Paper or Electronic, Make Your Holiday Cards Meaningful

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“A successful holiday card, paper or electronic, should be personal, original, and thoughtful.”

I love to get mail. This time of the year my home mailbox is overflowing with retail catalogs and holiday cards. I can’t wait to get home and see what my mail carrier delivered. But I can’t say the same about my office mail.  While I appreciate the sentiment, I find most corporate holiday cards to be impersonal and generic. I’m not alone. According to a recent article in Fast Company, James Hirschfeld, co-founder of Paperless Post, says, “This is going to sound funny coming from a guy who’s in the business of selling greeting cards, but the most important question to ask yourself is why you are sending a card in the first place. There is absolutely nothing worse than receiving a perfunctory greeting from a business.”

Hirschfeld goes on to say that a successful holiday card, paper or electronic, should be personal, original, and thoughtful. He recommends selecting a paper or electronic option based on what your brand stands for and what you value as an organization.

The PICPA switched to a holiday e-card several years ago. It’s a unique opportunity to send a video message to all 22,000 members. Take a look at our past e-cards in the gallery below. Continue reading

How Can You Rate the PICPA’s Communications Plan?

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How many members does it take for the PICPA to achieve its communications goals? The easy answer is “a lot,” but for our December Council Meeting I had to come up with a more quantitative answer. By my calculations, it took 2,402 member contributions to reach 311,540 consumers, based on our data from May 1 – Nov. 15, 2014. Trust me, these numbers would not meet any audit standards, but by the end of the story, I think you’ll agree that the easy answer of “a lot” is fairly accurate.

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Before I get into my calculations, I need to set the stage. The PICPA’s overall communications plan is to promote CPAs as trusted financial advisors and to position CPAs as thought leaders in the community. Now, you’re ready to check my math. Continue reading

Navigating the IRS – Resources for Consumers

By Guest Blogger, Rosemary Lamaestra, CPA

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Rosemary Lamaestra, CPA is a manager at RLB Accountants in Allentown, Pa.

Many people have dread thoughts when it comes to contacting the IRS – they’re mean people, they will put me in jail, they’ll take my house! The average consumer is afraid to contact the IRS for fear that he or she will be put on a watch list or, even worse, receive a visit from the IRS. This is all silly, of course. I tell my clients that none of this is usually the case, and if they do need to contact the IRS, most times they are very helpful. Certainly, IRS personnel do follow regulations, but you can talk with them on an individual level.

The biggest downside to calling the IRS is probably the wait time on hold. This is not the fault of the agents, but rather a shortage of staff available to answer the phones and the amount of time given to each call. When you phone the IRS, the agent must be assured they are talking to you and not someone impersonating you. To that end they must ask a series of questions and then access your file via computer. This verification process in conjunction with assisting you with your questions can take some time. So, while you are waiting on hold, know the agents are helping others just like you. Please be patient. One tip for callers is avoid calling on a Monday. That is their busiest day. Also, if you can call early in the morning you have a better chance of getting through with minimal wait time. Continue reading

Making a Difference without Leaving Your Office

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The traditional call-in programs with local TV stations will be enhanced this tax season with PICPA’s Tax Chat Tuesdays.

Are you looking for an opportunity to help others, but find it difficult to volunteer during the busy season? The PICPA is introducing a new consumer service in the month of February – Tax Chat Tuesdays – from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. It’s a volunteer service that you can do from your home or office.

Tax Chat is a modern version of the popular tax call-in programs seen on some local TV stations. It will be hosted on PICPA’s website to provide general tax advice and guidance. Continue reading

Checklist for Building a World-Class Ethics Program

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Michael A. Breon presents Building a World Class Ethics Program in this On-Demand CPE program from the Financial Institutions Conference.

“Ethical business starts with ethical leadership,” says Michael A. Breon, senior director of investigations, ethics, and IAS at Rite Aid Corp. While he agrees the tone at the top is key, we must ask, “What about the tone in the middle?” The people interacting with your customers and clients on a day-to-day basis are the face of your organization. An ethics program is useless if your organization’s leaders cannot motivate others to take the program and run with it.

There are four shared values that create an ethical company and environment. “The common values are honesty, fairness, respect, and responsibility,” explains Breon. These are the cornerstones for building a worldclass ethics program.

Breon says there are 10 essential elements that leaders must incorporate into their ethics programs: Continue reading

Is the Cost of Education Mortgaging Our Future?

By Guest Blogger, Christopher C. Humes, CPA

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Christopher C. Humes, CPA, is a Senior Tax Manager in the Tax Department at SF&Company.

When I set out to write this blog, my original thought was to discuss the high costs of college education and what parents need to consider in funding this burden while trying to simultaneously fund retirement accounts and pay for annual double-digit increases in health care costs. I had planned to discuss the use of various 529 plans out there that can help with education savings, but instead I will tell you that information exists in many other places, such as www.savingforcollege.com. The PICPA website also has a comprehensive financial planning resource article written by Douglas Hepburn.

I got sidetracked along the way by potentially bigger systemic issues. Society at large is getting financially squeezed in such a manner that may have profound effects on how we as a society, and individually, will function and either prosper (or fail) financially in the future. The familiar model may be changing drastically in the coming decades due to changing demographics, spiraling costs, the Internet, and more middle-class people being priced out of the traditional college education model. Continue reading

The Next Generation of the CPA Exam

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PICPA task force’s response to the AICPA’s invitation to comment on the Uniform CPA Exam.

Did you know that both Facebook and the electronic CPA Exam debuted around the same time 10 years ago?

The year was 2004. There were no smartphones or tablets. No texting. Google existed, but it was a simple search engine and not yet a verb. Most people still watched TV shows on an actual television. Laptops were just starting to outpace desktops. And before Facebook, you had no idea what your friends across the country were up to unless they e-mailed or called you.

I don’t think anyone can deny the impact technology and social media has made on the world, spawning a decade of fast-paced changes in how we do business, how we communicate, how we live. The accounting profession can’t ignore how these changes are influencing CPA candidates, their employers, their clients, and the environment in which they work.

The AICPA recognized the need to evaluate whether the current exam format was still meeting the needs of the profession in this rapidly changing environment. Continue reading