Thursday, July 28, 2011

VCU Grad Culbreath Parlays Leaders' Institute Interview into Job

Johnathan Culbreath signed on for the 2010 Leaders’ Institute looking to get some interview experience before he graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). He got that, but before the summer was over, he had a job.

Culbreath graduated from VCU in May 2011 and will start a job with Johnson Lambert & Co. LLP in October. His first contact with the firm came at the Leaders’ Institute, and he did well enough that a mock interview turned into a real one.

“I wasn’t even planning on doing the mock interview section, seeing as I’d had lots of interviews,” Culbreath said. “I also didn’t want to get down there that early. But a friend of mine who was also going convinced me to do it with her. I ended up getting Johnson Lambert in my mock interview. It’s funny because when I had my interview, [the interviewer] gave me lots of pointers and tips. She gave me so much advice — I guess you’d call it constructive criticism — that I didn’t think I did that well.”

That interviewer was Katie Tibbitts, a recruiter at Johnson Lambert. She was impressed enough to recommend him for a second interview with the company, and he did well enough in that phone session to score a job as a staff auditor.

“I remember when I spoke with him, he was very eager to learn,” Tibbitts said. “He was excited to be involved with the mock interview and very accepting of all criticism, if any, that I had. He seemed very open to learning, what we had to say and who we were. He just seemed like a very outgoing guy, someone who could really fit at Johnson Lambert.”
“He just seemed to have a very good level-headedness about him,” said Sara Huddleston, the director of human resources at Johnson Lambert who conducted Culbreath’s second interview. “He seemed to be the type of person who could hold a conversation with varying personalities, and that’s very important in our business. He had a lot of good questions and was very interested in our business.”

Culbreath is currently working an internship with the Maymont Foundation in Richmond, helping with their year-end reviews and working with fixed assets. He says that experience will serve him well at Johnson Lambert, which does extensive work with nonprofits.
“I thought it would be valuable to see the inside of a nonprofit association,” he said.

Culbreath will work at Johnson Lambert’s Falls Church office, not far from his Woodbridge home. He is currently studying for the CPA Exam and plans on taking — and passing — at least two parts by the time he starts his job.

Culbreath developed some of his interview chops at the Leaders’ Institute and got the chance to show them off to the company that helped him improve. His interview with Tibbitts went so well that he didn’t even notice that he took her tips to heart.

“A lot of the tips she gave me had to do with pre-interview preparation,” he said. “I definitely used a lot of the advice she gave me. The funny thing was that I was a lot more comfortable, so I didn’t even realize what I was using.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Tax Scam Reminder from the IRS

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its list of the "Dirty Dozen" tax scams in April. With summer in full swing, the agency has issued a reminder of five year-round scams taxpayers should avoid:

Hiding Income Offshore

Some taxpayers attempt to avoid U.S. income tax by hiding income in offshore banks and brokerage accounts or using other offshore options. The IRS has taken steps to stop this practice by instituting a voluntary disclosure initiative to bring offshore money back into the U.S. tax system. The latest voluntary disclosure initiative is available through Aug. 31, 2011.


Not to be confused with Phish (left), phishing is a tactic used by scam artists to trick victims into revealing personal or financial information online, often involving the use of phony email, websites and social media. IRS impersonation schemes are common during tax season.

The IRS has stressed that it never initiates unsolicited email contact with taxpayers about their tax issues. Suspicious scams should be fowarded to the IRS at (Phish photo by Dan Shinneman)

Return Preparer Fraud

Dishonest return preparers skim a portion of their clients’ refunds, charge inflated fees for services and attract new clients with false promises. Federal courts have issued hundreds of injunctions ordering individuals to cease preparing returns, while the Department of Justice has pending complaints against dozens of others.

Filing false or misleading forms

Scam artists file false or misleading returns to claim refunds to which they are not entitled. One scheme involves a taxpayer who seeks a refund by fabricating a return and falsely claiming the corresponding amount as withholding. Often, scammers use phony information returns to legitimize erroneous refund claims.

Frivolous arguments

Promoters of tax schemes encourage people to make outlandish claims to avoid paying taxes. The IRS has released a list of frivolous legal positions that taxpayers should avoid, which have been thrown out of court.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Biggest Meeting Gripe: Going Off-Schedule

According to a new survey from Accountemps, managers’ biggest meeting pet peeve is beginning or ending late.
The survey, conducted by telephone, asked more than 1,000 senior managers, “Which one of the following is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to meetings?” The responses:
  • Not keeping to the schedule: 31 percent
  • Meetings that seem unnecessary: 27 percent
  • Attendees using PDAs or laptops for non-meeting related activities: 18 percent
  • People interrupting each other: 15 percent
  • Meetings scheduled during lunch: 9 percent
“Short, focused meetings are often the most productive,” Accountemps Chairman Max Messmer said. “Organizers and participants both play a role in keeping these gatherings in check.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

'Gang of Six' Presents Budget Deficit Plan

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including one Virginia lawmaker, has presented its proposals for spending cuts and tax increases that would reduce the federal budget deficit by $3.7 trillion over the next decade.
Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), known as the “Gang of Six,” have been meeting for months to work on their deficit reduction plan. Coburn had previously left the group over a disagreement on tax increases, but was reportedly back with the group when it presented its proposals Tuesday morning.

The senators’ plan attracted support from leading Republicans including Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). But the legislation will not be ready before the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt limit and avoid government default.
According to the Associated Press, the plan reportedly includes three income tax rates — a bottom rate of 8–12 percent, a middle rate of 14–22 percent and a top rate of 23–29 percent. The current system has a bottom rate of 10 percent and five additional rates topping out at 35 percent. The plan would also reduce tax breaks on mortgage deductions, 401(k) plans and IRAs, charitable deductions and child tax credits, among other areas, and would close some corporate tax loopholes. It would lower tax rates for individuals and businesses and eliminate the alternative minimum tax.
The plan reportedly would cut $500 billion from the deficit immediately.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

VSCPA Members Broome, Holton Wrap Up Successful VBOA Terms

The June 29 meeting of the Virginia Board of Accountancy (VBOA) marked the end of an era as O. Whitfield “Whit” Broome, CPA, Ph.D., and Steve Holton, CPA, finished their second terms on the Board. The two VSCPA members sat on the Board during a time of significant change to the CPA profession and served CPAs and the Commonwealth with a steady hand.

Broome and Holton joined the VBOA during a turbulent time, and the pair and their fellow Board members decided upon a series of measured regulatory changes.

The VBOA and the VSCPA honored Broome and Holton at their final meeting. Deputy Secretary of Commerce & Trade Carrie Cantrell recognized the pair for their years of service on behalf of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Virginia Tech Ph.D. Candidates Seek Accountants for Research Project

Several Ph.D. scholars at Virginia Tech are investigating generational differences in accountants’ ability to multitask in a professional setting and are seeking accountants to take part in an online experiment.

The study is intended to provide insight into how younger generations can best succeed in the workplace.

The researchers are seeking accountants of all ages, but have a specific need for individuals age 35 and older.

The experiment will take approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Click here to participate.

Monday, July 11, 2011

IAESB Proposes Revised Standards for Aspiring Accountants

The International Accounting Education Standards Board (IAESB) released a set of clarified standards and revisions governing the practical experience requirements for aspiring accountants on July 8.

The IAESB released the new standards as a proposed revision (PDF) of International Education Standard (IES) 5, Practical Experience Requirements. The revision to IES 5 — which currently prescribes the practical experience that International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) member bodies should require before qualification as a professional accountant — proposes greater flexibility in measuring practical experience, permits supervisors or mentors to direct an aspiring accountant’s experience and requires experience to be recorded in a verifiable and consistent form.

“The IAESB believes that relevant practical experience is at the heart of the development of competence of a professional accountant,” IAESB chairman Mark Allison said in a statement. “This revision of IES 5 reflects the different ways that experience can be gained, and is a significant step from a rules-based approach to a system based on principles.”

IFAC member bodies will be required to demonstrate that the method of gaining experience follows an input-based or output-based approach or a combination of both approaches.

The IAESB has undertaken the project of redrafting all eight of its IESs in accordance with its new clarity drafting conventions. It has proposed revisions to:
  • IES 7, Continuing Professional Development: A Program of Lifelong Learning and Continuing Development of Professional Competence
  • IES 4, Professional Values, Ethics, and Attitudes
  • IES 6, Assessment of Professional Competence
  • IES 1, Entry Requirements to a Program of Professional Accounting Education
Comments are due Oct. 8.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Supply & Demand Report Indicates Increased Hiring

The job prospects for recent accounting graduates are strong, with nearly 90 percent of accounting firms forecasting the same or increased hiring of graduates this year compared to 2010, according to results from the American Institute of CPAs’ (AICPA) “Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits” report (PDF). Seventy-one percent of the largest firms anticipate an increase in hiring compared to last year.

Hiring of accounting graduates has increased significantly from the 2009 edition of the report, with hiring of graduates with bachelor’s and master’s degrees up from 25,488 to 33,321, the second highest point since the survey’s inception in 1971.

Read a full analysis of the report on

Top 5 Most Popular Articles: July 1–8, 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 pageviews.
  1. VSCPA Holds Fifth Leaders’ Institute for Virginia’s Top Students
  2. VSCPA Member Receives ‘Virginia CFO Award’ from Virginia Business Magazine
  3. Virginia Named CNBC’s ‘Top State for Business’
  4. AICPA, CIMA Agree on CGMA Designation
  5. New Accountancy Regulations Become Effective September 16, 2010
Check back each Friday for updated rankings of the top stories on

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Average Starting Salary for Graduates Increases by Nearly 5 Percent

The average starting salary to the college class of 2011 is up 4.8 percent from last year, according to a report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

The overall average salary is $51,018, up nearly $2,500 from last summer, according to the summer issue of NACE’s Salary Survey. The average salary increased for the third consecutive quarter.

In comparison, all 2010 issues of the Salary Survey showed losses over 2009.

“The steady increases in starting salary offers we’re seeing this year is a good indication that the job market for new college graduates is gathering strength,” Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director, said in a statement.

Among the disciplines that saw their average offer change, more than 82 percent reported an increase in average offer.

Accounting majors saw a 2 percent increase in average salary to $49,671. Among other business disciplines, business administration graduates posted a 2.2 percent increase, economics graduates saw a 6 percent increase and finance graduates posted a 4 percent increase.