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By Leada Gore, al.com (TNS)
The Internal Revenue Service has changed the amount teachers can deduct for out-of-pocket classroom expenses.
For tax years 2012 through 2021, the limit teachers could deduct for out-of-pocket classroom expenses for things like books, materials and other educational supplies was $250 per year. For 2022, that amount has been raised to a maximum of $300 and will increase in $50 increments in future years based on inflation.
Eligible educators will be able to deduct up to $300 on qualifying expenses. Married couples where both are eligible educators can claim up to $600 but the $300 per spouse limit remains.
Educators can claim up to $300 even if they take the standard deduction, the IRS said. Eligible educators include anyone who is a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal or aide in a school for at least 900 hours during the school year. Both public and private school educators qualify.
Educators can deduct the unreimbursed costs for:
Books, supplies and other materials used in the classroom.
Equipment, including computer equipment, software and services.
COVID-19 protective items to stop the spread of the disease in the classroom. This includes face masks, disinfectant for use against COVID-19, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, tape, paint or chalk to guide social distancing, physical barriers, such as clear plexiglass, air purifiers and other items recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Professional development courses related to the curriculum they teach or the students they teach. But the IRS cautions that, for these expenses, it may be more beneficial to claim another educational tax benefit, especially the lifetime learning credit. You can see more here.
Qualified expenses don’t include the cost of homeschooling or nonathletic supplies for courses in health or physical education. The IRS also reminds educators to keep good records, including receipts, cancelled checks and other documentation.
A former senior accountant for a construction company in Chicago was indicted Aug. 12 on fraud charges for allegedly embezzling millions in company funds.
The indictment charged Richard Mandarino, 43, of Scarborough, Ontario, with three counts of wire fraud. His arraignment in U.S. District Court in Chicago has not yet been scheduled.
A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois says Mandarino committed the alleged fraud from 2015 to 2017 while he lived in Canada and worked on the unnamed construction company’s Canadian business projects. The indictment alleges that Mandarino fraudulently embezzled and obtained more than 2 million Canadian dollars.
According to Mandarino’s LinkedIn profile, he worked as a senior project accountant for the Walsh Group from November 2010 until November 2017. The Walsh Group, which has been in the construction business since 1898, is headquartered in Chicago and has an office in Toronto.
Mandarino allegedly entered false payment requests in the construction company’s accounting system, causing checks to be issued to vendor companies for goods and services that Mandarino knew were never provided, according to the indictment. He then converted those payments for his and others’ personal use. Mandarino allegedly concealed the thefts by creating fictitious credits and offsets in the construction company’s accounting system.
If convicted, Mandarino faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud count.
The Illinois CPA Society announced today that Geoffrey Brown, CAE, will serve as its next President and CEO. He will start in the role on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022.
A seasoned executive, Brown brings more than 20 years of experience as an association professional. Currently, he is the CEO of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), the nation’s leading professional association of fee-only financial advisors. In his nine years there, Brown has transformed NAPFA by addressing organizational structure and brand challenges resulting in multiple years of double-digit growth in membership and revenue increases. He also led development of the organization’s DEI initiative to form a more diverse and inclusive membership by becoming a beacon of diversity within the financial planning profession.
Prior to NAPFA, Brown was an Account Executive with Sentergroup and an Association Manager at SmithBucklin Corporation, the world’s largest association management company.
In his new role, Brown will lead the Illinois CPA Society in its next chapter of growth and evolution as it continues a tradition of excellence in supporting the CPA profession in Illinois and beyond. One of the largest state CPA societies in the nation, it is the only professional association serving CPAs in Illinois and plays a prominent role nationally in guiding and shaping the future of the profession. Brown will be the fifth leader in the Illinois CPA Society’s 120-year history and its first Black President and CEO.
Board Chair Mary Fuller noted, “We are thrilled to welcome Geof as our next leader. The Society is poised to tackle leading challenges within the profession today and in the future. Geof is the right leader for our continued focus on enhancing the value of the CPA profession through the strategic initiatives of education, information, advocacy, and connections.”
Brown served as the Board Chair for the Association Forum and is also an active member in the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). He is also a Board Member for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values.
Brown holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland. He lives in Chicago with his family.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to join the Illinois CPA Society at such an important time for the profession. I am looking forward to partnering with the Society’s leadership and staff to focus on helping CPAs take advantage of the opportunities and overcome the challenges that lie ahead. The Society has a long history of growing and stewarding the CPA community in Illinois and I am honored to have been selected to lead it into the future,” said Brown.
The Society’s Board of Directors created a seven-member Search Committee comprised of current and former Board members to lead this search after Todd Shapiro, the Society’s current President and CEO, announced he was retiring in early 2023 after a 24-year career with the Society. The Search Committee partnered with executive search firm, Koya Partners, to find the next President and CEO.
RSM US released its 2022 annual report on Monday, which revealed that the firm raked in $3.3 billion in revenue during its most recent fiscal year that ended on April 30. That is roughly a 15 percent increase over the $2.9 billion in revenue the Chicago-based firm had in 2021.
“RSM has been on an incredible journey—particularly over the last 11 years as we have greatly increased the number of clients we serve; significantly expanded our talent; built outstanding business relationships; launched a philanthropic foundation; implemented a culture, diversity and inclusion program; and grown our business to $3 billion as we executed our strategy. We have carved out a unique position as the first-choice advisor to middle market leaders globally. I am honored and humbled to have been a part of it,” Joe Adams, managing partner and CEO of RSM US who is retiring on Aug. 31, wrote in the report.
He added: “As I look ahead, I am energized by the opportunities I see for RSM, our clients and our people. There may be headwinds facing us, such as persistent inflation, supply chain challenges, war and ongoing civil and political unrest, but we have proven that together we can turn challenges into opportunities and thrive even in uncertain times. Our strategy for the next several years is aptly called, ‘Vision 100 … Powered by our culture,’ because it is our unique culture that puts RSM in such a strong position to serve our clients, develop our people and give back to our communities in compelling ways.”
“Transformation amid this rapid pace of change will be one of the biggest challenges facing all businesses in the coming years—we see it all around us with technology and digital; new work paradigms; environmental, social and governance issues; diversity; and more. Brian is a leader who sees the opportunities created by change, and he has been leading digital transformations for our clients for the majority of his career. He is absolutely the right person to lead RSM on the next phase of our journey,” Adams wrote.
Of RSM’s three core service lines, consulting saw the biggest year-over-year increase in revenue at 37 percent, followed by tax at 34 percent and audit at 29 percent.
The firm is now in 82 cities in the United States and in six locations in Canada, and had 13,549 employees as of April 30—a headcount increase of 16.3 percent over last year. The firm also had 1,101 partners and principals at the close of its fiscal year.
RSM US is the fifth largest public accounting firm in the U.S. by revenue, only behind the Big Four firms (Deloitte, PwC, EY, and KPMG, in that order).
Conflicts of interest can arise in any profession, and CPA firms are no exception. While the AICPA has always acknowledged the possibility of a conflict of interest arising in the accounting profession, what constitutes a conflict of interest had not been clearly defined. They have taken measures to correct that, offering a revised code on conflicts that may arise, with expanded guidance for CPAs in public practice as well as those in private business.
The current AICPA framework consists of three distinct areas:
Identify the conflict – Ideally, this should be done before a new client engagement is accepted. This includes looking at the nature of the services the client is interested in, all of the parties involved, and if accepting the engagement may cause a conflict with other clients or within the firm itself.
Evaluate the conflict – Once a conflict has been identified, it’s important that the necessary steps be taken to evaluate the conflict and if there are proper safeguards that can be put in place to help mitigate any potential threat. If a threat is determined to be likely, the threat must be reduced or eliminated. This can be done in a variety of ways, including confidentiality agreements, limiting access to confidential documents within the firm, having an independent third party oversee the engagement, or declining the engagement.
Consider matters relative to disclosure and consent – If a conflict is present, you must disclose details about the potential conflict and the nature of the issues that may appear. Once the client has been notified, it’s up to them to determine whether to continue with the engagement. Consent must be provided to the firm in writing. If the client neither consents nor declines, it’s important that any requested services not be performed.
Unfortunately, it may not always be clear before an engagement that a conflict of interest exists. If that’s the case, then the conflict must be mitigated by either terminating the existing agreement or removing the circumstances surrounding the conflict.
These are just a few examples of potential conflicts of interest that may require further investigation:
Your client comes to you for advice on new investment likely opportunities. They are interested in a new start-up venture that clearly fits with their investment goals and interests. The only problem is that you’re one of the original investors in that same startup.
The Smiths have been clients of yours for years, where you have provided everything from asset valuation to financial planning. Now the Smiths are divorcing, and both want you to continue providing the same services.
Client A is interested in acquiring Company B and wishes to have you advise them. The only problem is that Client C is also interested in acquiring Company B as well.
A current client approaches you with a request to forensically investigate a company they believe is responsible for criminal activity. The only issue is that the company they wish to be investigated is also one of your clients.
You have been providing financial services for a small partnership and its two partners for years. Now, each partner wants you to continue to provide your current level of service, even as the partnership is about to be dissolved.
Not all of these situations mean that you should not provide services to the client(s) in question, or even that a conflict of interest exists. But all of the above situations require investigation and disclosure of any potential conflicts to your clients.
To reduce the risk that conflicts of interest can pose to your firm, be sure to be proactive; identifying potential risks and taking the appropriate steps to mitigate the risk. And while some conflicts can be managed by putting the appropriate safeguards in place, others may pose too significant a risk to undertake. But only by being aware of these risks and taking the appropriate actions can the appropriate decision be made.
CohnReznick LLP, one of the leading advisory, assurance, and tax firms in the United States, today announced that it has been named to the ABF Journal’s Most Innovative Companies in Specialty Finance list for the second consecutive year.
This is the third year the publication has produced their list which celebrates 30 companies based on five “innovator categories” to distinguish how each company is standing out from the competition. CohnReznick is included in the Current category which is defined as “a company setting the tone for the present state of the industry through its innovation.”
“At CohnReznick, innovation infuses every purposeful and intentional action we take. When we focus on enhancing the digital and data literacy of our talent, we equip them with the tools necessary to help our clients exceed their business goals and objectives,” said Tama Huang, Chief Innovation Officer, CohnReznick. “Embracing automation allows us to align our human capital with the velocity of advancements in emerging technologies.” “Technology-focused solutions are central to the various ways we are advising clients in areas such as performance improvement, turnaround management, operational restructuring, organizational redesign, process re-engineering, and more,” notes Cynthia Romano, CohnReznick Global Director, Performance Improvement and Restructuring. “As business challenges become increasingly complex, innovation takes on a much more important role in helping to resolve these challenges. We are proud that our strong commitment to innovation has been recognized by ABF Journal.”
Launched in 2002, ABF Journal is a leading independent trade finance publication focused exclusively on the asset-based lending, factoring, commercial finance, and turnaround management industries.
During the webinar, Adams will demonstrate the newest features in QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Enterprise 2023. Attendees will be able to:
Identify the new features in QuickBooks Enterprise 2023
Recognize the changes to Pro and Premier Plus subscriptions.
Determine how these upgrades can assist your firm in everyday tasks.
“QuickBooks 2023 will be launched mid-September, and this year, there are significant changes with a big opportunity to clean up and more efficiently use QuickBooks,” said Adams. “Getting to data to make better decisions in your business is always the direction. The new QuickBooks desktop features reflect the strategic changes to enable our clients to achieve their goals.”
Global business advisory firm EisnerAmper has announced that the partners and colleagues of Minneapolis-based accounting and advisory firm Lurie LLP will be joining EisnerAmper in a transaction anticipated to close in September of 2022.
With more than 200 employees, 24 partners, and offices in Minnesota and Florida, Lurie serves clients across the United States and globally, in a wide variety of industries, providing solutions in accounting, audit, tax planning and wealth management, serving business leaders in healthcare, professional services, technology, manufacturing, real estate and more.
“We are thrilled to join EisnerAmper,” said Beth Kieffer Leonard, Lurie Managing Partner. “We see the world the same way – in how we serve clients, provide opportunities for our people and how we give back to our community. Additionally, our culture of innovation and our values align perfectly. This combination will provide our clients and the business community that we serve with greater resources that accelerate growth and opportunity, today and into the future.”
Founded in 1940, Lurie is a different kind of accounting firm, made great by exceptional talent and fueled by an entrepreneurial spirit driven to serve its community. Lurie was named to the “Best of the Best” firm list for 2021 and “Regional Leader” 2022 by INSIDE Public Accounting, establishing Lurie as one of the 50 highest-performing public accounting firms in North America. Other notable recognitions include “Best CPA Firms for Equity Leadership” and “Best CPA Firms for Women” by the Accounting MOVE Project, “Best of Accounting” Client Satisfaction for 2022, and many more.
Allan D. Koltin, CEO of Koltin Consulting Group, who advised both firms, commented, “The joining of these two forward-thinking firms creates a powerful combination. EisnerAmper has traditionally been known as a powerhouse on the east coast and, with the addition of Lurie, takes a huge step toward establishing a flagship presence in the Midwest.”
“We have respected Lurie for many years now,” said Jay Weinstein, EisnerAmper Vice Chair of Industries and Markets. “By supporting startups, accelerators, and organizations that support underserved groups, they don’t just get involved in their communities, they get invested. Adding these talented professionals to our cause is a real win for EisnerAmper, and an even bigger win for our clients. We warmly welcome Team Lurie to EisnerAmper.”
By Mairtini Ni Dhomhnaill.
Whether or not you like numbers more than people, client relations are a necessary evil in the accounting world. In my experience, the number one reason new clients cite for leaving their previous accounting firm is a lack of responsiveness — especially over email. Now, as economic headwinds drive fears that a recession is imminent, forging and maintaining strong client relationships is one of the best ways accounting firms can mitigate potential economic fallout as enterprise customers look to cut back on spending.
Amid an uncertain economy, dependable client relationships are more important to accounting than ever before. In fact, 46 percent of accountants believe that relationship building is the most critical skill for future accountants, according to Sage’s Practice of Now. Meanwhile, the same report reveals that 82 percent of accountants say clients are more demanding these days, expecting better and faster service without paying higher rates.
Let’s dive into why client relations are so essential to meeting the current moment and how to navigate these changing tides.
The changing face of accounting as the landscape moves digital
The state of accounting has significantly shifted in recent years. In the past, primary communication with clients occurred monthly, quarterly, or even annually. Today, clients expect their accounting firms to be much more involved in day-to-day activities.
This evolution has largely coincided with the pandemic-induced digital transformation, as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have shaken up the accounting space. As the new tech proliferates across the industry, the market for AI in accounting is estimated to reach $16.07 billion by 2028 from $1.7 billion in 2021. AI and automation offer significant value to back-office roles, taking over tasks machines can do while providing greater accuracy and efficiency. That said, AI cannot deliver a financial report at your next board meeting.
AI is coming at the perfect time to help firms handle the deluge of day-to-day customer communication. But without investing in automated workflows and the proper technology tools, firms can quickly fall out of pace with customer demands and fail to meet the ever-mounting expectations around responsiveness.
While understanding around appropriate response times can differ depending on the client, the reality is that — when prioritized by company leadership — there are tools available to drive efficient customer support. For instance, my company, Countsy, uses Front to organize our communication and streamline collaboration by swiftly looping in the people needed to best deliver on a request. With a finger on the pulse of emerging enterprise tech, you can ensure that your accounting workforce is set up for success and able to scale as your business grows.
Using the human touch to drive client retention + expansion
Multi-year client relationships are the bread and butter of any accounting business. A client relationship that goes beyond the strictly transactional and offers human touch points across interactions can make a difference when it comes time to renew your contract. People like working with people they like, which is why Deloitte found that B2B customers are on average 32 percent more likely to renew a contract with B2B companies that have mastered customer experience.
Investing in client relations and providing a robust communications protocol will better equip you to build these human relationships using digital tools. With less time spent on one-off requests, teams can instead focus on the higher-value conversations that truly showcase the depth of their service. When the pandemic began and Countsy moved remote, our clients did not experience a change in service quality since we were already using Front for our customer communications. Without having to spin wheels on relevant players to loop in on client responses, we can deliver faster while digging deeper on the analysis that really drives our value as accountants.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by email aliases and playing hot potato with your team as you wait for someone to spearhead a response, customer communication tools can help you divide and conquer. Above all, people want to be heard, and focusing on that personalized human touch will build trust — making your clients feel seen and understood.
Workforces should evolve with the times, but don’t ditch company culture
While the U.S. saw the Great Resignation peak in March, nearly two job openings remain for every unemployed person. The accounting profession was hit hard by this attrition, compounding upon an already short supply of accountants as the number of accounting graduates dropped nearly seven percent in 2019 since peaking in 2012.
Following the recent surge in turnover and subsequent job openings, firms must prioritize comprehensive onboarding and maintenance of company culture to ensure sustainable growth and strong customer relations. Replacing an individual employee is not cheap — costing between half to two times the original employee’s salary. Inadequate knowledge sharing comes with an even heftier price tag. According to Panopto’s Workplace Knowledge and Productivity Report, the average large U.S. business loses $47 million in productivity each year due to inefficient knowledge sharing.
Maintaining a thorough understanding of your history with a client is essential to strong customer relations in accounting. Communication tools that allow new employees to access their company’s entire email history with a client greatly simplify onboarding. Such tools that streamline efficiency around client relations and knowledge sharing will help maintain a company’s identity while leaving more time to build a strong company culture.
Hybrid workplaces have demonstrated their staying power and firms must leverage technology to simplify collaboration as they settle into this enduring norm. When tools streamline such vast knowledge sharing, more time is left to build stronger internal relationships and create a place where people want to continue growing their careers.
However tangential to the actual service accountants provide, accurate numbers and detailed analysis mean nothing without strong client relations. As technology changes the landscape and helps accountants meet escalating client demands, a robust communication framework will help accounting businesses retain clients while maintaining their company culture and expanding their workforce. The industry will continue to navigate major technological and societal shifts, but high-touch client relations will remain the linchpin to long term success.
The rapid evolution of accounting technology has automated traditional compliance work. Small businesses and accounting professionals, alike, are beneficiaries of artificial intelligence built into accounting software and apps.
As lower-level compliance work continues to be automated, tax and accounting professionals have to find meaningful ways their services can remain valuable to their clients—hence, the evolution of client advisory services.
We need to show, and help, clients understand that the automation of compliance tasks is just a tool to getting to the heart of the matter. Automation helps capture the data efficiently, which frees us up to perform tasks that will add value to our clients’ businesses. The data becomes a report, with the ability to read, understand, analyze, interpret, and communicate the information.
Reports provide valuable insights
The message of the report is the main objective of capturing the data in the first place, and this is where the real value of the professional lies. We have the ability to turn the report into a powerful tool to help a business achieve its goals, including more efficiency in operations and cash flow management. This is done by identifying shortages ahead of time, and making adequate provision for capital profitability, expansion, growth, and other areas.
Advisory work is future oriented, while compliance work is historical. Advisory work entails how to use the results of the compliance work to achieve a better future for the client. This is what is valuable to the client: “wanting a better tomorrow”—an assurance that their business can survive in the future and has the potential to withstand an adverse climate.
With these types of services, clients see their accountant/advisor as a partner in their businesses. Clients enjoy better service and have a more personal relationship with their advisors when the advisors are proactive in recommending strategies that lead to growth, profitability, and success.
The result? Increased client loyalty leads to long-term retainerships.
The reason? You can help your clients make more money through advisory services.
Efficiency for a florist
What’s right before our eyes can be somewhat invisible for a business owner. For example, an in-depth analysis of the financial statement might indicate a waste of materials, as in the case of a client of mine—a flower shop running at a loss. A thorough investigation into the high cost of goods sold, without a correlating increase in sales, indicated that the flower designer was ordering more materials than needed. Because the materials were perishable, they ended up in the trash.
This situation was quickly addressed: A system was put in place to order the right quantity of materials, eliminate waste, reduce cost of goods sold, and increase gross profit.
A comparison of the monthly income statement may even reveal more issues; for example, if the rent or a mortgage payment is not made. Timely payments of bills save late charges, interest, and penalties that could add up to a significant amount.
Using the appropriate ratios, inefficiencies in capacity would be revealed. Addressing this, and putting a system in place, would result in making more money with current capacity.
A cash flow analysis is also very important in making sure that funds are available through every stage of operation. When identified ahead of time, shortages can be remedied and also puts the client in a position to shop for the cheapest cost of capital.
Automate your processes
Any tasks you continue to do by hand that software can do more efficiently are costing you time, resources, and money. Cloud solutions enables us (the client and advisor) to optimize our processes. Assisting our clients to build a tech stack for their businesses allows them to operate more efficiently, profitably, and competitively. When clients automate some of their processes, it frees up their employees to apply their time and talents to income-generating activities.
When clients use a comprehensive suite of business applications, they can expect these five benefits:
New operational efficiencies.
Improved ability to scale operations.
A greater potential for revenue growth.
While there are sophisticated reporting tools to capture every aspect of the business, insights from the reports enable our clients to make more informed business planning decisions that increase efficiency and profits. The reports need to be interpreted by an advisor. The ability to interpret these reports and effectively communicate what they reveal about the business includes the business’ performance, the client’s position in the industry, the opportunities and challenges in the future, and how to adequately and timely address them.
Providing this information is an invaluable service to the client. Our firms are successful and of greater value when clients can connect our services to an increase in their revenues and profitability.
Ibi Ojo, EA, is the owner of Fortune Accounting and Business Solutions, a full-service accounting, consulting, and training firm. An Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, the favorite part of work is when she gets to engage with clients and recommend strategies to help them attain their objectives. Ibi has been working with QuickBooks for more than two decades, loves all things QuickBooks Online, and uses Intuit ProConnect Tax. Her QuickBooks Training classes were born out of her passion to help small businesses keep better books and obtain reliable reports that can be used in making decisions that will enable them to grow and be profitable. In 2020, Ibi was nominated for ‘Top 50 Women in Accounting’ and recently became a member of the Intuit Trainer Writer Network.
Taxes may be one of the guarantees in life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they – or their purposes – are always understood. While sales tax is meant to be a means for states and local jurisdictions to pay for things like schools, roads and public services, there can be unintended consequences of these regulations. However, consumers can also end up with the short end of the stick when it comes to tax regulations.
For example, income disparity can skew percentages of spending on essential items such as food and housing. Sales tax can be considered “regressive,” especially when low-income taxpayers face greater impact than high-income taxpayers. Many jurisdictions will provide exemptions or reduced rates for basic necessities (e.g., food, clothing, prescription drugs). At the same time though, taxes may increase the cost of food among lower income areas.
More states are opting to exempt food purchased for home consumption to make food more affordable for everyone. State-enacted exemptions for food generally include items such as fresh produce and meats but typically exclude prepared foods and candy. Essentially, ingredients required for preparing meals from scratch may be exempt from sales tax. However, some types of prepared meals are not. And those are the types of meals those who don’t have access or ability to make a home cooked meal often purchase.
There is also the issue of food deserts, which are communities with limited access to healthy and affordable food. Food deserts are borne from complex societal transformations, including the sales tax growth. However, narrow definitions of “food” do not ease the burden of sales tax in food deserts – even when there are food exemptions in place. For example, sales tax legislation pushed administrative difficulties and costs onto independent grocers in more urban areas. Many were forced to close. Comparatively, chain grocery stores in high-income suburban communities did not have as much difficulty absorbing those new costs.
From there, lower income communities saw higher growth of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) studies indicate that more than 23 million Americans live in low-income areas more than one mile from a large grocery store. Furthermore, 2.3 million of those households do not have access to a car. These communities are more dependent on convenience stores and fast-food establishments offering limited food choices that could be taxed differently than if sold at a traditional grocery store.
For example, in Maryland the sale of grocery food is taxable unless the sale is made by a “substantial grocery or market business.” Additionally, “a grocery or market business is considered substantial if sales of grocery or market food items total at least 10% of all sales of food.” If a Maryland convenience store meets that 10% threshold, then food purchased there may cost differently than if purchased at a grocery store.
The ‘pink tax’
Another consequence of tax regulations is the “pink tax,” which is the application of sales tax in a way that is considered disproportionally unfair to females. The “tampon tax” is another side of that same issue, with menstrual products being taxed disproportionately. That is because the taxable status of menstrual products often results in them being costlier for those who menstruate.
Menstrual products being subject to standard sales tax indicated to the public that they were seen as regular goods instead of necessities, especially in those states that give tax breaks to necessities. Being subject to tax, especially in VAT jurisdictions where rates can be as high as 27%, sometimes places these products out-of-budget for people with lower incomes.
However, some states (California and Louisiana) are working to fully exempt menstrual products from sales tax. Each bill exempts similar products (i.e., pads, tampons, menstrual cups and sponges, and sanitary liners), with Louisiana also opting to exempt panty liners. Hawaii’s bill specifically names many more menstrual items, like feminine hygiene syringes, and vaginal creams, foams, ointments, jellies, powders and sprays. Other states (Alaska, Iowa and South Carolina) accounted for all products used in connection with the menstrual cycle.
The definition of ‘necessity’ is changing over time
So where do we go from here? How can we ensure that sales tax does not negatively impact some groups more than others? With food, perhaps the definition of food should include any item made for consumption. That could perhaps level the playing field, placing less of an emphasis on ingredients.
Changes are already underway in numerous states when it comes to menstrual products, but as with the issue of food deserts, there is not a one-size-fits all approach. Legislatures pass rules due to differing opinions and varying public influences and priorities. And what about all of the other states that do not have such bills in place? Are they waiting to see results in other locations or are they waiting on something else? Whatever the reason, it’s especially clear that sales tax is only going to continue to evolve over time.
As vice president, regulatory analysis and design at Sovos, Chuck Maniace lives and breathes tax. For him, job No. 1 is ensuring Sovos customers remain fully compliant as rates, rules and requirements change around them. Chuck places a premium on making time to share his expertise, wisdom and insight as a means of facilitating career advancement within the Sovos organization and in increasing regulatory understanding in the broader Sovos community.
By Adrienne Barrett.
When someone hires a personal trainer because they want to get in shape, they don’t think twice about paying them for their services. After all, there’s nothing more valuable than health. So why isn’t it the same for tax professionals, who look after a client’s financial health?
This is the challenge tax professionals face when it comes to building strong advisory relationships. The reality is that many people only contact their tax professional when it’s time to file their taxes. Following the three points below can help tax professionals build stronger client relationships, change people’s perception of the industry, and empower the newest generation to take a more proactive leadership role with their clients.
1. Be Clear About the Importance of Advisory
My father has always told me: “You need two people in your life, a good best friend and a good CPA.”
That’s because, as a small business owner for the last four decades, he understands that a good tax professional is so much more than the source of a once-annual tax return. They are problem-solvers and confidants who clients trust to have honest conversations, make the best decisions with their money, and provide the most invaluable feeling of all: peace of mind.
Being crystal clear about these offerings is crucial for the long-term success of client relationships, and this is especially true when it comes to advisory services. Not every client will initially understand a fee-based structure or a line item bill for advisory offerings, so it’s imperative to sit down and define your role and the life-long resources you are bringing to the table.
Selling your services can be a challenging step for new tax professionals and career veterans alike, but starting this dialogue with your clients early will build the foundation for your role as an advisor who is always a phone call, text, or email away.
2. Beat the ‘Awkward Tax Pro’ Stigma
There’s no shortage of well known jokes about professions and the people who pursue them. Tax professionals aren’t exempt, and whether you’re in the industry or not, you’ve likely heard the stereotype of social awkwardness (queue the outdated pocket protectors).
Of course, this isn’t the case. Like any industry, accounting is full of an incredibly diverse range of people with different backgrounds, interests, and personality types. Still, it’s important to acknowledge the impact these preconceived notions may have, and be sure to put your best foot forward when meeting a potential client.
If someone is new to advisory services, it’s also important not to let doubt or fear impact your willingness to find new clients. Remember that you have the experience and expertise to be a financial leader, and that people want to pay for those skills to help plan their futures.
While there may be tax professionals that are more gregarious than others, someone doesn’t have to be an extrovert to build strong relationships. They can go the extra mile by showing their passion and how much they care about the success of their clients.
3. Stay Open, Flexible, and Curious
To build the best relationships, tax professionals need to know who they are, how they want to work, and what clients fit their personal interests. Achieving this takes an openness to change and flexibility to follow new paths.
As more firms go digital and clients turn toward Internet-based services, tax professionals need to lean into these trends and invest in the future of cloud, advisory services, and assurance. This applies to even the most old-school CPAs, who can learn from this younger generation of tech-first tax professionals while teaching them the fundamentals.
More people are also moving into accounting, so firms dealing with staffing shortages should be open to hiring professionals with non-traditional backgrounds. Doing so can lead to finding the best fit for their business that they may not have found otherwise.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that joining the tax profession comes from a love of solving problems. The best way to do that is through cultivating and maintaining strong relationships with everyone from industry peers to clients, new and old.
Adrienne Barrett is a client success leader at Intuit. She also works with a fee-based personal trainer and happily pays her CPA for advisory services.
By Julio Gonzalez.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 is a substantial, $737 billion investment to help fight inflation and invest in manufacturing, reduce carbon emissions and invest in domestic energy production.
Many energy efficiency tax incentives that exist or are currently expired have been expanded, and these credits can greatly help your clients, including:
Commercial building owners
Multifamily building owners
Two significant items that you need to familiarize yourself with and explain to your clients are the 179D energy-efficient commercial building deduction and the 45L energy-efficient home and multifamily credit. Now before we go any further, it’s important to note that as of writing this on August 14, 2022, these regulations have not been signed into law and are subject to change.
Now, let’s get into the details.
Expansion of the 179D Energy-Efficient Commercial Building Deduction
The 179D tax deduction has increases and expanses under the IRA. Under current law, the permanent 179D deduction is increasing from the current $1.88 maximum up to $5 per square foot. Clients that deal with commercial building construction and multifamily buildings that span four or more stories will benefit from this reduction.
Older buildings that undergo retrofitting will also be eligible for the deduction.
Architects, engineers, and designers of energy-efficient buildings can also benefit from the new rules, which will allow tax-exempt building owners to pass the deduction to them. Under previous law, it was only possible for government building owners to allocate these funds for designers.
A few key notes of the 179D changes that are taking place and should be considered by all clients include:
The current iteration of 179D will be extended in its existing form through December 31, 2022
New increases and changes to the deduction will begin from January 1, 2023, onward
Energy reduction (“ER”) will change from 50% to 25% based on the recent ASHRAE Standard
The deduction will be reduced to $.50 per square foot on January 1, 2023, with a $.02 additional deduction per square foot for each point above 25% ER, up to a maximum of $1.00 per square foot; OR if the prevailing wage requirement is met, a bonus deduction of $2.50 plus $0.10 per square foot above 25% ER is possible with a maximum of $5.00 per square foot in deductions.
Partial benefit allowances have been removed.
New qualified retrofit plan qualifications are in place.
Under the expansion of the 179D deductions, your clients may also benefit from deductions if they’re REITs, trial properties, and non-profits. Publicly funded projections with existing provisions can also qualify for the deductions.
Changes to the 45L Energy-Efficient Home and Multifamily Credit
Next, major increases, extensions, and expansions have also been made to the 45L energy-efficient home and multifamily credit. These changes will be of significant interest to your clients if they’re homebuilders or multifamily developers, starting with the retroactive extension of the 45L credit through the end of 2032.
For 2022, no changes have been made to the:
$2,000 credit for each dwelling unit
Energy efficient criteria
However, in 2023, the tax credit maximum for a dwelling unit in both multifamily and single-family developments has been bumped up to $5,000. Criteria for what is considered “energy efficient” will align with the Energy Star and zero-energy ready home programs from the Department of Energy.
While low-rise residential developments were the only ones eligible for this credit in 2022, residential developments will be eligible for the credit in 2023.
The significant credits will be very beneficial for builders in 2023 that aim to help with the housing shortage and construct dwellings that are more energy efficient.
However, there are some changes to the 45L credit that may make it more difficult for clients to maximize their energy-efficient tax incentives. A key change to alert clients of is that wages for the project that they’re trying to claim credits on, in some cases, must be at or above the local rates determined Secretary of Labor.
45L credits can be claimed for all multifamily developments, including mid- and high-rise projects, which may qualify for:
45L tax credits
179D tax deductions
A few key changes to 45L credits include:
Prior rules have been extended through December 31, 2022.
Changes to the rules under the IRA will be from January 1, 2023 – December 31, 2032.
Low-base credits are $500 per multifamily unit, OR a bonus credit increase to $2,500 per unit if prevailing wage requirements are met.
Congress makes it clear with the passing of the IRA that energy efficiency and climate change are two main points on their agenda. Tax credit and deduction extensions and incentives are increased significantly, allowing for more of your clients to claim them than ever before.
As mentioned before, this isn’t law yet; however, it’s expected to be signed into law by President Biden shortly. You should take this time to understand the changes under the IRA and be prepared to discuss the impacts with your clients. =====
Named Top 100 Most Influential People by Accounting Today, Julio Gonzalez is the CEO of Engineered Tax Services, The Growth Partnership, ABLE: CRM for Accountants, and INSIDE Public Accounting, the founder of Rockerbox, and the developer of the Engineered Tax Services cost segregation app.
Additionally, Julio works weekly with the Administration, Congress, and Senate to advise on tax reform. He is the go-to tax expert, representing many national organizations and associations. He is a regular national public speaker regarding tax reform and tax sophistication for wealth preservation. To get in contact with Julio or learn more about how you can partner with Engineered Tax Services to grow your firm, please contact Julio through his website.
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), representing the unified voice of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (Association), has presented Elaine M. Howle, CPA, of El Dorado Hills, Calif., with its 2022 Outstanding CPA in Government Career Contribution Award, honoring her dedication to the accounting profession.
The AICPA & CIMA also presented its 2022 Outstanding CPA in Government Impact Award at the state and local level to:
Joseph R. Morrissette, CPA, of Bismarck, N.D., with the 2022 Outstanding CPA in Government Impact Award at the state level.
Charles W. Warren, CPA, CGMA, of Fort Smith, Ark., with the 2022 Outstanding CPA in Government Impact Award at the local level.
“Elaine, Joseph and Charles are among the most talented and prominent leaders in government accounting and auditing today,” said Anoop Mehta, CPA, CGMA, chair of the AICPA and the Association. “We are delighted to recognize and celebrate these outstanding individuals for their significant contributions and exceptional leadership to our governments and communities.”
The Outstanding CPA in Government Career Contribution Award recognizes an AICPA member’s significant contributions to the CPA profession through government service at the local, state or federal level over a candidate’s career. Award winners must have demonstrated exceptional leadership, high ethical standards, and a track record of professional excellence.
Howle began her career with the California State Auditor’s office over 35 years ago. She advanced through the office’s leadership roles and was appointed California State Auditor in 2000 where she served for 21 years. Under Howle’s leadership, the California State Auditor’s office served a vital role in the State’s system of checks and balances, by examining the fiscal health and performance of state and local entities, to ensure that government provides the essential services to the public in the most efficient and effective manner.
Recognized nationally as a leader in her profession, Howle has received various awards including the National State Auditors Association’s William R. Snodgrass Distinguished Leadership Award (2016). Additionally, the Institute of Internal Auditors’ American Center for Government Auditing honored Howle as among 2014’s 15 Most Influential Professionals in Government Auditing. She was also named Public Official of the Year by Governing Magazine in November 2012 and received the national David M. Walker Excellence in Government Performance and Accountability Award in June 2012. After a rewarding career in state service Howle, retired on December 31, 2021.
The Outstanding CPA in Government Impact Award recognizes the impact of recent significant contributions of CPAs to the efficiency, effectiveness, or innovative service delivery of their respective local, state, or federal employer organizations.
Morrissette brings nearly 30 years of experience working with the state budget, revenue forecast, and tax policy. He was appointed Director of the Office of Management and Budget in February 2018 where he oversaw the leadership and support of the state government through five divisions: Fiscal Management, Human Resource Management, Central Services, Facility Management, and Risk Management. Prior to his appointment as Director, Morrissette served four years as the Deputy Tax Commissioner. He has also served as a member of the state’s Revenue Forecasting Advisory Council since 2002.
Warren has more than 34 years of experience, beginning his career as a CPA in Fort Smith with Baird, Kurtz & Dobson, CPAs. He also worked for ERC Properties, Inc. for 15 years and another two years for Hankins & Company, CPAs in Fort Smith. During this time Warren garnered a leadership position in the Fort Smith Council of Parent Teacher Associations. Here he worked closely with the Superintendent of the Fort Smith Public Schools and was named Chief Financial Officer in 2009.
By Michael Hirtzer and Victoria Cavaliere – Bloomberg News (via TNS), with additions.
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said gasoline prices should fall further after dropping to less than $4 a gallon for the first time since March. In the Midwest, including Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and the Gulf States, gas prices have already dipped to near the $3.00 per gallon mark.
“We hope that that’s true but, again, it can be impacted by what’s happening globally,” Granholm said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Sliding fuel costs have helped slow inflation that has run at four-decade highs this year, hitting consumer spending and prompting Republicans to hammer President Joe Biden for rising prices. The nationwide average U.S. gasoline price hit a record of $5.016 in June.
Biden has been touting the decline in gasoline prices ahead of the midterm elections in November, where Democrats are defending a narrow House majority and a one-vote advantage in the Senate.
The administration took “unprecedented steps to moderate supply and demand,” such as releasing oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Granholm said.
She pointed to the Inflation Reduction Act, a package of climate, energy, health care and tax measures passed by Congress and awaiting Biden’s signature, that will give rebates to people buying new electric vehicles and promote charging stations.
Conservis, a global leader in solutions-driven farm management systems (FMS), and Eide Bailly, a top 25 CPA and consulting firm, have announced a partnership to promote deeper understanding around the benefits of farm data optimization and the related financial decision-making strategies on the farm.
The revolution surrounding agriculture data, beyond spreadsheets, is here to stay. Conservis is providing clients with real-time farm data across the operation, including per acre and per bushel breakouts, revenue by crop, and instant snapshots of grain contracts.
“CPA firms can help growers extract maximum value from farm data,” said Scott Schmidt, Conservis VP of Business Development & Partnerships. “When a grower shares their FMS data, it allows the CPA to provide better informed and more comprehensive insights that improves fiscal planning and optimizes outcomes.”
Producers can share timely reports with their CPAs on anything from inventory to land rental expenses, resulting in a comprehensive financial picture. Conservis and Eide Bailly believe that accurate, insightful financial advice requires this kind of data that an FMS provides.
“Growers are fantastic at taking care of their crops,” said Steve Troyer, Eide Bailly CPA, Partner-in-Charge of Ag producers. “Why should they spend extra hours on paperwork and bookkeeping? CPAs can help them interpret their FMS data, empowering them to make timely, insightful decisions.”
The collaboration is an opportunity to bridge the gap between farm data and farm decisions while emphasizing the unique strengths of both organizations. With real-time data from Conservis, Eide Bailly can help clients better interpret data, make analyses, and ultimately enhance their financial decisions.