TAXPAYER ADVOCATE TO FOCUS ON ID THEFT

Washington, D.C. -- National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson has released a report outlining her office's priorities for the coming fiscal year, including improving Internal Revenue Service procedures to protect victims of tax-related identity theft and helping people who have lost their homes to foreclosure.

The report notes that the IRS has taken some steps to improve its procedures for handling identity theft, including developing an identity theft indicator and studying the creation of a centralized unit for identity theft cases.

Olson also wants to expand outreach to people whose homes have been foreclosed upon to educate them about the tax consequences that they face from having their debts canceled. Taxpayers may exclude the amount of a canceled debt from gross income under certain circumstances, but to do so, they must file Form 982 with their tax returns. Few taxpayers file the form, however, and Olson's office will focus on increasing public awareness of the rules and exceptions.

The report can be accessed at http://www.irs.gov.

REHMANN GROUP MERGES IN PEW & KEARIS

Troy, Mich. -- CPA and business advisory firm The Rehmann Group, headquartered here, has merged in Novi-based Pew & Kearis. Terms were not disclosed.

The union added four partners to TRG, bringing its partner total to 44. Pew & Kearis has subsequently shuttered its Novi location and moved into TRG's Farmington Hills office. The firm currently operates 12 offices throughout Michigan.

Steven Kelly, TRG's chairman and chief executive, said that the merger boosts the firm's strength in such industry niches as manufacturing, government/nonprofit, health care, retail/distribution, real estate, and closely held companies.

The Rehmann Group ranked No. 38 on Accounting Today's 2008 Top 100 Firms list with revenues of $64.3 million.

TREASURY, IRS ISSUE NEW DISCLOSURE RULES

Washington, D.C. -- The Treasury and Internal Revenue Service have issued Revenue Procedure 2008-35, TD 9409, and Reg. 121698-08, which update the rules regarding disclosure of tax return information by tax return preparers.

The new rules provide an exception that allows a U.S. tax return preparer to obtain consent from a taxpayer to disclose a taxpayer's Social Security number to a non-U.S. tax return preparer when the U.S. preparer makes the disclosure through the use of an "adequate data return safeguard;" the non-U.S. preparer receives the SSN via an "adequate data protection safeguard;" and the U.S. preparer verifies the maintenance of the adequate data protection safeguards in the request for the taxpayer's consent.

AUDIT COMMITTEES WORRY OVER RISK

New York -- Risk management has become a top concern of audit committee members, according to a survey of 300 audit committee members by KPMG's Audit Committee Institute and the National Association of Corporate Directors, which found that only 28 percent consider themselves "very satisfied" that they understand the process used by management to identify and assess significant business risks. Only 21 percent are very satisfied with the risk reports they receive.

No. 2 on the list of top priorities was accounting judgments and estimates. Information technology risk and governance ranked third. A quarter of respondents said that they were not clear about the areas of IT risk that the audit committee is responsible for overseeing.

However, nine out of 10 of the audit committee members surveyed said that their audit committee is more effective now than prior to the enactment of Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002. Nearly half said that the audit committee is much more effective.

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