Thursday, June 26, 2014

Starting Salary for 2014 Accounting Grads: $52,900

According to the latest salary survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the average starting salary for 2014 graduates with business majors (including accounting) has declined slightly to $52,900.

That figure is down 0.8 percent from $53,300 in 2013. Business majors as a group will see an average starting salary of $53,901, an 0.6 percent decease from 2013.

The data was published in the April 2014 NACE Salary Survey.

Across all disciplines, the average starting salary for a new graduate with a bachelor's degree is up 1.2 percent to $45.473.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

IRS Releases 2014 List of Frivolous Tax Arguments

Do any of these look familiar? The U.S. Internal RevenueService (IRS) has released the 2014 version of “The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments,” which details and responds to some of the most common arguments from citizens who oppose federal tax laws.
“While taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities, no one has the right to disobey the law or disregard their responsibility to pay taxes,” the agency said. “The penalty for filing a frivolous tax return is $5,000. The penalty is applied to anyone who submits a tax return or other specified submission, if any portion of the submission is based on a position the IRS identifies as frivolous.”
Included in the list are arguments that taxpayers can refuse to pay income taxes on religious or moral grounds and that federal employees are the only employees subject to federal income tax.
The IRS noted that those who promote or adopt frivolous tax positions could be responsible for one of several penalties, including:
  • Accuracy-related penalties
  • Civil fraud penalties
  • Erroneous refund claim penalties
  • Failure to file penalties
Taxpayers who make such arguments may also face criminal prosecution for attempting to evade tax.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Celebrate the End of Tax Season With One-Day-Only Deals

Tax Day is here, marking the end of tax season (or at least a milepost along the way). If you’ve got time, make sure to take advantage of some of the deals restaurants and other businesses are offering to celebrate.
  • Arby’s: Today only, get a free snack-sized order of curly fries with a coupon available at
  • BLT Prime, BLT Steak: Half off all alcoholic beverages.
  • Boston Market: Today only, get two Boston Market Tax Meal Chicken Deals — a half rotisserie chicken, two sides and cornbread — for $10.40. (We see what you did there.)
  • Bruegger’s Bagels: Like Bruegger’s on Facebook to get a coupon for a $10.40 Big Bagel Bundle (13 bagels and two tubs of cream cheese). The offer is valid through today.
  • California Tortilla: Today only, say “Taxes Schmaxes” when making a purchase to get free chips and queso.
  • Great American Cookie: Today only, get a free regular chocolate chip cookie.
  • Hard Rock Café: Today only, guests who perform a complete song in front of the entire restaurant will receive a free dinner entrée.
  • HydroMassage: Free mini-massages through April 18.
  • McCormick & Schmick’s: Today only, the restaurant is offering an extended happy hour in locations where state laws allow it. Hours vary by location.
  • Office Depot: Get an online coupon (PDF) for free shredding of up to five pounds of paper, good through April 29.
  • Pizza Hut: Today only, get a large pizza and one of three sides for $10.99. The offer is only valid online with the promo code TAXDAY.
  • Schlotzsky’s: Today only, buy a 32-ounce drink and a bag of chips and get a free “The Original” sandwich.
  • Sonic: Today only, drinks and slushes are available for half price.
  • White Castle: Get an online coupon for a 15 percent discount good through midnight tonight.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Setting Yourself Apart From the Other 100 Accounting Students

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of guest posts from young VSCPA members dealing with topics of interest to young professionals. If you'd like to write or have a topic you'd like a future blogger to cover, please email VSCPA Academic & Career Development Coordinator Tracey Zink.

By Alice Yeh

Although the title of this blog indicates a mere 100 competitors that you have to be concerned about, I assure you that this figure is highly understated. Depending on your school, your accounting program most likely consists of more than 100 students, many of them eyeing the job you’re interviewing for. However, I have one piece of advice that will transform you into the diamond in the rough-compatibility through flexibility.

Most interviewers do not put your hard accounting skills to the test. On the contrary, they are there to inspect you as a person: your personality, your work ethic, but most of all, your compatibility with their company. However, the key is not to study your PowerPoints on federal taxation every night before you climb into bed. Being able to recite the Codification backwards will not help you handle a demanding manager or difficult teammate. You need to prove to employers that you are a well-rounded person.

The only way to make yourself a flexible person that can adapt to any environment is to invest your time in other areas besides academics. Put yourself out there and take up leadership positions. The only way to learn how to deal with a variety of personalities is to practice. What better way to hone your flexibility skills than through an organization that you are passionate about or a sport that you love. So make yourself irresistible for employers through your compatibility through flexibility.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Young Professionals Corner: 'The Perfect Manager'

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of guest posts from young VSCPA members dealing with topics of interest to young professionals. If you'd like to write or have a topic you'd like a future blogger to cover, please email VSCPA Academic & Career Development Coordinator Tracey Zink.

By Marian Millikan, CPA
Manager, Cherry Bekaert LLP

2013 was an exciting year for me. It was the year I was promoted to manager at my firm. I look back to my journey almost six years ago realizing that I’ve learned and grown so much. What I also remember is what I told myself six years ago, what I promised myself I would never forget: how it felt to be a staff accountant.
I remember sitting at my desk with my first tax return project, terrified that I was going to mess everything up (and from what I remember, I did). My eight hours of work somehow didn’t save, my return blew up in front of my face as the software crashed and I was in tears. Over the next few years I figured things out, I learned the valuable lesson of periodically saving work and I became more confident in myself.
It was my second year of being a staff when I realized while learning how to prepare returns, maneuvering the software and communicating with clients, that I also had to learn to work with management. To be able to take direction, understand what was needed of me, and perform the job. There were many times in the beginning I missed the mark. I thought I understood the project, but it turns out I didn’t. To me, that was failure, and it was stressful.
I eventually figured out how to work with different styles of management. In ANY industry or field you will have different types of management, whether you are in public accounting, private industry or government. You will have your micromanagers who check in with you every hour on a project, and you will have your managers who give you a down-and-dirty rundown of what needs to be done, and your job is to provide them with the finished product in perfect form. You have those that have the urgent, last-minute projects all the time . You have those that spend the time to walk you through a project and spend the time to teach you the tricks of the trade. The types are endless. It was my second year as a staff I envisioned what the perfect manager was. It was actually pieces of each of these individuals. Fortunately I was around highly competent management, but they were all different in the styles they used to manage. What IS the perfect manager? From a staff's view, what would that look like?

It was then I made it my goal. I wanted to remember what those who I would be managing wanted from me. I wanted to remember myself six years ago. So when I was promoted, I asked. I asked staff what they wanted in a manager, and here are some things I heard.

Qualities of the “perfect” manager (a staff's perspective)

·    Be direct: Let us (staff) know how long a project will take, so if I’m going down the wrong path, I know to stop and ask for advice before spending hours doing the wrong work. You will not receive the work you wanted, and I will be frustrated I blew the budget. Break down the project in steps if possible and be direct in what your expectations are for each part. This will keep us on track and on budget.

·    Be approachable: Foster an environment where staff can feel comfortable asking questions. This doesn’t mean to let us take the easy way out, but be inviting, challenge us at times to research the issue and then sit down with us to go over the solution. We want to learn, and we won’t if we don’t feel comfortable reaching out to you.

·    Teach Uu: Investing time in your staff will breed confidence and better performance.  Use corrections as a learning experience, not as a way to point out failures. Instead of making a correction, show us the correction, and tell us why you are doing something a different way.

·    Give feedback: Spend as much effort giving positive feedback as constructive feedback. Find time to take your staff for a coffee or a quick lunch.  Let them know one-on-one what they can do better and what they are doing right.  We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken, and we all need a little cheering section sometimes.  We need strategies for doing the job better

·    Be respectful: Most staff come in knowing that a manager has a lot more knowledge than they do. Respect is mutual and we learn by example, therefore a good manager can breed other good future managers if they create an environment where egos are checked at the door. Teach each of us to be the best we can be and let us grow in our careers by leading by example and creating a nurturing environment. 
So there you have it. New managers and old managers, put yourself into your staff’s shoes, and even your old shoes (if they still fit). I will always look back to where I came from, and how I got here. What things I stumbled on, and how I can help my team learn and grow in their careers.  I will always make it a priority to think more about others through my role as a manager, and less about myself. I may not ever be a “perfect” manager, but if I can help my staff be the best then can be, strive to continuously improve, and motivate them to exceed the goals they set for themselves, then I’ll consider myself a successful manager. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

More Details on 'Money on the Vine'

Did you read the "Money on the Vine" article in the January-February 2014 edition of Disclosures and come away wanting more information on the wine industry? Moss-Adams, a leading CPA firm working in the wine industry, has released its Wine Industry Financial Benchmarking Survey.
  • The survey found that:
  • The wine industry has generally recovered from the recession
  • Wine companies are seeing increased demand, particularly for bottles in the $10 – $20 price range
  • The industry is focused more on expansion than in recent years
  • Direct-to-consumer sales are on the rise
  • Land values in wine regions have increased
  • Growers are focused on increasing production and prices
The survey only covered wineries in California, Washington and Oregon, but the data is still illuminating for Virginia wineries and wine enthusiasts.

Here's our video interview with VSCPA member Lynn Carden, CPA, controller of Chateau Morrisette in Floyd County:

Monday, January 13, 2014

Young Professionals Corner: Stay Positive

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of guest posts from young VSCPA members dealing with topics of interest to young professionals. If you'd like to write or have a topic you'd like a future blogger to cover, please email VSCPA Academic & Career Development Coordinator Tracey Zink.

By Clare Levison, CPA
Alliant Techsystems, Inc.

Here’s an excerpt from my recently published book, Frugal Isn’t Cheap: Spend Less, Save More, and Live Better, that I thought was particularly applicable for this time of year.
Every year people make their New Year’s resolutions. Going to the gym, getting the house organized, and spending less are some of the standards.

But frequently after a few months, or maybe even weeks, the resolutions become too difficult to keep. Extra pounds return, extra dollars get spent, and that storage room in the basement never does get cleaned out. It’s such an established pattern, that one might say New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken. Why is this the case so many times? The resolution is typically an admirable one that would be of great benefit if kept. Yet, it is still too hard to follow through.

One of the reasons is that resolutions are often too broad. To be successful, you have to set specific goals. Let me suggest a specific goal you should embrace: I will surround myself with people that want to see me succeed. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But one of the sad realities of our society is that often people find it difficult to stomach others’ success and easy to revel in their failure.

You needn’t look any further than the Tiger Woods infidelity incident to know this is true. I’m not saying that what Tiger did wasn’t wrong. What I am saying is that the glee with which the media reported on his fall from grace was pretty apparent. People love to see success turn into failure. I suppose with celebrities, it just comes with the territory. Hopefully in your own life, you can find it easier to surround yourself with people who take a genuine interest in you and your success. More than likely, you already have a good idea who these people are and who they aren’t.

The world can be a cold place. Jealousy, pessimism, and negative gossip seem to spread more quickly and with more gusto than kindness and optimism. But it’s much warmer when you find those who are interested in lifting you up rather than tearing you down.
Encircle yourself with positive people. Ask for help when you need it, and reciprocate the support and encouragement you receive.

Reprinted, with permission of the publisher, from FRUGAL ISN'T CHEAP © 2013 Clare K. Levison, CPA. Published by Career Press, Pompton Plains, NJ. 800-227-3371. All rights reserved.

Clare K. Levison is a certified public accountant and national financial literacy spokesperson for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). She has appeared on major radio and television networks across the country and has served as a member of the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) Board of Directors. Levison was named one of the 2010 Top 5 Under 35 by the VSCPA. She has more than a decade of corporate accounting experience and is also an active volunteer, serving as PTA president, Girl Scout leader, and Sunday school teacher. Levison lives in Blacksburg, Virginia, with her husband and two daughters.