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Insurance Corporation, and the U.S. Small Business Administration raised strong concerns, the proposal was eventually withdrawn.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.