Big Four firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced that it is planning to merge in consultancy Booz & Co., significantly boosting its presence in the consulting business. Meanwhile, the profession kicked off its usual end-of-the-year merger frenzy. 

After delaying PTIN renewal season due to the government shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service began accepting applications and renewals at the end of October.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board voted to move forward with a final standard on revenue recognition that is expected to be issued during the first quarter of 2014.

The board also issued a proposed accounting standards update to improve financial reporting about public and private development-stage entities, in response to recommendations from the Private Company Council.

The PCC voted to finalize an alternative standard for private companies to use when applying variable interest entity guidance to common control leasing arrangements.

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board issued an alert cautioning auditors about the significant number of audit deficiencies that its staff has seen in the past three years related to audits of internal control over financial reporting.

Separately, the board established a Center for Economic Analysis to study the role and relevance of the audit in capital formation and investor protection, and named economist Luigi Zingales as its founding director.

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board released a new online toolkit to help preparers and auditors of state and local government pension plans implement new accounting and financial reporting standards.

 

TAX SEASON LOOMS

The Internal Revenue Service announced that it would be sending letters to tax preparers suspected of filing inaccurate claims for the Earned Income Tax Credit. The letters detail the critical issues identified on the tax returns, explain the consequences of filing inaccurate claims for the EITC and advise preparers that the IRS will continue monitoring the types of EITC claims they file.

A report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that a unit set up by the IRS to improve international tax compliance by individuals is paying off, enabling auditors to assess an additional $36 million in taxes for fiscal years 2011 to 2013.

That said, another TIGTA report found that, by misinterpreting federal law, the IRS had sharply limited the number of erroneous tax refunds and improper tax credit claims on which it can assess penalties.

Instant Tax Service, described by a U.S. judge as the fourth-biggest tax preparation business in the nation, was ordered closed after a court found it engaged in abusive and fraudulent practices.

 

IN OTHER NEWS

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy has appointed a new chairman -- Carlos Johnson -- and board of directors for 2013-2014. Walter Davenport was appointed vice chair.

Staffing company Robert Half projected a 3.4 percent uptick in salaries for accountants next year, according to its 2014 salary guide. Senior accountants are expected to get an average increase of 4 percent.

Grant Thornton extended Stephen Chipman's tenure as CEO of the firm, enabling him to serve a five-year tenure as chief executive while also planning to begin a search for a new CEO next year.

Separately, a Kentucky circuit court judge ruled that the firm is liable for more than $100 million in damages to a business owner and his family after he was sold an offshore tax shelter that the IRS considered abusive. Grant Thornton plans to appeal the ruling.

Big Four firm Deloitte & Touche has agreed to pay $2 million to settle charges with the PCAOB. 

Lateral hiring of partners and leaders by accounting firms from competing accounting firms is on the rise, according to a new study by the Koltin Consulting Group, which found that firms are increasingly spending money on recruiting "heavyweight" partners from other firms in order to accelerate growth.

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