IRS Scams: A Thanksgiving Dinner Conversation Topic

Pass the turkey, and have you heard about the latest IRS scam?

ScamAlert

The latest telephone scam uses the IRS name as a scare tactic into gaining confidential information from victims. Protect yourself and loved ones from this fraudulent scheme.

Thanksgiving is the first of many family gatherings that will occur over the next several weeks. The best tables are filled with multigenerational participants, from young children up to grandparents, and in some lucky instances, great-grandparents. Politics and sex are off the table at most of these gatherings. That leaves football and family updates. Consider adding fraud to the list.

For the last several months, people have been getting phone calls from individuals who claim they are from the IRS, threatening arrest for past-due taxes. My 89-year-old mother-in-law received just such a call recently. They can be clever and “game” the caller ID to make it appear that the call is being generated from the IRS. Some are sophisticated enough to have a follow-up phone call that appears to be coming from the local police department, or they send a bogus follow-up e-mail. Continue reading

Management Accounting—Should You Pursue the CGMA Designation?

CGMA Competency Framework

The CGMA Competency Framework defines the role of a management accountant.

The AICPA and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) launched the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation in 2012. As of Nov. 19, 2014, there are now 48,931 CGMAs in the United States, and over 1,957 are PICPA members.

The CGMA designation recognizes the business acumen, leadership capability, and technical proficiency of management accountants and the increasing numbers are bringing increased awareness. Beginning Jan. 1, 2015,  CGMA candidates will be required to take a strategic case study exam, but those who enroll before Dec. 31, 2014, will be exempt. Continue reading

New Opportunity for Spreading the Fiscal Responsibility Message

By Guest Blogger, Susan Howe, CPA

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Susan Howe, CPA, is the chair of PICPA’s Fiscal Responsibility Task Force and principal at Howe Advisory.

Tom Wolf made history Nov. 4, 2014 by defeating Gov. Tom Corbett. But winning the election may soon seem like the easy part. Now, Governor-elect Wolf must help shoulder responsibility for managing the considerable fiscal pressures facing Pennsylvania and its thousands of municipalities.

For the third time, the PICPA Fiscal Responsibility Task Force is gearing up to put the spotlight on the top fiscal issues facing Pennsylvania as we enter a new legislative session and bring in a new administration.

Also for the third time, the task force’s report will examine the public pension situation in Pennsylvania. Because of the magnitude of the looming deficits in the funding of Pennsylvania’s public pensions at both the state and municipal levels, pensions will be one of only two topics highlighted in this report, which is planned for release in early 2015. Gov. Corbett highlighted these pension shortfalls as one of his top issues; the task force also believes pensions are one of the most critical fiscal challenges facing Pennsylvania. Continue reading

Improving Excel Workflow with Styles

By Guest Blogger, Will Fleenor, CPA, PhD | K2 Enterprises

Figure 1

A Style is a collection of all the formatting components that a user can select for a range of cells or object like a graph, including font size and type, and number format.

Figure 1 shows the default settings for the Normal Style in Excel 2013.

There are numerous advantages to using Excel Styles including the following improvements to the common accounting tasks of financial statement preparation and data analysis: Continue reading

Securing Data in the Cloud

By Guest Blogger, Thomas G. Stephens, Jr., CPA, CITP, CGMA | K2 Enterprises

cloudMany have written and reported about Cloud security – or the lack thereof – causing numerous business professionals to express concerns about whether they can store potentially sensitive data in Cloud-based facilities over which they have little, if any, control. However, by taking just a few simple measures most professionals can likely reduce the risk associated with storing data in the Cloud to a reasonably acceptable level. In fact, in many cases, you may find that the risk associated with storing data in the Cloud is actually less than storing data locally – particularly so for smaller businesses. Continue reading

Simplified Home Office Deduction

By Guest Blogger, Cheri H. Freeh, CPA, CGMA

Freeh, Cheri

Cheri H. Freeh is a principal with Hutchinson, Gillahan & Freeh P.C. in Quakertown and a past president of the PICPA.

In 2013, the IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2013-13 which provided an optional safe harbor method to determine the amount of deductible expenses a taxpayer may claim for the use of a home office. The safe harbor was intended to provide taxpayers with a less-cumbersome method for calculating the deduction. The option became effective for taxable years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2013. So, how useful is this new method?

The simplified home office option allows a deduction of $5 per square foot of home used for business, up to a maximum of 300 square feet. There is no reduction in the allowable home-related itemized deductions claimed on Schedule A (generally home mortgage interest and real estate taxes). There is no separate deduction claimed for depreciation, and no later recapture of depreciation for the years the simplified home office option is used. Taxpayers may choose either the simplified method or actual expenses for any taxable year, and may alternate between the two methods. The simplified method is intended to reduce the administrative, recordkeeping, and compliance burdens on taxpayers who qualify for the home office deduction and to reduce the amount of time spent by IRS personnel on compliance regarding this deduction. Continue reading

Week of Service Demonstrates #PICPACares

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One week. Three different ways to volunteer. Countless opportunities to achieve bigger and better things. PICPA’s inaugural Week of Service is happening on May 17-23, 2015.

I have worked at the PICPA for many years and have had the privilege of meeting hundreds of CPAs. A consistent impression that I’ve taken away is that CPAs volunteer for many different causes in their communities and love doing it. This year Jerry Maginnis, PICPA president, wants to shine a light on all these volunteer activities, which in turn has inspired PICPA’s first Week of Service May 17-23, 2015.

The theme of the week, PICPA Cares, will highlight how collectively CPAs contribute to enhancing and enriching our communities. Continue reading