Monday, September 29, 2014

Mixed Results in Small Business Jobs Index

The newest iteration of the Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index showed a slight decrease in the national index, with small business employment growth slowing slightly in August, the third decline for the index in the past four months.
The Mountain region (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico) moved into the lead among regions, with a 1.66 percent index, and Wisconsin took over as the top performing state. Dallas held steady as the top metro area, topping the rankings for the third consecutive month.
The South Atlantic region, consisting of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, had a 12-month percentage change of 0.37 percent.
Nationally, the index fell 0.11 percent from July.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge Raises the Bar for Charitable Donations

The incredible success of the ALS Association’s (ALSA) viral “ice bucket challenge” provides a new goal for charities everywhere and provides a reminder of the tax benefits of such donations.

The ALSA raises money to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The charity raised $94.3 million in donations between July 29 and Aug. 27, up from $2.7 million during the same time period in 2013. Much of the increase has been attributed to the ice bucket challenge, where people use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to challenge others to donate to the ALSA or dump a bucket of ice water over their heads, although many people do both.

In addition to the good feeling (and social acceptance) that comes from accepting the challenge, charitable donations offer tax benefits for taxpayers. Donations are deductible in the year they’re given (not pledged), and last-minute donations are deductible as long as they’re made before midnight Dec. 31.

Taxpayers can also consider donating stocks, real estate or other investments they’ve held for at least 12 months, but the tax strategy depends on whether the investments have gained value. If they have, you can deduct their full market value and escape the long-term capital gains tax that would have been due when you sold the shares. If the investment has depreciated in value, it’s best to sell them, donate the proceeds to the charity and claim the donation deduction and the capital loss.

So charitable donations benefit both the charity and the donor. Think about that the next time you see someone reach for a bucket of ice water.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Young Professionals Corner: A More Efficient Outlook

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 Steven Valdez
Corporate Audit Analyst, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
Every business professional uses email in the course of their day to day activities and can take up proportional amounts of time organizing and searching them. Today I would like to challenge how we look at and organize this major part of our professional lives.

A way to ensure that troves of new file directories aren’t being created haphazardly costing time and energy is to break it down into the six overarching broad categories. Most thought goes towards the expansion planning of email folders, but little thought is given to the contraction of those sub-folders when they can be deleted. Just like adding files to make something more effective, sometimes it is important to circle back and consolidate those sub-folders into the top-level ones. To aid in this, I use a 6-tier categorical approach that makes expanding and contracting folders easy and logical.
  • Top-Level Categories:
  • Education
  • Notifications
  • Opportunities
  • Social and Family
  • Training and HR
  • Work
Within the overarching folders the suggestion is to create hierarchies that make sense for the use of the sub-level. For categories like Training and HR it is easier to assume that subfolders won’t be necessary, but in the case of the Work folder it is different. As projects come into and out of scope over time it is important to create a flexible and easily navigable structure. As you work on one project you can create sub-folder for organizing info when in the weeds so to speak, but once the project is over it is easy to delete the subfolder and move the emails to the main project folder to be archived for future reference. The goal is to allow expansion and contractions as different priorities shift. Later on the entire Proj. Assignment I folder can be dragged anywhere without searching multiple folders.

Some of you may be familiar with the system generated emails that come in day in and day out for various things that may not always be relevant immediately. Similarly, but different to the Projects folder is the Notifications Folder helpful for automatically handling messages by using inbox rules. Inbox rules your key to having a computer secretary to handle your email or calendar requests. The advanced settings allow hundreds if not thousands of variations to prompt the exact actions you are looking for.

Steven Valdez is interning as a corporate accounting analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. He will join KPMG as an associate in October.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Third-Quarter Hiring Forecast: Plenty of Unfilled Staff Positions for Accountants

According to the Brilliant Q3 2014 Hiring Forecast, businesses in accounting, finance and information technology (IT) have a significant increase in unfilled staff positions. The document states that companies are poised to hire, but are "adopting a more conservative approach toward recovery planning due to recent economic instability and slow pace of gains."

Sixty-five percent of respondents reported that they have unfilled accounting, finance and IT positions, up 7 percent from the second quarter and 14 percent from Q3 2013. The forecast factored in responses from 181 human resources professionals and hiring managers int he accounting, finance and IT professions in a variety of industries.

"Companies in industry are actively hiring for accounting professionals, but they are being more selective because they believe supply outweighs demand," Brilliant founder and CEO Jim Wong said. "The large public accounting firms, however, are fully aware that this assumption is inaccurate for accounting and finance professionals."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What Are the Best and Worst Words to Use in a Résumé?

In an economic climate slanted toward employers, many hiring managers spend as little as 30 seconds reviewing résumés. So how can a prospective employee ensure his or her package gets a second look?

Word choice is a big part of it. Harris Poll surveyed 2,201 hiring managers and human resource professionals on behalf of CareerBuilder in late 2013 and compiled the best and worst words to use on your résumé.

“Hiring managers prefer strong action words that define specific experience, skills and accomplishments,” CareerBuilder Vice President of Human Resources Rosemary Haefnersaid. “Subjective terms and clichés are seen as negative because they don’t convey real information. For instance, don’t say you are ‘results-driven’ — show the employer your actual results.”
Here are the 15 best and worst résumé words:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to Sit Less at Work

It’s no surprise that the sedentary office lifestyle is bad for your health. While the “economy class blood clot” for long flights appears to be a myth (despite what your mother told you), the simple act of getting up and walking around is good for you.

Fast Company has a useful list of 10 ways to ensure you get off your rear end and walk around. So use some of these tips. It’s for your own good.
  1. Get a step counter like a Fitbit or Jawbone Up.
  2. Set an alarm to get up and walk around.
  3. Stay hydrated — it’s healthy on its own, and you’ll have to go to the bathroom more. Win-win!
  4. Eat somewhere other than your desk — and walk there!
  5. Take a walking meeting instead of sitting at a table.
  6. Alternately, schedule a standing meeting. It’s not exercise, but at least you’re not sitting down.
  7. Pace while you’re on the phone, unless you need to sit to take notes. (Some of us do this naturally anyway.)
  8. Get a standing desk (or, better, a treadmill desk, although they’re not cheap).
  9. Visit your colleagues face-to-face instead of firing off an email. This can help lower the risk of misinterpretation, too.
  10. Use that office gym, if you’ve got one! Even just a 30-minute walk on the treadmill can burn calories without getting you too sweaty.
Do you have any other tips? Leave them in the comments!

Monday, August 4, 2014

What Type of Procrastinator Are You?

Lifehacker has a useful flowchart from Dr. Joseph Ferrari of DePaul University, who has identified some basic types of procrastinators and identified solutions for each type.

Ferrari lists three procrastination archetypes:
  • Thrill Seekers, who say they do their best work under pressure and are "probably fooling themselves"
    • Solution: Complete a task ahead of time and "experience the thrill of finishing early"
  • Avoiders, who seek to avoid blame and potential judgment on their strengths and weaknesses
    • Solution: Keep a daily journal to help you challenge your thoughts
  • Indecisives, who are paralyzed by the potential consequences of decisions, both positive and negative
    • Solution: Keep the big picture in mind and move on once you've achieved your main goal.
It's a useful piece, and you'll likely recognize some of your own traits. (Your humble blogger, for example, is a classic Avoider.) Here's the infographic: