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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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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Tax technology: Outpacing the pace of change

Jan 15 blog postThe world is changing, but you already know that. As CPAs, we understand the quickening pace of technological, legislative and demographic changes because we see them influencing each step of our professional lives.

To be our best, we must out-maneuver and outsmart the changes that lie ahead before they ever happen. That means finding new ways to use technology to enhance what we do and how we do it.

The AICPA Tax Section recently released a Tax Technology Resource Center to help you do just that. Here are some of the highlights of how you can embrace technology trends and make the most of the exciting progression of our tax profession.

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The government has shut down, but tax season doesn’t stop

Government shutdown blog post

On January, 15, the IRS released an updated Contingency Plan recalling 57.4% of its employees to work during the filing season shutdown. Per the new plan, excepted employees now include those whose activities are necessary for the payment of tax refunds. These activities include:

  • Processing electronic returns through issuance of refunds
  • Processing Paper Refund Tax Returns through issuance of refunds
  • Processing 1040X Amended Refund Returns Adjustments including Carrybacks, Amended Returns, Duplicate Filed Returns (DUPF), Correspondence, Injured Spouse Claims, Disaster Claims, F843 Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement in support of issuing refunds
  • Processing Department of Defense Claims for refunds
  • Manual Refund Support - Clerical
  • Document preparation, screening and control of work in Image Control Team

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5 retirement planning tips for tax clients

Blog post Jan 4This blog was updated as of 12/5/2019

Successful retirement planning is all about strategy. Analyzing sources of income, estimating expenses, choosing investments and managing assets are vital to safeguarding long-term financial comfort later in life. However, one aspect of retirement planning is sometimes overlooked — tax planning.

As a CPA, you’re already helping your tax clients with their retirement planning needs, but are you doing enough? Take a moment to review these tax considerations to make sure you’re exploring all the options with your retiring clients. Then listen to this AICPA podcast for a deeper dive into the topic.

Looking at tax as part of retirement planning

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How some taxpayers are getting grounded

Passport blogJane has a problem. She has tickets to fly to Europe next week, but her back taxes may be standing in her way.

Jane owes more than $75,000 in taxes, fees and interest to the IRS. She was aware of this substantial debt but had no idea that she could lose her passport because of it. She doesn’t understand what’s going on or what she can do.

Jane isn’t alone. The number of people receiving a Notice CP508C is growing, and more than 362,000 Americans are facing passport revocation due to significant tax debt.

One of your tax clients could be next.

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‘Twas the night before tax season

'Twas the night before tax season, when all through the states,

The nighttime felt heavy, and folks were up late.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While Dad stared at forms with immeasurable dread.

And Mom in her PJs, the cat in her lap,

Had just settled in for the tiniest of naps.

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4 things your clients don’t know affect their taxes

Shutterstock_675514828This year is coming to an end, and there’s one thing we can all agree on: 2018 was a doozy for tax practitioners. Between tackling a challenging busy season, reading up on the Wayfair ruling and navigating the constant stream of tax reform guidance, there’s been a lot to keep up with. But while you were making heads or tails of the changes to tax, your clients had their own list of challenges keeping them up at night.

Whether they got married or divorced, retired or sent a child off to college, their financial realities shifted and not just because of tax reform.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like tax busy season

Shutterstock_743819602Washington, D.C., got its first taste of winter just two days after the AICPA National Tax Conference this year. In some parts of the capital, it was just a dusting of snow. For those just north of the city, it was a blanket. While CPAs bundled up, drank hot cocoa and anticipated the wonder the season always seems to bring, they were reminded of the cold months ahead where the days are shorter, but the workdays are much, much longer.

The first sign of winter is also the first sign of busy season. It’ll be here before you know it, and with tax reform implementation in full swing, you’re going to need more than a wool coat and an ice scraper to get you warmed up and out on the road in the morning.

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A recipe for success: Experiences to keep your clients coming back

Shutterstock_507199120You’re staying at a hotel in a city you’ve never visited before. After you check in and unpack your bags, you realize you’ve forgotten your pajamas and it’s too late to shop. You walk down to the lobby and mention your predicament to the front desk clerk. Sympathetically, she offers a solution. She tells you to have a seat and serves you a cup of hot tea and a perfectly warm and melty chocolate chip cookie. After just a few minutes, another staff member approaches you with a package of blue cotton pajamas. She explains they’re offered to you complementary for your stay.

Increasingly, consumers are valuing their overall customer experience much more than any tangible product or service they may receive. It’s what keeps them satisfied and coming back for more. You, too, have an opportunity to create exceptional and memorable experiences for your clients. What are you doing to keep them coming back for more? Here are three things to consider as you strive to go above and beyond for your clients:

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Tax identity theft: A horror story

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

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

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

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Life lessons learned while training for the IRONMAN® triathlon

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

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

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

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Cybersecurity facts tax practitioners need to get right

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This blog was updated as of October 29, 2019 

How many emails does your firm receive in one day? 

Whatever the number, there’s a good chance a chunk of it is malware. According to a 2019 report compiled by Symantec Corporation, one in 412 emails contained malware in 2018. For businesses with less than 250 employees, this rate jumped to one in 323 emails. When you consider just how many emails the average office worker receives in a week, things start to look a little scary.

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5 tips for nudging procrastinators on extension

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

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

1. Issue an alert

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

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

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

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

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

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Do you know these three tax client types?

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

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

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

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

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Confessions of a young tax practitioner

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

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

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