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August 2019

Pass It On: Accounting Tips to Share With Kids

By Blog, Tip of the Month

Accounting Tips to Share With Kids, Accounting childrenIt’s never too early to helps kids understand accounting – the concepts of earning and spending. Here are a few ways to teach your little ones about how money works and even have a little fun.

Play Money Games

One way to explain the principles is by playing games like Monopoly and The Game of Life. However, if you want to be more homegrown and less commercial, bake some cookies, bag and price them, and turn your kitchen into a store. You might even get a toy cash register and calculators to make the whole experience more authentic. Then record the earnings, expenses and profits. This will really give children a “taste” of accounting!

Create a Family Budget

When sharing this activity with your kids, you don’t have to include every single expense – just those that they can easily understand, such as mortgage or rent, electricity, gas, phone, groceries and so on. Then, ask them to write up a budget of their own and include their income and expenditures for an allotted amount of time, perhaps a week. This way, you can demonstrate the importance of tracking money and explain that this is a common way that businesses and families deal with their finances.

Teach Them About Checking Accounts

Even though checks are being used less and less these days, a check register is still a good way to show kids how to reconcile expenses. First, you can let them watch you write a check, then explain how to record the check in the register. Then, get some generic deposit slips from your bank and demonstrate how deposits and withdrawals work. Finally, tell them that these transactions will be sent to them each month in a statement – you might even show them one you have to help them visualize the concept.

Explain Debits and Credits

Grab a blank sheet of paper and write a large T on it. Above the left side of the bar, write “Income: Money In” and above the right side of the bar, write “Expenses: Money Out.” Point out the difference between the two sides. If your child has an allowance, a way of earning money by doing chores or if they have a summer job, then ask them to pretend that they’re going to spend some of their money on things they’d like, such as games or candy. Have them record the amounts of earned income in the left column. Then ask them to imagine spending the money on the things they want and have them record those expenses in the right column. Then subtract the expenses from the income. This is quite effective because it helps kids see the money going in and out of an account. When they get a feel for how this works, they might be a little less interested in spending every cent they earn.

There are many other tools you can use to teach your children how money works, but these are a few good ones to get you started. As many parents can attest, helping kids comprehend how to manage money is one of the best lessons you can teach them.


How the Accountant Role has Morphed with Technology, and What New Skills are Necessary

By Blog, What's New in Technology

How the Accountant Role has Morphed with Technology, and What New Skills are NecessaryAccountants are no strangers to inventions. Known inventions such as the abacus, calculators and computers have helped complete tasks quickly and in less time. However, today’s technology is complex and is reshaping the world of accounting. Such new technologies include big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, block chain, payment systems, mobility and social collaboration, among many others.

How Technology has Changed the Accounting Industry

Accounting, a traditional field, has not been immune to technological innovations. Initially, an accounting department would rely on IT leaders to make its technology decisions. Today, CFOs are increasingly taking part in decision making when it comes to the implementation of new technologies.

These changes are due to technological innovations in the accounting industry that have contributed to improved productivity and operational efficiency. The replacement of manual accounting with computerized tools has contributed greatly to reducing errors, resulting in more accurate reporting.  

The accounting industry has reaped many benefits from adopting technology. Such benefits include virtual storage of documents, compliant online tools for accounting and taxes, use of communication platforms that ease connecting with customers, forensic analysis tools, and filing financial details with authorities.

Technology such as cloud computing means that a CPA can collaborate with clients in real time. This means that you are able to provide your clients with frequent business insights for performance monitoring and decision making.

All this makes it crucial for any company or professional to adopt these new technologies to remain competitive in today’s digital world.

Impact on the Accounting Profession

There is mixed opinion regarding how technology impacts the accounting industry. With the new technologies adopted in accounting, the accountant and finance professionals are expected to master new skills beyond numbers.

As accounting technology continues to evolve, there are considerations about necessary skill sets for new hires. Recruiters also are searching for candidates with extra skills relating to emerging technological trends.

Obviously, some roles such as manual entry and calculations have become obsolete. But technology has introduced new roles that require that accountants to approach the business environment differently so as to drive value. This calls for a mindset ready to embrace the constant state of change.  

Why It’s Necessary to Have IT Skills

Today it’s not enough just to have basic training for software programs used in accounting. CPAs are now becoming part of strategic planning teams. Their new roles include developing new processes, giving advice and even performing future forecasts. You may find an accountant working with a system programmer when developing a digital financial process.

This means that apart from learning accounting practices, an accountant should know how to integrate accounting processes with IT programs. Systems used today require technical skills. Such systems include strategic software applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) systems. Other technologies such as cloud computing have taken accounting to new levels that require advanced skills.

We also can’t ignore the fact that technology has also brought with it new challenges. Data security is one such challenge. This requires that accountants also be equipped with knowledge on protecting data and computer systems against cyber threats.

Technology Skills for Accountants

As we have seen, the accounting industry has been impacted by technology. For an accountant to remain relevant in the accounting industry, here are some necessary technology skills:

  • Knowledge of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) systems
  • Experience in cloud computing
  • Data analytics skills
  • Knowledge of business intelligence software
  • Understanding how processes work
  • Advanced Excel ability

What the Future Holds

Initially, it was thought that the advent of accounting tools would make the accountant redundant. But these tools have helped professional accountants become financial advisors, business counselors and strategists. Hence, the growing automation of accounting tasks presents a great opportunity for professional accountants willing to take up new skills.

It is critical that accountants understand the importance of investing in themselves. This will require learning skills beyond number crunching and preparing tax returns.

It’s also important to note that apart from technological skills, the new work environment will require additional skills such as customer service, business insight, flexibility, communication skills, regulatory knowledge and leadership abilities.

3 Big Tax Issues to Look Out for in Your Estate Plan

By Blog, Tax and Financial News

3 Tax Issues Estate PlanThere are three big tax issues that can derail an otherwise well-executed estate plan. These include Family Limited Partnerships, Revocable Trust Swap Powers and Trust Situs. Below we explore the pitfalls with each issue.

Fixing FLPs

Family Limited Partnerships (FLP) are often created to hold investments or business assets in order to leverage a valuation discount, exert control and provide asset protection.

First, to understand the valuation discount, take the example in which an FLP owned a family business valued at $10 million. A straight 25 percent interest in this business would therefore be worth $2.5 million. However, due to valuation discounts for a non-controlling interest that would not be readily available for sale or able to control liquidation, the 25 percent might actually be valued at $1.7 million for estate tax purposes.

Second, FLPs also could be set up to allow the founder or parents to control operations even after a majority of their interest is given away.

Lastly, FLPs can protect assets. If an interest owner is sued, the claimant might not be able to exercise their claim, especially if they sued a minority interest holder. Instead, they could be limited to receiving a charging order. A charging order limits the claimant to only the distributions that interest holder would be entitled to and protects the other owners.

FLPs that ignore legal upkeep and technical legal formalities can jeopardize these the protection benefits by causing the FLP entity to be disregarded. Common errors include co-mingling personal and entity assets and ignoring the legal requirements to have current signed governing instruments.

On the valuation front, many FLPs were set up to provide valuation discounts at a time of significantly lower estate tax exemptions. Not only is this unnecessary, but the valuation discount can actually hinder the heirs by passing along a lower asset value when the basis is stepped up at death.

Swap Powers

Traditionally, irrevocable trusts are by definition trusts that cannot be altered (hence the name irrevocable). Uses include carving out assets from an estate to better protect the assets and provide tax savings.

Irrevocable trusts are often structured as “grantor” trusts for income tax benefit purposes. Grantor trusts allow the grantor to report the trust income on their individual 1040, effectively having the grantor pay the tax burden and bypass the trust. This strategy can reduce the grantor’s estate.

There are numerous ways to create grantor trust status. Including swap powers is the most common. Swap powers allow the swapping of personal assets for trust assets of equivalent value. The problem with swap powers is that little attention is paid to them and they aren’t exercised in the right circumstances, leading to adverse income tax consequences.

It’s best to review the value of trust assets annually or even more often if the grantor is in poor health so you know when to exercise the swap powers. It’s also a good idea to involve your estate planning attorney and CPA if you are going to exercise the swap powers. This will ensure the swap is handled according to the rules of the trust document and properly reported on your tax returns.

Trust Situs Selection

Trust situs is the state where your trust is based. It determines which state law administers and rules the trust. Frequently, the trust situs is simply set up in the same state where the trust creator is a resident.

While simple, using a home state as the trust situs is not always best. A person’s home state may not provide the best protections or state taxation. The way around this is to “rent” a different trust jurisdiction. Doing so can allow you to lower or altogether avoid state income taxes. You’ll have to factor in the costs to do so as there will be more legal fees and trustee fees since an institution will need to hold the trust to create the state nexus. Overall, you can often come out ahead.


The best thing you can do is to review your current or potential trust with your estate planning attorney and CPA. This way you can stay on top of both the formalities and mechanisms in place to maximize the protections and benefits of the trust.

How Will the July 17, 2019 Beige Book Impact the Economy?

By Blog, Stock Market News

2019 Beige Book Impact the EconomyThe Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) recently met at the close of July, bringing to light many questions on the Federal Reserve’s future monetary policy.

While there was much speculation that the Fed would lower the federal funds rate at its most recent meeting, there are many factors impacting this decision. One relevant factor is the Beige Book. Understanding what the Beige Book is and how it’s factored into the FOMC’s decisions gives us a better understanding of our economy.   

What is the Beige Book?

According to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, one survey of the U.S. economy is done through the Beige Book. Put out by the Fed eight times annually, it aggregates economic information and provides a snapshot of the U.S. economy through its 12 Federal Reserve Districts. It contains reports from each district branch and bank director, along with information gleaned from interviews with economic experts and business contacts who are familiar with the economic activity of each Federal Reserve District.     

The process to begin compiling the Beige Book starts six weeks before the next FOMC meeting. Once all surveys are completed, it’s compiled and published 14 days before the FOMC meeting.

The Importance of the Beige Book

As the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco explains, each Book includes both formal reports and informal anecdotal information. As such, it is integral to The Federal Open Market Committee that decides monetary policy.

This report gives the current pulse on economic conditions. The Beige Book is more timely for FOMC members’ decisions because statistics, such as personal income and gross state product, are published well after they were measured.  

The July 17 Beige Book covered three nationwide categories, among others: Overall Economic Activity, Employment and Wages, and Prices.

For Overall Economic Activity, highlights from the July 17 Beige Book found that between the mid-point of May to the start of July, the country saw increasing growth overall. While there was no growth in automobile sales, items sold to consumers increased. It also found the tourism industry grew strongly, especially in Richmond and Atlanta. It also revealed that home sales rose, but new residential construction saw no increase in growth.   

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, housing starts for single-family homes in June was 847,000, or 3.5 percent more than the 818,000 starts in May. Looking at building permits for single-family structures, June’s permits grew to 813,000, growing 0.4 percent from May 810,000 building permits.

With regard to Employment and Wages, the July 17 Beige Book found that wages, especially for entry-level positions, and benefit packages increased their offerings due to a less than ideal selection from the labor market. Employment rolls increased, but not as fast as the previous Beige Book reported. Along with interviewed sources mentioning challenges in obtaining work visa re-authorizations, sectors such as IT, health care and construction were especially challenged in finding candidates to fill new positions.

When it came to the Prices category, there were a variety of reports and experiences in responses. Cost of many goods and services was stable or fell modestly from the last report. It also found that increased cost of labor and “input costs” due to tariffs were incurred by businesses. However, companies weren’t able to push costs onto consumers due to market competition forces.

Based on the mixed data from the Beige Book and other statistical data that the Fed reviewed during its recent FOMC meeting, reverberations throughout the economy will be felt. Any new rate cuts this year could reduce the strength of the U.S. dollar, impacting the cost of imported goods and materials, further impacting businesses. However, rate cuts could similarly help reduce mortgage rates, potentially helping to spur the housing market.  

Regardless of the Fed’s decision, there will be winners and losers in the U.S. economy and beyond.

Understanding and Applying Accounting Reports and Ratios

By Blog, General Business News

Understanding Accounting RatiosWhen it comes to tracking incoming sales and outgoing expenses, there are many ways businesses can keep up with their invoices and implement strategies to reduce the time they spend on unpaid sales.

Accounts Receivable Turnover Ratio

Simply defined, the accounts receivable turnover ratio is a way of showing what percent of a company’s receivables or invoices are paid by clients. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration explains this ratio is determined by “dividing average accounts receivable by sales.” Determining average accounts receivable is done by adding the beginning and ending figures — be it a month, quarter or year, then dividing by 2. Determining the sales figure is calculated by taking the total sales still on credit and deducting any allowances or returns from the gross sales figure.    

If the beginning and ending accounts receivables for a 12-month period were $20,000 and $30,000, the average accounts receivable would be $50,000/2 or $25,000. If the gross sales were $200,000 for the 12-month period and there were $20,000 in returns, it would leave $180,000/$25,000 or an accounts receivable turnover ratio of 7.2

Accounts Payable Turnover Ratio

The payable turnover ratio is determined by taking all purchases from suppliers and dividing the supplier purchase figure by the mean accounts payable figure. The average accounts payable figure is calculated by adding the starting accounts payable figure and the ending accounts payable figure, normally at the beginning and ending of a period, such as 12 months. From there, the summed up accounts payable figure is divided by 2 to get an average.  

A business made yearly purchases on credit for about $250,000 from suppliers and had returns to those suppliers for about $20,000. If at the beginning of the 12-month period accounts payable were $11,000, then at the end of the period the accounts payable balance was $26,000, the total figures would equal $37,000.

From that point, there would be $230,000 in net yearly purchases on credit for the business and an average of $18,500 for the period’s accounts payable. Dividing the $230,000 by $18,500 equals 12.43. Therefore, the business’ accounts payable turned over about 12.5 times during the period. As the SBA explains, the higher the ratio, the more dependent companies are on accounts payable to acquire inventory.   

Accounts Payable Aging Report

When it comes to defining an accounts payable aging report, businesses can use this tool to determine and organize outstanding accounts payable to vendors or suppliers and how much each is owed. While it can be broken into discreet time frames, such as net-14 or net-60 or net-90, depending on how the supplier and business decided on payment terms, commonly accepted time frames established are: up to 30 days; 31 to 60 days; and so on.

This report is used to organize which supplier invoices are due and when. One important consideration to note is if the report assumes that all invoices are due within 30 days. If there’s special arrangements or terms from important suppliers, it could need adjusting as determined by individual supplier payment terms.  

By using an accounts payable aging report, businesses will see when they need to pay their bills on time and what percentage are being paid on time (or not). It will help businesses see if they’re paying late fees by organizing invoices. Businesses can also identify if there’s a need to negotiate with suppliers for reduced payments for early payments or for extended time to pay invoices if cash flow is an issue. 

Accounts Receivable Aging Report

Similar to an accounts payable aging report, an accounts receivable aging report helps businesses track outstanding invoices owed by clients. It also contains the client name, the time when payment is due and how late, if at all, client invoices are for issued invoices.

These reports help businesses determine the likelihood of debt becoming bad, and if unpaid invoices need to be sent to collections or written off. It can also measure in short and long terms how clients have made timely payments on their invoices. This can help businesses determine if they should reduce existing credit terms to their clients or to make an offer to discount what’s owed in order to get an otherwise uncollectible invoice paid.

Whether a company owes money or expects to be paid for a product or service, with the proper accounting tools, there’s a way to keep track of all inflows and outflows.


Proposed Changes For Retirement Plans

By Blog, Financial Planning

2019 Proposed Changes For Retirement PlansLaws regarding retirement savings plans don’t change all that often or all that much. Occasionally, new regulations are issued mandating disclosures that no one ever reads – and inflation-adjusted contribution limits tend to inch up each year. However, there is one phenomenon that has been increasing over the past decade, and Congress is finally starting to address it.

This phenomenon is that retirees are living much longer than in the past. According to Olivia Mitchell, Wharton professor of business economics and public policy, demographers have reported that the baby who will live to be 200 has already been born. Because few people plan on 40 years (or more) in retirement, increasing numbers of retirees rely solely on Social Security benefits during their final years. As a result, many retirees begin to struggle financially right about the time when their health is failing and they need long-term assistance.

To help avoid this problem in the future, Congress is looking at ways to align retirement plan provisions with longer life expectancies.

In May of this year, the House of Representatives voted 417-3 to pass a bill titled the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (Secure Act). While the bill offers a wealth of provisions designed to enhance retirement plans, its primary goal is to enable Americans to maximize their savings for long-term retirement income.

The following are some of the key provisions of the Secure Act:

  • Eliminates the maximum contribution age of 70½ for various retirement plans
  • Delays the age when participants must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from 70½ to 72
  • Enables employer ability to offer an annuity option in retirement plans
  • Requires plan sponsors to provide an annual calculation of how much retirement income may be generated based on each participant’s account balance
  • Requires long-term, part-time workers to have the option to participate in the company retirement plan
  • Requires retirement account balances to be distributed as taxable income to named beneficiaries within 10 years of an IRA owner’s death

While the Secure Act is being considered in the Senate, this branch of Congress also has been working on a bill to enhance retirement plans. The Senate’s Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act of 2019 (RESA) does not include provisions for part-time workers or increase the age for RMDs, but it does offer the following provisions:

  • Encourages wider availability of multiple employer plans (MEP) for retirement plan access for small business workers
  • Eliminates the 10 percent auto escalation cap on salary deferrals under an automatic enrollment safe harbor plan
  • Establishes up to a $500 per year tax credit for small business owners to help defray the cost of implementing automatic enrollment in a new retirement plan (or transition a current plan)
  • Repeals the maximum age (currently 70½) for traditional IRA contributions
  • Requires retirement account balances to be distributed as taxable income to named beneficiaries by the end of the fifth calendar year following the year of an IRA owner’s death

These bills reflect three important changes that could address the issue of providing income over a longer lifespan. First, the new legislation would allow seniors who work past traditional retirement age to continue making contributions to a traditional IRA, up to the annual limit.

Second, delaying the age at which tax-deferred retirement account owners must being taking required minimum distributions would allow those investments more time to grow.

And finally, annuities are increasingly being recognized as an additional guaranteed income source for life (similar to Social Security, only guaranteed by the insurer rather than the government). The Secure Act offers a provision to ease the liability a plan sponsor assumes in selecting annuity providers, which may incentivize more employers to offer a retirement plan annuity option.

While the two bills are somewhat different, bipartisan support in both houses of Congress signal that there may be enough consensus to pass retirement legislation reforms by the end of the year.

Relief for Immigrants, Attempts to Deter Foreign Election Interference and Failed Resolutions to Condemn Foreign Arms Sales

By Blog, Congress at Work

HR 3401, HR 559, S 2242, S 2238, S 1328, SJ 36, 37, 38, S 1749Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Humanitarian Assistance and Security at the Southern Border Act, 2019 (HR 3401) – This legislation provides $4.5 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations to federal departments and agencies for humanitarian assistance and security to respond to migrants attempting to enter the United States at the southern border for the rest of the fiscal year. This funding is available for appropriations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Health and Human Services for the Administration for Children and Families. The bill also includes requirements and restrictions for how the funds may be used. It was introduced on June 21 by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and was signed into law by the president on July 1.

Northern Mariana Islands Long-Term Legal Residents Relief Act (HR 559) – This bill grants resident status to certain aliens who have resided continuously and lawfully in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands since Nov. 28, 2009. The bill was introduced by Gregorio Sablan (D-Representative for the CNMI) on Jan. 25 and signed into law by the president on June 25.

A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to clarify the obligation to report acts of foreign election influence and require implementation of compliance and reporting systems by presidential campaigns to detect and report such acts. (S 2242) – This bill was introduced on July 23 by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). It is in the first stage of the legislative process and will be considered by committee before possibly being sent to the Senate for a vote.

A bill to protect elections for public office by providing financial support and enhanced security for the infrastructure used to carry out such elections, and for other purposes (S 2238) – This bill was introduced on July 23 by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). It is in the first stage of the legislative process and will be considered by committee before possibly being sent to the Senate for a vote.

DETER Act (S 1328) – Introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) on May 6, this bill is designed to block any foreign persons from entering the United States whose intent is to interfere in a United States election. The bill passed in the Senate on June 3 and is currently with the House for consideration.

Joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval of the proposed transfer and/or export of … certain defense articles and services (SJ 36, 37, 38) – Three joint resolutions were introduced by Rep. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on June 5 designed to condemn the presidential administration for initiating the sale of arms to various countries, including the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Two of the three bills passed in both branches (one was not put up for vote in the Senate) in late June. However, all three were vetoed by the president on July 24. No override attempt is expected.

Protecting Affordable Mortgages for Veterans Act of 2019 (S 1749) – On July 25, the president signed a bill into law that enables veteran homebuyers to borrow above the current cap of $484,350 (for most counties) without a down payment. The legislation was introduced on June 5 by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and was passed by both houses in Congress within four days.