12 Recommendations Made by the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council Subgroups

I must be a true tax geek, because I am very much enjoying my time on the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council (IRSAC)! IRSAC

 

IRSAC is an advisory group to the entire agency and its membership is balanced to include representation from the taxpaying public, tax professional community, small and large businesses, state tax administration, and payroll community.

 

IRSAC’s primary purpose is to provide an organized public forum for senior IRS executives and representatives of the public to discuss relevant tax issues. We meet five times during the year in Washington, D.C., generally with one day devoted to meeting with senior IRS executives and the other day with our subgroups. The fifth meeting in November is devoted to presenting our recommendations regarding various tax issues to the public and the Commissioner of the IRS.

 

IRSAC is divided into four subgroups: Large Business and International (LB&I), Wage and Investment (W&I), Small Business/Self-Employed (SBSE) and Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).  I have served on the OPR subgroup since I was appointed to IRSAC in 2012.

 

Our work each year is confidential until our annual report is released to the public in November.  In 2013, the Subgroups recommended the following:

 

 Office of Professional Responsibility Subgroup

1. Guidance to Practitioners Regarding Professional Obligations

Following up on the recommendation in our 2012 report concerning guidance regarding the obligations of practitioners under Treasury Circular 230, we recommend that the IRS address this guidance as part of a multi-phase project. We also offer a conceptual framework for this guidance at Appendix A. This appendix can be found here. Continue reading

Dr. Tom Ratcliffe, a CPA, a Teacher, a Writer, a Leader, a Mentor, but Most Importantly a Friend

What I want to share in this blog concerns an individual that served many of us as a CPA, a teacher, a leader, a writer, a mentor and perhaps more importantly, a great friend.

Tom Ratcliffe

Dr. Tom Ratcliffe

On Sunday, March 23, 2014, Dr. Tom Ratcliffe unexpectedly passed away.

There is no way to adequately memorialize Tom’s life in a short blog. So I decided to pick my favorite part of Tom’s personality to talk about in this small space: Tom’s teaching methods and the way he used them so that his students could comprehend the subject matter was phenomenal.

There is not much I can recall that happened to me over 20 years ago, but I do recall hearing Tom Ratcliffe speak for the first time over 20 years ago.

If you heard Tom, you know exactly what I am talking about. If you never had the chance to meet him, I am as sorry as I can be for your missed opportunity. You missed an opportunity to meet one of the best to practice, teach, lead, be a mentor and simply be a great friend to everyone that had the good fortune to be around him.

Surely, those of us that knew Tom and were influenced by him form a large group.

There is an expression used from time to time to describe individuals who are just special, unique and contributed to those who they came into contact. It’s “one of those.”
Tom was one of those.

Everyone knew Tom, and Tom knew everybody. Everyone respected Tom, and Tom respected everybody. And most importantly, everyone liked Tom, and Tom liked everyone. Tom was indeed a gift to anyone that had the opportunity to work, learn and share time with him. Continue reading

7 Tips to Make the Most of CPAmerica Webinars

Would you be interested in lowering your personal webinar cost by more than $200?  Would you be interested in attending a webinar by Sam Allred or Allan Koltin?  Learn these seven tips for making the most of CPAmerica webinars. Webinars

Dream Big – Is there a webinar you would sign up for in a heartbeat, that you wish we offered?  Is there a speaker who you would rearrange your schedule to see?  With a quick email to me, we will work on your behalf to make that happen.  Contribute suggestions of what webinars YOU want so emails about webinar offerings will turn into perfectly curated selections.

Fill the Room – If you could lower the cost of attending a webinar from $249 to only $5 would you be interested?  The good news is, you can.  With CPAmerica’s all-you-can-learn style pricing, the webinars cost $249 per computer connection with unlimited CPE processing.  That means, if you have 50 people from your firm join together in the conference room, it would only cost $5 per person to attend.

Invite a Friend – What if you don’t have 50 people at your firm?  If you currently sponsor or are considering sponsoring a CPAConnect firm in your area, webinars are a low-cost way to continue strengthening that mutually beneficial relationship.  Next time your firm is attending a webinar, give your CPAConnect firm a call and see if they would like to participate.  A CPAConnect firm may not be able to justify the cost on their own, but with your large group you’ll be able to offer that value to them at no additional charge and create a low-pressure opportunity to meet with your sponsored firms.

Schedule a Discussion – While the ideas are still fresh and you have everyone gathered, set aside a little more time for discussion. Schedule the conference room an additional 30 minutes after the webinar to take the time to discuss how you want to implement those ideas within your firm.

Utilize the Discounts – If you’re thinking, “I’d love to fill the room, but all of our employees are watching from different cities,” never fear!  Though webinars cost $249 per computer connection, we want to encourage firms with multiple offices to participate.  Thus, we offer $100 off of any additional office location and $170 off if the additional connection is just a single user.

Watch the recording – If you have a remote user or additional office that wants to watch the webinar but doesn’t actually need the CPE credit, then you can skip the additional charge altogether.  The recording is available at no additional cost, so simply log into your webinar catalog and access the recording a couple of days after the live webinar rather than paying for an additional connection.

Ask questions – If you took the time to attend the live webinar, one of the major benefits you’re receiving is the opportunity to ask questions of a live expert.  Take advantage of that time and bring your questions with you, or jot some down during the webinar.  Submit the questions during the webinar so everyone can learn from them, or send them to the instructor afterward if it is a more individualized situation to glean all you can from that expert.

Keep your eyes out for some great webinar series coming up this year on hot A&A topics and SALT.

 

Kaylen Saunders, Member Services Manager for CPAmerica InternationalWith a masters in Curriculum and Instruction and experience as a professional development trainer, Saunders is responsible for scheduling and hosting webinars, administering CPE, maintaining the members-only website, managing preferred provider relationships, and coordinating the CPAConnect Roundtable.

Register Your Staff For Webinars!

 

Are You Preparing The Next Generation?

The next generations of leaders in the accounting profession are nearly through with the first quarter of their careers.  These are the people who will support not only the profession, but corporate America, and who depend on their independent perspectives and help in developing business strategies.NextGen

In this demanding business defined by hours, it is sometimes hard for current leaders to set time aside and share information with their next generation.

It is important to share the upside, as well as the culture of the profession and the way the business operates with people considering the direction of their careers.

CPAmerica will leave the sharing of the upside, at least formally, to the partners back at the firm, but the first ever, Next Generation Conference — in Chicago on August 14th and 15th — will set the foundation for showing this group of accountants the inner workings of their profession.

The two-day session will explore operations and the culture of the profession, metrics that are used to measure success, and the basic business relationship skills required to develop relationships and build trust with prospective clients. Continue reading

Top 3 Tech Issues for CPAs in 2014 and the Benefits of Benchmarking

Regardless of which industry you are in, benchmarking can: help companies gauge how well their processes in place compare against others, identify problem zones, identify areas of strength, and provide members with opportunities to find out what your peers are doing that you are not. Industry benchmarks will vary by geographic region and firm size, but being able to compare statistics against comparable firms, can assist leaders in identifying both risks and opportunities for their firm.

In November of 2013, 72 of our member firms received results for the 2013 Information Technology Benchmarking Report.  Benefits of Benchmarking

This report gave our members the opportunity to learn what the top technology issues, successes, software, etc., that other member firms were experiencing.  The top three takeaways from the survey were as follows: Continue reading

LinkedIn Just Got Better – CPAs Can Use LinkedIn to Build Thought Leadership

LinkedIn recently expanded its publishing platform to allow all users the opportunity to write and share longform posts to their LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn Publishing Tool

Users will see a pencil icon near the Share Box on LinkedIn which will allow them to publish longform blog posts or articles directly to their profile. Image: LinkedIn

Longform posts were previously only offered to a small group of industry leaders known as “LinkedIn Influencers” and were basically blog posts or short articles published directly to the platform. According to LinkedIn’s Head of Content Products, Ryan Roslansky, the influencer posts generate nearly 31,000 views and more than 80 comments, on average.

With the new changes, every user will have the opportunity to compose these longform posts and link them to their profile.

Here is how it can benefit CPAs:

Continue reading

Do Your Clients Remember You After Tax Season?

One of the main reasons accounting firms lose clients is because of lack of communication.

Whether it’s not returning phone calls, failing to fully explain financial reports or not keeping in touch from tax season to tax season, some CPA firms learn the hard way how much clients want to feel acknowledged and appreciated. Do Your Clients Remmber You After Tax Season?

If you haven’t already, initiate strong guidelines to ensure responsiveness to client questions and attentiveness to client concerns.

Keeping in regular contact with your clients throughout the year is important to:

  1. Maintain the current business of your existing clients
  2. Expand the use by clients of other services your firm offers
  3. Increase referrals to your firm from your clients
  4. Build your firm’s brand and differentiate you from the competition

Regardless of how you decide to stay in contact – through print or online newsletters, email correspondence, planning letters or regular seminars or social events – it is essential to give the client the sense of an ongoing relationship.

Your regular communications with your clients should be meaningful and provide them with useful information to assist them with their financial needs. Let them know they are important to you and that you value their business.

Maintaining regular contact with your clients also gives you the opportunity to reinforce your expertise to your clients and educate them about other services your firm offers that they might not be aware of.

Seminars, newsletters and others educational online and print publications are subtle vehicles to keep your firm’s name in front of your clients while informing them about your services and your areas of expertise. Without being blatant, they provide concrete evidence of your firm’s knowledge and professionalism and establish you as a credible expert in the field.

How often should you stay in touch? Continue reading

Six Things to Look For As You Prepare Tax Returns – Use Busy Season to Get New Business

Another tax season is upon us and although I have been out of public practice for a few years, I will never forget exactly how busy it gets!

Take a few moments as you are knee-deep in your clients’ tax returns to examine their data for future business—the payoff is well worth it. Here are a few things to look out for— jot them down and refer to them after busy season:Six Things To Look For As You Prepare Tax Returns

1. Does the client have a current will in place?

Although we are not attorneys, clients will appreciate our interest.  We can take this opportunity to discuss estate and gift planning, education funding, and tax benefits.  Clients need to be educated about the relatively new portability provisions.

2. Does the client’s portfolio need some attention?

As you are reviewing broker statements, pay attention to the market gains and losses in their portfolios.  Even if your firm doesn’t have a wealth management division or you don’t have wealth management credentials, their portfolio is a topic you can raise with your clients.  Are they diversified enough? Should they harvest gains and/or losses during 2014?  What about consolidating their accounts if they have multiple brokers?

3. Has the client maximized their retirement plan contributions?

Regardless of the answer, perhaps the client would be interested in cash flow projections.  Are they getting close to required minimum distributions?  Perhaps converting to a Roth IRA makes sense.  Does your client have any idea how much they will receive in Social Security benefits?

4. What about your client’s compensation? 

Do they have stock options and do they know the tax ramifications of exercising those options? ?  Is the client’s compensation from their S Corporation enough?  (The IRS has been cracking down on S Corporations who do not pay their employee-shareholders enough compensation.

5. Does it make sense to restructure any of the client’s businesses?

If clients are operating as LLC’s, would an S Corporation election make more sense to minimize self-employment tax?  Although S Corporations should pay adequate compensation to their employee-shareholders, they don’t necessarily have to pay self-employment tax on 100% of the business profit.

6. Is the client adequately insured?

What about Long-Term Care Insurance? Again, this is not a typical service CPAs provide, but in my experience, just raising some of these questions shows clients you are concerned about their whole financial picture, not just their tax return.  It also can provide a great opportunity to make referrals to your network of business advisors.  Referrals out bring referrals in!

If you make note of these potential opportunities, the list you make will give you a good starting point for client lunches after busy season.  Revenue generated after busy season is great, and client goodwill is priceless!

 

Linda Harding is the Director of Tax Services at CPAmerica International. She has more than 30 years of Big 4 tax experience and was a tax shareholder with a large local firm.  Harding manages the technical tax resources, tax practice matters and reviews tax publications for CPAmerica.  Follow her on Twitter @LHardingLin.

 

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“What does the auditor say?” An Auditor’s Take on Tax Season

Just as the question was posed in the viral sensation What Does the Fox Say?” – What does the auditor say – during busy season?

Art Winstead

Art Winstead

Years ago, I heard a very young consultant/accountant in our firm give a bit of consolation to someone who was feeling down about the workload during tax season. He used this sport analogy: “This is our Super Bowl; we cannot slow down or decrease our performance now. We are expected to be our best during this time of the year.” A truly great and accurate statement.

Right now it is busy season (or as you may know it, tax season). Busy season has become a term that is used by accountants to refer to the period each year from January through April 15.

I recently got an email from a colleague in Dallas, Texas and he expressed his wishes that I have a great accounting season. That is also a darn good descriptor of this time of year.

After all, we are all accountants, regardless if our area of emphasis is tax, auditing, accounting, consulting, internal controls, business evaluations, or fraud examination.

Personally, as an auditor, I enjoy busy season.

Busy season is a time when firms are incredibly efficient, accurate, and work as a team. I believe employees enjoy being a part of a team that is, in fact, busy.

Don’t forget- busy season also provides the incredibly convenient and socially acceptable excuse to overeat, skip workouts, ignore chores at home, and overlook our member responsibilities with volunteer groups

For most of us, the weather is less than perfect during this time of year. So why not stay inside, sit at your desk, meet with clients and get a lot of high-level work done? Who of us joined our profession thinking our work hours would be short every winter? Continue reading

When Messick speaks, Congress listens | Member Spotlight

On October 2, 2013, Roy Messick, partner at CPAmerica member firm TPP Certified Public Accountants, LLC, headquartered in Overland Park, Kan., had the opportunity to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Small Business.

He was picked to talk about the challenges for small businesses in offering retirement plans to their workforce.

Roy Messick

Roy Messick

CPAmerica recently was able to speak with Messick about his experience. He said that people seem to be more impressed with being chosen to testify than he is. He enjoyed the process but said, “Remember, those guys work for us, not the other way around.”

 

Q: What do you like most about being a retirement plan specialist?

A: Anything our firm can do to help people with their retirement – we don’t do investments. The fact is, administration and record-keeping are a big component of the private sector retirement plan business and I think it’s an important business, so from that standpoint I like it a lot. I feel like we are really contributing to the private sector retirement system. Now, is it as important as being a doctor or a priest? No, probably not, but I think it’s up there. I think it’s a very important job.

 

Q: How long have you been doing this?

A: Since the 1980s. I didn’t do it right out of school; I was at KPMG as an auditor and a tax guy but then I moved over to BKD and they acquired a trust company and needed help over there so that’s kind of how  I got exposed to the retirement plan business. Then I decided that I really liked that more than doing tax returns.

 

Q: You testified in front of Congress on the state of retirement savings by small businesses. How did this come about?

A: Well, it was kind of one of those things, not because I’m like this sought-out expert, but Representative Sam Graves (R) out of the state of Missouri and who is the chair of the committee, reached out to Dale McCloud who has his own firm that does what we do. Well, Dale either didn’t have the time or inclination to do this, so he referred me.  I said sure; I was interviewed and I guess they liked my answers to their questions, so they said ‘we would like you to be a part of this panel’ and I said, ‘great, I’m all for it!’

 

Q: What do you think the most difficult thing was about testifying? Continue reading