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Accounting News Roundup: Taxing Excess Medicare Benefits; AICPA’s Legacy Scholarships; FASB’s Independence (or Lack Thereof) | 09.17.13

Taxing Medicare Benefits [Economix/NYT]
Interestingly, the Treasury Department does not include Medicare on its list of tax expenditures, because it considers this to be a normal feature of the tax system rather than an exception, but Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation does. […] The committee calculates the taxes that ought to be levied on Medicare benefits in excess of taxes and premiums paid. This year, the tax expenditure for the hospitalization portion of Medicare is $34 billion, $26.4 billion for Medicare Part B and $6.6 billion for Medicare Part D, which provides prescription drugs. That is a total tax benefit to Medicare beneficiaries of $67 billion in 2013. Obviously, it would make no sense to tax people on the actual receipt of Medicare benefits. That would have the perverse effect of taxing those who are sickest and most in need of benefits. Whatever is done needs to be done on a systemwide basis.

FASB Passes on Providing Easier Accounting for Clawbacks [CW]
A growing number of companies are attaching clawback policies and other discretionary features to their stock compensation arrangements, which can introduce complex and murky accounting. But don't expect any help from the Financial Accounting Standards Board. FASB was asked anonymously to consider giving companies new guidance on how to set a grant date for stock compensation awards when they contain discretionary features that give the company the ability, when certain circumstances arise, to take back an award. FASB's seven-member board unanimously declined to take up the issue.

AICPA Awards Legacy Scholarships to 117 Students [AWEB]
More than $370k. 

Accounting firm O'Donnell, Bonebrake merges with Sikich LLP [STLPD]
Effective September 1.

Ex-Lehman CEO can’t get a Wall St. job [NYP]
Funny. You'd think the job market for people who run businesses into the ground would've turned around by now.

Has the FASB Approached Lease Accounting as an “Independent” Standard Setter? [Accounting Onion]
Tom Selling: "I don’t think 'independence' will be the first word that comes to most people’s mind if asked to characterize the FASB’s struggles to reform lease accounting.  'Trial and error' would be more like it; an iterative search for new rules to the same old game so a sufficient number of stakeholders might still agree to play along without making too big a fuss.  As of the latest iteration, they are hoping that a requirement to capitalize leases at some contrived amount will mollify investor interests, while still retaining a preparer’s ability to smooth earnings and conflate operating costs with interest expense.  If the IASB can get away with it, why can’t the FASB join the race to the bottom?"

Turkey Talk Line to have 1st male spokesman [AP]
For the first time, Butterball is enlisting the help of men as well as women for its Turkey Talk Line during the holidays. And the turkey seller is seeking the first male talk-line spokesman this year as well. The talk line, which is 32 years old this year, has long offered advice to anyone overwhelmed by making the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving Day and the rest of the year-end holiday season. It has been improving its services, last year launching a smartphone app, Facebook live chats, Pinterest posts and other social media tools. But the line, which has grown from six operators to about 60 since it launched in 1981, has never hired men before. The company says it wasn't specifically excluding men, but it usually relied on word-of-mouth to hire its talk line operators and its hires were always women.

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