AICPA Announces 2019 CPA Exam Score Release Dates

The 2019 score release dates are now available on aicpa.org/cpaexam.  For complete information regarding scoring, please visit the Exam Scoring and FAQ pages.

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy will release scores to boards of accountancy based upon the target score release dates listed in the tables below. Some boards may require at least one day beyond the published target release date in the table to process and release scores.

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Americans’ financial satisfaction reaches new high—can you feel it?

Shutterstock_1071491411For the fifth quarter in a row, the typical American’s personal financial satisfaction reached an all-time high, according to the AICPA’s Personal Financial Satisfaction Index (PFSi). A record number of job openings, along with the stock market’s bullish performance though Q3 (Oct 1) - despite volatility - boosted Americans’ financial positions. With all these positive records, you may be wondering what it means for you.

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3 spooky small business myths, busted

Shutterstock_1214620402At this time of year, there’s plenty of “spookiness” to go around – the new Halloween movie, haunted houses, people incessantly arguing about politics on Facebook (just to name a few). Luckily, starting a small business doesn’t have to be something that makes your hair stand on end.

To calm potential entrepreneurs’ fears of starting a small business, I wanted to learn about some of the most popular myths – and hopefully put them to rest. Amy Wang, CPA and senior manager of the Tax Advocacy & Policy team at the AICPA and Margaret McNab, founder and co-organizer of the Freelance League of North Carolina, joined me on #CPApowered’s new podcast, The Small Biz Brunch, to discuss just that.

Myth #1: Side Hustles Aren’t Taxable

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Tax identity theft: A horror story

Shutterstock_676365463Halloween used to scare me. I was sure that monsters — specifically zombies — were out to get me. But I’m not afraid anymore because I faced down a nameless ghoul who did more actual harm to me than any imaginary monster could ever do.

It all started one fateful day when an identity thief used my name, Social Security number and birth date to file a fraudulent tax return, netting the fraudster a $4,000 refund. While it was an excellent payday for the thief, it was the start of some major headaches for me.

By the time I found out what happened, I was on the hook for more than $14,900 (including supposed unpaid taxes, penalties and interest). Fresh out of grad school with high student loan debt, rent and health insurance payments, I was completely unprepared to weather this storm.

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Are you the analytical type? A cool, new path is emerging.

 

Shutterstock_606046391As a CPA or CGMA, you excel at getting into the weeds. Whether it’s a reporting discrepancy or buried tax provision, you will find it. More importantly, you know how to arrange those weeds to form a bouquet that helps your client.

Now, with software spouting numbers on everything from revenue and sales to “likes” and clicks, a new business opportunity is opening up, one that lets you use that great analytical mind to serve clients who desperately need help with getting a grip on all that data.

“CPAs are ideally positioned to be able to step in and do that type of work.” said Dan Griffiths, CPA, Strategy and Leadership partner at Tanner LLC. Griffiths ought to know. In addition to Tanner’s tax and audit practices, the firm has stretched its accounting arms to carry a range of specialty consulting services such as strategic planning, cybersecurity and, now, data analytics.

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4 strategies to capture the growing Hispanic market

Herrera_J_6560As CPAs, we’re always interested in numbers, so let me share an interesting statistic: The United States Census Bureau has projected that  groups now considered ethnic minorities will make up the majority of the population by 2042 with Hispanics being the second largest racial or ethnic group and second fastest growing.

According to market research by Nielsen, there are about 57 million Hispanics in the U.S., or 18 percent of the population, making them an important demographic to any business – including CPA firms. Is your firm ready to engage with these potential clients and staff? There are a few insights that can help CPA firms connect with this burgeoning business and talent market.  

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5 cybersecurity frameworks accountants should know about

Shutterstock_797485732You’ve seen all the news stories: Cyberattacks are happening almost daily, and they can have devastating consequences. You know you need to protect your organization’s data. But where do you even start?

A cybersecurity framework can guide you in the right direction. These frameworks help you design a cybersecurity risk and controls process that is right for your organization. Whether you’re interested in helping set up your own organization’s cyber program, or you’re interested in providing assurance on other organizations’ cybersecurity systems, you should be familiar with different cybersecurity frameworks and what types of companies they’re best for. I’ve listed a few common ones you should know about below.

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Yellow Book meets yellow cake and all sorts of delicious changes

Shutterstock_145838096While I’m not a good baker, when I talk to CPAs who are new to the governmental auditing area and need to understand what the “Yellow Book” is, I often explain using the analogy of a multi-layered cake. The bottom layer of the cake is the AICPA auditing standards, which are the basis for most Yellow Book audits. The second layer of the cake (let’s make it a yellow layer!) adds standards issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), known as the “Yellow Book” or Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS) that build upon the AICPA rules. Finally, if your client gets federal funds, there may be a third layer of the cake that consists of compliance auditing requirements.

The big news for auditors right now is that the GAO has issued a 2018 revision to the Yellow Book which will change the ingredients for the middle layer of the cake. If you audit federal, state or local governments, or not-for-profits, whose audits are subject to the Yellow Book, you should begin updating your recipe card so your cake turns out right. 

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Life lessons learned while training for the IRONMAN® triathlon

158_d-2439838-DIGITAL_H...On August 19, 2018, I checked something off my bucket list: I completed the IRONMAN® Mont-Tremblant triathlon – a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. I wasn’t particularly fast — it took 15 hours and 40 minutes to finish — but it was an amazing day in beautiful Quebec, Canada, that I will never forget.

As an adult, I developed a love of running to help stay active and reduce stress. When I turned 40, I got into triathlons to mix it up a bit. For many years, I wasn’t very athletic. So it was pretty shocking to many that I had undertaken such an intense activity.

Now, having run countless miles, I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned while training and running. I find they cross over into my everyday business life.

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See the future, without a flying DeLorean

Shutterstock_687311458Unless you’ve recently installed a flux capacitor in the family mini-van, you probably can’t predict the future. But human nature is insistent in its curiosity, so predictions do persist. Weather, gambling, investing…many things we do and experience prompt a desire to know what’s coming next.

The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants recently announced the Watchlist, a semi-annual list of trends, technologies and possibilities that could affect the accounting profession. The list is divided into three areas: things happening now, things that might happen soon, and things that might happen eventually. Each topic is related to how CPAs do their work, and a few of them might actually surprise you.

Unlike Marty McFly’s sports almanac, the Watchlist isn’t predestined. That aside, both do the same thing: use data to make predictions. But a small problem creeps in: what data do you use?

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Technically, your planning practice could be better

Shutterstock_304478969Is there even a day that passes anymore in which you don’t read, hear or watch a story about the wonders of technology? New apps, new computer systems and entirely new technologies are emerging and being put into practice at dizzying speeds. Cutting through the noise and knowing which technologies are best for your planning practice can be complicated, but ignoring the value technology can add to your practice carries a heavy price in lost efficiency and opportunity.

Are you still driving a manual?

Spreadsheets used to be the go-to tech for organizing and assessing a client’s finances and your resulting financial plan. Handy but labor-intensive, spreadsheets were and are prone to errors and omissions. Other old-school trappings like physical copies of client’s financial data, wills or healthcare directives presented other problems related to security, inaccessibility or loss of the paperwork due to disaster or misplacement.

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Smishing – what you need to know

Shutterstock_653556430When I first saw the word smishing, I assumed it was some new lingo the kids came up with to further stump us adults. But then again, this is coming from someone who didn’t know what ‘on fleek’ was until it was no longer cool to use. (It’s okay if you still don’t know what that means.)

Jokes aside, smishing is a very serious matter – and since October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to discuss it.

What is smishing?

According to Experian, a credit reporting bureau in the U.S., smishing is yet another tool used by cybercriminals to obtain personal information and steal identities. You’ve probably heard of ‘phishing,’ which is an attempt to get people to provide sensitive information via email, like credit card numbers or passwords. Smishing is a mashup of SMS (short message service) and phishing.

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What do your clients really want? Ask!

Shutterstock_752463637If you have a small firm, you know how much of your valuable time can be eaten up with things that don’t generate revenue, such as administrative duties and staffing headaches. So, the thought of doing one more thing might seem overwhelming. But what if it’s the one thing that catapults your practice to the next level?

“We talked about doing a client poll a million times, but never seemed to find the time,” explains Jim Davidson, CPA, of Davidson and Nick CPAs in Naples, Florida. “This past year we had a lot of new staff. We wanted to know what clients thought we did well, and what we didn’t.”

What Jim learned didn’t exactly surprise him, but it did give him some good ideas. After 30 years of practicing in a town known as a retirement mecca, it wasn’t a revelation to learn clients were looking for estate and trust planning. But Naples is nearly bursting with those services already. Surely his clients are getting them elsewhere?

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3 ways small firms can turn challenges into opportunities

6a0133f5884316970b01b7c94b352c970b-320wiThe thing I enjoy most in my role as Chair of the AICPA is the time I get to spend talking to members from across the profession about the issues most important to them. What’s clear to me is we’re all facing the same challenge of staying ahead in a fast-changing world. But we’re unique in how we confront this challenge.

This is especially true with small firms and sole practitioners, which play a powerful role as trusted advisers for their clients and communities. Firm owners wear many hats — human resources, business development, marketing and service providers. As the pace of change speeds up, it’s hard to manage the day-to-day and prepare for the future.

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Cybersecurity facts tax practitioners need to get right

GettyImages-678819951How many emails does your firm receive in one day?

Whatever the number, there’s a good chance a chunk of it is malware. According to a 2018 report compiled by Symantec, Corporation, one in 412 emails contained malware in 2017. For businesses with less than 250 employees, this rate jumped to one in 376 emails. When you consider just how many emails the average office worker receives in a week, things can look a little scary.

Cyberattackers represent a growing and evolving threat to CPA firms. Perpetrators are seeking sensitive client information, financial records and firm data like PTINs using any method available to infiltrate your defenses. And a lot of times, it works.

Understanding how to ward off these attacks is half the battle. Learn how to dispel common misconceptions about cybersecurity so you can be better prepared to face down any threat to your data.

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4 ways to strengthen culture in your firm

Shutterstock_509115232Fall has finally arrived. The change in season is the perfect time to evaluate your firm’s inner workings and maybe even switch up your routine. Are your staff and clients happy? Are you fostering a work environment where staff feel energized, supported and have growth opportunities available to them?

People need the right blend of opportunities, challenges and accomplishments to achieve optimal success. And when the environment is right, growth can flourish. We asked three successful firm leaders how they’ve nurtured their firm’s cultural climate. This is what they said:

  1. Define your desired culture and core beliefs.

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5 tips for nudging procrastinators on extension

Extension blogYour clients may feel like October 15 is still far away, but you know better. Completing a return that is on extension takes time, and you’re getting worried because you don’t have all the information you need. Calls and emails to the clients aren’t producing results. 

You may feel like you’ve seen this movie before, and perhaps it’s time to write a new script. Here are a few actions you can take to address the issue.

1. Issue an alert

Ideally, you sent clients an engagement letter at the beginning of the year that spelled out deadlines and responsibilities of both parties, as well as the consequences if the client does not produce information required to complete a timely return. These letters are important, as they protect the practitioner and make the client aware of the consequences of procrastinating. If your engagement letter didn’t include a deadline, set this now and notify your client by certified mail. 

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Three things your firm needs to get started with SOC services

Shutterstock_611298710In an era of near-daily cyberattacks, organizations increasingly need to show they are protecting sensitive data—and they are turning to CPAs to help them do so.

SOC reporting isn’t something auditors should learn on the job or figure out as they go, though. If you’ve been thinking about expanding your firm’s offerings to include Service and Organization Control (SOC) engagements, there are a few things you need first.

  1. You need to be knowledgeable in the service area

Specialized knowledge of an industry or organization is vital for understanding where risks are, assessing those risks and adjusting procedures to the appropriate risk level. As such, focus your SOC practice on areas with which you are already familiar.

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4 tips to make a case for a reduced work schedule

Shutterstock_1006953598According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor, 70 percent of women with children under the age of 18 are part of the work force. Just like many working parents, I struggled trying to balance the demands of work and home life. That’s why working on a reduced schedule for part of my career was so beneficial.

When I had my first child in 1986, I was a manager in the tax department at Deloitte Tax LLP in Detroit. Through the flexibility options available, I returned from maternity leave and began working a 60 percent schedule. I even rose to a leadership position doing so. The experience was so valuable. It allowed me to be the kind of mother I wanted to be, while also giving me the opportunity to build my career. Here are some tips for talking to your employer about a flexible schedule and maintaining professional success:

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So, your tax clients say their daughter got into Harvard...

Shutterstock_534602335Your clients are ecstatic. Their daughter just got accepted to an Ivy League college. But they’re also worried because that top tier school is expensive. Concern doubles when they think about their 15-year-old son who just started at a private high school. He’ll be looking at colleges soon, too.

Many parents feel financial pressure when it comes to their children’s education. That’s not surprising considering that in 2016, the yearly estimated average cost of undergraduate tuition, fees, room and board was $16,757 at public institutions, $43,065 at private nonprofit institutions and $23,776 at private, for-profit institutions. 

What can you as a tax practitioner do to prepare your clients for this financial milestone? Below, you’ll find four suggested talking points to put your clients’ minds at ease.

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Help disaster survivors -- not scam artists

FraudIt’s a familiar cycle. Disasters like Hurricanes Florence and Michael strike, and the airwaves are inundated with news of people displaced and homes destroyed. And shortly afterwards, you’ll see friends and colleagues ‘sharing’ on social media that they’ve contributed money towards relief efforts on crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe and encouraging others to give what they can.

For many people, their sense of compassion kicks in and they are compelled to do what they can to help – which often means making a financial donation. In fact, charitable giving in the United States soared to a record $410.02 billion in 2017 according to Charity Navigator.

But CPAs who specialize in financial fraud detection and prevention warn that you should think twice before clicking that DONATE NOW button. Fraudsters often take advantage of people’s good will and look to rip them off as they try to help those in need.

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Planning, valuation could have saved Franklin’s heirs $20mil

ArethaAretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” passed away last month in her birthplace of Detroit after six decades reigning the music industry. The first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ms. Franklin leaves behind legendary hits and performances and a legacy many entertainers only dream of achieving. What she didn’t leave behind, however, is a will.

Without a will in place, it’s now up to the state of Michigan to determine how her reported, yet unconfirmed, $80 million net worth is divided among her four children. And that amount could rise as her estate is valued. In hindsight, with some tax and financial planning, and a quality valuation—even just a few months ago—Ms. Franklin’s beneficiaries could have saved more than $27M in estate taxes.

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Do you know these three tax client types?

ThreeYour tax practice sees a lot of traffic, no doubt. Clients of every stripe pass through your doors seeking your guidance on all kinds of things. While every CPA tax practitioner is at the ready with good advice and service on all things tax, many go above and beyond with additional planning services. There’s even the occasional left-field question about the best restaurant in town or which university seems best suited to their kids. Over time, you’ve come to identify the personalities of your clients, and you might have noticed that many fit into some broad client types. Do you recognize any of these?

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Are you ‘more dumber’ than your smartphone?

Dumber than your smart phoneChances are, you love your smartphone.

No. I mean: You really love your smartphone.

MRI studies show that when we hold our smartphones, we almost feel as though they’re holding us back. Our brains produce a veritable love potion of chemicals – namely dopamine and oxytocin, the same chemicals released during cuddling. I guess that makes sense. Our smartphones, after all, make great partners. They keep us updated on the weather, the news, the stock market. They advise us where to go for dinner, how to get there, and (thanks to social media apps) whom we should invite – even if we end up ignoring that person the entire time by catching up on emails or playing Fortnite Mobile. Smartphones and other devices typically don’t argue with us, and – provided they’re well charged – they’re there for us when we need them.

Is it a surprise, then, that we’re sacrificing our personal relationships for our relationships with devices? And in doing so, we’re also sacrificing something else: our humanness. As technologies get smarter, we become more reliant, which can actually chip away at our own intelligence.

Take what happened on September 6, 2012:

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Hurricane preparedness: Better to be safe than sorry

 

Shutterstock_125236457Please note: This blog was written before Hurricanes Florence and Michael made landfall. Our thoughts are with those recovering and currently in Hurricane Michael's path. Below, you'll find resources that will help you, your loved ones and your clients recover from the devastation and also prepare for future disasters.

Don’t let the fact that fall is right around the corner fool you into thinking that hurricane season is over. There’s still quite a bit of time left until the end of November – and current systems in the Atlantic are looking ominous.

As a Floridian who has been through many a hurricane, let me give you some advice – do not sit idly by waiting to find out if it will directly hit you. There’s no reason to panic, but as with everything else in life, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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School’s in: Inspiring the next generation of CPAs

Shutterstock_209187676With school back in session, hundreds of thousands of students are embarking on their college careers. It’s a date with destiny that will culminate in the answer to the question they’ve been asked a hundred times: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Where kids and young adults get their ideas for the occupation that will define their adult lives varies widely. Some follow the footsteps of parents or other family members. Some find themselves attracted to a profession through something they learned early in their education. Still others admire a public figure, CEO or fictional character who inspires their choices (if you’re having trouble believing that last one, check out this story).

But if you want to help set your student (or someone else’s) on a career path they’ll find rewarding, interesting and lucrative, accounting is a natural suggestion. And encouraging them to pursue the CPA will help keep them in demand well into the future.

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Don’t risk it: Get familiar with investment strategy

Shutterstock_723294832There are many ways to invest your hard-earned money, but the goal is always the same: to grow your wealth. But a recent survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the AICPA found that many Americans are embracing high-risk strategies that put their savings in jeopardy while doing minimal, if any, financial research upfront.

David Almonte, CPA, member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, spoke to AICPA Insights about the survey results and what Americans should know about investing strategy.

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What college football can teach you about project management

GettyImages-517875398Football is the most popular sport in America, and according to a recent Gallup survey, more than half of us are college football fans.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Americans love football. It brings us together as much as it tests our rivalries. We tailgate, paint our faces and crowd into stadiums and onto couches. Every season is different from the last, making us hold our breath to the very end.

If you’re a college football fan, you’re probably feeling twinges of anticipation — and nervousness — this week. It’s an exciting time, and you’re no doubt hoping your team comes out on top.

But football is more than just a game. If you look closely, it can teach you a thing or two about valuable business skills. You can find players deploying some of the most difficult-to-master project management tactics out on the gridiron.

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Get your groove back: 4 tips to ramp up for fall busy season

GettyImages-705001221Is there any season more relaxing than summer? The weather is warm. The days are long. Perhaps best of all, busy season is still a ways off. There’s no cause to worry about extensions or business returns or even tax reform, right?

Nope. Believe it or not, summer is winding down and the fall busy season is ramping up. Now is the time to shake off that beach brain and prepare for what’s ahead. You’ll thank yourself in October, not to mention in February and March. 

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The secret about change almost no one knows

Shutterstock_400923745If you search Amazon’s selection of books for “change,” you get over 50,000 entries. Some are about dealing with change. Others are about driving change, managing change or learning how to change. They are self-help books and management manifestos. And all of them trade on one undeniable and human fact: change stimulates and sometimes frightens us. We’re always looking for new ways to understand and handle it.

Somewhere between the promises of success if you learn how to change and the warnings of stagnation if you don’t is a relatively untraveled path. It’s a journey of self-exploration that can have an immense influence on how you see and respond to the world as it evolves. I walked many clients through that journey, which I called the A to C Disconnect.

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New HS course gives insights into real accounting careers

Shutterstock_141891325How well do you remember your first accounting course?

The American Institute of CPAs knows that a student’s first classroom experience with accounting goes a long way towards determining if they’re going to wind up entering the profession. That’s why it’s crucial for students to be exposed in high school to a course that goes beyond debits and credits into some of the higher order skills that CPAs need to thrive in today’s profession, such as critical thinking and problem solving.

The AICPA is working to create a formal process that will introduce talented high school students to the profession at an early age through the AICPA Accounting Program for Building the Profession (“AICPA APBP”) course and related qualifying examination. APBP is a program that trains high school educators to teach a higher-level accounting curriculum that is a combination of financial and managerial concepts. It’s comparable to what a college student would learn in an entry-level accounting course.

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7 ways to beat back-to-school stress

Shutterstock_1095921515It’s the hottest part of the summer, and my kids are out of control. They’d sleep ‘til noon and stay up ‘til after midnight if I let them. While attempting to wake the youngest for camp this week, I daydreamed about our efficient school year morning routine.

Just then, I couldn’t remember when my kids start school. I knew it was soon. Very soon. But the dates weren’t in my phone. Panic! Wait. Found it on the school website. We’ve got 19 days.

Most parents — and kids, too — feel at least a little pressed for time around the beginning of the school year. So, I did some research and made a checklist to get my family through these dog days of summer and into the back-to-school mindset.

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Confessions of a young tax practitioner

Young CPAsOlena Romanchuk, CPA, knows what it’s like to fall in love with tax at an early age. She was only fifteen the first time she pored over a stack of ledgers. After studying accounting in her home country of Ukraine, Olena came to the United States as an exchange student. She later attended Western Carolina University and fell for the tax profession all over again.

While Olena was developing her tax skills, Glenda Bowman was trying to figure out exactly what she wanted to do in college. As the first person to pursue a bachelor’s degree in her immediate family, just getting to college was a significant accomplishment. She said she was a typical college student who went straight into general business before she felt something click in her first accounting class that led her to embrace the profession and become a CPA.

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Why assess audit risk? So you don’t get lost in the woods

Risk 3Picture this: You’ve finally made it through busy season. You’ve booked a family trip to a remote cabin in the mountains to unplug and relax. Your out-of-office message has been turned on and you’ve planned plenty of outdoorsy activities for you and your family. You’ve written out a packing list and checked off every item: Clothes? Check. Hiking boots? Check. Bug spray? Check. Snacks and entertainment to ward off your kids’ boredom- and hunger-related complaints during the long car ride? Check.

The car’s all packed, everyone’s buckled in and your GPS is set up on the dashboard. Now that you’re ready to embark on a journey to the middle of nowhere, you reach for your GPS…

…and throw it out the window.

Probably not the best way to get where you need to go, right?

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Beyond robotics: How AI can help improve the audit process

Shutterstock_664115017The CPA profession has been hearing a lot about Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a software technology that can help auditors sift through structured data. But RPA can only do so much. Abigail Zhang, a PhD student in the Department of Accounting and Information Systems at Rutgers Business School, explains why auditors should also consider Intelligent Process Automation (IPA).

What is IPA?

Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) includes:

  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Cognitive Computing (CC)
  • Other technologies

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Calling all tax CPAs: help quality reviews take center stage

GettyImages-494755316Data breaches happen daily. We see it in the news, and we hear it from our clients. Clients trust us with their private information including Social Security numbers, paystubs, birthdays and other data valuable to identity thieves.

We need to maintain security and provide the best service for our clients. To do this, we must observe two things: integrity and adherence to the quality of services we deliver. And both require obedience to specific standards of behavior.

In the case of quality, there are many ways to prove we’re adhering to standards. Reviews of our work are one. But doing so can raise significant concerns for practitioners, particularly when it comes to logistics.

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5 lessons learned from the closing of a historic candy company

Shutterstock_1067246603NECCO Wafers are one of America’s most historic candies. Union soldiers carried them in the Civil War. Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan stocked them on his voyage to northern Greenland in 1913. The United States Army issued them to GIs in World War II. Generations of kids begged their parents for them at gas stations and checkout lines across the country.

After 170 years of operation, in May 2018, the bankruptcy court auctioned off the New England Confectionery Company’s (NECCO) assets. Round Hill Investments, of Greenwich, Conn., agreed to buy NECCO for $17.3 million. Though, just this week on July 24, 2018 and according to the Boston Globe, Round Hill abruptly shut down its operations and closed the doors at the Revere, Mass., candy factory. The company stated it had sold NECCO to another candy manufacturer but didn’t disclose the details. How could a company that survived catastrophic fires, wars, recessions, the Great Depression and so many other trials fail in today’s environment?

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Could IRS reform mean smoother waters for tax practitioners?

Ed Karl blog image - 7-22-2018“. . . once again there is an historic opportunity to overhaul the IRS and transform it into an efficient, modern, and responsive agency.” - Report of the National Commission on Restructuring the IRS, 1997

Last year, I wrote a blog about tax reform and quoted country singer Michael Ray that [t]oday only happens once in a lifetime.” I talked about how I was around for the 1986 tax reform process and passage of the legislation, so happening once in a lifetime might be twice for me, as tax reform was then developing. I’m also hoping that twice in a lifetime refers to IRS reform.

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Taming your to-do list

Shutterstock_1135852721“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” ~Peter Drucker

Two things trip up most leaders’ attempts at managing their time. The first is the fact that the best systems and best intentions quickly run into dynamics in the real world: You’ll get interrupted, there will be an unforeseen obstacle or crisis, you’ll go through motivation and energy ups and downs, and so much more. Translating your intentions into practice often fails through small compromises you feel you must make in your day to day activities. The second is that most principles in time management focus on how you spend your time, but that philosophy just puts you on a “hamster wheel” that doesn’t move you forward. It isn’t about how you SPEND your time, it’s about how you INVEST your time.

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5 podcasts for your summer road trip

Shutterstock_407042977Taking a family road trip is one of the rites of passage that we all go through during summer. The kids have their iPads and books, the dog has his bone, and that just leaves the adults to find ways to make the long hours go faster. You can either click the radio buttons a thousand times to find a station remotely tolerable, you can listen to the kids fight about who is touching who, or you can find an alternative.

Enter the podcast

A podcast is a great way to make the miles fly by. Of the more than 550,000 podcasts you can listen to, you’ll find educational, entertaining, or just plain random content. Did you know that there is a 51% chance that a flipped coin will land on the side that was facing up when it was flipped? A fun fact and I learned it from a podcast!

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I jumpstarted my productivity in 15 minutes – and you can, too!

ReadingIt was early January 2014. The Kansan plains were covered in a crunchy layer of frozen grass, the overcast sky giving little indication that the ice would soon melt. Staff at Swindoll, Janzen, Hawk & Lloyd – a small accounting firm – were eager to step in from the cold to start their day. But this day would start differently than others. No one opened their laptop. No one phoned clients. No one crunched numbers. Instead, everyone, from partner to administrative assistant, had their heads down in a nonfiction book of their choice. They read uninterrupted, untethered from technology, for 15 minutes. You see, this firm had taken the first step in a journey that would evolve from an experiment into a successful on-the-clock reading program. And that reading program would evolve them too. 

Admittedly, The First 15 reading program took some time to get off the ground because, although everyone agreed to the merits of reading, no one had time for it. That’s when Chet Buchman, managing partner and eventual architect of the reading program, suggested paying for people to read on the clock. “You can’t control what people have going on at home…but you do have the ability to influence what happens when they’re on the clock.” 

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5 tools to help your firm operate effectively

IStock-173737815Summer is a time for relaxing vacations, outdoor concerts and barbecue gatherings. It’s also a time to hit the recharge button and revisit the goals you planned to achieve by year’s end. Many CPAs set aside time during the summer months to focus on their firm’s operations and growth opportunities. The good news is that there are resources available to AICPA members to help you reach these goals and improve your firm’s overall success. Here are some tools for efficient firm management:

  1. Gain perspective with benchmarking metrics.

Metrics provide you with invaluable information. The PCPS/CPA.com National Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) Survey is a unique benchmarking resource that provides firms of all sizes with the key performance indicators they need to make many important management decisions such as firm realization, billing rates and compensation, net remaining per owner and more. The 2018 MAP survey has been significantly streamlined to make it even easier and faster to take. If you want to know where you stand compared to other firms in your region or nationally, I’d urge you to take the survey before it closes this month. Firms that participate receive a customized report comparing their responses to those of firms with similar net client fees, firms in the same region, and against top performing firms. PCPS members also get additional tools, including PowerPoint trend reports and the ability to run customized reports utilizing filters.

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Summer reading list

Shutterstock_288888452It’s that time of year: trips are being planned, office cubes seem emptier than normal and social media is flooded with pictures of vacation spots. But, nothing says summer to me like relaxing with a good book, so I joined forces with my colleagues to present you with a collection of books for your next trip or staycation.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
You don’t even have to be a history buff to become fully engrossed in this novel. It’s a remarkable story of one Jewish family who – torn apart by World War II – fought for survival without knowing if they’d ever see each other again. The most unbelievable part is it’s based on a true story. While the topic is a tad heavier than a typical beach read, I couldn’t put this one down!
Sonia Bauer, Senior Manager - Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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Is hiring a CPA worth it in 2018?

GettyImages-863565040When people hear I’m a CPA who specializes in tax, the question invariably comes up — what do I think about the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (also known as “tax reform”)? I’m not one to talk about politics, so to be neutral, I say “it’s certainly an exciting time to be a CPA in tax.” No question, many of the provisions of tax reform bring added complexity to areas of the law that were not simple to begin with. 

Some individuals will continue to feel comfortable using tax preparation software, but there are circumstances where “you don’t know what you don’t know,” requiring you to call in the help of a CPA. A great CPA can provide much more value than just the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your forms are correct. They can provide planning and tax advisory services, consultation, business and international accounting, forensic accounting, business valuation and more. 

Read on to learn four reasons why it’s worth hiring a CPA.  

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8 tips to help recent grads establish financial independence

Shutterstock_309048455School's out for summer! And, for some, school is out for good. In honor of America declaring its independence, here are 8 tips from the American Institute of CPAs' National CPA Financial Literacy Commission to help recent college grads declare their own FINANCIAL independence now and for the future:

1. Have a plan to repay student loan debt. While paying off significant debt takes time, establishing and sticking to a plan will put you on a good path toward your financial independence. The AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website has free resources to help create a plan to reach your financial goals.

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An insider's look at avoiding ethical violations

GettyImages-590617706Ethical dilemmas can occur at any time during the career of a tax practitioner. Sometimes, the practitioner doesn’t even know they did anything wrong. As a former IRS Office of Professional Responsibility attorney, cases just like that would come across my desk.

A vast majority of these cases came from simple misunderstandings of ethical responsibilities — practitioners were not aware they were violating Circular 230 or the practitioner just had a bad day and made a one-time mistake. Review these stories and learn a little more about how easy ethical violations can happen if you aren’t paying close attention. (Note: details have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved).

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Ones and zeros aren’t always heroes

Shutterstock_161746904In 1984, an entire profession that had survived more or less intact for 600 years found itself facing a monumental, earth-shattering change. It was that year Apple Computer released the Macintosh. Laughably underpowered by today’s standards, it nonetheless represented the literal future of computing with its graphical user interface (something the consumer market had never seen before) and suite of creative software.

Quickly following its release, industrious programmers took advantage of the available printing abilities of the machine—robust for its time—and created the first desktop publishing software. Just like that, businesses, government agencies, churches and even families who once turned to professional print houses to design, typeset and print everything from flyers and post cards to catalogs, were able to bring at least the design portion of the equation in-house. Suddenly, everyone was a “designer.” It was a game-changer for markets, but it also led to a lot of truly awful design and typesetting, perpetrated by amateurs with little to no training in visual arts.

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Goooooooooal: Planning your way to financial victory

AICPA_LifeDecisions_Info_FinalHave you ever been to the gym the first week in January? It’s usually packed with folks looking to improve their health. Many of these newcomers are there as part of their New Year’s resolution, while others may be trying to rebound after a particularly indulgent holiday season. And that’s a noble pursuit. However, very few of them are likely to still be going to the gym a few months later. I’m not a psychologist, but it seems to me that human nature responds to a setback or feeling of being stuck in a rut with a flurry of positive changes. Unfortunately, once our memory of what caused us to want to make those changes fades, we tend to slip back into our old ways.

I sat down with Neal Stern of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission to talk about how Americans can make some positive changes to their financial plans – and stick with them for the long term.

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IRS guidance still needed on key tax reform issues

GettyImages-621474914As a CPA in tax, you know it’s vital to stay on top of tax reform. That means you’re watching the news coverage. You’re reading the articles. You’ve subscribed to e-News and various news alerts. You’re joining webcasts and taking self-study courses.

But there’s still a lot to learn, and some information just isn’t available yet.

The U.S. saw the most significant overhaul of its tax code in more than three decades at the end of last year. And when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was finally signed, it set off a guidance chain reaction at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

While processing its typically heavy busy-season workload, the IRS also focused on issuing guidance on several high-priority changes to allow for effective implementation of the new law. The IRS continues to issue news releases, notices, instructions and other forms of informal guidance on the most pressing items.

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AICPA to IRS: we need guidance on virtual currencies

GettyImages-678790644More and more people are investing in virtual currencies (also known as “cryptocurrencies”), such as Bitcoin. A recent study says that one in ten Americans owns some kind of virtual currency. Given this rise in popularity, tax preparers need to ask their clients whether they own or trade any virtual currency.

The first thing tax preparers wants to know is, “what is virtual currency and how is it taxed?”  Most people do not know the answer to this question, and they’re not alone. The AICPA has developed multiple comment letters on this issue because we hear from our members across the country that virtual currency is an emerging area they want to understand and learn more about. 

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