Raise your hand if every article on the upcoming tax season has left you reconsidering your choice of profession? The messages are everywhere and are not painting a rosy picture of what tax practitioners can expect. Well, I promise not to drudge up ACA, repair regulations, foreign accounts or countless other changes - enough has been said on those. Instead, I have a few ideas that you can try the next time you spot a tax season lemon.
Whether your firm is big or small, gone completely high-tech or still doing everything manually, there are always opportunities for improving efficiency, exploring new service lines, reinforcing your value to clients and raising your fees. This lemonade recipe has four ingredients, and simply requires a notebook, a plan and a commitment to try something new.
In an interview with CPA Letter Daily, AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, reflects on the accounting profession’s successes in 2014 and discusses the opportunities and challenges of 2015. Below is an excerpt from the interview; for the full interview, watch the accompanying video.
Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
~ One of my grandsons
What’s the million dollar topic on members’ minds these days? It’s always a multiple choice with me so here you go:
1. The IRS
2. The congressional lame duck session
4. Starting busy season
5. Government appropriations
6. Affordable Care Act compliance
7. The Keystone Pipeline
8. Immigration reform
9. Bipartisan cooperation in Washington
10. All of the above
(Ed, why is “starting busy season” on your list? When you were in practice, did you look forward to starting busy season? And isn’t bipartisan cooperation in Washington an oxymoron? What were you thinking?)
OK, fair enough, maybe not starting busy season, but busy season is a key to a successful practice year, and getting through it with fewer gray hairs wouldn’t hurt. (By the way, take a peek at our recent Tax Power Hour (for Tax Section members) for some tips.)
I wish it were bipartisan cooperation, but the obvious answer is “extenders.” We’re hearing from lots of members and rightfully so. Over 50 provisions expired last December. Our tax advocacy team has been talking about those provisions on Capitol Hill for over a year. And we recently sent in a letter about them. IRS Commissioner Koskinen even asked for a copy of the letter to tout with members of Congress because of the IRS’ interest in getting off to a smooth and early start to filing season. Truth is, energy and immigration policy aren’t my thing but they really are intersecting with tax policy on Capitol Hill this year. So what's the scoop?
The talk about quick passage of extenders is being replaced by congressional interest in smoothing the way for the Keystone Pipeline; indeed, legislation has passed in the House and Senate that the President has indicated would be vetoed (and they do not have enough votes to override the veto). And the President has acted on immigration issues through executive order; the Republicans have said such unilateral action could result in legal action to stop it. And if that weren’t enough, there’s other legislation, such as the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, that requires congressional attention; and even talk about letting the continuing resolution, the temporary government funding mechanism, expire on Dec. 11. It may not be a likely result but even a remote possibility of a government shutdown leading up to tax busy season is not good!
There has also been quite a bit of talk on dealing with extenders, which is good news. Piecemeal or blanket extension? One year or two? The House has been interested in the permanent extension of some provisions and a temporary extension of the remaining provisions, and the Senate leans “blanket.” And lots of groups are posturing for something to happen - one broad coalition of business groups has urged Congress to act right away lest uncertainty and instability be injected into the marketplace. Even outgoing Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp has said he thought the Democrats were acting in good faith.
But some would like to see provisions wither away on the vine, for example, retroactive extension of the decades old wind production tax credit has garnered a long and vocal list of opponents. And the President recently warned he would veto a congressional deal in the works, contending that it benefits corporations more than families.
However, there is still hope and I’m a glass-half-full type of guy so let me go out on a limb and give you my predictions (OK, maybe they’re wishes):
Congress will enact a two-year extension of the 2013 extenders - one year retroactively - during the lame duck session.
Congress will also pass another continuing resolution to fund government though busy season.
IRS will expeditiously finish the forms and complete programming and get things off to a smooth start.
The President and Congress will quietly work towards a bipartisan solution to immigration, energy issues and other items that need attention.
And a giant duck will land on the end of the limb I just went out on . . . is that a crack, I hear? (Ed, that wasn't just your grandson asking if “we're there yet;” it was all 400,000 of the AICPA’s members.)
Edward S. Karl, CPA, Vice President of Taxation, American Institute of CPAs
In all of my dealings with employers on Affordable Care Act (ACA) matters since 2010, I’ve reached a few reasonably sound conclusions. Here’s one: employers are faking it! They are doing so when it comes to how IRS controlled group rules influence the ACA’s “Applicable Large Employer” (ALE) determination. It is this determination that serves as a foundational component of the ACA’s Employer Shared Responsibility (“pay or play”) mandate. To recap, employers of 50 or more full-time equivalent employees (100 or more for 2015) are expected to offer ACA compliant coverage (play) or pay assessable payments. The amounts of these payments are based on factors that include the number of full-time employees and how many of them qualify for Exchange-based premium subsidies.
Over the past three decades, a growing number of CPAs expanded their service offerings beyond tax compliance to help individuals and families address and plan for all aspects of their financial lives. These aspects might include paying for children’s education, transferring wealth, protecting assets, funding retirement and more.
As CPA financial planners help their clients realize their long-term goals, this expansion of service offerings opens up new revenue streams and deepens client relationships.
Earlier this year, as part of the AICPA’s PFP Section’s CPA Financial Planning Thought Leadership series, I moderated the webcast, “Being an Advisor of Choice.” Panelists shared their perspectives on working with individual and closely held business clients, the benefits of this expanded business model to the practitioner and firm and the outlook for maintaining this model. (See the note at the end of this blog post about how to download a recording of the webcast.)
During the webcast, we discussed a great deal of information. Here is a quick rundown of eight ways you can become your clients’ “advisor of choice.” How many of these are you already doing and how many would you like to accomplish?
1. Add Financial Planning to Your Practice
Tax compliance is becoming a commodity. Integrating financial planning into your practice offers a chance to make a deeper connection with clients, requiring you to give objective advice and keep clients’ best interests at the forefront.
2. Determine Your Value Proposition
When you add financial planning to your practice, you also add value, but you figure out what kind of value you want to add in order to grow your bottom line. The last thing you want to do is become just another firm offering the same services as everyone else.
3. Avoid Becoming a One Trick Pony Advisor
Clients are outgrowing the services of mono-line advisors. If you were simply a specialist in tax or investments, your clients will grow beyond your services.
4. Know Your Strengths
Position yourself as the advisor of choice. You have an excellent professional reputation, offer high quality professional advice and possess transferable skills that are diverse and applicable to various client situations.
5. It’s all About the Relationship
Deepen and enhance the relationships you have with existing clients who already understand your role as their advisor of choice. You may even need to reposition yourself with existing clients, particularly CFOs or controllers who retain you just for audit work or corporate compliance.
6. Listen to Your Clients
Competent advisors do their best work when they sit down with their clients to let them voice their concerns about the current financial world they live in. Listen for issues you can help understand and solve.
7. Build on Your Three Distinguishing Qualities
As a financial professional, you are competent and objective and maintain the highest integrity. Remember these qualities and seize the best opportunities you can.
8. Break the Mold
Advisors who are willing to address the wide range of issues that come into play and work with their clients and other specialists to serve their needs will be in a great position to be a strong, key resource.
AICPA PFP Section’s Thought Leadership Series
Access the free webcast recordings and presentation materials from the AICPA PFP Section’s Thought Leadership series featuring forward thinking from CPA financial planners advising their clients in tax, estate, retirement, risk management and investments. Two panels will host free thought leadership webcasts on November 12th and 13th covering investments and the outlook for the CPA financial planning profession.
Lyle Benson, CPA/PFS, CFP®, President and Founder, L.K. Benson & Company. Based in Baltimore, Lyle’s firm specializes in personal financial planning, tax and investment advisory services for high income individuals and families, as well as corporate executives and entrepreneurial, closely held business owners across the country. Lyle is chair of the AICPA’s PFP Executive Committee.
"Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a refund from the IRS, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with." Unknown, from a Washington Post word contest
When is a CPA practice not "practice before the Internal Revenue Service?" And if it is not practice before the IRS, does that mean it’s okay to use contingent fees in a client arrangement?
Why do I write about this topic now? This past July, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an opinion (Ridgely v. Lew) that takes a significant strike at IRS’s ability to regulate contingent fee arrangements.
Gerald Ridgely is a CPA who practices with Ryan LLC, a global tax services company, but not a registered CPA firm. Ridgely sued the IRS, arguing that the Service exceeded its authority under Circular 230 in regulating the preparation and filing of ordinary refund claims, which practitioners file after a taxpayer has filed his original tax return but before the IRS has initiated an audit of the return. Ridgely contended that the inability to charge a contingent fee for a refund claim cost him clients and significant revenue. Under a contingent fee arrangement, the client only pays the fee (or a percentage of the refund) if the claim is successful.
Dr. Smith left you a voicemail at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night. You couldn’t make out the entire message due to a weak cellphone signal and background noise, but you gathered he was talking about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and needing you to sign something called a Business Associate Agreement.
Dr. Smith is an excellent dermatologist, but you know from doing his taxes that regulatory compliance isn’t necessarily his forte.
Have you ever stopped and asked yourself why you would ever want to make a tax return engagement more efficient, if it really only means you will charge less over time?
Stay with me here while I explain how value pricing and efficiency can go hand-in-hand. Below is a hypothetical chart of fees incurred to prepare a 1040 return, as well as the amounts actually invoiced. I am going to explain how you are leaving money on the table.
Year one is largely spent reviewing the prior year returns to familiarize yourself with the client and to establish your internal workpapers. This will naturally take more time. So when you bill the client and see that you have incurred $1,500 in fees, your gut might tell you that the return is not worth that amount. So, you discount the fees to reflect the amount that you a) think the return was worth and b) think the client is willing to pay.
My daughter, her fiancé and I were recently looking for something fun to do in Washington, D.C. As we were poking around, we found a special attraction at the National Building Museum – a maze.
When we took our first steps into the maze, we felt excited but a little apprehensive. We knew there would be twists and turns to weave through. We wondered, would it be easy to navigate or would we get lost in a sea of offshoots and dead ends? But as we made our way through, apprehension gave way to pure fun!
With a new leadership team in place, the Internal Revenue Service Exempt Organizations Division has swiftly come together to introduce a shorter and easier application form (Form 1023-EZ, Streamlined Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code) for organizations seeking section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. The IRS estimates up to 70% of all applicants will qualify to use the new streamlined approach.
Prior to the form’s July release, Tamera Ripperda, IRS Exempt Organizations Division’s newly appointed director, shared insights with CPAs at the AICPA Not-For-Profit Industry Conference and explained the significant role the simplified form will play in the new IRS transition process her team has internally dubbed: “Moving Exempt Organizations Forward.”
Due to the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 and the net investment income tax, many clients have no doubt experienced the impact of the new multi-layered tax environment. According to a panel of leading CPA financial planners, clients ranging from those with high net worth to those with middle income were shocked to be hit with the NIIT and higher tax rates this tax season, and have been receptive to proactive planning to mitigate in future years.
Consequently, 2014 is the year to sit down with your clients and provide proactive guidance, education, planning and expertise. Here are a few helpful tips from our panel of experts to help you do that.
Regardless of the size of your business, somebody should be responsible for maintaining your company's fixed asset or depreciation schedule. Since in most cases this is not a full-time job, it may be neglected. Updating accounting records is unavoidable for most of us. However, many of us are incredibly busy. Who has time to pull out a fixed asset list - just to make an addition? If your company is large enough to employ an asset manager, you may be up to speed with fixed assets. If not, who is responsible for managing this schedule and do they have the information they need? New tax regulations that went into effect Jan. 1 allow organizations to go back and write off those assets on the books that are long gone. The regulations even allow for partial dispositions of "units of property" that previously were not permitted.
Since the release of the final tangible property regulations, practitioners and taxpayers have shared numerous concerns about their complexity and administrative burden. One of the most common complaints is the de minimis safe harbor election.
The de minimis safe harbor provision, if elected, allows a taxpayer to immediately deduct amounts paid to acquire, produce or improve tangible property and gives the taxpayer additional protection from future Internal Revenue Service examination adjustments. The safe harbor provision has two separate thresholds ($500 for taxpayers without an applicable financial statement and $5,000 for taxpayers with an AFS). A certified audited financial statement is considered an AFS but reviewed or compiled financial statements are not.
Whether you’re new to tax season or an experienced pro, there were probably times in the months leading up to April 15that brought new meaning to the term “multi-tasking.” Helping clients sift through back-up material, preparing and filing returns and keeping abreast of tax news, is an all-consuming process. Yet, tax season is also a time when you can easily overlook opportunities to improve your practice, strengthen client relationships and foster your professional development.
With April 15 comfortably behind you, now is the perfect time to look back and identify opportunities that can help grow your practice or help manage your staff. Here are five AICPA resources you might have kept on the back burner while you were in the throes of tax season.
My husband and I, both CPAs, are expecting a baby boy in August. Of course, being the fun-loving accountants that we are, as soon as we found out about the good news, we started thinking about tax planning for our new addition. Names, nursery theme, telling our family about the good news – those items could wait. But, tax planning, that was a today item.
I’ve been fortunate to work with many clients with children in my public accounting days, so I knew the general tax items that we needed to think about, such as tax credits, flexible spending accounts, household employee/nanny rules, etc. However, I wanted to refresh myself on these items and share some insights with anyone who has or will have a family. Here are some tips for you parents-to-be:
Is this a scenario you could relate to during busy season? It’s one of those days. Your schedule is jam packed. You’re working in overdrive to get it all done. The next thing you know, the receptionist buzzes you with news that one of your clients is in the lobby to drop off some paperwork. They would like to see you if you have a few minutes.
“ARGGHHH…not today!” you’re thinking. “I just don’t have time.” As tempting as it would be to decline the last minute request, you’re mindful that a client is right there in your office. That means you have the opportunity to amp your trust factor while they’re visiting. Maintaining a hands-off approach can make client retention tough. In my practice, the biggest complaint we hear from prospective clients who are considering a new firm is that their current tax expert never talks to them.
I am at the AICPA Tax Strategies for the High Income Individual conference in Las Vegas. This popular conference features national experts who dig keep into new tax policies and offer strategies for navigating new laws so that CPAs can advise their high-income clients with confidence.
Today I am live blogging the "Affordable Care Act: Understanding the Individual and Employer Mandates” session with speaker Eddie Adkins, a partner with Grant Thornton LLP. This session delves into challenges and responsibilities faced by employers and individuals to comply with the provisions of the complex health care reform law, and technical aspects of the responsibility provisions and traps for the unwary.
As the staff liaison for the AICPA’s Internal Revenue Service Advocacy and Relations volunteer committee, I am in the unique position to listen to our members’ concerns and discuss those issues with the IRS. When the online e-services of Power of Attorney and Electronic Account Resolution were terminated on Sept. 2, I heard concerns from numerous practitioners. In fact, we received more calls regarding this issue than all other issues combined last year.
The AICPA adamantly voiced members’ frustrations and concerns to the IRS. The backlash the IRS felt from the AICPA and other members of the practitioner community was so severe that IRS officials made it clear they never wanted this situation to repeat itself. This was a top priority to then-Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. The IRS also quietly looked into different possibilities to bring back these online e-services.
Finding your professional true north, a path you can be passionate about and one that will provide you with direction in the future, is attainable – when you have the right navigation. Whether it is honing your personal skill set, positioning your practice for growth or transforming your organization’s technology infrastructure, it is important that you be the navigator. There are endless possibilities to explore, pursue, master and achieve, and it is important you arrive exactly where you want to go.
Keep in mind that finding your way often means asking for directions and talking with others who have already arrived at your desired destination. They can tell you what is not on the map and the best roads to follow to enhance the quality of your journey. Here are three quick tips to find your professional true north:
The deadline to file your 2013 taxes – or file for an extension – passed earlier this week. What’s the significance of that? It’s time to think about planning for the 2014 filing season.
As many CPAs will tell you – taxes are something to consider year round. And one of the best ways to ensure that you are best positioned to pay no more than you owe is by being meticulously organized throughout the year. Enterpreneur.com recently posted an article suggesting some technology tools that will keep you organized in advance of next tax season – and no, a shoebox to hold all your receipts is not one of them.
Congratulations on making it through another tax season! From those long hours, including rigorous reviews and meetings with clients, you’ve gained unique insight into their lives—insight into their incomes, spending habits, investments and life events. Income tax planning and estate planning elements have become a more critical part of overall personal financial planning with the enactment of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 and the Net Investment Income Tax. While reviewing those 1040s, you are able to envision potential tax impacts of financial decisions and begin considering tax planning strategies for your clients, which broadens your relationship. This is a great first step in helping them meet their overall financial planning needs, including making estate, retirement, investment and risk management planning decisions to move them toward their long term goals.
As I shot up in bed last night in a cold sweat, I realized that a nightmare must have interrupted my peaceful night’s sleep. Waking up during tax season in a panic was pretty common during my over 20 years in public accounting, but why now? As a recent convert from tax practice, this spring is the first one since the early ‘90s that I am not preparing tax returns.
After some reflection, I discovered my dream was, in fact, about tax returns: phones ringing, emails and all of the anxiety-causing triggers for CPAs during tax season. Having sold my practice after last tax season, the only tax return I have to worry about is my own, so what was my trigger?
I realized that the source of my anxiety was a recent project where I had to draw on my prior tax season experiences. I was preparing for the AICPA’s Tax Power Hour webcast on managing tax season burnout. To truly empathize with the participants, I mentally placed myself back at my old office during the height of tax season. I could hear the phones ringing and the postage machine humming, I could smell the hot printers being overused, and I remembered the sight of peers walking into my office to ask a “quick question.” The experience was so real for me that I actually felt the urge to pick up my computer and hurl it at the wall.
It is filing season and landowners receiving natural gas royalty payments may be shocked by their tax liability if they have not been planning with their CPAs. Landowners who sign a lease with a gas company own a royalty interest. When royalty income is received, the landowner is entitled to depletion. Similar to depreciation, depletion is the cost recovery of a natural resource and, in the case of royalty owners, natural gas. It is provided for by IRC §611 and the rules governing it are IRC § 613 and 613A.
The Internal Revenue Service provides for two methods:
Cost depletion - allows the taxpayer a deduction based on the ratio of units sold to the number of units available at the end of the year plus the units sold during the year.
Percentage depletion - allows the taxpayer a deduction based on the gross income of the gas producing property.
It should surprise no one that the amount of Guinness consumed worldwide on St. Patrick’s Day more than doubles, to approximately 13 million pints. Celebrations are held far and wide from Australia to Russia to the International Space Station, where astronauts like Catherine Coleman play Irish music in space.
As a Maloney and a Fitzpatrick, I love the idea of a global Irish celebration - makes the world feel a wee bit friendlier (even if the saint being honored is technically Scottish).
The U.S. accounts for much of the increase in St. Patrick’s Day Guinness consumption. But while the enthusiasm may be spread out across the country, the excise tax on beer collected by each state varies considerably.
The map created by the Tax Foundation shows an interesting pattern - a low-tax band across the middle of the country, with a few Western states collecting the least, while southern states charge the most, with Tennessee coming in first at $1.17 per gallon. The Mid-Atlantic area defies categorization – my state of Virginia is in the middle but neighboring Maryland ranks much higher.
Have you purchased something online this past year, month or day? You probably looked at the cost of the item purchased, but did you pay attention to whether you paid taxes on your purchases? Sorry to tell you this, but just because a sales tax was not charged does not mean you don’t owe a tax on the transaction.
All states that impose sales taxes also require purchasers to remit use tax on any taxable purchases if sales tax is not paid. Many, if not most, consumers are unaware of the use tax and, therefore, do not comply. It is almost impossible for state taxing authorities to enforce these laws with respect to individual consumers (but businesses often are audited for use tax).
How do we stay motivated to continue to get a full night’s sleep, hydrate and enforce good habits when the pressures of work and the reality of deadlines, client demands and day-to-day fire drills become overwhelming? Long hours of winter busy season don’t allow for extra time to take care of our physical well being. Our daily workouts are replaced with early morning or late night staff meetings. Saturday afternoon pickup basketball games at the YMCA are just a fond memory. The only thing worse than going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark is dealing with the bitter winter weather in between.
Like many small employers with under 50 full-time equivalent employees, I thought my company would be relatively unaffected by the Affordable Care Act. I was surprised to discover that my company Healthcare Reimbursement Arrangement is legal, but is now completely unworkable.
I have offered for several years to full-time employees a standalone HRA for which they get pre-tax reimbursements for out-of-pocket medical expenses and health insurance premiums, up to the annual predetermined dollar limit. HRAs generally fall under Code Section 105(b) and are considered employer self-insured accident or health plans. By design, HRA plans have dollar limits on annual and lifetime benefits provided to participants. However, to be a qualified group health plan in 2014, the plan must provide minimum essential health benefits without annual or lifetime dollar limits. My company’s HRA fails to meet this basic requirement.
Overstock.com, the Sacramento Kings and a few countries have all taken positions on what they will do with Bitcoins. The two major Bitcoin positions are treatment of it as property, as Singapore has recently adopted, or as currency, as Germany has chosen.
Much has been written on the creation of the Bitcoin, and its rise in popularity – and value – from 5 cents in 2010 to over $1,200 in 2013. Bitcoins were born from combining electronic commerce and communications with mathematics, cryptography and privacy – as they only exist when your computer is functioning (or your iPad, smartphone, tablet, smart watch or Google glasses!), and they have no intrinsic value, save for what value people are willing to give.
In this podcast, Bob Keebler covers Revenue Procedure 2014-18, which provides a simplified method for certain taxpayers to obtain an extension of time to make a portability election. Rev. Proc. 2014-18 provides an automatic extension for certain estates of decedents dying in 2011, 2012 and 2013 to elect portability. The extension applies to estates that would otherwise not have had a filing requirement, and allows the estates to file a return to elect portability until December 31. It includes the estates of same-sex decedents who were not eligible to elect portability until after the Windsor decision. Access more resources in the Planning After ATRA and NIIT Toolkit, including more podcasts, new charts by Bob Keebler as well as webcast recordings and Forefield Advisor alerts/videos, and the complete four-volume set of The CPA’s Guide to Financial & Estate Planning, recently updated for ATRA and NIIT, and much more.
Spoiler Alert: This blog post contains spoilers if you have not seen the first episode of season four of “Downton Abbey.”
“Downton Abbey,” the British period drama that takes place in the early 1900s, has made death taxes… fun. If you are not familiar with the show, I will set it up for you. The Crawleys are part of the British aristocracy as the Earl and Countess of Grantham. Robert Crawley is the fifth Earl of Grantham and has only one heir, Matthew Crawley. Matthew is Robert’s third cousin, once removed (at this time in history, women still could not inherit property or title). In season three, Matthew marries Mary, Robert’s daughter, to keep the estate, title and money in Robert’s direct line of descent. Almost immediately after the birth of Matthew and Mary’s son, Matthew dies in a car accident.
As the focus here in New Jersey switches from “Bridgegate” to “tailgate,” we think about the things that we love best about the Super Bowl. A few of mine include eating wings, drinking beer and, of course, watching those witty commercials. However, as the players gear up to battle the elements this week, one other thing separates this Super Bowl from the others: the proverbial taxman. Many states impose an income tax on nonresidents’ earnings and New Jersey is one of them. To professional athletes, it is known as the “jock tax.”
Caffeine, check. Office supplies, check. Patience for lost or late documents, check. What else do you need for tax season besides, of course, sympathetic family and friends? Knowledge and technical resources help, as does convenience in finding them – so keep these resources from the AICPA bookmarked to help you prepare returns, manage your office, advise and communicate with clients, and even keep a sense of humor.
Bob Keebler interviews David Kirk and Adrienne Mikolshek, part of the team who wrote the Net Investment Income Tax regulations, to help members understand the new IRS Form 8960, Net Investment Income Tax for Individuals, Estates and Trusts and the draft instructions. Access more resources in the Planning After ATRA and NIIT Toolkit, including more podcasts, a customizable letter to send to clients to illustrate why it is important that they meet with you and new charts by Bob Keebler as well as webcast recordings and Forefield Advisor alerts/videos and the complete four-volume set of The CPA’s Guide to Financial & Estate Planning, recently updated for ATRA and NIIT and much more.
In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit landfall along the Gulf Coast, the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005 (H.R. 3768) was introduced and passed by Congress in less than two weeks.
Unfortunately, this prompt response is not the standard model each time a disaster occurs. Relief offered through the tax system varies, and as explained in the AICPA’s comment letter submitted to Congress last November, “this process results in taxpayers receiving different treatment for similar losses and not knowing what tax treatment they will receive until Congress enacts some form of relief, which frequently occurs long after the disaster.”
Currently, there is a massive amount of confusion in the business community and among consumers – the very same people that are CPAs in public accounting’s clients – with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Change, of course, creates opportunity, and knowledgeable CPAs can expand their role as trusted advisers by gaining an understanding of the implications of the ACA on businesses and individuals.
The changes in insurance primarily affect two client types: small business and individuals who do not get insurance from their employer. This latter group would include self-employed individuals and their families who do not qualify under the definition of “small business” for purposes of the ACA’s insurance market rules. There are provisions for large employers that go into effect in 2015.
In a recent post I detailed a number of articles highlighting tax tips provided by AICPA staff and members that individuals can use to save themselves money when they file their 2013 returns.
As the calendar flips to 2014 (the year of the polar vortex), AICPA members and staff have been providing guidance on how to ‘recover’ from holiday spending, save more in 2014, and outlining tax changes that may impact consumers.
Back in March, AICPA Senior Vice President Susan Coffey wrote about the dangers of providing client comfort letters. Since then, we’ve been hearing from more and more members that they are seeing a rise in requests from third parties for some sort of assurance on client accounting and tax information, or financial condition. I think Edward Karl said it best in CPAs and Comfort Letters: The New Chocolate (from the July edition/DC Currents column of The Tax Adviser) when he described them as requests for “verification, confirmation, certification, corroboration, authentication or substantiation of their clients’ financial information.” You name it, we’ve been asked to validate it. On the bright side, an increase in these requests confirms the faith, confidence and trust that business owners, decision makers and the public have in CPAs.
One of the New Year’s superstitions says that you should eat black-eyed peas for good luck and financial prosperity. If you (or your client) are a business owner who hates black-eyed peas, don’t worry. You got a bit of luck already. In issuing the final tangible property (aka repair) regulations, I believe the IRS went above and beyond to make the final regulations more taxpayer friendly and tried to reduce the administrative burden from the draft regulations.
When a business buys equipment for their business, it may qualify for an immediate tax savings by expensing the full purchase price instead of depreciating it over its useful lives (e.g., the section 179 deduction and 100% bonus depreciation). However, these options have restrictions. For example, the section 179 deduction requires taxable income and imposes an overall deduction ceiling and the bonus depreciation has a new property requirement (e.g., refurbished assets are not eligible). With well thought out planning, businesses can maximize the tax savings using both options.
What opportunities and challenges does the head of the AICPA foresee for the CPA profession in 2014? What were the profession’s significant achievements in 2013? Barry C. Melancon, CPA, CGMA, AICPA president and CEO, answers these questions and offers insights on how the profession will continue to adapt to today’s changing environment, addressing clients’ and employer’s needs. Citing successes with regulation, legislation, recruitment and positioning the profession for the future, Barry strongly believes CPAs will build on a solid foundation.
1. What were the AICPA’s legislative or regulatory priorities this past year and what’s in store for 2014?
We continued to have success in the advocacy area in 2013. In one significant victory for the profession and the public, the Securities and Exchange Commission exempted CPAs from registration as municipal advisers when they are providing certain accounting or attest services. We urged the SEC to exempt CPAs from the definition of municipal advisers after it had indicated that anyone performing accounting services for governments would be defined as a “municipal adviser.” It was critical that our voices be heard on this issue because such a broad definition would have made it more difficult for CPAs to serve governments and potential investors without taking on unnecessary and duplicative costs or compliance burdens.
As the calendar turns to December, AICPA experts have been speaking to reporters to educate the public about tax moves they can make before the end of the year. A number of these tips involve tax breaks that will either expire, or whose futures are uncertain and the steps that businesses, individuals and homeowners can take now to save themselves money when they file their 2013 return.
According to Porter, one of the most important of the temporary tax provisions set to expire after 2013 is the 50 percent bonus depreciation, which was enacted as part of economic-stimulus legislation.
“Let’s say you’re a CFO, and you know you need to purchase a million-dollar piece of equipment. If you purchase it before the end of the year, you can get a $600,000 write-off in the first year,” says Porter.
The purpose of Roth IRA conversions as it relates to the Net Investment Income Tax is to lower modified adjusted gross income below the threshold amount over the long-term. Some benefits of Roth conversions include lower overall taxable income, tax-free compounding, no required minimum distributions at age 70 ½, tax-free withdrawals for beneficiaries and more effective funding of the "bypass trust." Converting to a Roth IRA creates opportunities to reduce the overall size of the estate and to take advantage of greater tax-free yields and favorable tax attributes. Bob Keebler walks you through the mathematics of conversion through examples, tactical considerations and a four-step process for Roth conversion planning. 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.
A Charitable Remainder Trust is a split interest trust consisting of an income interest, which is paid to the donor or other beneficiary during the term of the trust, and a remainder interest, which is paid to the designated charity. The purpose of this strategy is to harbor net investment income in a tax-exempt environment while leveling income over a longer period of time to keep MAGI below the threshold amount. CRTs are especially useful when there is a large capital gain that pushes income above the threshold amount. In this podcast, Bob Keebler explores using CRTs in year-end planning strategies for your clients. Visit the AICPA PFP Section’s Post American Taxpayer Relief Act and Net Investment Income Tax Toolkit for more in-depth resources on planning in preparation for year-end.
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.
Humorist 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).
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
An 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).
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.)
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.