Community has a new look. But we’re still connected.

Shutterstock_1044017923At the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, we have a responsibility to our members and the accounting profession. A key component of this responsibility is ensuring that we provide informed and robust intelligence across a range of topics. In collaboration with our partner EY Seren, we’re researching the human impact of the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on the profession, its practitioners and the wider community.

The content in the report — Human Signals: New patterns of behavior and the accounting profession — aims to empower readers and provide guidance on how to navigate a highly unpredictable future.

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Networking in a new world

Shutterstock_1726119376Amid continued business uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic caused, CPAs have successfully moved their professional lives to a virtual environment. But while they may have learned that it’s possible to conduct business interactions online, maintaining personal connections with clients, referral sources and other key contacts can be more challenging. Virtual networking can be done, though, if you follow these tips.

Focus on the personal

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8 things to know about the audit evidence standard

GettyImages-956306692As we were finalizing Statement on Auditing Standards No. 142, COVID-19 arrived and caused major disruptions to the country’s economy, including changing the ways auditors were working. Automated tools and techniques — like conducting remote observation using cameras or drones — became necessary to perform certain audit procedures, such as observing the physical count of inventory. These and other automated tools and techniques are referenced in the guidance accompanying the audit evidence standard that was issued last month. After practitioners’ experiences over the past several months, these techniques likely will feel more familiar today than they did several months ago.

Before you dive in to read the standard, we’d like to highlight some key changes; the standard:

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CPA licensure: one step closer to change

GettyImages-615258648 (1)You may be familiar with CPA Evolution, a joint initiative of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the AICPA that we’ve been discussing for more than a year.

In May, I wrote about the AICPA Council voting in support of advancing CPA Evolution. On July 24, NASBA’s board of directors also voted in support of advancing the initiative. Thank you to AICPA’s board of directors, AICPA Council, NASBA and NASBA’s board of directors for their support and the leadership they’ve provided since our two organizations began this initiative in 2018. I’d like to thank all of you as well for providing us with advice and ideas along the way.

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Reflect on morale and team spirit as you consider reopening your office

Shutterstock_1742168762Across the country, CPA firms are deciding when best to reopen their offices, knowing employees are integral to the success. Here are solutions for maintaining employee morale and team spirit while ensuring a good flow of communication between staff and clients.   

Address key concerns.

Given an uncertain economy and rising unemployment numbers, staff may be worried about their futures. At the 13-person Hutchins & Haake, LLC, Chad Allen, CPA, CITP, says “the main concern was putting people’s minds at ease that the firms weren’t planning layoffs.” Chad did that by holding individual video conferences with each team member to answer questions and offer reassurance. Even if jobs are in jeopardy, it’s best to be transparent — secrecy and surprises can damage employees’ trust in firm leadership and lower morale and engagement among remaining staff.

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Pandemic teleworking causes state tax withholding issues

IStock_85468875_XXXLARGEA half-century ago, tax withholding was one of the simpler issues for taxpayers and practitioners. A more mobile society makes state tax withholding more complicated today given the ease of conducting cross-jurisdictional business and the increase in teleworking or remote work arrangements.

Meanwhile, the web of inconsistent state and local income tax and withholding rules affect employees and employers. As the AICPA testified, the myriad state income tax withholding laws and varying de minimis exceptions make compliance difficult and time-consuming.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, more employees are teleworking, and state income tax withholding is a larger burden on employers.

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Key risks when auditing a not-for-profit during the pandemic

GettyImages-182392061 (2)While COVID-19 has cast a cloud of uncertainty over not-for-profit organizations, there is one fact we can all hang our hats on: How we audit a not-for-profit now should look completely different than it did a year ago, a month ago, or even a few weeks ago.

As auditors, we’ve been fortunate to work in a stable environment for some time. The pandemic, however, has pulled the rug out from underneath all of us – and that includes our clients. Not-for-profits are not exempt, and COVID-19 has affected each one in drastically different ways.

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3 A&A tech tips for today’s virtual firm

TechyWith COVID-19 changing everyone’s world, firms must develop new ways to work internally and with clients. If you are used to going over the audit report with clients in the office, what’s your plan? If your audit team usually conducts the audit at the client’s office, what’s your plan?

Fortunately, technology enables firms such as yours to continue to offer personalized, exceptional service without being in the same physical space as your client. You don’t even need your team to be together in one office to deliver efficient, high-quality work.

What will it take to get it right in the long run? Here are three tips to get you going:

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5 reasons borrowers shouldn’t rush their PPP forgiveness applications

IStock_19111721_XXLARGEThis blog post explains why borrowers shouldn’t rush their PPP loan forgiveness applications. Please share with clients who participated in the program.

Borrowers who received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act are asking their CPAs if and how they will qualify for PPP loan forgiveness. There is uncertainty over some of the program details. Organizations — especially small businesses — worry about meeting the maximizing loan forgiveness requirements.

While you may be anxious to apply for forgiveness, here are five factors affecting the forgiveness application process.

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Help small business clients recover through customer retention

Small Business Customer RetentionMany small businesses are struggling because of the unprecedented effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy. As a CPA, your guidance is critical to help small business clients navigate these current challenges and enable successes.

One of the most valuable factors in a business’s long-term vitality is customer retention. For instance, DocuSign’s annual sales grew more than 30%, due in part to their high level of repeat customers.

Small and medium businesses (SMBs) can also benefit from obsessively tracking and learning from customer and revenue retention trends. That makes retention analyses an ideal addition to your advisory services — and you can do it using the same accounting data you’re already managing for SMB clients.

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Navigating financial plans during the pandemic

Shutterstock_184777091As news of the COVID-19 pandemic’s spread intensified early this year, the effect on the U.S. economy and American’s financial situations was unknown. We conducted the AICPA PFP Trends Survey in May to explore how CPA financial planners worked with clients during these uncertain times. The U.S. had experienced tens of millions of job losses, extreme stock market volatility and trillions of dollars in emergency federal programs to mitigate the economic fallout for businesses and individuals. The survey results provide an informative snapshot of how AICPA members on the financial frontlines helped their clients calmly navigate this extraordinary situation.

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5 skills finance professionals need right now

Shutterstock_730013188Even before the current crisis, digital transformation and new ways of working were significantly influencing the skills and capabilities finance teams need. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated that need as people and businesses now seek digital experiences and solutions more than ever.

Recently at the Interactive Solution and Key Initiative Sessions, the ENGAGE 2020 kickoff event, I shared insights [listen here via podcast] from my conversations with CFOs worldwide. They told me the skills and competencies finance teams must develop to adequately support the business in today’s world. These skills include:

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A Shark’s advice for building resilience

Shutterstock_321313280Daymond John can shut you down with a simple “no” or change your world with a definitive “yes.” He’s a Shark on the Emmy award-winning television series Shark Tank and a keynote speaker at ENGAGE 2020, the premier event for accounting and finance professionals, July 20–24.

John is also CEO and founder of the ground-breaking lifestyle brand FUBU (For Us, By Us), an American apparel company that has sold more than $6 billion in merchandise. He’s CEO of The Shark Group and is a New York Times bestselling author of five books, including his latest, Powershift: Transform Any Situation, Close Any Deal, and Achieve Any Outcome.

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July 15 Filing Date — Not to Move

Shutterstock_1682999677What's called a difficult decision is a difficult decision because either way you go, there are penalties.

-Elia Kazan

To advocate effectively on our members’ behalf and deliver the right resources, the AICPA periodically conducts member surveys to gather opinions on various subjects. As we navigate through this ongoing filing season, the AICPA Tax Executive Committee asked Tax Section members for their concerns and opinions regarding the July 15 deadline. The Tax Executive Committee has been carefully considering a decision regarding July 15 since, well, April 15. If you read July 15 filing date — To move or not to move, you know the heart of the matter was whether to move the deadline. We now have an answer — don’t move the July 15 due date. As famous ‘50s and ‘60s Hollywood director Elia Kazan infers above, our decision was complicated and multi-faceted. There were many issues to consider.

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5 tips for working from home with kids

Shutterstock_1677609325Remember “Take Your Child to Work Day”? For many of us, that’s become every day. The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down offices, leaving professionals to carve out workspaces in their homes while keeping children occupied or helping them with schoolwork at the kitchen table. We’ve compiled the following advice to help CPAs remain productive, including tips from members of the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee:

Protect your space. With so many firms going remote without much notice, not everyone was set up to work from home. If you have an office or spare bedroom, consider designating that a no-interruption zone for when you have important meetings or projects. If your environment doesn’t allow for that, try using a signal to your kids — like an upside-down cup on the counter — that you need uninterrupted time.

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5 must-have tax tools before July 15

GettyImages-1189336762Have you seen the memes or cartoons on social media that joke about how days and months are non-distinct during quarantine? While sheltering in place, we’ve had a vague notion of time. But for a few months now, we’ve had a new date on our radars: July 15th.

As the new tax deadline approaches, here are questions, ideas and resources for your toolbelt:

  1. Have you heard from all your individual clients?

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Turn challenges of sheltering in place into opportunities

Shutterstock_489814966This pandemic has rocked our world and the digital accelerator was pushed to the floorboard. We’re not going back to business as usual before COVID-19, and this presents opportunities for women to propel our profession forward with expanded influence and leadership.

Relationship building

During this time, we’ve been invited into one another’s home and experienced one another’s personal daily lives. We’ve seen a host of previously unknown aspects of personal lives — each other’s homes, favorite T-shirts and PJs, and children and pets via Zoom bombs.

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3 estate planning conversations to have now

GettyImages-681886373The coronavirus pandemic has encouraged people with existing estate plans to consider reviewing and modifying them, and people without plans to develop them. Regardless of your client’s situation, there are worthwhile conversations about estate planning to be had.

As a CPA, you have a strong relationship with your clients and a comprehensive understanding of their finances. Because of this, you provide great value, and when partnered with an attorney, you form a solid team. You bring your expertise on the financial structure and they bring their knowledge of the legal system.

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Considerations before reopening your office

IStock_000049546004_XXXLargeReopening your office isn’t as simple as unlocking the office door. Consider several factors before jumping to any reopening decision, starting with a couple of questions:

  1. Are our employees still productive with the office closed?
  2. Are our clients’ needs being met?

If the answer to both is “yes,” then what’s the rush to reopen? Understandably, you and your employees may be a little stir-crazy being at home, or maybe you’re frustrated paying rent for unused office space. Neither are good reasons to rush to reopen and risk employee safety. Perhaps now is a better time to consider boosting employee morale or focus on a long-term virtual solution that keeps clients and employees safe and shows that you care. There’s a session at this year’s all-virtual ENGAGE2020 (July 20-24) on enabling remote workers and virtual office.

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AICPA Economic Outlook Survey documents deep impact of pandemic

Shutterstock_749432248The AICPA released its quarterly Business & Industry Economic Outlook Survey yesterday and the results, unsurprisingly, weren’t pretty.

With commercial activity hobbled by pandemic-related restrictions, the CFOs, controllers, CEOs, and senior-level CPAs and CGMAs we poll reported that their companies in aggregate have slashed profit outlooks and pulled back hiring plans for the coming year. Our CPA Outlook Index – a comprehensive gauge of executive sentiment within the survey – dropped to its lowest level since early 2009, when the Great Recession was still in full bloom. Optimism in the U.S. economy is at its lowest ebb since late 2011.

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July 15 filing date — To move or not to move

Shutterstock_294458213“… there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

— William Shakespeare

I work for a membership organization, and representing our members’ best interests is what we do best. Lately, members have been telling us how they feel about the upcoming federal July 15 tax filing date. We’re hearing both sides of the story, from “don’t you dare alter the July 15 due date” to “everything has got to be extended until ... [pick a date].” It’s clear some members are not interested in any extensions and some want an extension until August, September or October. I’ve even heard November and December mentioned.

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Future-proofing the tax system with small businesses in mind

Shutterstock_302007509Life has quickly changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The responses from Congress, the Department of Treasury, IRS and Federal Reserve have been wide ranging. The coronavirus has caused tremendous upheaval for small businesses and their employees. Technology, the economic environment and new ways of working are being pushed to new phases, requiring new tactics.

COVID-19 has highlighted elements in the U.S. tax system that create barriers for small businesses. In a May 7th comment letter to Congress, AICPA identified a dozen of these barriers that Congress needs to address to future-proof our tax system and bring it into the 21st century. This post highlights three of the barriers small businesses frequently encounter:

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AICPA survey highlights gaps in Americans’ disaster prep

Shutterstock_101441059It’s understandable that as most Americans focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of natural disasters may not be top of mind. However, with the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season expected to be more active than usual and tens of millions of Americans in a more financially precarious position over the last couple of months, it’s more important than ever to prepare. Recently published AICPA data found that 6 in 10 Americans (60%) say it is likely a natural disaster will impact them in the next three to five years. And while many Americans have taken at least one step to prepare, there are still more ways to help protect their finances and their families should disaster strike.

Neal Stern, CPA, member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, spoke with AICPA Insights about emergency preparedness and the AICPA survey results.

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Wellness in mind: Resources for self-care

Shutterstock_1489697975We need to practice self-care now more than ever — in the face of an unprecedented crisis, surrounded by the unknown. Even without the pandemic adding stress to our lives, anxiety, sadness and self-doubt can affect us at any time. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, making this an ideal opportunity to learn how to manage your feelings with patience and kindness.

Whether it’s taking moments to acknowledge how you feel in times of turmoil, using your senses to create calm for yourself while working from home or adapting to the changing expectations of your job, there are many simple steps you can take to promote your physical and mental well-being. We’ve compiled the following resources to help you get started:

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New AICPA Chair shares her vision for our new normal

Golden Ellevate-0698rtTrue story: In high school, I was voted “Most Likely to Become President.” As a part of a military service family, this plan made total sense to me — until I arrived at college in Washington D.C. and realized I wasn’t really interested in the “D.C. scene.” So, I needed to rethink my plan. I did like business classes, however, so I changed my major. I contemplated every area of business — finance, marketing, management — and landed on accounting because it encompassed all of those things and more.

Now, as we embark on the new normal in response to COVID-19, I know that my choice is more relevant than ever. Accounting is the core of business. It’s the starting point as we envision a new venture. It’s the map we follow as a business grows and evolves. And it’s the guide to resilience for overcoming unexpected financial events. As accountants, we understand that businesses rely on us to serve as trusted advisers every step of the way.

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How to break the mold and go beyond tax

IStock_73233617_XXXLARGE“Now, more than ever, the accounting profession needs to reimagine. That means looking beyond chaos to find opportunity in a new and better normal.” — AICPA Spring Council 2020 “Reimagine” video.

These extraordinary times are only matched by the extraordinary work CPAs in tax are doing. More than ever, CPAs provide services that they wouldn’t have envisioned even a few months ago.  

As CPAs working in tax, you aren’t just maintaining the status quo. You’re the go-to advisers for your clients and are expected to:

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3 ways to stay marketable during an economic downturn

Shutterstock_248781739These are tough economic times, with unemployment levels at a record high. It’s an unsettling situation, but there are steps you can take today to future-proof your career. On a recent Go Beyond Disruption podcast, Beth Berk, recruiter for the finance and accounting profession; and Clar Rosso, the Association’s EVP of Engagement, Learning and Innovation; shared three things you can do to stay marketable during an economic downturn.

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7 areas to consider when evolving your tax practice

IStock_59008810_XXLARGEThere’s no question that this was a tough tax season. And, with the tax deadlines delayed until July 15, it isn’t over. In our recent Tax Section survey, 60% said COVID-19 had an enormous effect on tax season. Practitioners noted the top three pain points related to assisting with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), understanding new legislation and guidance and struggling with ambiguity in the relief.

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Another step closer to evolving CPA licensure

GettyImages-609799244On Wednesday, May 20, we took a big step toward propelling the CPA profession into the future.

If you read the blog posts I wrote in JanuaryMay and July of 2019, you’ll be familiar with CPA Evolution — a joint effort of the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to design and implement a new approach to CPA licensure.

Our goal is to transform the CPA licensure model to recognize the rapidly changing skills and competencies the practice of accounting requires today and will require in the future.

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Cyber criminals are finding ways to steal your digital dollars

Shutterstock_778558450The cryptocurrency market — such as bitcoin, ethereum and others — has taken hold in the financial world, with the market now worth more than $200 billion and growing daily.

With so much money at stake, it’s no surprise that bad actors find new ways to use the system to their financial advantage. In 2019 alone, an estimated $4.26 billion in cryptocurrencies was lost due to hacks, cybertheft, scams, misappropriation or insider fraud, up about 250% from 2018.

“With traditional money in our banking system, there’s a paper trail, a record of transactions,” said Mark DiMichael, CPA, CFF and forensic specialist with expertise in cryptocurrencies. “With cryptocurrencies, there is no paper trail. You can move large amounts of money without having to carry around a duffel bag of cash. It could be carried on a thumb drive or sheet of paper.”

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Preparing accounting students for a changing profession

GettyImages-635957998We are in an unprecedented time of change for the accounting academic community. I’ve seen a fire lit beneath educators the likes of which I’ve never seen before as it relates to evolving their classrooms and curricula. Accounting programs have had to quickly make changes, like adapting to full-time remote learning almost overnight in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as longer-term changes to ensure programs are preparing the next generation of accountants for the realities of a rapidly evolving business environment.

Research conducted by the AICPA found that public accounting firms are hiring fewer new accounting graduates. Instead, they’re hiring more non-accounting graduates who possess different skill sets, particularly those related to technology. Practitioners are increasingly advising schools that accounting curricula need to help students gain a better understanding of technology and its applications within the profession.

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3 retirement questions your clients are asking amid COVID-19

Shutterstock_1694685292There are a lot of unknowns related to the COVID-19 crisis. Your clients may be feeling stressed and even uncertain about their financial future, and are likely asking questions:

  • When will things stabilize?
  • When will the market volatility be behind us?
  • How will my retirement goals be impacted by everything going on?

Although no one has all the answers, as a CPA financial planner, you have a strong relationship with your clients, vast knowledge of tax and planning strategies and you offer objective advice that is in your clients’ best interest.

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Accounting firms lead the way to a more diverse business environment

Shutterstock_1689426742

The U.S. population is growing increasingly diverse, and the U.S. Census projects that minority populations will comprise more than half the population by 2045, with the largest growth among multiracial individuals.

Accounting firms are leading the charge in supporting a more diverse business environment.

The CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion initiative, launched by PwC, has drawn commitments from more than 900 CEOs to initiate meaningful and complex conversations about diversity and inclusion, address unconscious bias and improve diversity and inclusion throughout their organizations. The Association of International Certified Public Accountants, combining the strengths of the AICPA and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), has signed the CEO Action pledge.

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Bouncing back: How to recoup after a busy season

Shutterstock_93776323When this extended busy season ends, we’ll notice summer days feeling warmer and brighter. When crossing that proverbial finish line, I acknowledge freedom that leaves me feeling spacious, accomplished and abundant. Busy seasons (especially this one) can be hard, but we all come out a little stronger, wiser and more learned each year.

Once you feel this freedom, do you ever feel a little confused about what to do with this free time? Before you rebound to the nearest couch for a Netflix marathon, restore your body, mind and soul. 

I’m no Dave Brubeck, but today’s post includes my rendition of “Take 5.” I invite you to explore my Take 5 Method to come alive again. You dedicate a lot of time, energy and knowledge to your work. After the busy season, give yourself permission to be selfish during this transition time and prioritize what brings you back to YOU.

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Learning from disruption: Reflections from AICPA Chair

Bill Reeb headshotOver this past year, while I’ve been Chair of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and Vice Chair of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, I’ve often talked with members about how technology is driving an unprecedented pace of change and how we need to disrupt ourselves as a profession.

What I couldn’t know in 2019 is the shape and extent of disruption we are experiencing in 2020. The entire professional ecosystem has been impacted by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. In all areas of practice, members are having to adapt. Some are identifying solutions for business continuity, while others are addressing clients’ tax concerns and liquidity needs. Many members are trying to mitigate economic harm to their own small businesses and their employees.

And, as I’m sure you know first-hand, the disruption caused by the pandemic has upended many of our professional routines. We’ve had to figure out new ways to work remotely and employ technology on an accelerated timeline.

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6 ways CPAs are making a difference right now

Shutterstock_664170823Healthcare and frontline workers have the daunting task of keeping communities safe, clean and fed. We salute them. Accountants and finance professionals have the responsibility to lead businesses through the economic recovery.

You’re needed now more than ever. Here are six ways you’re making a difference.

1. You help small businesses stay afloat and preserve jobs.

Small businesses are dealing with a multitude of COVID-related problems and are relying on your expert advice, including understanding the details and application process for the Paycheck Protection Program. In this podcast, experts untangle key parts of the application, and the Town Hall Series: CARES Act and Paycheck Protection Program offers up-to-the-minute news on PPP and the CARES Act.

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Small businesses should focus on PPP’s intent, keep using funds

Shutterstock_1717147000When the Department of the Treasury and Small Business Administration (SBA) launched the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) many businesses saw an opportunity to stay open and their employees paid during this very difficult time.

There is no question that small businesses are the heart of our nation’s economy, and without them our road to recovery will be longer and significantly more difficult. I am inspired every day by the stories I hear about our profession’s tireless efforts to support small businesses everywhere. The AICPA is committed to our economic recovery, and I would like to provide some perspective to advance the understanding of the PPP.

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3 tips to take your videoconferencing to the next level

Shutterstock_1689579709While your day-to-day routine may have changed in the last few months due to COVID-19, your meetings probably haven’t fallen off your calendar. Many organizations are turning to virtual meetings, utilizing cameras and audio connections to keep work going and employees engaged. 

Just because you’re at home and without a studio doesn’t mean you can’t look your best. Our Multimedia team put together a video with three key things you need to master to keep yourself looking and sounding good. Here’s what they said:

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Can you separate PPP facts from the myths?

Shutterstock_1713483700Do you remember playing the telephone game in elementary school? I’ll spare you the rules. But, in the end, the game exposes the way information mutates after numerous people filter it. As information about the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program rolled out, it quickly started to feel like a large game of telephone with misinformation floating around rampantly. Small businesses are extremely vulnerable during these times and cashflow is top of mind for every CPA and their client. Nobody can afford to live with confusion around a program promising direct relief. Let’s address a few pieces of PPP information — or misinformation. See if you can guess if the following are MYTHS or FACTS:

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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.”

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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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