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.

 

 

 

 

 


 

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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Wrap Up of AICPA Spring Governing Council Meeting 2013

The 2013 AICPA Spring governing Council meeting kicked off on Sunday and just wrapped up. Take a look at the three-day meeting through the eyes of social media. (Email subscribers: View the full story on AICPA Insights.)

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Virtual Work Teams Are Coming

Virtual-teamAs the economy continues to recover, the impending retirement of our nation’s Baby Boomers will create a labor shortage far greater than any we have experienced in the U.S. Professionals with the right skills will have their choice of employment opportunities, which will drive demand – and salaries – up. CPA firms that provide truly motivational and engaging environments will win the recruiting and retention race.

That’s why learning to manage the challenges and possibilities of virtual work teams is a must for today’s current and emerging partners. The need for increased workplace flexibility generates passionate conversations by CPA firm leaders and team members. Employees are challenged to keep a steady balance between their work and their personal lives as demands in each continuously change. Some aren’t willing to make the firm their top priority.

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5 Things CPAs Need to Know about Integrated Reporting

Integrated-reporting-word-cloudLast week, my blog post discussed that Integrated Reporting <IR> represents an important shift in corporate reporting in which CPAs can play a key role providing consulting services, implementation or report preparation. In today’s blog, I’m drilling down into some of the key concepts of the recently released Consultation Draft of the International <IR> Framework that are important for CPAs to understand.

Five features of the Draft Framework are:

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Tax Reform: The Crystal Ball Never Lies

Crystal-ballPeople often ask me, “Ed, when do you think we’ll finally see tax reform?”

“Not before 2014,” I respond with assurance.
“How can you be so sure, Ed?” they say.
“My crystal ball never lies!

But I started getting a bit nervous about sounding so confident.  After a little digging, I found out my crystal ball had once predicted that the Titanic was unsinkable, yet it went down on April 15, 1912. How’s that for foreshadowing?! That forced me to do some soul searching and thinking.

Flash back to November 2011. I was sitting next to Pat Thompson, who chaired the AICPA Tax Executive Committee.  We were listening to Don Longano, former House Ways and Means Committee Chief Counsel and Washington tax insider, share his views on the prospects for tax legislation at the National Tax Conference.

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SEC Using XBRL to Flag Reports for Review

Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commi...Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not too long ago, I heard Craig M. Lewis, Director and Chief Economist of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Risk, Strategy and Financial Innovation, give a presentation on the SEC’s new predictive accounting quality model, nicknamed “RoboCop” by the trade press, which will enable the SEC to monitor and flag reports for further review.

What makes AQM so useful, Mr. Lewis said in an interview with Merrill Compliance Solutions, is that, by using XBRL, the tool can be “applied broadly to the entire filer space.” Previous versions of the tool used Compustat data, which did not include all filing companies. With XBRL, 100 percent of filing companies will be analyzed by AQM.

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3 Things to Know About Proposed Ethics Code Revisions

CPAs know how seriously our profession takes ethics. The AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct applies to all AICPA members. In addition, many state CPA societies and state boards of accountancy either incorporate it by reference or use it as a starting point for their codes. The Code of Professional Conduct provides guidance on areas such as client relationships, maintaining independence and adhering to the technical standards of GAAP, GAAS and others.

The AICPA's Professional Ethics Division acts as the steward of the Code of Professional Conduct, taking a 360 degree view of ethics. It publishes a free newsletter, Ethically Speaking, which helps CPAs better understand ethics-related issues (send an email to ktruman@aicpa.org to subscribe). The Professional Ethics Division establishes, interprets and enforces these standards. To carry out its charge, the Professional Ethics Division provides a hotline that helps members understand and apply the Code of Professional Conduct properly. What’s more, monitoring hotline inquiries is one of the ways the Professional Ethics Division identifies topics that require standard setting. Using this real-time feedback, the Professional Ethics Division has been able to tackle topics that are important to the profession. 

The latest exposure draft issued by the Professional Ethics Division reorganizes the Code of Professional Conduct to make it easier to navigate, understand and apply. Watch this video to learn more about the Ethics Codification project.

 

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How Would an Unlimited Vacation Policy Work in Your CPA Firm?

Tropical-island-getaway-vacation

After this crazy, compressed tax season, you and your employees are certainly ready and deserve a vacation. But do you give your employees enough vacation time? How much paid vacation time is enough? Can you imagine that the answer might someday be “as much as they want?” Some companies are shifting toward an unlimited vacation policy because they believe it can enhance morale and minimize stress. Although only 1% of organizations offer unlimited paid time off, according to a Society for Human Resource Management survey, it is surprisingly most often used at smaller organizations. There are a number of advantages to offering unlimited vacation time in your CPA firm. They include:

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Live from the AICPA Sustainability Workshop

I live blogged from the AICPA's Sustainability Workshop that took place May 2 to 3 in New York City. The workshop is part of the Executive Boardroom Series from the AICPA and the Enterprise Risk Management Initiative at the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University. Below is a replay of the entire two-day event.

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Be Prepared for Major Changes in Key GAAP Standards

GAAPGet ready to tackle some major revisions in accounting standards. After years of consideration, the Financial Accounting Standards Board is finalizing its approaches on three major issues: revenue recognition, leases and financial instruments. Each of these accounting areas affects virtually all companies in the United States no matter what their size or whether they are public or nonpublic. And that means virtually all CPA firms are affected too.

From an advocacy standpoint, the AICPA continues to monitor the progress of these important standards and to comment on the exposure drafts on members’ behalf. Our goal is to help make sure the standards are effective and can be implemented with as much ease as possible. Moreover, the AICPA will help members understand and implement the new standards so they can continue to provide high-quality services and comply appropriately with the rules.

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2013 TTI Survey Lists Top 10 Technology Initiatives in U.S. and Canada

TechnologyTechnology allows CPA firms to better understand, manage and grow their practices. Yet, it can come with its own set of challenges when trying to manage and retain data, secure IT environments and stay in compliance, according to the latest top technology initiatives survey from the AICPA’s Information Management and Technology Assurance Division.

The 2013 North America Top Technology Initiatives Survey, conducted jointly by the AICPA and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, asked accounting professionals in public accounting, business and industry, consulting, government, not-for-profit and other organizations about their top 10 technology initiatives in 2013. Here's the top 10 in the U.S. and Canada:

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Sells Winners: 39 Candidates Score 95.50 or Higher on CPA Exam

CPA ExamThe 2012 Elijah Watt Sells Award winners were announced on March 26. Just a total of 39 individuals performed so well on the CPA Exam in 2012 to have earned this prestigious title. Considering there were more than 92,000 candidates who sat for the CPA exam in 2012, the 39 recipients have made an immense achievement indeed! Perhaps congratulations are in order?

What does it take to be a Sells winner? The award is presented to candidates who have obtained a cumulative average score above 95.50 across all four sections of the CPA Exam, completed testing during the 2012 calendar year and passed all four sections of the CPA Exam on their first attempt.

The talented individuals listed below are the 2012 Sells Award winners in alphabetical order, followed by their state board affiliation, education and present employer.

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CPA Profession Flexes Its Financial Muscles This April

April is Financial Literacy Month! This annual event is centered on improving Americans’ understanding of financial principles and practices. During this time every year, the AICPA and state CPA societies bolster financial literacy efforts with added events and resources.
 
Even with the craziness of tax season, it is amazing to see the dedication of CPAs across the country. Here is just a sampling of the various financial literacy events taking place this month.
 Pig - Super
The Texas Society of CPAs is encouraging families to participate in their 30 Days of Personal Finance. They’ve posted 30 tips for each day of the month, ranging from creative savings ideas to budgeting tips.
 
The New Mexico Society of CPAs will speak on financial literacy at an Albuquerque middle school on April 22. Three CPA volunteers and a NMSCPA staff member presented at the event last year, and it was so successful for the school that they have decided to make it an annual event! You can see pictures from last year’s event on their Facebook page. This year they will be giving away Feed the Pig and 360 promotional materials to kids and parents, in addition to raffling off copies of Save Wisely, Spend Happily; a copy of the book is also being donated to the school’s library.
 

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In the News: Using Tax Refunds Wisely

Mailbox-tax-returnDo you see your neighbor waiting by the mailbox for their tax refund? Chances are it’s not so they can use it on a fancy vacation or a new spring wardrobe.

This year, workers are most likely to save their refund or use the money for day-to-day expenses, according to a recent survey conducted for the AICPA by Harris Interactive for National Financial Capability Month. And that refund money is substantial. An AccountingWEB article on the survey results states that through March 22, the average refund this tax season is $2,827. That’s trending slightly lower than this time last year, when the average individual refund was $2,860.

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8 Tax Reform Questions Congress Needs to Raise (and Answer)

Number-8It looks like comprehensive tax reform is gaining some sense of realism. Consider these important actions so far this year:

  • President Obama mentioned it in his January 2013 State of the Union address: "Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit.  We can get this done."
  • The House Ways and Means Committee formed 11 working groups to address specific areas for reform.
  • On March 21, the Senate Finance Committee began issuing Tax Reform Option Papers -the first one covers simplification for families and businesses.
  • Tax reform is mentioned in both the House and Senate FY2014 Budget Resolutions produced by the budget committees.

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The Cloud: Just One SOC Opportunity

Service-organization-control-markIt's no secret that an organization's confidential information is vulnerable in today's world of electronic storage. If you have any doubt, just ask The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal – both of which recently reported having their computer systems hacked.

Organizations transferring storage and/or the processing of their data to cloud-based systems are faced with the added complexities of how to best maintain ownership and control data while continuing to assure customers they have controls in place to keep data secure. How can organizations provide their stakeholders with comfort related to this transferred information?

Service Organization Control ReportsSM represent the intersection of cloud computing and the trusted advisor role of the CPA. In 2011, the AICPA introduced three SOC reporting options: SOC 1SM, SOC 2SM and SOC 3SM reports, creating a great opportunity for CPAs to assert their knowledge and capabilities related to examining and reporting on controls at service organizations, including cloud service providers.

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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
.

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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