Trends and Hot Topics Feed

trends and hot topics

Covering a wide array of topics, Trends and Hot Topics keeps an eye on what is new in the CPA profession and around the world.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Using Technology to Automate Finance and Help You Make Better Business Decisions

Business process outsourcing
Everyone is being asked to do more with less in the current economy; CFOs are no different. Many are looking for ways to enhance and streamline the finance function, from transaction processing to budgeting and reporting. Automation through leveraging state of the art technology is a key component to assist in this endeavor. With advancements in business applications and cloud-based technology like Intacct, Bill.com and others, virtual work environments, mobility and instant data is the new norm.

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Innovation through Sustainability: It’s as Simple as Soda Pop

Sustainable-innovationCall it what you will: pop, soda, Coke, Pepsi, Cheerwine, bubbly juice… countless Americans have an insatiable thirst for carbonated drinks, but we all know the costs of consuming a lot of soda over time can add up and it’s often bad for us. Plus, the discarded cans and bottles take a heavy toll on the environment, piling up in landfills across the world.

Enter SodaStream, an appliance you can use to make carbonated drinks straight from the faucet. SodaStream International Ltd., the product’s manufacturer, has a completely sustainable business model featuring reusable bottles that can last one year or more, rechargeable CO2 canisters and any number of flavored syrups to liven up your drink. The result: landfills are spared more than 1,000 plastic bottles per consumer every year, customers reuse system components, and this savvy company gains major profits and a well-earned reputation for being innovative and environmentally conscious. Over the past few years the company has also achieved remarkable growth, increasing revenue by 51% and net income by nearly 60% from 2011 to 2012. What CFO wouldn’t be impressed with that?

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Tomorrow's Company and the Ethics of Culture Change

Better-place-signRecently a colleague of mine attended a Tomorrow’s Company lecture in London as a guest of CIMA. Tomorrow’s Company is a London-based think tank that offers lectures and publications on issues like leadership and talent, sustainability and governance. CIMA, as a corporate member of Tomorrow’s Company, sponsors some lectures, as they did on this particular evening. The lecture she attended was given by Dick Olver, Chairman of BAE Systems, one of the world’s largest defense contractors.

Dick’s lecture was titled "A journey of culture change" and centered around his organization’s successful efforts in the area of ethics. With Dick’s appointment as chairman, he ushered in a complete overhaul of the company’s culture. He said, “The culture we’ve tried to develop is one in which our people take the company’s core ethical values into account in every decision they take. One where doing the right thing becomes an almost subconscious response.”

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In the News: CPAs' Optimism on U.S. Economy Increases, Despite Sequester

Sequester ChartConfession time: I am not a Nobel Prize-winning economist. In fact, I dropped Microeconomics my freshman year in college after one class and I never looked back. So when I read that the Dow hit an all-time high this week I wasn’t sure what to think about how the sequester would impact businesses and the economy overall. And since I like to understand what’s going on, all of this confusion made me sad.

Luckily for me, the AICPA just released the results of our Q1 Economic Outlook Survey, which polls members who serve as CEOs, CFOs and controllers as well as other CPAs in U.S. companies who hold executive positions on their views on the economy moving forward.  And this quarter, the ‘survey within a survey’ focused specifically on the potential impact of the sequester on their companies’ business.

As Ruth Mantell reports in MarketWatch, according to the survey results, only 11 percent of the CPAs surveyed believe the massive spending cuts in the sequester will have a “significant” impact on their companies’ business. Thirty percent responded that there would be a “slight” impact from the sequester, with an additional 30 percent reporting that the impact on their business would be “minimal.”

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Top 12 Tax Resources (for the 2013 Tax Season)

Finding time to do anything during tax season is tough. This year, with a delayed tax season, it will be an even bigger challenge. So save a little time this year by using the resources developed by the AICPA and its volunteer committees to help members successfully navigate the tax season. If you like free, you’ll love this list of resources as most of them cost nothing. 

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An Introduction to Pinterest

Pinterest_badge_red
Pinterest, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways
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Have you had a chance to try out Pinterest yet? You should! If you are a visual person, this image-driven platform may really hit home for you like it does for me.

 

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a fast-growing niche social networking site that has generated a lot of buzz and media coverage. With over 15 million users, Pinterest is the fifth most visited social media site in the US, and generates more referral traffic to other websites than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined.

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What I Learned from 10,000 Tweets

TweetingEarlier this month CPA Letter Daily’s Twitter account (@CPALetter_Daily) reached the milestone of 10,000 tweets. And with more than 15,000 followers, we’re one of the most popular AICPA Twitter accounts. Despite these milestones, I don’t know the secrets of Twitter any more than you do, but there are a few things I learned along the way to 10,000 that may help you with your Twitter opportunities. Here are seven easy-to-follow tips:

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Windows on Washington

Distorted-politicsA few weeks ago I talked about the jitters many business owners and families are feeling in regards to the current U.S. economic situation. Now, more than ever, businesses are looking to their CPAs to help them make sense of this increasingly complex world. At the AICPA, we want to do everything we can to help you succeed in this environment.

We asked you to describe the angst you are observing in your practice. We received dozens of comments via the blog post and social media channels. Overwhelmingly, members said that Congressional action—or in many cases, inaction—is the primary source of uncertainty and anxiety for clients and in their companies.

Right or wrong, it is clear that we live in a time when the Federal government is quite active. Think about it: TARP, the auto-industry bailout, Dodd-Frank, healthcare reform, American Tax Reform Act—and the list continues to grow. There will assuredly be more “cliffs” to come this year: surpassing the debt ceiling, a possible downgrade in US credit ratings, sequestration, and another continuing resolution(s) to fund the Federal government.

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In the News: After the Super Bowl, Tax Season Kicks Off

KickoffThe IRS has been accepting tax returns electronically and by mail since Jan. 30, but this Monday marked the official start of tax season, which is defined, for my purposes, as the day after the Super Bowl.

That means that for the next few months, as CPAs around the country are working with their clients to ensure that their returns are submitted correctly and on time, reporters and bloggers will be looking to provide their audiences with articles about all things tax. Therefore, I will be highlighting some more tax content of interest in my bi-weekly ‘in the news’ post. The circle of life, if you will.

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Economic Growth in 2013: A Blend of Optimism with Realism

2013-growthLike me, I’m sure most of you are relieved the “fiscal cliff” debate is behind us, at least for the moment. While Congress and President Obama still have plenty of work to do, I’m hopeful both political parties can work together on compromises that will begin to reduce the deficit and simultaneously stimulate economic growth.

What’s frustrating for me and for many Americans is that most of us recognize what has to be done. We need a balanced solution that includes new revenue and serious deficit cutting, with a look to the long-term economic vibrancy of our economy. We need tax reform and tax simplification, and we need to set national policies that incentivize private-sector workers, jumpstart new businesses, spur entrepreneurship and encourage innovation. If we can take steps toward realizing these goals, I believe we can see positive economic results in 2013.

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Social Media Time-Savers for Busy Season

Time-to-save-time

The work is piling up and you may be thinking, “There is NO time for this social media stuff, right?!” Wrong. There are a few simple ways to streamline the process and keep your social accounts active when busy season really gets ramped up.

Copycat: Let social do the work for you

Sure, it can take some time to scour the internet for useful information, articles and links to share with your social networks. How about letting your social networks do the heavy lifting for you? Follow and connect with your favorite thought leaders, associations and publications, and then share what they are sharing. This allows you to be a curator, passing along interesting and valuable information from the sources you trust. Check out these AICPA social properties and see if any of the content would be useful or interesting for your network.

 

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New Reporting Framework Will Eliminate “Noise” for Bankers, Other Financial Statement Users

No-noiseIn my almost 20 years in the banking industry, I’ve come across dozens of owners and managers of small private companies who cringe when it comes time to prepare financial statements. That’s because for many of them, the process is complicated, time consuming and costly. Moreover, a number of rules they are required to follow do not deliver financial information relevant to their businesses. These small- and medium-sized entities have been in need of a financial reporting option that is tailored to their circumstances and produces financial statements and information that their bankers can use and rely upon. Now, finally, that financial reporting framework is being made a reality.

One of my most rewarding professional experiences has been serving on the task force that is developing the new Financial Reporting Framework for Small- and Medium-Sized Entities. What’s a SME? No standard definition exists, but the acronym is self explanatory – small and medium size entities, which happen to make up about 20 million for-profit companies in the United States.

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CPAs Say Reducing Nation’s Deficits Is Job No. 1

Money-bandaidWhen a CPA alerts an individual or an organization to a problem, it’s usually wise to heed the financial advice. CPAs figure out the meaning of numbers every day and are accustomed to giving guidance on complex financial situations.

Once again, CPAs are informing America that the federal budget numbers tell an alarming story. In an online survey conducted by the AICPA in December, three-quarters of CPAs said immediate action is needed to quell spiraling federal budget deficits. More than half identified deficit reduction as the top economic priority for the United States, ahead of creating jobs (23 percent), tax reform (18 percent) and ensuring the long-term stability of Social Security and Medicare (5 percent).

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America Counts on CPAs [INFOGRAPHIC]

Developed by the AICPA, this infographic highlights the role CPAs play in business and financial decisions. From Main Street to Wall Street, CPAs are the most trusted and objective financial experts.

America Counts on CPAs Infographic

Download a high or low resolution image and share this infographic.

Name that Angst

Fiscal cliff name badgeAfter a nice holiday break relaxing with friends and family, it’s now time to get back to the real world. Re-entry is always a drag, but coming back this year to the crescendo of anxiety surrounding the fiscal cliff made it that much more difficult.

I’ve spent the last two days meeting some of our AICPA course instructors and asking them about their practices and their clients, and one message came through loud and clear. Clients are concerned. And they’re turning to their CPAs for guidance.

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Use Social Media, Don’t Let It Use You

Social-mediaThe AICPA’s Forensic and Valuation Service Conference, held Nov. 11 through 13, involved several sessions that were taught the “un-conference way.” These sessions were unconventional in their approach and involved peer-to-peer interactive learning. One un-conference session I attended was Tom Hood’s “Getting an ROI from Social Media via ROA (Return on Attention).” Tom is the CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs and is considered a top thought leader in accounting.

From the moment we entered the room, we were thrown headfirst into the world of social media, as Tom encouraged us to sign into the gosoapbox event. Tom kicked off the session with a survey of attendees’ social media habits. In our group, 11% did not use social media at all and 71% viewed social media as a time sink, a valid concern for professionals who already have very demanding schedules. 

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CPAs to Federal Government: Reduce the Debt

Money-on-fireMost Americans greeted the news that the “fiscal cliff” had been averted with a mix of relief that a worst case scenario had been averted and frustration with the seemingly endless process. What has been lost on some casual observers is that, as a result of the deal, the U.S. deficit will actually increase an additional $4 trillion dollars in the next decade, according to the Centralized Budget Office.

Earlier this week, the AICPA released the results of a survey* asking members questions regarding the economic sustainability of the United States. The survey found that the vast majority are calling on the federal government to demonstrate more fiscal responsibility. In fact, seven in ten U.S. CPAs are concerned that both individuals and families will be severely affected if policy makers are unable to reduce the federal debt.

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Benevolence Is Back

Hands-inBenevolence is a word my grandmother would have used.  But I’m bringing benevolence back. Two years ago, I joined an incredible group of trustees on the AICPA’s Benevolent Fund. This experience has changed me. The Fund’s mission is to help our members. The trustees’ immediate goal is to raise awareness that the Fund exists so members know where to turn when unplanned financial emergencies occur.

The Benevolent Fund is a tangible expression of compassion. It’s a refreshing departure from the normal gruff and impersonal business world. The Fund has been quietly sprinkling generosity and kindness via financial assistance to needy AICPA members for nearly 80 years. Eighty years of benevolence. 

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Immediate 2012 Tax Planning Opportunities for Individuals

Bob Keebler discusses three opportunities individuals can take advantage of while we wait for final resolution on the "fiscal cliff." Bob discusses gain harvesting to avoid the increase in the capital gains, Roth conversions to avoid the increase in income tax rate and the potential to take advantage of the loss of state income tax deductions in the future, and finally funding dynasty trusts before a new federal law could come into effect. Visit aicpa.org/PFP/YearEnd for free resources to help you get financial plans in place for your clients now.

3 Immediate 2012 Tax Planning Opportunities for Individuals

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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Charitable Remainder Trust and the 3.8% Medicare Surtax

The 3.8% Medicare surtax on net investment income is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2013. How this surtax will affect those who are current beneficiaries of charitable remainder trusts is a hot financial planning topic. Robert Keebler explores planning for this new surtax and the Treasury Department's recently issued regulations addressing section 1411 of the Internal Revenue Code, the 3.8% Medicare surtax in his latest podcast. Download a free Medicare surtax chart and visit aicpa.org/PFP/YearEnd for free resources to help you get financial plans in place for your clients now.  

Charitable Remainder Trust and the 3.8% Medicare Surtax

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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AICPA Advocates for CPAs with Mobile Workforce Legislation

Tax formsDo you or your employees travel around the country, working in different states and jurisdictions? As I travel around the United States, I hear more and more management accountants lamenting the difficulties associated with interstate operations and the significant regulatory burden with regard to compliance with non-resident state income tax withholding laws.

Currently, there are 41 states that impose a personal income tax on wages and there are many different tax requirements regarding the withholding of income tax of non-residents among those 41 states. While some states offer de minimis thresholds or exemptions before taxes must be withheld and paid, others require only a work appearance in the state before imposing personal income taxes on the employee and withholding requirements on the employer—even for just one day.

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Twitter Delivers the Full Picture of a CPA Conference

Perhaps I sound like a broken record...

But believe me, if you attend conferences and aren't on Twitter, you are missing out. Case in point: the Digital CPA Conference last week. I got to the hotel in Washington D.C. (ahem...I mean Maryland. Right, Tom Hood?), logged in to my computer and discovered Twitter was already all aflutter with #DigitalCPA activity. If you know me, you know this made me very happy!

Follow a conference hashtag for the inside scoop.

By following and participating on a conference hashtag, you get to see the full picture of what's happening. People are sharing their favorite quotes, new ideas, what they are learning and my favorite... pictures.

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Fair Value: A Hot Topic at the FVS Conference

Fair-valueA recent report published in August 2012 by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board outlines certain deficiencies in audit procedures with respect to a clients’ fair value determinations. The report explains these deficiencies, which included, among others, fair value determinations of investment securities and business combinations. With the increased scrutiny on fair value measurements and the increase in business combinations during 2012, how will audit firms and valuation professionals educate themselves to improve the quality of their work?

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An Interview with AICPA President and CEO on 2013

Barry_Melancon

The following is an interview with AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA. He was asked to share his thoughts about some of the major issues and trends that will affect CPAs in 2013.  

 

In the coming year, we will see the first efforts of the Private Company Council. What changes can CPAs and the companies they serve expect to see?

The Financial Accounting Foundation’s Private Company Council was created to address issues affecting companies that need GAAP-based financial statements. The PCC only recently began meeting, and will be weighing in on existing standards and ones in development. Private company accounting stakeholders are expecting prompt action by the PCC in modifying GAAP to bring more relevance and simplification to financial reporting.

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New College Planning Opportunities for Upper Income Clients

College financial aidFinancing the cost of college is a significant issue for families and for recent graduates saddled with huge student loans. The total amount of outstanding student loans—around $870 billion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York—is greater than the total level of outstanding credit card or auto loan debt. It is also growing, while the size of other consumer debt is shrinking or remaining the same. However, practitioners may not be aware that, in a surprising new wrinkle, more upper-middle-class families are now turning to student loans to help finance college costs. In fact, the greatest expansion in the percentage of student loan debt was among families with annual incomes between $94,535 and $205,335, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of recent Federal data. A total of 25.6% of them had student loan debt in 2010, up from 19.5% in 2007. The average amount they borrowed jumped to $32,869 from $26,639 in 2007, after adjusting for inflation.

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CPAs Outlook on U.S. Economy Drops for Third Straight Quarter

CPAOI 4qDespite the traditional festive mood of the holidays and consumer confidence at a 6-month high, CPAs in business and industry are not impressed.

In fact, CPA financial executives reported their dimmest view of prospects for the U.S. economy since 2011 in the results of the AICPA’s fourth quarter Economic Outlook Survey. Why so sad? The main reasons cited for increased pessimism are the threat of the looming fiscal cliff, combined with concerns over future sales and profitability.

While optimism has declined over the past three quarters, the fourth quarter survey did not include any silver lining as every major measure of economic expectations fell, both quarter over quarter and year over year. 

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CPAs Play a Significant Role in Technology Adoption [INFOGRAPHIC]

According to the Digital CPA Survey, released over the weekend at Digital CPA: 2012 CPA2Biz Cloud User Conference, an overwhelming majority of CPAs say they have a role to play in technology adoption for their clients. Only 17% of CPAs say they play a minimal role or no part in helping clients embrace cloud, mobile and other emerging technologies that can improve business decision-making. Based on the survey results, the following infographic was developed (click on the image to make it bigger). Feel free to share with others.

CPAs-Role-in-Technology

What’s in a Name?

IT Section Renamed to Information Management and Technology Assurance

Names have power. Corporations invest millions of dollars and countless hours of focus group sessions before a major name change. Names provide insight into an entity or company’s background and mission. They also help us infer certain characteristics about an organization or set expectations for how it delivers a particular product, service, or experience.

Consider these famous name changes for a moment. Would Google be as ubiquitous if it had kept BackRub as its name? Would the cola wars rage on if Coke were competing against Brad’s Drink or against its newer moniker, Pepsi? Innovation, mergers or a decision to move in a different direction can lead companies, organizations and other entities to outgrow their names.

Quite simply, a name change allows organizations to better reflect their purpose and what they offer. For this reason, the AICPA renamed the Information Technology Section to the Information Management and Technology Assurance Section.

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Merchant Card Reporting Compliance Raises Its Head Again

Credit card terminalCPAs are well aware of how Form 1099 reporting improves tax return compliance. CPAs are also aware of how the 1099 rules can lead to considerable taxpayer frustration or opposition. For example, during the 2012 filing season, we heard a lot about the difficulties taxpayers had trying to comply with the new cost basis information reporting rules for brokers reporting stock sales; and this particular issue remains a concern of ours. Another major initiative, which until recently seemed like a sleeper issue, is now ripe for taxpayer focus. Merchant card companies are required to report (on Form 1099-K) the gross receipts that a business receives from customers paying with merchant cards during the year. Merchant cards typically include both credit cards and debit cards.

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3 Ways to Improve Your CPA Firm’s Website

Website marketingCPAs excel at providing exceptional service once our clients are in the door – but actually getting them in the door is another story.

With the advent of social media and the ever-important search engine rankings, CPAs may find the world of marketing more challenging.

Your company website is your #1 marketing tool.

Think about it – when you need something, what do you do?

You Google it (or at least most people do).

If you click on a website in the search listings and you don’t like what you see or are confused – you bounce. You leave the site, which is what many of your potential customers are doing if your site isn’t up to par.

Let’s say that a potential client lands on your website.

What do they see? Do they know what to “do” once they land?

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Microsoft’s Windows 8 Experiment Will Affect All CPAs

Windows 8 PresentationWindows 8 Presentation (Photo credit: Michael Kappel)

Remember when Microsoft was the 800-pound gorilla, the dominant software maker, the most valuable company in the world? That was about the time when Microsoft invested $150 million to save rival Apple from bankruptcy.

Fast-forward 15 years, and Apple has risen from the ashes to become the hottest company on Earth—a corporate behemoth that, for a time earlier this year, boasted the highest market capitalization in history, a claim Microsoft once could make.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has slipped from its perch on top of the corporate world and while it is still a business giant nowhere near a bankruptcy filing, the business shift from desktops and laptops to mobile devices and the cloud has put Microsoft in the unfamiliar position of playing from behind.

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Emergence of Social Stock Exchanges and Other Market Drivers of Sustainability

Integrated-reportingTraditionally, investing and “doing good” have been considered two very different activities. Investing was about making money, while doing good was about giving money away charitably to foster some kind of positive change. However, the two concepts have started to merge and form what is now known as socially responsible investing. It offers a way to achieve both a financial and a social return on an investment and has become a popular idea over the last decade. Sustainable and responsible investment now accounts for more than $3 trillion of the roughly $25 trillion in the U.S. investment marketplace, according to the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.

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In the News: AICPA Advocates for Fiscal Responsibility

National debtAs many of you may recall, in an effort to bring attention to how and why the financial sustainability of our nation is at risk, earlier this year the AICPA developed What's at Stake? A CPA’s Insights into the Federal Government’s Finances, which explicitly spells out the issues for policy makers and the public.

Following up on those calls for solutions to our nation’s financial problems, Accounting Today reported that the AICPA’s board of directors recently voted toadopt a resolution calling on lawmakers to do more to ensure the long-term fiscal health of the United States by better controlling the growing national debt. One aspect of this resolution involves the AICPA supporting two non-partisan efforts, the Campaign to Fix the Debt and the Comeback America Initiative, both of which align with the AICPA’s goals of putting America on a better path toward fiscal responsibility.

As AccountingWEB notes, the resolution will also be shared with state CPA societies as the AICPA continues to seek ways to advocate for reduced complexity for American businesses and individuals. Stay tuned.

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3 Year-End Planning Resources to Help Clients Face the Fiscal Cliff

Fiscal-cliffNow that the election is over, the question remains: what does this mean for the upcoming tax season?  In reality, not much will change between now and Dec. 31 and the potential fiscal cliff continues to pose challenges. The more we can plan and get our clients prepared for uncertainty, the better. That’s where year-end planning comes in.

It’s important to reach out to your clients now to develop plans and analyze “what if” scenarios based on what Congress will do to tax rates, exemption extenders and overall tax policy.

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CPAs: Broadcast Yourself with YouTube

Crying stickmanPicture this: It was April of 2012 and my baby boy was due to arrive any day. The nursery was ready. My bag was packed. There was only one thing left to take care of: the car seat. I had heard horror stories of how hard they are to install, so I had been procrastinating. Time was running out, so I opened the box and unfurled the instructions... I stared blankly at a piece of paper that had been folded one billion times, with directions printed in every language known to man. Since I am a well-grounded professional adult, I will not admit here to tears, but let’s just say I was overwhelmed. You see, I just wanted someone to show me how to do it. And those stick figure illustrations with confusing arrows just weren’t cutting it.

Enter YouTube.

With one simple search of the make and model of my car seat, I had dozens of friendly faces showing me exactly what to do. There, not so hard after all.

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Small Business Relief in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

Building in chelsea damaged by SandyLarge cities and small towns across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are now recovering from Hurricane Sandy, one of the most devastating storms to have ever struck the East Coast of our country. The images are heart-wrenching, the personal suffering is real and the need is enormous. Many individuals and families are still without the most basic necessities of life…food, clean water, heat and a safe and secure home.

One of the groups being relied upon most to help bring stability, hope, community spirit and pride back to these neighborhoods is small businesses. As a CPA devoted to your small business clients or your organization, as well as to your friends and neighbors, you are more than a trusted counselor on disaster recovery. You are also the go-to source for the public- and private-sector organizations that can best help small business owners get their businesses up and running, and disaster victims get their lives back on track. Rich Caturano, CPA, CGMA, chairman of the AICPA has contributed a blog post detailing AICPA resources and tools to help CPAs through this difficult time.

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What Is the AICPA’s Health Care Expert Panel and What Do They Do?

Health care expert panelUp until about a year ago, I had only heard that the AICPA has expert panels  but I didn’t really have any idea about what they are or what they do. I was asked to staff the Health Care Expert Panel  and I can tell you last year has been quite a ride!

Who Is the Health Care Expert Panel and What Is Its Mission?

The Panel consists of 13 members who represent a mixture of firm practitioners as well as preparers and users who work in the industry. They all have one thing in common—they are considered to be some of the health care industry’s “cream of the crop” and best equipped to carry out the panel’s mission to protect the public interest and address the needs of AICPA members in the areas of financial reporting (including business reporting), audit and attest services, and regulatory matters from the health care industry perspective.

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What Happens When a Lame Duck Meets a Fiscal Cliff?

10 (Tongue in Cheek) Predictions

Fiscal-cliff-questionsLast year, I wrote a blog about the congressional “super committee” created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 to deal with government’s immense debt and the deep deficit hole in which we find ourselves. The super committee of 12 members of Congress was unable to reach consensus on specific ways to wrestle with our unruly fiscal problems. That means, come this January, Washington will face $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts (known as sequestration).

What else is staring at us as we head towards the winter solstice? Not too much - there's the 2011 extenders including the AMT patch, 2012 extenders, the 2% payroll tax cut, the debt ceiling limit, expiration of the Bush tax cuts, and oh, the grim reaper is chasing the estate tax yet again. Did I also mention that we have a very contentious presidential election leading up to a lame duck session of Congress? Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke calls it a “fiscal cliff.” I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

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2012 Presidential Election and the CPA Profession

Election 2012The 2012 presidential election is just around the corner. While it’s not clear who will win the White House, there are many reasons you should be paying close attention. And we’re seeing indications that you’re doing just that. In a CPA Letter Daily poll on Oct. 16, 65% of more than 3,200 respondents said they would be watching that night’s presidential debate.

There is no shortage of issues affecting CPAs and our clients or employers. Highlighted below are some of the important financial issues facing our country:

  • “Fiscal cliff.” The uncertainty surrounding potential tax increases and spending cuts, as well as related issues, has brought Washington to a stand-still. Uncertainties include extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, a fix for the Alternative Minimum Tax, tax increases attached to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and a package of mandatory federal spending cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

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Day 3 of AICPA Governing Council Fall 2012 Meeting

At the final day of the AICPA governing Council Fall 2012 meeting, the AICPA elected a new chairman of the board of directors, Richard J. Caturano, CPA, CGMA. Follow the "read more" link for a look at the day through the eyes of social media. (If you're viewing this post through our email subscription, please click through to read the entire story.)

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Day 2 of AICPA Governing Council Fall Meeting 2012

The second day of the fall meeting of the AICPA governing Council happened yesterday and featured a professional issues update from AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA. Follow the "read more" link for a look at the day through the eyes of social media. (If you're viewing this post through our email subscription, please click through to read the entire story.)

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Selling a Business or Advising a Seller? Tips to Navigate the Fiscal Cliff

Fiscal cliffWith about 10 weeks left in the calendar year, it would be difficult for even the most motivated business owners to complete their company’s sale by Dec. 31, unless they’re already in process.

Some owners are hustling to get that process done to avoid falling over the tax cliff set to take effect Jan. 1. But the principles of selling a business apply no matter what the calendar says, according to Scott Miller, CPA/ABV, an expert presenter for the Oct. 30 Journal of Accountancy webcast, Inside Buyout Basics and the Tax Cliff: A Timely Combination.

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Does Your Organization Invest in its Employees’ Training and Skills Development?

Talent Pipeline Draining GrowthOrganizations around the globe face extraordinary challenges when navigating through the current global economy. To thrive in the long-term, organizations must constantly innovate, evolve and transform.

One of the most critical factors that determines an organization's fate in this environment is the quality of its human capital and the way it manages its talent pipeline.

A recent report from the AICPA and CIMA showed that while most companies understand the importance of human capital, they do not appear to have the right systems, processes and information in place to manage talent effectively. Think about your organization for a minute. Does it invest in training and the development of talent and skills? Or does it view training as a compliance tool?

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In the News: AICPA Financial Literacy Survey Featured on the Today Show

Yesterday, Al Roker and Jean Chatzky of the Today Show discussed the issue of kids and allowance, citing the results of AICPA’s recent survey with Harris Interactive on the subject.

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3 Myths of Succession Planning

Sometimes we CPAs are blind to our own advice. We spend hours every day working with clients, steering them toward financial prosperity, helping them prepare for retirement and ensuring their businesses thrive well into the future. What are we doing for own practices? Not always enough.

Although succession planning is a proven strategy for achieving long-term firm goals, the 2012 PCPS Succession Survey reveals that only 46 percent of multi-owner firms have a written, approved succession plan. In addition, six percent of sole proprietors have a practice continuation agreement however, that’s only a first step toward developing a full succession plan.

Dispelling the following three common myths may help further grow succession planning’s role in practice management. It may also help CPAs reap a succession plan’s full benefits—client and staff retention, a more comfortable retirement and the peace of mind that comes from being prepared for the future.

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What is a ‘Digital CPA’?

Digital CPA

There’s no question technology is having a huge impact on how CPAs and their clients conduct business, but the adoption rate isn’t uniform within the profession. Some practitioners are taking a wait-and-see approach. Others are sticking their toes in the water. And still another group is fully embracing technology and all that it promises—integrating innovation throughout their firm’s processes and workflows and becoming digitally present in today’s online world.

At CPA2Biz, we use the term ‘Digital CPA’ to describe the latter category. The Digital CPA harnesses the power of the cloud, the broad use of mobile devices and a carefully calibrated online presence to attract clients and build new service lines. It’s inevitable the entire profession will arrive at this same place one day – and that day isn’t far off.

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Value Pricing: Aligning Your Interests with Those of Your Clients

The days of providing services first and billing later are dwindling. As this blog post by Jim Boomer, CIO of Boomer Consulting, Inc. indicates, an increasing number of accounting firms are moving into the digital age and transitioning their practices from billing in arrears to value pricing strategies, in order to better align their interests with those of their clients.

Billing: Where's the Real Client Value?

Value pricingAccounting firms have been billing for, well, forever. Billing may make sense to you as a practitioner, but it may not to your clients.  The truth of the matter is, clients are often baffled by that final bill―which can result in them questioning the real value of your services, or even worse, causing them to look for a better deal elsewhere.

Clients explain the scope of their project (taxes, auditing and the like), firms do the work, tally up the hours spent by partners, junior associates and administrative assistants and send out a bill for services rendered. However, as most firms can attest, a client's reaction to that bill is rarely, “Well that's not so bad at all!” Instead, it will result in an angry client creating perceived indifference between the firm and the client—the number one reason why clients leave. It isn’t about the price, it’s about the surprise of the price. Then before you know it, the client leaves.

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5 Improvements to Civil Litigation Procedure for Financial Expert Witnesses

Reducing client costs in civil litigationHow can civil litigation become less costly and complicated and more fair for all involved? Although rules of civil procedure call for a quick, inexpensive and fair determination of all civil actions, those goals often are not met. The AICPA Forensic and Valuation Services Executive Committee and the members of the FVS membership section are well aware of the many problems within the system that can cause lengthy delays and unnecessary expenses. Because CPAs have a unique perspective on the issues involved, the FVS Executive Committee, in conjunction with the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, surveyed FVS Section members, many of whom are frequently retained as expert consultants or testifying witnesses in civil litigation. Based on the survey findings, the executive committee has released a new report, “Another Voice: Financial Experts on Reducing Client Costs in Civil Litigation.”

The report offers stakeholders in the civil justice system--including judges, attorneys, financial experts and clients--five recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of financial experts and efficiency of their use in the civil pretrial process:

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Optimizing Your CPA Firm for Local Search

More than 167 million people will shop online this year. Social commerce sales are expected to total $9.2 billion by the end of this year and could climb to $14.25 billion in 2013 and $30 billion in 2015. Consumers are not just shopping for the latest gadget; they’re buying everything from groceries to professional services, including those offered by your CPA firm.

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In the News: CGMAs Can Bridge the Gap in Human Capital Management

CGMA logoDavid McCann at CFO.com spoke with Arleen Thomas, CPA, CGMA, AICPA SVP of management accounting, about a recent talent management survey for Chartered Global Management Accountants conducted jointly between the AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The report found that 43 percent of the CEOs, CFOs and human resource directors surveyed said their companies have missed financial goals in the past 18 months because of inadequacies in human capital management. Almost the same number, 40 percent, indicated that such shortcomings—which could include insufficient systems, processes or management information—have hindered their ability to innovate. “We believe that talent and the human dimension drive business growth and companies haven’t focused enough on that,” said Thomas. “Too many companies look at talent in terms of what they have to do to comply with labor laws and regulations, rather than understanding that it can be a competitive differential.”

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