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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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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Reimagine productivity: Working with intention

Shutterstock_609743105It’s fair to say life has gotten a little crazy. With the uncertainty of the financial markets and the constant barrage of news on coronavirus, we all feel a little overwhelmed. When life and work become overwhelming, it’s easy to go on autopilot.

But when you just go through the motions at work and let the day control you, you do more harm than good. Putting your mind on autopilot eliminates the intrinsic rewards of a job well done, making every assignment feel like a slog. Over the long run, it only demotivates you and makes you resent going to work.

Intentionality is the opposite of living on autopilot. It can alter everything from the way you approach your long-term goals to how you act and operate in your career. Understanding how to use intention effectively can increase what you put into your work, and what you get out of it. And the best part is that the only barrier to living more intentionally resides between your ears.

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Five steps for business continuity amid COVID-19

Business man working at office with laptop and documents on his desk  consultant lawyer conceptAs a former CFO, I have managed through crises, including the Gulf War, 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis. The financial disruption of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is like having all three of those events occur simultaneously. Our entire global economic and social system is operating in uncharted territory.

Amid the uncertainty, the finance function can create value and elevate its role as a strategic business partner. As CPAs and CGMA® designation holders, our training and experience equip us with the expertise and skills to mitigate risks and lead the recovery efforts for our organizations, businesses and communities.

To help guide you, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants®, the global voice of the AICPA® and CIMA®, delivers the latest news, resources and guidance through our AICPA and CIMA Coronavirus Resource Centers.  Visit frequently to stay up to date on the coronavirus and learn about upcoming events, such as the free webcast series I’ll host with finance leaders in the coming weeks. This series will offer expert insights on business planning to help you lead your organization through this crisis.

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Free AICPA resources to help you navigate COVID-19

Shutterstock_577965988The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is causing enormous consequences around the globe, and we know many of our members are experiencing uncertainty and concern for what’s next. The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the global voice of the AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), is here to help you through these challenging times.

Your firms, organizations, clients and communities are depending on your expertise during this crisis. And it’s our job to make sure you have the help and information you need to manage through this pandemic.

We created the AICPA Coronavirus Resource Center to provide you with the latest news, resources, event information and guidance to help you advise your organizations, clients and customers. You’ll also find resources to help you and your staff better manage our new way of working. Bookmark the page and visit often for the latest updates on COVID-19 and new learning opportunities like these:

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9 actions the government must take now to support businesses and employees

Shutterstock_1539445880The American Institute of CPAs® is calling on Congress and the Trump administration to take nine key steps to protect U.S. businesses and employees struggling due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the economy.

In speaking with CPA firms, businesses and AICPA® members across the country, the AICPA identified the below actions as most urgent and necessary for the following groups. Note that the information on current federal activity is current as of the publication time of this blog (24 March 2020, 9am ET).

All businesses:

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10 ways to stay social at a distance

Shutterstock_605728811To limit the spread of COVID-19, we all have to do our part. For the majority of Americans, this means working or schooling from home, limiting all discretionary travel – including social trips – and avoiding groups of 10 or more.

For some, a few days at home may be a welcome break from the daily grind. But if not managed correctly, increased time at home during these stressful, uncertain times can take a toll on your mental and physical health. The American Psychological Association reports that social isolation can lead to poor sleep, poor cardiovascular health and depressive symptoms, as well impairing our ability to focus and manage emotions. While staying home and practicing social distancing are critical to reducing the spread of the virus, it’s also important to take care of your mental health.

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Coronavirus: Prepare your clients and protect your practice

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March 20 update:  Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announced via Twitter on March 20 that the deadline to file returns has now been extended to July 15, along with the previous extension to pay. We continue to urge taxpayers who are anticipating refunds to work with their practitioners as they are able, to file as soon as possible.  More information is expected, and we will update you as the details emerge.

 March 18 update: Notice 2020-17, Relief for Taxpayers Affected by Ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic, was released on March 18. The notice provides for an extension of time to pay federal income taxes originally due April 15, 2020 until July 15, 2020. The relief is only applicable to individual tax amounts up to $1,000,000, regardless of filing status or up to $10,000,000 for each consolidated group or for each C corporation that does not join in filing a consolidated return. No extension is provided in the notice for the payment or deposit of any other type of federal tax, or for the filing of any tax return or information return. The AICPA continues to work with Treasury for appropriate relief. Continue to check out the AICPA Coronavirus Resource Center for the latest updates and press releases.

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What near-zero interest rates mean for your wallet

Shutterstock_581002882The Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near-zero in an emergency move Sunday meant to make borrowing as cheap as possible as the U.S. economy feels the economic impact of the spread of the coronavirus (which causes COVID-19). The benchmark U.S. interest rate is in a range of 0% to 0.25%. The Fed also announced it will buy at least $500 billion in Treasury securities and $200 billion in mortgage-backed securities in the coming months as part of a quantitative easing program.

The reduction of interest rates, alongside the announcement of a $700 billion purchasing program, has not calmed investors. All U.S. indices opened sharply down Monday and continued to fall throughout the day, all closing down more than 10%. Though the economic impact of COVID-19 is concerning, the health and well-being of Americans and their families is a top priority. As a part of that well-being, there are steps Americans can consider to protect their financial standing.

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Reimagine productivity: Self-care moments

Shutterstock_745951657When work gets busy or stressful, the little things we do to make ourselves feel good are often the first activities to fall by the wayside. At a time when every minute at the office feels precious, spending some time enjoying a good meal, taking a walk or listening to music can seem like a frivolous and selfish gesture. As paradoxical as it sounds though, foregoing these small pleasures, which are gestures of self-care, can actually have a negative impact on our work. When you don’t care for yourself, your mood, productivity and quality of work are all likely to suffer. Additionally, you may not show up to work with the desired energy to share with those around you. Regardless of when your “busy” time of year is, it’s important not to lose sight of your needs as a person.

Carving out a little time for self-care every day can be hugely beneficial. To accomplish this feat, you need to understand what self-care is, why it’s important and how to implement it in your daily routine.

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Three common challenges (and three solutions!) for women in the profession

IWD picIn honor of International Women's Day—a century-old global event that brings the world together in celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women—we look at challenges women face in the workplace and ways the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, the unified voice of the AICPA and CIMA, can help.

Support amidst challenges

1. Find a sponsor. Sponsors can play a significant role in advancing a career. The people they know can become the people you know. They can open doors for you and introduce you to clients. They can advocate on your behalf in meetings and casual conversation and protect you from political dynamics of the workplace.

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Test your knowledge on tax extensions

Shutterstock_145713260March is here, and that means it’s time to talk to your clients about possibly extending their returns. How knowledgeable are you about extensions?

Find out with this short quiz:

#1: True or false: An extension of time to file means that the tax isn’t due until the return is filed.

False.

An extension extends the time to file, but not the time to pay. If an extension is filed but taxes are ultimately owed, there will be interest and penalties charged each month that the balance isn’t paid.

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Fraud is harder on emotions than finances for aging clients

Shutterstock_397734877Financial abuse and fraud that targets elderly clients can do more than devastate their savings and ruin their credit. The AICPA’s recent Personal Financial Planning (PFP) Trends Survey found that falling victim to fraud is much more likely to have an emotional impact on the elderly than a financial one.

Of the many types of fraud or elder abuse CPA financial planners have seen perpetrated on their older clients over the past five years, phone and internet scams top the list. The next most common issue is the inability to say “no” to relatives and identity theft.

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What the emergency Fed rate cut means for your finances

GettyImages-171573445As a result of increasing fears about the impact the coronavirus may have on the U.S. economy, the Federal Reserve announced an emergency cut to the target range for the federal funds rate of 0.5%. The new target rate is now 1% to 1.25%. This reflects the largest rate decrease in more than a decade and the first emergency cut since 2008.

Most Americans are primarily focused on the health and wellbeing of themselves and their loved ones during this time of uncertainty, and rightfully so. But it’s important not to overlook how the Federal Reserve announcement may impact their financial wellbeing.

Neal Stern, CPA, member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, spoke with AICPA Insights about what the rate cut means for Americans’ finances.

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Reimagine productivity: Eat better, work smarter

Shutterstock_262640492The link between nutrition and workplace performance

In his 1825 book The Physiology of Taste, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin provides a series of aphorisms “to serve as a preamble to his work and a lasting foundation for the science of gastronomy.” The most famous, “Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are,” has even been condensed into a cliché you’ve heard countless times: You are what you eat. Clichés are clichés for a reason, of course. In the case of this one, science has only found more evidence linking nutrition to all aspects of health, including work performance.

During busy season, it’s easy lose track of the fuel you put into your body. You may skip meals entirely or grab whatever’s convenient to just keep plowing ahead. But opting for junk, skipping meals or eating erratically will decrease your efficiency, spoil your mood and hamper the quality of work. Instead, be mindful of what you eat, when you eat it and build nutrition into your day to ensure your brain functions at its best.

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Promoting diversity and inclusion for 50 years and counting

GettyImages-517073375At the National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. (NABA), we are celebrating our 50th anniversary of challenge, achievement, success and survival in the diversity and inclusion (D&I) arena. Our business model continues to mature. We honor and salute our partner, the AICPA, for its dedication to the D&I mission.

By 2045, the United States will be significantly more diverse. The U.S. Census projects that more than 50% of the population will be non-white: 24.6% Hispanic, 13.1% black, 7.9% Asian and 3.8% multiracial. Slightly more than 49% of the population will be white.

Yet corporations still struggle to determine how they can increase diversity in the workforce and define success for their initiatives. I recently discussed D&I in accounting with Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, President & CEO of the American Institute of CPAs. Our conversation covered the D&I business imperative and how firms can move further along on the inclusion maturity model. Below are some highlights.

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Top 10 questions for tax practitioners

Shutterstock_1517416919Tax season 2020 is now underway.

This means more client interactions. Wonderful! This is why I do what I do!

It also means more client interactions. Sigh. Sometimes it’s hard to juggle my workload and client requests.

As tax season rolls on, so do the client questions. Of course, in business and in life, there are no stupid questions. This is especially true when they come from your clients. But they may not ask what they really need to know.

We polled practicing CPAs to find out what pressing issues and questions their clients have. Along with some fun (read: not real) answers, I’ll give you some tips on how to take the discussion further.

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7 reasons to date a finance professional

Shutterstock_546083497Let’s face it—relationships are hard. No matter how smitten you may be, being with someone takes hard work, hard conversations and hard commitments. Some fish in the sea are softening these blows by choosing partners who compliment—and complement them.

Fortunately, finance professionals are so well-rounded that their skill sets are likely an asset in every relationship. If you’re splashing around in the dating pool, here are seven reasons you should tag a finance professional as your next partner.

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Reimagine Productivity: Master your productivity rhythm

Shutterstock_318153713Maximizing your efficiency during the busy season involves planning your day. For many of us, tax season doesn’t leave a moment to spare. Getting the job done requires a consistently high level of performance. Getting the job done, however, cannot come at the expense of accuracy. Productivity and accuracy are necessities that can lead to an increased sense of stress and an inclination to work around the clock. While it may be tempting to put your head down and plow through, it’s far from beneficial for efficiency or quality of work. The best way to be efficient during the busy season isn’t to work until you’re bleary-eyed, but rather to learn your personal rhythm and match your workflow to that rhythm.

The terms “early birds” and “night owls” have seemingly existed for as long as there have been people watching the sun rise and set. Science supports the existence of these two basic categories which are identified by when a person is most likely to sleep and certain behaviors associated with each. However, mastering your personal rhythm requires more effort than simply labelling yourself as a morning or night person. Before you can begin to apply strategies to maximize your productivity cycle, you must know when it starts and ends.

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It’s not too late to resolve to improve

Shutterstock_461317267The first month of the year is over and, for several reasons, I’ve not committed to any goals in 2020. Has that happened to you? I always try to set goals around learning — one for fun and one to enhance my career. Let’s apply that adage, “It’s better late than never.”

The digital revolution has changed my communications profession. Dedication to learning is not optional. It’s mandatory for me to keep up. As a CPA, you are also in a constant race to outpace change. Technological developments fuel workplace changes and challenge you to stay on top of every skill set. To thrive in the digital era, you need to “unlearn” some old routines and develop some new (and unexpected) skills and competencies. Here are four resolutions every CPA should consider this year:

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Two guaranteed ways to thrive this busy season

Shutterstock_1227113197Now that we’ve fully stepped into the new year, busy season is picking up speed. During this period of longer work hours and takeout dinners, it can be challenging to address your own needs when your day-to-day priority is your clients.

This imbalance might not be noticeable at first, but it can have a cumulative effect as the weeks pass by. Instead of being a time when we realize our greatest potential, busy season can leave us feeling stuck and overwhelmed. Does this sound familiar? Before you know it, it’s June and you’ve somehow lost half of the year.

Here’s the thing: If you don’t take time for your wellness, you will take time for your future illness.

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Reimagine Productivity: Mindfulness, emotions and mood

Shutterstock_1017688321Accountancy is a vibrant, dynamic profession that involves more than crunching numbers. And the people we work with are unique and complex. But in any workplace — whether it’s a CPA firm, Hollywood set or football practice field — people have been asked to put aside parts of themselves in order to perform better. “It’s not personal. It’s just business,” the old saying goes.

Increasingly, however, that conventional wisdom is coming under question. Separating ourselves from our work isn’t only difficult; it adds unnecessary stress to an already demanding career.

During busy times, there’s particularly strong pressure to compartmentalize ourselves and our work in order to get everything done. But suppressing emotions during your workday can create pent-up emotions. This affects the energy you generate in the workplace and triggers undue stress and tension in our bodies.

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Employee or independent contractor: What’s the difference?

Shutterstock_124540003Classifying workers as either employees or independent contractors is important. The correct worker categorization has a profound impact on businesses because it affects not only how workers are paid, but how the government gets paid. Because of the latter reason, this is an issue that will not be going away any time soon. In fact, it’s been thrust into the forefront more than ever due to changing economies, technological revolutions and recent legislative actions.

What’s the difference between the classifications? Why does it matter?

The IRS has long had a voice in the categorization discussion.

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A winning finance group for Super Bowl-bound Chiefs

1912-97838 NFL Superbowl Campaign_1200x1200_Quote AThe National Football League was born in the early years of the 20th century. But 100 years later, the Kansas City Chiefs are using 2020 strategies to meet business goals and thrill their fans. The Chiefs head to the Super Bowl with a winning finance team behind them.

As the Chiefs’ CFO, Dan Crumb, CPA, CGMA, oversees finance, IT & strategy and analytics. Although his team is not on the field, the group touches football on all sides. Its goal is ensure that there is no downtime for the team. It’s up to them to be sure the football side of the operation has all the planning and preparation needed to focus on what they do best.

Having a great team is not only a point of pride, but it’s also critical to our business. “One of the really important elements of being a good management accountant is looking at our products and services and asking, ‘What can we do to make it the best?’ ” Crumb says. “We are fighting for our fans’ discretionary dollars, so we have to give them a reason to come to the stadium. That means first that we want to provide a strong product on the field — a good team that performs well. We also want to offer a great fan experience. We want it to be memorable so that they’ll come back.”

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Foresight is 2020 — Make it your best tax season yet.

Cropped shot of a group of business colleagues meeting in the boardroomAround this time last year, as we glanced in our rearview mirror, tax season was approaching quickly. As the days and weeks went by, it was clear that “objects are closer than they appear!” Along with the normal tax season preparations, many more challenges were afoot. A government shutdown was underway, we were preparing for the first round of returns filed under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, IRS guidance was still being issued on key provisions and we were doing quality control on our tax software.

It’s a new year, a fresh tax season and time for a new outlook. This year, you can proactively use an arsenal of AICPA resources in 2020 to get you and your firm in tip-top shape for the upcoming tax season.

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Our proposal to evolve CPA licensure

GettyImages-959023366It’s that time of year when everyone reflects on the past and looks forward to a positive future with personal and professional planning, and new and fresh ideas. You may have some New Year’s resolutions you’d like to accomplish. I have two: From a personal perspective, I’ll look at my financial and personal health. From a professional perspective, I’ll look at planning and execution around securing the future and value of the profession. On the latter, I’m working on a number of initiatives to advance the value of the profession, including the development of technology-based tools to enhance the efficiency, quality and value of audits. Many of you are already starting busy season and are focused on getting through a mountain of work over the next few months.

Whether we’re plotting our 2020 goals or just focusing on getting to March 30 or April 15, we need to think long term. How do we ensure that the future of our profession is bright and that the CPA maintains its strength and relevance for decades to come?

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Americans start 2020s with financial satisfaction at a record high

Shutterstock_1038717496Americans’ financial well-being roared into the 2020s. For the seventh time in the last two and a half years, the average American’s financial satisfaction hit an all-time high, according to the AICPA’s quarterly Personal Financial Satisfaction index (PFSi). With all these positive records, you may wonder what it means for you.

First, a little background: The PFSi is a quarterly economic indicator that measures the financial standing of the average American. It’s calculated as the difference between two sub-indexes: The Personal Financial Pleasure Index, which measures the growth of assets and opportunities, and the Personal Financial Pain Index, which calculates the loss of assets and opportunities. Most recently, the Pleasure Index (74.9) greatly outweighed the Pain Index (34.7), bringing the Q4 2019 PFSi to a positive reading of 40.2, the highest reading in the index’s 26-year history.

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A new technology solution for data-driven audits

GettyImages-534827625If you’re an auditor, you should be excited about the many opportunities that the digital era creates for your profession. Sue Coffey, CPA, CGMA, Executive Vice President, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants — Public Practice, and Erik Asgeirsson, President and CEO, CPA.com, share how the profession is reimagining the audit and what this means for you.

1. What’s changing in the audit area? What opportunities is technology bringing?

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Life transitions trigger an opportunity for deeper client service

GettyImages-516896270It’s no secret that a phone call can change a life’s trajectory. Two decades ago, I received a call that not only had a deep impact on my family, but also sent me down a career path to help my clients navigate critical life transitions — unexpected and otherwise.

Unexpected events and major life transitions offer a critical opportunity to assist clients.

Over 20 years ago, my mom called and asked if I had talked with my dad that day. He had recently suffered some health issues but was doing well, so I assured her that he was probably out for coffee with friends. The day did not end well. I soon discovered that my dad had passed out while driving due to adjustments in medications and died in a one-car accident. He was only 64.

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AICPA announces 2020 CPA Exam score release dates

Shutterstock_733268932CPA Exam (Exam) score release timetables for the first and second testing windows of 2020 are available. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) will release scores to candidates and boards of accountancy based upon the target score release dates in the table below. It is important to note that some boards of accountancy require at least one day beyond the published target release date to process and release scores.

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IRS crypto guidance every tax practitioner should know

Shutterstock_732138853The IRS is getting serious about cryptocurrency. This fall, it released three documents that all tax practitioners need to pay attention to ahead of the 2019 filing season: a retroactive revenue ruling, FAQs for reporting cryptocurrency ownership and Form 1040 that asks taxpayers about their financial interest in virtual currency.

Revenue ruling

On Oct. 9, the IRS released an authoritative revenue ruling that specifically addresses situations in which a taxpayer receives auto-generated cryptocurrency. According to the IRS, this type of situation – known as a hard fork and airdrop – always triggers a tax obligation. Thus, because forks and airdrops are often unprompted by the individual who owns cryptocurrency, a taxpayer could receive digital currency against their wishes and still must pay taxes on it.

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12 free tax resources to get your firm ready for 2020

GettyImages-169274514The new year will be here before you know it. To get a head start on tax season, check out these free resources to get your firm in top shape for 2020.

Stock your arsenal of forms, templates and charts:

  • Year-end planning letter for individuals It’s the season. Tell your clients about key steps to take today to build a solid tax and financial planning strategy in the new year.
  • Year-end planning letter for small business Strengthen relationships with your small business clients. Use this letter to tell them about important tax considerations and point out that you can help with strategic tax planning.

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Reimagining the profession for a vibrant future

Barry Melancon Headshot (1)Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, President and CEO of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and CEO of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association), reflects on the successes of 2019 and the opportunities ahead.

This year, you’ve talked with members about how we need to reimagine the profession. Can you explain more what you mean by “reimagine”?

In today’s marketplace, virtually all companies are reimagining who they are, what they offer and how they deliver services and products. To meet the changing needs of clients and employers, we, as a profession, are also reimagining what it means to protect the public interest and serve as trusted advisers. We are providing clients and companies with new services and embracing new technologies to enhance the quality, efficiency and value of what we do. Together, we’re creating a future that may be dramatically different from the past but will remain a beacon of trust and opportunity for all accounting and finance professionals and everyone we serve.

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Derivatives are back, but are the risks?

Shutterstock_744615220Mortgage-backed securities, credit-default swaps and derivatives were not much more than financial industry jargon until the recession of 2007. When the world economy nearly collapsed—due in part to mismanagement of and poor investment in complex financial instruments—those terms entered the mainstream.

The 2019 survey of business executives reveals that 59% of CPAs have complex financial instruments on their balance sheets. Of those, 28% said they expect complex financial instruments to take an even bigger percentage in the next three years. At the same time, 55% said they are concerned about the valuations of those investment vehicles, and 69% said they expect them to become even more complex, making them harder to value.

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D&I initiatives: A strategic imperative

GettyImages-669854210Ensuring diversity & inclusion remains high on an organization’s agenda is key to long-term success and growth. Because this topic is so important, I have made raising awareness of this initiative my personal goal, and I‘m having conversations like these with key players throughout the accounting and finance profession on tactics they’ve implemented.

Staff is the greatest investment in your firm, and often recruiting, growing and maintaining the best and the brightest talent are critical priorities for firms. It’s also exactly what Michele Meyer-Shipp finds so vital about her role as chief diversity officer at KPMG. No matter how much time and energy firms pour into their recruiting and retention efforts, they will not have access to the full talent pool without committed D&I initiatives.

During a recent LinkedIn Live, I sat down with Michele to discuss observations and advice for firms seeking to strengthen their D&I efforts. Here are the key takeaways from that conversation.

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How to make the accounting profession more diverse and inclusive

Shutterstock_229737430An increasing number of ethnic minority students are enrolling in and graduating from accounting programs, according to the AICPA’s 2019 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and The Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report.

The biennial report identifies key trends in U.S. accounting enrollments and graduations. It also tracks hiring of new graduates in the public accounting sector. Published since 1971, Trends provides statistical projections and respondent expectations based upon university responses. The latest report covers the 2017-2018 academic year and firm responses for the 2018 calendar year. It is intended to help the accounting profession — from educators to firms to state associations and the AICPA — tailor programs and outreach efforts.

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How to ride the innovation curve

Shutterstock_1556033876At a time of significant and constant change, how can we ensure that our organizations — and our own careers — are positioned to ride the curve of innovation? My research into the history of accounting has revealed patterns that indicate the best ways to respond to the current environment. If you want to prosper as you move ahead, these are the steps you need to take.

Follow the S curve

Most business people are familiar with the hockey stick curve: A flat, quiet period followed by explosive growth in a service or business. However, the S curve can actually be a better indicator of what will next crest the wave of change.

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Use data analytics to drive your business

Shutterstock_148158431There’s a lot of buzz surrounding data analytics. But what does it actually mean in a company’s day-to-day business? According to the information technology research and advisory company Gartner, data analytics provides a data and insight-centric approach to solving a business problem. The entire organization can use the created insights to drive business decisions. It’s not just about developing a lot of reports, building models or moving data around, but instead it’s about solving business problems to make decisions faster and more effectively.

My company runs amusement parks, water parks and family entertainment centers across the country, with millions of visitors each year. We’re only about five years old and continue to acquire new parks. Some of the considerations we’ve used data analytics to address include:

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6 ways we’re working for our small firm members

IStock_73233617_XXXLARGESupporting your firm is a top priority here at the AICPA. That’s why we travel across the country, speak with practitioners at conferences and events, and gather feedback via email and phone — all to make sure we grasp the pressing issues for firms of your size.

With this knowledge, we develop tools and resources to help your practice run more smoothly. Below are six ways we’re championing you, our small firm members.

1. Navigating tax law changes. We know the past year hasn’t been easy, but we’re here to help. Looking for news, answers to common questions, guides or learning opportunities? You’ll find them and more on our Tax Reform Resource Center.

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