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15 posts from April 2020

The tax season in the Upside Down

IStock_85574993_XXXLARGEIn early May tax practitioners are typically easing back into work after a well-deserved break. For many reasons, that is not the case this year.  

For those who have seen “Stranger Things” (no spoilers for season 3, please!), you may feel like you’re in the Upside Down. If you haven’t seen the TV show, think alternate parallel universe. And not in a good way.

A global pandemic has us grappling with what it means for our personal and work lives. There was unprecedented filing relief extended to all types of income tax returns due between April 1 and July 15. Legislation led to new types of credits, as well as many other relief measures. This included the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which has tax practitioners brushing up on many new rules. A lot of practitioners struggle with remotely serving clients and working from home because of all the potential distractions that come with it.

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More than a sense: 5 innate tools to reduce stress

Shutterstock_534310210When life is busy, it’s easy to neglect our well-being. We may think, “I don’t have time” or “I’m too tired,” but what’s more important than health? We can’t give our best to anything or anyone if we don’t make time for self-care.

Simple truth: The more you invest in yourself, the more your body and mind will give back to your work, your relationships and beyond.

According to Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest medicinal practices, a primary component of health that is often overlooked is how we treat our five senses: hearing, sight, smell, taste, touch. In a standard work day, most of us are misusing or abusing our senses; this can exacerbate our stress levels, especially when the body and mind are fatigued. If we learn to use our five senses, we uncover steadiness and energy boosts.

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Zoom virtual backgrounds for CPAs

Shutterstock_1606120399With remote working becoming the norm, who hasn’t had to take a video call for work? Meetings, check-ins and briefings are all happening on video apps now, but a backdrop of piled-up laundry, milling family members or unwashed dishes probably isn’t what you want to share with your colleagues while discussing the latest financial report.

What can you do about it? Use one of our new Zoom virtual backgrounds. These easy-to-implement backdrops cover up everything behind you. We always want finance professionals to look their best, so we’ve created a range of options to make working from home a little more interesting. Just right-click and save!

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COVID-19 creates 11 new state tax issues

Shutterstock_55579699This is the most unusual tax season on the books -- April 15 came and went and yet tax season isn’t over. Over the past several weeks, we’ve heard from members about state and local tax filing, payment and administrative issues. We’ve shared 11 recommendations with the state CPA societies and encouraged them to consider these with their state and local tax authorities.

A recap on the past couple of months 

As you know, over the past two months, the AICPA® has been busy advocating on your behalf and working with Congress. We successfully urged Treasury and the IRS to provide immediate filing and payment relief, along with broader relief for all returns. This led to a delay in federal filings and payments until July 15 for returns due from April 1 to July 15. Our teams continue to advocate and monitor the situation, and we will keep you informed as developments arise.

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Here's how to help non-filers in your community

Shutterstock_1705162879The U.S. government is issuing stimulus checks to every eligible American. But for millions of people of low socioeconomic status (SES) — those most in need of the stimulus checks — there’s an extra step.

The IRS created an online form for people who don’t normally file a tax return, known as non-filers. It’s a free and easy way to provide basic information so people of low SES can receive their economic impact payment as soon as possible. Do you know someone who needs help getting their stimulus check? On their own or with the aid of a trusted person, the individual can visit IRS.gov and select the non-filer application.

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Don’t get scammed out of your stimulus check

Shutterstock_1691728840The federal government is in the process of delivering cash to many U.S. citizens to help stimulate the economy, providing tax credits to individuals of $1,200 ($2,400 for joint filers) plus $500 for each qualifying child.

For those struggling to pay bills or who have lost their jobs, these payments can help them stay afloat during these extraordinary times. But it’s also a potential windfall for scammers, who are continually trying to find new ways to steal from unsuspecting individuals.

“Scammers prey on people’s emotions and weaknesses,” said Howard Silverstone, CPA and American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Forensic and Litigation Services Fraud Task Force member. “Right now, people haven’t been going to work every day. They’re home with the kids. They’re stressed. They may have lost their jobs. They need that money. Scammers know this and are preying on it.”

Continue reading "Don’t get scammed out of your stimulus check" »

Reimagine productivity: Tips and tricks

Shutterstock_793129432Over the previous articles in this series, we’ve covered big-picture wellness topics that can help you decrease stress, perform better at work, and find more satisfaction in your career. Allowing yourself to be emotional at work, eating healthy, going about your day with intention are behaviors that will benefit you today and for years to come.

Along with these vital concepts, it’s nice to have some hard-and-fast tips for getting a little more done without having to burn the midnight oil. You can call them life hacks, productivity tricks, efficiency systems, or whatever else you’d like. I like to think of them as performance optimizers. And when you’re in the throes of busy season, you need all the optimization you can get.

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The dashed hopes of an “easy” tax season

Shutterstock_1548855965“Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead.”  Sigmund Freud

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 37 years of working at the AICPA, it’s that you don’t want to mess with tax filing season. Sure, tax season is never “easy” and spreading the work over a longer period is important. But most CPAs just want to get it over with. I was in practice before I came to the AICPA and I can still empathize with these sentiments all these years later.

Minimizing tax filing season disruptions and changes is important to the IRS, too. Sure, there have been a few snafus over the years. But, by and large, the IRS manages massive amounts of data well and it does us proud in administering a system with 156 million individual returns and 112 million refunds amounting to $321 billion. The average refund is about $3,000. April 15 is prominent in the IRS’ psyche because it’s prominent in the psyche of the American public.

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Remain the best advocate for clients amid scaled-back IRS operations

GettyImages-836660424COVID-19 has altered how businesses, governments and agencies operate around the world. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is no different. The IRS recently announced it has scaled back some of its operations.

To protect employees and taxpayers, agents are now working remotely and only holding teleconferences. Scheduled meetings are still likely to take place on their scheduled date virtually, and agents are requesting teleconferences with taxpayers to work their cases.

However, scaled-back operations and staff working remotely doesn’t mean the IRS is unavailable to you.

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6 things your clients must know today for a better tomorrow

GettyImages-1097998980The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created different day-to-day challenges than a few weeks ago. Just last month, you were probably discussing business expansion or future growth opportunities with clients and now you’re talking about how to stay afloat during uncertain times.

Practically overnight, your clients’ needs have changed completely. Some of your client questions might even go beyond what you have been accustomed to addressing.

Here are some ways to help center your client communications to focus all parties on building a brighter and stable future.

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Clients and CPAs can benefit from a 100% forgivable loan

Shutterstock_551991082As companies struggle with the economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses — the backbone of the economy — have the power to pave a path toward economic recovery. They can do that, in part, by keeping their staff employed or by rehiring them if already laid off or furloughed.

New legislation has given them the power to do that.

CPAs can reap many benefits for helping clients apply for newly available loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a joint effort by the Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide small businesses with $349 billion in forgivable loans for keeping or rehiring employees and to cover certain other expenses.

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3 reasons it’s time to embrace virtual learning

Shutterstock_1635991822The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made an impact worldwide like generations of us have never seen. From how we buy groceries, the ways we socialize, school our children and work, our current normal is often virtual.

Suddenly, you’re working from home in your sweatpants (admit it) and holding meetings via videoconferencing. You might feel uncomfortable with the technology you’re now forced to use. The good news is you’re learning on the job. When life gets back to normal, many of you will have picked up a new technology skill or two that you’ll continue to use for work or even in your personal life.

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Expand your knowledge each day with this 14-day challenge

AICPA 14 Day Challenge FBWe’re all doing our part to slow the spread of coronavirus, and it’s easy to feel discouraged by the many changes we’ve had to absorb over a short period of time. To make lemonade out of lemons, why not take this 14-day challenge?

The 14-day challenge invites you to expand your knowledge each day with tools and resources designed to help you face complications that the global pandemic has presented.

Day 1: This client letter regarding the coronavirus is helpful communication to let your clients know about resources and the impact of the coronavirus to your practice.

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4 ways to help your clients get through coronavirus anxiety

IStock_97431761_XXXLARGEAs a CPA, your clients often turn to you. Now, with all of the uncertainty and questions ranging from financial to personal, clients need you more than ever. Here are four tips to help you support your clients during the weeks and months to come.

  1. Your relationships are key. You’ve developed strong bonds with your clients, had conversations about difficult topics and been there for them during the hard times as well as the good. They know you’re willing to listen and eager to offer advice. The trust you’ve built from these experiences will serve you during this tumultuous time.
  1. Be intentional about your communications. Every client is unique, so your communications shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. Reach out to clients and work with them to determine the ideal frequency and method of communicating going forward. Given their current stress level and current portfolio, what makes the most sense? Once you have the logistics worked out, focus on providing personalized advice. You’ll further reinforce your role as their trusted adviser.

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You’re the future of accounting. Help shape the CPA exam.

Shutterstock_573010096A major research initiative is underway that will help shape the future of the Uniform CPA Examination® (CPA Exam), and your critical feedback is needed by April 30th. If you work in public accounting, business and industry, academia, or even for yourself, you’ve likely noticed that the accounting profession is rapidly changing.

CPAs face new challenges

Advanced technology is changing how businesses operate — many businesses are more data-driven than ever before. Data analytics is fundamentally changing the way auditors collect and document audit evidence and make decisions. As technological developments continue, auditors must expand their technical knowledge and skills and revise audit planning and testing procedures to perform effective and efficient audits. These changes extend beyond auditing and expand to nearly all parts of the accounting profession.

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