IT BEGINS ...
Tax season got off to a rolling start: First, the Internal Revenue Service began allowing the filing of business returns on January 13, and then announced that it would allow the Free File Alliance to begin e-filing individual returns for lower-income taxpayers on January 17 (though technically the returns would only be completed, and then held for filing on the day the season officially opens). As we went to press, everything seemed to be heading relatively smoothly toward the January 31 kickoff - though by the time you read this, we'll all know exactly how smooth it was.
In the meantime, newly approved IRS Commissioner John Koskinen held his first press conference, to say, among other things, that he would support voluntary certification for tax preparers, should the Loving appeal not go his agency's way, and generally to appear as a champion, not an apologist, for the service.
In yet more tax news, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson issued one of her two mandated annual reports, and used the occasion to urge the IRS to adopt a formal Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
January saw a continuation of December's flood of mergers, including many involving Top 100 Firms.
The Financial Accounting Standards Board issued a pair of updates in late January to U.S. GAAP to provide alternatives for private companies on the subsequent accounting for goodwill and for interest rate swaps. The updated accounting standards offer a simplified hedge accounting approach for certain types of swaps, along with a way for private companies to amortize goodwill on a straight-line basis for up to a decade. Both updates come out of proposals last year from the Private Company Council, which, like FASB, operates under the auspices of the Financial Accounting Foundation. The proposals were subsequently endorsed by FASB in November.
The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has been making progress on reducing its backlog of remediation submissions dating back to 2010 from auditing firms that have been addressing the problems found by PCAOB inspectors, according to a report submitted in early January to Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White that stems from a review by the PCAOB's Office of Internal Oversight and Performance Assurance. The IOPA office carried out the review last year as the PCAOB found itself falling further and further behind in recent years on the growing number of submissions from firms responding to the PCAOB's inspection reports.
The American Institute of CPAs issued additional guidance for CPAs who offer personal financial planning services, issuing practice standards that apply the AICPA's code of professional conduct to the PFP arena. The standards build on the AICPA's existing oversight of CPAs whose clients are seeking advice on more topics. The AICPA Statement on Standards in Personal Financial Planning Services covers all aspects of the planning process. The AICPA noted that more of its members have begun offering personal financial planning services as more clients turn to CPAs for help navigating financial issues such as taxes, retirement planning, education planning, estate planning, investments and risk management.
There were major appointments at two of the profession's associations: First off, the Association for Accounting Marketing named marketing consultant Jayla Boire its first-ever chief executive officer. Most recently, Boire ran her own consulting company, The Right Idea, where she assisted businesses, including CPA firms, with their marketing strategy as an adjunct chief marketing officer in the executive suite.
And then the Massachusetts Society of CPAs named Eileen McAnneny, an executive with Fidelity Investments, as its new president and CEO, succeeding Theodore Flynn, who led the MSCPA for 43 years. McAnneny was most recently a director in the government relations and public policy group at Fidelity, and prior to that spent 13 years as senior vice president and associate general counsel at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the state's largest employer trade association. McAnneny will lead the society's strategic planning initiatives, and expand its advocacy, continuing education, and membership growth and retention programs.
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