Politics

cpa run for office

Let’s Cool It With All the ‘CPAs Should Run for Office Because Taxes’ Talk

Crazy enough to think that people will care that he can look at a 1040 and not soil himself. Should CPAs run for office? According to this gushy post at the AICPA, the answer is a resounding: YAAAAS. When you’re a CPA, you have a solid understanding of the many issues that power government: taxes, […]

political opinions

Do Political Opinions Matter When Choosing an Employer?

We’re in a weird space these days. The country is remarkably polarized when it comes to politics, and it’s said personal relationships have a lower chance of succeeding if the parties aren’t on the same political page. Yikes.  So how do you navigate this landscape in the workplace, especially if your views are in the […]

Survey: Millennials Most Likely to Waste Time Talking Politics

A few weeks ago, we discussed whether or not discussing politics at work was a good idea. In general, it's ill-advised because voices get raised, names get called, feelings get hurt, threats get made and you can be damn sure nothing gets resolved. These discussions also have the tendency to drag on, so what might've […]

Should Accountants Avoid Political Discussions at Work?

As you’ve probably heard, over the weekend, the New York Times obtained a few pages of Republican presidential nominee and stale cheese cracker Donald Trump’s tax return and shared them with the world. Lots of people have been pining for months for any morsel of Trump’s returns and now that we have that morsel, people […]

Here’s How the Accounting Profession’s Political Action Committees Have Been Spending Their Money

With less than two months left until Election Day, you might be wondering, “How much money have accounting firms been throwing around this election cycle?” No? Just me? Okay, then, well this should be fun. Here’s what Open Secrets, a website run by the Center of Responsive Politics, has for contributions by the accounting industry’s […]

New Bill Calls for Drug-Testing Taxpayers Claiming More Than $150k in Itemized Deductions

A big part of politics, I think, is trolling. And, just like on the internet, it works! Look no further than the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. He's basically the Fox Nation comment section incarnate and yet, he could be the next President of the United States! From a legislative standpoint, this works too. […]

More Twists in the Race to Be The Next PCAOB Chairman

John White, a prominent lawyer with Cravath, Swaine & Moore, sits on the PCAOB's Standing Advisory Group. His wife, Mary Jo, chairs the SEC. She, along with the other commissioners, will choose the next PCAOB chair. Some people don't like how that looks: The Center for Effective Government, an advocacy group, said White should step […]

Baker Tilly CEO Admits He Wasn’t “Civically Involved” Enough for Chicago

Man, and I thought Washington was a tough town to break into: Tim Christen, chairman and CEO of accounting firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP, moved the company's U.S. headquarters to Chicago from Madison, Wis., five years ago, but when he set out to join one of the city's elite civic clubs, he was rejected. […]

What Is It With Big 4 Hot Shots and Their Politics?

Alright, we need to sage this joint out a little bit. I'm posting the following reader question not to start another monkey dung-throwing match in the comment section but to spark a real discussion about this matter. I have some theories but let's get to the question first: I've been working for one of the […]

GOP Senator: Lois Lerner’s Retirement Is Only the Beginning of Us Dragging This Thing Out

Last week, Lois Lerner was "technically still employed," but Bloomberg's Richard Rubin reports that the former director of exempt organizations is out of there effective today. HOWEVAH! If you thought this was the end of political gamesmanship, then you would be sorely mistaken: “Just because Lois Lerner is retiring from the IRS does not mean […]

AICPA Asks EEOC to, Respectfully, BTFO of Big 4’s Mandatory Retirement Policies

Although the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page made it abundantly clear that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was way off, giving PwC and other large accounting firms a hard time for their mandatory retirement age policies, the AICPA thought it would be prudent to make its thoughts on the matter known:  In a letter to members […]

Oddly, Dem and GOP Leaders Don’t Agree on Next Act in IRS Investigation Circus

Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) shared some new info yesterday about some of the employees in the IRS's Cincinnati office — including a self-described "conservative Republican" — who were all, "Yeah, we kinda sorta used terms like 'Tea Party' to try to determine who was engaging in too much political activity to qualify as a 501(c)(4)": According […]

The IRS Scandal Has Made the Long Odds of Passing Tax Reform Even Longer

Until last Friday, tax reform seemed to be working a steady pace towards…something. I mean, Max & Dave have both a Twitter account and a website dedicated to the cause so you know they were getting serious about the thing. This kind of effort is enough to get the ghost of Ronald Reagan wandering around DC […]

Here Are Some of Things People Are Saying About the IRS Scandal

As you've probably heard by now, the head of the IRS's tax-exempt organizations divison, Lois Lerner, apologized on Friday that the agency targeted 501(c)4 organizations with "Tea Party" and "patriot" in their names. Lerner said this was not done out of political bias, because, as we all know, those words don't hold any political overtones.  […]

Why Yes, Tax Reform Can Get More Complicated

Juggling all the aspects of income tax reform is quite a task. Here's a mind dump of a few of the elements involved: Credits Deductions Tax-exempt income The treatment of pass-throughs How much marginal rates should be cut If more revenue should be raised How carried interest is treated The capital gains rate Transfer pricing […]

Tax Nerds Feeling Vindicated After Their Long-held Viewpoints Are Paid Lip Service

Tax Policy Center co-director Eric Toder is feeling good today. Why? Some people known for not doing much of anything productive are saying things that sound remarkably like some people who plan to do something productive! The House Ways and Means Committee, in a letter signed by all its Republican members to Budget Committee Chairman […]

John Boehner Is the Most Reasonable, Responsible Person in Washington, Says John Boehner

The other day, Speaker of the Hizzous John Boehner got a lot of people got lot of people hot and bothered when he said that Republicans were "willing to accept new revenue, under the right conditions.” For some odd reason, these people – including Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) – thought that meant […]

Chuck Schumer Is Willing to Give John Boehner a Few Days to Warm Up to Higher Taxes

“You can’t expect the Speaker to turn on a dime in 24 hours and embrace everything, higher taxes, higher taxes on the wealthy, but I think privately that he’s seen the handwriting on the wall and it makes me very hopeful that we can do something big in the next month and a half. It’s […]

A Famous Psephologist Hated Working at KPMG, Just Like Us!

In this election cycle, Nate Silver may be the most talked about person that isn't running for political office. He runs FiveThirtyEight, a blog that uses data to determine the probability of a particular outcome in an election, most notably the presidential election. In 2008 he predicted 49 out of 50 states correct, so he […]

NJ Committeewoman Accused Of Lying About Her “Inactive” CPA License

I have seen many, many CPA exam candidates add "CPA"  to their email signatures and social media profiles immediately after passing their 4th part over the years, and most of us know why this is not a smart idea. Sure, you're really excited to have passed and figure you're just a few years' of experience […]

Grover Norquist: No Matter What, Taxes Aren’t Going Up

GOP drum major Grover Norquist was interviewed by the Washington Post's Suzy Khimm and you'll be absolutely FLOORED to learn that they discussed taxes. Mostly, the discussion focused was on what would happen to various taxes after the election – what happens if Romney is elected, what happens if Obama is re-elected, what happens in […]

Election 2012: Here’s Who the Big 4 Are Throwing Their Money Behind

One of my many ultra liberal friends was yammering on about presidential campaign contributions last night and I, being the skeptical libertarian I am, decided to dig a little deeper into the numbers to prove that be it Republican or Democrat, you're still getting pretty much the same thing. It's sort of like picking a […]

Ways and Means Committee Isn’t Even Trying Anymore

As you know, the so-called* fiscal cliff is looming* over us all. The prospect of tax increases and spending cuts has everyone freaked. Our elected officials are in full campaign mode, yet still manage to o attend committee meetings to discuss and debate policy of the utmost importance in order to reach a compromise for […]

Ohio Society of CPAs Foolish Enough to Think That Congress and the President Will Heed Their Call for Bipartisanship

It's not just Ohio CPAs, mind you. NosireeBOB. It's primarily Chambers of Commerce from around the country but also the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the National Beer Wholesalers Association, the Snack Food Association, Turfgrass Producers International, and a host of others asking "Congress and the president to immediately enact legislation that averts America’s impending fiscal cliff." Christ […]

The Wall Street Journal, For One, Has No Problem Making Mitt Romney’s Tax Plan Mathematically Possible

Late yesterday (or for you nostalgic types, in today's print edition), the Wall Street Journal published an editorial that goes after the Brookings Institution and Tax Policy Center for their analysis of Mitt Romney's tax plan. The long-short of the analysis is that, given what has been said by Mittens re: tax reform, there is […]

Democrats Concerned That Republicans Want to Take Their Tax Reform Ball and Go Home

In case you weren't already aware, our nation's tax code is a mess. And not your run-of-the-mill mess that can be tidied up before company comes over; this is more of a dirty-dishes-on-the-floor-ring-around-the-entire-bathroom-kitchen-smells-like-the-dumpster-what-the-hell-is-that?-is-that-dog-piss? mess. Both political parties believe that reform is needed, but that's where the agreement ends.  The Republicans would like to cut tax […]

Poll: Americans Would Rather the Next President Get Some Jobs Up in This Piece Rather Than Stick the Rich with Higher Taxes

Surely most people wouldn't mind if the 1% were paying a little bit more in taxes but when compared to other issues, Gallup found that it's a pretty low priority: Creating good jobs, reducing corruption in the federal government, and reducing the federal budget deficit score highest when Americans rate 12 issues as priorities for […]

Sandy Levin Will Try (and Fail) to Get Mitt Romney’s Tax Returns the Old Fashioned Way

You almost get the sense that ol' Sandy is wagging a finger at Mitt and saying, "A real Michigan man offers up twelve years of tax returns. But in your case, I'll settle for ten."  Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., the ranking Democratic member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, plans to introduce legislation […]

Joe Echevarria: Washington Needs to Get Its Act Together

Deloitte CEO Joe Echevarria is confident in his firm's ability to create jobs. He told CNBC that the Green Dot will hire another 17,000 new employees next year (netting "about half of that"). The reason that other, lesser, CEOs aren't kicking ass and taking names is that they can't deal with all the uncertainty out […]

Just Admit It, Choosing the IRS to Enforce ObamaCare Was Smart

One of the many beefs that people have with ObamaCare is that the IRS will be tasked with enforcing the penalty assessed to those that choose not to purchase health insurance. Joe Kristan laments: Maybe the most depressing aspect of the [SCOTUS] decision is the way it seems to endorse using the tax law as the […]

Cranky Old Coot Alan Simpson Gives ‘Wretched’ Seniors Group a Piece of His Mind

Eighty year-old Alan Simpson, who typically saves his Grandpa Simpson outbursts for Grover Norquist, would prefer it if the California Alliance of Retired Americans quit their rambling, sat back and chewed their Jell-O slowly, and let the coherent adults handle the nation's fiscal crisis:  Alan Simpson, a co-chairman of President Obama’s fiscal commission, has lashed […]

And Here You Probably Thought Americans for Tax Reform Just Lobbied Against Taxes

The Hill reports that tax unfriend Grover Norquist and his merry band of scamps at Americans for Tax Reform spent over $300k lobbying in the first three months of year. That beats the same time period for last year by 82%. Pretty impressive work, but considering it's an election year, not surprising. What you might […]

Congressional Members Seem to Have Their Orders Re: Auditor Rotation

You may remember that last Wednesday I put my grown-up clothes on and attended the PCAOB's open meeting on auditor rotation. It was a good discussion (relatively speaking) and I got chat with some pretty smart people. I can't work a room of old white men like Adrienne (few can), but Chairman James Doty seemed […]

Kids! Join the Voluntary Tax Accountant Extinction Movement!

  The world doesn’t owe us a living. Of course you know that.  If you thought the world did owe you a living, you wouldn’t have gotten that Accounting degree.  You’d have gone for that much easier Critical Gender Studies or 19th-Century American History ticket.  But even when you get that first tax accountant job, […]

Congress Isn’t Interested in Discussing the Payroll Tax Cut Right Now

House Republicans on Tuesday declined to recognize a House Democrat who was trying to speak about the need for Congress to quickly resolve its differences about how to extend the payroll tax cut. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) gaveled today's pro forma session to order at about 2 p.m. After the House prayer and Pledge of […]

It Appears That Both John Boehner and President Obama Are Prepared to Ruin Christmas for the Payroll Tax Cut

Speaker of the House John Boehner and President Obama spoke on the phone earlier today and both men seem pretty eager to get something accomplished re: the payroll tax cut. The Hill reports that Boehner reportedly told Obama, "Let’s get this done today,” while White House spokesman Jay Carney later said, "The ball is in the […]

Gingrich, Romney Currently Leading the Race to Be Grover Norquist’s Whipping Boy

Did I say “Grover Norquist”? Sorry, sorry. By that, I meant, “the American People.”


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Hear that, Mittens? You need to do a re-write, or the the citizens of this great land will have you by the short and curlies. Get on it.

[via The Hill]

The Big 4 and the Revolving Door

Last week the bane of Big 4 auditors existence, the PCAOB, broke their cherry on releasing Part II of an inspection report for a Big 4 firm. The honor went to Deloitte, who sufficiently blew off the Board’s recommendations for 12 months, which led to the release of Part II.

Bloomberg‘s Jonathan Weil, who usually sits back with popcorn while these things go down before chiming in, got to it today but with a twist that you probably weren’t expecting:


board members had recused themselves from participating in meetings or discussions this year concerning Deloitte, because of past or current ties to the firm, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

The board members — Lewis Ferguson, Jay Hanson and the board’s chairman, James Doty — were appointed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in January. Doty had been a partner at the law firm Baker Botts LLP, where Deloitte is a client. Ferguson was a partner at the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, which also represents Deloitte. Hanson, a former partner at the accounting firm McGladrey & Pullen LLP, has a daughter who works for Deloitte in its Phoenix office.

The board’s policy is to not disclose recusals, in spite of its mission to “further the public interest,” as if these are none of the public’s business. “Recusals are confidential,” Colleen Brennan, a board spokeswoman, said. Doty, Ferguson and Hanson declined to comment. A Deloitte spokesman, Jonathan Gandal, said: “The PCAOB itself does not comment on recusals, and as such it would be inappropriate for us to do so.”

It’s a pretty nice scoop by Jon and we’re all used to the silence from the PCAOB and Deloitte when someone gets the best of them but honestly, is anyone surprised? Does anyone care? The answer to the first question is “No.” The answer is the second question is “Maybe.”

With the exception of Mr. Hanson (family connection, we’ll give you that one), the recusals seem a little silly since neither Ferguson or Doty actually worked directly for Deloitte. Okay, so Baker Botts and Gibson Dunn have Deloitte has a client. Which Big Law firm doesn’t? It’d be pretty tough to find any DC lawyer who didn’t do some time at a firm that represented Deloitte. That goes for any Big 4 firm. They’ve all got deep pockets with lots of legal problems, of course they’re going to hire the best lawyers money can buy. Does that make guys like Ferguson and Doty unfit to make decisions with regard to that firm?

Well, for one year it does. Under the Board’s ethics code, Doty and Ferguson will be able to vote on matters involving Deloitte in January. Still, Weil doesn’t like the smell of it. And it doesn’t stop with the PCAOB:

[T]alk about being wired: The SEC’s chief accountant, James Kroeker, is a Deloitte alumnus. At the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which writes U.S. accounting rules, the wife of one board member, Russell Golden, is a Deloitte partner.

Look, we like Jon (even if he is a Colorado grad). But how do you find accounting policy makers who aren’t from the biggest, best connected firms that have the most resources? Should the Commission start appointing academics to develop policy? Eeek. Or maybe we’ll let the public make recommendations, “Yeah, my cousin’s a CPA out of Tulsa. Really knows his stuff. He’d be good.” Please.

Dan Goelzer’s seat is coming up and he’ll be replaced by a CPA. Weil hopes that the SEC will find “a qualified person without Big 4 allegiances” but with the revolving door spinning, he’d better hope for a wild card.

Goldman Sachs Envy Gains New Meaning at Big Four [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]

Romney Trumps Obama in Accounting Firm Donations to Presidential Candidates

You may have heard that there’s a bit of a campaign going on for the world’s worst job. For whatever reason, the process of electing the leader of our country’s government drags on like Titantic. Right around, erm, now you’re probably ready to gouge your eyes out with a rusty spoon every time you see an ad for a candidate or debate. Unfortunately we’re powerless to stop it, thanks tycle.

ANYWAY, one of the more useful things we learn during this process is where the money comes from and who it goes to. Now, you may be screaming, “Koch Brothers!” or “George Soros!” and while they can afford to throw around some cash, these stories are old hat and are best left to political bomb throwers with jostling jowls.

For our purposes of informing you, dear GC readers, we’ll give you the lowdown on what kind of cash people from the largest accounting firms are throwing around and who they’re throwing it to. Accounting Today has a full report out today based on data available from the Federal Election Commission and here are the highlights:


Ernst & Young – E&Y donated the most cash, with personnel contributing more than $89,000. 18% went to President Obama, Mitt Romney received 39% and Rick Perry 37%. Personally, I feel like this money would be better spent throwing it at people in Albany.

Deloitte – Total of $57,490 in donations. Mittens received 41%; Obama 37%.

PwC – $36,520 total donations. Romney received 51%; Obama 48%.

KPMG – The one Obama stronghold. The President received 47% of the total $15,000 in donations. Romney received 32%; Perry 17%.

Grant Thornton – Obama doesn’t win. GT peeps gave $23,050 and 97% went to Mitt Romney.

What about the other candidates? Well, Newt Gingrich received a grand total of zero dollars from anyone at these accounting firms. Ron Paul received less money than Jon Huntsman. Yes, I know you’ve never heard of him. It’s this guy. Google Rick Santorum just for fun. And check out Michelle Bachmann’s manicures. That’s about all you need to know.

So who gets your imaginary contributions? I imagine most of you out there in Internetland have no plans to fork over any of your meager bonuses to a Presidential candidate but IF YOU DID, who would it be? And feel free to discuss your firm’s generosity or political leanings as you see fit.

Accountants and Firms Fund Presidential Candidates [AT]

Grover Norquist Would Like to Take This Opportunity to Remember Steve Jobs

In the most offensive, self-serving way possible.


Jesus, Grover. You went after our grandmothers and we let it slide. But this. This is crossing the line.

[via @GroverNorquist]

GOP Congressman: All Tax Cuts Are Good But Some Are Gooder Than Others

The Associated Press is reporting that some Republican Members of Congress are fighting their natural inclination to extend all tax cuts to infinity. The tax cut at risk of expiration is employees’ share of the social security tax of 6.2%. Last year the rate was cut to 4.2% for one year. President Obama would like to extend this cut, while some aren’t so keen on it.

But wait a minute! Doesn’t this go against every fiber of Republican orthodoxy? Won’t Ronald Reagan be spinning in is his grave? Did Grover Norquist’s marching orders get lost in the mail?

Republicans say no, as this position is “consistent with their goal of long-term tax policies that will spur employment and lend greater certainty to the economy.”

Okie dokie, then. But if that’s the case, it’s a little strange to discover that House Speaker John Boehner hasn’t made up his mind on whether to extend this tax cut (or put another way “raise taxes”). Perhaps, that’s because he’s already said that tax hikes are off the table. So what gives?

Fortunately, we have Texas Representative Jeb Hensarling to explain it to us:

“It’s always a net positive to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn,” says Rep. Jeb Hensarling, “but not all tax relief is created equal for the purposes of helping to get the economy moving again.”

So wait…not all tax cuts are effective at “getting the economy moving”? Is that what he’s saying? Or is this simply an Animal Farm approach to tax policy? Grover needs to get involved ASAP so everyone can get on the same page. The troops seem confused.

GOP may OK tax increase that Obama hopes to block [AP via BI]

Don’t Try Using Your Fancy Tax Code Words on Orrin Hatch

President Obama and his liberal allies are calling for a ‘balanced approach’ and a revenue piece to deficit reduction. We hear this from the press all the time: ‘New revenues need to be a part of any deal to reduce the deficit.’ These are simply code words for a tax hike.

It is clear that the professional left is insisting that President Obama include tax increases in any negotiated agreement to raise the debt ceiling. [ATR]

Is This the Beginning of the End for Ethanol Tax Credits?

Key Senate lawmakers have reached a deal to end two ethanol subsidies by the end of the month, sooner than expected and a sign of how tax policy can change as attention focuses on the deficit.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, Calif.) said in a statement that she had reached an agreement with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D, Minn.) and John Thune (R, S.D.) under which a 45-cent-a-gallon tax credit for blending ethanol into gasoline would expire on July 31. A 54-cent-a-gallon tax on imported ethanol would also expire at the end of the month. [WSJ]

Mitch McConnell Suggests That Anyone in Favor of Tax Hikes Is Committing Political Suicide

Hours before a meeting with President Obama at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that any debt-ceiling deals that included tax hikes would be “politically impossible” in the current Congress because most Republicans and many Democrats oppose them.

“Those who are calling for tax hikes as a part of these debt discussions either have amnesia about the fate of similar votes just six months ago — when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress as well as the White House — or they’re acting in bad faith, since we all know that including massive, job-killing tax hikes would be a poison pill,” said McConnell on Monday from the Senate floor. [The Hill]

Taxes Are the Reason Eric Cantor Walked Out on Joe Biden

The deficit talks led by Vice President Biden faced a dispute over whether to include the Pentagon in any spending caps or deficit triggers, but the office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Friday that taxes were the only reason the talks collapsed Thursday.

“There were some disagreements on defense, but the issue is being greatly overblown to distract from Democrats’ push to raise taxes,” spokesman Brad Dayspring said. “The tax issue was the sole reason the talks reached an impasse, but it’s important to recognize that the group made great progress in identifying trillions of dollars in spending cuts that can serve as a blueprint for a potential compromise,” he said. [The Hill]

Democrats Ask Republicans to Blow Off Grover Norquist

Top Republican lawmakers have said that increasing revenues was the one approach off the table when it comes to deficit reduction. But Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and 108 other House Democrats, in a letter dated Monday, said that position jeopardized the chances for a bipartisan agreement.

“Revenues must be a component of addressing our deficit and debt problems,” the Democrats wrote to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “Solving our fiscal problems with spending cuts alone would be devastating to our economy, to the middle class, and to vulnerable populations like seniors and low-income families.” [The Hill]

ATR to Senators: Sign the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act of 2011 at Your Own Peril

Free market Norseman Grover Norquist sent a letter to “Senators” today, urging them to vote against the cleverly titled Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act of 2011. And for anyone that has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, let it be known that you’ll be in direct violation of said pledge if you also sign the CBOTLA2011. This means you can expect ATR hellfire – in the form of sternly-worded letters – to rain upon you. If you think they’re bullshiting, just ask Tom Coburn what happens with you mess with the (Viking) horns.

From GN’s latest correspondence:

Voting for the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act of 2011 is a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Senate Democrats advocating for this legislation predicate their arguments on three false suppositions:

1. Taxing oil companies will bring down the price of gas
2. Washington needs more money
3. Oil and natural gas producers are the recipients of government subsidies

None of these presumptions are true.

Coinciding with the recent rise in gas prices were Democrat calls to raise taxes on America’s oil and natural gas producers—some of this country’s finest job creators. This line of reasoning is illogical. Raising the cost of producing crude oil will necessarily raise the price of gasoline.

As many Americans now understand, this country doesn’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Democrats are defaming oil and natural gas companies—with stunts like last week’s Senate Finance hearing—because they see these successful businesses as a way to fund a bloated federal government. President Obama’s Party has demonstrated no interest in seriously reducing spending.

So if you want to be associated with that, Senators (and I suspect The Gipper would be very disappointed), go ahead and sign CBOTLA2011. But you’re on notice.

Senate Energy Tax Hike Vote is a Taxpayer Protection Pledge Violation [ATR]

ATR: SAVEGO Is a No-go

If you’re like us, you’re strangely fascinated by the Americans for Tax Reform and their tax intolerant ways. ATR President Grover Norquist and his band of tax annihilating orcs have battled to get as many signatures on their taxpayer protection pledge as possible and will strike down – often through sternly-worded letter – anyone who dares break that pledge.

Because tax and budgetary policy can be a tricky game, sometimes compromises get floated out there so Democrats and Republicans might find common ground. This common ground typically consists of both sides giving a few things up and agreeing to live with a few things that aren’t ideal.

A recent compromise over the debt-ceiling debate known as SAVEGO was recently passed around some budget wonks and ATR is going on record that any taxpayer protection pledgers best not give it a second look:

ATR is warning that Republicans would be violating their Taxpayer Protection Pledge if they sign on to the deal. SAVEGO as proposed would count tax earmarks as “spending” in the tax code. ATR does not view tax breaks as a type of spending and insists that eliminating them must be accompanied by tax cuts.

SAVEGO would put in place a trigger that, if reached, would cause across-the-board spending cuts or slashing tax breaks.

“Support for a net tax increase trigger is a clear Pledge violation,” ATR Tax Policy Director Ryan Ellis told The Hill Thursday. “A vote for this is a vote for automatic net tax increases.”

“The second clause of the Pledge says that signers will oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar-for-dollar by cutting tax rates. The SAVEGO plan is in direct violation of the Pledge,” he added.

Americans for Tax Reform: SAVEGO violates tax pledge [The Hill]

Grover Norquist Knows What It Will Take to Enact Real Tax Reform

Nemesis of all-things-taxation Grover Norquist believes that there can be good changes to our tax system (lower rates, DUH!). But seriously, as Ronald Reagan as his witness, this is really simple,

“A lot of good tax changes are going to require a different president and a different Senate.” So at the very least, you’ll have to wait two years. That’s all. [The Hill]

Did Ernst & Young Convince Republicans to Skip Last Week’s Senate Subcommittee Hearing?

If you followed last week’s “Role of the Accounting Profession in Preventing Another Financial Crisis” hearing before the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, and Investment, you may have noticed that “Ernst & Young” was never uttered by anyone on the panel, although Lehman Brothers was mentioned a number of times throughout the hearing. Anton Valukas, the bankruptcy examiner for the Lehman, was there after all and “Ernst & Young” appears in his report probably thousands of times. So why wouldn’t Ernst & Young be mentioned? This is a hearing about the accounting profession preventing, after all and Mr Valukas has stated in his report and elsewhere that “colorable claims” could be filed against E&Y. Stands to reason that perhaps the firm would come up at some point.


Also, if you followed the hearing with us on our live-blog, you definitely heard Francine McKenna and I complaining about the sorry turnout by the members of the subcommittee. The majority of questions coming from the subcommittee chairman, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), with a few from Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The eight GOP members were nowhere to be found. Now maybe accounting isn’t the sexiest of topics but it’s hard to argue that this wasn’t an important hearing where many questions could have been asked of an industry that witnessed excrement coming into contact with an old Century. However, after a tip from a person familiar with situation, we may have an idea why there was such a pathetic turnout:

[T]he auditing firms did not like it they were holding the hearing and E&Y really was complaining to Reed that Valukas had been invited. As a result, the Republicans agreed that none of them would attend the hearing which in fact, none did.

Gotta love spiteful absence! Obviously we had to call around on this one and Ernst & Young spokesman Charlie Perkins declined to comment. As for the Republican members of the subcommittee, we have…well, nothing else to share at this point. But we’re hopeful! It’s entirely possible that all eight GOP members had something better to do than ask questions of industry experts that had a front row seat to the financial crisis, but then again the hearing was pretty early in the morning.

UPDATE: A spokeswoman for Senator Mike Crapo, the ranking member on the subcommittee, informed us that Mr Crapo was sick last Wednesday and canceled all his appointments for that day.

BREAKING: Republicans Don’t Like President Obama’s Tax Proposals

[K]ey Republicans have not responded positively to signals that President Obama will push for some tax increases in his deficit-reduction plan to be laid out this week. David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser, indicated Sunday that the president would reiterate his call to raise taxes on households making $250,000 and above and also signal a desire to look at other provisions in the tax code that wealthier taxpayers use to their advantage. In his fiscal 2012 budget, released in February, the president called for allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for income above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples at the end of next year. That statement came roughly two months after a compromise with congressional Republicans had extended current tax rates for the richest taxpayers for two years. [The Hill]

A Government Shutdown Near the End of Tax Season Could Prove to Be Very Inconvenient

Since the IRS made it clear earlier this week that blowing off your 1040 is not an option, you best be on top of this if you want to file pre-April 18th. However, you might run into a wee bit of a problem if you go to the IRS for help.

In all, 92,000 [Treasury] department employees would be furloughed, with IRS staffers working during the height of tax season representing roughly two-thirds of the 35,000 who would still be on the job.

Still, around four out of every five IRS employees would be furloughed. Dan Tangherlini, an assistant Treasury secretary, reiterated in a blog post that taxpayers should file electronically to avoid potential delays in receiving a refund, and laid out other areas where IRS operations would be affected.

Taxpayers with audit appointments should assume their meeting is canceled, Tangherlini wrote, while walk-in IRS assistance centers would be shuttered and customer service phone lines would not be as easy to reach.

Treasury would furlough over 70 percent of employees in shutdown [The Hill]

Eric Cantor Prefers a Friendly Crowd When Speaking About the Mortgage Interest Deduction

Speaking to a crowd of real estate professionals in his hometown, Cantor said the tax would be considered as part of the larger tax reform discussion. But he suggested a change is probably not in the cards. “Honestly, there’s not a lot of support for getting rid of the mortgage deduction on Capitol Hill,” Cantor said to loud applause from the audience. Cantor was speaking to nearly 200 members of the Richmond Association of REALTORs. [The Hill]

Are Audit Committees Really Independent of Management?

A reader – who is a partner at a Big 4 firm – sent this to me awhile ago and I dug it out this week:

Question for you. Why is it OK for audit committee members to be selected and paid by management? Why is it OK that they are paid in the stock of the Companies that they govern? Considering the fact that the SEC has such disdain for the slightest perception of a lack of independence on the part of the auditors that report “directly” to the Audit Committees, it is odd that the governing body can be owners of the company as well. [By the way, let’s be real, management hires the auditors. The audit committees just accept it.]


Time to jump in – These questions feel rhetorical but I’ll take a stab at answering them anyway. If you look at a brief history of audit committees, you’ll see that the idea goes back nearly as far as the Securities and Exchange Acts of ’33 and ’34, first being endorsed by the NYSE in 1939. The SEC first made the recommendation that public companies compose their audit committees of independent directors in 1972. That was followed by the NYSE’s requirement for audit committee members to be independent in 1977. What does all this mean? Basically, it appears that it’s okay that management selects and pays audit committee members because it’s always been done that way. Similarly, it’s okay to pay them in stock because companies have always issued shares to directors, regardless of their respective committees. As far as who “hires” the auditors, our source has a better frame of reference than I but this probably varies from company to company. While many companies have audit committees that have no problem throwing their weight around, there are others whose members probably couldn’t find cash on a balance sheet.

Anyway, our source has some ideas:

If the regulators want to create a TRUE independent structure, why not create an Audit Committee Oversight Board (or the ACOB), and pay these members in shares of a Mutual Fund that’s tied to the overall performance of the stock market? Audit Committee members should be overseen by the SEC – perhaps indirectly by this ACOB. Now – this would empower the Committees, empower the auditors even further, and empower the shareholders of Companies with the knowledge that the Audit Committees were truly independent of management. This would be a stunning show of real governance in corporate America. Wouldn’t this be a true step toward preventing further financial crashes in America? What do you and your readers think?

I like the progressive ideas presented but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the massive amount of media I’ve consumed in the last 2+ years, it’s this – the ideal regulation and what it politically feasible are often miles apart and in the process of reconciling those differences, the final product is not at all what was intended. The SEC (who hasn’t exactly been on top of their game the last few years) is already fighting for every nickel and no amount of litigation releases will get representatives like Darrell Issa to back down from cutting their budget. Thus, a regulatory agency with shaky credibility has an uphill battle.

So would an Audit Committee Oversight Board, compensation changes and other reforms to the process be a “true step toward preventing further financial crashes”? Maybe. But as long as “fiscal responsibility” continues to be a political talking point, the SEC won’t have the ability to suggest reforms until we have another crisis and chances are, they’ll be the scapegoats…again.

During the 1099 Repeal Debate, a Democrat More or Less Called a Bunch of Republicans Liars, Then Took it Back, and Then May Have Called Them Liars Again

The repeal of the 1099 reporting provision of the healthcare reform bill was finally passed by the House today but not before things got a little awkward when Represenative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) “said Republican claims that the law is a government takeover of healthcare had been deemed ‘the 2010 political lie of the year.’ ”

Now, on its surface, this seems like a little bit of tangential grandstanding by the man-child gentleman from Oregon but his colleague Dan Lungren (R-CA) didn’t appreciate the remark and was not about to let this slide:

Blumenauer seemed to gesture toward Lungren, who had just finished speaking, and said the Republican member called the healthcare law a government takeover.

Lungren did not directly say the law is a government takeover, but did criticize the laws in other ways.

After Blumenauer’s “lie of the year” comment, Lungren quickly interrupted to raise a point of order and ask whether Blumenauer should be allowed to say, or imply, that Lungren is a liar.

Blumenauer – not to be outdone – countered this challenge with one of his own:

Asked if he was demanding Blumenauer’s words be “taken down” — a challenge to their propriety — Lungren said no, but did ask the acting Speaker to warn members about referring to colleagues in this way.

The exchange continued: Blumenauer said he was simply citing a Politifact finding that Republican claims of a government healthcare takeover are the political lie of the year. Lungren then immediately asked that Blumenauer’s words be taken down.

Blumenauer, knowing he was beat, then capitulated (he’s a Democrat, after all), “Several minutes later, Blumenauer asked unanimous consent to strike his words,” and then thought better of it, “[he] repeated the Politifact citation again in his explanatory comments.”

“I’m not calling anybody a liar,” Blumenauer said. “What I intended to say … is that as we have repeated talking points about a government takeover of healthcare, this has been judged by an independent undertaking as the political lie of the year.”

It could probably go either way but someone seems to be getting called a liar in there somewhere.

Lawmakers spar over ‘lie of the year’ in debate over healthcare provision [Floor Action/The Hill]

More Appeasement in Obama’s Proposed Budget

President Obama presented his nearly $4 trillion budget, proposing to cut more than $1 trillion from Federal programs over the next ten years, with $200 billion in cuts to occur over the next two years. Although these cuts may appear, at first glance, significant to the average American, in light of the recently enacted tax cuts of $858 billion over the next two years, that $200 billion of proposed spending cuts leaves $658 billion of thoted for.

In balancing our national budget, Obama and Congress are focusing on the wrong side of the financial equation. The projected deficit in 2011 is $1.65 trillion; however, the whole non-defense discretionary spending budget in 2010 was $477 billion. Even if all non-defense discretionary spending were eliminated, there would still remain a deficit of over $1.1 trillion. The math is clear that Congress cannot eliminate deficit spending by budget cuts. Taxes will need to be raised.


Some of the cuts that President Obama is proposing in his budget include $300 million for community block grants, $2.35 billion for low income home energy assistance program, and $400 billion from a five-year domestic spending freeze, as well as reductions in pell grants, graduate school loans, community access, etc. But all of these cuts do not come close to offsetting the lost revenues from the extension of the tax cuts to the rich.

A pattern has emerged in Obama’s dealings with the Republicans. Obama agreed with the Republican argument to give tax cuts to the rich to help the economy. Now he is proposing to cut programs for the middle class and the poor to balance the budget. In doing such, Obama is moving the political fulcrum to the right. His approach of pre-emptively offering something—whether it be tax cuts for the rich or budget cuts affecting the poor and middle class—instead of negotiating a quid pro quo, is effectively pushing the Republicans further to the right, seeing the prospect of gaining even more ground.

Although compromise is demanded in politics, leadership cannot be defined by compromise alone. There are principles worth fighting for; and leaders must be willing to mobilize public opinion in support of those principles. Since our political system is rigged because of campaign finance and lobbying, a leader professing change and reform needs to present a different narrative to the populace. Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt recognized the value of the bully pulpit. Despite his rhetorical skills, Obama has failed to do so. His posture of appeasement will in all likelihood allow the Republicans to balance the budget on the backs of the working class and low income Americans to the benefit of Wall Streeters and Multinational Corporations, who offshore jobs, brought about the financial crisis, and robbed trillions from the American people. Since Obama is seeking re-election in 2012, and is charting his own course, he will not lead the American people to the Promised Land.

America needs major tax reform. The extension of tax cuts to people who need them the least was the last thing Congress needed to do. Some Democrats want to cut $40 billion in subsidies to the oil companies for five years; however, Republicans refuse to cut these subsidies to the oil companies, preferring to cut programs for the poor and middle class. Moreover, in spite of two wars costing $120 billion per year and an inflation adjusted military budget larger than those in the Bush years and the Cold War, neither party desires to cut military spending, which constitutes 58% of the discretionary spending budget.

Reform will never come from Congress nor a President like Obama. It will require people outside of Washington working with allies inside Congress in order to stop this disconnect between what is transpiring in Washington and what this country needs. It will require people coming together as they did in Egypt in a pro-democracy movement. The question is, can and will the people of America come together before it is too late.

Oh, By the Way, There’s Still a New 1099 Reporting Requirement for 2012 in the Proposed Budget

As you know, the bane of small businesses across this great land, the 1099 reporting requirement, was repealed by the Senate earlier this month. Despite some maneuvering amongst Senators to be crowned the biggest champion of small business, it seems that everyone agreed that this little sliver of the healthcare reform bill needed to go.

Now the House has taken up the charge but The Hill reports on a portion of President Obama’s proposed budget that is already annoying the hell out of some:

President Obama’s fiscal year 2012 budget still contains a portion of the 1099 provision while eliminating the requirement for goods but retaining it for services. The proposal is expected to raise about $10 billion over 10 years.

The National Federation of Independent Business blasted the new 1099 proposal as a “bait and switch.”

“We are disappointed that the president has not clearly heard what small businesses are saying,” NFIB senior vice president of Federal Public Policy Susan Eckerly said in a statement. “We at NFIB remain committed to helping the president and Congress understand the needs of small business as the budget process moves forward.”

But before you get your panties in a bunch, the Office of Management and Budget can explain:

“The administration recognizes the burden that this expanded information reporting provision will put on small businesses and proposes to repeal the provision,” the document says. “Instead, the administration proposes that a business be required to file an information return for payments for services or for determinable gains aggregating to $600 or more in a calendar year to a corporation (except a tax-exempt corporation); information returns would not be required for payments for property.”

If you call that an explanation.

Ways and Means schedules mark up of 1099 provision [The Hill]

Be Prepared for a New Flood of GOP ‘IRS Agents Will Be Invading Your Homes’ Rhetoric

President Barack Obama proposed increasing the budget for the Internal Revenue Service by 9.4 percent to hire more than 5,000 new employees, most of whom would pursue tax cheats. The president’s fiscal 2012 budget released today sets funding for the tax-collection agency at $13.3 billion, an increase of $1.1 billion from 2010, the last time a full appropriation was made for the IRS. Almost half of the increase, or $460 million, would support the agency’s tax-enforcement programs. Under the plan, the IRS would focus on fighting tax evasion through the use of offshore accounts and cheating by corporate and high-wealth taxpayers. It also would seek out fraudulent tax preparers. [Bloomberg]

As Predicted, There’s a Battle Over Who Will Get Credit for the 1099 Repeal

The repeal of the 1099 provision in the healthcare reform law has been dogging Congress since the bill was signed into law last March. Because small businesses will no doubt lead the economic recovery, remove all the snow that has dumped on this great land and may just get the Egypt situation under control, every pol within a stone’s throw of the Potomac is trying to get their name on this thing. Nebraska’s Mike Johanns (R) and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin (D) seemed to have this locked up but as we surmised, other Democrats are trying to get in on some of this small business saving action.


The Hill’s On the Money blog has the latest:

Senate Republicans expressed some confusion and approval Wednesday that their push to repeal the unpopular 1099 provision from the healthcare law has been taken over by Democrats.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who has signed onto a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that has the support of 61 lawmakers, proposed her own amendment that adds five words to the Johanns-Manchin repeal measure ensuring that no “unobligated funds” are used from the Social Security Administration.

So Senator Stabenow’s little maneuver has her nicely positioned to lay claim as a champion of all the Mom and Pop shops out there and shockingly, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is cool with it:

“It turns out Senator Johanns did such an outstanding job raising awareness about the 1099 requirement that Democrats took the idea and are now claiming it as their own,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “Which is fine with us. It’s not a bad precedent actually. We’ve got a lot of other good ideas that we’d be happy to share.”

While Senator McConnell sounds like he’s fine with Stabenow semi-jacking the bill, a staffer was less impressed:

“Dems went from putting it in the bill, to opposing the fix, to sponsoring a different fix, to sponsoring the Republican bill,” one senior Republican aide told The Hill.

Gotta love politics.

Senate Republicans express confusion over 1099 amendment [On the Money/The Hill]

How Will the Senate Screw Up the 1099 Repeal Bill This Time?

The upper chamber is making yet another run at repealing the 1099 requirement that was part of the healthcare overhaul despite miserable failures in the past.


The Hill reports that the new bill has 52 co-sponsors which lead you to believe that this time, repeal will be a cinch:

Senators reintroduced bills that would eliminate the 1099 requirement for businesses to report annual purchases of at least $600 from each vendor. Most Democrats, including the Obama administration, support repealing the provision, but lawmakers have clashed over how to offset the $19 billion in lost revenue.

A bill introduced Tuesday by Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) authorizes the Office of Management and Budget to identify unobligated federal funds to cover the cost of repeal.

“It’s a bad policy; it hurts businesses and it should be repealed, enough said,” Johanns said in a conference call with reporters.

The measure has 52 co-sponsors including 12 Democrats: Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Manchin, Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Mark Udall (Colo.), Mark Warner (Va.).

With such an overwhelming show of bipartisan support the only issue now is who will get the credit for saving small business as we know it?

Both parties have seized on the 1099 requirement to score political points. Republicans are posing repeal of 1099 as part of their promise to chip away at the reform law, while Democrats are touting it as a sign of their willingness to improve the current law.

Just for the sake of spiteful mischief, we’re hoping this goes nowhere (any and all theories on how they manage to do that are encouraged). Stay tuned!

Senators introduce bipartisan 1099 repeal bill [On the Money/The Hill]

John Boehner Would Prefer If Some People Took Their Bellyaching About the 1099 Requirement Elsewhere

It seems that everyone and their dog is staking a claim as the biggest enemy of the 1099 requirement that was part of the healthcare reform law that passed last year. The latest self-proclaimed champions of small business are a few Senate Democrats who wish John Boehner would quit sitting on his orange hands and get a bill moving in the House, because let’s face it, the repeal passed by the House is going nowhere fast.


The Speaker is not deterred however, and his spokesman would like to remind the Ds in the S, that they can S a D and should bring it up with someone else:

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said the speaker also supports eliminating the 1099 requirement, but “it is far from the only job-destroying provision in Washington Democrats’ law.”

“Now that the House has passed a law to repeal it, the best course would be for the Senate to do the same, and I hope these senators are pressing Senate Majority Leader Reid to do just that,” said Steel.

Earlier:
Vastly Unpopular 1099 Requirement Survives Thanks to the Reliable Dysfunction of the U.S. Senate

Poll: This Balanced Budget Idea Starts with Higher Taxes for the Wealthy

Republicans take control in the House of Representatives this week and boy, are they ever ready. With the ink safely dry on the extension of the Bush tax cuts, the GOP is moving on to spending cuts, supporting the troops, restoring honor, launching investigations and whatever hell else was in that pledge. Wait, that last one wasn’t in there?


Anyhoo, the idea of lower taxes and spending cuts to get the federal budget in ship shape has been the GOP song and dance long before Ronnie had his own float at the Tournament of Roses Parade but a recent poll has discovered that lots of people don’t agree with that sentiment:

Raising taxes on the rich beats out cuts to defense spending, Medicare and Social Security as U.S. adults’ top preference on how to close the deficit, according to a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll.

Sixty-one percent of Americans said that increasing taxes to the wealthy should be the first step toward balancing the budget.

By contrast, 20 percent of respondents preferred cuts to defense spending as the first option, while 4 percent said that cutting Medicare would be the best way to start cutting the deficit. Three percent said they preferred cutting Social Security.

Now you might expect a major backlash from the more affluent citizens, you know, grumbling at polo matches, yacht races and beside the swimming pools filled with gold doubloons but surprisingly, quite a few of them are okay with it:

Increased taxes on the wealthy tops those four options even among higher earners who might be most affected by a tax hike, the poll suggested. Fifty-eight percent of respondents making between $50,000 and $100,000 per year rated tax hikes as the best first step to balancing the budget, while 46 percent of those making more than $100,000 said it was their top choice, as well.

But as we have learned, the GOP isn’t really down with this. Besides, tax rates won’t be an issue again the until the second and third weeks of December 2012, so they’d prefer we concentrate on things that aren’t already safely chiseled into the political dogma.

Obama’s Appeasement on Tax Cuts

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

For those of you unfamiliar with the history of World War II, Neville Chamberlain was the prime minister of Great Britain just prior to the advent of World War II. He is most remembered for his “Munich Agreement“, in which he deeded over Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany with Germany’s promise that it would not pursue further aggression. Of course, this was making a deal with the devil; Adolf Hitler was Satan incarnate, for certain. Consequently, his name has become the emodiment of total naivete, if not utter stupidity and idiocy. You cannot make a deal with the devil. Shown here in the picture to the right is Neville Chamberlin upon his return from Munich in 1938 after meeting with Adolf Hitler with the scrap of paper that was to “ensure peace in our time”; the paper was signed by Hitler.


The question now is whether Barack Obama is another Neville Chamberlain. Obama is supporting the tax cuts for the rich, claiming that unless we agree to these demands by the Republicans, our economy may dip back into recession, as Chamberlain asserted that unless England and Europe gave Nazi Germany Czechoslovakia, that a war with Germany might occur. Whether you are for the tax cuts or against the tax cuts, the majority of Americans were surprised, if not flabbergasted, by Obama’s immediate acquiescence to Republican demands for inclusion of the rich in the tax cuts, including a very generous exemption from estate taxes: under the plan, as much as $10 million may be exempt from any estate tax, with the estate tax rate on any excess being reduced from 55% to 35%!

Certainly, Barack Obama is no Winston Churchill. Maybe he does his fighting only on a basketball court; however, he certainly did not fight the good fight before conceding to the Republican demands, merely accepting in return a 13 month extension of unemployment benefits for 2 million Americans, a reduction in payroll taxes, and an extension of a grab bag of tax credits for college tuition and other items. Like Chamberlain, who only received Hilter’s signature on a scrap of paper promising never to go to war again with England, Obama got very little in return for the big gift to the rich and privileged.

A recent CBS poll found 70% of Americans were not in favor of these tax cuts for the rich—resulting in huge deficits of $700 billion dollars—when our national debt is already $14 trillion. Many feel that no tax cuts would have been preferable to this agreement, since no deal would spare us from an additional $980 billion of debt.

Obama is justifying these tax cuts through a fear tactic: unless we give the rich these tax cuts, our country may lapse back into another recession.

Dear President Obama: for your information, we are still in this recession. And in 2012, we will still be in this recession in terms of unemployment. Jobs have been going overseas for years now and with the further consolidations of mega-size corporations, more layoffs are looming. Of course, the unemployment numbers will become meaningless since after a certain period of time, the long-term unemployed are no longer included in the current rate of unemployment.

After hearing Harvard’s Larry Sumners endorsement of these tax cuts for the rich and his prediction of another recession if they are not enacted, I suspect that President Obama may still be listening to the counsel of his former Economic Advisor. Consequently, I am not surprised by Obama’s use of fear tactics today to drum support for these tax cuts for the rich.

If this is the kind of way Obama negotiates with Republicans over tax cuts for the rich, imagine how he would negotiate with the Iranians and North Korea? LOL! And then imagine how Hillary Clinton would have negotiated if she had been elected President of the United States. In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, it’s deja vu [Neville Chamberlain] all over again.

(UPDATE) Bernie Sanders Is Getting His Filibuster On

NPR reports that the Vermont Senator has been going for over 90 minutes to delay the vote on the tax deal President Obama made with Republicans and judging by the live feed from CSPAN2, he’s not showing any sign of stopping. NPR quotes Berns:

“You can call what I am doing today whatever you want, you it call it a filibuster, you can call it a very long speech. I’m not here to set any great records or to make a spectacle. I am simply here today to take as long as I can to explain to the American people the fact that we have got to do a lot better than this agreement provides.”

Here’s a snip from feed the (a pie chart!):


And a bar chart!

He’s doing you proud Green Mountain Staters!

UPDATE: Entering hour six! It’s like he’s got an IV of pure Green Mountain joe!

Wealthy Canines Not Spared Democrat’s Ire During Tax Cut Debate

Somewhere in the whole mishmash of yesterday’s events leading up to the House’s passage of chicken crap, Joseph Crowley took to the floor to remind us know that it’s just not wealthy humans that stand to benefit greatly from tax cuts.

[via Gothamist]

The House Will Have a Half-Ass Vote on Tax Cuts Tomorrow

Don’t get too excited, the vote will only be on the tax cuts for those of you earning less than $250k. The vote that really counts (for the people that may be able to afford Snooki!) is being slapped onto the extension of unemployment benefits.

Jake Sherman at Politico:

The bulk of the tax cuts — for lower and middle-class incomes — will be considered in a separate vote on Thursday. Democrats have long sought to only renew tax breaks for households under $250,000 in income, but Republicans have insisted on an extension of current tax rates for everyone.

Right, then. So this is a political play by the Democrats to show everyone that they don’t suck as much as the election results would have you believe. Republicans, however, do not care for this maneuver. Rep. Dave Camp (MI) is especially annoyed and evokes small business in the process:

“This is disappointing and a sign of bad faith after the president agreed to bipartisan, bi-cameral talks. There will be bipartisan opposition to the Democrats’ push to raise taxes on small business,” Camp said.

Gotta say, it is a pretty shrewd move by the Democrats (where was this spunk in October?) but at least everyone will have to get off their ass tomorrow and do something. God forbid the Republican members of Congress actually vote on something during the lame duck session.

House Democrats set Thursday tax vote [Politico]
House GOP Balks at Middle-Class Tax Cut Vote Scheduled Thursday [Fox News]

Some People Aren’t Convinced Nancy Pelosi Wants to Compromise on Tax Cuts

President Obama is darn sure that a deal will get made on the expiring tax cuts before the end of the year despite the ‘logjam’ between the two political parties.

He’s confident because hard-working families need it, the economy is fragile yada yada yada and now that Tim Geithner and OMB Director Jack Lew are on the case, this thing is a shoe-in.

While the next Speaker of the House, John Boehner, is not quite on the same page as the President, he’s pretty much in the same chapter:

“Republicans made the point that stopping all the looming tax hikes and cutting spending would, in fact, create jobs and get the economy moving again,” said Representative John Boehner, who will become Speaker of the House next year.

“We’re looking forward to the conversation with the White House over extending all of the current rates, and I remain optimistic,” he said.

Well, as close as to the two will likely get in public anyway. However, this a slightly more optimistic stance than what some people have for Nancy Pelosi, who would, presumably, rather give up her Armani suits than hand the wealthy a tax cut:

“There is some thought that the last thing that Nancy Pelosi wants to do on her way out of the Speaker’s office is to have Congress approve an extension for tax cuts for the wealthy,” said Brian Gardner, an analyst for investors at Keefe, Bruyette and Woods.

“She could muck things up a little bit.”

Well! This should be fun! Stay tuned.

Obama and Republicans agree to negotiate on taxes [Reuters]

Vastly Unpopular 1099 Requirement Survives Thanks to the Reliable Dysfunction of the U.S. Senate

Everyone’s favorite Two Minutes’ Hate from the healthcare reform legislation – the 1099 reporting requirement – managed to live to fight another day despite being as unpopular as the Democrats who originally got behind it (although don’t look at Nancy Pelosi).


As is the wont of Senate, this sliver of bipartisanship was foiled by…wait for it…politics:

The provision survived because of the complex politics of the Senate. Some lawmakers were reluctant to back repeal on Monday since the rule change would have been added to a popular food-safety law that is nearing approval, potentially jeopardizing its passage. In addition, dueling Democratic and Republican proposals allowed lawmakers to register their disapproval of the 1099 requirement whether the repeal passed or not.

In other words, everyone agrees that they hate this thing but they hate it in different ways. You see, it’s not enough to be against the 1099 requirement, it matters who gets the credit for being against so much that they actual introduced the proposal to do away with it.

Sigh. But it’s cool, the rule doesn’t actually go into effect until 2012, so blowing it off for another 12 months is totally an option. And a pretty realistic one, too.

Senators Cannot Agree on Fix to the Health Law [NYT via CPA Success]

Chris Van Hollen Isn’t Buying the “Tax Cuts Create Jobs” Story

In case you needed another sign that we are heading full speed towards a stalemate on tax policy, the Representative from Maryland would like to be recognized for calling BS on the popular Republican rhetoric:

“It’s clear that the tax cuts for the folks at the very top have not created any jobs. After all, we’ve had them in place now for more than eight years, and we know what the jobs situation is,” Van Hollen said during an interview Monday on MSNBC.

“The notion that you’ve got to continue them in order to somehow boost the economy, when those are in place right now and we have a lot of people unemployed, is a clear indication that they are not a big job creator.”

Eric Cantor’s rebuttal will sound similar to this:

“Taxes shouldn’t be going up on anybody right now.”

[…]

“This election … was really the American people saying they are tired of the lack of results in Washington,” he said. “They want to see more jobs for more Americans. They want to see us … cut government spending, rein in the size of government so we can get this economy growing again. That was the prescription, that was the mandate that came from the people.”

So there’s no middle ground to be found here, guys? No chance you can put down the ideological rhetoric for the sake of, ya know, screwing the American people?

Van Hollen: Tax cuts for wealthy ‘not a big job creator’ [The Hill]

Tax Cuts Can Wait

“Congress has gone since 2002 without dealing with the December 31, 2010 expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts. What’s another week or two?”

~ Joe Kristan hasn’t considered the risk of tryptophan hangovers.

Alan Grayson Gives Rich People Some Ideas on How to Spend Their Money Saved From Tax Cuts

Grayson, who got smoked in the election earlier this month, will be heard before he leaves the House.

[via TaxProf]

Accounting News Roundup: Obama Sticking to His Guns on Tax Cuts; Backdating Scandals Made Little Noise; Area Tax Con to Be Contestant on TV | 11.12.10

Obama says he’s not caving on tax cuts [CNN]
President Barack Obama declared Friday that his “number one priority” is preserving tax cuts for the middle class, and sharply denied that comments by his senior adviser David Axelrod suggest that his administration is about to cave in to Republicans who also want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

“That is the wrong interpretation because I haven’t had a conversation with Democratic and Republican leaders,” Obama said of a Huffington Post article suggesting that in advance of negotiations with lawmakers next week, the White House has calculated that giving in on tax cuts for the rich is the only way to get the middle too.

Companies Would See Big Tax Shifts [WSJ]
Tax-reform plans proposed by President Obama’s deficit-cutting commission would radically change corporate tax policy and, business groups say, could improve U.S. competitiveness in global trade. But they also could create winners and losers among U.S. companies.

Business groups and economists have long sought fundamental changes to the tax code, which hasn’t been overhauled since 1986.

Pwning the social debate [AccMan]
Proceed with caution. Sayeth Dennis Howlett, “If the title of this post bamboozled you, the rest will make your head explode.”

House Dem leaders’ reactions to fiscal panel report differ sharply [The Hill]
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) came out swinging, calling the proposals “simply unacceptable,” while the two men battling to be her deputy, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and whip James Clyburn (S.C.), released muted responses. Neither Hoyer nor Clyburn criticized the commission, avoiding a politically explosive set of ideas as they wrestle for support from their Democratic colleagues for the post of minority whip.

Backdating Scandal Ends With a Whimper [DealBook]
“These prosecutions went out with a whimper rather than a bang,” said Christopher J. Clark, a criminal defense lawyer at Dewey LeBoeuf who has done work on backdating cases. “With few convictions and no substantial sentences, juries and the courts simply did not agree with the government’s position that stock option backdating represented a serious financial crime.”


Richard Hatch still surviving life’s rocky road [Providence Journal]
Survivor champ, convicted tax dodger and “l’m living on borrowed 15-minutes-of-fame time” Richard Hatch is now going to be on the Celebrity Apprentice.

A QuickBooks Alternative for the Accounting-Phobic Owner [You’re the Boss/NYT]
Spooked by QuickBooks? WorkingPoint may be the solution for the debit-credit disinclined.

Newsweek, Daily Beast Set Merger [WSJ]
Under the proposed agreement, expected to be disclosed Friday, the two news organizations will be combined in a 50-50 joint venture called the Newsweek Daily Beast Co. The deal comes three weeks after the two sides abandoned talks of a merger over a disagreement about control.

Eric Cantor Will Not Be Entertaining Any of This Talk of Compromise on Tax Cuts

The presumed next Majority Leader in the House has gone on the record (with Fox News no less) that any pragmatism on the President’s part will be slapped away like a homeless vet’s outstretched hand:

The Obama administration’s hopes of reaching a tax deal with Republicans that would decouple rates on the rich from the middle class appear dead.

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) threw cold water on the proposed plan, which would temporarily extend tax cuts for the wealthy while permanently extending tax cuts for the middle class. “Taxes shouldn’t be going up on anybody right now,” Cantor said.

So, in other words President Obama, you can take any of this “compromise” talk and stick it in your tea because that’s what was mandated by the people:

“This election … was really the American people saying they are tired of the lack of results in Washington,” he said. “They want to see more jobs for more Americans. They want to see us … cut government spending, rein in the size of government so we can get this economy growing again. That was the prescription, that was the mandate that came from the people.”

So a fair amount of ellipsises there, so maybe he’s not exactly sure what he’s saying but Cantor is a fool if he thinks that “cutting government spending” and” reining in the size of government” is not part of the GOP agenda despite what Paul Ryan writes in the Financial Times.

Security Agency spending seems to be a pretty big piece of the shopping spree; doesn’t it make sense to start there? If not, are we going to continue buying predator drones on the credit card and cut education again since raising taxes is absolutely out of the question?

Cantor, Republicans signal Obama tax proposal is dead in the water [The Briefing Room/The Hill]

Lame Duck Tax Policy Prognostication

From tax policy cynic Joe Kristan:

It’s unlikely that the lame ducks will accomplish much.

Jesus, that’s no way to start.

I expect an AMT patch to pass (though you should bet the other way if they offer points). I would bet against the extenders getting past the lame ducks, though it could happen. Action on the Bush tax cuts and the estate tax seems unlikely to me. It would require a triumphal GOP to work out a deal with a President whose response to disagreement so far has been to repeat himself slower and louder. The same dynamics bode poorly for the next Congress when it meets in January.

After such an ugly campaign, we wouldn’t put it past a bunch of losers (read: Democrats) to spite the entire country just because they couldn’t effectively communicate any accomplishments from the past two years. Of course, that’s us being cynical to a fault.

Thinking a little more practically, we agree with Joe on his AMT patch prediction. The rules are such a mess that it could stand a complete overhaul but we realize that’s nothing short of water into wine with less than two months left in 2010.

As far as the tax cuts are concerned, the shred of political capital that the members of Congress who will remain in DC have left simply cannot be lost. And besides, the President and Congress fundamentally agree on a major portion of the policy – that is, to extend tax cuts for the middle class. Again, this could be a pipe dream, but compromising on the extension of the cuts for the wealthiest Americans for two years seems like a simple solution (as bad of an idea as it is).

As for the estate tax – it’s toast. No one seems to give a shit about it except for Jon Kyl but once the first decrepit billionaire (who is unwilling to pull the plug on themselves) kicks the bucket in 2011, thus paying 55% tax on the estate, it will only take one phone call and Congress will spring into action.

Sigh. Place your bets.

Earlier:
After Tomorrow, a Bunch of Losers Will Have to Quit Their Pouting and Come Up with Some Tax Policy Solutions

After Tomorrow, a Bunch of Losers Will Have to Quit Their Pouting and Come Up with Some Tax Policy Solutions

Lots of those losers will be Democrats. And if they feel like sticking it to the rich one last time, at least they can say a Reagan OMB Director and Bill Gates are on their side!

[via TaxProf]

Death to Death Tax Denial

“We’re confident that a Congress manned with our pledge signers will be prepared to take the necessary steps to pass permanent repeal of this un-American, outdated policy and stand up for small family businesses, the real job creators in our country.”

~ Dick Patten, President of The American Family Business Institute, says the estate tax is toast now that Senate candidates like Sharron Angle, Ken Buck and Rand Paul are on board with the AFBI’s “Death Tax Repeal Pledge.”

Not-So-Subtle Political Ad of the Day: Louisiana Taxpayer Dollars Paid for David Ritter’s Hookers

He was calling them during important votes!


With less than a week to go until the election and Vitter leading by about 16 points, Charlie Melancon figures this particular line of attack can’t hurt anything.

Melancon Ad: Vitter Used Taxpayers’ Money To Pay For Prostitutes [TPM]

Accounting News Roundup: GOP Targeting IRS Funding to Stall Healthcare; Grant Thornton, BDO Merge in South Africa; What Your Recruiter Isn’t Telling You | 10.26.10

IRS Funding A Target In Health-Care Implementation Battle [Dow Jones]
Funding for the Internal Revenue Service could become a battleground in the next Congress as Republicans seek to halt implementation of the new health-care law.

GOP candidates are running on a pledge to repeal that law. But some repeal advocates say a strategy of choking off funding to the IRS and federal health agencies is more politically viable.

“Repeal is not within the set of possible outcomes while President Obama holds his veto pen. However, a defunding strategy could throw sand in the gear bring it to a near standstill,” said Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute.

Stephen Lukens Named Grant Thornton LLP Advisory Services Leader [Business Wire]
Another Stephen! Mr Lukens came on board from IBM Global Business Services and was with PwC Consulting prior to Big Blue’s purchase of the practice.

Accountant describes ‘totally’ different transaction between GM and Delphi [Crain’s]
A forensic accountant testifying at former Delphi Corp. CEO J.T. Battenberg’s civil fraud trial in a federal courtroom in Detroit today said that the auto supplier recorded on its books a payment to its largest customer, General Motors, “totally differently from” the actual transaction conducted by the supplier and its former parent company.

Merger will create new accounting giant [Business Day]
THE merger between Grant Thornton and BDO Cape, which will become effective next Monday, will create the biggest accounting firm in SA’s mid-tier market , followed by Mazars.

The deal positions the merged firm to obtain more work, particularly from privately held businesses and listed companies. Previously the two firms obtained most of their work from privately held businesses.

The firm, which will be led by Grant Thornton national chairman Leonard Brehm, will have a staff compliment of 900 and 97 partners and directors, with combined revenue of R400m.

In Finance Team Building, Xerox Copied No One [CFO]
[M]ajor groundwork was laid through a finance reorganization and team-building effort that Lawrence Zimmerman began eight years ago after ending his retirement from IBM to become Xerox vice chairman and CFO.

“The big change Larry brought was to make the accounting unit independent of all other organizations,” says Gary Kabureck, who stayed on as chief accounting officer after Zimmerman joined Xerox. “That was a huge, very positive change.” The independent model, says Kabureck, replaced a Xerox structure that had tied accounting to business units. Now, accounting is used for “measuring operational results, which may which may [sic] not be what the local operation manager wants them to be, but it’s what the CFO wants them to be.”

Grassley: Three years before unemployment’s back to normal [The Hill]
2013 doesn’t sound that bad.


PayPal Names Patrick Dupuis as Chief Financial Officer [Business Wire]
Pat got his chops at the likes of Sitel, BJC Healthcare and GE Healthcare.

Should you upgrade QuickBooks? [AccMan]
SaaS/cloud upgrade issues are NOT the customer’s problem. They lie with the developers. Contrast this with the advice being given for a QuickBooks upgrade. There is plenty to think about. The same broad principles will apply to any on-premise solution. That’s a fundamental difference SaaS/cloud vendors should emphasize a lot more than they do. SaaS/cloud upgrades are usually seamless to the end customer while bug fixes are often more or less invisible to the user.

10 Things Employment Recruiters Won’t Say [SmartMoney]
You mean this person may not be completely honest with you? GET OUT.

BREAKING: Democrats Suck at Accusing Republicans of Trying to Raise Taxes

So some Democrats thought it would be a cute to try and turn the tables on their Republican opponents by insinuating that by supporting the Fair Tax, the GOP was raising taxes on middle class Americans.

Love or hate the Fair Tax, anyone that takes more than 30 seconds to research the idea knows that if implemented, the Fair Tax would abolish the income tax.

In some recent ads, a few Democratic nominees left that part out entirely:

Research supplied by FairTax.org shows that Democrats in 16 districts have run at least 31 ads blasting Republicans for supporting the tax. But many of these ads neglect to mention the levy is essentially a national sales tax that would replace the current federal tax system.

FactCheck.org recently slammed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for running ads that omitted this fact.

“Democrats are accusing Republicans of supporting a 23 percent sales tax on everything, which would be on top of all existing taxes… it’s misrepresenting by omission of the FairTax idea,” FactCheck.org director Brooks Jackson told The Hill.

The motivation behind this strategy could be due to a number of factors:

1) The Democrats who ran the ads feel that most Americans are gullible enough to believe anything they see on TV.

2) The Democrats who ran the ads don’t understand how the Fair Tax policy would work on its most basic level, thus meeting the intelligence level to serve in Congress.

3) Democrats simply suck at accusing Republicans for trying to raise taxes.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the first two played a part but come on. Leave the “he/she wants to raise your taxes” to the experts you fools and stick with the lowbrow stuff.

Dem ads against GOP not accurate on crux of FairTax proposal [On The Money]

Your Next Sunday Sermon: Tax Cuts with a Twist of Fire and Brimstone

Isn’t church boring and preachy enough?

Current law prohibits pastors from speaking on politics or endorsing a political candidate, but David Barton of WallBuilders says the IRS’s intimidation of removing a church’s tax exemption status is unconstitutional. Even though some pastors have intentionally crossed the line, Barton does not think the IRS wants to take them to court because it may lose.

“The IRS doesn’t have any interest in doing this because if they do, I believe they know they are going to lose. And if they lose, you have 370,000 pastors in America who suddenly find out that there’s no restriction on them,” Barton suggests.

But this isn’t about politics, this is about TRUTH!

“You cannot lose your tax exemption as a church because as a church, you have a constitutional standing for tax exemption,” he points out. “So with that basis, losing your letter means absolutely nothing — and that’s something pastors are now figuring out.”

Barton argues that the pulpit was and should continue to be the news perspective for America, so he encourages all pastors to speak out and stand for truth.

Barton: No need for pastors to fear IRS [One News Now]

Betting on Estate Tax Inaction

“It’s not a sure thing that they’ll actually get around to doing anything about it.”

~ Craig Jennings, federal fiscal policy analyst at OMB Watch, doesn’t have much faith that Congress.

Jon Kyl Has His Money on a Two-Year Extension of All Tax Cuts

Does the Arizona Senator know how to pick a long shot or what?

Americans know they are facing a large tax increase on Jan. 1 unless Congress prevents it. President Obama wants Congress to raise taxes on wealthier Americans (including many small businesses). Republicans oppose raising taxes on anyone, especially in this weak economy. Democrats ducked the issue until after the election. The result is that Congress must act in a post-election session; and while economists tell us that permanent tax policies are best, the most likely scenario in this divided Congress is a temporary extension of current rates for all Americans, probably for two years.

Politics is a tricky game. You can’t do away with all the tax cuts since that would result in hell fire raining down all across the land. And extending all the tax cuts indefinitely is a sure fire way to bring back the torches and pitchforks. It doesn’t take a Kennedy School grad to figure that one out.

But Kyl is realistic and that’s not the worst thing in the world. He simply wants to get to a point where we can reform the tax system ans that, dare we say, is a good thing.

Would we prefer him to go off on a wild-ass tangent about how the expiration of tax cuts will mean an uprising of Founding Father proportions? Of course. But we’re talking about a U.S. Senator. Everyone knows the craziest of crazies are in the House. Unless some IRS abolitionist finds his way into the upper chamber. Or a witch. That could ratchet things up a notch.

A Growth Agenda for America [WSJ]

Accounting News Roundup: Congress Delay on Taxes Could Hit January Paychecks; KPMG Settles with Hollinger; PwC Asking Clients to Share Internal Info | 10.07.10

Republicans See a Political Motive in I.R.S. Audits [NYT]
“Leading Republicans are suggesting that a senior official in the Obama administration may have improperly accessed the tax records of Koch Industries, an oil company whose owners are major conservative donors.

And the Republicans are also upset about an I.R.S. review requested by Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who leads the Finance Committee, into the political activities of tax-exempt groups. Such a review threatens to “chill the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights,” wrote two Republican senators, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Jon Kyl of Arizona, in a letter sent to the I.R.S. on Wednesday.
ick to point out that the I.R.S. was put under tight restrictions about access to Americans’ tax returns as a result of political shenanigans by the Nixon administration involving tax audits.”

AIG’s Real Numbers Still Shrouded in Secrecy [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
“Two years ago when the government seized control of AIG, the Treasury in effect took a 79.9 percent ownership stake in the company, through preferred shares and warrants it received as part of AIG’s $182 billion bailout package. By keeping its stake below 80 percent, the government ensured that a financial-reporting method known as push-down accounting wouldn’t be permitted under U.S. accounting rules.

The reason that was so important? Had AIG chosen to implement push-down accounting, it would have had to undergo a complete re-assessment of all its assets and liabilities. And, with a few possible exceptions, the company would have been required to begin showing them on its balance sheet at their fair market values, which may have left AIG’s books looking a lot worse.”

Delays to Tax Tables May Dent Paychecks [WSJ]
“Lack of congressional action on 2011 income taxes may force the Treasury Department to make unprecedented moves to prevent U.S. workers from seeing large tax increases in their January paychecks.

The issue: 2011 tax-withholding tables. Treasury officials usually release the tables, which determine the take-home pay of millions of wage-earners, by mid-November because it takes payroll processors weeks to adjust their systems before Jan. 1.”

Steven Bandolik Joins Deloitte’s Distressed Debt & Asset Practice [PR Newswire]
“Deloitte announced today that Steven Bandolik has joined its distressed debt and asset practice. Bandolik’s hire marks the latest in a series of strategic growth initiatives executed over the last 18 months to expand Deloitte’s distressed debt and asset practice.

‘Challenges need to become opportunities in order for borrowers, lenders and investors to move forward, and get back to their core business of making positive returns on investments. Despite lower interest rates, obtaining new financing regardless of loan performance continues to be an issue unless properties and financial positions are extremely strong,’ said Bandolik. ‘In this environment, clients require intellectual capital to re-structure transactions, and design sensible underwriting, due diligence and risk management procedures. Their debt may need to be structured more conservatively, requiring higher equity levels that could withstand future stress, with a focus on deleveraging over the holding period.’ ”

Hollinger Inc.: Settlement of Claims Against KPMG LLP [Marketwire]
“The Litigation Trustee of Hollinger Inc. (“Hollinger”) announced today that he has entered into a settlement agreement with KPMG LLP to resolve all claims against Hollinger’s former advisor advanced by the Litigation Trustee on behalf of Hollinger. The settlement entails no admission of liability on the part of KPMG LLP. The terms of the settlement include releases in favour of KPMG LLP from Hollinger and its subsidiaries, as well as from third parties involved in related Hollinger litigation. The settlement and the releases are subject to court approval, which will be sought on notice to other affected parties. The rest of the terms of the settlement agreement are confidential.”


CAQ Reports on Fraud Best Practices, Launches New Effort [Compliance Week]
“The CAQ conducted five roundtables and 20 in-depth interviews to develop consensus on how companies can best create a financial reporting environment where fraud has little potential to seed or take root. The CAQ published the findings as a cornerstone to further collaborative efforts with other professional groups to share ideas and best practices on how to derail fraudulent financial reporting.”

PwC audit clients asked to give up internal information [Accountancy Age]
“Ian Powell, chairman of PwC told an audience of 300 business professionals, the audit model needed reform, and believed some internal discussions, now privately held between an auditor and company, needed to be made public.

‘It may well be that by making more of those discussions public, the value of an audit can be collectively improved,’ he said.

‘I have asked our lead audit partners to discuss this idea with audit committee chairs of PwC clients to see if we can work together on a voluntary basis to improve the disclosure of such matters over the next reporting cycle.’

The comments come as the European Commission prepares to release a green paper on audit competition, due later this month, and the House of Lords prepares to hear evidence on the issue, next week.”

Greenspan: Financial overhaul to have ‘significant impact’ on economic growth [On the Money/The Hill]
Some people are still listening to this man.

Madoff clan denies fraud role, seek suit dismissal [Reuters]
A consistent message may actually convince someone, some day.

John Boehner: What Have You Done for American Families and Small Business Lately, Mr. President?

“If the President really wants to help small businesses, he should insist that Congress not leave town without cutting spending and stopping his tax hike to help create jobs – particularly small business jobs. By failing to act, the President is turning his back on American families and small businesses.”

~ The House Minority Leader, in a statement, nanoseconds after The President signed The Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 into law.

Nancy Pelosi Guarantees a Tax Cut

“America’s middle class will have a tax cut. It will be done in this Congress. There is no question about that.”

~ The Speaker of the House says that a vote may even happen before the election despite the old boys’ (and a few ladies) club has all but thrown in the towel.

U.S. Senate Continues to Successfully Bicker Over Tax Cuts

Dick Durbin is über-confident that nothing is going to happen prior to election day, which means he and his colleagues will have to sneak it in between then and December 31st when the cuts expire.

“The reality is we’re not going to pass” the tax cuts before the election,” said Durbin of Illinois. He blamed politics, saying “we are so tightly wound up in this campaign” that a bipartisan agreement to act won’t be reached.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said “it’s clear there aren’t 60 votes for any proposal, so no proposal is going to pass at this point.”

Sixty votes would be needed for a tax-cut extension to advance in the Senate.

Our concern is that some of Durbin’s friends in the Senate will be losers come November 2nd and may feel like sticking it to the entire country purely out of spite. It would be a mistake for anyone to overestimate the maturity level of any member of Congress.

Durbin Says Senate Won’t Pass Tax Cut Extension Before Election [Bloomberg]

Earlier:
Gerri Willis Doesn’t Care What A Couple of Old Men Think About Tax Cuts

Gerri Willis Doesn’t Care What A Couple of Old Men Think About Tax Cuts

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a bit of a debate over what to do about the expiring Bush tax cuts. And because it’s an election year, they make for a perfect political pigskin to throw around.

Fox Business Network is marking this momentous occasion with Taxed to Death Week (a demise that we do wish for our worst enemies) and wons to Gerri Willis of the Willis Report.

Going Concern: Tax cuts are a pretty popular way for politicians to pander to their constituents. It seems pretty convenient that they are set to expire right after the mid-term elections. Who should we blame for this?

Gerri Willis: There are plenty of people to blame – George W. Bush put them into place way back in ’01 and ‘03 and we knew way back then they had an expiration date – so take yer choices, there are plenty of politicians to point the finger at.


GC: And God knows Americans need someone to blame. Since Congress let the estate tax expire, is there a real risk that the tax cuts could expire without any action?

GW: Sure, it’s actually the easiest action to take because it requires absolutely no effort on the part of anybody – Congress doesn’t have to do anything. The President doesn’t even have to pick up a pen to sign the bill. They could all just dither until midnight December 31. Whoosh! Tax hikes.

GC: Just like tornadoes in Brooklyn. And that’s not good for anybody. Anyway, there’s a lot of information and misinformation out there with regard to the tax cuts. Can we safely assume that objectivity is taking a back seat to political gain and Americans are at the mercy of the rich and powerful (who, incidentally, are the ones greatest affected by the ultimate outcome)? How can Americans know what’s really going to happen? How can accountants best sort through all the noise to best serve their clients?

GW: Surprise! Politics are involved – of course they are, but Americans aren’t stooges. There are plenty of places to get objective information on the tax cuts. I’d suggest Fox Business and The Willis Report. Frankly there is no way for accountants or anyone else to know what is going to happen – Congress is really holding us hostage – my financial advisor sources say nobody is going on vacation in December because they know that something can happen anytime that will change the landscape.

GC: Here’s something strange – Warren Buffet has indicated that he’s in favor of eliminating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Alan Greenspan is in favor of letting all the tax cuts expire. So we have one of the richest people in the world saying he’s willing to pay more taxes and the former head of the Federal Reserve saying that everyone should pay more taxes. Generally speaking, these are smart guys. Are they onto something or is this a sign that we need to start ignoring everything that old men say?

GW: Okay, to be fair here there is wealthy and then there is wealthy, right? $250,000 in San Francisco or LA or NYC is not the same thing as $250,000 in Omaha or Comanche TX. And, Greenspan simply continues to try to resurrect his reputation which was harmed by the mortgage meltdown.

GC: Ultimately though, the one thing Congress agrees on is that tax cuts for the middle class should stay and the big debate is whether the wealthy get a short extension on their cuts or a “permanent” (although it’s not really permanent) one. But do rich people really need an additional moderately-priced BMW?

GW: Heehee. Maybe they won’t buy a BMW – maybe they’ll hire someone! The thing for the middle class to know is that it isn’t just your income taxes at stake – there are a handful of beloved middle class tax credits at stake too – write-offs for college loan interest; child tax credit; and of course there is no AMT patch yet this year – if that doesn’t come to pass tens of thousands of Americans could owe AMT — a tragedy.

Accounting News Roundup: The End of Summers; KPMG Adds More Restructuring Talent; Back to Basics | 09.22.10

Summers exit lets Obama retool team and message [Reuters]
“The departure of economic adviser Larry Summers opens the way for President Barack Obama to shake up leadership of his economic team and show he is taking seriously growing public frustration over the sluggish economic recovery.

Whoever replaces Summers ions constrained by a record $1.47 trillion budget deficit and the possible Democratic loss of control of the House of Representatives in November 2 congressional elections.”

The Obama Tax Plan: Who’s in the Crosshairs? [TaxVox]
“President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the nation’s highest income households may not quite mean what you think. A closer look suggests that fewer people may get whacked than either Obama or his Republican critics suggest. And for many of the victims, the club won’t be the president’s plan to raise rates to 36 percent and 39.6 percent. Those rate hikes may be getting most of the attention, but the real cudgel would be higher taxes on capital gains and dividends going to high-earners.”

H&R Block Announces New Chief Financial Officer [MarketWatch]
“H&R Block (HRB 12.82, -0.08, -0.62%) announced today the appointment of Jeff Brown as chief financial officer. Brown has been the company’s interim CFO for the past five months. As an eight-year veteran of H&R Block, Brown has played an important role in a variety of financial functions.

‘I am very pleased with the leadership Jeff has provided me and the organization in his interim role,; said Alan Bennett, H&R Block’s president and chief executive officer. ‘Jeff has all the talent and personal characteristics needed to be highly successful as the permanent CFO. He has earned my full confidence, as well as that of the board of directors.’

Most recently, Brown served as H&R Block’s corporate controller. Prior to that, he was the corporate controller and vice president of finance (Americas) at Bacou-Dalloz, now Sperian Protection, and served in key positions at KPMG. Brown has a business administration degree from the University of Nebraska and is a certified public accountant.”


Sentencing of Petters’ accountant is postponed [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
“Tuesday’s scheduled sentencing of James Wehmhoff, the accountant who helped Tom Petters file false tax returns, has been postponed until sometime in October. The postponement was ordered by U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle at his own behest.

Wehmhoff faces a prison sentence of between 70 and 80 months on tax charges, but federal prosecutors have asked Kyle to consider Wehmhoff’s cooperation in the Petters investigation and his previously “unblemished” career before he hooked up with Petters Group Worldwide. The government also noted that Wehmhoff was not part of the $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme that Petters and others orchestrated for more than 10 years.”

KPMG Continues to Add Restructuring Talent With Appointments of Tony Murphy, Tom Bibby [PR Newswire]
The House of Klynveld must be counting on more companies falling prey to their massive debt loads with the appointment of Tony and Tommy who both have “proven track records” as restructuring professionals.

Accounting Basics: A Guest Post From Robert B. Walker [Re:The Auditors]
“[New Zealand] follows an American model in which people who are to become accountants are ‘educated’ in Universities. There is minimal emphasis on double entry. Most of the courses are dedicated to theory, bullshit sociology, complex management accounting, auditing and so on. None of this makes any sense to a student if they first do not know the basics of accounting and that can only be gained by actually practicing the discipline.”

Comparing the Ethics Codes: AICPA and IFAC [JofA]
“Sharp increases in the number of multinational audits being performed by U.S. accounting firms means that more CPAs are performing services under the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) audit and attest standards. Although auditors must comply with the specific standards adopted in each jurisdiction, familiarity with IFAC’s International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants (IESBA Code) in addition to the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct (AICPA Code) is a critical first step. When specifications differ, members should comply with the more restrictive of the applicable standards.”

Accounting News Roundup: McConnell’s “Small Business” Definition Includes Obama; Oprah Picking Up Taxes on Aussie Trip Giveaway; Deloitte’s Holiday Outlook | 09.20.10

Obama Among `Small Businesses’ Bearing Share of Tax on Wealthy [Bloomberg]
“Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says President Barack Obama wants to subject half of all small-business income to a tax increase, a move that he says would strike a blow at the U.S. job-creation engine.

McConnell’s numbers only add up if you consider people like billionaire investor George Soros, most movie stars and Obama himself small-business owners, tax experts say.

That’s because the lawmaker is basing his figure on a broad definition of the term that experts say includes authors, actors and athletes who employ few if any workers. It also encompasses businesses that many people wouldn’t consider small, such as Soros’s hedge-fund firm and major law partnerships.”

What Should We Do With the Estate Tax? [WSJ]
“any believe Congress will tackle the estate-tax question in the weeks before it adjourns, along with a slew of other tax matters. What’s likely to happen? Many think lawmakers will return the estate tax to its 2009 level—a $3.5 million exemption per individual and a top rate of 45%—and possibly raise the exemption. Heirs of those who die in 2010 may also get the choice of using 2009 rules. If lawmakers don’t step in, the tax will return in 2011 with a $1 million exemption per individual and top rate of 55%.”

Oprah — I’ll Pay the Taxes for My Aussie Giveaway [TMZ]
Locking up sainthood: “TMZ spoke with Larry Edema from Michigan — who was selected to be in the audience on Monday for Oprah’s big giveaway — and dude tells us Winfrey had a certified public accountant on hand to address the tax issue right after the taping.

Edema says the CPA informed the group that all taxes associated with the trip would be “handled by the Oprah show,” so the trip would truly be 100% free.”

BP oil spill well effectively dead, says US [FT]
“The US authorities pronounced BP’s blown-out Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico ‘effectively dead’ on Sunday, 152 days after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that caused the world’s largest accidental offshore oil spill.

The announcement ends the 5m barrel leak, which sparked fury among the US public and politicians, but may eventually be seen to have had only a marginal effect on the global energy industry.”


Your Coming Tax Cut (or Not) [NYT]
The Times breaks things down, in gray lady fashion, if all of the tax cuts are extended.

Deloitte Forecasts a 2 Percent Increase in Holiday Sales [PR Newswire]
Deloitte Downer.

Feds charge man shot by IRS agent in San Francisco [AP]
“Investigators say the IRS agent, 36-year-old Dena Crowe, was putting things into her car outside her home in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood when she was confronted by a teen demanding money and Higginbotham pointing a shotgun at her.

Authorities say Crowe identified herself as an agent and fired her .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun at the suspects, who then fled on foot.”

In Politics, Spite Will Forever Trump Progress

“It’s amazing to me how difficult it is to work together around here, even when we want to.”

~ Orrin Hatch (R-UT), referring to how the U.S. Senate managed to drag out the passing of the small-business bill.

The 1099 Party Is Still on for 2012

If the GOP took the “think of all the trees you’re killing” angle, maybe they could have convinced more Democrats to kill the 1099 free-for-all. Unfortunately, they stuck to the usual “red tape is un-American and stealing our freedom” narrative and it didn’t impress.

Senate Democrats defeated an attempt by Republicans to lift a tax-reporting requirement that small businesses face in a move that would have stripped away $17 billion earmarked to help pay for the sweeping health-care law.

In a 46-52 vote, the majority overcame an effort by Senate Republicans to scrap the reporting requirement which was inserted to the health-care legislation that was signed into law by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

The Republicans would have needed 60 ‘yes’ votes to be successful. Seven Democrats sided with the Republicans to support removing the requirement.

The Republican effort was led by Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.), who has argued it is simply piling on unnecessary red tape on small-business owners at the same time as the federal government looks to them to lead the job-creation recovery.

The rule requires businesses to report to the Internal Revenue Service payments to suppliers and service providers that exceed $600 in a single year. It is set to be implemented in 2012.

Senate Defeats GOP Bid to Lift Tax-Reporting Rule [WSJ]

California Controller All But Guarantees That the State Will Issue IOUs Again

As the State Controller of California, John Chiang arguably has one of the worst jobs on Earth. Public service is a fine calling and working for the Terminator probably has its moments of awesomeness but he still presides over one of largest fiscal nightmares you could possibly imagine.

For starters, it doesn’t help when you overshoot tax revenues for the month of April by $3 billion. Plus, you’re dealing with a state legislature that is probably incapable of agreeing on what ocean serves as the border of their state.

So take that and a bunch of other stuff that’s not really worth rehashing, you get this, “[W]ithout a new spending plan that closes a $19 billion shortfall, the state would run out of money by late October. ‘We will run out of money if everything remains the same,’ [Chiang] said in an interview.”


Of course the state Assembly’s Republican leader, Martin Garrick, finds this to be a load of crap since what it comes down really is your political party “[He] didn’t represent the fact that it is his party’s own lack of leadership that have led to these delays.”

Look, we’ve all accepted the fact that California is the brokest-ass state of the union and is completely inept when it comes to doing anything about it. Sure New York is a pathetic loser that manages to embarrass itself on a regular basis and most of the rest of the states out there leave a helluva a lot to be desired but Cali really outdoes everyone on a regular basis. This will make two years straight of issuing IOUs at the expense of citizens and yet the diaper-wearing California reps do nothing.

If Whitman gets in there, her first act as Guv could be to auction them off one by one (or just list them all as “Buy It Now” for $1). Of course the take wouldn’t be nearly enough to fix the budget but at this point a symbolic gesture will do.

California Faces Prospect of Issuing IOUs Again [WSJ]

Accounting News Roundup: Deloitte Names Van Arsdell as New Chair, CEO of AERS; Maryland Might Be Figuring Out This Fiscal Responsibility Thing; Frank Navigates the Waters | 08.12.10

Stephen C. Van Arsdell Named Chairman and CEO of Deloitte LLP’s Audit and Enterprise Risk Services Subsidiary [PRNewswire]
Thtte vet Steve Van Arsdell replaces Nick Tommasino as the head of Deloitte’s AERS.

As is the wont of these particular announcements, SVA seems pretty flippin’ stoked about the new gig, “I am excited to take the helm of Deloitte & Touche during such dynamic times. We know that to succeed we must always be a leader in quality. This is a shared commitment from all within our organization. The goals we set for ourselves will raise the bar for quality throughout the profession.”

Barry Salzberg got in a few words too, “I am fully confident in Steve’s ability to lead Deloitte & Touche through the myriad challenges and opportunities presented by the economic recovery and regulatory environment changes. His extraordinary talent, experience and leadership style will help further the practice’s primary mission to conduct the highest quality audits. As a continuing and integral member of our senior leadership team, I know his contributions will be considerable. Nick Tommasino has demonstrated a deep sense of partnership and commitment to our organization, and we thank him for his leadership. We’re delighted to bring his client service skills back to the marketplace.”

So, Stevey. Time to get down to brass tacks – everyone’s wondering about those raises.

Microloans Helps Some Small Businesses Survive [WSJ]
“When President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law in February 2009 to create jobs and promote spending, the law included $56.1 million for microloans for small businesses, to be doled out through the Small Business Administration through September.

While some critics complain about the government’s economic stimulus efforts, some lenders and borrowers say the stimulus spending that focused on helping small businesses is working.

Targeted toward start-up, newly-established, or growing small businesses, the microloans are short-term loans up to $35,000 each for working capital or inventory and equipment purchases. The intermediary lenders who distribute the loans can choose to lend more than that limit.”

China’s Rich Have $1.1 Trillion in Hidden Income, Study Finds [Bloomberg]
“China’s households hide as much as 9.3 trillion yuan ($1.4 trillion) of income that is not reported in official figures, with 80 percent accrued by the wealthiest people, a study showed.

The money, much of it likely “illegal or quasi-illegal,” equates to about 30 percent of China’s gross domestic product, the study, conducted for Credit Suisse AG and published last week by the China Reform Foundation, found. The average urban disposable household income in China is 32,154 yuan, or 90 percent more than official figures, according to the report.”

It’s Time to Give Up Spreadsheets for Tracking Carbon Emissions [Green Biz via AccMan]
Give up on spreadsheets? The horror. “CFOs, CIOs and sustainability teams at large companies have used spreadsheets for years to track corporate carbon emissions.

We are now, however, at a tipping point where the benefits of carbon management software, also known as enterprise carbon accounting (ECA) software, outweigh the benefits of spreadsheets.

With many large companies recently completing their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports and Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) questionnaires, and entering budget planning in the fall, it is time to move away from spreadsheets to reduce risk, save money, increase productivity, and establish an enterprise-class source of record for carbon emission data.”


Budget surplus in Maryland? Believe it. [CPA Success]
California, New York – Pay attention.

Do I Owe My Employees a Career Path? [You’re the Boss/NYT]
“Being responsible for your workers’ jobs is hard. Being responsible for their careers is harder.”

TrueBlue Named to Top of Forbes’ “Most Trustworthy Companies” List [Business Wire]
“TrueBlue, Inc. ranked at the top of the list of companies with the ‘most transparent and conservative accounting practices and most prudent management,’ according to a new ‘Most Trustworthy Companies’ list compiled for Forbes by Audit Integrity, an independent financial analytics company.

Audit Integrity’s Accounting & Governance Risk rating, or AGR, rates companies’ accounting and management practices from 0 (very aggressive) to 100 (conservative); companies with a lower rating have been more likely to suffer equity loss, issue financial restatements and face class action suits, Forbes.com says.”

Maxine Waters Whacked, Barney Frank Untouched [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
JW on the Maxine Waters’ ethics violations and how Barney Frank managet to be smart enough (or just politically savvy enough) to keep himself clean-ish.

Accounting News Roundup: How Is Deloitte Like HP?; Moss Adams’ Bunting Appointed to IIRC; Small Businesses Remain Pessimistic | 08.10.10

U.S., BP Near Deal on Fund [WSJ]
“The Obama administration and BP PLC are close to a deal to use future revenues from the oil giant’s Gulf of Mexico operations to guarantee its $20 billion cleanup and compensation fund, a move that would give both sides an incentive to continue production in the Gulf, scene of the U.S.’s worst-ever offshore oil spill.

The Justice Department and BP said Monday they had completed talks to establish the fund, which is designed to cover damage claims from residents and businesses hurt by the spill and clean-up efforts by state and local governments. BP paid $3 billion into the fund ahead of sch Hurd, Deloitte and Tone At The Top [Re: The Auditors]
“The auditors serve the role of independent watchdog, guardian of shareholders interests in the capital markets . Their relationship to management should be adversarial – not friendly, cozy and comfortable. They are hired and fired by the Board, also supposedly independent. Given the way auditors are compensated, directly by the companies they judge, they have a difficult job. Their regulators guard those guardians and are supposed to make sure they do it.

So how does a Vice Chairman, one of those guardians, “dupe” his fellow partners and professional colleagues more than three hundred times, as Deloitte’s lawsuit against him alleged?

Deloitte has a culture of non-compliance.”

Oracle Chief Faults H.P. Board for Forcing Hurd Out [NYT]
Meanwhile, Larry Ellison wrote an email to the Times, “The H.P. board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago. That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn’t come back and saved them.”

Moss Adams Partner Bob Bunting Helps Create Reporting Standards for Corporate Sustainability [Moss Adams]
“Bob Bunting, chairman of the Moss Adams LLP International Services Group and president of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), has been appointed to the steering committee for the newly formed International Integrated Reporting Committee (IIRC). The Prince of Wales’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) announced the formation of the IIRC today.

‘In addition to the annual reports publicly listed companies are required to file, an increasing number of companies are voluntarily producing corporate social responsibility or sustainability reports,’ Bunting said. ‘It’s an honor to be tapped for this role and to contribute input to developing a single standard for these reports. It’s a natural extension of the work I’ve been involved with at IFAC to help drive adoption of a single set of global standards for accounting, auditing, and professional ethics. It’s also a pleasure to be working alongside so many thought leaders in the world of standards setting and corporate sustainability.’ ”

Small business optimism sags in July [Reuters]
“Small business owners became more downbeat in July as expectations of weaker economic growth in the second half of the year reinforced a reluctance to hire, according to a survey published on Tuesday.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said its optimism index fell 0.9 point to 88.1 in July.

‘Virtually all of the decline was due to weaker expectations for business conditions six months from now,’ said William Dunkleberg, the group’s chief economist.”


SEC Charges Seattle-Area Company and Former CFO With Phony Accounting of Infomercial Sales [SEC]
When did the SEC start putting photos up of the Regional Directors?

The SEC alleges that Karl Redekopp, the former CFO of International Commercial Television Inc. (ICTV), turned millions of dollars of quarterly losses into profits by falsely accounting for ICTV’s sales of the Derma Wand, a skin care appliance that purports to reduce wrinkles and improve skin appearance. Redekopp fraudulently recognized revenue before the Home Shopping Network had actually sold or delivered the product to viewers. He also improperly recognized revenue before a free trial period offered by the company had expired, and failed to reverse revenue from products that had been returned. Redekopp’s misconduct caused the company to falsely report millions of dollars in excess revenue in 2007 and 2008.

” ‘Redekopp violated fundamental principles of accounting to fraudulently boost ICTV’s bottom line and conceal its true financial health from investors,’ said Marc J. Fagel, Director of the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office. ‘Unfortunately, ICTV’s auditors turned a blind eye to the company’s financial irregularities and failed to fulfill their role in investor protection.’ ”

Accounting PACs spread the wealth [Web CPA]
“Political fundraisers in the accounting profession began shifting their largesse toward congressional Democrats after they won control over both the House and the Senate four years ago.

But now with Tea Party activists screaming for the heads of incumbents and Republican candidates showing strength across the country, is the accounting profession resurrecting its overwhelming partisan support for the GOP in time for the mid-term elections?”

Flight Attendant at JFK Pulls Emergency Chute, Flies Coop [NBC New York]
Steve Slater was hit in the head by some luggage, was cursed at by the passenger who refused to apologize for it and Slater then proceeded to flip out. He cursed at all the passengers over the PA system on JetBlue Flight 1052, grabbed two beers and slid down the emergency chute after inflating it.

He was later arrested at his home in Queens, “Police sources said that when authorities found Slater he seemed to be in the midst having sexual relations.”

What’s the Deal with These Bush Tax Cuts Expiring?

Good question, you say? If you mosey around the web for a nanosecond, you’re likely to run into an article that is debating whether or not the 43rd President’s tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 should be continued. Since Nancy Pelosi is determined to get a vote on this pre-election day, the political rhetoric on this issue is flowing like a river of sewage you dare not dream of.

To help you make sense of it all, we perused some of the tax wonkiest corners of the web to bring you some perspective. And of course, some less bright observations.


The Tax Foundation has a breakdown of how the expiration of the tax cuts would affect “Average Middle-Income Family, by State and Congressional District.” It’s simple to find your state/district to see the effect that the expiration of the cuts would have on you.

• Over at the Journal, Washington Wire presents the biggest winners and losers from the tax cuts being extended:

Among the states that would save the most from extending the tax cuts, according to a draft of the study: Alaska ($1,959 per family); Connecticut ($1,903); Maryland ($1,756); Massachusetts ($1,831); New Jersey ($1,860) and Utah ($1,779). The lowest savings for middle-income families would be in D.C. ($1,237); West Virginia ($1,316); and Mississippi ($1,355).

• Apparently Alan Greenspan still has a shred of credibility left because he weighed in a couple of weeks ago, telling Bloomberg, “I should say they should follow the law and let them lapse.”

• The Beard doesn’t agree with his predecessor, telling the House Financial Services Committee, “In the short term I would believe that we ought to maintain a reasonable degree of fiscal support, stimulus for the economy. There are many ways to do that. This is one way.”

• William G. Gale, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, wrote in the Washington Post about five myths around the tax cuts, including their affect on small businesses:

One of the most common objections to letting the cuts expire for those in the highest tax brackets is that it would hurt small businesses. As Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) recently put it, allowing the cuts to lapse would amount to “a job-killing tax hike on small business during tough economic times.”

This claim is misleading. If, as proposed, the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire for the highest earners, the vast majority of small businesses will be unaffected. Less than 2 percent of tax returns reporting small-business income are filed by taxpayers in the top two income brackets — individuals earning more than about $170,000 a year and families earning more than about $210,000 a year.

Derek Thompson is a little more pragmatic than most, arguing that President Obama should extend them for a year in order to buy some time to work on comprehensive tax reform:

The president should extend the Bush tax cuts — yes, the whole dang thing — for a year to temporarily silence his critics. Then he should use 2011 to knock it down and build a tax system that’s right for the next decade. Working off a bipartisan plan, real tax reform would simplify the income brackets and eliminate the multitude of deductions and exemptions that distort the economy with bad incentives and leave hundreds of billions of dollars on the ground.

• Fred Thompson (no relation that we know of) is using his camera moxie to voice his support for the extension of the cuts:

• Ezra Klein agrees that some cuts will be extended temporarily, although the debate among citizens isn’t as clear:

The cuts for the rich are likely to be extended for at least two years. The cuts for the middle class are sure to be extended for even longer than that. Total cost to the deficit over the next 10 years? More than $3 trillion, and maybe more than $4 trillion.

But according to a Pew poll, the American public isn’t as sure about this as the politicians are. A slight plurality — 31 percent — want all the tax cuts repealed. Thirty percent want the cuts for the rich extended. In other words, opinion is divided.

• And even though she needed crib notes, Sarah Palin managed to tell Fox News’ Chris Wallace that letting the cuts expire ‘idiotic’:

“[Obama’s] commitment to let previous tax cuts expire are going to lead to even fewer job opportunities for Americans,” Palin said. “It’s idiotic to think about increasing taxes at a time like this.”

“My palm isn’t large enough to have written all my notes down on what this tax increase, what it will result in,” Palin continued.

Host Chris Wallace noticed that Palin did indeed have something written on her palm. “Can I ask you, what do you have written on your hand?” he asked.

“$3.8 trillion in the next 10 years,” Palin responded, “so I didn’t say $3.7 trillion and then get dinged by the liberals saying I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

But who would ever get the idea that Sarah Palin didn’t know what she was talking about?

Will Governments Finally Recognize Their Fiscal Responsibility?

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

If you live or work in New York City you know how the subway can be both a blessing (when it runs on time) and a curse (when it doesn’t) or for reasons that on Wednesday became clear: fare hikes.

If you don’t live in New York you can appreciate why the agency responsible for public transit, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is having such a difficult time making ends meet. At the top of the list is compensation and benefits costs, which account for two-thirds of the MTA’s $12 billion operating budget for 2011.

The MTA says its health care costs are going up about 9 percent annually-which is actually in line with national increases. The challenge for a public agency of course is that it is locked into contracts with its heavily unionized workforce. Making changes is not easy.


The plan the MTA put forward Wednesday was to enter in what it called “net zero” contracts with its unions-contracts in which any raise would be “paid” for by givebacks in productivity, changes in work rules or increased contributions to health care benefits. The unions took exception to this proposal but no one doubts that the compensation structure of government employees needs to come in-line with their private sector counterparts. Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic nominee for governor, has made reforming this imbalance part of his platform.

Debt service aside (and the MTA’s debt service totals $1.8 billion this year, growing to $2.5 billion by 2014), the MTA, like so many government entities throughout the country, has long term health care challenges ahead. Its health care retirement obligation totals $1.4 billion growing to $1.7 billion by 2014. While the MTA continues to pay enough into its retiree health care fund to pay for its current retirees’ health care, the authority, citing this year’s cash-flow problems, will not pay $57 million this year into a fund for future obligations.

The Great Recession has helped bring the issue of government post-retirement obligations to light. As government revenues shrink and obligations grow, taxpayers sense an inherent injustice between their own grim retirement prospects and the assurances given to public sector workers. Subway service cuts and fare hikes are only meaningful if they address the long-term problems rather than enable government to deal with short term crisis.

Cuomo is banking on this public displeasure, as is the MTA. Next year the MTA’s contract with its largest union is up for renewal. The transit authority will be able to test whether it has public support for changing the way the state entity does business with unions. Bringing government into the 21st century by reducing health care and other post-retirement obligations will be good for taxpayers and for businesses, including those with heavily unionized workforces.

Accounting News Roundup: Americans’ Irrational Demands on Policy; Number of Women CFOs Same as ’09; Summer Camp Tax Credits? | 07.14.10

We Can’t Always Get What We Want: Why Governing Americans is So Hard [TaxVox]
Basically it’s because as a group, we’re children. We throw tantrums until we get what we want and stomp around the living room when we don’t.

“[O]ur demands on policymakers are so inconsistent and irrational that we make governing nearly impossible. We hate big deficits, but oppose the actual tax increases or spending cuts that we need to dam the flood of the red ink. We are furious that government passed an $800 billion stimulus last year, but feel lawmakers are not doing enough to get the economy going. We want government to “do something” about the gulf oil spill but reject government interference in private business.”

Women CFOs Holding Steady [CFO]
In the Fortune 500, there are 44 woman CFOs, the same number as last year.

“What are the prospects for women breaking the 10% barrier? At least some are hopeful the numbers will climb in coming years, albeit not dramatically. ‘Anecdotally, I am seeing a next generation of female finance leaders who can and want to rise to the CFO role,’ says Lorraine Hack, executive recruiter with Heidrick and Struggles. She adds, ‘I have seen a lot of companies becoming more cognizant of diversity, or the lack thereof, and making a conscious effort to recruit, retain, and grow such talent.’ ”

U.S. Business Groups Air Policy Concerns [WSJ]
“Washington’s major business groups plan a united front Wednesday in their confrontation with the Obama administration over economic policy, calling on the White House to cut taxes and curb its regulatory agenda.

Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the National Federation of Independent Businesses will air a list of concerns about government policy at a “Jobs for America Summit” at the Chamber’s offices Wednesday.”


Wall Street Fix Seen Ineffectual by Four of Five in U.S. [Bloomberg]
“Almost four out of five Americans surveyed in a Bloomberg National Poll this month say they have just a little or no confidence that the measure being championed by congressional Democrats will prevent or significantly soften a future crisis. More than three-quarters say they don’t have much or any confidence the proposal will make their savings and financial assets more secure.

A plurality — 47 percent — says the bill will do more to protect the financial industry than consumers; 38 percent say consumers would benefit more.

‘Banks and the government are making out, not the ordinary person,’ says Lenore Critzer, a 70-year-old retiree and poll participant who lives in Nelson, Ohio, about 40 miles from Cleveland. ‘We’re going to have another crisis and worse.’ ”

A tax credit for summer camp? IRS says it’s true [Kansas City Star]
Unfortunately, expenses for overnight camps do not qualify. So parents will have to squeeze the sex in during the day somehow.

Accounting News Roundup: Grassley Not Sold on Financial Reform Bill; LeBron Was Probably Considering Tax Implications; Target: Your Spreadsheets | 07.09.10

Grassley Airs Concerns As Vote Nears on Financial Bill [WSJ]
“Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley is ‘very concerned’ about a provision in the financial overhaul bill designed to pay for the leaid Thursday, potentially complicating White House efforts to build a filibuster-proof majority to back the measure.

If Mr. Grassley decides to vote against the bill, Democrats would be left with little margin for error when they bring the bill to the Senate floor, which could happen as soon as next week. Mr. Grassley was one of four Republicans to support an earlier version of the bill when it narrowly passed the Senate in May.”

Number of CEOs Stepping Down is on the Rise [FBN]
It’s hard out there for a CEO. Ask Russ Smyth.

State Jock Taxes: Is LeBron Better Off in Miami? [Tax Foundation]
Of course Florida has no income tax, so every game that LBJ plays in Florida he’ll have a tax liability of $0. What about the other 41 games outside of FLA? That’s another story, “True, if James plays in Miami, none of his neighbors will be paying state income tax, but thanks to the jock tax, LeBron will.

While most people who travel in their jobs pay state income tax only to their home state, which is zero in Florida, athletes get special attention. In the NBA, each player’s per-game salary is computed, and whenever a team is on the road, the players must pay whichever tax rate is higher, the home state’s or the away state’s.”


Facebook Often Not a Job Seeker’s Friend [FINS]
If you’re pounding the pavement for a new job out there, it’s pretty much a given that people are looking at your online activity. But just how much and where? Based on the conversation between FINS’ Kyle Stock asked Michael Fertik of ReputationDefender Inc, you’d better drop those loser friends from high school that have appeared on Cops:

Kyle Stock: Can you speak briefly on to what extent companies are checking up on candidates online?

Michael Fertik: They’re absolutely doing it. It’s somewhere around 70% to 80% of hiring managers. . . And not only are they looking online, they are also looking in really remarkable places like virtual worlds and gaming rooms.

KS: To what extent do people realize this is going on?

MF: Somewhere around 70% of employers are considering online information when evaluating a candidate and only 7% of candidates believe they are doing so. There’s a huge gulf of understanding. . . Everybody has been opted in. There’s kind of a willful ignorance about it. That’s changing, but it’s still there.

And the kinds of information being considered are growing very diverse. It’s not just the photo that you published of yourself with a beer or a bong, it’s also content like who your friends are and what they post on your page and what kinds of groups that you link to. There’s kind of an associative picture that they develop of you and then they make decisions about you based on those associations.

Russian Spies Head Home in Swap Echoing Cold War [Bloomberg]
Defendant #4 and the rest of the gang are going home, making your next conference predictably more boring. Or will it???

Internal Auditors Target Spreadsheets [CFO]
“Last month the Institute of Internal Auditors plugged a gap in its guidance for members by issuing recommendations for the auditing of ‘user-developed applications,’ which generally are spreadsheets and databases developed by end users rather than by IT personnel.

User-developed applications, or UDAs, are subject to a high level of data-integrity risk because there may not be adequate controls over validating their output or making changes to them, the IIA points out. There is also confidentiality risk, because a UDA and its data typically are easy to transmit outside the company via e-mail.”

What’s the Next Move in This PCAOB Situation?

Jonathan Weil over at Bloomberg has a new column up today and he is less enthusiastic about the Supreme Court decision in FEF v. PCAOB than say, everyone else.

JW is mostly wondering why we should keep having an “independent” PCAOB inside the SEC since the board members will now be at the mercy of the towing the political line inside the Commission, “While the court

A Few Senators Would Like Billionaires to Pitch in with the Deficit Problem

The latest act in the ongoing circus known as the estate tax debate has three “liberal” senators – Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) – calling for billionaires to help close the $13 trillion some-odd federal deficit that these über-rich people ate.

Forbes reports that the Messrs. Sanders, Harkin and Whitehouse sent a letter to their fellow Senators laying out their case, “According to Forbes Magazine, there are only 403 billionaires in the U.S. with a collective net worth of $1.3 trillion. Clearly, the heirs to these multibillion fortunes should be paying a higher estate tax rate than others.”

The champs of the bill also go to the trouble of singling out Dan L. Duncan whose family stands to inherit his $9 billion fortune tax free. It’s a good thing those staffers pointed out that article in the Times to their respective Senators!


Anyhoo, TaxProf summarizes the details of the “Responsible Estate Estate Tax Act”:

Exempts the first $3.5 million of an estate from federal taxation ($7 million for couples), the same exemption that existed in 2009. Doing this would mean that 99.75% of all estates would be exempted from the federal estate tax in 2011 alone.

Includes a progressive rate structure so that the super wealthy pay more. Under our bill, the rate for the value of the estate above $3.5 million and below $10 million would be 45%, the same as the 2009 level. The rate on the value of estates above $10 million and below $50 million would be 50%, and the rate on the value of estates above $50 million would be 55%.

Includes a billionaire’s surtax of 10%. Our bill also imposes a 10% surtax on the value of an estate above $500 million ($1 billion for couples). According to Forbes Magazine, there are only 403 billionaires in the United States with a collective net worth of $1.3 trillion. Clearly, the heirs to these multi-billion fortunes should be paying a higher estate tax rate than others.

Closes all of the Estate and Gift Tax Loopholes requested in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget. These loophole closers include requiring consistent valuation for transfer and income tax purposes; a modification of rules on valuation discounts; and a required 10-year minimum term for Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATS). OMB has estimated that closing these loopholes that benefit the super-wealthy, would raise at least $23.7 billion in revenue over 10 years.

Protects family farmers by allowing them to lower the value of their farmland by up to $3 million for estate tax purposes. Under current law, the value of farmland can be reduced up to $1 million for estate tax purposes under § 2032(a) (Special Use Valuation). Our bill increases this level to $3 million and indexes it to inflation.

Benefits farmers and other landowners by providing estate tax relief for conservation easements. Our bill provides tax relief to farmers and other landowners by amending estate tax rules for conservation easements through an increase in the maximum exclusion amount to $2 million and increasing the base percentage to 60%.

Nice work on those last two Senator Harkin; you couldn’t be more obvious.

In case you didn’t catch it in there, the estate tax on the billionaires will be 55% PLUS! an additional 10% surtax. Sounds crazy right? Congress royally fucks things up by letting the estate tax expire in the first place and then has the stones to throw the double whammy on the rich because of it. Had they simply extended the estate tax (which seems to be a popular solution, btw) this political pigskin wouldn’t even be an issue.

But guess what? There are people behind this thing lock, stock and barrel. For one, the United for a Fair Economy (“UFE”) more or less says that this legislation is the catalyst to fixing everything, “The Sanders-Harkin-Whitehouse Responsible Estate Tax Act is an important step on the road to an economic recovery that benefits all Americans.”

Well, not all Americans.