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12 posts from March 2012

In the News: Accounting named one of the Happiest Jobs in America

We’ve got a lot of big things on the horizon at the AICPA: April Financial Literacy Month (we’ll be releasing survey results on the financial state of Americans) and in mid-May, we’ll be celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the AICPA at our Spring Council meeting in Washington D.C.

Barry Melancon, CPA, Testifying in front of CongressWhich is not to say that we’ve haven’t been busy lately! Just in the last week we released the results of our CGMA Global Economic Forecast and Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, president and CEO of the AICPA, testified before the House Capital Markets Subcommittee Accounting and Auditing Oversight Hearing. Melancon told members of the subcommittee that AICPA supports a strong, balanced and independent regulatory structure that protects investors but does not restrict the flow of capital.

During busy season and year-round, you can keep abreast of all the most important AICPA news by subscribing to the Media Relations RSS feed or following @AICPANews on Twitter. On to news of note from the last few days.

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3 Tips for Opening the Doors to Future Leaders

Women in the workplace

As we celebrate National Women’s History Month, CPAs can take pride in knowing that women have maintained a solid foothold in the profession since the early 1980s. Not only that, women have represented half of all accounting undergraduate and graduate students since the early 1990s. Men and women share credit for opening the doors of the profession to ensure that all top talent can enter and thrive. However, there is one place where the numbers are still skewed male: at the partner level in CPA firms. One goal of the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee is to call attention to this issue and offer solutions to firms and professionals on why and how to drive change.

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Tax Season: An Opportunity for Financial Literacy Lessons

Financial literacy pig doing taxes

The end of tax season is fast approaching, and CPAs everywhere are no doubt looking forward to the end of their busiest time of the year. Although I bashfully admit that my returns still have yet to be filed, I see this time of year as a prime opportunity for me to take a good look at my finances. Sure I keep the typical year-round budget, and do my best keep my finances in check, but there are always places for improvement. Since joining team AICPA, I have realized, more than ever, that year-round tax planning can truly help prepare you for life changes, while staying on track to achieve financial goals.

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Doing the Right Thing…When Tax Ethics Get Murky

Dictionary_definition_ethicsI often get phone calls from members who are troubled by a professional ethics issue. “Ed, I have a conflict with a client; I don’t trust him.” Or, “I just engaged with a new client and I suspect the old accountant of doing something wrong; should I turn her in?”  The scenarios change but in the end, they always ask: “What should I do?”  And I always tell them: “I can’t tell you what to do!”  Really, it comes down to a matter of ethics and who am I to tell someone how to behave?

Over the years, while teaching classes on subjects like the AICPA’s enforceable tax ethics, the Statements on Standards for Tax Services, or the Internal Revenue Services’ Circular 230, I often ask the participants to define ethics.  “Guided by a code of conduct,”  “acting with integrity,” “having a moral code,” “moral principles that govern a person’s behavior,” or “living your life with high values” are examples of what I’ve heard.  The definition that resonates best with me is “doing the right thing.” 

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5 Essential CPA Exam Study Resources

During tax season, preparing for the CPA Exam can be even more challenging than usual. Here are a few resources for that will help CPA candidates with the preparation process.

    Cpa exam studying
  • Uniform CPA Exam Candidate Bulletin:  Aside from being a great general resource for any CPA candidate, the Candidate Bulletin is especially useful when you’re getting close to your testing date.  A few days before taking the CPA Exam, be sure to review the section - Step 4: Take Your Examination – for information on the test center check-in process, ID requirements and time allocation. All it takes is a quick review to help you focus on actually taking the CPA Exam.

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CPAs: Changes to Facebook Pages on March 30

Many of you have seen the update to the new Facebook Timeline format on your personal profile. Now, Facebook is rolling out those changes to business pages, as well. The updates take effect on March 30, so the time to start planning is now! Here are some ways the new layout will impact your business’s Facebook Page.

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Make the Most of Your Professional Development

CPA career development

Lifelong learning is critical to an accounting career. Forty hours per year may not be adequate to keep you abreast of all the changes in the standard setting landscape or provide enough information to fully understand the impact of pending tax legislation—but continuing education can be an integral part of that process.

Continuing professional development enables you to build upon your knowledge and further develop skills in areas related to your professional practice. Over the course of a 40-year career, continuing professional development can make a huge difference in your skill set...if it is the right kind of education.

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Proactive Planning with Your Individual Clients During Tax Season

In this audio stream, Lyle, Ted and Scott discuss why 2012 is a critical year to proactively plan with your clients.  Hear about planning techniques that need to be considered now given the many unknowns in 2013. Learn about planning opportunities that can be uncovered while you’re preparing your clients 2011 tax returns. Find out tips to communicate the value of financial planning with clients, and how you can get paid for the work you are providing and increase your bottom line by adding or expanding Personal Financial Planning services.

Proactive Planning with Your Individual Clients during Tax Season

If you prefer, you can read the entire transcript after the jump or download this and other audio webcasts from the Personal Financial Planning Section on AICPA.org.

Lyle Benson, CPA/PFS, President, L.K. Benson & Co. Based in Baltimore, Lyle runs his practice as a multi-family office, offering traditional tax services as well as a full scope of financial planning, including estate, retirement, investment, insurance and tax planning. He oversees clients’ investment portfolios and his compensation model is retainer/hourly fee.

Ted Sarenski, CPA/PFS, President, Blue Ocean Strategic Capital, LLC. Based in Syracuse, New York, Ted has gotten a taste for providing PFP services in a larger CPA firm and on his own. He provides financial planning services and manages assets. His compensation model is a mix of hourly, retainer and assets under management fees.

Scott Sprinkle, CPA/PFS, Partner, Sprinkle Financial Consultants, LLC. Based in Littleton, Colorado, Scott runs a traditional CPA practice alongside a registered investment adviser entity. He offers a full scope of tax and PFP services, and charges a mix of hourly, retainer and assets under management fees.

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In the News: Optimism on U.S. Economy hits Post-Recession High

CPA Outlook Index

The Wall Street Journal’s CFO Report covered yesterday’s release of the AICPA’s Economic Outlook Survey results, noting that 14 percent of those surveyed plan to hire this quarter – up from 10 percent in Q4. The AICPA Economic Outlook Survey polls chief financial officers, controllers and other CPAs in executive and senior management roles about their thoughts involving the economy and their hiring plans in the next year. The Triangle Business Journal cited the rise of the CPA Outlook Index,  a composite of nine indicators, which measured a 69, a post-recession high (see the chart to the left) that matches the index score from the first quarter a year ago. The Raleigh News & Observer, noted that the CPA respondents’ views are seen as a leading economic indicator because they oversee corporate finances and help devise strategy. Carol Scott, CPA, CGMA, AICPA vice president for business, industry and government, was quoted by WRAL.com in their article on the survey. Scott said "optimists now outnumber pessimists on the U.S. economy by an almost 2-to-1 margin, which is a striking change from six months ago." The results of the survey will be discussed on a webcast 2012 Economy: Real Recovery or Roller Coaster Ride?, scheduled from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. ET on March 22. The webcast has free CPE for the first 2,000 AICPA Members who register.

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AICPA Podcast on Estate Planning Impact of the President’s Budget Proposals

A 20 minute podcast on the estate planning and financial planning impact of the estate tax provisions in the recently released President’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal covers various provisions, including those affecting intentionally defective grantor trusts, valuation discounts and grantor retained annuity trusts.  Even though these provisions may not be enacted this year, it will help you have intelligent conversations with your clients, know what the President’s legislative agenda for this year is, and be prepared for some of the estate tax provisions that may eventually be enacted.

Estate Planning Impact of the President’s Budget Proposals

If you prefer, you can read the entire transcript after the jump or download this and other audio webcasts from the Personal Financial Planning Section on AICPA.org.

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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Election Year Politics and Worker Classification Issues

Tax form 8952

We are in the midst of a presidential election year, and the issue of worker classification has surfaced as a labor and tax policy issue, as it normally does.  At a January 20, 2012, small business tax roundtable held by Tax Analysts, Reggie Oldak, one of the senior counsels for the National Women’s Law Center, criticized the “20 common law factors” test (used in defining who is an independent contractor or an employee) as rigged against the worker. She went on to complain that “the IRS is prevented from really devoting the energy it needs to proper [worker] classification.”  In her opinion, employers have the upper hand in employment status matters and independent contractors have no workplace protections.    

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In the News: Clients Increasingly Turn to CPAs for Financial Planning

Financial planning consultation

While economic uncertainty persists and conflicting economic indicators make predicting the progress of the recovery tough, stocks have been on the rise since late 2011. With the Dow crossing the 13,000 threshold earlier this week, many investors may be considering a return to the market. Before making any important financial decision, it’s essential to develop a plan that addresses the specific situation and ensures alignment with one’s goals for the future. As a number of recent news articles below demonstrate, individuals are increasingly turning to their CPA for help making investment decisions and planning their financial future, and the AICPA is ensuring that CPAs have the tools they need to best advise their clients.

Investment News reports that, as a result of increased demand from their clients, more CPAs than ever before are offering financial planning services. CPAs, who are trusted advisors to their clients, may have an advantage on other investment professionals. “We're in a natural position of trust with clients to expand into financial planning,” said Lyle Benson, CPA/PFS, of the executive committee of the AICPA's Personal Financial Planning section. The economic conditions in the U.S. have only added to the perception that CPAs are one of the best options for financial planning, and the AICPA is ensuring that members who wish to expand their financial planning services have the resources they need. “With the uncertain times, our members are seeing a lot more demand from clients for financial planning services,” said Andrea Millar, CPA/PFS, senior technical manager of the AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning section. “In recent years, we've expanded our efforts to help them add that to their practices.”

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