based upon the target score release dates listed in the table below. 

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What Does It Take to Value a Business?

As CPAs, we get so consumed with our day-to-day challenges of serving clients and employers that we can neglect some of the big-picture issues that are going to impact the not-so-distant future of our profession. That’s what was behind the AICPA’s Vision 2011 project, and more recently our CPA Horizons 2025, but it’s also the subject of a series of panels we’ve convened to bring thought leaders together. Last month’s topic was value versus valuation, which is not a new issue, but one that has intensified in recent years. This video is just a snippet of that conversation. You can view the full video on AICPA TV.

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Managing and Retaining Data: Top Priority for CPAs

TechnologyTechnology allows organizations to make more effective use of data in advising clients and making business decisions. However, the explosive growth in the volume and complexity of information has increased the risks in managing and retaining data – which, according to the 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Survey, is the top priority for CPAs.

While everyone can agree that data management is integral to an organization’s ability to mitigate risk, an organization whose data management policies and procedures are insufficient or ineffective is exposed to the consequences of poor data management. Those consequences could result from poor business decisions or client advice that was based on incomplete or inaccurate data, having data stored in outdated or incompatible retrieval formats or improperly backing up data, which can result in its irrevocable loss.

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Sustainability Reporting: Don’t Miss this Opportunity

Business-inventoryWhether boosting the bottom line, preserving the planet or a combination of the two, sustainability has officially crossed the threshold of America’s businesses, with many of the greatest skeptics even now realizing that it’s here to stay. In fact, according to the Governance & Accountability Institute’s report: 2012 Corporate Environmental, Social and Governance / Sustainability / Responsibility Reporting – Does It Matter? Analysis of S&P 500 Companies’ ESG Reporting Trends and Capital Markets Response, “53 percent of S&P 500 Index companies are currently disclosing ESG information, compared to about 19-20 percent of the S&P 500 reporting in 2010.”

Sustainability’s momentum is being fueled by a large, influential and growing majority of supporters: business leaders. They recognize that sustainability-minded organizations are more committed to management checks and balances, informed decision-making and community goodwill. What follows is an organization’s reputation for greater stability, less risk and a more secure market value. Sustainability-minded organizations are among the top choices when retailers and other businesses create vendor relationships, select investment candidates and make purchase decisions.

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Tax Reform is Centerpiece of CPAs’ Advocacy on Capitol Hill

Capitol HillWhen more than 400 leaders of the CPA profession journeyed to Washington, D.C., to attend last month’s AICPA Spring Meeting of Council, visits to Capitol Hill to engage in advocacy of the profession’s legislative goals were a highlight of the agenda. To no one’s surprise, tax reform – which sits atop the list of the Institute’s legislative priorities – was a focal point of the visits.

The AICPA has a longstanding tradition of advocating for sound tax policy and assisting lawmakers on tax policy matters. The proliferation of new income tax provisions since the 1986 tax reform effort has led to complex compliance hurdles for taxpayers, administrative complexity and enforcement challenges for the Internal Revenue Service. The Institute has testified on tax reform before the House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee and submitted technical recommendations to five study groups whose findings will shape legislation expected later this year.

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In the News: Paying for a Summer Studying Abroad

Graduation-abroadAs a recent – and I use the word recent liberally – college graduate, one of my few regrets is that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to spend a summer studying abroad. I generally excuse this away because I had my hands full juggling my course work and extracurricular activities and was always eager to return to my native New York. If I was being honest with myself, the real reason was that I could never seem to navigate the financial and administrative aspects of applying to take classes overseas during the summer.

For those of you who are still in school and seeking to broaden your horizons, Michael Eisenberg, a Los Angeles-based CPA/PFS, recently spoke to U.S. News & World Report to educate their audience on how to pay for short study-abroad trips.

The article encourages students to look for scholarships and aid to pay for the parts of a short-term educational trip not eligible for 529 plan funding.

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Small Businesses and Health Care Reform – What Now?

Health-care-reformThe Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform) seeks to change the way health insurance premiums are established, just as the Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care did in Massachusetts. As CPAs’ small business clients begin to implement the requirements of health care reform, CPAs need to understand two significant ways in which their small business clients, and their own small practices, may be affected.

The Small Group Insurance Market and Increasing Premiums

The first big change that health care reform brings is the prospect of “merging” (formally or via rating rules) the small group insurance market with the individual insurance market. The individual market typically has the highest costs of all the health insurance markets due to the actuarial risk of a single covered life and the time and expense of selling single policies. The small group market, historically 50 employees or less, but in the case of health care reform, 100 employees or less (mandated to expand the risk pool base of small businesses who might also absorb the cost of the merged individual market), is significantly less risky and thus has lower premiums. As has been the case in Massachusetts, if the formal merger of the two markets’ risk pools takes place in your state, it may cause small business premiums to increase dramatically. If you or your client presently have more than 50 employees and are covered in your state’s existing large group market risk pool, premiums could rise once the small group level increase to 100 employees becomes effective in 2014.

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Celebrate Memorial Day: Serve a Veteran

Memorial-dayNow that you’re back to work after this year’s Memorial Day celebrations, you and your colleagues may be looking for additional ways to say thanks to the men and women who protect the U.S. and its interests. Good news! There is an exciting opportunity for CPAs to use your talents to do just that.

It is all part of the Veteran Fast Launch Initiative, a combined effort of the AICPA and SCORE. The program connects veterans who want to start and grow their own businesses with CPAs from across the country. The aim is to help veterans, their spouses and families succeed as small business owners. Practitioner volunteers provide up to five hours of time at no charge to veterans.

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10 Skills for Mapping Your Journey to Partnership

Partner-handshakeDo you have firm partnership in your sights? If so, good for you! Although there is no “one size fits all” approach for a senior manager to become partner, there are steps CPAs can take to strengthen their skills, expand their knowledge and develop personal characteristics that can bring them closer to achieving their goal. Beyond working hard to stand out, here are some things we did that helped us better position ourselves to become partners at our firm, Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain, PC. You may want to consider these tips as you set out on the road to partnership.

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A Smooth Transition to the Cloud

Digital-cpaA small business gains access to sophisticated technology it could not previously afford. A mid-size company reassigns its IT staff to strategic projects that encompass far more than day-to-day tech operations. A large organization is able to tap into enhanced business intelligence and put it to work more quickly. 

These are some of the success stories associated with cloud computing. Cloud technology is quickly becoming an integral part of everyday business life, smoothing the way to valuable business process outsourcing opportunities and making it easier to identify and use critical business intelligence. In fact, over 65% of IT security professionals reported using some type of cloud technology for mission-critical applications and data, according to the AccelOpps Cloud Security Survey 2013. And CPAs are integrally involved in many organizations’ shift to the cloud.

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How Unlimited Vacation Works in My CPA Firm

Exotic_vacationBefore starting my own CPA firm, I worked at a large, national accounting firm and found I was never actually able to use up my three weeks of annual vacation time. However, when I went to work for a local boutique CPA firm, I only got ten annual vacation days. There was also no policy for telecommuting and no flexible schedules or incentives for being more efficient than expected, such as being rewarded with more paid time off. “Face time” in the office ruled. Initially, I was okay with limited vacation, but a couple of years in, I realized that I would really value more flexibility as part of my compensation package.

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