Ask nicely


If you need to know something, there is generally no better way of finding it out than to ask -- but some questions have to be asked in just the right way. (Cornering high-performing employees in the hallway to ask about their job satisfaction, for instance, will generally lead to fewer high-performing employees.) These twin premises underpin SurveyCPA, a new set of survey tools from accounting firm management consultants Rita Keller and Gary Adamson, which help firms learn what they need to know in three key areas -- employee engagement and satisfaction, client satisfaction, and upward evaluation of partners and managers -- through a professional, thorough process that guarantees the most accurate results with the least disruption, and helps enable better follow-up. SurveyCPA's questions and processes are tailored to the specific interests of accounting firms, and users can also benchmark themselves nationally against other firms.


Preparing preparers

Preview versions of TaxACT 2012

2nd Story Software

Tax prep software vendor 2nd Story Software has released Preview versions of its TaxACT 2012 Preparer's 1040, 1065, 1120S and 1120 Federal editions. State and final editions will be released in January; the Preview editions will help preparers get ready for the upcoming tax season -- from importing previous-year returns and creating new client organizers, to actually calculating 2012 taxes. The company is also offering a 30-day money-back guarantee for those who want to try the software out.


Still developing

Tax Briefing: 2012 Year-End Tax Planning

CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business

You expect CCH to cover all the latest tax developments, but they're also on top of all the things that aren't developing -- for instance, all the expiring provisions whose fate is uncertain, and all the tax laws that either will or will not be extended, or changed, or scrapped, or rewritten, once whatever new government we just voted in gets to work, or doesn't, or punts. In the midst of all that uncertainty, CCH's new Tax Briefing is a very useful reminder that with the right information you can still strategize and make contingency plans, and serves as a good guide to the things you and your clients can control.


Between filings

Beyond415 Guidance

New River Innovation

Used to be that after a big deadline like October 15, you could relax a little bit -- but the fact is that there are major opportunities in serving clients after filing (and before filing again). New River Innovation, a pioneer in "post-filing" services, has launched a new research center to guide firms in this area. Based on inside knowledge of how the Internal Revenue Service pursues post-filing issues, Beyond415 Guidance offers insight and step-by-step instructions to help you get your clients through, including a comprehensive database of IRS notices and a visual process map for navigating each issue.


Slimmer audits

Multi-Level Sampling for EBP Audits App

Audimation Services Inc. / CaseWare Idea Inc.

Ever wonder why accountants bill by the hour? It's because audits are time-hogs, gobbling up precious hours with their time-intensive processes. This new app from the makers of IDEA, CaseWare and other audit-useful software aims to slim down employee benefit plan audits by automating the selection of samples across multiple EBP types, and querying and identifying ineligible participants in defined-benefit and defined-contribution pension plans, and health and welfare plans. It also automatically performs several data-integrity checks. Designed in collaboration with Texas-based CPA firm McConnell & Jones, the app should go a long way toward starving the audit beast.


Ban this book

No More Pointless Meetings: Breakthrough Sessions That Will Revolutionize the Way You Work

Amacom Books; $17.95

Meetings get a bad rap, but we here at New Products like them precisely because they're inefficient and unproductive: While you're in one, no one expects you to get any real work done. This very dangerous book threatens to make people change how they run meetings so that they actually accomplish something. It's based on the premise that different types of work require different types of meeting. Beyond this new system, it's full of interesting insights, like the fact that the most senior person in the room shouldn't run the meeting.And while the book may overstate the revolutionary impact of upgrading your meetings, it remains a serious danger to our ability to use meetings as a refuge from real work.


21st century timeclocks

Labor Sync

When an accounting firm signs up for Labor Sync's mobile time sheet and billing solution, its staff downloads the iPhone- and Android-compatible apps, and when they're on the road, they just "punch in" on their smartphones when they arrive at a client location, and "punch out" when they leave. The data is reported to the firm in a format that's exportable to just about any billing software, and the system is tamper-proof because it uses an external clock and knows when someone's been messing with their GPS. It also has a section for notes, which makes it extra-handy -- at least until they figure out how to implant a time-keeping chip in your head.


Anatomy class

Cyber Forensics: From Data to Digital Evidence

Wiley; $80

As "sexy" as forensic criminology is these days, it still involves touching dead people and figuring out how long bugs take to digest things. While forensic accounting doesn't require anything like that, it does require a lot of basic knowledge about computers and how they store data, and in that respect, Cyber Forensics is like an anatomy textbook. It takes you through how data is created, stored, manipulated -- and turned into forensic evidence. Just as a CSI tech needs to know how long it takes rigor mortis to set in, cyber forensic techs will need to know about, say, the "endianness" of the data they're examining, and this book will prove a very useful primer and reference.


Pretty serious

Hard Drive Destruction Program

Cintas Corp.

The data left over on discarded hard drives represents a serious security threat. How serious? Let's put it this way: Document management services company (and uniform provider) Cintas Corp. is willing to come to your office with a specially equipped truck and shred your past-their-prime hard drives. They'll charge you, of course, but they'll also give you a Certificate of Destruction (a Certificate of Destruction!) and allow you to personally check to make sure the drives were thoroughly destroyed before the truck leaves your premises. If they take data protection that seriously, it kinda makes the staff here at New Products think we ought to, too - if only so we can get a ride in the cool drive-shredding truck.


New and improved!

The Center for Audit Quality has released a practice aid to encourage auditors to proactively communicate with audit committees about inspections findings and quality control improvements. ... Staff from the AICPA and volunteers have issued a series of Technical Practice Aids with useful information for insurance entities applying ASU 2010-26. ... ADP has expanded its live service support for RUN Powered by ADP small-business payroll clients to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ... Big Four firm KPMG has released Version 4.2 of its Discovery Radar legal discovery solution, now with concept clustering, filtering and review-set creation. ... CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business, has added Knowledge-Based Audit Methodology: HUD Programs to its ProSystem fx Knowledge Coach to help accountants who perform HUD and low-income house complex audits. ... Thomson Reuters has released Estimated Payments, which automates the calculation of estimated corporate tax payments.

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