March 2009 Of Interest

“Escrow The Audit Fee” – A Concept For Debate, by Steve Erickson:   CPA firm consultant Steve Erickson thinks it’s about time that the profession takes a clean look at how the audit fee is paid. Take a look and tell us what you think! (Steve Erickson)

Quick Tax Facts- American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009:   CCH offers a quick glance at the key provisions included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, including general tax relief, education, AMT relief, businesses and energy. (CCH)

We All Want to Embrace Social Media, But . . .    Blogs are easy for anyone to develop. Your challenge as firm leaders is to encourage staff creativity but have policies in place for any staff that blogs about their workplace experiences. We came across one blog at random – “Exciting Life of CPAs” – that might just border on what you would not want your public image to be. Disclaimer: We don’t know who this person is or who this firm is – but it wouldn’t be hard to figure out if you really started searching.

XBRL Update – Final Rules Mandating Reporting Dates:   In an attempt to empower analysts, the SEC issued a final rule mandating that all public companies begin reporting their financial results using eXtensible Business Reporting Language. The deadline for reporting varies for filers based on their size – the largest will begin using XBRL for fiscal periods ending June 15, 2009, and will be phased-in for others through June 15, 2011. Accounting talent is expected to be more in demand as a result of the final ruling. (SEC)

AICPA Offers Free Job Finder Site to Help CPAs Affected By Economic Downturn:   The AICPA is providing a free online job finder to make it as easy as possible for accounting employers and employees to find opportunities during the current U.S. economic recession. (AICPA)

Ex-BDO Partner Pleads Guilty In Tax Shelter Fraud:   According to reports, Michael Kerekes, a California attorney and former employee of Chicago-based BDO Seidman, has pleaded guilty in a tax shelter scheme. Prosecutors say Kerekes helped clients dodge $200 million in taxes. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors told a federal judge in February that Kerekes will cooperate in an ongoing investigation of tax work done while employed by BDO Seidman. BDO said in a statement that it “has cooperated fully” with the investigation. (PR Newswire)

NASBA Urges SEC to Withdraw Roadmap:   “Moving to convergence with, rather than adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards is the right path for the Securities and Exchange Commission to be following,” the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) told the SEC. Recognizing the need to have standards that work in a global economy, NASBA recommended that the SEC withdraw its “IFRS Roadmap” by U.S. issuers and instead support joint efforts to converge standards by 2011 by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). (NASBA)

Center for Audit Quality’s “Year In Review” Recaps Organization’s 2008 Journey:   The annual report from the Center For Audit Quality highlights the sucecsses of many of the activities that this AICPA-affiliated organization has embarked upon in the last year. (Center For Audit Quality)

Treasury Faults IRS For Lax Inspection Program:   The Treasury Inspector General For Tax Administration has issued a report presenting the results of their review to determine whether IRS Examination function employees appropriately inspect and examine prior and/or subsequent year tax returns when warranted. The report shows 1 in 5 audits failed to review the proper documents. (Treasury Inspector General For Tax Administration)

New SEC Chief Moves To Toughen Enforcement:   Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro announced a pair of measures to allow the agency’s enforcement staff to launch investigations into financial wrongdoing more quickly and seek penalties from companies that commit fraud. According to other reports, Schapiro may choose Charles Niemeier, a supporter of “mark-to-market” rules that some banks say worsened the financial crisis, as the agency’s chief accountant. (Washington Post, Bloomberg News)

Untouchable Accounting Rules? Really?:   In this editorial, Brian Wesbury, chief economist at First Trust Portfolios, argues that the federal government can and should step in to alter the mark-to-market accounting rules set down by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (National Review)

New Bill Would Eliminate IRS Penalties and Interest:   A Republican congressman has introduced a bill that would provide all U.S. taxpayers with immunity from IRS penalties and interest, but the main goal seems to be tweaking his Democratic colleagues. (WebCPA)

Failure to File New IRS Form 990-N Could Lead to Loss of Exempt Status for Smaller Nonprofits:   A leading provider of nonprofit information, reports that half a million nonprofits could find themselves stripped of tax-exempt status in May 2010. According to IRS estimates, that is how many smaller organizations have failed to file a Form 990-N. (MSNBC)

Rules – and Penalties – for Tapping 401(k)s May Soften in 2009, But Still Apply for 2008 Tax Returns:   As millions of Americans watched their retirement account balances plummet in 2008, personal cash constraints may have led many employees to consider tapping their diminished 401(k) accounts to cover immediate, pre-retirement needs. While distribution-related retirement savings rules may be modified in 2009 to authorize greater access to hardship distributions, CCH cautions taxpayers to be careful in using retirement savings for immediate living expenses absent urgency or emergency conditions. (CCH)

Tax Laws May Let You Squeeze Lemonade from Stock Market Lemons:   Some investors who were battered by the bearish stock market last year will be able to ease their pain a bit when they fill out their 2008 tax forms, according to CCH. Others will have the opportunity to apply some tax salve to investment wounds by making the right moves this year. But it takes careful record keeping and shrewd moves to make the most of the tax code’s provisions for stocks and other investments that go sour. (CCH)