Tax Feed

Form 1040 income tax return

The AICPA provides tax practice tools to help members elevate their practices and maintain the highest ethical standards. The AICPA also advocates sound tax policy and effective tax administration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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What were the challenges of the 2019 tax season?

Shutterstock_767539465Do you hear the big sigh of relief? It’s Oct. 18, just three days after we filed the last big group of extended returns for individuals and businesses.

When I started working for a local public accounting firm over 40 years ago, taxpayers had a two-month automatic extension to June 15 for individual returns. We could request an additional two-month extension to Aug. 15. At that point, we could request an additional two-month extension to Oct. 15 if there was a good reason. Can you imagine all that paperwork? With those interim deadlines, we encouraged clients to pull their information together during the summer, and returns were finalized earlier. Although there were always stragglers, today’s compressed workload for Sept. 15 and Oct. 15 was less intense for practitioners.

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Tax tops the list of best jobs. But wait — there’s more

DifferentA day before my meeting with Brooke Salvini, CPA/PFS, she receives a serendipitous note from one of her clients:

Thank you so much for your genuine way of being. You create such an atmosphere of peace, acceptance, and sincere interest in your work and in individuals. It’s just so clear you care. You’re appreciated by me. Please know you make such a difference in my life…

I call this note “serendipitous” because Brooke and I are scheduled to discuss the results of a recent survey published by Glassdoor and popularized by an article in Barron’s. The study reveals that tax managers have the best job in the United States — a claim supported by several measures including median pay, upward mobility and job availability. The study also echoes a popular notion championed by the AICPA — that automation and other technologies are untethering tax professionals from data entry and other repetitive accounting functions, allowing them more time to forge stronger relationships with clients.

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3 signs your client’s investments aren’t tax friendly

Investments blogYou know a lot about your tax clients — their jobs, their kids’ names, what kind of cars they drive — and you know even more about their finances. Most of the time, your clients are happy to share their complete financial lives with you. But, occasionally, when delving into the numbers, you’ll uncover financial moves you didn’t know about. Often, those moves involve their investments.  

You may be hesitant to talk to your clients about their investments. But remember, proactive conversations about all the financial issues affecting them are part of a CPA’s job. In addition, talking about investments as a part of their entire financial picture is a great way to start planning conversations — especially as we head into year-end. Not to mention, this is an added chance to cement your relationship as their trusted adviser.

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Find value in what you love: One tax CPA’s value pricing story

Shutterstock_200540525In 2006, Dominique Molina, CPA, had a revelation: she was working too much.

It was busy season, and like many nights, she was working late from her home office. As the owner of a successful tax firm in San Diego, she felt a great pressure resting on her shoulders.

In a laser-focused, deadline-driven push to the end, her 3-year-old son put everything in perspective.

“My son came into my office and started to ask me a question,” Molina remembered. “But he stopped himself and said: ‘Never mind. I’ll go ask Dad.’ I was crushed.”

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Millennials are changing our tax practices. Here’s how

MAIN IMAGE Millennial BlogMillennials are everywhere.

As the largest generation of Americans ever, they seem to be changing every aspect of our society. They’re influencing marketing trends, technological advancements, politics, travel, food — there’s little that isn’t affected by this generation’s unique way of doing things.

They are affecting your tax firm too — even if you don’t realize it yet.

Millennial tax clients are few and far between for most of us. Generally, their taxes aren’t yet complex enough to warrant our services. But as this age group acquires wealth, we’ll begin to see more and more of them walking through our doors.

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What to do when your client gets terrible health news

Ill client blog postNo one knows when a health crisis will strike. We can take steps to mitigate our risks — eat healthy food, exercise more often, quit smoking — but that doesn’t mean we can plan whether we’ll get sick.

But we can plan financially.

Jim Sullivan, CPA/PFS, specializes in working with clients suffering from chronic illnesses. He has seen firsthand the devastating effects of a sudden, serious health crisis and is an expert at care plan funding and recovery. His work, as he described it, allows his clients to focus on addressing the illness without the worry of how to pay for its costs.

Sullivan said that while he prefers to do proactive planning with clients before they get sick, he often starts working with a client just days after they’ve received terrible health news. Regardless of when he first engages with an ill client, his approach is the same: He creates a financial plan from scratch.

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16 free learning opportunities to take advantage of this summer

Shutterstock_633002651It’s summertime. The days are getting longer, the temperature is warming up and your most hectic time of year — workwise — is behind you. Congratulations! Now you can relax, at least a little. Summer is also the perfect time to hone your skills in preparation for fall busy season. We’ve assembled a handful of our favorite free resources to help you brush up on your skills and add a few new ones to your toolbox.

Find your niche

Search for that new service offering you’re passionate about. Once you find it, study up and absorb all there is to know about it. Home in and focus so you can really master it and add it to your suite of services. Here are some ideas to get started:

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Shake off this tax season’s pain points with these perfect pairings

May 8 blogChocolate makes a bitter coffee taste sweeter. A dry wine brings out the flavors of a well-cooked steak. Good pairings make everything better.

The same can be said for the work you do. Pairing solutions with the challenges you face can improve the final result. And this certainly applies to the most recent tax season.

We asked tax practitioners about what they experienced this spring, and in this informal AICPA Tax Section survey, we found out pretty much what we were expecting: It was a demanding one. (You can read more about the survey in this AICPA Tax Section newsletter article.)

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Keeping pace in a tax environment that never slows

May 1 blog postTax practitioners are on the frontline of change, and because of that, we’re constantly evolving our businesses. It’s a big ask, and we’re doing a great job keeping up. However, the changes continue to come, and not everything is matching our pace.

The AICPA’s Statements on Standards for Tax Services (SSTSs) were last updated almost ten years ago, and in that time, our profession has transformed dramatically. As a result, the current SSTSs don’t reflect today’s practice environment. What do we do when the standards we rely on to do our jobs no longer suit our needs?

We change the standards. Together.

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What to pack on your after-tax season getaway

MAINYou did it.

After 11 weeks of nose-to-the-grind work, you’ve successfully put another filing season behind you.

Looking back, you undoubtedly see how this year’s season was like no other. A government shutdown, tax transcript changes, new rules — you navigated them all. You’re a champion for your clients, and you deserve some time to rest and recoup.

However, this respite is limited, and you’ll be back to the grind before you know it.

As time is of the essence, here’s a list of the best places to recharge your batteries. And for a little extra help, you’ll find a few packing suggestions to ensure you have what you need when you get there.

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Your tax practice could be on the edge of greatness. Push.

Shutterstock_712459222If there’s anything the past year has taught us about tax, it’s that getting too comfortable isn’t an option. Even though comprehensive tax reform doesn’t happen very often, it doesn’t take major revisions to the law to keep you on your toes. Fortunately, you can rely on items like the Tax Practitioner’s Marketing Toolkit to help you make sense of changes and engage your clients.

The past year has made for a busy season you’re probably relieved to see coming to a close. But before you break the snorkel and dive mask out of mothballs, or start browsing for the perfect vacation destination, take a good look back to assess your season while it’s fresh in your mind. How much of your work involved looking ahead for your clients? While helping them with tax planning for the coming year, how often did you run across their broader plans for the future? You might be surprised by how your answer can propel your firm to greatness.

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The worst busy season advice tax CPAs ever received

Shutterstock_562475698We can all use a little good advice from time to time. Whether it’s from a manager, a parent or a friend, the right guidance at the right time goes a long way.

Unfortunately, we also end up receiving unsolicited bad advice. During busy season, it’s the last thing tax practitioners need to hear, especially when it references how they should be handling their work and long hours.

You’ve probably received some second-rate advice yourself. As you think back on that, here are a few real-life pieces of bad busy season advice anonymous CPAs reported to us.

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A tax practitioner’s friendly reminder on ID theft

ID Theft blog postYou knew this busy season would be a tough one. But just like every other season before it, you’ve rocked the challenge. With a little more than two weeks left to go, you’re well on your way to a hard-earned vacation.

At this point, what could go wrong? A lot if you’re not paying attention to the security of your clients’ information. 

I caught up with Minh Graham, CPA, of the AICPA Tax Practice & Ethics team, who shared her insights on the top five identity theft issues you should be considering as you head into the final stretch.

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Busy season due diligence comes down to what you don’t know

Shutterstock_753092236I’m a self-professed rule follower. Except for maybe driving five miles over the speed limit on the highway, I sweat to even think about bending the rules. Most CPAs I know feel the same way. We stick to our professional rulebook, focusing on doing our due diligence and complying with each regulation like it’s our personal law. However, it’s not always easy to be a rule follower when you’re in the thick of busy season.

In my opinion, due diligence is all about using common sense, but there are additional due diligence rules — some old and some new — that are important for CPAs to remember during busy season.

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Straighten up: Ergonomic tips for spending hours at your desk

Shutterstock_1096655930 - CopyIf you’re sitting at your desk while reading this blog post, it could wind up being a real pain in your neck.

Is your desk setup uncomfortable? Do you have a twinge in your back, neck, wrists or fingers? These aches and pains could be related to the way you’re sitting or the positioning of your office furniture.

Since it’s busy season, you’re spending some quality time (likely 60+ hours a week) at your desk. Why not make sure your setup is ergonomically sound? You can do this without difficulty. The investment will be well worth it, not only for your health but also for your overall well-being.

The goal is to create an environment where your body is in a neutral position that doesn’t cause added tension — you have enough mental strain as it is right now. And in case you were wondering, flopping down on your sofa with a laptop doesn’t qualify as ‘ergonomic.’ But below are some tips that are.

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Talking to clients about extensions — a tax season must-read

Shutterstock_1201562083Welcome to the midpoint of busy season. It’s been a long road, and you’ve got quite a ways left to go. Luckily, the finish line is in sight.

Or is it? Unfortunately, not everyone’s tax returns will be filed by April 15 as planned.

Many of your clients are still making sense of the new tax laws and pending guidance stemming from tax reform. They’ve weathered a prolonged government shutdown. They’re confused and not sure they can get everything done on time.  

You’re feeling it, too. On top of these complications, you’re dealing with an increased workload during an already compressed busy season. Sometimes there’s not much you can do except prep your clients for plan B.

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Hey managers! Your staff is stressed, and busy season isn’t entirely to blame

Shutterstock_420082801The symptoms of the flu are easy to spot: fever, cough, body ache, fatigue. When one of your employees has it, you know it. During busy season, there’s no contagion more dreaded – it can tear through your office and derail your productivity in a flash.

Well, that’s not true. There’s one thing more dangerous that’s out to infect your firm.

Stress is one of the top killers of productivity. Estimates suggest that about 550 million workdays are lost every year due to it. Compared to the flu’s 17 million lost days, that hand sanitizer on your desk may not be keeping your firm as healthy as you thought.

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Busy season grind got you down? 3 ways to reenergize.

Shutterstock_376060666Late nights. Working weekends. Scads of electronic files. If you’re REALLY unlucky, stacks of paperwork. No one ever said busy season was a walk in the park, but you don’t have to let it sap your energy. And since the season doesn’t get easier as it goes, you need all the energy you can get. What’s a busy CPA to do to? We have three suggestions to help you beat back the busy season blues.

  1. Get organized

This might sound pretty basic, but the realities of good organization are more complex than you might think. You likely already have a system set up for getting your work done, whether prioritized by clients or groups of clients, promised engagement due dates, etc. But are you thinking about that system on a daily basis?

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6 funny TV shows that do taxes better than you do

Shutterstock_713060872There are 77 days between the start of busy season and the April 15 deadline this year. That’s an uncomfortably long — or as some would suggest, uncomfortably short — amount of time for taxes.

It just so happens that 77 days is also the total amount of time the average American adult spends watching television every year. If you’re a tax practitioner, you’re probably not getting a lot of those days in right now.

During busy season, you have a limited number of hours to watch the best programming available. You need to be sure you’re taking advantage of the precious free time you have and getting only the good stuff.

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5 reasons to keep your procrastibaking habit during busy season

GettyImages-545807004If you’ve been on Instagram lately, you’ve probably seen posts tagged with #procrastibaking. If you aren’t familiar with the term, to “procrastibake” is to put off doing something you have to do in favor of baking. The term was featured in a New York Times article back in May and has increased in popularity ever since. And it’s a pretty likable concept – if you are a fan of sweets and don’t mind getting your hands and your kitchen a little dirty.

Sometimes you just need a break, and as you delve deeper into busy season, you may find that periodic diversions help you get more done. But why spend this time baking?

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IRS transcript changes: What to do now that busy season’s here

Shutterstock_1099316927Busy season is here.

If you’re a tax practitioner, you’re no doubt gearing up for what lies ahead. A big part of busy season prep is making sense of the recent changes to IRS transcripts and the resulting steep transcript learning curve. You may be wondering if you can still get the information you need to serve your clients.

While complex, cumbersome and somewhat confusing, transcripts are incredibly helpful. Authorized tax practitioners can assess a taxpayer’s overall standing with the IRS by reviewing one or a combination of four types of transcripts: tax return, tax account, record of account, and wage and income.

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5 busy season curveballs heading your way

Shutterstock_49076350Thanks to the biggest overhaul to the tax system since 1986, there’s more on your plate than usual this busy season. And while you’re managing client expectations and navigating the new federal tax laws, you have to consider accounting methods changes, Wayfair concerns and a prolonged government shutdown. It’s a lot to take on. But though this busy season may feel a bit daunting, remember that no one is better equipped to handle it than you.

As you look ahead to the task at hand, remember the famous quote by Babe Ruth: “Never allow the fear of striking out to keep you from playing the game.”

So, gear up to play the game and pay special attention to these key issues.

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10 resources to help you cross the tax season finish line

Jan 25 blogWhen I was working in a small practice, tax season always felt like a race to me. After months of preparation, I sped toward filing deadlines that were akin to finish lines. Whether the goal was to take first place or simply get it done, I wanted to cross the line as strong and healthy as possible. That meant I had to pay close attention to my pace.

A big part of good race pacing is having supportive resources and people helping you along the way. Luckily, you have the AICPA and Tax Section team cheering you on. Here are ten resources I think will help ease the pressure this tax season.

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Don’t overlook this crucial part of estate planning

Shutterstock_590650799We live in a time when numbers are getting so large that they begin to lose meaning. Understanding just how large one million is, is hard enough; when it’s a billion? A trillion? How about 30 trillion?

We’re seeing the largest transfer of wealth in history, as $30 trillion passes to the next generations from the baby boomers over the next two decades. Those estates come in sizes big and small, but they all have one thing in common: taxes. 

In the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that took effect last year, the individual exclusion from gift/estate and generation-skipping tax was temporarily doubled, and in 2019 now stands at $11.4 million. That means a married couple has an exclusion of $22.8 million to use during their lifetime or at death. Before you go thinking that means estate taxes won’t affect the vast majority of clients, think again: the state your clients live in might not conform to the federal exclusion. It’s important to understand the major tax considerations in estate planning.

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