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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Top 5 Trends Shaping Accounting’s Future

What trends will have the biggest impact on accounting firms and their clients over the next five years? How well-prepared are accountants to take advantage of these trends? These two questions were the focus of a new report released on Monday by Wolters Kluwer, CCH, a global provider of tax, accounting, and audit information, software, and services.
Close to 500 accounting professionals who specialize in tax, audit CFO/consulting, and other financial services at CPA-led firms with as little as two to more than 500 employees were polled in August for the 2014 Wolters Kluwer, CCH Preparedness Survey.
Key results of the survey were presented by Wolters Kluwer, CCH President and CEO Teresa Mackintosh during her keynote address on Monday morning at the CCH Connections User Conference 2014 in Orlando.
“There are ample opportunities for all accounting firms to boost productivity and profitability, but what’s critical is knowing where those opportunities exist and how to leverage them to improve client satisfaction,” she said. “The combination of understanding these survey results along with listening to industry peers describe how they capitalize on key trends to succeed can be highly influential in charting a course of future business growth.”
The report reveals that the most significant outcome of well-prepared firms isn’t just a high overall level of confidence, but results. In addition to reporting being more productive and more profitable, “very prepared” firms strongly believe that technology is the key to managing change and driving better business results, according to Wolters Kluwer, CCH.
However, the survey found that only 18 percent of accounting firms say they are “very prepared” to take advantage of the top five trends Wolters Kluwer, CCH identified as having the most significant impact on the future of the profession. Eighty-two percent of firms are “less prepared.”
According to the report, the five top trends facing the profession are:

1. Increased focus on client service: Providing enhanced customer service, leveraging technology to automate processes and free up staff, while providing more personalized and strategic advice and counsel to clients.

Client service has progressed from the traditional one-on-one, face-to-face connections of the past to a continuous loop of client engagement opportunities. The connections between a firm and its clients have shifted from infrequent and deep to ever-present and open-ended.
“Agility trumps ability,” Doug Sleeter, founder and CEO of The Sleeter Group Inc., said in the report. “The pace of change is faster than ever, and accountants who focus more on agility than on raw ability will thrive in the coming years.”
According to the survey results, eight in 10 “very prepared” firms say that placing an increased focus on client service will have a huge impact on the future of their business. Also, when asked to rate the importance of technology across a variety of functions essential to accounting firms over the next five years, 76 percent of those who feel they are “very prepared” said technology will have a major impact on their ability to provide service, support, and added value, as well as to retain existing clients....

To read full article, click here.
Source: Jason Bramwell (

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tax Refund Size Increased This Year

The average tax refund in 2014 was $2,696, up 1.5 percent from the average refund of $2,656 in 2013, according to a new report on how well the Internal Revenue Service operated last tax season.

The report, from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, found that the IRS managed to function well this past tax season, despite a two-week delay as a result of the government shutdown last fall.

TIGTA found that as of May 2, 2014, the IRS received more than 135.5 million tax returns, up from the more than 133.8 million tax returns that were filed during the same period in 2013. More than 117 million (86.4 percent) were electronically filed, up 2.9 percent from the more than 113.6 million that were e-filed in 2013.

To read full article, click here.

Source: Michael Cohn (

Monday, October 13, 2014

Good News: Investor Confidence Hits New Highs

This year's edition of the Center for Audit Quality's Main Street Investor Survey brings good news. Investor confidence is up.

Since 2007, the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) has commissioned an annual survey of U.S. investors as part of our efforts to enhance understanding of and confidence in capital markets. Each year, the Main Street Investor Survey measures retail investor confidence in U.S. capital markets, global capital markets, and audited financial information, as well as confidence in investing in publicly traded companies. The survey also asks about the current financial and economic landscape and its impact on investors.

Let's take a closer look at this year's findings. They bode well not just for investors, but for our entire economy, which relies on vibrant financial markets as an engine of capital formation and economic growth.

Investor Confidence Shows Strength

This year, confidence in investing in U.S. public companies reached an all-time high of 80%. Additionally, 73% of investors indicate they have some, quite a bit, or a great deal of confidence in U.S. capital markets, an increase of four percentage points from 2013 and the highest level since 2009.

To read full article, click here.

Source: Cindy Fornelli (

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tesco's Accounting Irregularities Are Mind Blowing

It wasn’t long ago that Tesco was a retail darling. Across the industry it was held up as a great example of a Retail Winner. After all, it does go neck-in-neck with Carrefour as the world’s second largest retailer, behind Walmart. And customer loyalty initiatives, overseen by dunnHumby, are considered some of the world’s best retail practices.

Sure the company stumbled in its U.S. expansion.  Fresh & Easy has never succeeded in finding the customer base it was seeking, even though by many accounts, the store had a great product assortment. Still, no one saw something like this coming.

So how did it come to this? The Wall Street Journal appears to have been first out of the gate in announcing that the company has issued a new profit warning and suspended four senior executives due to serious accounting irregularities. The cause has been identified as early bookings of “Commercial Income” and delayed booking of costs.

To read full article, click here.

Source: Paula Rosenblum (

Friday, October 3, 2014

Unemployment falls below 6% for first time since 2008

The nation's unemployment rate fell below 6% in September for the first time in six years.

The rate came in at 5.9%, while employers added 248,000 jobs last month.

The unemployment rate fell last month because more people were getting jobs, not because they were dropping out of the labor force as they have at times during the economic recovery. The number of people in the workforce was essentially unchanged.

Jobs growth was strong in professional and business services, particularly in employment services and consulting. The retail and health care sectors, which have been a powerhouse throughout the recovery, also gained. Construction added 16,000 jobs.

The hiring boost came after a surprisingly weak August, though the Department of Labor Friday revised that month's figure upward to 180,000 jobs. Still, August was the first time figures came in below 200,000 since January.

The consensus forecast from economists surveyed by CNNMoney was for a jobs gain of 215,000 jobs and an unemployment rate of 6.1%. On average, the economy has been adding well over 200,000 jobs a month this year, a very positive sign.

To read full article, click here.

Source: Tami Luhby (

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Employee Ownership Quiz: Six Surprising ESOP Facts

With stock prices perched at precarious levels, and an Internet-technology stock selloff already partially in motion, there’s a great anxiety among many business owners and investors hoping for a smart exit strategy.

My friends at private equity funds are loaded down with some 7,500 portfolio companies and would like to greatly reduce that number, book some big gains and focus on tomorrow’s acquisitions. Venture capital funds are eyeing the mythical IPO window, wondering whether the startup they’ve backed can squeeze through or will have to wait – a delay that could necessitate another round of investment by funders.

Our economy certainly benefits from the dynamic and varied nature of U.S. capital markets. But for a lot of companies, especially relatively stable middle market service and manufacturing concerns, a durable ownership structure, as opposed to one that changes twice a decade, helps build long-term value best. I’ve spent my career helping founder/entrepreneur/owner/CEOs structure Employee Stock Ownership Plans, or ESOPs, that offer just such durability.

If you’ve thought about selling your business, here’s a quiz that will help you better understand ESOPs.

1. ESOPs are pretty rare, right – I’d be the only one within miles?

Probably not. With more than 11,000 ESOP companies in the U.S., they out-number private equity-owned companies – roughly 7,500, as reported above – and the roughly 5,000 companies listed on either the New York Stock Exchange or on Nasdaq. ESOPs collectively employ more than 10 million workers in the U.S., and the ownership format is typically more stable than others.

To read full article, click here.

Source: Mary Josephs (

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Inversion on Corporate Inversions

The U.S. Treasury department just made it more difficult for corporations to move their headquarters to lower tax countries, an effort to slow the recent trend of corporate inversions plaguing the Fed by decreasing their tax revenue. Is it too late to cancel my ticket to Ireland?

To clarify, corporations reincorporate to a tax-friendlier country while still keeping their U.S. operations intact. Essentially they get the best of both worlds… or both countries in this case. Some recent examples are Burger King acquiring Tim Horton to move to Canada or Abbvie acquiring Shire to move to Ireland. Corporate inversions are technically legal but have received a large amount of criticism. President Obama has suggested that corporate inversions are unpatriotic, given they still participate in the U.S. markets but are not subject to the taxing regulations.

Companies used to simply park their profits overseas, where U.S. tax authorities could not reach until it is brought home. The problem is that the companies could not make much use of the money while it is overseas.

To read full article, click here.

Source: Michael Hennel (