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Accounting News Roundup: Taxes on Girl Scout Cookies and Bad Internal Controls | 03.11.16

Girl Scout Cookies
It had never occurred to me before reading this article that I have never paid sales taxes on Girl Scout Cookies. There's a good reason for that!

According to local Spokane newspaper the Spokesman-Review, Idaho and Hawaii are currently the only two states to tax Girl Scout cookies.

I've never purchased Girl Scout Cookies in Idaho or Hawaii but I'd be curious to know if the order forms in those two states disclose the sales tax obligation right on the form. Also, do the girls have to figure out the applicable sales tax per order by hand or can they use a calculator? How do they ensure proper remittance to the appropriate state agency? Is there a Girl Scout Cookies app that would track the sales and apply the appropriate tax for cookies sold in ID and HI? Are there badges for sales tax compliance and app development? These are all relevant questions. 

Anyway, Idaho legislators passed a bill last month to exempt food sales by Girl and Boy Scouts and not everyone is happy about it:

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, said he’s a backer of Boy Scouts and has been a Boy Scout leader, but said, “However I do pause because we in this bill are singling out two individual organizations by name … to the exclusion of other similar organizations. I think that’s a horrible precedent to be setting in our tax policy. It begs for more special interest types of legislation.”

On the one hand, he's right. This is a perfect example of politicians "picking winners and losers" that you hear many of them crow about. On the other, states exempt charities from sales tax all the time! Including Idaho! So while dude's point is well taken, I don't get the sense that politicians at any level are going to start admitting mistakes or stop making exceptions to promises when it serves their interests. Besides, no one wants to be accused of killing Gem State residents' FREEDOM to shovel Thin Mints.     

SEC Enforcement
When internal controls over financial reporting are not up to snuff, companies are expected to fess up and say whether they are significantly deficient, materially weak or whatever. Sure, it's embarrassing if things are a bit sloppy and you might scare some investors off, but at least you're being honest about it. Conversely, not being forthcoming about having bad internal controls and a nightmare of an accounting department is going to end badly for everyone:

The SEC alleges that MHR and two senior officers – former CFO Ronald Ormand and former chief accounting officer David Krueger – failed to properly evaluate and apply applicable ICFR standards and improperly concluded that MHR had no material weaknesses.  The SEC also charged former MHR consultant Joseph Allred, and former MHR audit engagement partner Wayne Gray, with improperly evaluating the severity of MHR’s internal control deficiencies and misapplying relevant standards for assessing deficiencies and material weaknesses.  Accordingly, the public was not told that MHR had a material weakness in its ICFR. 

It's especially bad if you're an audit partner who knew that the company "[lacked] adequate internal control over financial reporting due to inadequate and inappropriately aligned staffing" and concluded that material weaknesses didn't exist.

Previously, on Going Concern…
Leona May wrote about auditing governments and a Chicago CPA needs some headphones.

In other news: