Grant Thornton’s Burton to Lead AICPA’s Assurance Services Executive Committee

The AICPA has announced that Jim Burton will serve as chair of its Assurance Services Executive Committee (ASEC). Burton is Grant Thornton’s PIC of audit methodology and standards.

Burton will oversee committee efforts related to blockchain, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and sustainability.

“A member of ASEC since 2016, Jim Burton’s experience, insights and sincere engagement will serve the profession well,” says Amy Pawlicki, AICPA vice president, assurance and advisory innovation.

The ASEC mission is to support the profession in serving the public interest by anticipating, identifying, assessing and addressing evolving market needs and demand for assurance and advisory solutions. ASEC develops relevant thought leadership, guidance, criteria and other member resources.

Burton succeeds Bob Dohrer of RSM International. Dohrer was named AICPA chief auditor earlier this year.

Nearly Half of Americans Say Volatile Markets Are Path to Quick Profit: AICPA Survey

So far this year, the U.S. stock market has been a financial roller coaster. It has not been unusual to see the Dow swing in both directions by hundreds of points. At the conclusion of the first quarter, the S&P 500 had already seen 23 days with 1% movements. That is nearly three times the number of days this occurred in all of 2017. It appears volatility has become the new norm.

Surprisingly, even with that significant increase in fluctuations, one-third of Americans (37%) characterized the financial markets during the first few months of 2018 as stable, according to a telephone survey in April of 1,014 U.S. adults conducted by The Harris Poll for the AICPA.

For many, increased market volatility may actually signal an opportunity. According to the survey, nearly half of U.S. adults (48%) believe that a volatile market gives them an easy opportunity to make a profit.

“Investing is not a get-rich-quick scheme and trying to time a volatile market with hopes for huge gains is a serious financial risk,” says Greg Anton, chairman of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Many people who enter the market looking for a quick buck find they can’t handle watching their investment lose value, which leads them to sell at a loss. For most people, seeking incremental gains over a longer time horizon is a safer, more sustainable approach.”

Highlights of the study:

  • 3 in 10 Americans involved in household investment decisions say they never research investment strategies and potential investment opportunities.
  • A third of Americans involved in household investment decisions say they typically make high-risk investments.
  • Nearly half of Americans are not familiar with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin.

Numerous free investor education resources can be found at the AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website.

AICPA and U.S. Small Business Administration Announce Strategic Alliance

The AICPA has joined forces with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to help CPAs advise and advocate for small businesses seeking relief from undue regulatory burdens.

As part of this collaboration, the AICPA will be able to direct CPAs whose clients are confronting federal regulatory compliance or enforcement challenges to designated SBA Office of the National Ombudsman (ONO) contacts for assistance in resolving the issues. ONO helps small businesses when they experience excessive or unfair regulatory enforcement actions, such as repetitive audits or investigations, excessive fines, penalties, threats, retaliation or other unfair enforcement action by a federal agency.

The agreement also provides opportunities for representatives of the AICPA and SBA to speak at each other’s events, while the SBA will encourage the AICPA to attend National Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Hearings and Regional Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Roundtables hosted by ONO. The SBA will also make ONO publications available to AICPA members.

“CPAs play a key role in the small business community as trusted business advisors,” says Carl Peterson, the AICPA’s vice president of small firm interests. “This strategic alliance between the SBA and AICPA will provide our members with the latest tools and resources when they or their small business clients have concerns regarding regulatory enforcement.”

The agreement with the SBA renews a previous collaboration between the two organizations that began in 2008. The AICPA and SBA have a shared goal of fostering conditions to help small businesses grow and thrive.

“Our partnership with the AICPA will enable the SBA Office of the National Ombudsman to further expand our reach to, and impact upon, an even greater number of CPAs who could benefit from our assistance,” says Mina Wales, the SBA’s Deputy National Ombudsman.

For more information, visit the AICPA’s U.S. Small Business Administration Resource Center.

AICPA and CPA Practice Advisor Announce 2018 Most Powerful Women in Accounting Awards

The AICPA and CPA Practice Advisor recognized 25 leaders in the accounting profession with the 2018 Most Powerful Women in Accounting Award.

Award recipients come from a wide cross-section of the profession, and perform a broad range of roles, from executives with Big 4 firms and Fortune 500 companies to small firm owners and consultants. The awards, now in their seventh year, were created by CPA Practice Advisor and – starting this year – are jointly administered by the AICPA.

“This year’s group of award winners exemplifies the aspects of leadership, skill, and mentorship that make them stand-outs in their roles,” says Gail Perry, editor-in-chief of CPA Practice Advisor. “Our profession is better because of their active participation in making this a better place for everyone.”

The AICPA became involved with the awards as part of the institute’s efforts to promote and support the success of women for the broader purpose of sustaining the profession.

“We couldn’t be prouder of this group of award winners and their contributions to the profession,” says Jacquelyn Tracy, chair of the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee (WIEC). “Collectively, they show there are many paths women can take to make an impact and wield influence.”

The WIEC sponsors research, the Women to Watch awards, mentorships, networking opportunitie, and oversees the annual AICPA Women’s Global Leadership Summit.

A group of 13 judges selected the award recipients, using the following criteria for candidates:

  • Demonstrates she is a driving force in creating a culture of innovation or excellence within her organization or helped, as a vendor, to develop technologies that empower firms to be more productive and profitable
  • Has reached a level of management and ownership within her company, with demonstrable impact on its success
  • Actively mentors those following in her footsteps

The 2018 winners are:

  • Karen Abramson, CEO, Wolters Kluwer Tax and Accounting
  • Danielle Supkis Cheek, director of entrepreneurial advisory services, PKF Texas
  • Susan Coffey, executive VP of public practice, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants
  • Lynne Doughtie, U.S. chairman and CEO, KPMG
  • Abby Dupree, MP, Carroll & Company CPAs
  • Jennifer Elder, owner, The Sustainable CFO
  • Sarah Elliott, principal and co-founder, Intend2Lead LLC
  • Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, global strategy leader for the financial services industry, Oracle America, and immediate past chairman of the AICPA
  • Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte U.S.
  • Julie Gustavsson, partner and COO, Keiter
  • DeAnn Hill, owner, DeAnn Auman Hill CPA
  • Jenni Huotari, partner and director of business outsourcing and strategy, Eide Bailly
  • Kacee Johnson, strategic advisor, CPA.com, and founder, Blue Ocean Principles
  • Elizabeth Pittelkow Kittner, controller, Litera Microsystems
  • Tamera Loerzel, partner, ConvergenceCoaching LLC
  • Samantha Mansfield, director of professional development and community, CPA.com
  • Gail Perry, editor-in-chief, CPA Practice Advisor
  • Amy Pitter, president and CEO, Massachusetts Society of CPAs
  • Natasha Schamberger, president and CEO, Kansas Society of CPAs
  • Lindsay Stevenson, vice president of finance and tax, 1st Financial Bank USA
  • Amy Vetter, president and CEO, QuickStart Training Inc.
  • Jennifer Warawa, executive VP of partners, accountants and alliances, Sage
  • Katherine Watts, PIC, Horne LLP
  • Sandra Wiley, president, Boomer Consulting Inc.
  • Jennifer Wilson, co-founder and partner, ConvergenceCoaching LLC

AICPA Announces New Personal Financial Planning Certificates Program

The AICPA announced the launch of the Personal Financial Planning (PFP) Certificates Program. This new curriculum offers CPAs an opportunity to expand their knowledge in personal financial planning and a new pathway to the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credential. The program is comprised of four certificates covering the core technical areas of PFP: retirement, estate, risk management/insurance, investment planning and a fifth certificate covering the practical application of the planning process. Tax considerations are integrated throughout all certificates.

The introduction of the PFP Certificates Program is timely because an estimated 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 each day over the next decade. As a result, employment of personal financial planners is projected to grow 15% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Trillions of dollars will be transferred from one generation to the next in the coming decades. As this wealth changes hands, Americans will need help with the complexity of their financial plans to make sure they keep more in their pocket. The PFP Certificate program helps CPAs expand on their strengths to meet this rising demand.

“The PFP Certificate program offers CPAs a new way to develop their financial planning skill set while also working towards the Personal Financial Specialist credential,” says Jeannette Koger, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants Vice President of Advisory Services and Credentialing. “CPAs now have increased flexibility to learn what they need to know in specific areas of financial planning on their own schedule.”

The PFP Certificates cover the AICPA PFP Body of Knowledge, with each of the four technical certificates demonstrating competence in relevant disciplines. Convenient online education or knowledge from prior education and experience prepares the CPA for passing each certificate exam, which results in the certificate being awarded. The final applications certificate is awarded after completing specific education and real-life planning situations focusing on the planning process and integration of the entire financial plan.

To learn more about the Personal Financial Planning Certificates Program, click here.

Hansen Named Chairman of The Association

Eric Hansen

Eric Hansen

Eric Hansen has been named chairman of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association) – the global accounting organization formed by members of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the AICPA to advance public and management accounting worldwide.

The governing councils of the AICPA and CIMA approved the one-year appointment of Hansen, who also serves as chair of the AICPA. He will work closely with CIMA President Steven Swientozielskyj, who will serve as Association vice chairman, to meet the needs of 667,000 members and students across 184 countries and territories.

Steven Swientozielskyj

Steven Swientozielskyj

“The competency and integrity we stand for as a profession has never been more important than it is right now as businesses and clients navigate intensifying complexity at hyperspeed,” says Hansen. “To help them keep pace, we have to push ourselves further and faster – reimagining services, seizing new technologies and developing new skills. The Association is leading the profession to meet the needs of this transformational time, and I am humbled and honored to serve in this role.”

Hansen brings significant experience to the post. He is COO at Springfield, Mo.-based BKD (FY17 net revenue of $564.4 million), where he oversees firmwide operations and acts as a liaison between BKD’s national office and its four regions. He has provided audit, tax and consulting services to companies in the manufacturing, health care, construction, transportation and the financial services industries.

He also has a legacy of service to the profession. In addition to his tenure as chair of the AICPA, he has served as chair of the AICPA finance committee and as a member of the AICPA’s Major Firms Group, among other activities.

Swientozielskyj also brings extensive experience to his role as vice chair of the Association. His career includes a number of senior finance roles across the private, public and consultancy sectors. During his tenure at Network Rail, he led the setup of its financial shared services, which within three years was benchmarked as a world-class facility. Swientozielskyj has been a member of CIMA since 1980 and has held numerous volunteer leadership positions.

Business Executives Take a More Tempered View of U.S. Economy, AICPA Survey Finds

Business executives are taking a more cautious view of the U.S. economy and their own company’s growth prospects after two straight quarters of exuberant optimism, according to the second-quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey, which polls CEOs, CFOs, controllers and other CPAs in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles.

Seventy-four percent of business executives said they were optimistic about the economy over the next 12 months, down five percentage points from last quarter. Part of the drop-off was due to concerns about trade and political uncertainty, survey respondents said. Optimism about their own company’s outlook slipped a percentage point to 70%. Both sentiments fall in the uppermost range of post-Great Recession assessments.

Survey respondents also trimmed their expectations for profit and revenue growth over the next 12 months. Profit growth estimates slipped from 4.4% last quarter to 4%, while revenue growth projections eased from 5% to 4.8%.

“Despite their more tempered views on growth, business executives still see a strong hiring picture over the next year,” says Arleen Thomas, managing director of Americas Market, Global Offerings & CGMA Exam. “Labor market tightness continues to be a concern, with companies encountering difficulty in recruiting candidates with the right skills.”

The number of employers who said they planned to hire immediately rose three percentage points to 30% in the quarter. Another 13% said they had too few employees but were hesitant to hire, down a point from last quarter. Overall, 48% of business executives said their companies currently have the right number of employees. Still, ‘availability of skilled personnel’ remained the No. 1 challenge for businesses for the fourth quarter in a row.

The CPA Outlook Index—a comprehensive gauge of executive sentiment within the AICPA survey— dropped two points in the second quarter to 79. The index is a composite of nine, equally weighted survey measures set on a scale of 0 to 100, with 50 considered neutral and greater numbers signifying positive sentiment. All the index components were down or flat this quarter, except for employment, which rose a point.

Other key findings of the survey:

  • Inflation concerns, which jumped sharply last quarter, remained unchanged.
  • Technology showed surprising weakness in sector optimism, dropping from 80% last quarter to 69%. Hiring expectations for the industry also fell from 2.5% anticipated growth over the next 12 months to 2.1%. Yet tech spending plans remained strong.
  • The percentage of business executives who expect their company to expand in the coming year dropped from a post-recession high of 72% last quarter to 70%.

After availability of skilled personnel, the No. 2 and No. 3 challenges for businesses were “regulatory requirements and changes” and “employee and benefits costs,” respectively.

WithumSmith+Brown SOC Team Authors and Presents Inaugural AICPA SOC for Cybersecurity Certification

When the AICPA hosted its flagship System and Organization Controls (SOC) for Cybersecurity Certification course this past week, members of Princeton, N.J.-based WithumSmith+Brown’s (FY17 net revenue of $175.4 million) SOC for Cybersecurity Services Group served as lead instructors for the curriculum. This first-of-its-kind program also was authored by the professionals from the advisory, tax and audit firm. In total, seven Withum professionals also are among the first CPAs nationwide to earn the AICPA’s SOC for Cybersecurity digital badge.

A market-driven, flexible and voluntary reporting framework, SOC helps organizations communicate their cybersecurity risk management program initiatives as well as effectiveness of controls.

Withum’s certified SOC for Cybersecurity team members includes Tony Chapman, partner and SOC practice leader; Anurag Sharma, principal; Scott Mahoney, senior manager; Jim Bourke, partner, director of advisory practice; Stephanie Fitzgerald, SOC senior manager; Anupam Goradia, SOC senior manager; and Andrea Fernandez, SOC staff auditor. These certifications have earned Withum the distinction of having more AICPA-authorized SOC specialists, to perform peer reviews on SOC engagements, than any other CPA firm nationwide.

“As a leader in SOC and cybersecurity and information security services, Withum has once again distinguished itself – this time as it relates to the new cybersecurity risk management reporting framework,” says Chapman. “Our firm is among the first and has the highest concentration of fully designated SOC professionals authorized to provide peer reviews.”

AICPA has retained Withum to write, present live and record on-demand viewings of the first SOC for Cybersecurity Certificate training course for SOC professionals. Three of Withum’s professionals, Chapman, Sharma and Mahoney, served as course authors and presenters. Topics addressed in the AICPA-sponsored course offer an overview of the cyberthreat landscape and terminology, various SOC services, components of a cybersecurity risk management program, utilization of criteria to assess an entity’s controls, key steps for performing the cyber risk-management examination and factors to consider while forming the opinion and preparing the practitioner’s report.

SOC for Cybersecurity is a new entity-wide cybersecurity audit that allows organizations to report on their cybersecurity management programs to internal and external stakeholders with credibility. For clients whose cybersecurity risk management programs are mature, an independent third-party firm can perform a comprehensive examination to assess cybersecurity risk management programs.

AICPA Offers Suggestions to Lawmakers about Proposal to Redesign the IRS

The AICPA offered suggestions to lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight about a discussion draft, the Taxpayer First Act, to redesign the IRS.

“We are committed to supporting Congress in its efforts to ensure a service-oriented, modernized tax administration and appreciate the opportunity to provide comments,” says Annette Nellen, chair of the AICPA tax executive committee.

“The AICPA firmly thinks that creating a practitioner services division and the regulation of tax return preparers will make a substantial difference in taxpayer awareness, confidence and compliance, thereby instilling trust in the tax administration system as a modern functioning IRS of the 21st century,” Nellen says.

Nellen commended provisions in the discussion draft “that seek a fair and efficient interaction with the IRS.” As examples, she cited the provisions that would codify the IRS independent office of appeals and that would provide clarity of equitable relief from joint liability.

Nellen urged the subcommittee, “to seek active engagement of taxpayers and their practitioners in the development of the IRS strategies and comprehensive plans.”

AICPA and CPA Practice Advisor to Present ‘Most Powerful Women in Accounting’ Awards

The AICPA and CPA Practice Advisor will co-present the Most Powerful Women in Accounting awards, given annually to 25 women leaders who are helping to define and advance the profession.

The joint administration of the award is part of the AICPA’s ongoing efforts to promote inclusiveness and create more opportunities for women to attain leadership positions in both public and management accounting.

“We’re excited to work with CPA Practice Advisor to recognize some of the best and brightest in the profession,” says Jacquelyn Tracy, chair of the AICPA women’s initiatives executive committee (WIEC). “Year in and year out, this is a highly impressive group of women that we hope to give even more visibility as role models and pathfinders.”

The WIEC sponsors research, mentorship and networking opportunities, and oversees the annual women’s global leadership summit.

“Now in its seventh year, the ‘Most Powerful Women in Accounting’ awards recognize women who are not just making a difference in the accounting profession, but who are the difference in the profession – our accounting profession would not be where it is without the impact these influential women have made,” says Gail Perry editor-in-chief of CPA Practice Advisor.

Nominations for the 2018 Most Powerful Women in Accounting awards are being accepted until April 27. Winners will be recognized at AICPA ENGAGE, to be held June 9-14 in Las Vegas. To be eligible, nominees should demonstrate they:

  • Are a driving force in creating a culture of innovation or excellence within their firm, or helped, as a vendor, to develop technologies that empower firms to be more productive and profitable.
  • Have reached a level of management and ownership within their company, with demonstrable impact on its success.
  • Actively mentor those following in their footsteps.

To nominate a candidate, please visit the awards page.