PRIVATE MATTERS

As the Financial Accounting Foundation prepared to release the proposals of its trustee working group on private company standard-setting (see our cover story), the American Institute of CPAs announced that close to 2,500 letters had been sent to the FAF on the subject. The institute, which had created a toolkit on its Web site to encourage people to write in, said that the vast majority of the letters supported setting up a separate standard-setting board.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board and the International Accounting Standards Board have updated the computer-readable tags for their accounting standards and exposed them for public comment. Comments on FASB's proposed 2012 U.S. GAAP Financial Reporting Taxonomy are due at the end of October.

Separately, FASB issued a final standard simplifying how companies test goodwill for impairment. (See page 51.) It also added a new project on the impairment of intangible assets with indefinite lives to its agenda. (See page 19.)

President Obama sent a jobs bill to Congress in mid-September that includes tax credits for new hires and an expansion of the payroll tax cut. Earlier in the month, would-be Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman presented their tax plans. Romney's proposal included reductions in the corporate tax rate, along with the elimination of taxes on capital gains, interest and dividends, while Huntsman's favored overhauling the Tax Code by eliminating all tax credits and deductions, including popular items such as the mortgage interest deduction, while reducing tax rates to three brackets of 8, 14 and 23 percent.

Congress passed a patent reform bill that will, among other things, ban tax strategy patents. At press time, the America Invents Act, which passed the Senate 89-9, was awaiting the president's signature.

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board reached an agreement with Norway's Financial Services Authority that will allow the regulators to conduct joint inspections of PCAOB-registered audit firms in Norway. The PCAOB has been blocked from inspections there since 2008.

 

GUIDANCE TO COME

The Internal Revenue Service has issued its 2011-2012 Priority Guidance Plan, listing the areas in the tax regulations where it plans to provide guidance in the year ahead, with 317 projects that are priorities for the allocation of resources from July 2011 to June 2012.

It also offered tax relief to victims of Hurricane Irene (see page 14), provided estate tax instructions for 2010 decedents and gave a filing extension and penalty relief to their estates (see page 48), and published guidance on the tax treatment of mobile phones in Notice 2011-72 that clarifies the taxability of employer-provided cell phones (see page 53). Finally, it released the specs for its much-anticipated tax return preparer test, and scheduled the first exams for this month. (See page 52.)

 

IN OTHER NEWS

PricewaterhouseCoopers and Crowe Horwath were sued over their audits of Colonial Bancgroup by the bankrupt bank's trustee. (See page 19.)

Financial news and information giant Bloomberg and tax publisher BNA have entered into an agreement for Bloomberg to acquire all outstanding shares of BNA in a deal worth roughly $990 million. Under the terms of the agreement, Bloomberg will pay $39.50 per share in a deal that is expected to close before the end of the year. Upon closing, BNA would become a stand-alone subsidiary of Bloomberg.

The corporate parent of tax prep chain Liberty Tax Services filed a registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed initial public offering. A portion of the as-yet-undetermined number of shares will be issued and sold by Liberty Tax, and a portion will be sold by certain stockholders of Liberty Tax, presumably including founder John Hewitt. The registration statement has been filed with the SEC, but has not yet become effective, the company said.

Tax prep giant H&R Block reported a first-quarter loss of $173.4 million versus a loss of $127.6 million in the year-ago first quarter, which included a $62.2 million after-tax charge related to the pending sale of the RSM McGladrey unit. Meanwhile, system-wide revenues slipped 2.5 percent for the period ended July 31, to $276.6 million.

 

ACCOUNTANTS CONFIDENCE INDEX

The second monthly edition of our Accountants Confidence Index shows the profession holding more or less steady in its forecasts for growth. The 3-Month ACI reading for this month is exactly the same as last month's, while the 6-Month ACI crept up a fraction.

The results weren't entirely uniform, however: The members of our Executive Research Council actually downgraded the short-term prospects for growth for their own firms, from 59.12 last month to 58.36 this month. And they lowered their forecast for their large business clients even more: from 53.56 down to 52.05. They still see the U.S. economy contracting a hair in the short-term (down to 47.51, from 48.97 last month), but they upgraded it in the mid-term, expecting a bare whisper of growth over the next six months, at 50.85, up from a contractionary 49.99 last month.

In this month's survey, we also took the opportunity to ask the ERC about some crucial regulatory questions; the results appear at left. Perhaps the most interesting finding was that, of those who think that the U.S. needs separate accounting standards for private companies, fully half think that the best form for those standards to take would be a version of GAAP tailored by the Financial Accounting Standards Board - somewhat contradicting claims that the professional overwhelmingly supports a separate standard-setter.

If you would like to participate in the ERC, please visit www.research.accountingtoday.com/welcome. And, as always, feel free to send comments and suggestions to AcToday@SourceMedia.com.

-The Editors

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