June 25, 2018

Accounting News Roundup: Charitable Deductions and Bad Passwords | 08.08.17

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How’s tax reform coming along?

Felix Salmon writes about the folly of the charitable deduction, and by extension, why the Trump Administration’s suggestion to raise the standard deduction is a good idea. A larger standard deduction means lower taxes for many people, and it also means fewer taxpayers itemize deductions, which means complying with the tax code is easier. Hey, and those are two goals of tax reform.

But this is politics, and not everyone is thrilled about a larger standard deduction, and interestingly, that distaste goes back decades. Salmon noted this post from Joe Thorndike’s Tax History Project that includes quotes from rabid anti-standard deductionites from the 1940s that don’t spare the hyperbole: “It savors of communism to make work simpler for the bookkeeper,” and “It is the first long step down the road toward the destruction of religious freedom and toward federal subsidy and control of education and charity. That is fascism,” are two gems.

Anyway, to avoid the wrath of the charity lobby, some Republican lawmakers are pushing for a “universal charitable deduction,” according to Richard Rubin’s report in the Wall Street Journal. A universal charitable deduction would “let taxpayers deduct donations even if they don’t itemize.” It may result in billions more being given to charity, but it would also reduce government revenue by even more, which makes big tax cuts — the ultimate goal of the GOP — harder to justify.

Elsewhere in tax-reform-is-hard-news: a Deloitte survey found that few people expect the 15 percent corporate rate to become a reality.

Cybersecurity

Awhile back, Megan Lewczyk wrote about how awful passwords policies are: upper case, special characters, numbers, etc., etc. It’s all very exhausting. Funny story about all those guidelines — the guy who invented them now says he regrets the policies he came up with:

Back in 2003, as a midlevel manager at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Bill Burr was the author of “NIST Special Publication 800-63. Appendix A.” The 8-page primer advised people to protect their accounts by inventing awkward new words rife with obscure characters, capital letters and numbers—and to change them regularly.

The document became a sort of Hammurabi Code of passwords, the go-to guide for federal agencies, universities and large companies looking for a set of password-setting rules to follow.

The problem is the advice ended up largely incorrect, Mr. Burr says. Change your password every 90 days? Most people make minor changes that are easy to guess, he laments. Changing Pa55word!1 to Pa55word!2 doesn’t keep the hackers at bay.

To illustrate this problem in a more fashionable sense, a researcher from Carnegie Mellon University “put 500 of the most commonly used passwords on a blue and purple shift dress she made and wore to a 2015 White House cybersecurity summit at Stanford University.”

Conventional wisdom (i.e. this cartoon) now suggests that smashing four random words together is more effective than substituting dollar signs for the letter s in “password.” But no one use “catvacuummountainbanana,” okay? I called dibs on that.

Previously, on Going Concern…

The Grant Thornton compensation thread is now open for your enjoyment.

In other news:

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Accounting News Roundup | 01.21.10

How to find the “best and brightest” [CPA Success]
This may be a better topic for the friendly HR professional but figuring out who these future accounting rock stars are before they show up on their first day is “more art than science”, as Tom Hood notes.
Popular to some old-school thought, GPA does not always indicate who’s going to dominate in the real world and “soft skills” — besides being a terrible term — are in more demand than ever.
Help The The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago Help Haiti [Re: The Auditors]
The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago is having a drive today and since Francine’s friend is the CFO, we’ll be glad pass around the news:

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Guillermo Becerra, is the CFO of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. I asked him how I could help him, and the Red Cross, during what must be an incredibly busy time post-Haiti earthquake.


“The Chicagoland community will come together on Thursday, January 21 to give to the American Red Cross as we help the people of Haiti recover from the catastrophic earthquake that devastated their country last week.
The Chicago Helps Haiti media relief drive begins at 5 a.m. and lasts until 11 p.m. Nearly every TV and radio station in our area will be promoting this fundraising effort throughout the day. You can help too, by giving via phone or online, and sharing your thoughts here, on Facebook or Twitter, and by asking others to give.
To give from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. CALL 1 (877) 565-5000 or visit www.chicagoredcross.org/haiti

Plus, we’re guessing that if you give, your 2009 tax return isn’t much of a concern.
If Your Password Is 123456, Just Make It HackMe [NYT]
The Times is concerned that you have a shitty password which puts you at a huge risk of being hacked by someone sitting in their parents’ basement.

Imperva found that nearly 1 percent of the 32 million people it studied had used “123456” as a password. The second-most-popular password was “12345.” Others in the top 20 included “qwerty,” “abc123” and “princess.”

You know who you are, ye with stupid passwords. Also, don’t even think of changing it to “654321” because that drops in at #19.

Accounting News Roundup: Haiti Relief Passes Senate; Accounting Job Surge? CPAs Basically Control People’s Lives | 01.22.10

Senate votes for faster tax breaks for Haiti gifts [WaPo]
As expected, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation yesterday that allows taxpayers to deduct donations made for Haiti relief efforts. You have until the end of February to donate so that it may be included on your 2009 return.

Maybe it’s bad legislation but we’ve been over that.

CPA Jobs Set for Surge. But When? [CPA Trendlines]
That’s the question, isn’t it? Rick Telberg, who has done a great job of tracking the Bureau of Labor Statistics on accountants, points out that while the latest BLS forecasts a 22% increase (279,400 jobs) by 2018, there’s no indication that it’s happening now:

[M]any tax, accounting and finance professionals are still slogging through the Great Recession. The Association for Financial Professionals, for instance, reported that about one in four respondents say their organizations will contract in 2010. At the same time, a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of private companies found 43 percent of CEOs and CFOs still budgeting no expansion over the next 12 months to 18 months. The data just seem to reinforce economic uncertainties and a weak outlook.


The BLS is looking past the past the recession for the jump in opportunities but just when the hell will that be? Just because the economy isn’t contracting currently, doesn’t mean it won’t in the future and this “recovery” has been tepid at best.

Theismann to CPAs: You Are the Conscience of America [Web CPA]
Joe Theismann gets it. He knows that without all of you out there in CPA land, your clients don’t stand a chance. They’d be finished. Finished!

“You’re the conscience of America,” Theismann told conference-goers. “You are the survivors in tough times. With accountants, I’m not looking for someone to file taxes and do my financials. I can do that myself online. In your position you can basically control people’s lives.”

So get out there and control somebody’s life. Joe Theismann is expecting it.