Thursday, December 29, 2011

CFOs Expect Financial Hiring to Increase in First Quarter of 2012

One-fifth of executives interviewed for the Robert Half Financial Hiring Index said they plan to have full-time accounting and finance employees in the first quarter of 2012, helping drive the third consecutive quarter of sequential growth.

Eleven percent of respondents forecast staff decreases, leaving a net 9 percent increase, up four points from the fourth-quarter 2011 survey.

The South Atlantic region — which includes Virginia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. — had one of the highest net increases at 15 percent. Only the Mountain region — Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming — had a higher net increase at 16 percent.

Although hiring plans are increasing, companies face problems in finding the right people to fill key positions. Nearly three-quarters (68 percent) of executives reported recruiting challenges, a 9-percent increase from the fourth quarter and a 27-percent increase from the third quarter.

"Competition for the best employees is intensifying, and, at the same time, these professionals are beginning to feel increasingly comfortable exploring new roles at other firms," Robert Half International Chairman and CEO Max Messmer said. "Businesses are still selective when hiring but understand they need to move quickly once the right candidate is identified."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Giving Back: Jim Shepherd, CPA

Jim Shepherd, CPA, doesn’t lack for professional honors. He’s one of the most accomplished financial planners in the Richmond area and has the awards to prove it, having earned a spot on the Virginia Business “Super CPAs” list several years running.

But it’s in the community where Shepherd (right), co-founder of Kuehl Shepherd Kozlowski & Associates, has made perhaps his greatest impact. His passion for helping other people and using his accounting skills to do so found a natural outlet with the VSCPA. He’s held just about every leadership position possible at the Society, including a term as Vice Chair of the VSCPA Educational Foundation Board of Directors and his current spot on the Society’s Board of Directors.

Shepherd got his start as a VSCPA volunteer with the Society’s Richmond chapter. He served as president of that group before moving on to the Educational Foundation.

“I really met some wonderful people who are still lifelong friends and wonderful acquaintances who I deal with in business situations,” he said. “The Richmond chapter gave me an opportunity to be involved in some great aspects.”

The leadership qualities Shepherd has exhibited with the VSCPA haven’t gone unnoticed by outside observers. In addition to his shelf full of “Super CPA” awards, the Financial Planning Association of Central Virginia honored him with the John H. Cecil, Jr. Lifetime Service Award in 2008.

The VSCPA has benefited greatly from that service. Shepherd has helped shape Society and Foundation decisions for years and has thrown himself into other VSCPA opportunities with gusto. He’s worked as a presenter for the Society’s annual Ethics course, echoing a large reason he got into accounting in the first place.

“I thought this profession had more ethics and more wonderful people than any of the other people that I worked with in business, so I really thought it was a great area to be involved in,” he said. As a result, volunteerism just became a natural outgrowth of that. It was such a wonderful thing to be able to provide opportunities and give back and meet other people who are actively involved in this profession.

“…I’m always astounded by how much the quality of this profession shows through among the people.”

Shepherd’s volunteer efforts have extended far beyond the VSCPA. He’s a former president of the South Richmond Rotary Club and has served on boards and committees for the International Hospital for Children, the Chesterfield Health Center Commission (where he served as chairman) and the Byrd Theatre Foundation.

Through it all, he’s kept perspective on the reasons he donates so much of his time.

“It's nice to be able to see some wonderful things come together that wouldn't be possible without the talents of people volunteering their time,” he said. “It truly makes a difference in the profession and in the community as well.”

Interested in a volunteer position with the VSCPA? Visit and sign up by the Feb. 3, 2012, deadline.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advance Your Career by Developing 'Soft Skills'

So-called “soft skills” can make or break your relationship with your clients, particularly in a service industry like accounting. The Annapolis (Md.) Capital recently provided a rundown of the most important soft skills, with questions to ask yourself to help evaluate where you are:
  • Do you have a positive attitude?
  • Do you do what you say you will?
  • Are you respectful of other people’s time?
  • Are you proactive?
  • Do you show gratitude to people who help you?
  • Do you admit mistakes quickly and offer solutions?
  • Do you help others and work well with team members?
  • Do you communicate clearly verbally and in writing?
  • Do you listen carefully without interrupting?
  • Are you motivated to learn new skills?
  • How adaptable are you?
  • Do you avoid complaining?
  • Are you honest?
  • Do you persevere?
  • Are you creative?
By developing your soft skills, you can make yourself more attractive to clients and employers and provide a platform to let your professional talents shine through.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Many Workers Experience More Stress During the Holidays

Thirty-nine percent of workers surveyed by Accountemps say it's more challenging to manage their workloads during the holiday season.

For the survey, Accountemps interviewed 459 workers 18 years of age or older and employed in an office environment. When asked, "In general, is it more or less challenging to manage your workload during the holiday season?", 25 percent of respondents answered "Somewhat more challenging" and another 14 percent said "Much more challenging." Forty-four percent of respondents said there was no difference.

Workers were also asked, "Which of the following best describes your current professional workload?" Nearly half (47 percent) answered "Just right," while 29 percent indicated their workload was "Somewhat too heavy." Twelve percent answered "Much too heavy."

According to Accountemps Chairman Max Messmer, accounting and finance professionals can suffer particular challenges during the holiday season due to year-end close responsiblities and tax season preparation, among other factors.

Accountemps indicated five ways employers can help their employees manage end-of-year-workloads:
  • Support: Ensure staff have the resources needed to successfully complete their projects, including skilled temporary staff if necessary
  • Time: Encourage staff to leave early on a Friday or take an occasional long lunch to attend to non-work responsibilities
  • Flexibility: Offer flexible schedules or telecommuting options to help employees with work/life balance
  • Thanks: Express your appreciation to staff members for their work throughout the year
  • Fun: Close the year with a department celebration to build camaraderie

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Candice Owens Follows Her Passion

Longwood University junior Candice Owens (right) showed the accountant's double-checking instinct early on. After taking a couple of accounting classes at Middlesex High School, she wanted to make sure it was the right career path for her, so she helped teach an accounting class as a high school senior.
Now Candice is working hard to build her résumé and knowledge base. She spent the last two years as president of the Longwood chapter of business leadership group Phi Beta Lambda and was elected president of the Virginia chapter in April. She also was honored with a 2011–2012 VSCPA Undergraduate Scholarship.

Candice credits one of her high school teachers, Carl McWhorter, with sparking her interest in accounting. It was then that she discovered her passion for the profession and started on the path that led her to Longwood, Phi Beta Lambda and the VSCPA.
"He helped me discover my way to connect my two favorite careers — law enforcement and accounting — into one," she said. "He was my Future Business Leaders of America advisor that gave me the business foundation needed to help me throughout my classes. He still supports me and guides me into the right direction to be successful in the accounting field."
Candice chose Longwood because of its small size, involved professors and outlets for community involvement. She hopes to sit for the CPA Exam in the spring of 2014 and work in fraud and financial forensics.

"My favorite part of accounting is the ability to connect multiple passions within this career."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Teamwork, Leadership Most Important 'Soft Skills' on a Résumé

According to a recent survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), out of the so-called “soft skills,” employers are most likely to look for evidence that a job candidate is able to work as part of a team.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents to NACE’s Job Outlook 2012 survey said they look for evidence that the potential employee can work in a team. More than three-quarters said they want a candidate who has leadership abilities and written communication skills. The other two “soft skills” most cited by employers are problem-solving skills and a strong work ethic.

“Overall, results show that the ability to work in a team is the number one soft skill employers seek in their new hires,” NACE Director of Research Edwin Koc said. “Consequently, job candidates need to showcase that ability in their interactions with employers, not just on the résumé, but in the interview as well.”

Monday, November 21, 2011

Debbie Wigg, CPA: 1972–2011

The VSCPA lost a member Nov. 8 when Debbie Wigg, CPA (right), of Suffolk was killed.

“Though petite in stature, she was large in life,” said Marty Ridout, CPA, a partner at Wigg’s employer, McPhillips, Roberts & Deans, PLC. “She was smart, kind, gentle, warm, patient, witty, and her smile drew you in and let you know that she was ready to help, whatever the situation. We all loved her and miss her terribly.”

Wigg, 39, leaves behind two young children, Landon and Ryan. McPhillips, Roberts & Deans has established a trust fund to benefit Landon and Ryan Wigg and provide for their health, education and welfare as they live with Debbie’s parents.

To provide financial support for Wigg’s children, send a check payable to “Deborah Marlo Brown Memorial Fund” to:

Deborah Marlo Brown Memorial Fund
c/o McPhillips, Roberts & Deans, PLC
150 Boush St., Suite 1100
Norfolk, VA 23510

The VSCPA offers its condolences to Debbie’s family and friends in this difficult time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Proper Office Etiquette Can Go a Long Way

According to a new survey from Robert Half International, workplace etiquette plays a significant role in career advancement.

The report, based on interviews with more than 400 office workers, showed that more than four-fifths of respondents indicated that courtesy with coworkers can positively impact career prospects. When asked the question, “In your opinion, to what extent does being courteous to coworkers positively impact a person’s career prospects?”, nearly half (48 percent) said that it can accelerate advancement, while 41 percent said that it helps, but that skills play a bigger role.

"In most cases, a minor etiquette slipup won't likely be career-limiting if you quickly acknowledge it and learn from your mistake," Brett Good, a senior district president for Robert Half International, said. "But continual missteps have a cumulative effect that can chip away at your professional reputation and get in the way of advancement."

The survey also asked workers to share the craziest workplace etiquette blunders they’ve witnessed or heard about. Here are some of the responses:
  • “A colleague purposely sneezed in the boss’s coffee cup.”
  • “After asking me a question, a coworker talked excessively for 30 minutes without letting me get in one word.”
  • “Someone thought he put a customer on hold and then used inappropriate language within earshot.”
  • “A person took a cell phone into the restroom while still talking.”
Robert Half suggests four tips on avoiding common workplace etiquette offenses:
  • Watch your language: Bad language, off-color comments and politically incorrect jokes can get you into trouble, so pay attention when you wonder if you should say something or not.
  • Keep grievances private: Criticizing colleagues in front of others or gossiping behind their backs can make you look bad. Address issues with coworkers privately and with respect.
  • Take a break: When irritated by coworkers, take a minute to collect your thoughts before responding.
  • Keep the grooming at home: Don’t do personal grooming tasks at the office, and if you must, take it to the restroom. Grooming at the office can offend your coworkers.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Volunteer with the VSCPA!

The Virginia Society of CPAs (VSCPA) is seeking volunteers for the 2012–2013 membership year! VSCPA volunteers span many different backgrounds, interests and professional concentrations. Your time commitment is up to you!

You can use your valuable professional expertise to help your community or gain experience in an area where you're not so familiar. Volunteer opportunities are available in the following areas, among others:
  • General Committees
  • Task Forces
  • Leadership Appointments
  • Conference Planning
  • Public Service
  • Legislative
The deadline to sign up is Feb. 3, 2012. Thanks for helping the VSCPA!

Top 5 Most Popular Articles: Nov. 5–11, 2011

Here are the five most-read news articles on! Articles are taken from the VSCPA News and Professional News sections and are ranked by unique page views.
  1. 272 Members of VSCPA Recognized in 10th Annual 'Super CPA' Contest in Virginia Business Magazine
  2. SEC Chief Accountant Criticizes AICPA's Private-Company Resolution
  3. Lifetimes of Service: Bradshaw, Cochran Join VBOA
  4. IRS Temporarily Delays Tax Preparer Fingerprinting Requirement
  5. Experts Discuss Fiscal Responsibility at VSCPA Town Hall Meeting
Check back each Friday for updated rankings of the top stories on

Monday, November 7, 2011

Election Day Is Tomorrow! Are You Ready to Vote?

Virginia residents and voters with Virginia absentee ballots: Election Day 2011 is nearly upon us! The VSCPA urges you to vote and make your voice heard tomorrow. Visit the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) website for information on polling locations and more.

To help you make your decision, the VSCPA’s Elections page has a wealth of voter information, including searchable databases of information on candidates and ratings from watchdog groups, as well as links to several news websites where you can get the latest election information.

Thanks for participating in the democratic process!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Employers Seek Teamwork, Verbal Communication in Candidates

According to a new survey, the ability to work with a team is the most sought-after “soft skill” for employers hiring new college graduates.

Among employers who responded to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Job Outlook 2012 survey, teamwork and verbal communication are the top “soft skills.” Decision-making and problem-solving skills, the ability to obtain and process information and the ability to plan, organize and prioritize work rounded out the top five.

Nearly 75 percent of employers said they use grade-point average (GPA) to screen new graduates, often placing the cutoff point at 3.0 or above.

Employers, what do you look for when filling a job opening? Are there "soft skills" that are more reliable indicators of future success?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Wearing a CPA Costume?

It’s Halloween, when children (and some adults) dress up in costumes and celebrate. Whether you’re taking your kids trick-or-treating or going to a party, you can be glad you’re not one of these men who ran afoul of the law by impersonating a CPA.

Two notable cases came from California: Daniel Ford, who opened a tax preparation business without the proper education and then defrauded investors, and Nick Holquin, Jr., who also defrauded investors and added some tax fraud of his own to his impersonation. A more recent case from Washington state saw William G. Ballentine impersonating a CPA to defraud a church.

Fortunately for the public and for legitimate CPAs, resources are available to double-check CPA claims. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) recently launched, a site that allows citizens to verify a CPA’s status. And CPAs can get a refresher course on the regulations regarding the use of the CPA title in Virginia.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NACE: Demand High for Accounting Graduates

According to a new survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers looking to hire new college graduates express the highest interest in business, engineering, and computer science graduates, with more than half the employers who responded to NACE’s Job Outlook 2012 survey identifying those fields as their hiring focus.

NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes identified accounting as one of several “specific disciplines of targeted interest,” along with finance, business administration and mechanical, electrical and computer engineering.

The survey found that employers plan to conduct the majority of their recruiting in the fall, but appear cautious in their plans to hire Class of 2012 graduates, with many saying the bulk of their openings are related to attrition.

Many employers also indicated that they will reassess their needs on at least a quarterly basis,

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Los Bank Auditors Make a Splash on YouTube

In the summer of 2009, at the behest of their bosses at the Winchester office of Yount, Hyde & Barbour, P.C. (YHB), Timothy LeHew, CPA, Greg Mercer, CPA, Bryan Newlin, CPA, and Aaron Poffinberger, CPA, became the Los Bank Auditors.

Tasked with making a short video for YHB’s Firm Day, the four elected to riff on The Lonely Island hit, “I’m on a Boat,” which had just debuted as a “Saturday Night Live” digital short. The result was the tongue-in-cheek “I’m on an Audit” — complete with backing vocals from Newlin’s wife, Karen — which has garnered nearly 25,000 YouTube views since its posting.

“We wanted to have fun with it and at the same time somewhat meet the objectives,” Poffinberger said.

Once the video hit YouTube, the four Los Bank Auditors got a great positive response from clients and friends. Poffinberger was even recognized in an out-of-town restaurant for his role in the production.

“I’m on an Audit” follows the Los Bank Auditors through their work, with several lines and shots taken from real life, including a shot of a coworker working in a broom closet.

“Making the video was a lot of fun,” Newlin said. “Recording the track put us all outside of our comfort zone, but was a blast.”

After Firm Day was over, the Los Bank Auditors went back to business as usual, crunching numbers and serving their clients. But at the end of the day, they’re still the rapping accountants, with some impressive YouTube numbers to back it up.

“Ego aside, I would have to say I am the best rapper of the four of us,” Poffinberger said, “and maybe a top-five rapping accountant in the state of Virginia.”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Perry Joins Growing Group of Flat Tax Advocates

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is angling for the Republican nomination in the 2012 presidential race, called for the implementation of a flat tax in a speech Wednesday.

Perry, speaking to conservative activists at the Western Republican Leadership Conference, said that getting rid of the federal income tax would be the foundation of his economic plan and that he would release details in about a week. He called for “scrapping the first 3 million words of the current Tax Code, starting over with something simple.”

Perry is the latest Republican presidential hopeful to call for a flat tax. Since September, fellow candidate Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has campaigned on his 9-9-9 plan to cut taxes. Cain’s plan calls for a 9 percent business flat tax, a 9 percent personal income tax and a 9 percent national sales tax, which would replace the payroll tax, corporate and personal income taxes and the capital gains tax.

Cain argued that the plan provides more certainty for businesses, which would not be penalized for repatriating offshore profits.

What do you think? Does the flat tax idea hold water?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Accountemps: Remote Work Arrangements on the Rise

Virginia companies are nearing the deadline to apply for a tax credit for employee telework expenses. According to a recent survey from Accountemps, the Commonwealth might be busy giving out those credits — remote work arrangements are on the rise.

In the survey, chief financial officers (CFO) were asked: “Have remote work arrangements (for example, telecommuting or working from a satellite office) within your company increased, decreased or remained the same in the last three years?” One-third of respondents said that such arrangements have increased in that time period, with 11 percent saying they’ve increased greatly and 22 percent saying they’ve increased somewhat. Fifty-seven percent of respondents reported no change.

“The prevalence of mobile technologies and wireless communication makes it easier for companies to support flexible work arrangements for their employees,” Accountemps Chairman Max Messmer said. “Although not all positions are suited to remote work arrangements, for those that are, this option can help give professionals more control over their schedules and aid in recruitment and retention efforts.”

Accountemps offered five key areas to monitor in order to engender more productive remote work arrangements:
  • Communication. Employers should keep remote workers in the loop on the latest news in their department and across the company without relying solely on email. Employees should provide frequent status updates on key projects and look for opportunities to interact with their colleagues.
  • Resources. Employers should ensure that offsite employees have the necessary resources to do their job, including remote network access. Employees should make sure their equipment is up to date and maintain productivity at in-office levels.
  • Planning. Employers should establish expectations and guidance at the outset in order to effectively monitor working arrangements. Employees should anticipate potential employer concerns and be prepared to discuss how to handle them.
  • Security. Employers and employees should work with information technology (IT) personnel to set up the requisite security protocols.
  • Camaraderie. Employers should work hard to ensure remote workers feel connected to the group. Possible ways to do this are including them in team activities and recognizing their accomplishments in front of their coworkers. Employees should try to join team activities as much as possible, seek input from coworkers and volunteer to assist them when they need help.
For more information, read this article from Disclosures magazine by VSCPA member Clare Levison, CPA, on how to succeed with nontraditional work arrangements.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

NACE: Average Salary Offer Up 6 Percent

According to a new survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the overall average salary offer to Class of 2011 graduates has risen 6 percent over last year's average.

The average salary offer to a bachelor's degree graduate rose from $48,288 for the Class of 2010 to $51,171 for the Class of 2011, according to NACE's Fall 2011 Salary Survey.

The highest-paid major in the report was petroleum engineering. Graduates in that field had an average salary offer of $82,740, up 7.1 percent.

Business graduates saw their salary rise 4.6 percent to $48,805, while finance majors' salary rose 4.8 percent to $51,503.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Video: CPA Day of Service 2011

Thanks to all of the more than 700 volunteers who took time to serve their communities for CPA Day of Service on Sept. 23! Here's a video summing up our members' efforts:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Career Tips: What to Wear to an Interview

Diane Seaman, M.Ed., of Radiant Style Made Simple stopped by the VSCPA and shared her expertise on job-interview wardrobe selections. Check out her tips:

Monday, October 3, 2011

NACE Survey: New Graduate Hiring Expected to Rise in 2012

According to a new survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers are being cautious in their plans to hire new college graduates.

Employers who responded to NACE’s Job Outlook 2012 survey plan to hire 9.5 percent more graduates from the Class of 2012 than they did from the Class of 2011. But a large portion of those hires are related to attrition.

“Many employers say they are focusing on ‘replacement hires,’” NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes said.

Employers indicated that graduates of business, engineering and technology-related programs have the best hiring prospects.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Accounting on TV: "Parks and Recreation"

Regular viewers of NBC's Thursday night comedy lineup are already familiar with the show "Parks and Recreation." But the episode "Ron and Tammys," which aired Sept. 29, might have struck a particular chord with its CPA viewers.

Two of the episode's main plotlines involved accounting issues. The main plot features the anti-government Ron Swanson undergoing an IRS audit involving his ex-wife. In a secondary plot, another character investigates the finances of a big-spending startup.

Your humble blogger urges you to watch "Parks and Recreation" every week, because it's very funny. But CPAs should definitely check out "Ron and Tammys."
Click here to watch the episode on

Top 5 Most Popular Articles: Sept. 24–30, 2011

Here are the five most-read news articles on! Articles are taken from the VSCPA News and Professional News sections and are ranked by unique page views.
  1. VSCPA Members Honored as SmartCPAs
  2. Senate Bill Would Make R&D Tax Credit Permanent
  3. Tax Patents Put to Rest
  4. FASB Finalizes New Goodwill Impairment Testing Standard
  5. D.C. Council Passes Accountant Mobility Act
Check back each Friday for updated rankings of the top stories on

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Congressman Sounds Off on Bank Disclosure Requirements

Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, sent a letter (PDF) Tuesday demanding that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) suspend its proposed regulation that would require banks to disclose the amount of interest paid to nonresident aliens.

In the letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman, Boustany wrote that the regulation could potentially drive foreign investment out of the U.S. economy and reduce access to capital. He called for a Treasury-provided cost-benefit analysis detailing the administrative burdens of the regulation before the IRS approves it.

“This is not the first time the IRS has attempted to issue this regulation,” Boustany wrote. “At the close of the Clinton Administration, the IRS tried to put in place similar reporting requirements. However, after members of Congress, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the U.S. Small Business Administration raised strong concerns, the proposal was eventually withdrawn. It is disappointing to see the IRS once again try to impose unnecessary regulations and costs on U.S. banks.”

Under Executive Order 12866, agencies are required to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of all “significant regulatory action.”

What do you think? Would the proposed regulation prove too burdensome for banks? How would the economy be affected?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

In the Public Eye: Justin DuBrueler, CPA

It’s right there in the job description — Certified Public Accountant (CPA). The second word in the title is “Public,” and few Virginia accountants embody that as literally as Justin DuBrueler, CPA.
DuBrueler (right), the senior director of accounting at Richmond International Raceway (RIR), helps plan for some of the Richmond area’s biggest events of the year — the track’s two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races that put Virginia in the national spotlight.

DuBrueler, a Winchester native, isn’t a gearhead. He had never attended a NASCAR race before taking the job at RIR. But ever since his first experience, he’s been hooked on motor sports and welcomes the hoopla surrounding the two biggest spectator sporting events in the Commonwealth.

“We’re constantly in the news on the front page of the paper, on TV, on ‘SportsCenter’ and things like that,” DuBrueler said. “I grew up a sports fan in general, even though I wasn’t necessarily a NASCAR fan, so it’s neat for me to see how the PR engine runs with NASCAR and the publicity that it receives. ... It’s fun being part of that. It’s fun to make the decisions that get us on a national stage.”

DuBrueler started the path to his accounting career in high school, taking classes his junior and senior years and excelling. He says it was a natural choice to continue that career path at West Virginia University, and he hasn’t regretted it for a second after joining his high-profile employer.

He’s embraced the speed, the spotlight and the excitement of NASCAR, finding time to enjoy the perks of his job and sneak down to Victory Lane on occasion.

“I think some of the coolest memories I have are at Victory Lane after a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event,” he said. “I don’t always do it, but if I have time, I go down there and see the drivers jump out of the car. Confetti’s flying, their significant other gives them a kiss, the owner’s there, the crew’s there. It’s a special moment.”

While DuBrueler helps ensure that RIR remains financially sound, he’s also turned into a sounding board for his colleagues’ financial questions.

“I think I provide an objective voice of responsibility here,” he said. “I’m also a financial mentor to many of my colleagues at the track. They know when they come to me, they’re going to get an unbiased view.”

And he’s using those lessons in his own life as well. He and his wife, Debbie, have 6-year-old twin sons, Ryan and Colby. DuBrueler hopes to ensure they have a strong foundation for their own future. And he likes to finance his beloved family vacations and the occasional round of golf as well.

Justin DuBrueler doesn’t just preach financial fitness for his coworkers at RIR. He lives it in his own life. That’s the life of a CPA — private and public.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Obama's Deficit Plan Includes Tax Code Overhaul

On Monday, President Barack Obama released a $3 trillion deficit reduction plan (PDF), including a new tax on millionaires, lower corporate tax rates and the closing of some tax loopholes and tax breaks.

Obama’s plan aims to cut the deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years in addition to more than $1 trillion in cuts already agreed to as part of the debt ceiling agreement from August. A bipartisan joint Congressional committee is working on a deficit reduction plan to follow up on that deal.

The plan includes structural reforms to Medicare and Medicaid, but does not raise the minimum age for Medicare eligibility. It depends in part on savings from the anticipated end to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as the changes to the tax code.
Read the full story at and sound off in the comments. Is the plan a good step toward reducing the deficit?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tax Strategy Patents: Looking Back

When President Barack Obama signed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act into law on Friday, it marked the end of a five-year process to ban the patenting of tax strategies. Take a look at the VSCPA's efforts to ban tax patents and read below for a timeline of the history of the issue.
  • July 2006: VSCPA member Mary Anne McElmurray, CPA, of Brown, Edwards & Co. reads an email discussing the patenting of tax strategies. She realizes the burden such patents place on tax professionals and contacts the VSCPA.
  • October 2006: The VSCPA Board of Directors writes a letter to the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Board of Directors Chair Leslie Murphy urging the AICPA to oppose the patenting of tax strategies.
  • July 2007: Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) introduce an amendment to the Patent Reform Act that would ban the future award of tax planning method patents. The bill passed in the House of Representatives, but not the Senate.
  • November 2007: Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduce a bill to amend the U.S. Code to ban tax strategy patents. The bill does not make it out of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
  • March 2008: VSCPA sends a letter urging Boucher and Goodlatte to continue advocating for a ban on tax patents.
  • March 2008: Boucher discusses tax patents in an article in the March-April 2008 issue of Disclosures.
  • April 2008: The VSCPA communicates with Virginia Sens. John Warner and Jim Webb, encouraging them to cosponsor legislation banning tax patents.
  • March 2009: Several Senators introduce the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, which would ban tax patents. The bill does not make it out of the Senate Committee on Finance.
  • April 2009: A potential ban on tax strategy patents is a top issue discussed with the entire Virginia Congressional delegation when VSCPA members and staff go to Capitol Hill during the AICPA Council meeting.
  • May 2009: Boucher, Goodlatte and Reps. Walter Jones Jr. (R-N.C.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and John Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.) introduce another bill to ban tax strategy patents. The bill does not make it out of the House Committee on the Judiciary.
  • October 2009: The VSCPA writes to Virginia Reps. Randy Forbes and Robert Scott about the issue.
  • September 2010: The VSCPA joins with the Michigan Association of CPAs and the Texas Society of CPAs to send a letter a to the ranking members of the House Judiciary and Ways & Means committees, as well as Boucher and Goodlatte, urging continued movement on the banning of tax strategy patents.
  • January 2011: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas), among others, introduce the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, previously known as the Patent Reform Act of 2011.
  • February 2011: The VSCPA writes to lawmakers, asking for them to solve the tax patent problem once and for all.
  • March 2011: The Senate passes the America Invents Act by a vote of 95–5.
  • March 2011: VSCPA members Kevin Humphries, CPA, Tom Rosengarth, CPA, and VSCPA Government Affairs Director Emily Walker meet with Goodlatte in his Staunton office to ask him to continue championing this issue in the House.
  • May 2011: Tax strategy patents is a top issue discussed with the entire Virginia Congressional delegation when VSCPA members and staff go to Capitol Hill during the AICPA Council meeting.
  • June 2011: The VSCPA urges Virginia Representatives to pass the House version of the America Invents Act.
  • June 2011: The House passes its version of the America Invents Act by a vote of 304–117, sending it to conference.
  • September 2011: The VSCPA asks the Senate to follow the House’s lead.
  • September 2011: The Senate passes the House version of the America Invents Act by a vote of 89–9.
  • Sept. 16, 2011: President Barack Obama signs the America Invents Act into law.

Read more about the tax patent saga, or click here to hear what McElmurray has to say about the topic.

Making a Difference: VSCPA Member Mary Anne McElmurray, CPA

Some people see cumbersome regulations as an annoyance or a necessary evil. The rule that concerned VSCPA member Mary Anne McElmurray, CPA, however, struck her as antithetical to the very nature of public accounting.

McElmurray (right), tax director at the Roanoke and New River Valley offices of Brown, Edwards & Co., first discovered the problem that bothered her in a daily tax email in 2006. She read that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) had issued patents on tax strategies and had more applications pending, and the more she thought about it, the more the idea bothered her.

“I think our profession has suffered in the past from people selling program ideas,” McElmurray said. “Someone in an office comes up with an idea of being artful with the [Tax] Code, and they sell the program with a non-disclosure so they can sell it to a bunch of clients. I saw tax patents as being an outgrowth of the program idea.”

McElmurray got in touch with the VSCPA in 2006 and contacted her Congressman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, and Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb. Spurred by McElmurray, the VSCPA — in concert with the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and various other state societies — pushed for a ban on tax strategy patents for the next few years, with several bills dying at various stages in the House or Senate.

But in 2011, McElmurray’s efforts paid off. The America Invents Act, which includes language to prevent the USPTO from issuing patents for tax strategy methods, survived both houses and various committees, and President Barack Obama signed the bill into law Friday morning.

That’s a welcome development for McElmurray and, she argues, the CPA profession.

“There have been instances where I have had clients that have been contacted by other practitioners, people other than even CPAs, that have been lured or spoken to about certain tax programs, but had to sign a non-disclosure,” she said. “I think that brings out the worst in our profession.”

What’s more, this difference-maker didn’t even envision herself as an accountant coming out of school. McElmurray started her professional career in real estate after graduating from the University of Virginia in 1979 and only switched professions after thinking back on fond memories of her college accounting classes.

She started at Ernst & Whinney’s Roanoke office in 1982 as the first paraprofessional in the history of her branch. After passing the CPA Exam, she stayed on at the firm until it closed the branch in 1986. She found a job at Brown Edwards and has been there ever since.

“Maybe I’m a product of my generation, which I guess is more about improving a system rather than running from position to position,” she said. “I’m not saying anything against the people who do that, but I’m of the generation where you can make a difference in an organization, and that’s why I’ve really stayed here.”

While McElmurray was looking for opportunities to effect change even then, it was her life in her native Roanoke with her husband, Fred, and sons, Philip and John, which led her to Brown Edwards. What she found there was a chance to make a difference in her community.

“You hear this all the time when you’re growing up in public accounting, but until you breathe it, you don’t understand it,” she said. “We listen to what people’s business issues are, and they might not even know what they need or what they’re really asking. But if we look at an issue and reach into our toolbox for things that can solve that issue, that’s what we do. We are not tax preparers, we’re problem solvers.”

And it’s never been more obvious that McElmurray is a problem solver than right now. The process she started came to a close Friday with a stroke of the President’s pen.

“A CPA in the trenches read something and was incredulous, and that CPA spurred the system and something got done,” McElmurray said. “It shows that if you make a valiant attempt, sometimes things do happen. I was very, very pleased with the result.”

Top 5 Most Popular Articles: Sept. 10–16, 2011

Here are the five most-read news articles on! Articles are taken from the VSCPA News and Professional News sections and are ranked by unique page views.
  1. Teach Children to Save Day Is April 27
  2. Irene Victims Get Tax Relief from IRS
  3. Gov. McDonnell Authorizes Tax Relief for Irene Victims
  4. GASB Issues Statement No. 59, Financial Instruments Omnibus
  5. IRS Releases Guidance on Tax Treatment of Cell Phones
Check back each Friday for updated rankings of the top stories on

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Making a Good First Impression

Polly White of Whitestone Partners, a business consulting firm, stopped by the CPA Center recently and offered some tips on making a good first impression with a potential employer. Here's what Polly had to say:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Obama Sends Jobs Bill to Congress

On Monday, President Barack Obama released the American Jobs Act (PDF) to Congress, including tax credits for new hires and an expansion of the payroll tax cut.

Obama had revealed the basic framework of the bill during an address to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 8. The bill includes tax breaks for companies to hire unemployed workers and veterans and for small businesses to raise wages. It also includes an extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, as well as money to fund infrastructure and school construction projects.

The bill would expand the payroll tax cut passed in December 2010 to cut workers’ payroll taxes in half for 2012. It would also halve the taxes paid by businesses on their first $5 million in payroll. It would completely eliminate payroll taxes for companies that increased their payrolls by adding new workers or increasing the wages of current workers, capped at the first $50 million in payroll increases.

Read the full article at and sound off in the comments. Can this bill help put unemployed Americans back to work?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

CFOs Envision Improved Hiring Outlook for Fourth Quarter

According to the Robert Half Financial Hiring Index, chief financial officers (CFO) forecast an increase in hiring during the fourth quarter of 2011, with 12 percent anticipating adding full-time accounting and finance employees.

Seven percent expect staff reductions, leaving a net 5 percent of CFOs planning to hire, up four points from the third-quarter study and the highest projection in three years.

Ninety-one percent of CFOs expressed at least some confidence in their firms’ growth potential in the fourth quarter, with 55 percent of respondents saying they are very confident.

The index, from Robert Half International, is based on telephone interviews with 1,400 CFOs across the country.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

IRS Issues Specifications for Tax Preparer Exam

On Tuesday, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released the specifications (PDF) for the competency test that individuals must pass to become a Registered Tax Return Preparer, part of an ongoing agency effort to enhance oversight of the tax preparation industry.

The IRS’s oversight efforts began with the requirement that all paid tax return preparers, including CPAs, register with the agency and receive a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) for this tax season.

CPAs, attorneys and enrolled agents, along with non-signing employees of those groups, are exempt from the testing and education requirements under Circular 230. While the testing requirements won't directly affect Virginia CPAs, will the test have other effects for VSCPA members? What do you think?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

IRS Files Tax Lien Against Corey Feldman's Company

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has filed a $34,662 tax lien against a company owned by former child star Corey Feldman, according to the Detroit News.

The IRS filed the lien Aug. 9 in Los Angeles against Corey Feldman Inc. The “Stand by Me” and “The Goonies” star started the company in 1987.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

IRS Releases Summer 2011 Statistics of Income Bulletin

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released the summer 2011 issue of the Statistics of Income Bulletin (SIB).

The agency’s Statistics of Income Division produces the SIB each quarter and includes updated data from various tax and information returns filed by U.S. taxpayers.
Among the details included in the bulletin, which can be found on the IRS website:
  • In tax year 2009, roughly 22.7 million individual income tax returns reported non-farm sole proprietorship activity, turning a reported profit of $244.8 billion
  • For tax year 2008, almost 67,000 foreign-controlled domestic corporations reported combined profits of $21.8 billion
  • For tax year 2008, corporations formed for the purpose of providing limited incentives to small exporters of U.S. products and certain services reported $36.5 billion in export gross receipts
  • For tax year 2007, 6,675 corporations claimed a total foreign tax credit of $86.5 billion against their U.S. income tax liability
  • Approximately 37,000 estate tax returns were filed for decedents who died in 2007 with total gross estates of $2 million or more, reporting a combined $224.8 billion in total assets

Thursday, August 25, 2011

VSCPA Student Feature: Accounting Students Speak Up

The Virginia Society of CPAs (VSCPA) caught up with six top Virginia accounting students and quizzed them about their college experience and career goals via email. Here’s a little information about our panel:

Katherine Covino, 21
The College of William & Mary
2011–2012 F. Wilson Brown Scholarship recipient
Hometown: Chantilly
Expected graduation date: Spring 2012
Major: Accounting

Adrienne Essiaw, 20
The College of William & Mary
2011–2012 VSCPA Minority Scholarship recipient
Hometown: Warrenton
Expected graduation date: Spring 2012
Major: Accounting with concentration in Finance

Kelly Miller, 21
Lynchburg College
2011–2012 VSCPA Undergraduate Scholarship recipient
Hometown: Charlottesville
Expected graduation date: Spring 2012
Major: Accounting

Becky Perron, 22
University of Virginia
2011–2012 Yount Hyde & Barbour Scholarship recipient
Hometown: Williamsburg
Expected graduation date: Winter 2011 (Master’s degree)
Major: M.S. in Accounting

Fatima Sbai, 34
George Mason University
2011–2012 VSCPA Minority Scholarship recipient
Hometown: Alexandria
Expected graduation date: Spring 2013
Major: Accounting

Why did you decide to pursue a degree in accounting?

Katherine Covino: I thought that accounting was one of the most valuable business majors that was offered. Accounting provides students with a background that enables them to work in any area of business, because as long as you understand what is happening in the background with the numbers, you can be successful in any business venture.

Adrienne Essiaw: I was always interested in business, and when I became a junior in high school, I enrolled in an introductory accounting class. A week into my first business class, I knew that I wanted to get into the field of accounting. I was intrigued by the fact that accounting represented the language of business and explained the overall processes of our everyday financial transactions. After doing some research and speaking to several advisers and faculty members, I discovered that the career options for an accountant were limitless.

Kelly Miller: I have always liked working with numbers. It is something I just understand. As I grew older, I enjoyed keeping my checkbook, helping people budget. I always knew I wanted to be in the business field as a career. I took a class in accounting my freshmen year in college and loved it. I cruised through it, I just got it. It was something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life.

Becky Perron: I had trouble finding one interest to pursue in college, but as soon as I began to take accounting classes, it clicked. After I completed my internship and realized that accounting was more than simply crunching numbers, I knew it was the right place to start for me.

Fatima Sbai: As a mother and an older student, I was looking for a career that will allow me to have a flexible schedule to spend time with my family. I also wanted a career challenging enough to keep me interested.

What are your career goals?

KC: In the short term, I hope to secure a full time job before graduation. My long term goal is to eventually become a partner at one of the Big Four accounting firms.

AE: After completing a master’s degree in accounting, I will prepare for the CPA Exam in hopes of becoming more qualified in the field of accounting. I would like to work for an accounting firm that offers various lines of services such as assurance, tax, and advisory. Given the opportunity to work at a firm that offers many services for their clients, I will be able to expand my knowledge in areas of accounting that may differ from what I would specialize in.

Ultimately, I hope to be able to give back to others in the form of guidance and mentoring. I would like to develop a mentoring program for young women who are interested in pursuing a career in business, but may not have the resources or individuals in their lives to make it possible. I believe that if someone is passionate about what they want to do, and have the right people around to encourage them to follow through with their goals, nothing is out of reach.

KM: I plan to become a CPA and CMA [Certified Management Accountant] after graduation. I want to start in the public sector of accounting and possibly move to the private side further in my future.

BP: I plan to start in public accounting with KPMG in January of 2012. Whether or not I stay in public accounting forever, I know that I want to make a difference in whatever I am doing. As long as I am being challenged and feel like my work is somehow helping others, I will be happy.

FS: My ultimate career goal is to have my own firm and expand it to North Africa. For my immediate goals, I am planning to work the first 10 years after graduation, for one of the Big Four as well as a regional firm. This will give me a broader view and the experience to advance in the accounting profession.

Do you plan to sit for the CPA Exam?

KC: Absolutely! I plan to sit for the CPA Exam next summer and hopefully pass all four sections the first time around. I think that many opportunities will come my way as a CPA.

AE: Yes, I plan to sit for the exam after I complete my Master’s of Accounting in spring 2013.

KM: Yes, without a doubt!

BP: Yes, I am currently spending my summer studying and sitting for the CPA Exam. There are no post-graduation vacations here! I took a Becker FastPass course at William & Mary and sat for my first section this past Friday [July 8]. The other three are scheduled periodically throughout the remainder of the summer.

FS: Absolutely. I plan to sit for the CPA Exam right after a master's degree in accounting.

What has been the biggest challenge in your accounting education?

KC: My biggest challenge was a research project that I participated in for one of my accounting classes this past spring. Accounting research projects are a lot of work and can be very frustrating at times, but they do produce some very important insights.

AE: The biggest challenge in my accounting education has been trying to come to terms with the fact that there is not always a correct answer.

You cannot approach accounting with the idea that there is only one way to do things. Accounting is somewhat subjective and is constantly changing. As an accounting student, I have been pushed by professors to provide the reasoning behind all of my conclusions, whether or not there was a correct answer. This skill will become very useful when trying to solve accounting problems that may be unique to specific users of financial information.

KM: The biggest challenge I've had in my accounting career has been pushing through the upper-level classes when things seem to get a little more challenging. As hard as it may be, sometimes it is always a very rewarding payoff.

BP: The McIntire [School of Commerce] business program puts a lot of emphasis on teamwork and we complete two semester-long team projects during our third year. Learning how to work with people with different work ethics, styles and motivations was the most challenging part of my undergraduate education. Nevertheless, I believe I learned a lot from that semester that I can take with me when I enter the workforce.

FS: My biggest challenge in my accounting education is the lack of time to network with potential employers. To build a network, it is essential for accounting students to stay visible by taking parts in career fairs and school activities outside the classroom. This is challenging for me because I commute to GMU. If I am not in class or at the library, I am most likely on the road or at home helping my daughter with her homework.

What are your proudest accomplishments?

KC: In the academic world, my proudest accomplishments include being selected as a VSCPA Scholarship winner and helping other William & Mary students revamp the Wayne F. Gibbs Accounting Society. Outside of academics, I am very pleased that I secured a summer internship and that I will be serving on the Executive Board for the Alan J. Bukzin Bone Marrow Drive.

AE: My proudest accomplishments are getting accepted into The College of William & Mary and being inducted into the International Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma. As a child, I knew that William & Mary was a historic institution with an outstanding academic reputation, but I never imagined I would be able to get into such a school. My academic journey was not always easy, as I struggled with English after having lived in Ghana for a few years as a child. I was able to overcome the language barrier with the unconditional love and support of my family.

When I was accepted into William & Mary, it was a blessing for my family and I. The opportunity to go onto college not only represented an opportunity to further my education, but also a chance to take advantage of the privilege of being able to receive an education which many are denied due to their life circumstances.

Throughout my life, and especially in college, my parents have been my main source of inspiration. Nothing makes me happier, than to know that my parents are proud of the person I have become. Getting inducted into the International Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma, is a great accomplishment that comes with the lifelong commitment of personal and professional excellence, as well as the advancement in the values of society. When I was inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, I was not only humbled and honored to be a part of such a distinguished honor society, but happy to know that I had made my parents proud. I hope to contribute to Beta Gamma Sigma's mission by living a personal and professional life that reflects the values my parents have instilled in me and applying that to the advancement of society.

KM: My proudest accomplishments are: making the Dean's List four of my six semesters so far at LC, sticking with accounting when I started to second-guess myself when an intermediate became challenging, and being invited to the VSCPA's Leaders' Institute as a rising junior last summer at Virginia Tech and being selected to attend the Dixon Hughes Goodman Learn Grow Go Leadership Conference this summer!

BP: One of my proudest accomplishments is completing my first marathon during my third year at UVa. I have since completed another and am training for my third, but I will always remember crossing the finish line for the first time. It took a lot of time and effort during training to get up early and get the miles in. Another would be simply graduating from UVa. I still can't believe that the four years went by this fast. I am also looking forward to being able to say that one of my proudest accomplishments is becoming a CPA!

FS: My proudest accomplishment is getting my associate’s degree in business administration with a 4.0. I am also proud to say that I passed my first accounting class with a perfect score in all exams.

What advice would you offer prospective accounting students?

KC: I recommend sitting down and looking at all the CPA requirements before your senior year of college. It is important to decide how you want to obtain the 150-credit hour requirement. Do you want to attend a Master’s of Accounting program, or do you want to do a summer session? It is really up to the student to determine how they want to achieve the 150 credit hours, but it is often difficult to achieve if students wait until it is too late.

AE: If you have the slightest interest in accounting, I recommend taking an introductory course to see if this is something you may be interested in. Accounting is such a broad field that you can do so much with, and you may not realize that until you have invested the time to learn more about the field and the opportunities that are available for accounting majors. If accounting does not come easy for you, that does not mean you cannot be an accounting major. With the right attitude, work ethic and drive, you can accomplish anything in life. It is also important to surround yourself with mentors, friends and individuals who encourage you and push you to reach your greatest potential.

KM: The best advice I would give accounting students is read and do your homework. Also, stick with it ... if you enjoy it, even just a little, it is a wonderful profession to go into!

BP: Remember to work hard, do lots of practice problems, and don't forget the importance of people skills in accounting! The best thing I did during my internship was be helpful, hardworking and personable. Also ask questions if you don't understand. No one should be expected to know everything.

FS: My advice would be not be intimidated by accounting. Some students think that they have to be good at mathematics in order to succeed in accounting. While an analytical mindset is a plus, being great at calculus is not a prerequisite. I saw some students give up quickly. Students should take full advantage of any tutoring sessions that schools often provide for free.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Survey: 42 Percent of CFOs Say Employee Morale Has Improved

According to an Accountemps survey, 42 percent of chief financial officers (CFO) say that employee morale has improved at least somewhat in the last year.

The majority (53 percent) of more than 1,400 respondents said that there had been no change in employee morale over the past 12 months. Just 5 percent said morale had worsened.

“Companies have been taking steps to increase job satisfaction and boost employee motivation among teams that have been through a difficult few years,” Accountemps Chairman Max Messmer said. “Businesses that recognize and address the concerns of staff members during the extended recovery can instill greater loyalty over the long term.”

In the telephone survey, CFOs were asked,” How has employee morale in your organization changed, if at all, from 12 months ago?”

Monday, August 22, 2011

IRS Offers Tax Tips for Charitable Donors

Taxpayers who donate to charities may be eligible to take a deduction for their donations on their 2011 tax return. On Monday, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offered guidelines for taxpayers who want to deduct charitable donations:
  1. Make sure the organization qualifies. Only donations to qualified organizations are deductible. You can ask any organization if it is qualified or search on the IRS website.
  2. You must itemize deductions. Charitable contributions are deductible only if you itemize deductions using Form 1040, Schedule A.
  3. You can only deduct certain contributions. You generally can deduct cash contributions and the fair-market value of most property you donate. Special rules apply to certain types of donated property, such as clothing, household items, cars and boats.
  4. Receiving something in return changes deductions. If your contribution entitles you to receive merchandise, goods or services in return, including admission to events, you can deduct only the amount of your contribution that exceeds the fair-market value of the benefit.
  5. Keep track of your contributions. Keep good records of any contributions you make, regardless of amount. For cash contributions, you must maintain a record of the contribution, such as a cancelled check, bank or credit card statement, payroll deduction record or a written statement from the charity that contains the date and amount of the contribution, as well as the name of the organization.
  6. Timing of payments is important. Only contributions actually made during the tax year are deductible. For example, if you pledge $500 in September but only pay the charity $200 by Dec. 31, only $200 is deductible. However, include late-in-year credit-card charges and payments by check in the year you give them to the charity, even if you don't pay the credit-card bill or have your bank account debited until the next year.
  7. Keep records of large contributions. For contributions of $250 or more, you'll need a written acknowledgement from the organization that includes the amount of cash and whether or not the organization provided any goods or services in exchange. If you donated property, the acknowledgement must include a description of the items and a good-faith estimate of their value. For items valued at $500 or more, you must attach a completed Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to your return. If you claim a deduction for contribution of noncash property worth more than $5,000, you generally must obtain an appraisal and complete Section B of Form 8283.
  8. Organizations can lose their tax-exempt status. Approximately 275,000 organizations automatically lost their tax-exempt status recently because they did not file required annual reports for three consecutive years. Donations made prior to an organization's automatic revocation remain tax-deductible, but going forward, contributions to these companies that are not reinstated are not eligible for tax deduction. Click here for a list of organizations who lost their tax-exempt status.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Buffett: Tax Code Is 'Coddling the Super-Rich'

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, said in a New York Times editorial Monday that those making over $1 million and $10 million per year should be taxed at higher rates.
The editorial, “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich,” argued that the income of investment managers and stock futures index traders is taxed at only 15 percent. Buffett, who has an estimated net worth of $50 billion and is No. 3 on the Forbes list of the world’s richest people, estimates that he is taxed at a rate of 17.4 percent.

“Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744,” Buffett wrote in the editorial. “That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.”

Buffett wrote that many wealthy Americans pay a relatively low percentage of their income in payroll taxes, compared to the middle class, and that higher tax rates on capital gains, dividends and income would not hurt investment or job creation. He contended that most investors do not avoid investment based on tax rates.
Buffett said that he would leave tax rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current payroll tax cut of 2 percent. He argued for higher tax rates for those making over $1 million and over $10 million, including higher rates on their dividends and capital gains.
“My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress,” Buffett wrote. “It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”
What do you think? Tax rates have taken center stage since this summer's debt ceiling debate. Does Buffett have a point, or do the wealthy pay enough in taxes as it is?

Monday, August 15, 2011

NASBA, AICPA Propose Revisions to CPE Provider Standards

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) issued proposed standards Monday to the Statement on Standards for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Programs (Standards), the framework for the development, presentation, measurement and reporting of CPE programs.

The updated Standards, last revised in 2002, would provide flexibility for innovation in learning techniques and allow for future considerations around outcome-based learning.
Get more information at

Friday, August 12, 2011

Top 5 Most Popular Articles: Aug. 6–12, 2011

Here are the five most-read news articles on! Articles are taken from the VSCPA News and Professional News sections and are ranked by unique page views.
Check back each Friday for updated rankings of the top stories on

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tips for Part-Time Employees and Their Managers

A recent post on AccountingWEB details ways part-time employees and their managers can get the most out of their working arrangement. Deanna Cox, herself a part-time employee and college student, offers five tips for a successful part-time arrangement:
  1. Prioritize projects with deadlines
  2. Flexible hours
  3. Necessary company meetings
  4. Laser focus time
  5. Redistribution of job tasks
Click here to read Cox's post on ways to make part-time work more productive. And click here to read "The Real Housewives of Accounting," an article from the July/August 2011 issue of Disclosures magazine where VSCPA member Clare Levison, CPA, discusses her own part-time work experience and how she made it work.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Guest Blogger: How Your Talent Management Programs Can Make You a Top Employer

By Sean Conrad
Halogen Software
Qualified, skilled accountants are always in high demand. To attract and retain top performing employees, your organization needs to distinguish itself from the rest. So how do you become a top employer?
If you look at some of the questions in a typical "top employer" survey, or even questions used to gauge employee engagement and satisfaction, some common themes emerge. Among other things, employees are looking for:
  • clear direction
  • the tools/authority/support/resources they need to accomplish their work
  • feedback on their performance
  • a sense of purpose or connection to the organization's mission
  • a good relationship with their manager 
  • opportunities for development and career progression 
  • recognition and rewards for their performance
If you think about it, all of these needs can and should be addressed by your organization's talent management programs. But you need to ensure your organization adheres to best practices if you want to support employee engagement and retention. For example:
  • Every employee should have a clear, up-to-date job description that they can easily access and consult. Their job description should align with their performance appraisal, and goals, so they are be fairly evaluated.
  • Every employee should receive a regular performance appraisal, where their manager gives them feedback on their performance of goals and competencies. The performance appraisal process should also include coaching and development planning so performance gaps or learning needs are addressed. But most importantly, your performance appraisal process should foster an ongoing dialogue about performance between the manager and employee; the formal performance appraisal should merely summarize and capture the ongoing discussion so the employee is getting the ongoing feedback, coaching, direction and development they need to improve and succeed.
  • If employees work on projects or engagements, they should receive feedback from the leader at the end of the project/engagement. This feedback should also be communicated to their manager and rolled up into their annual performance appraisal. This ensures the employee gets timely feedback from the person who most closely supervised their work.
  • Employee should be given goals that are clear, specific and measurable. The old "SMART" (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) approach is still acknowledged to be a best practice; they ensure employees are set up for success. Every employee goal should also be linked to or aligned with a high-level organizational goal, so the employee has a context for their work, and sees how their efforts contribute to the organization's success.
  • Employees should be given the opportunity to broaden and deepen their knowledge, skills and experience and prepare for career progression. They should discuss development needs and interests as well as career aspirations with their manager. Then their manager should work with them to put in place a development plans that include a variety of activities appropriate to their learning needs and learning style. High potential employees in particular should be identified and groomed for advancement. Investing in employee development is a key way for the organization to show that it values its employees and is committed to their long terms success. Development planning can be rolled into the performance appraisal process or managed as a separate process, but needs to be formally addressed.
  • Compensation and rewards should be tied to performance so they are fair, and effectively recognize and encourage high performance. Recognition needs to come in many forms, not just monetary, and needs to reinforce organizational values and culture as well as high performance. 
By adopting talent management best practices like these, you ensure your employees are engaged, satisfied, and reaching their full potential. These really are the keys to being a top employer who can attract high performing employees with scarce skills.

Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software, one of the leading providers of talent management software. For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen Software blog.