AICPA Protests Disclosures of Uncertain Tax Positions [Web CPA]
The AICPA has come out against the IRS’ uncertain tax positions proposal, saying “it should withdraw its proposed rule that would require companies with more than $10 million in total assets to disclose uncertain tax positions on a new schedule.”
The AICPA is not so hot on the idea of the IRS wading into the financial reporting waters, “We understand that the UTP proposal does not change the underlying rules for financial reporting, but believe overlaying a tax disclosure construct on the financial reporting system introduces a dynamic which could work at cross purposes with the original and fundamental purpose of the financial reporting rules.”
Haitian recovery needs accountants [Accountancy Age]
Nearly five months after the Earthquake in Haiti things are recovering slowly. Financial records for the government and private business have had two considerably different experiences:
[T]he finance ministry’s financial controls and systems are now being restored after its headquarters were destroyed. The World Bank has helped this critical process, placing accounting experts with the ministry.
As for the private sector, Laforest said many companies’ financial systems had survived thanks to accounting software packages, whose data had been uploaded to cloud computing remote data sumps on the internet. But bills, receipts and other paper records vital for making tax returns had been lost where offices collapsed.
And creating proper controls around the donations process has been crucial for organizing those funds. According to one volunteer, “[W]ithout proper controls, the money that you and your friends and your government have given might as well be left in a big bucket in the middle of the market with a sign saying ‘biggest at the front, smallest at the back.’”
Pot could bring in $400K for D.C. [Post Now/WaPo]
The District’s Council is expected to vote on June 15th on a provision that would levy a 6% sales tax on ganj sold there. At an approximate price of $350 an ounce, each bag would yield $21 for DC and would be expected to raise $400k in the next 5 years.
Tweedie replacement must juggle dual roles [Accountancy Age]
The candidates for the IASB chair are dwindling but most people seem to agree that having the role split into “Chair” and “CEO” roles might benefit the Board. “Richard Sexton, head of audit at PwC, suggested the role should be split.” And BDO’s sometime blogger and International CEO Jeremy Newman chimes in, “It’s unrealistic to expect one person to cover both.”
Also, whoever fills the big chair can’t be a über double-entry geek or just a crafty political type to heavy one way or the other. Most think that it needs to be a balance of both, although the preference of which is more important is debatable, including one Deloitte partner’s point of view, “If you don’t understand the accounting, you won’t be able to do the diplomacy around the debate,” versus Grant Thornton, “At this stage in the IASB’s life, we would place political awareness ahead of technical [knowledge] for the chair, but of course the chair must be technically astute.”
PwC loses ruling on big Pa. healthcare bankruptcy [Reuters]
We’re a little late to the party on this one – holiday and all – but we’ll get you caught up. Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation (“AHERF”), a large Pittsburgh hospital system, sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1998 with over $1.3 billion in debt. Unsecured creditors of AHERF accused Coopers & Lybrand of “conspiring with AHERF officials in the 1996 and 1997 fiscal years to hide the increasingly dire financial health of the Pittsburgh-based system.”
In 2007, a District Court in ruled that the creditors could not recover any damages from PwC on behalf of AHERF due to “a legal doctrine governing cases of equal fault, concluding AHERF was at least as much at fault as PwC.”
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals finally got the case on their docket and unanimously overturned the ruling saying that PwC could be liable if they had “not dealt materially in good faith with the client-principal.” The Third Circuit also disagreed with the lower court’s finding that misstated financial statements could have a short-term benefit to AHERF, saying “‘a knowing, secretive, fraudulent misstatement of corporate financial information’ cannot benefit a company.”
Zipcar Files for a $75 Million I.P.O. [DealBook]
The car-sharing company announced yesterday that it has filed for a $75 million offering to pay off debt and pay for general expenses as it plans to expand its business in the U.S. and Britain. DealBook reports that the company, founded in 2000, has lost money every year and warned in its S-1 filing that it might not become profitable as it incurs significant expenses in the expansion.
Man accused of ‘bomb bag’ threat at IRS office [SF Chronicle]
Lawrence Rios was charged yesterday for allegedly threatening an IRS employee after he handed the woman a note that read “bomb bag” and patted his backpack, insinuating that he had more than trail mix in there, in August of last year. This occurred after the employee had been assisting him for 10 minutes. We’d hate to see how he reacts at the post office.
SEC Is Boosting Scrutiny of Offshore Accounting, Fagel Says [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Shoddy accounting practices that were/are rampant in the U.S. – revenue recognition and outright fraud – have not been rooted out offshore, so the Commission is looking to tighten up the controls and practices of foreign subsidiaries. Marc Fagel, head of the SEC’s San Francisco office told Bloomberg, “They’re not doing that so much in San Jose, but they may have a Hong Kong office where they haven’t figured out they’re doing that, or that it’s a problem.” The San Fran office is looking to add a dozen attorneys and accountants to help with the Commission’s efforts.
Altria to pay $971 million in taxes, interest to IRS [Reuters]
The payment settles a dispute between the company (aka Philip Morris) and the Service over its 2000 to 2003 tax returns.
What’s stopping CFOs putting their money on cloud computing? [Silicon.com]
Some CFOs are still hesitant to jump into cloud computing for three main reasons: 1) They aren’t sure what they’re getting for their money 2) Security and information assurance 3) The cost of migrating their data.
All legitimate concerns, however steps can be taken and questions asked in order to address most concerns (or at least put CFOs in a better informed position than before):
1) “Ask providers to clarify how they intend to deliver your service so that you understand the risks involved and know exactly what you are getting for your money.”
2) “Undertake due diligence and ensure that cloud providers can replicate the appropriate security policies and procedures. Agree realistic [Service Level Agreements] and make certain that services are scalable enough to meet present and future requirements. Finally, ensure that everything is clearly written down in the contract.”
3) “Evaluate how much time, effort and money will be required to migrate data and rework business processes.”
IASB unveils profit and loss proposals [Accountancy Age]
It appears that Tweeds and Co. like the U.S. GAAP method of presenting Other Comprehensive Income: “If adopted, these proposals will result in further convergence of IFRSs and US GAAP in an increasingly important part of the financial statements.”
Buffett to Testify to Crisis Panel on Moody’s [WSJ]
This will be a breeze – folksy insights with a dash of sexual metaphors will clear up this area of the crisis. Plus, no one is going to scold an old man.
H & H bagel big cops to $369,000 tax fraud [NYP]
Helmer Toro simply kept the money. He’ll spend 50 weekends in jail for that little stunt.
Brian T. Croteau Named Deputy Chief Accountant for Professional Practice in SEC Office of the Chief Accountant [SEC]
Prior to the new gig, Mr Croteau was a Senior Associate Chief Accountant at the OCA. He joined the OCA after being a partner in the Assurance practice at PwC in the Auditing Services Group. He obviously wasn’t bothered by the Partner to Senior Associate title change. It must have been the “Chief Accountant” suffix.
Proposed Overhaul of Accounting Standards Contains Mark-to-Market Rule [NYT]
The FASB has rolled out MTM 2.0 and while the usual suspects have already started belly-aching, Bob Herz insisted that “The financial crisis reinforced the need for better accounting in this area.”
The new rule will require loans and loan-related instruments to be valued at their market value immediately, thus accelerating any losses that might occur. Losses will either be booked as a hit to earnings or as a reduction in the value of the asset. The Times quotes Jack T. Ciesielski of Accounting Analyst Observer, who reassures, “It will messier to read, but if you know what you are doing you can figure it out.”
The comment period (which should yield some interesting thoughts) will run through the end of September, after which the FASB will hold roundtables discussing the rule and then make any final changes. Institutions with greater than $1 billion in assets will be required to adopt the rule in 2013 while those with less than $1 billion will have until 2017.
The Property Tax: Unsung Hero [TaxVox]
States have their property tax revenues to thank for their budgets not being in an even bigger mess than they already are, according to TaxVox. “[P]roperty tax revenues have yet to fall both because the levy tends to be backward-looking (it takes a while for assessed values to catch up with reality on both the upside and the downside) and because local governments can raise rates. The strength of the property tax was the main driver of the small positive growth in overall state and local taxes for the fourth quarter of 2009.”
If states are lucky, by the time property tax rates adjust to the reduced home values, sales and income tax revenue may be on their way to recovery. However, it’s unlikely that tax revenues will return to their previous levels which means governments may have to continue (or maybe start?) to – God forbid – cut spending.
“I Didn’t Know What ‘$’ Means” Fails as Tax Defense [TaxProf Blog]
Who let this guy out of the lab? “I am unaware of the meaning of this symbol.”
Yahoo CFO Sees Annual Revenue Growth Of 7%-10% From 2011-2013 [WSJ]
Contrary to what some might believe, Yahoo is still in business and doing quite well, thankyouverymuch. CFO Tim Morse expects things to brighten up with revenue increasing 7-10% from 2011-2013, due mostly to increased advertising business. Yahoo’s partnership with Microsoft and Zynga (they make Farmville) are seen as key to the search engine competing with Google.
Survey finds tax departments more concerned with getting it right than aggressive tax planning [GT Press Release]
Grant Thornton’s latest CFO survey finds that they are more concerned with getting their taxes right than with paying less. Obviously the latter is a goal but considering the regulatory environment (i.e. Democrats are running things), it’s not the priority, despite what those people running for re-election might tell you.
SEC Shakes Down Banks on Repurchase Accounting [Compliance Week]
The SEC has received information from 19 “financial institutions” on their repurchase accounting that could help determine if the treatment at Lehman Brothers was ” an outlier in classifying asset repurchase agreements as sales even when those assets were destined to return to the balance sheet.”
Compliance Week reports that Steven Jacobs, associate chief accountant in the Division of Corporation Finance at the SEC said that the Commission wants companies (i.e. banks) to be more forthcoming in their disclosures, “In a situation like this, s a snapshot in time.” Disclosures should more clearly describe the company’s economic situation and its liquidity apart from the moment-in-time snapshot, he said. “I would be willing to bet companies would be more willing to do that if that position on the balance sheet didn’t look as good.”
2010 Gerald Loeb Award Finalists Announced by UCLA Anderson School of Management [UCLA]
Congratulations are due to our own Francine McKenna (look for her column later today) who was named as a finalist for a Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism in the “Online Commentary and Blogging Category” for her work at re:The Auditors.
Other nominees include Adrian Wooldridge, Steven N. Kaplan, Nell Minow, Patrick Lane, Brad DeLong, Luigi Zingales, Saugato Datta, Thomas Picketty and Chris Edwards for “Online Debates” for The Economist; David Pogue for “Pogue’s Posts” for The New York Times; Jim Prevor for “Business, Finances and Public Policy” for The Weekly Standard.
Rewarding Failure [Portfolio.com]
The old idea of combining the SEC and the CFTC came up again last week and Gary Weiss thinks that it’s a terrible idea. Be that as it may, he thinks that it may “have some mileage” since some big names have recently come out to support the idea, including Mary Schapiro who was posed the question “can you explain any rational reason that both the CFTC and the SEC exist?”:
Schapiro’s response was wordy, but it boiled down to a qualified “yes.” If it were up to her, she said, there would be just one agency. Headed by her, I presume.
Evidently this seems to be a trend. Only about a week ago, the idea was endorsed by Arthur Levitt, the former head of the SEC. He told Barron’s that merging the two agencies is “so basic to any kind of regulatory reform, that to neglect that is really outrageous.”
Gary argues that an independent CFTC could “light a fire under a somnolent SEC” with the right leadership, although the current team doesn’t seem to be up for the job. If that continues, he adds, we could end up with one large(r) ineffective bureaucracy protecting the markets.
Pabst’s New Owner Built Fortune on Old Brands [WSJ]
The Journal has learned that Pabst is being purchased by investor C. Dean Metropoulos who has made a fortune in food branding. His past investments include Chef Boyardee, Duncan Hines and several others.
Pabst was up for sale after the IRS forced the sale by California-based Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation. The Foundation had owned the company for a decade, after the Service allowed a five year extension for the nonprofit to own a for-profit business.
Grant Thornton moves D.C. office [Washington Business Journal]
GT DC is moving from its cushy confines of 19,450-square-feet at 1900 M St. NW to 15,190-square-feet at 1250 Connecticut Ave. NW.
Mary Moore Hamrick, the company’s national managing principal of public policy thinks this move is crucial saying, “Grant Thornton’s public policy group is taking a more proactive role in shaping the dialogue on accounting issues. This move will support the public policy group’s expansion as we seek to do our part in restoring confidence in the capital markets.” Better feng shui probably.
AICPA Survey Shows US CPAs Gaining in Awareness of International Financial Reporting Standards [AICPA Press Release]
CPAs are less clueless on IFRS, sayeth the AICPA:
The latest AICPA tracking survey shows a sustained shift toward greater awareness of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) among U.S. accountants. Nearly half, 47 percent, of CPAs in the survey conducted April 20 to May 7 said that they already have basic knowledge of IFRS, an advancement from 39 percent who had basic knowledge in October 2008. At the same time, there has been a continuing decline in the number of CPAs who say they have no knowledge of IFRS; 16 percent in the latest survey, down from 30 percent in October 2008.
U.S. Supreme Court upholds IRS power in tax case [Reuters]
Those super secret corporate legal documents that discuss contingent liabilities? The IRS may be able to request them whenever they like, as the Supreme Court upheld a First Circuit ruling by denying certiorarit in the case.
In U.S. v. Textron, Inc., the company claimed that such documentation was privileged. The First Circuit disagreed:
[I]n its ruling against Textron, set a new test, under which every party in commercial litigation whose opponents file financial statements with contingent liabilities for litigation will be able to obtain documents detailing such exposure, according to Douglas Stransky, an attorney at Sullivan and Worchester in Boston who represents corporate clients.
“The First Circuit’s decision has eviscerated the work product protection that exists to protect exactly the type of attorney analysis that was present in this case,” he said. “It’s surprising that the Supreme Court did not recognize this.”
Florida Keys inmate pleads guilty in IRS scam [Miami Herald]
Shawn Clarke, an inmate at a Florida prison, pleaded guilty to conspiracy yesterday as the ringleader to a tax fraud scam in which he requested bogus refunds from the IRS in the amount of $115,000. It wasn’t exactly a complicated scam, as the inmates and their family members submitted 1040EZ forms along with Form 4852 to request the refunds, all for around $5,000.
Clarke was convinced that this was the best idea ever, allegedly saying, “I’m through with the street crime. I’m strictly white collar from now on. I love the IRS.” He’s looking at an additional 10 years.
Crisis Probes Fail to Meet High Bar [WSJ]
Late on Friday, former AIG executive Joseph Cassano learned that he wouldn’t face criminal charges for his actions as the head of the company’s Financial Products division. According to the Journal, prosecutors did come close to filing criminal charges against Cassano and others but it was felt that the high burden of proof that “there was criminal intent behind executives’ decisions and that they intentionally misled investors” could not be met.
The government isn’t quite finished with Cassano, as he still may face civil charges from the SEC, which has a lower standard of proof.
The SEC’s Mary Schapiro on the Myths of GAAP/IFRS Convergence: The Lady Doth Protest Too Much [Re:Balance]
Jim Peterson took a closer look at Mary Schaprio’s speech at the annual conference of Chartered Financial Analysts where she mentioned IFRS but also convergence efforts between the IASB and the FASB. The SEC has maintained that convergence should be the initial goal for reporting standards.
Jim is concerned that the gap between the ultimate goal of convergence and the reality of some of the key issues at stake are no small feat:
There is, indeed, no more eloquent concession of the “convergence gap” than Schapiro’s own admission that “US GAAP and IFRS are currently not converged in a number of key areas,” including “the accounting for financial assets (the very types of securities at the center of the financial crisis), revenue recognition, consolidation principles, and leases.”
Any other problems, Madame Chairman? These on her list are so comprehensively grave that they will keep the international standards standoff alive until the end of time.
Which would put IFRS on a even longer track to adoption.
IRS audits of schools might delve into salaries of coaches [USAToday]
The IRS’ interest in the determination of the highest paid employees for colleges and universities has a few people worried. Not necessarily because anything is wrong but because the IRS is just a scary beast, “John D. Colombo, a University of Illinois law professor who has written about tax exemption and college athletics, says he doesn’t think the IRS action will fundamentally alter college athletics business. But he adds, ‘Audits are never comfortable. Just the IRS being there asking questions makes people nervous.'”
Primarily, the IRS is concerned over the business activities that higher education institutions engage in that aren’t “related to the schools’ primary purpose.” The interest in athletic coaches’ salaries is such that these individuals are often some of the highest paid employees of the school. The IRS is interested in how colleges and universities justify these salaries and to ensure that corporate sponsorships (not considered to be a business activity) are complying with certain rules so they are not considered advertising revenue.
Mysterious letter rattles E&Y’s Iraq ambitions [Accountancy Age]
Ernst & Young has been trying to get its audit on in Iraq shortly after Saddam Hussein’s party ended in 2004. The firm has been providing services there, however not yet been approved to perform auditing services. E&Y has been claiming that it was making headway, “on the verge of obtaining an accounting license” but now a letter from somewhere within the dense Iraqi bureaucracy seems to have delayed those plans.
It came as a shock when the firm learned of a letter sent to the Iraqi Supreme Court, the Central Bank of Iraq, the Commission of Integrity gistrar and the Iraqi Banks Union, among other senior institutions, from the Iraq Union of Accountants and Auditors, which claimed the firm had been banned.
“It has been decided to forbid the accreditation of any financial statements audited by Ernst & Young (E&Y) company and forbid its operations in accountancy and auditing for governmental and private sectors in Iraq,” the letter stated.
The letter, in Arabic and signed by the Union Secretary Dr Rafed Obaid Al Nawwas, said the union reserved the right to go to “legal authorities to stop non-Iraqis from conducting audit and accountancy in Iraq”.
So in case you missed it, E&Y did not actually receive this purported letter but heard of it second-hand and then responded that the Iraq Union of Accountants and Auditors has no authority on the matter, since it’s just an “association of Iraqi accountants.” So it sounds like the AICPA of Iraq basically tried to tell the Iraqi version of the SEC, PCAOB, et al. that E&Y was not fit to be in country (if you’ve got another idea, by all means).
Iraq’s chief accounting regulator claims to not knowing about the letter and that E&Y is “just about to obtain its license” so this may be a nuisance more than anything else.
How Stanford is worse than Madoff [Fortune]
Mostly because CDs are the basic financial instrument that is usually held by little old ladies and other common folk. Not Kevin Bacon.
Unenrolled Tax Preparer: Preparer Regulation is a CPA Plot to Put Me Out of Business [Tax Lawyer’s Blog]
Naturally, there are some unlicensed tax preparers that are taking the IRS’ proposed regulations a little personally. Peter Pappas at TLB tells us about one unlicensed preparer who did some bellyaching to the Service. This sage of taxes challenges anyone to question his expertise:
1. “I prepare my returns accurately and would challenge anyone to find errors.”
2. “I have seen numerous returns prepared by CPAs and other similar preparers that were incorrect. [the man strives for perfection]”
3. “I am willing to take some courses or some certification, but to become an enrolled agent or CPA would cause an undo burden on my business. [i.e. require me to work more than 8 hours a day]”
And that’s just a sampling. Mr Pappas kindly debunks all of these (and more):
1. “A self-serving declaration by an unenrolled tax preparer that the returns he prepares are 100% accurate is about as valuable as an NBA player announcing that nobody can guard him.”
2. “This is utterly irrelevant and, if anything, an argument for more regulation, not less…[This] is dumber than texting while driving.”
3. “Becoming an enrolled [preparer] would force Mr. Jamieson to make expenditures of time and money he does not wish to make, therefore, because he is not prepared to make those sacrifices he believes that people who have made them should get no benefit from it whatsoever.”
Barry Minkow Gives Medifast the Middle Finger [White Collar Fraud]
At this point we’re assuming it’s only the figurative bird, by way of a report that states that Medifast’s business model is effectively a multi-level marketing scheme.
FEI Implores FASB, IASB to Slow Down [Compliance Week]
Financial Executives International is concerned that the FASB and IASB have gotten a little too ambitious in their convergence efforts and has written a letter to the Boards’ respective Chairmen that basically says, “Easy, tiger.”
Everyone knows that those knowitalls at the G-20 were insisting the accounting rule mavens to make convergence happen by next summer but FEI is trying to take pragmatic approach to this:
Arnold Hanish, chairman of FEI’s Committee on Corporate Reporting, said in his letter to the two boards the group is concerned about the “unprecedented volume as well as the complexity of proposed standards” that the two boards are developing. The committee fears the vast scope and aggressive timeline for the proposals will not allow adequate analysis of how the rules will work, which will lead to implementation problems and amendments further down the line.
In other words, this isn’t quantum mechanics, but it’s not Fisher Price either. Mr Hanish did his best to remind Bob Herz and Sir David Tweedie just how overambitious this little project is:
Our member companies are extremely concerned with the 10+ Exposure Drafts (EDs) that are in final stages and will be released for public comment through the third quarter of 2010. During any single period in time in its 38-year history, the FASB has had no more than 3 or 4 significant EDs out for public comment.
FEI doesn’t seem convinced that this unprecedented overachieving by Herz and Tweeds is going to result in the “one set of high quality standards.” They would prefer that hte Boards get this right the first time so they don’t have to slap the proverbial duct tape all over the efforts later.
Cabbies, Accountants Look to Chip-Fat Fuel on Cost, Environment [Bloomberg]
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ London office is trying to do its best for the environment by using local chip-fat converted into biodiesel to supplement its energy needs:
PwC is seeking local sources for 45,000 liters of biodiesel to meet one quarter of its monthly office fuel needs, said Jon Barnes, head of building and facilities services at the firm.
“I’m trying to locally source used chip fat from restaurants,” he said. “It’s a pretty pointless exercise of using biofuel if it’s been all round the world on a ship.”
Sounds like a bang-up idea but P. Dubs is always looking for an angle, “Having a renewable source for some of PwC’s office’s energy needs could help the company sell its services to clients wanting to do the same.”
House Holds Hearing Today on Tax and Internet Gambling [TaxProf Blog]
The House Ways & Means Committee is holding a hearing today to kick around the possibility of legalizing Internet gambling here in the US of A (and taxing it, of course). It kicks off at 9:30 am ET and with any luck, you’ll be legally losing your mortgage payments for the 2010 football season.
Can We Trust Bidz.com’s Financial Reporting? [White Collar Fraud]
We won’t tell you what to think but you should know that Bidz reported “material weaknesses in internal control over financial reporting” specifically those controls over “management oversight and anti-fraud controls specifically in processing of financial transactions, vendor review and payment processing,” in its most recent 10-K and