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Accounting News Roundup: Zynga’s Revenue Recognition; States Relax Fireworks Bans for Tax Revenues; What About the Tax Gap? | 07.05.11

Profits Thrive in Weak Recovery [WSJ]
Two years after the official end of the recession, a range of indicators show that the economic recovery has been the worst, or one of the worst, since the government began tracking such data after World War II: Unemployment is too high, bank lending necessary to spur spending is too low, home prices are depressed while household expectations for financial well-being are near record low levels. Many economists predict the sluggish rebound may continue for years.

How Zynga Recognizes Revenue [CFOJ]
Zynga says it recognizes revenue after it determines that a service has been provided to a player and the collection of fees is “reasonably assured.” But determining that a service has been provided seems a little more complicated than it would appear, because Zynga needs to differentiate between the types of goods it sells its players. Zynga, which makes games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars for social networking platforms like Facebook, classifies the game items it sells to players as either “consumable” or “durable” goods. The former category is for goods that players can immediately use, like energy in the game CityVille; the latter is for goods that players buy and keep for the duration of the game, such as tractors in FarmVille.

Washington Mutual Settles Shareholder Suit For $208.5M [Dow Jones]
Washington Mutual Inc. (WAMUQ) and other co-defendants agreed to settle a consolidated shareholder class-action lawsuit for $208.5 million, putting behind it one chunk of the failed bank’s litigation issues. The suit in federal court in Seattle was the consolidated version of several other class-action lawsuits filed by shareholders, in multiple courts, that all essentially alleged that Washington Mutual failed to stop them from investing when the now-failed thrift knew, or should have known, how much trouble it was in. Some of the lawsuits were actually filed long before the thrift’s collapse, though the plaintiffs regularly updated the consolidated case to include the latest reports on Washington Mutual.

2 Republicans Open Door to Increases in Revenue [NYT]
One of the senators, John Cornyn of Texas, said he would consider eliminating some tax breaks and corporate subsidies in the context of changes in the tax code, provided there was not an overall increase in taxes. “I think it’s clear that the Republicans are opposed to any tax hikes, particularly during a fragile economic recovery,” Mr. Cornyn said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Now, do we believe tax reform is necessary? I would say absolutely.”

Budget Needs Let Fireworks Fly Lawfully [NYT]
Desperate to find any source of untapped revenue, many cities, counties and states are scrapping decades-old restrictions on firework sales, trying to rescue budgets battered by several years of economic doldrums. A 65-year-old ban on fireworks in Hawkins County, Tenn., was lifted in May after a county commissioner persuaded colleagues that the sales could generate as much as $200,000 in annual permit fees and sales tax revenue. “Every penny helps,” said Shane Bailey, the county commissioner.

Minnesota Lawmakers, Governor to Discuss Ending Shutdown After Holiday [Bloomberg]
Minnesota Republican legislative leaders are returning to the capital in St. Paul today after a long holiday weekend ready to resume talks with Democratic Governor Mark Dayton on ending a government shutdown, said Senator Geoff Michel, the deputy majority leader. “It was probably healthy for the legislature and the governor to get out of St. Paul and get a little perspective,” Michel said in a telephone interview yesterday from Edina.

Unpaid taxes total $400B, but little political will to pursue it [Seattle Times]
In its most recent analysis, from 2001, the Internal Revenue Service estimated about 84 percent of federal taxes were voluntarily paid on time that year, leaving a gross tax gap of $345 billion, or roughly 16 percent, uncollected. Late payments and IRS collection efforts cut the net tax gap to $290 billion in 2001. But similar estimates point to a gross tax gap of $410 billion to $500 billion in 2010, said Benjamin Harris, a research economist at the center-left Brookings Institution. “You could go a long way toward solving our budget mess by closing the tax gap, but the problem is, it’s not easily closed,” Harris said.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn Accuser Said to Have Lied on Tax Return [AT]
Prosecutors found a number of inconsistencies in the accuser’s story about the incident as well as her finances, according to The New York Times. They found that she had lied on her application for asylum from Guinea about a gang rape, and misrepresented her income in order to qualify for public housing. She also claimed a friend’s child as her own on her tax return as a dependent, in addition to her own daughter.

China listings in U.S. could slow on accounting scandals -PwC partner [Reuters]
The negative sentiment towards some North America-listed Chinese companies triggered by recent accounting scandals will probably slow the momentum of Chinese firms’ IPOs in the United States, a partner at accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers China operations said on Monday. “The current negative public opinion on Chinese companies in overseas markets, especially in the United States, will definitely affect Chinese companies seeking a listing in those markets,” Jean Sun, assurance partner with PwC in Beijing, told reporters. “Investors are now less willing to dip into their pockets (for Chinese companies), so it’s understandable that the listing momentum will slow,” said Sun.

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