Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Health Care Reform and 19th-Century Tax Law

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court began its hearings on the constitutionality of 2010’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). As this article from Slate magazine details, the arguments began with a discussion of a 19th-century tax law that calls into question whether the court should even be hearing the case at this point.

As Slate legal expert Dahlia Lithwick (a Charlottesville resident) notes, it’s a moot point. The PPACA hearings have long seemed destined to happen before the November presidential election, since both President Barack Obama and those who oppose his health care bill want the issue decided by then. The court had to appoint an outside advocate just to argue the idea that the court does not yet have jurisdiction to hear the case.

The case could have extra interest for CPAs, as one argument for its constitutionality seems to hinge on the question of whether or not the much-debated individual mandate constitutes a tax and is therefore under Congressional authority through its power to regulate interstate commerce. The individual mandate is set for discussion today, while Wednesday’s arguments will center on severability and the Medicaid expansion (or, as Lithwick puts it, “laser tag instead of 19th-century statutory interpretation”).

Click here to read coverage of the hearings from The Washington Post (Slate's parent company).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ditch Your To-Do List for Greater Productivity

Productivity blogger Ari Meisel offers suggestions on his blog, Less Doing, for more efficient work. Two recent entries offer a suggestion that flies in the face of conventional wisdom — get rid of your to-do list.

Meisel’s thesis is that putting items on a static to-do list is a recipe for constant stress. He writes: “For a to do type task to be effective it has to disrupt your life at the appropriate time that you can get it done in the most efficient way but be completely out of sight and out of mind when it's no (sic) being worked on.”
Meisel suggests using email reminders as a way to organize your tasks, calling it “the task management version of carpe diem.” His email reminders are “the to do list evolved.”
Meisel also discusses the importance of timing rather than prioritization in organizing your life: “It would be foolish to think that simply arranging tasks in a pecking order will have any bearing on your productivity or your life tomorrow or even an hour from now. Obviously, it's important to think big picture when setting long term vision for a company or personal projects, but when it comes down to actually getting things done, we must live in the moment.”
He names followup.cc and HassleMe as email services to help you free yourself from the to-do list. Maybe ditching your to-do list isn’t an option, but email services could help you live a more stress-free existence.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

CFOs Plan to Maintain Current Staff Levels in Accounting and Finance

Results from the most recent Robert Half Financial Hiring Index indicate that staff levels in accounting and finance should hold mostly steady in the second quarter of 2012.

In a survey involving telephone interviews with 1,400 chief financial officers (CFO), 91 percent of respondents said they expect to maintain their current personnel levels in the second quarter. Sixty-nine percent answered that question the same way at the start of the year.
Four percent of respondents say they plan to add employees and 5 percent predicted staff decreases. The results were less positive in the South Atlantic region (Virginia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.), where 11 percent of executives plan to reduce staff and 84 percent expect to maintain their current personnel levels.
The East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee) and Mountain (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming) regions were the most bullish on hiring, with a net 5 percent of executives saying they plan to add staff.

Ninety-one percent of executives said they were confident in their companies’ growth prospects for the second quarter, a 4 percent increase from the first quarter.
"As economic signs continue to improve incrementally in the United States, companies are hiring skilled accounting and finance professionals at a steady rate to meet demand," Robert Half International (RHI) Chairman and CEO Max Messmer said. "Staff reductions are trending downward as businesses seek to avoid weakening their bench strength at a time when growth opportunities are emerging."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Top 5 Most Popular Articles: March 10–16, 2012

Here are the five most-read news articles on VSCPA.com! Articles are taken from the VSCPA News and Professional News sections and are ranked by unique page views.
  1. The 2011 Form 1040, Schedule D: Practitioner Issues
  2. New Exclusive Social Network Allows VSCPA Members to Connect Online
  3. Tax Preparers Will Sue IRS Over Licensing Requirements
  4. FASB Finalizes New Goodwill Impairment Testing Standard
  5. 272 Members of the Virginia Society of CPAs Honored as 'Super CPAs' by Virginia Business Magazine
Check back each Friday for updated rankings of the top stories on VSCPA.com.

Do You Think VSCPA Members Will Like This?

This is Connect, our new, interactive member directory that makes it easier to meet members, post discussions, find out about accounting jobs and more. It’s one of the many exciting benefits for members during our 2012–2013 membership year. What do you think?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New LinkedIn Group Focuses on Accountants

Social network LinkedIn launched a special group for accountants last month that is closing in on half a million members.

The site quietly launched its LinkedIn Accounting group Feb. 17, and the group had more than 498,000 members as of Thursday afternoon. LinkedIn content editor Chip Cutter, a former business news reporter at the Associated Press, is in charge of the group.

Accounting is one of three professions chosen for the initial phase of industry-wide networking groups. LinkedIn chose the accounting field because “it’s an industry that has significant presence on LinkedIn and also aligns well with our editors’ knowledge base,” LinkedIn spokesperson Erin Fors said.
LinkedIn also launched groups for commercial real estate and entertainment.
While the LinkedIn group features robust discussion on the state of the industry, the VSCPA has you covered for local and regional accounting discussion. Click here to visit the Virginia Society of CPAs group.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Potential Changes to Grants Policy

Today, we were proud to hold one of our newest conferences the VSCPA State and Local Government Day in Richmond. Designed for CPAs who work in state and local government, the conference brought together a very important segment of our CPA community.

One of today's important speakers was Terrill W. Ramsey, CPA, CIA, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who spoke on the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) recent proposal of reforms to grants policy for cost principles, administrative requirements and single audits. The OMB issued this proposal late last month and seeks feedback on various ideas for change to compliance audits of federal funds, commonly referred to as single audits or Circular A-133 audits. There is only a 30-day comment period provided, so comments are due March 29.
Among the ideas discussed were a potential increase in the threshold for audit (from $500,000 to $1 million) and a new category of single audit that will be narrower in scope than what is in place today (between $1 million and $3 million). Entities expending more than $3 million would continue to have a full single audit.
The AICPA’s Governmental Audit Quality Center (GAQC) developed an alert on this issue, which can be accessed by the public on the GAQC website.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Guest Blogger: Health Care Reform and Employers

By Brian Marks, CEBS
Executive Director, Digital Benefit Advisors

Here is something our organization published recently.  It is a Health Care Reform Handbook for Employers which provides what we feel to be a solid straightforward overview of some of the key components of Health Care Reform and their impact on employers.
Click here (PDF) to view the handbook.