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KPMG Suggests Toronto Let the Lawn Get Out of Hand a Bit, Wait Longer to Shovel Snow to Cut Some Spending

The City of Toronto needs some help with ideas of how to cut some spending in their budget. STAT. Enter KPMG. They have to find savings where they can and sometimes that means making suggestions that may not go over so well. For example, those perfectly manicured lawns you see around the city? That’s due to a weekly grass cutting regimen. And guess what? It’s gotta go:

The report […] says weekly grass cutting may not be necessary except for “high-use surfaces” such as playing fields. Public works chair Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong recently complained that a wet spring had grass and weeds growing out of control on city sites and called for more grass cutting.

Can you imagine if the City of New York let the grass go for an extra few days? You can just imagine the outrage. Anyone with a park view would be calling up 411 to complain that they can see “weeds” and “that jungle of a lawn” from their veranda on the 20th floor. “Absolutely shameful,” they’d say. Not sure if Toronto’s residents are so hung up on those sorts of details but it stands to reason that there are at least a few citizens who are meticulous about the city’s lawns.

Anyway, KPMG had another suggestion:

KPMG says the city could wait for more than five centimetres of snow before clearing parking lots and pathways, although there would be increased risk of “slip and fall claims.”

Of course Canadians are little tougher when it comes to the snow, so a couple more inches of snow is probably NDB. But with the offset of increased “slip and fall claims” this could be a net zero effect.

But the best savings idea of all? Those zoos and “farm attractions” that your kids love so much? Those should probably go too:

“Consider elimination of the zoo and farm attractions . . . Some zoo and farm attractions could be closed, however, these are enjoyed by many Toronto residents,” the report states.

Happy families out on a Sunday be damned! There’s a fiscal crisis to be averted! The city still has to decide whether to implement these suggestions but if they do, KPMG will have crying children to answer to. Ones that aren’t employees.

Close small zoos and Riverdale Farm, consultant suggests [Toronto Star]

Any Californians with Bright Ideas on Tax Policy Are Invited to Speak Up

God knows it can’t get any worse.

These hearings give you the opportunity to present your ideas, concerns, and recommendations regarding legislation, the quality of agency services, and other issues related to the Board’s administration of its tax programs. At the business taxes hearings you can comment on the administration of sales and use taxes, environmental fees, fuel taxes, and excise taxes. At the property tax hearings you can comment on the property tax programs and laws administered by the Board, and identify ways to resolve any problems identified in the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocates’ 2009-10 Annual Report.

Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights Hearings [BOE via Tax Foundation]

Report: Nearly 20% of Financial Statement Users Think the Auditor’s Report Is Worthless

Last December, the PCAOB announced that they were going to kick around some ideas for a new and improved audit model. See, you may have heard about a few financial institutions that, it turned out, weren’t in such great shape. Funny thing – all these companies had clean audit opinions. This got people asking pretty awkward questions out loud like, “Are Auditors Irrelevant?” and making statements such as, “Get rid of [them]” AND “They add no value.”

The PCAOB listened to all this gnashing of teeth for about a year (or maybe their entire existence) and they came to the conclusion that some conversations needed to be had and even some changes might be appropriate. What exactly does that mean? Well, it sounds like we’ll hear some suggetions next Thursday when the next Standing Advisory Group meeting is held but in the meantime, the PCAOB’s Investor Advisory Group was plenty busy today, making several presentations that included some very interesting findings.

The first is “Improving the Auditor’s Report” that was prepared by Joseph Carcello of the University of Tennessee, Norman Harrison of Breeden Capital, Gus Sauter of Vanguard and Ann Yerger of the Council of Institutional Investors. Some items worth noting:

• 45% of respondents believe that the current audit report does not provide valuable information that is integral to understanding financial statements while 23% of respondents believe the current audit report provides valuable information.

18% believe the auditor report is of no use to them at all.

Two selected comments from the report: “The statement feels very binary. Either a qualified opinion or not. Not a lot of incremental information once a company gets an unqualified opinion.” and “The audit report is valuable both because of what it says, i.e., an opinion, and by virtue of what it does not say, i.e., an exception.”

Examples of disclosures that users were asked about: Disclosure of risks (“77% believe auditor should disclose areas with greatest financial statement and audit risk and the audit work performed in those areas”); disclosure of audit hours (“51% believe the auditor should not be required to disclose hours spent on individual financial statement accounts”); materiality thresholds (“56% believe the auditor should disclose quantitative and qualitative materiality thresholds and considerations”); audit partner signature (“44% support requiring the audit partner to personally sign the audit opinion”).

There’s more where this came from so check out the full presentation for some interesting reading. We’ll have more tomorrow.

Tim Geithner Wants to ‘Revisit’ This Pass-Through Entity Idea

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told the Senate Finance Committee Feb. 15 that Congress should “revisit” long-standing rules that give businesses a choice of paying taxes as a corporation or through a structure such as a partnership through which they can report business income on individual tax returns. The recommendation, which Geithner repeated in a meeting with reporters this week at Bloomberg News in Washington, would affect income earned by the nation’s largest law firms, investment partnerships and so-called S corporations. It would more than double, to about $3 trillion, the amount of business income potentially affected by tax-law changes. [Bloomberg]

Who Will Replace Bob Herz as FASB Chairman?

Yesterday we learned that FASB Chair Bob Herz would be ending his spectacular 8 year run as the head of our favorite accounting standards setting agency.

What we have not learned is who will be replacing him permanently when he escapes next month. In the interest of helping FASB come up with a qualified replacement, we have a few suggestions. Do we need to submit these in comment letter form or can someone just email over for us?

Patrick Byrne Listen, we know there’s something just not right about the guy and it’s entirely possible that he lacks the actual paper qualifications required of the FASB chair. But to his credit, he can do wonders with financial reporting, especially when it comes to using magical fantasy models very similar to FASB’s own mark-to-Disneyland initiatives. He’d be great for coming up with all sorts of helpful guidance (except when it comes to internal control, he might have to contract out to the IASB on that one) and if the IASB decides to get too lippy, Byrne can simply send Judd Bagley after Tweedie’s ass to “straighten him out,” ifyoufeelme.

Willie Nelson Okay, so we’re pretty sure you have to take a drug test before you’re allowed to run the FASB but assuming Willie can get his hands on some goldenseal, we think we have a winner here. He’s laid back enough to handle hard ribbings by Barney Frank in the event of another bank accounting debacle and who knows, we could put off convergence another 15 years if we can send Nelson over to the IASB with some goodies. They’ll be too busy watching Chapelle’s Show and hunting down Doritos to start messing with the sanctity of GAAP. Win.

The hot chick who got fired from PwC Let’s be real about it, the FASB chairman job used to be an esteemed position but now that we’re trudging ever-forward towards convergence (or, rather, total IASB domination), we don’t actually need anyone with more than half a brain in that position. So why not offer hot chick a job? Qualifications include: standing there looking pretty, keeping your trap shut and ignoring Tweedie’s midnight sexting.

If you have a suggestion, why not let us know? We’ll be sure to include it as an aside in our next comment letter. Whoever they get, can we please PLEASE make sure they slightly more photogenic than our buddy Bob? Seriously, we’re going to miss you, Herz, but man did you make us all look bad.