Footnotes: Herbalife Hasn't Had Much to Choose From; PCAOB Looking for 'Extraordinary Cooperation'; Work/Life Tears | 04.30.13
Herbalife Auditor Hunt Hampered by Small Pool, Big Needs [CFOJ (Subscription)]
When Tax Reform Means Soaking the Rich [Tax Analysts/Joe Thorndike]House Dem rejects linking tax reform to debt-ceiling increase [The Hill] PCAOB Dangles Credit to Entice Cooperation The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has issued a policy statement that says it will take into account any “extraordinary cooperation” on the part of auditors or the firms they represent when deciding the outcome of a PCAOB investigation. The board is encouraging auditors to consider “voluntary and timely self-reporting, voluntary and timely remedial or corrective action, and voluntary and timely substantial assistance” when the board or another enforcement agency is investigating an issue. Depending on the facts and circumstances, such assistance “ may influence the PCAOB's enforcement decisions,” the board said in its policy statement. [CW] Brokerage Ills Stir Auditor Scrutiny [WSJ] California Considers Soda Tax in 2013, Forgetting Resounding Defeat in 2012 [TF] House bill would give IRS authority to regulate tax pros [DMWT] Work/Life Balance Makes People Cry [ATL] Son Celebrates Birthday by Paying Off His Mother's Mortgage [Gawker]
With an average starting salary of $53,300, the class of 2013 might have to endure some envious snipes from their Class of '12 co-workers:The average starting salary for accounting graduates this year is $53,300, up from $49,700 in 2012, Andrea Koncz, employment information manager for the NACE, told AccountingWEB. In 2011, the average starting salary for accounting graduates was $50,500. Would'd you do, Class of '12? I have to assume this is karma at work. [AWEB]
Herbalife Ltd. is making progress in its search for a new accounting firm, executives said during a conference call with analysts Tuesday. The Los Angeles nutritional products company was forced to hire a new accounting firm after KPMG resigned earlier this month because one of its senior partners was accused of insider trading in Herbalife stock. The search for a new firm began the day after KPMG's resignation and "has been moving quickly and is nearing completion," Herbalife Chief Financial Officer John DeSimone said. [LAT]
A recent report released by Robert Half and the Financial Executives Research Foundation found that "nearly two-thirds of finance departments in US companies and one-half in Canadian companies" are manually still reconciling general ledger accounts.
That seems like a lot! But Roberto Halfo says it's biz as ushe:"The level of manual reconciliation reported in our survey is surprising; however, we've seen this same consistent response in the four years we have conducted the study," Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half, told AccountingWEB. Okay, so maybe technology, change, or smug tech-savvy up-and-comers stealing jobs from more senior employees is reason for la resistance. But you know what else is scary? Human error! And it can be pretty embarrassing sometimes! But many executives still aren't convinced that these computer machines and fancy software are all they're cracked up to be: According to the report, some executives at smaller companies are not convinced that available technology for automating the close is sufficiently tailored to their needs. They expressed concerns that their teams could end up expending more time and resources setting up a custom software package than it would take to continue with a manual process. Allow me to shift gears into brash, know-it-all ageist guy for a moment -- I hate the excuse of "it'll cost more to set it up and learn it then it will to continue doing it the old way." That's a lazy person's excuse. "Hey, this process sucks and is time-consuming, but BY GOD, it's our sucky time-consuming process and we KNOW IT backwards and forwards." They can't see past the next month's close or the rationale in -- GOD FORBID -- investing in something that might actually improve productivity. Meanwhile the person who actually performs the process is probably saying, "This would take about five minutes to reconcile if there was even the slightest bit of automation involved. But instead it takes all day and by the end of it I want to go home and take a bath with a toaster oven." But by all means, continue expanding your general ledgers with accounts that require reconciliations. I'm sure your employees appreciate the busy work.
This isn't a breaking news story or anything but since our Google Alert for "Microsoft Excel" is filed in the same folder as "Lotus Notes," we sort of didn't get right on this story when it came out earlier this month. Thankfully most of you were drinking yourselves into a post-busy season coma and probably didn't even notice.
Harvard professors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff were recently forced to cop to a small spreadsheet error in their influential 2010 paper Growth in a Time of Debt -- research that concluded countries running debt levels above 90% are screwed, basically. The idea is that high debt = slower economic growth compared to times when a country can keep its spending under control.
The actual error was only 0.3 percentage points off when the data was examined by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin, which is how the error was found out [PDF]:
"A coding error in the RR working spreadsheet entirely excludes five countries, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, and Denmark, from the analysis. [Reinhart-Rogoff] averaged cells in lines 30 to 44 instead of lines 30 to 49...This spreadsheet error...is responsible for a -0.3 percentage-point error in RR's published average real GDP growth in the highest public debt/GDP category."
See, peer review isn't so bad after all. R & R didn't show their work until H, A & P were allowed access to their data.
But Excel's world-ending potential for errors doesn't end there, according to Fortune:
In the wake of last year's $6.2 billion JPMorgan Chase (JPM) trading loss, traders have been fired, top executives have been hauled in front of Congress, and the FBI, among other regulators, is investigating. But you know who really needs to be questioned? Bill Gates. According to an internal report on the trading loss released in February, the model that was supposed to monitor and limit the amount of risk the bank's London traders were taking was "operated through a series of Excel spreadsheets, which had to be completed manually, by a process of copying and pasting data from one spreadsheet to another." One key measure was added when it should have been averaged. The result: Risk officers at JPMorgan believed the credit derivatives bets were half as risky as they actually were. So, I guess, CEO Jamie Dimon can pass $3.1 billion off on Excel. The rest is still on him.
Fortune gives a ton more examples of Excel sheets gone wrong like MF Global's consultants telling the firm about a year before it blew up that it should improve its "end user computer tools such as Excel spreadsheets." Then there's Fannie Mae's $1.3 billion Excel "mistake" in their favor.
Garbage in, garbage out right? A spreadsheet is only as good as its jockey.
Accounting News Roundup: That Herbalife 10-Q Might Be a While; DOJ May Want to Rethink Prosecuting Elderly Widows; Sage Advice for Enterprising Tax Fraudsters | 04.30.13
Here's Herbalife Form 12b-25 notifying everyone that their first quarter 10-Q is going to be late [SEC]
Filed just before 5:30 yesterday afternoon: "Herbalife Ltd. (“we,” “our,” “us,” “Company” and “Herbalife”) was unable, without unreasonable effort or expense, to file a complete Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarter ended March 31, 2013 (the “First Quarter 10-Q”) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) because of previously disclosed events. Specifically, as previously disclosed on April 8, 2013, KPMG LLP (“KPMG”) notified the Company 5that KPMG was resigning, effective immediately, as the Company’s independent accountant. KPMG stated it had concluded it was not independent because of alleged insider trading in the Company’s securities by one of KPMG’s former partners who, until April 5, 2013, was the KPMG engagement partner on the Company’s audit. KPMG advised the Company it resigned as the Company’s independent accountant solely due to the impairment of KPMG’s independence resulting from its now former partner’s alleged unlawful activities and not for any reason related to the Company’s financial statements, its accounting practices, the integrity of the Company’s management or for any other reason. While the Company has not engaged a new independent accounting firm, it has begun a search process to identify KPMG’s successor."
Implications of the KPMG Insider Trading Case for Companies and Auditors [AT]
From the co-head of Fried Frank's Professional Services Defense practice: "[W]hile individual auditors are identified by name in audit reports filed in certain jurisdictions outside the United States, the litigation landscape in this country remains singularly harsh. Some firms have argued that individual audit partners may face heightened liability under the federal securities laws if they are identified by name in audit reports or PCAOB filings, and that the specter of such expanded liability may discourage qualified CPAs from serving as public company auditors."
Big four accounting firms PwC, Deloitte, KPMG, E&Y back in consulting business [ET]
Here's something KPMG's Michael Andrew said, "We are really driving the transformation space. CEOs come to us saying: 'I have a problem, can you fix this?' Now we say: 'we can help you fix not only the finance and the tax part, we can also help you fix people, processes, IT, all of it."
Offshore account holders win a victory in government tax case [CNN]
Federal judges usually dislike tax evaders, and in recent years they have imposed hefty fines, lengthy probation, and even prison sentences on dozens of Americans with offshore bank accounts. But the watershed case of Mary Estelle Curran, a 79-year-old widow who earned five seconds of probation for not disclosing an inherited Swiss account, is different. Curran was supposed to be a showcase takedown of users of Swiss bank secrecy, a whopper indictment involving a well-heeled resident of Palm Beach, Fla., who failed to report to the IRS that she held $43 million at UBS, the Swiss bank giant, and other foreign banks. Instead, her case unexpectedly turned into a black eye for the Justice Department, as a sympathetic judge last Thursday gave Curran five seconds' probation and excoriated the prosecutors, who had originally sought a jail term of up to six years. The judge, Kenneth Ryskamp of Federal District Court in West Palm Beach, even urged prosecutors to seek a presidential pardon for Curran, a homemaker who said she had relied on advisors and rushed to disclose the accounts she inherited from her deceased husband.
Twenty Years Ago Today the World Wide Web Went Public [Gizmodo]
What is that in human years?
Managers to Millennials: Job Interview No Time to Text [USAT]
A male graduate student seeking a managerial position in Avery Dennison's research and development unit took a call on his smartphone about 15 minutes into the interview. The call, which lasted about a minute and wasn't an emergency, ruined his near-certain chance for a job offer, [Jonathan] Singel says. "If he thought that was OK, what else does he think is appropriate?" he says.
Jailed tax cheat’s warning: Just ‘don’t do it’ [TBO]
Russell Simmons says it was just too easy to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the federal government. Speaking from the Pinellas County Jail, where he was waiting to be transferred to a federal prison to serve his 15-year sentence, the notorious tax fraud criminal had a message for others who would follow in his footsteps: “Don’t do it.”
Footnotes: The Sands Might Double Down; GFAFASB's Rebranding; IRS Deadbeat Mike Tyson Likes Taxes | 04.29.13
Las Vegas Sands Can Now Hire A Chinese Auditor [Forbes]
GOP moves away from entitlements and toward tax reform in budget deal [WaPo]
Overview Of The New 3.8% Investment Income Tax, Part 2: Passive Activities [Forbes]
Here are some suggestions the AICPA sent to the House Ways & Means Committee for tax reform. [AICPA]
Norwalk-based FAF, FASB and GASB undergo rebranding... and no one cares. [The Hour]
Mike Tyson, Who Owes The IRS Millions, Says He Likes Taxes [HuffPo]
A random commenter suggests PwC ditching the Sands might have something to do with this. [Reuters]
It happens every year like clockwork (well, not entirely, some years the Becker PR folks are a little too tied up to get the press release out promptly), the Elijah Watt Sells winners are released and then comes the inevitable patting-themselves-on-the-back from our friends at Becker:
Becker Professional Education, a global leader in professional education and a part of DeVry Inc., announced that 37 of the 39 Elijah Watt Sells Award 2012 recipients achieved exam success by preparing with Becker's CPA Exam Review. Since 2005, when the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants(R) (AICPA(R)) began publishing award recipients, almost 90 percent of winners have prepared for the exam by using Becker's CPA Exam Review.
The Elijah Watt Sells Award is given to CPA candidates who receive a 95.5 cumulative average on their first attempt on all four sections of the Uniform CPA Exam during the calendar year. The AICPA established the award program to highlight exceptional achievements on the Uniform CPA Exam. More than 92,000 candidates sat for the CPA Exam in 2012.
"We congratulate the 2012 Elijah Watt Sells Award winners on their remarkable achievement," said John Roselli, president of Becker Professional Education. "We know that passing the CPA Exam requires a high level of drive and determination, and we are honored that so many of the winners throughout the years have prepared for the exam using Becker's CPA Exam Review."
Which begs the question, what did the other two winners use?
Grant Thornton LLP has relocated its Minneapolis office within the north tower of the US Bank Plaza at 200 S. 6th St. to floors 14 and 15. The total space leased is 31,484 square feet. Today is the first day in the new office for Grant Thornton’s more than 200 employees. The firm relocated from floors five and six. “This move is the latest milestone in the continued growth of the firm’s Minneapolis office,” said Jarod Allerheiligen, office managing partner of Grant Thornton’s Minneapolis practice. “Our new space reinforces our commitment to offering an environment that enhances our employees’ productivity and development in order to better serve our clients.”[GT]
Accounting News Roundup: PwC Dumps Las Vegas Sands; Three Accounting Firms Get Out of Iran; Marketplace Fairness Act Cheat Sheet | 04.29.13
Sands Casino Says Auditor Quits Account [WSJ]
Casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp. said on Friday that its auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, resigned this week after a 25-year relationship with Sands Chief Executive Sheldon Adelson. The resignation comes as Sands faces ongoing legal issues. The Las Vegas-based casino giant is under investigation by U.S. federal agencies for possible violations of anti-money laundering and antibribery laws. A person familiar with the situation said the legal and regulatory scrutiny of Las Vegas Sands was "the overriding issue" behind PwC's resignation. Personal tension between Mr. Adelson and the accounting firm also played a role, the person said.
PwC eyes bid for Roland Berger [FT]
PwC has emerged as a potential bidder for Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, the management consultancy that flirted with a takeover by Deloitte in 2010. Two people close to the situation said that PwC, the world’s biggest auditor and consultant by fee income, was eyeing the Munich-headquartered group. Its interest comes amid broader talk that big auditors could be primed for a fresh burst of expansion in the consulting market, which has offered them stronger growth than their traditional businesses in recent years. One of the people said PwC had also expressed an interest in buying all or part of Booz & Company, another management consultant.
Three accounting firms pull out of Iran [FT, Earlier]
Grant Thornton and two other accounting firms are pulling out of Iran, creating further difficulties for foreign companies still operating in the country. RSM, a UK-based firm, and Crowe Horwath of the US have joined Grant Thornton, one of the second-tier international accountancy firms, in leaving Iran after coming under US political pressure. The firms are the latest in a long list of international businesses which have left Iran in recent years amid strict economic sanctions that have been imposed on Tehran in an effort to influence its nuclear programme.
The Government Accountability Office once presented 19 professional tax preparers with tax-return information, and not a single one generated a return that was correct. It has been estimated that Americans spend well more than six billion hours a year simply filing out tax forms—the equivalent of more than three million people working full-time all year. Let Your Auditor Do Your Taxes, Investors Say [CFO] Although many corporations use their audit firm to perform tax services, the practice runs counter to regulators' professed preference for maintaining auditor independence. New research, however, shows that investors welcome the practice "because insight learned from providing tax services can enhance audit effectiveness and, in turn, the client’s financial reporting quality." What's in the Marketplace Fairness Act? [TF]
A cheat sheet from the Tax Foundation. Booger-Eating, Nose-Picking Health Benefits: Canadian Professor Digs In [HP] Scott Napper, who teaches at University of Saskatchewan, theorizes that the mucus in our noses -- which traps germs before they get into our body -- could help train our immune system by exposing it to germs. He wants to conduct a study in which a study group is introduced to some form of molecule, then have half of the study group pick their noses and eat the contents. The study would gauge the body's reaction to the molecule and the mucus around it. "I think the challenge would be getting volunteers to participate in this experiment," he told the Canadian Free Press with a laugh. "Especially if you didn’t know which group you were going to fall into."
Overview Of The New 3.8% Investment Income Tax, Part 1 [Forbes]
IRS Releases FATCA Draft Forms and Warns of Deadline [AT]
U.S. SEC turning to technology to spot accounting abuses George Canellos, who was named co-director of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement division on Monday, said the commission will look at publicly traded companies for instances of "earnings management" - when firms take advantage of gray areas in accounting rules to make earnings look better than they really are. [Thomson Reuters]
IASB proposes interim standard on rate-regulated activities [JofA]
Taxpayers Subsidize Rich Anti-Taxers [Tax Analysts]
Woman calls cops to report that kittens are having sex in her yard [MSN]
34-year-old Charlie Metzig of Roseville was nominated by his wife Brittany (cue a group awwwwwww) who submitted a poem heralding the virtues of her beloved hottie:
All the girls may ooh and ahh
When he talks about GAAP and EBITDA,
But I'm the one he chose for LIFO.
Who needs average cost or FIFO?
He shouldn't doubt he always has me.
He meets MY standards, and the FASB's.
I do find him especially foxy
when he gets going on Sarbanes-Oxley.
Want to have some real flirtation?
Ask him about accelerated depreciation!
You think a lawyer has seduction?
But can he get me an itemized deduction?
And if brains and looks weren't enough redemption
He helped me with three personal exemptions . . .
He may talk about ratios and present value factor
but you won't find THIS hottie with a pocket protector!
He loves to fish, hunt, and camp, he'd say
Is that true for the rest of the AICPA?
He spends a lot of time analyzing assets and debt
But this man ain't afraid to break a sweat.
He proved his true grit when he did the Tough Mudder.
And did I mention, he has a hot CPA brother?
The paper has also chosen a female winner, 42-year-old Roberta McKechnie, who must be thrilled others agree with her self assessment:
Our female winner, Roberta McKechnie, 42, of Fridley, nominated herself, citing her modeling experience both as a teenager and as an adult, and her love of fashion as well as tax work.
"Breaking the stereotype that accountants are not personable and will bill you by the second is important to me. Your contest is a fun way to reinforce that change," according to McKechnie. "Accountants can be sexy! Our most important job is to help our clients succeed, but if we can be sexy, too, why not?"
You can check out all 16 (!) entries and photos here. Besides Brittany's amazing tome to her husband, we have to say we got a chuckle out of this one:
"Balance sheets do themselves when she sits at a computer," according to one nomination.
Cue 12-year-old chortling here.
Today, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced legislation that will not only extend the Earned Income Tax Credit, but will also expand its eligibility. Both men are keen on the idea:
“Enhancing the earned income tax credit should be a bipartisan goal, as President Reagan called EITC the most effective tool in fighting poverty,” Brown said in a statement. “We need to reward Americans who work hard and play by the rules and ensure that they can work and continue to take care of their families.”
“This bill is pro-family, pro-work legislation that would permanently extend critical refundable tax credit provisions that have helped lift millions of working families out of poverty,” Durbin added.
Pro-family! Pro-work! Those sound like pretty good things and lots of other people think so too. The Hill reports that two dozen other members of Congress have signed onto the legislation including Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.
However, as you may or may not be aware, the EITC has some problems; Chris Bergin wrote about it just yesterday:
The EITC program leaks like a sieve. More bluntly and honestly stated, well-intentioned as it may be, the EITC has been corrupted. Don’t take my word for it. Recently, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released a report stating that up to one-quarter of EITC payments made in fiscal 2012 were improper. How much does that represent? Try $13.6 billion. In one year. Using a ten-year budget window, that’s $136 billion, and that’s just the tainted stuff.
Now, check me if I'm misguided here, but if one-quarter of a refundable (i.e. checks get cut) tax credit is improper, then expanding it might not be the thing to do. But maybe this is one of those GEFGW sorta things and everyone is cool with a 75% success rate? If so, tell me. I'll recalibrate my expectations if necessary.
ANR: Brits Bring the Heat on Big 4 Over Tax Avoidance; The Fraudster You Know; SeaWorld CEO: 'We won't be a taxpayer for several years' | 04.26.13
'Big four' accountants 'use knowledge of Treasury to help rich avoid tax' [Guardian]
The so-called "big four" accountancy firms are using knowledge gained from staff seconded to the Treasury to help wealthy clients avoid paying UK taxes, a report by the influential Commons public accounts committee says. Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers have provided the government with expert accountants to draw up tax laws. But the firms went on to advise multinationals and individuals on how to exploit loopholes around legislation they had helped to write, the public accounts committee (PAC) found. Margaret Hodge, the PAC's chair, said the actions of the accountancy firms were tantamount to a scam and represented a "ridiculous conflict of interest" which must be stopped. "The large accountancy firms are in a powerful position in the tax world and have an unhealthily cosy relationship with government," she said, calling for the Treasury to stop accepting their staff to draw up new tax laws.
Big Four accountants wield ‘undue influence’ over UK tax system [FT]
MPs have accused the Big Four accountants of wielding “undue influence” on the tax system in a report on Friday, calling for a code of conduct on acceptable tax planning that would decide their eligibility for public sector work. Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said there was “a ridiculous conflict of interest” in seconding accountants to the Treasury to advise on formulating tax legislation. She also voiced scepticism about the firms’ “protestations of innocence” in declaring their focus was now on acceptable tax planning, not aggressive tax avoidance.
Client Drops KPMG, but Not Over Insider-Trading Scandal [MB/WSJ]
Plymouth Opportunity REIT Inc., a Boston-based real estate investment trust, said in a regulatory filing Thursday that it had dismissed KPMG and selected another firm, Braver PC, as its new auditor. A study of filings over the past few weeks shows no other company has switched from KPMG since the London scandal.
Corporate Donations and the S.E.C. [NYT]
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that triggered an avalanche of corporate political spending also contained a proposal for greater public disclosure from corporations that would prefer to write their checks in the shadows. Transparency, the court advised, would let voters decide for themselves “whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.” Since that 2010 decision, corporate and Republican opposition has snuffed out Congressional attempts to require donor transparency and accountability. All the more compelling then that the Securities and Exchange Commission, following an impressive petition campaign, is considering a regulation mandating that publicly traded corporations disclose all their political donations to their shareholders.
Senate advances Internet sales tax bill, but final vote delayed until after weeklong vacation [AP]
The Senate voted 63-30 Thursday to advance a bill that would impose state and local sales taxes on purchases made over the Internet. An agreement among senators delayed the Senate’s final vote on passage until May 6, when senators return from a weeklong vacation.
Psychology of the Fraudster, as Told From the Front Lines [CW]
Compliance Week editor Matt Kelly tells a fascinating story of a fraudster who was just busted in the last month and is someone that MK has been acquainted with for several years. Needless to say, he had no idea. "I don't know him well, but we've met several times over the years through a mutual acquaintance, and I've always presumed he was a decent fellow and his company solid. I was wrong. Behind Jack's pleasant smile and underneath his hair-gelled head, he was committing fraud."
IRS Tells Congress Tax Season Ran Smoothly after a Bumpy Start [AT]
“The 2013 filing season started with difficult challenges for the IRS,” [Acting Commissioner Steven] Miller said in testimony before the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee. “As the subcommittee is aware, substantial tax law changes were enacted on January 2 of this year, just before the IRS would normally begin accepting e-filed returns. IRS staff worked nonstop, around the clock, to make changes to systems and forms necessary to open the tax filing season. Opponents hope senators hear from angry constituents over the next week, but they acknowledged they have a steep hill to climb to defeat the bill in the Senate.
States Push to Get the Most Out of Marijuana Taxes [NYT]
If marijuana is legalized and properly regulated, its proponents have long said, it could generate millions of dollars in state tax revenue. But how the drug should be taxed has proved to be a thorny question. In Colorado, where voters approved a measure in November legalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, officials have been grappling with this issue for months as the state works to forge a cohesive regulatory code. This week, legislators here will consider excise and sales taxes on marijuana of up to 30 percent combined. The proposal emerged from a task force of health officials, representatives of the state’s rapidly developing marijuana industry and others that was commissioned last year to help develop rules for marijuana. The goal, task force members and lawmakers say, is to set taxes high enough to finance the administration of new laws, but not so high that customers are driven back to the black market.
SeaWorld won't pay income taxes for years [OSS]
"We won't be a taxpayer for several years to come," SeaWorld President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Atchison told prospective investors shortly before the company went public. "That's a great advantage for us." SeaWorld is avoiding income taxes even as business is booming. The company's pre-tax profits more than tripled in 2012 to $117 million. Total sales across its 11 parks climbed 7 percent to more than $1.4 billion. Tax-reform advocates say SeaWorld symbolizes a broken U.S. tax system. The federal government gave away as much money in corporate tax breaks in 2011 — $181 billion — as it raised in corporate-tax revenue, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office in Washington. The losses drain state treasuries, too. Florida and other states lean heavily on the federal tax code when calculating their own corporate-income taxes. SeaWorld says it is acting within "both the letter and spirit" of all tax laws.
Awesome Grover Norquist juxtaposition of the day [Twitter]
— Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) April 26, 2013
Footnotes: PwC's 'Extraordinary' Tax Avoidance Structure; Tiptoeing Around the Mortgage Interest Deduction; What a CPA Does, in Pictures | 04.25.13
Europe imposes mandatory rotation on audits Under reforms drafted by British MEP Sajjad Karim, companies will be obliged to change their auditor every 14 years - although this may be extended to 25 years by member states if they fulfil certain criteria. [Accountancy Age]
PwC created 'extraordinary' structure 'to avoid tax on UK properties', say MPs [Guardian]
Instagram user @alipaul asked her students to draw a picture of what a CPA does... and this is the result. Seems legit. [Instagram]
Tax writers tread cautiously around mortgage interest break [The Hill]
Will the Retirement of Max Baucus Open the Door to Tax Reform? [TaxVox]
Maybe Ernst & Young should consider moving out of Times Square. [Bloomberg]House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) expects "heads to roll" at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over billions of dollars in improper refunds. Rogers told Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Thursday that he was appalled at an IRS inspector general report that found the agency had overpaid up to $13.6 billion in low-income tax credits. The overpayments accounted for nearly one-quarter of the tax credits issued under the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), according to the IRS. "Twenty-one percent is unacceptable," he said. "That's one out of every five dollars is faulty. I expect heads to roll on this one. This is too big to fail, if you will." [The Hill]
10 Big States Taxing Internet Sales [Forbes] Is it a loophole if it increases taxes? [Tax Update] A 91-year-old man in India got sentenced to 3 years in prison for bank fraud. [TOI]
Bravo Delta Oscar has come to Skechers' rescue and will re-audit the two years worth of financial statements that KPMG abandoned after we learned that Scott London spent some of his billable hours counting cards.
From henceforth, gaining a client due to a scandal of a notable degree shall be known as "picking up a London." Obviously. We're anxious to see who Herbalife gives their final rose to. Stay tuned.
This Guy Can't Hold a Pencil But He Has a Spreadsheet of the 6,000 Chinese Restaurants He Has Eaten At
Oh, and we're telling you about him because he is a lawyer/CPA:
He doesn't use chopsticks, he doesn't like eggrolls, and his wife thinks the whole idea is "silly," but third-generation Chinese American David R. Chan has made a point of eating at almost 6,300 Chinese restaurants across the country over the course of 33 years.
It all started in 1969, when Chan, a CPA and lawyer who's now 64, took an Asian studies course at UCLA that inspired him to better connect with his culture. And he'll quickly point out that his quest is not about the food, although of course by now he has some fairly strong opinions on where to go.
Chan insists despite dining at so many Chinese restaurants, he's not a foodie. But he is, apparently, really anal.
Since the early 1980s, Chan said he has recorded all restaurants he has eaten at on a spreadsheet organized by name, street and year visited. He's also kept the thousands of business cards, menus and credit card receipts from the restaurants.
Then he got his first home computer with a database program. "I went back and tried to recreate where I had been," said Chan. "I went through the credit cards slips, business cards, went to the public library and phone books to see where I had been and started filling it out thoroughly."
As "a CPA and an attorney, it seemed like the natural thing to do," he said.
With Caleb running around in DC trying to rub elbows with legit tax dorks today, we need something fun around here. So let's play a game of accountant/not an accountant, shall we?
Here's how it works. I'm going to give you a picture, not tell you who it is, and you guess if they are an accountant or not an accountant then just click through to the next page for the answer. Easy enough, right? I'd ask you not to cheat by using Google but who gives a crap? I know I don't.
Let's do this!
Accountant or not an accountant?
George Wendt is not a real accountant but his character on Cheers - Hillary Norman "Norm" Peterson - was alleged to be. Believable, actually, the guy was always at the bar.
Accountant or not an accountant?
Jovan Jackson is a South African model with aspirations to become a Chartered Accountant. At least if he runs out of fingers and toes to count on, he's still got abs.
Accountant or not an accountant?
Not an accountant
Are you stupid? Phil Donahue is a journalist, and the man we can thank for subsequent talk shows like Ricki Lake and Maury. And let's not forget Jenny Jones!
Accountant or not an accountant?
Nike Chairman Phil Knight started off at a Portland accounting firm, crunching numbers by day and selling shoes out of the back of his car at track meets. Forbes estimates he is now worth $14.4 billion.
Accountant or not an accountant?
Technically not an accountant, but...
Failed 2012 VP candidate Paul Ryan is not a real accountant, but he is - or was - America's Accountant, at least according to TIME. Fun fact: he was also voted Biggest Brown-Noser in high school.
Accountant... sort of
Miss J Alexander - best known for his work on America's Next Top Model - went to school to be an accountant but quickly abandoned the idea "after realizing the job was too confining." You don't say.
Accountant or not an accountant?
Freakish Gonzaga grad Kelly Olynyk graduated with an accounting degree last December but is skipping his senior season to hit the NBA draft.
Troubled Buckwild "star" Salwa Amin is currently in jail for possession with intent to sell but apparently she does hold an accounting degree. Guess she won't be practicing any time soon.
Momager, attention whore and the woman we have to blame for unleashing Kim Kardashian's ass on the world, Kris Jenner is most definitely NOT an accountant. As for the lovely photobomber in the photo, we have no idea.
On that note, we're sufficiently grossed out. Let's do this again sometime, eh?
(UPDATE) KPMG, in the Midst of Grief, Is Reminding the Academic Community of Their Business Success and Enthusiastic Employees
The KPMG apology tour continues. Well, maybe it isn't an "apology tour." It's more like, "KPMG: We can explain," tour. Actually, no, it's not that either. It's more of a "KPMG: Can you believe what this guy did?" tour with support from "This is NOT what we stand for." That has been the message to both present and future employees.
But earlier today, we were notified of a slightly different message coming from the firm. This one was to the academic community and it started out with a very familiar tone:From: John Veihmeyer (Chairman) Date: Mon, Apr 22, 2013 at 5:15 PM Subject: A Message from KPMG Chairman and CEO John Veihmeyer To: Dear Valued Faculty Member: I want to update you on a matter of importance to KPMG and our profession as a whole. I’m sure by now you are aware of the actions of our former partner and audit leader of our Los Angeles business unit, who provided non-public client information to a third party, who then used that information in stock trades. Veihz can't bear to say his name. You're dead to him, Scott. Sorry, moving on: This appalling situation was the result of a single rogue individual, acting contrary to everything that we stand for as a firm. Once we learned of his unlawful actions, we immediately separated him from the firm, unequivocally condemned his actions, and expressed our deep regret for the impact that his violations of trust and the law have had on our clients and our people. In addition, recognizing that our independence was impaired, we swiftly made the decision to resign as the auditor of two clients for which this individual served as lead partner. As part of KPMG’s comprehensive Ethics and Compliance Program, we have a rigorous system in place to prevent insider trading, including policies, processes, training, monitoring, and enforcement. This individual violated our policies, betrayed the trust of clients as well as colleagues, and acted with deliberate disregard for our long-standing culture of professionalism and integrity that guides the actions of all of our people. We recognize that this is an important time for our profession. And as Chairman and CEO of KPMG, I want you and your students to know that we are committed to handling this unfortunate matter with the utmost degree of professionalism, integrity, urgency, and transparency. I believe—and I hope you agree—that the true measure of any firm is not a single individual’s unethical actions, but rather how the organization responds when it becomes aware of behavior that is wholly inconsistent with the culture and values of the firm. We believe that by responding quickly and transparently to this matter, we are demonstrating the professionalism and integrity that is the essence of KPMG. Our clients and our people have been fully supportive, and we remain fully committed to providing high-quality service to our clients, and remaining an employer of choice for our people. Seems pretty standard, right? Actually, those three paragraphs are exactly the same words used in the message to the firm's future associates. Verbatim. That's a little lazy from my point of view. Regardless of what Michael Andrew thinks, this is a bad situation for the firm to find itself in and the message is being recycled? You can placate the press all you want, but the firm needs these faculty and future employees to believe what they're saying is genuine and not just some tanked email. Anyway, enough of that. Here's where it starts getting weird: Our firm has grown nearly 20 percent in the past two years, and is positioned for solid growth in 2013. As proud as we are of our growth, we are prouder still of the enthusiasm our employees have about building careers at KPMG. In our most recent employee work environment survey, four out of five of our employees and 93 percent of first-year associates told us that KPMG is a great place to build a career. And we look forward to welcoming your students as interns this summer or as full-time hires this fall. Seems out of place, doesn't it? Well, a person in the academic community thought so too, and told us, "I am not the only faculty member who was put off by the tone in paragraph six." The sentiment would have better, this person told us, if it had been straight to the point and not taken this odd turn into a sales opportunity. We've reached out to other faculty members for their opinions of the message, but we'd love to hear from others as well, so any profs out there that want to opine can email us thoughts or comment below. UPDATE, Friday April 26: We heard from another professor who was a little more indifferent to the tone saying, " I did not have any strong reactions to it one way or another. I was not bothered by paragraph six," so maybe the message isn't as tacky as we thought? The cynical types have pointed out that the firms are on all the time; that is, every message is an opportunity to sell, regardless of the circumstances.
Kinda like a thoughtless relative or friend who completely forgot your birthday:“H&R Block appreciates that the issue involving the filing of Form 8863 this past tax season may have frustrated and inconvenienced impacted clients,” a statement from the Kansas City-based company said. “H&R Block recently sent those clients who had their tax returns prepared and filed in company-owned locations its sincerest apologies and a $25 Emerald Card gift card to account for any processing delay and express thanks for their patience in this matter,” it said. [Kansas City Star]