Small Business

Should More Accountants Start Businesses?

Yes! Okay, I probably need a little more substance for a blog. To be clear, I’ve been in business for myself for five years. Over that time I’ve had an opportunity to talk to numerous accountants who have made the jump into their own business. I’ve collected their stories and weighed up why I think […]

Snapchat Still Runs QuickBooks

Leaked financial statements are fun. This morning Sam Biddle at Gawker published Snapchat's internal balance sheet and 11-month income statement from last year. It's nothing to get too worked up about; the company lost a lot of money last year, which is to be expected, and they have a lot of cash on hand. Again, […]

The Hottest Silicon Valley Accounting Startup: A Conversation with inDinero Founder Jessica Mah

One of the biggest distractions for small-business owners has to be maintaining their books and their accounting. Attaining a firm for the business might be too expensive an endeavor, yet handling it by yourself takes away valuable time from growing your core business. Enter inDinero: a one-stop shop for all your bookkeeping needs. The company […]

Survey Says: Over Half of Small Businesses Don’t Work With an Accountant At All

Here's an interesting discovery from Xero: 53 percent of small businesses they surveyed "say they don’t work with an accountant at all." So not only are all firms the same, they're not crucial to fledgling businesses? Is this an opportunity or a barrier? Go.

CPAs and Entrepreneurship: Do You Have What It Takes?

Back in July, we had a discussion about hanging out a shingle in public accounting. For many of you that are just starting out in your careers the idea of venturing out on your own seems as likely as the Jets pulling off a winning season. In fact, it’s hilariously unlikely.    For some of […]

Not Choosing FRF for SMEs Will Be Even Easier Thanks to the AICPA’s New Decision Tool

Are you a prudent business person staring at his/her five-line balance sheet thinking, "As a prudent business person whose financial reporting isn't bound by generally accepted accounting principles and doesn't engage in transactions that require highly-specialized accounting guidance, I'm interested in some simpler accounting framework options. I've gone through the PCC's Private Company Decision-Making Framework but I really like to […]

Let’s Discuss: Hanging Out a Shingle in Public Accounting

We spend a lot of time discussing careers here. Over the last four years, It’s become such a big part of our content that we started a little side venture as a result.   The reason for that, I think, is that professionals with accounting backgrounds have options. A lot of them. Unlike our friends […]

AICPA Knows NASBA Is Mad But It’s Okay, NASBA Gets Mad Sometimes

The ongoing bickering over FRF for SMEs — which went Defcon 4 the other day with a strongly worded press release from NASBA — has just gone nuclear.  I come from a single parent household so I don't know what it's like to live in a home with parents who are on the brink of divorce […]

NASBA Stands Behind FASB’s Private GAAP, Can’t Believe the AICPA’s Chutzpah

On Tuesday we discussed the AICPA's effort to offer a new OCBOA for small businesses, making special note of the Financial Accounting Foundation's slightly irritated response. While the FAF was fine with Melancon & Co. issuing the new Financial Reporting Framework (FRF) for SMEs, they wanted to remind everyone that FRF was most certainly not […]

“Emerging Growth Company” Still Working on the “Emerging Growth” Part

Yesterday we discussed Ignite Restaurant Group, an emerging growth company ("EGC") under the JOBS Act, and their battles with financial reporting. Today we were introduced to another EGC, this time the company is WeRvaluecoupons.com who filed its Form S-1 with the SEC earlier this month. WeRvalue isn't quite as far along in the "emerging" process […]

From the Sounds of It, Small Companies Better Learn to Love IFRS

SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker is "hopeful" that the SEC can figure something out re: IFRS in the coming months but if you're a controller/CFO type at a small company who thought that this wasn't going to be your problem, Jim has news for you: He downplayed the notion of smaller firms being able to […]

Ernst & Young Serving Simpler Businesses After the Sour Taste Left by Lehman Brothers

Actually, it’s just for the kids.

Ernst & Young LLP, a global professional services firm, will be the Presenting Sponsor of a Guinness World Records attempt by local area elementary school students to make history with the “Longest Lemonade Stand.”

The record-setting attempt will be made Saturday, August 20, National Lemonade Day, in Beverly Park in Beverly Hills, Michigan, with proceeds going to support local school initiatives. The Longest Lemonade Stand record attempt includes an age-appropriate curriculum specifically designed to use the lemonade stand concept to teach kids basic business principles.

The students have already sold nearly 300 individual stand “kits” to families representing 16 area public, private and parochial schools. Participating families will bring their individually decorated stand sections to the park on event day to create the 1,200-foot-long stand required for the Guinness World Record!

Considering the fact that it’s not uncommon for local authorities to take a no tolerance stance on non-compliant stands, I hope Ernst & Young has informed participants that attention to detail is very important in business.

[via LLS]

The New York Times Has Some Helpful Suggestions For Non-Accounting Nerd Business Owners

And you guys had the nerve to talk smack about me trying to give inheritance advice yesterday. Pfft.

In a recent article entitled Basics of Accounting Are Vital to Survival for Entrepreneurs, the New York Times tells the tale of Bart Justice, an industrial engineer-turned-business owner who decided to start a mobile document shredding business in 2004 after a rash of new security laws. Justice got a loan from the bank, bought a mobile shredding truck, hired a driver and opened a shop in Huntsville, AL called Secure Destruction Service. Sounds good, no?

In its first year, the company had $70,000 in sales. Within four years, the company had annual revenue of $500,000, six employees and two offices. Again, that sounds great but revenue is not the same as equity or net worth, even a non-accounting nerd like me knows that much.

When he wanted to add another shredding truck, Justice went back to the bank and borrowed more money. The bigger he got, the more money he needed to borrow. Somehow, he didn’t understand that this borrowed money was not actually revenue and was, in fact, a liability as he had to pay it back at some point.

“I knew how to print a financial statement from QuickBooks, but I couldn’t tell you what it meant,” he said.

Fast-forward to 2008, when Justice joined a peer group for Christian business owners. “They would ask me questions about my numbers, and I didn’t know how to answer them,” he said. “They told me my business was going to fail unless I got a handle on paying down my debt.”

No shit, Sherlock, did you need a financial professional to tell you that?

Here’s the gist of the article: if small business owners don’t get number-crunching, put the money out and hire someone who does. What the NYT does not have the balls to suggest is that small business owners should stop saying “I hate accounting” because they think it’s still cute and go out and take an introductory accounting class or two. No one expects business owners to be able to pull analytics out of their asses but it can’t hurt to maybe at least understand that you want liabilities to be less than assets to stay alive.

Chase’s New Expense Tracking App Will Cater to the Most Anal-Retentive Bosses

If finicky expense-tracking is going to evolve with the times, there has to be a way to track every dime spent from anywhere and it appears Chase is making an effort toward that goal with its newest offering: Jot.

Hot off the wire:

Jot will provide Ink from Chase customers a variety of mobile benefits, including the ability to:

— Receive text alerts within seconds of making a purchase with their Ink card;

— Immediately tag these purchases to custom categories on a mobile device or online;

— Enable employees to tag their business expenses;

— Immediately view all transactions on their account, including those of their employees, through their mobile device or online;

— Adjust employees’ card spending limits in real-time via a mobile device; and

— Create and download reports into accounting software, including QuickBooks(R) and Excel(R).

“Small business owners are innovative, passionate and hardworking, and Chase’s dedication to partnering with these business owners comes from the belief that this group of entrepreneurs is an integral part of the American economy,” said Richard Quigley, president of Ink from Chase. “Jot was designed with small business owners’ immediate financial needs top of mind. Jot will enhance the finance-savvy business practices of small business owners, allowing for additional time and an improved focus on the passion and sense of accomplishment they have for their businesses.”

Financially-savvy Ink customers who have an iPhone or Android phone can download Jot by visiting the Ink website. Once you’ve got it downloaded you and your employees’ spending will be reined in and you’ll be back agonizing over more important things in no time.

Legislation We Can All Get Behind: The BEER Act

Tax assassin Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform have thrown their support behind some important legislation that was introduced to mark American Craft Brew Week – The Brewer’s Employment and Excise Relief Act of 2011 or BEER Act.

While we’re certain that Grover & Co. regularly quaff craft brews, ATR’s support is also grounded in fiscal policy. Here’s Grover in his letter to Senators Mike Crapo (R-WY) and John Kerry (D-MA), the sponsors of the bill:

The BEER Act would reduce from $7 to $3.50 the tax paid per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels produced by small brewers. This is estimated to generate $19.9 million in capital for small beer producers, an enormous resource to promote job growth in the craft brewing industry.

Currently, brewers large and small pay the same tax on any production over 60,000 barrels. Set at an astounding $18-a-barrel tax, this represents a crushing weight on small brewers. This onerous tax penalizes production and disincentivizes industry growth, unnecessarily handicapping an industry that provides 100,000 jobs in the United States alone.

Your bill addresses this discrepancy by lowering the excise tax from $18 to $16 per barrel for production from 60,000 barrels up to 2 million barrels. This will provide an estimated $27.1 million for craft brewers to create jobs and spur economic growth.

Now, you don’t have to be a craft brew fan (like me) and you don’t have live in a state that produces many of these craft brews (like me) to get behind something as common sense as this. Unless, of course, all you drink is Bud Light™, which just means you’re a loser with no taste.

Cheers! ATR Supports the BEER Act [ATR]

President Obama Puts 1099 Reporting Requirement Down for the Dirt Nap

Today, I was pleased to take another step to relieve unnecessary burdens on small businesses by signing H.R. 4 into law. Small business owners are the engine of our economy and because Democrats and Republicans worked together, we can ensure they spend their time and resources creating jobs and growing their business, not filling out more paperwork. I look forward to continuing to work with Congress to improve the tax credit policy in this legislation and I am eager to work with anyone with ideas about how we can make health care better or more affordable. [WH]

Senate Manages to Stay Out of Its Own Way, Passes 1099 Repeal

Now that the repeal has passed, where will all the energy spent on pandering to small businesses go?

Bowing to pressure from business groups worried about an avalanche of paperwork, the U.S. Senate voted on Tuesday to rescind a tax-reporting requirement included in last year’s healthcare overhaul law.

With bipartisan support, the Senate voted 87-12 to pass legislation sponsored by Republican Senator Mike Johanns that repeals a requirement for businesses and landlords to file a Form 1099 document with the Internal Revenue Service for purchases of goods and services exceeding $600 a year.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill at which point GOP leaders are expected to criticize him for something.

US Senate votes to repeal healthcare tax measure [Reuters]
Just a reminder: Oh, By the Way, There’s Still a New 1099 Reporting Requirement for 2012 in the Proposed Budget

Congress Continues to Successfully Drag Out the 1099 Repeal

If only somehow they could kill it completely, could we fully revel in the disfunction of the legislative branch:

What is clear is that nothing is certain with moving a 1099 repeal. The House passed a standalone measure on March 3 and the Senate tacked on an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization bill, which passed the upper chamber, each with different offsets to cover the costs of the repeal.

The White House and House and Senate lawmakers across both parties back the elimination of the 1099 provision from the healthcare law but are at odds over how to make up for $22 billion in lost revenue as projected by the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Fate of 1099 repeal still up in the air [The Hill]

Earlier: How Will the Senate Screw Up the 1099 Repeal Bill This Time?
Even Earlier: Vastly Unpopular 1099 Requirement Survives Thanks to the Reliable Dysfunction of the U.S. Senate

Survey Says: Accountants and Small Businesses are Optimistic About the Future

It must be survey season so since you kids received the last one so well (surely I jest), we humbly present this latest survey of 1,217 Intuit small business and 1,200 Intuit accountant customers between Oct. 15 – 20, 2010. Thanks, Intuit!

The good news is that there really is no good news but that hasn’t put a damper on survey respondents’ view of things to come. It’s sort of exceptional, in our opinion, that 75 – 80% of respondents feel today’s economic climate is just fair or poor but more than that feel optimistic about opportunities in the future.

In a considerable showing of resilience, 65 percent of accounting professionals and 54 percent of small business owners said their companies grew in the last 12 months. Despite this growth, 75 percent of accounting professionals and 80 percent of small business owners rate today’s economic climate as “just fair” or “poor.”

Both groups expressed optimism for the future, with 94 percent of accounting professionals and 87 percent of small business owners seeing opportunities to grow their businesses in today’s economy.

Well if there are going to be new opportunities once things look up, where are they going to come from? According to respondents, news and technology are the key:

77 percent of accounting professionals said “access to industry news and/or trends” is the most important; “investing in new technology” ranked second.

73 percent of small business owners placed “marketing and/or advertising” as the most important; 57 percent said they plan to focus on “expanding their range of offerings.”

Funny, Sage just asked 533 accountants and IT professionals what keeps them up at night and they responded with getting new clients and regulatory compliance. For Intuit’s respondents, however, client retention ranked higher than finding new ones.

When asked what keeps them up at night, 32 percent of accounting professionals said “keeping clients happy.” For 26 percent of small businesses, “paying bills” is their number one concern.

Fine, so what does all this mean?

“Accounting professionals and small business owners are extremely adaptable and flexible individuals,” said Shawn McMorrough, lead research manager of Intuit’s Accounting Professionals Division. “Despite feeling the pinch in this challenging economic environment, they are optimistic and continue to weather the rapidly shifting business environment. Their unrelenting passion for serving their customers helps accounting professionals and small businesses succeed in the face of any challenge the market presents them.”

Should the rest of the world take that as a good sign that things aren’t as bad as Jr Deputy Accountant, Michael Panzner and the Mogambo Guru might make it seem? It looks that way, though the doomsayers are still in business for the foreseeable future. Yay?

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]

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]

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]

Nancy Pelosi Will Have You Know That She Wasn’t Responsible for the New 1099 Requirement Sneaking into Healthcare Reform

“One item that I think we all agree on that was in the Senate bill, not in the House bill, but became part of the law was 1099, which affects small businesses and small contractors and how they report their transactions. They know what it means, and they know they’d like to see it go. I think that’s probably the first place we could go together.”

~ The soon-to-be former Speaker of the House is willing to talk about this one.

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.

If Only Clippy Was Here to See This: Microsoft Office Moves to the Cloud

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.

Microsoft is beta testing a new subscription-based product called Office 3 following applications: Microsoft Office Professional Plus (Microsoft’s flagship productivity suite, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other applications); Microsoft Exchange Online (e-mail, mobile access, contacts, anti-virus, and anti-spam); Microsoft Sharepoint Online (collaboration tool for building public or team-based Web sites); and Microsoft Lync Online (an instant messaging and online meeting tool).

In 2011, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online will join the above offerings. This is not Microsoft’s first foray into Cloud-based apps. Anyone with a free SkyDrive account can use the Office Web Apps (browser-based versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) and store up to 25 GB of documents online. Further, Microsoft has been offering subscription plans for the Business Productivity Online Standard Suite that has offered a similar mix of communication products sans Microsoft Office.


Anyone interested can sign up for the beta of either the Small Business or Enterprise versions of the program. Those who are accepted into the beta program receive the desktop version of Office 2010 Professional Plus, along with online access to Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync. Once Office 365 leaves beta, the service should be of particular interest to small business owners.

Exchange and SharePoint typically require dedicated servers, which in turn require specialized information technology expertise. These cloud-based versions will enable just about any business to take advantage of these powerful applications for e-mail, group calendaring, and collaboration.

The Small Business plan will cost $6/user/month for 1 to 25 users and will include:

• Office Web Apps
• Exchange Online, including 25 GB mailboxes, and the ability to send 25 MB attachments
• SharePoint Online
• Lync Online
• Support provided via a moderated community forum

The Enterprise plan will cost $24/user/month and will include:

• Office Professional desktop software
• Office Web Apps
• Exchange Online, including 25 GB mailboxes, and the ability to send 25 MB attachments
• Sharepoint Online, including Forms, Access, Visio, and Excel services
• Lync Online
• 24/7 IT-level phone support
• Financially-backed 99.9% uptime service, or, in other words, downtime of less than 9 hours per year

Larger businesses also will be able to subscribe to a kiosk plan that starts at $2/user/month to offer e-mail, SharePoint sites, and Office Web Apps to workers without dedicated computers. An Office 365 for education will be available in the future to help educational institutions provide services to students without maintaining servers.

Many businesses aren’t yet comfortable with having mission-critical applications and data residing in the Cloud, but this combination of low cost and high flexibility might cause skeptics to pause and consider the possibilities.

About the author:
David Ringstrom, CPA, heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm. Contact David at david@acctadv.com.

Accounting News Roundup: Brits Investigating Services KPMG Provided BAE Systems; How Many Times Did Harry Reid Vote to Increase Taxes?; PwC Scoffs at ‘Big 5’ Idea | 10.25.10

BofA Finds Foreclosure Document Errors [WSJ]
The Charlotte, N.C., lender discovered errors in 10 to 25 out of the first several hundred foreclosure cases it examined starting last Monday. The problems included improper paperwork, lack of signatures and missing files, said people familiar with the results. In certain cases, information about the property and payment history didn’t match.

KPMG investigated over BAE audit [Accountancy Age]
The investigation by the Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board (AADB) focusBritish Aerospace/BAE Systems between 1997 and 2007, looking at commissions paid by BAE to subsidiaries, agents or other companies.

Any professional advice, consultancy or tax work provided to BAE by KPMG during that period will also come under the microscope in relation to commission payments. The investigation will focus on commissions connected to three legal entities: Red Diamond Trading; Poseidon Trading Investments; and Novelmight.

Key Tax Breaks at Risk as Panel Looks at Cuts [WSJ]
The tax benefits are hugely popular with the public but they have drawn the panel’s focus, in part because the White House has said these and other breaks cost the government about $1 trillion a year.

At stake, in addition to the mortgage-interest deductions, are child tax credits and the ability of employees to pay their portion of their health-insurance tab with pretax dollars. Commission officials are expected to look at preserving these breaks but at a lower level, according to people familiar with the matter.

Harry Reid Voted to Raise Taxes ‘Only’ 51 Times [TaxProf Blog]
Apparently there was some talk that it was actually in the ballpark of 300.


Reflections on the Basel Committee Principles for Enhancing Corporate Governance [Marks on Governance/IIA]
News you can use.

Business leaders press administration for repeat on tax break [On the Money/The Hill]
The National Association of Manufacturers and other groups argue allowing companies to “repatriate” money earned abroad to the U.S. at a lower tax rate could spur the economy by providing businesses with a burst of cash they could invest in their companies.

“The business community is looking at ways to jumpstart the economic recovery and here is one you could do without increasing the deficit,” Dorothy Coleman, vice president of tax and domestic economic policy for the manufacturers.

PwC slates FRC idea to create Big Five [Accountancy Age]
Paul Woolston, head of public sector assurance at PwC, criticised the Financial Reporting Council’s suggestion the Audit Commission be used to create a fifth player in the audit industry, currently dominated by the Big Four – PwC, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG.

“It is at least ironic that the FRC has said what it has, in that the Audit Commission itself has operated with a large monopoly,” he said.

“It is odd that the FRC is concerned about any one organisation having the market share.”

SEC Aims to Streamline Complaint Process [WSJ]
The launch is a step in the agency’s efforts to avoid bottlenecks and duplication in the handling of complaints, which traditionally have been fielded by individual SEC offices and filed there. Complicating matters is the variety of forms in which such complaints come—mail, phone calls, emails and interviews.

“This process is going to ensure that it’s all transferred into a structured format so that it can be more easily searched and analyzed,” Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement, said in an interview.

“We will have all of it in one place, searchable, which will do a lot for us in the long run,” he said.

Thus Far under Obama, the Only Individuals Paying Higher Taxes Are Smokers and Tanners, But They May Have Company Soon [Tax Foundation]
Jersey Shore quips go here.

Accounting News Roundup: Tax Cut Political Football Goes Flat; Google’s Remarkable Tax Planning; Yes, IRS Agents Are Strapped | 10.21.10

Tax Cuts Slide To Back Burner On Campaign Trail [WSJ]
It’s a sign that a decision by Democratic leaders, to put off a vote on extending the tax cuts until after the Nov. 2 elections, may be paying off politically.

“It’s harder to write an ad portraying a vote that hasn’t happened yet,” said Brian Gaston, a former senior aide to House GOP leaders and now a lobbyist at the Glover Park Group.

Google 2.4% Rate Shows How $60 Billion Lost to Tax Loopholes [Bloomberg]
Google y $3.1 billion in the last three years using a technique that moves most of its foreign profits through Ireland and the Netherlands to Bermuda.

Google’s income shifting — involving strategies known to lawyers as the “Double Irish” and the “Dutch Sandwich” — helped reduce its overseas tax rate to 2.4 percent, the lowest of the top five U.S. technology companies by market capitalization, according to regulatory filings in six countries.

TUI Travel CFO Quits After Accounting Error [Dow Jones]
In an embarrassing admission, the company said an ongoing audit for the fiscal year ended September 2010 had highlighted the accounting error in the integration of IT systems in its U.K. mainstream business that had accrued over a period of four to five years and which increased its total write-off for 2009 from GBP29 million to GBP117 million.

Chief Executive Peter Long told Dow Jones Newswires that the issue had been identified when it reported its third-quarter results but continued to investigate the matter and “only last night were we able to determine the scale of the problem.”

Banks Clueless on Foreclosure Mess Severity [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
The biggest U.S. mortgage lenders and servicers say they’re putting the foreclosure mess behind them, and that it never was a major problem. The reality is these companies are so big and unmanageable, the people in charge of running them have no way to know if that is true.

One thing that remains unknowable is how many flawed home- mortgage records and foreclosure proceedings are out there waiting to be unearthed. Dozens of federal and state agencies are investigating. It’s anyone’s guess what they might turn up.


NJ man cashes $158G check IRS mistakenly sent him [Asbury Park Press]
He figured no one would notice.

For ‘B-to-B’ Companies, Finding Facebook ‘Friends’ Can Be a Struggle [WSJ]
These days, even small “business-to-business” concerns like Bill.com are experimenting with social media, perceiving the popular online hangouts as low-cost, easy-to-use venues for attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. But unlike their consumer-focused counterparts—retailers that sell smartphones, jeans, games and other personal products—so-called B-to-B businesses seem to be having a harder time connecting with their target audience.

Some IRS agents carry guns, too, agents tell UAB accounting student group [Birmingham News]
“My first day on the job, I thought, ‘Why are they carrying guns?'” said Donald Smith, a UAB graduate and special agent with the IRS-Criminal Investigation unit.

Korea wants G20 to delay accounting standard consolidation [Korea Times]
Apparently they have a say in the matter

Here’s More Evidence That Complying with Federal Regulations Is a Pain in the A$$ for Small Businesses

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

If you’ve suspected that complying with federal regulations is particularly onerous for small businesses, a new report from none other than the US Small Business Administration will provide you with plenty of new ammunition.

The report, called the Impact of Regulatory Costs on Small Firms and written by the SBA’s Office of Advocacy, estimates just how much it costs very small, smallish and big companies to follow the rules. The conclusion is that businesses with under 20 employees pay the most per worker–$10,585 per employee each year. The cost for businesses with 20 to 499 employees is $7,454 and for firms with 500 and more employees, $7,755.

The reason, of course, is the matter of fixed costs. A small business incurs about the same expense as a larger one. But the big guys can spread the expenses over more revenue, output, and employees, resulting in lower costs per unit of output.

The report, which looked at data from 2008, found that small businesses with under 20 employees pay the most to comply with environmental, tax, and occupational safety and health and homeland security regulations. Most notably, the cost per employee for environmental compliance is $4,101 compared to $883 for the biggest companies.


Clearly the unequal burden of regulatory compliance makes life a lot harder for small businesses and, in fact, serves to undercut their ability to compete. “This potentially causes inefficiencies in the structure of American enterprise, and the relocation of production facilities to less regulated countries, and adversely affects the international competitiveness of domestically produced American products and services,” says the report. “All of these effects, of course, would have negative consequences for the US labor market and national income.”

Still the report didn’t comment on the benefits of regulations. That’s another issue entirely. In fact, just because they cost a lot doesn’t therefore mean the rules shouldn’t exist. It does, however, indicate that something is very wrong with the way they’re applied–and that, for small companies to thrive, change is imperative.

According to the report, economic regulations, which include things like rules related to tariffs, are the only area where large firms have the highest cost. That is due, in part, to the Regulatory Flexibility Act, which requires agencies “to assess the effect of regulations on small businesses and to mitigate undue burdens, including exemptions and relaxed phase-in schedules.” The RFA, says the report, has been particularly effective in shielding small businesses from the cost of complying with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Seems there should be a significantly more concerted effort to exempt small businesses from certain regulations or, at least, to help with compliance efforts. Some 89 percent of all companies in the US employ fewer than 20 people. If the cost of complying with regulations is really egregiously high for the vast majority of companies simply due to their size, it’s incumbent upon the rule-makers to do something about it.

Accounting News Roundup: ‘Won’t Somebody Think of the Small Businesses?!?’; Facebook’s New Arbitrary IPO Date; Debunking The ‘Failure’ of Bush Tax Cuts | 09.28.10

Analyzing the Small-Business Tax Hysteria [You’re the Boss/NYT]
“The rhetoric on this subject has become counterproductive. It can’t be helping consumer confidence, and it’s certainly not creating any jobs. In what used to be a running joke on ‘The Simpsons,’ whenever trouble arose, Reverend Lovejoy’s wife would shriek, ‘Won’t somebody please think of the children?!!!’ The emerging counterpart to that cry in our real-life politics seems to be, ‘Won’t somebody please think of the small businesses!’ ”

AOL in Talks to Buy TechCrunch [WSJ]
“A deal would mark a high-profile marriage between the Internet giant and one of Silicon Valley’s most high-profile blogs, which has often been discussed as a possible acquisition target.

It would also be the latest in a series of alliances between content and Internet companies, which are seeking to draw more users and advertisers by pumping out inexpensive articles on popular topics like fashion, news and sports.”

Facebook IPO likely after late 2012: board member [Reuters]
“Facebook, the world’s largest online social network, is likely to go public sometime after late 2012, a board member said, satisfying investors’ appetite for a slice of one of the Internet’s biggest growth stories.

A stock market debut by a company valued in the tens of billions of dollars would be one of the most highly anticipated initial public offerings of the decade.

But Facebook board member, venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel stressed on Monday that will not happen until after late 2012, and would depend on the company hitting certain revenue targets and how its business model develops.”

Auditors Aren’t Forcing Full Repurchase Risk Exposure Disclosure [Re:The Auditors]
Auditors looking the other way for their banking clients. Again.

BlackBerry Maker RIM Enters Tablet Scrum [WSJ]
“RIM Co-Chief Executive Mike Lazaridis on Monday showed the device, dubbed the PlayBook, at a conference for BlackBerry developers in San Francisco. The PlayBook has a seven-inch touch screen and high-definition cameras on the front and back sides, but the device won’t connect directly to cellular networks.

RIM said its tablet won’t go on sale until early next year in the U.S. and the second quarter elsewhere in the world, meaning it will miss the key holiday season. The timing also puts RIM behind iPad competitors from Samsung Electronics Co., Dell Inc. and others.”


IRS won’t be mailing tax forms next year [AP]
They’re saving $10 million a year, presumably on stamps and envelopes.

News Corp. SVP Kevin Halpin named Dow Jones CFO [AP]
Kevin Halpin is taking the reins from Stephen Daintith.

Correlation Proves Causation, David Cay Johnston Edition [Tax Foundation]
“I agree with Johnston that tax cuts are not the correct response to every economic situation, and I do not believe that letting the Bush tax cuts expire would cause an economic armageddon. If the federal government’s proclivity for deficit spending can’t be curbed by reducing tax revenue – the ‘starve-the-beast’ approach – then permanently extending the Bush tax cuts for any and all taxpayers is a worse policy than letting the cuts expire because the country will drive off the fiscal cliff even sooner.”

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.

Small Business Legislation Could Be a Boon for Small CPA Firms

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.

Included in the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 – passed by the House of Representatives September 23 and the Senate September 16 – is the creation of a $30 billion lending fund that will utilize healthy cconduit to increase lending to small businesses – a provision that will generate $1 billion for the treasury, according to officials.

The fund also will provide $1.5 billion in grants to support at least $15 billion in new small-business lending through already successful state-run programs.

Among the $12 billion in tax breaks are a 100-percent exclusion of capital-gains tax on small-business investments made in 2010 and an increase in the maximum deduction for start-up expenditures in 2010 and 2011 – from $5,000 to $10,000.


“Naturally, any change in tax law stimulates our business in that we must provide the analysis of the bill and relay that information to our clients who may be affected,” Perry C. Barnett, CPA, partner responsible for business services for Gainesville, GA-based Rushton & Co. LLC, told AccountingWEB.

Douglas C. Smith, CPA, CVA, a partner with Lawrenceville, NJ-based Bartolomei Pucciarelli LLC, told AccountingWEB that he anticipates a significant increase in tax planning this year due to the provisions outlined in the bill, as well as modest improvement in the business of many of the firm’s clients.

“Almost any new tax legislation is a benefit to our firm, but fortunately, many of the provisions of the bill will benefit our clients, as well,” he added. “Since we are advocates of advanced planning, this bill provides us with the opportunity to make our clients aware of the upcoming changes and perform tax-planning engagements to guide them in implementation.”

While he does not see any significant changes in the firm’s accounting or auditing services as a result of the new legislation, Smith stated there will be consideration of additional accruals of penalties assessed on timely filing of information returns, as well as some impact on deferred taxes as it relates to the accelerated bonus depreciation provision.

The bonus depreciation provision is the most expensive tax break in the bill, weighing in at $5.4 billion over 10 years, but carrying an initial cost of $38 billion in its first two years, according to an analysis conducted by CCH Inc., a Wolters Kluwer business based in Riverwoods, IL, that provides tax, accounting, and auditing software and services.

The bill extends – through December 31, 2010 – 50-percent first-year bonus depreciation that had expired at the end of 2009. The extension is retroactive to January 1, 2010. The bill also extends through 2011 bonus depreciation allowed for property with a recovery period of 10 years or longer, such as personal property used to transport people or other property.

Small businesses will be allowed to write off up to $500,000 in capital expenditures in tax years 2010 and 2011. Under current law, the maximum deduction for tax years beginning in 2010 is $250,000.

Two other provisions in the bill that Smith believes will benefit his firm’s clients are: self-employed taxpayers will be allowed to deduct health-care costs for payroll tax purposes on 2010 returns, and participants in 401(k), 403(b), and 457 governmental plans will be permitted to roll over pretax account balances into a Roth account.

If an amount is rolled over in 2010, the amount is included ratably in income over a two-year period beginning with tax year 2011, according to the CCH analysis. The legislation also allows participants in state and governmental 457 plans to contribute deferred amounts to designated Roth accounts, effective for tax years beginning after 2010.

“Whenever we as CPAs are presented with the opportunity to educate our clients, it is a good thing,” Smith said. “There are many planning opportunities contained in the bill – ranging from the timing of a sale of small business stock, to planning the acquisitions of new equipment to take advantage of the expanded depreciation provisions, to planning the start of a new business that takes advantage of increased deductions for start-up expenses.

“Additionally, with benefits such as the deduction for health insurance when calculating self-employment income, out clients should be able to put a little extra money in their pockets, too,” Smith added.

Barnett agreed that the start-up expenses and the self-employed health insurance changes will benefit his firm’s clients, as well. However, he added that the continual increase in reporting requirements, especially the new requirement for filing Form 1099 scheduled to begin for 2011, could burden some small businesses.

“Based on this law and those in the works, each client will have to maintain a huge database of all vendor payments,” Barnett said. “We see this as a giant logjam for both the business and the IRS.

“The greatest impediment to business moving forward is being confident of what the tax laws are going to be in the future,” he continued. “Until Congress realizes that their indecision in estate taxes and personal income taxes is one of the greatest concerns of everyone, they will not get the economy on track.”

The House approved the bill in a 237-187 vote, while the Senate passed the bill by a 61-38 margin after Republican senators George LeMieux of Florida and George Voinovich of Ohio crossed party lines to support the legislation.

“This is about helping small business owners grow their operations, hire more workers, and help improve our economy,” LeMieux said in a statement. “Small business is the backbone of our economy, creating two out of every three jobs in our country. They need tax relief; they need access to capital. This bill will help achieve those goals and will not raise taxes or add to the national debt.”

Paul Krugman Doesn’t Like Being Included in GOP Tax Cut Talking Points

“The point is that I’m not a real small businessman, but I play one in anti-tax propaganda.”

~ The Professor was a little too sarcastic the first go round.

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]

Accounting News Roundup: Golden a Leading Candidate to Become Next FASB Chair; Europe Gives PCAOB the Go-Ahead for Inspections; Accountant Busted for Scalping U.S. Open Tickets | 09.03.10

Numbers Cop: FASB Staffer a Leading Candidate for Board [WSJ]
“The foundation that oversees the Financial Accounting Standards Board is considering Russell Golden, the board’s technical director, for the board post, these people said, although they cautioned that no final decision has been made. The chairman’s position would remain unfilled, they said, noting that the search process for a new chairman is at an early stage.

A spokesman for FASB declined to comment. Mr. Golden couldn’t be reached to comment.

The foundation has leaned toward an internal candidate because it would allow FASB to largely continue its work uninterruptedts at the end of the month. Mr. Golden already is involved with the board’s many projects.”

U.S. Companies Added 67,000 Jobs in August [Bloomberg]
“Companies in the U.S. added more jobs than forecast in August, easing concern the economy was falling back into recession.

Private payrolls that exclude government agencies climbed 67,000, after a revised 107,000 increase in July that was more than initially estimated, Labor Department figures in Washington showed today. The median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a gain of 40,000. Overall employment fell 54,000 for a second month and the unemployment rate rose to 9.6 percent as more people entered the labor force.”

Tax-fraud conviction voided because judge didn’t stop trial to let defendant go to son’s deathbed [Los Angeles Times]
“A federal judge’s refusal to halt a businessman’s tax-fraud trial so he could be at his son’s deathbed was cause to overturn the businessman’s conviction, an appeals court has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer also prejudiced the case against Garth Kloehn by failing to inform the jury that he was absent for the final day of trial because his son had died, the appeals panel said. Fischer told the jury that Kloehn “has a right not to be here,” possibly leaving jurors with the impression he was showing a lack of respect for the court, the judges said.

Kloehn was the sole defense witness in his 2005 trial in downtown Los Angeles on charges of failing to report $1.2 million in income. He left the courtroom after testifying to catch a flight to Las Vegas to see his cancer-stricken son, leaving no one to rebut the prosecution’s final testimony. Kloehn arrived at the Las Vegas hospital one hour before 45-year-old Kevin Kloehn died.”

Transparency and the I.R.S. [NYT]
Someone – namely Christopher Bergin, the publisher of Tax Analysts – isn’t convinced that the IRS is serious about transparency. So much so, he wrote the Times and they seemed impressed so they published his letter.

Europe greenlights US audit inspections [Accountancy Age]
“S audit regulators will be able to inspect European firms after the European Commission cleared the way for access to confidential papers, in a move which could allow Lehman Brothers investigators to follow up leads in London.

The European Commission said it will now share internal working documents with audit watchdogs in the US and Australia. The move breaks an impasse which had emerged between US and EU authorities over the sharing of confidential internal audit inspection papers, retained by regulators when they inspect audit firms.”


Better accounting for small businesses [WaPo]
Another letter to the editor, this time pointing out that small businesses shouldn’t be complaining about issuing 1099s to vendors if they have any semblance of an accounting system.

Accountant arrested for scalping U.S. Open tickets had 339 spots to sell worth $10,000: Prosecutors [NYDN]
For some reason, Marvin Schaffer had 28 parking permits for Jets games.

Tom Boniface Joins PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in New York as Co-Leader of Indirect Tax Practice [PR Newswire]
“PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) announced today that Tom Boniface has joined the firm as co-leader of PwC’s Indirect Tax practice, focusing on value added taxes (VAT) and based in the New York office.

Boniface is well versed in the various indirect tax regimes around the world, such as European VAT, Canadian and Australian GST, Brazilian ICMS and Japanese consumption tax. He brings over 15 years of experience serving U.S.-headquartered Fortune 100 and middle-market companies.

Boniface, who most recently led the consumption practice at another major accounting firm, has a B.S. in Accounting from the State University of New York at Oswego. He is a Certified Public Accountant in New York State.”

Tax Profs for the Ground Zero Mosque [TaxProf Blog]
“While the First Amendment is directed at government interference with speech, press and religion, it exists to guard against the danger that an angry and fearful majority will undermine those cherished rights. Thus even in the absence of government interference, it is incumbent upon us to stand with those seeking to exercise those rights in the face of heated public opposition. Unfortunately, with the notable exception of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, there have been few profiles in courage on this issue”

Accounting News Roundup: More Tax Cuts for Small Business?; Scenes from a SaaS Meltdown; SEC Files Charges Against Sachdeva | 09.01.10

No Charges for Moody’s in Ratings Violation [NYT]
“The Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday that it had declined to charge Moody’s Investors Service for violating securities laws by failing to comply with its own procedures for rating complex derivative sece decision followed an S.E.C. investigation, and the commission used the opportunity to warn all of the national credit rating agencies that it would use new powers under the Dodd-Frank banking law to take action against similar conduct, even if it occurred outside the United States, as the Moody’s case did.

The S.E.C. said it had declined to pursue a fraud enforcement action in the case because of jurisdictional issues. The securities in question originated in and were rated and sold in Europe, the S.E.C. said.”

Tax Cuts Weighed to Spur Economy [WSJ]
“The Obama administration is considering a range of new measures to boost economic growth, including tax cuts and a new nationwide infrastructure program, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The president’s economic team has met frequently in recent days to list ways to bolster the struggling recovery, according to government officials.

On the list of possible actions: additional tax cuts for small businesses beyond those included in a $30 billion small-business lending bill before the Senate. It’s not clear what those tax breaks would target or how much they might cost in lost revenue to the government.

Also in the mix: a possible payroll tax cut for businesses and individuals, as well as other business tax breaks, according to people familiar with the discussions. Currently, income taxes are scheduled to rise with the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts at the end of this year.”

Lessons from ClearBooks failure [AccMan]
What happens when a SaaS provider has a blow-up? Well, it depends.


“Non-Combat” Troops Remaining in Iraq Will Still Receive “Combat Zone” Tax Treatment [Tax Foundation]
The troops that remain in Iraq will still receive combat zone treatment (i.e. ‘designated hostile fire or imminent danger pay areas’).

Brainiest Cities [The Daily Beast]
Boulder #1; DC #3; Boston #4. Austin comes in at a paltry #16 behind Ames, IA. What’s up with that?

Former Rothstein CFO Stay Gives Up Boat [SFBJ]
Convicted Ponzi Schemer Scott Rothstein’s CFO had to give up her 28-foot 2008 Southport boat in order to settle a claim against her for the $154k loan she received from the firm to buy said boat.

SEC Charges Two Accounting Professionals at Milwaukee-Based Company with Fraud [SEC]
The SEC got around to filing civil charges against Sue Sachdeva. The Commission also charged Senior Accountant Julie Mulvaney with helping S-square conceal the fraud through bogus journal entries.

Accounting News Roundup: Herz Departure Is a Gift for Banks; American Apparel Blames Deloitte for Late Filings; Your Commute Isn’t That Bad | 08.25.10

Herz Leaving Marks Boon for Banks [WSJ]
“A new front has opened up in the war over mark-to-market accounting. Suddenly banks find themselves with an unexpected advantage in the fight over how they should value their vast holdings of financial instruments.

Trprise announcement Tuesday of the departure of Robert Herz as chairman of the Financial Accounting Standards Board. This will give banks an opportunity to push for a successor who is more friendly to their views on the mark-to-market question, as well as the overall idea that accounting should be for more than just investors.”

Former Chief Accounting Officer for Beazer Homes USA, Inc. Indicted on 11 Criminal Counts [FBI]
Michael Rand didn’t have a very good day yesterday.

Block ramped up federal lobbying efforts in second quarter, report says [AP]
H&RB lobbied their asses off from April to June spending $500k talking the ears off at the IRS, Treasury and SEC.

American Apparel Works To File Late 10-Q Before Nov 15 [Dow Jones]
The NYSE has put Dov & Co. on notice that they best get their act together if they don’t want to be sent slumming with the pink sheets. The company is promising to pull things together and if it weren’t for Deloitte quitting, everything would be a-okay.

Fact Checking Minority Leader Boehner’s Claims on “Small Business” and the “Bush” Tax Cuts [Tax Foundation]
In case you didn’t hear, John Boehner suggested that the President fire his entire economic team. Boehner is of the opinion that letting the tax cuts expire will hurt small businesses, citing the Joint Tax Committee. Tax Foundation takes exception with this, saying that the Ohio Congressman and House Minority Leader is misrepresenting the findings of the JTC:

“First off, the businesses that JCT is referring to are not necessarily ‘small.’ Saying the word ‘small business’ sounds good to the electorate because it brings up an image of a mom and pop store on Main Street America. But plenty of large businesses, as defined by net income or gross receipts, file their taxes under the individual income tax as opposed to the corporate income tax. Merely because a business is paying individual income taxes as opposed to corporate taxes does not mean it is ‘small.’ ”


Statement From Chairman Schapiro on Financial Accounting Foundation Developments [SEC]
“I commend the Financial Accounting Foundation for its ongoing efforts to evaluate and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the structure and operation of the Financial Accounting Standards Board by increasing the size of the Board. The Foundation has determined that this revised structure will facilitate the continuing efforts of the FASB to work with the International Accounting Standards Board on their important convergence work plan. In addition, this should enhance the ability of the FASB to address issues facing the U.S. capital markets and the needs of investors.

“I also would like to commend FASB Chairman Robert Herz for his more than eight years of service. During his tenure, Chairman Herz has served as an effective investor advocate to improve the quality of financial reporting standards around the world. I welcome the appointment of Leslie Seidman as Acting Chairman. During this interim period, I look forward to working with Acting Chairman Leslie Seidman and the FASB as they continue their important work.”

Twenty something day-trader nailed with $172M bill in back taxes, asks ‘What’s the IRS?’ [NYDN]
How does a barely surviving Spaniard end up owing over $170 million to the IRS? For starters, he really doesn’t owe the Service the money. The problem arose because he didn’t file a tax return for one year that he spent day trading. The Service concluded that he made $500 million.

China Traffic Jam Could Last Weeks [WSJ]
Today, be thankful for your commute. No matter how bad it was, at least the drive/ride ended.

Automatic IRA Act Will Be a Boon for Financial Services Companies; Small Business…Not So Much

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

There’s pending legislation in the Senate to require even tiny businesses that don’t already have a retirement plan to create an IRA for employees. Whether or not it will do much to help people save for their retirement in a meaningful way is debatable.

The bill, the Automatic IRA Act of 2010, introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) mandates that businesses establish individual IRA accounts for all employees. Contributions would come from payroll deductions, so employers wouldn’t have to cough up any money themselves, and employees would be able to opt out. Accounts would be managed by banks, mutual funds, and insurance companies that already manage this type of account.


Also employers would have no ERISA fiduciary liability as long as they used a provider on a government-approved list. And there’s a default investment structure: a principal preservation fund for balances of less than $5,000 and a lifecycle fund for bigger accounts.

Seems reasonable, until you drill down further. First there’s the infinitesimal default deferral rate. That’s 3 percent. As a result, since employers aren’t even allowed a match, it’s unlikely employees will be able to save a whole lot. Also employers get a measly $250 tax credit to cover administrative costs.

Mostly this bill will be a potential goldmine for financial services companies, at least those on the official government list of approved providers. While each account will be small in aggregate, the amount will come to quite an attractive proposition for these businesses.

If there were any doubt about just what a windfall this could be, consider the provision for a gradual phase-in of the law. For example, in the first year, the bill will apply only to businesses with 100 or more employees. It won’t cover companies with less than 10 employees until year four.

But that provision wasn’t put there with the company owner in mind. Instead it’s all about the retirement services providers to help them “prepare for a significant expansion in the number of IRA accounts.”

To be sure, something needs to be done to boost the retirement savings rate in this country. With this bill, however, the real beneficiaries will be the usual suspects–big financial services companies.

Why Your Firm Needs a Social Media Policy

If you work for a larger firm, chances are you’ve already got a social media policy that encompasses everything your firm does not want you to do online. For smaller firms and private practices, a social media policy can be the very last thing management considers implementing, assuming you will use your better judgment when conducting yourself online and don’t need the rules laid out. Oftentimes this mentality comes more from management’s unfamiliarity with social media than anything else. If they don’t use Twitter, how can they tell you how to conduct yourself on it?

But your online social life isn’t the same as a cocktail party at which you are representing your firm. Should you be able to say whatever you want on Twitter after hours? Can you post pictures of yourself getting wasted on Facebook?


The line is cut and dry when you are at a firm event or at a client but are you expected to represent your firm even when tweeting on your own time? If your firm does not have a social media policy, the answer is you have no way to know until it’s too late and you’ve pissed off the boss.

For firms, not having a social media policy can open the company up to all sorts of tricky trouble. Without knowing exactly what is expected of them, employees are forced to use their own judgment when it comes to their online behavior. Most are smart enough not to bash the boss in 140 characters or post embarrassing holiday party photos on Facebook but what’s to stop them from starting a blog that management finds offensive or keep them from tweeting about their work life in general? Absolutely nothing.

With hyper-connected Gen Y more than established in the workplace, a social media policy makes even more sense. Very few us get through a day without a Facebook update or a tweet and for some of us, our online persona can be a point of contention with management. Case in point, yours truly and Jr Deputy Accountant. Working in the industry meant that I had to be careful not to needlessly bash firm failures (like PwC and Satyam), lest I ruffle any feathers that could connect my site to my employer. Sometimes a disclaimer is helpful – something along the lines of “my opinion is my own and independent of any personal or professional affiliations” – but without having clear lines drawn between how you behave at work and how you behave on your own time in front of the entire Internet, it can be difficult to know what’s appropriate and what is not.

Last week we gave you some tips to keep your online life safe in the event that you don’t have a social media policy but that doesn’t mean your boss gets a pass. A social media policy is always a good idea and in this day and age there’s no getting around it, it’s necessary.

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.

Regulatory Uncertainty Leaves Small Businesses Reluctant to Hire

I know of only one small business owner who has confidently added staff throughout the recession and that’s only because A) he’s really cocky (in the best way, of course) and B) he absolutely needed to in order to survive. Lucky for him he ended up in a fairly recession-proof business and in fact, the recession has been kind as it has driven all sorts of new business to him as the unemployed and jaded look for new career options. But he’s a fluke success and not all small business owners can say they’ve weathered the last two years as well as he has.

Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher and former St Louis Fed President William Poole both feel the hiring problem is based not on the fact that businesses can’t afford it but because business owners are too unsure of the regulatory environment to confidently add staff. I am going to have to agree with them on this one.


Said Fisher in a recent speech:

For some time now in internal discussions with my colleagues at the Fed, I have ascribed the economy’s slow growth pathology to what I call “random refereeing”—the current predilection of government to rewrite the rules in the middle of the game of recovery. Businesses and consumers are being confronted with so many potential changes in the taxes and regulations that govern their behavior that they are uncertain about how to proceed downfield. Awaiting clearer signals from the referees that are the nation’s fiscal authorities and regulators, they have gone into a defensive crouch.

Case in point, Obamacare’s insidious 1099 requirement that we’ve covered plenty up to this point and will continue to cover so long as it threatens to cripple businesses with unnecessary busywork. The House had a chance to kick the requirement in the balls last with with the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act (H.R.5141) but failed to pass it, leaving us right back where we were*.

Business owners – and small business owners in particular as they tend to have less capital and fewer chances to “warehouse” out their employee insurance needs in bulk – are understandably reluctant to plug more money into the economy if they are unsure as to how much it’s going to cost just to hire on new staff. Many businesses could hire at this point but have chosen not to simply because they have no idea what sort of financial impact hiring will have on them in the future once new rules are fully written out and implemented.

Seems a bit counterproductive when we’re trying to claw our way out a recession, doesn’t it?

*Full Disclosure: JDA is long Caterpillar at this point in anticipation of the number of bulldozers that will be required just to keep up with the 1099 goodness. How is this helping the economy heal again?

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.”

Accounting News Roundup: PwC Chips in $12.5 Million for J.P. Morgan’s FSA Fine; IRS Not Returning to Austin Crash Site; Senate Working on Proposal to Scale Back 1099 Requirements | 08.09.10

PwC To Provide Up To $12.5M To JPMorgan For FSA Fine [Dow Jones]
“J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) disclosed in a regulatory filing Friday that PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP agreed to provide up to an aggregate of $12.5 million to the bank related to a fine J.P. Morgan had to pay to the U.K. Financial Services Authority.”

Late Ponzi schemer’s accountant surrenders license [Nashville Business Journal]
This accountant managed to surrender his CPA in just under four months for his role in a Ponzi scheme. Dave Friehling had to be stripped of his license nearly 9 months after pleading guilty. NY DoE should get with Tennessee and see how they do things.

IRS to stay at new Austin site after plane crash [AP]
“An Internal Revenue Service office will not return to the Texas building where a tax protester killed himself by crashing his plane into the structure.

IRS spokeswoman Lea Crusberg said Thursday that the agency has signed a two-year lease on another office space in Austin. She declined to identify the location.”


Senate Democrats Propose Scaling Back IRS Reporting Law [WSJ]
“The Nelson proposal would exempt from the reporting rules firms with fewer than 25 employees. For larger businesses, it would require information returns only in cases where payments to a single vendor exceeded $5,000 in a given year—down from $600 in the health-care law.”

Richtermeyer to Chair Management Accountants [Web CPA]
“The Institute of Management Accountants has named accounting professor Sandra Richtermeyer as the chair of its board of directors for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Richtermeyer, who also chairs the Department of Accountancy in the Williams College of Business at Xavier University in Cincinnati, is only the fourth woman ever to hold the position of IMA chair since the organization’s inception in 1919.”

BKD looks to grow health care practice with purchase of Grant Thornton team [Wichita Business Journal (partial subscription required)]
According to the message sent from Stephen Chipman, that we reported on at the end of July, this is the final transition that Grant Thornton will be making. What happens from here is anyone’s guess.

Willing But Not Always Able: The Latest on Small Business Lending

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

We hear a lot from small businesses about how hard it is to get a loan and a lot from bankers that demand from credit-worthy borrowers is down. Now a new study provides insights into the situation, by exploring the top reasons why banks are turning down applicants, along with plenty of other data. And because it includes asset-based lenders and other funding sources, it offers a wider view of just what’s going on in the financing landscape.

The study, from researchers at Pepperdine University, surveyed 1,430 borrowers, lenders and investors, looking at changes over the past six months. Since the most detailed analysis focused on banks and asset-based lenders, here’s a look at the most salient points:


Banks – Demand certainly does seem to be down, judging from responses from the 56 banks studied. About 11 percent reported an increase in applications over the past six months compared to 77.2 percent who had a decrease. But the quality of borrowers is up, according to 55.6 percent of those surveyed. That’s compared to 22 percent who reported a drop. And the number of approvals? That’s gone through the roof. About 76.5 percent reported an increase.
What are the reasons for turning down applicants? Top on the list is quality of cash flow. Almost 25 percent cited that as the reason. And 20.8 percent pointed to quality of earnings.

Asset-based lenders – The 52 asset-based lenders reported the mirror opposite, at least when it comes to demand. Sixty percent had an increase in applications vs. 8.7 percent who experienced a decline. Also while more lenders reported a drop in the credit quality of applicants, a majority saw an increase in the quality of borrowers who were approved.

As you might expect, the top reason for rejecting an application was insufficient collateral (30 percent). “In the weak economic environment, the valuation of collateral is going down,” John Paglia, an associate professor at Pepperdine and author of the study, said to me. Second on the list was quality of earnings (15.8 percent).

What’s it all mean? For one thing, asset-based lenders are attracting more interest from prospective borrowers, but the economy has done a number on their most important criteria, collateral. As for bankers, it seems they’re on the level when they say they want to make loans, but they can’t find suitable prospects.

Apparently when they do get a live one, bankers are more than ready to lend.

TurboTax Jockey Tim Geithner Says Tax Increases Won’t Hurt Small Businesses a Bit

The top individual tax rate is scheduled to jump to 39.6% on January 1, 2011. To those of us who do private business tax returns for a living, one effect is obvious: this will raise the tax rate on LLC and S corporation income.

But now Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says that all my small business clientsthy rich law partners and CEOs (my emphasis):

Ninety-seven percent of small businesses in this country would not pay a penny more due to letting these upper-income tax rates expire.

Now some have argued that even if only a few percent of small business owners make over $250,000, these few make up a vast amount of supposedly small business income.

This argument apparently counts anyone who receives any type of partnership or business income as if they were a small business.

By this standard, every partner in a major law firm and every principal in a major financial institution would count as a separate small business. A CEO who has board fees or speech fees would also count as a small business owner under this overly broad definition.

Well yes, Timmy, “some” have argued for that “overly broad definition” — your friends who say 97% of small businesses won’t be affected by the scheduled tax increase. A 2009 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a source of the talking point that only a tiny fraction of businesses will be affected by the expiration of the tax increase. They define a small business 1040 as:

…any tax unit that receives any income (or loss) from a sole proprietorship, farm proprietorship, partnership, S corporation, or rental income.

So while a CEO who has board fees will count as a separate small business — as will President Obama, for that matter — so will every taxpayer that has a schedule C, schedule E or Schedule F. Your office Mary Kay girl or Shacklee dealer counts as a small business. Everybody who moonlights and reports their income is a small business. Everybody who rents out a duplex or vacation home counts, as does every taxpayer who holds, even briefly, an interest in a publicly-traded oil and gas partnership.

So how much small business economic activity will be hit by the increase in the top rate? A lot more than 3%. The center-left Tax Policy Center estimates that 44.3% of taxable income of these “small businesses” will be hit with next year’s scheduled tax increase (hat tip: Howard Gleckman). That seems low, if anything, based on what I see in practice.

It’s the successful, growing and profitable S corporations and partnerships that push their owners into the top tax brackets. Growing businesses typically distribute only enough income to owners to cover taxes — either by inclination or by agreements with lenders. Their remaining earnings go into growing the business or paying off the bank. If you increase their taxes, it either reduces growth and hiring or their ability to service their debt — neither of which does much for the economy.

When Tim Geithner says that the only people who will get hit by his tax increase are rich lawyers and director fee millionaires, it may tell us something about his social world. It tells us nothing about how the tax increase will hit business owners.

Accounting News Roundup: Insurance Accounting Is IASB’s Latest Puzzle; Former Deloitte CEO Catches a Keeper; Small Businesses Using Foursquare for Cheap Marketing | 08.04.10

IASB proposals aim to demystify insurance accounting [Accountancy Age]
“The international accounting standard setter has released new proposals for insurance contracts which seek to demystify one of the most complex areas of company reporting.

The rules, announced yesterday, aim to transform current rules, said to be all but indecipherable for investors, to a model which helps to communicate the contract economics.”

‘Static Kill’ Appears to Be Working in Well, BP Says [NYT]
“BP said Wednesday it had brought pressure under control in its stricken well in ther pumping heavy drilling mud into it, calling the development a “significant milestone” in its efforts to permanently seal the well.

The company began the effort, known as a static kill, on Tuesday afternoon and stopped pumping the heavy mud after about eight hours, saying that the procedure appeared to have reached the “desired outcome” of controlling pressure in the well.”

American Accounting Association and AICPA Create Pathways Commission to Study the Future of Accounting Higher Education [PR Newswire]
“The American Accounting Association and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants together have formed the Pathways Commission to study possible future paths of higher education for those seeking entry into the accounting profession.

‘Interest in accounting as a career is the highest it’s ever been and underscores the need to make sure the educational infrastructure remains solid and able to meet the profession’s evolving requirements,’ said Barry Melancon, CPA, AICPA president and CEO, who served on the Human Capital Subcommittee of the U.S. Treasury Advisory Committee on the Audit Profession.”

Catch of the day: ESPN sells fishing organization [Bloomberg]
Apparently a former Deloitte CEO – Jim Copeland – is involved in a group buying the BASS fishing organization.


From Playboy to Biglaw: New Orrick CFO Has A Bitchin’ Resume [ATL]
A former Playboy CFO recently joined Biglaw firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, presumably because access to a nice grotto is a must.

Getting Customers to ‘Check In’ With Foursquare [WSJ]
“Businesses of all sizes are trying the services out, looking to tap the networks’ ever-growing fan bases—Foursquare alone has 2.4 million users globally, and is growing 30% to 40% a month—and ability to harness enthusiasm for local establishments. For a small company with a limited marketing budget, the services are attractive because they’re free or cheap, require minimal time and effort, and appeal to loyal consumers who favor local businesses over big, cookie-cutter chains.”

Another Question about Timing of NBTY Insider Stock Purchases Prior to Announcement of Carlyle Acquisition [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar is still a little suspicious about the timing of the two NBTY directors that purchased stock right around the time that the Carlyle Group agreed to purchase NBTY stock. According to filings, NBTY executives met with Carlyle on May 11th and the two directors in question purchased their shares on May 13th and 18th. The next regularly scheduled board meeting was on May 21st.

Soooo, Sam wonders aloud, “At what point in time did Ashner and White know anything about the discussions with Carlyle and when did they find out about the confidentiality agreement? Often, such agreements are executed after the board has been notified. In this case, the confidentiality agreement was signed before Ashner and White purchased their NBTY shares.”

At Work, a Drug Dilemma [WSJ]
Even if you are legally able to purchase pot for medicinal purposes, your employer may still prefer you to pass on grass.

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?

Land Yachts and the Tax Law: Four Tips to Avoid “At-Risk” Pitfalls

If there’s one thing the economy offers to businesses nowadays, it’s opportunities to lose money. As unpleasant as that is, it at least will reduce your taxes, right?

Maybe.

Even tax loss parties have their poopers, and the “At-risk rules” of Code Sec. 465 are as poopy as can be. Drafted to fight the first generation of retail tax shelters in the 1970s, these rules have faded into obscurity, but remain available for annoyingly competent IRS agents to wield against your loss deductions. The rules are supposed to defer losses when it’s really the lender on the hook for them, rather than the nominal owner of the money-losing activity. The losses carry forward to offset future income on the activity, or gain on a sale someday.


These rules pooped all over the tax loss of CTI Leasing, an LLC owned by Kieth Roberts, an Indiana man, to lease trucks to his trucking company. He loanded the LLC $425,000 to buy a “Vantare H3-45 Super S2” RV. The Tax Court says “Vantare RVs are custom-built, fully furnished, luxury coach RVs known for their ‘yacht quality fit and finish.'”

The leasing business cranked out tax losses. The IRS disallowed $425,000 of them on the grounds that the $425,000 loan didn’t give the LLC owner “at-risk” basis in his leasing activity. The Tax Court said the taxpayer failed to show that the land yacht was used in the truck leasing business or was owned by it, so the $425,000 wasn’t “at-risk” in the leasing activity.

Not every business can afford a nice land yacht, but they all can lose money. Some pointers to help keep you from trippng over the at-risk rules:

• If your loan is “non-recourse” — if you don’t pay, all the lender can do is repossess the property — that’s an at-risk rule red flag.

• Limited partners and LLC members are likely to face at-risk issues; the whole point of a “limited liability company” is to limit owner liability, after all.

• Be careful of loans from related parties. If you borrow from the wrong person, the tax law will treat the loan as not “at-risk,” even if you borrow from a business partner who might leave you under an end-zone somewhere if you don’t pay up.

• If you are in the real-estate business, “qualified” non-recourse debt – generally third-party commercial loans – are O.K. under the at-risk rules.

If you trip over the at-risk rules, your losses may not be gone forever. Form 6198 tracks your deferred losses, and you can lose them if your activity generates income someday.

Joe Kristan is a shareholder of Roth & Company, P.C. in Des Moines, Iowa, author of the Tax Update Blog and Going Concern contributor. You can see all of his posts for GC here.

The AICPA Goes to Bat for Small Business; Requests Repeal of Expanded 1099 Reporting

In these pages last week, we brought up the expanded 1099 reporting requirements that could possibly bury some small busineocumentation. The question remains, how big is this pile? Will it require a shovel to dig out of the pile of paper or a bulldozer?

Based on the AICPA’s letter to the U.S. Senate that made the rounds yesterday, it will require a team of angry Ohioans – all with their own dozer – to unbury small business owners.


Alan Einhorn, the Chair of the AICPA’s Tax Executive Committee wrote the letter and in extremely tactful terms, expresses his discontent, “[W]e believe section 9006 of the Act should be repealed because the provision imposes extremely burdensome information reporting requirements on business taxpayers that cannot be justified in terms of the limited utility such information reports will provide to government.”

Adrienne boils that down in a less tactful manner, “You don’t have to be a CPA to see why this is a completely moronic idea. What happened to paperwork reduction? I love the use of ‘extremely burdensome’ – as most of you probably know, it’s got to be REALLY annoying to get the accountants to bust out the ‘extremely’ in a complaint.”

She makes a good point. Not to get all English-y on you but the adverb “extremely” doesn’t exactly make it a more effective sentence. Alan was clearly going for exaggeration in order to get his point across that this portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the most useless section of the entire act. And for some of you, that’s really saying something.

AICPA Letter to Congress Supporting Repeal of Expanded 1099 Reporting by Businesses

Local Man’s Brief Big 4 Experience, Stick-Shift Driving Abilities, Lead to Niche Accounting Firm

John Finn worked at KPMG in the early to mid-90s. He got into the field because he loved accounting. John discovered what many Big 4 types discover which is the job “involved more travel and schmoozing than it did accounting.” Since he wasn’t feeling it, he jumped ship in ’95, moved to New York and decided to get into showbiz. He landed his first gig doing the books for a film called Sleeping Together and since he could drive a standard transmission, he got to buzz around in the equiptment truck.

It turns out, that John’s marginal experience (three years) in Big 4 turned out to be way – WAY – more than most “accountants” in the movie business:

While he began his solo career with only three years of accounting experience under his belt — none of it in film accounting — inexperience turned out not to be an issue in the industry. “What I found out was that most of my peers were not trained as accountants,” he says. “They were failed screenwriters who really wanted to be in the business. I had a leg up on them because accounting was second nature to me. If you polled the accountants in the business, I would say that nearly half don’t have accounting degrees.”

Word must have gotten around about a real-life accountant doing the books for movie projects and in 1998, he founded JFA, Inc. to handle the expanding empire. That empire also includes IndiePay, a payroll software company that he founded to deal with the ‘archaic’ bookkeeping that was rampant in the industry.

On top of all this, John is in a band, Pispoure’, and wrote a song about how much he loves accounting. The song plays on a loop over at JFA’s website and before you assume that this another accountant failing miserably to exhibit any musical ability, it should be noted that he’s actually a decent songwriter. Anyone that comes up the lyric, “In order to get laid, you must impress our filing clerk,” is a natural talent in our book.

Leaving Big Accounting Firm for Hollywood [The Street.com]

How Big of a Burden Will the New 1099 Reporting Requirements Be for Small Businesses?

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

Slipped into the health care reform bill passed in March was a new tax reporting regulation likely to create a huge burden for businesses, something we wrote about recently. Now a government watchdog, the National Taxpayer Advocate, is questioning the rule’s potential unintended consequences for small companies.

Plus, it looks like the regulation won’t raise a heck of a lot of money anyway.


The rule would require anyone with business income to issue 1099 tax forms to all vendors from whom they bought more than $600 worth of goods and services that year.

In her report, Nina Olson, the Taxpayer Advocate, warned that the rule could prove to be an unacceptable added burden for small businesses, which would face a virtual cyclone of new paperwork to comply with the regulation. “The new reporting burden, particularly as it falls on small businesses, may turn out to be disproportionate as compared with any resulting improvement in tax compliance,” she wrote. And the rule could also give an unfair advantage to large suppliers that have the resources to help customers track purchases.

What’s really going on here? The regulation, which would take effect in 2012, seems to be yet another attempt by federal and state government agencies to shore up revenues by cracking down on unpaid tax liabilities–and taking steps that intentionally or unintentionally impact small businesses in particular. For example, a bevy of agencies, plus Congress, are on a regulatory jihad against corporate misclassification of independent contractors. And there are reports that the IRS is especially eyeing small businesses in that crackdown.

Thing is, like that effort, the new 1099 tax reporting regulation isn’t likely to reap a whole lot of money. For example, the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation recently estimated the rule would raise an underwhelming $2 billion annually in added revenue, according to CNNMoney.com.

Will the Taxpayer Advocate’s remarks have any effect? Even before Olson’s report, there were signs that the IRS had started to backtrack. For example, the IRS announced in May that the rule won’t include transactions made through credit and debit cards. As the tax agency addresses all the compliance complexities of the rule, it’s likely to make other changes, as well.

But with government agencies in desperate need of money, the reporting rule isn’t going to disappear completely.

Accounting News Roundup: Financial Reform Inches Closer; Small Biz Continues with Bleak Outlook; Kwame Kilpatrick Gets Tax-Funded Counsel in Tax Fraud Case | 07.13.10

Finance Bill Close to Passage in Senate [WSJ]
“Two Senate Republicans said Monday they would support the Obama administration’s financial-overhaul legislation, and Democrats now believe they have the 60 votes needed to push the sweeping bill into law by the end of the week.

Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Olympia Snowe of Maine both said they would vote for the measure when Democrats bring it to a vote, which could happen as soon as this week. Democrats and administration officials believe this gives them the necessary backing to overcome a potential filibuster after weeks of uncertainty and unexpected pitfalls.”

Abu Dhabi May Make BP Investment, Crown Prince Says [Bloomberg]
“Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said the emirate is considering making an investment in BP Plc.

‘We are still thinking about it,’ he said in an interview in Abu Dhabi today, when asked about potentially buying a stake in the London-based oil producer. ‘We are looking across the board. We have been partners with BP for years.’

BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward said on July 7 that he had a “very good” meeting with the crown prince as analysts said the oil producer may be looking for support from Middle East investors. BP shares have gained 26 percent since the start of July as the company gets closer to containing its leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst oil spill in U.S. history.”

Small Businesses Get More Pessimistic [WSJ/Real Time Economics]
“Small businesses continue to feel highly pessimistic about the U.S. economic outlook, according to a report Tuesday that showed a monthly indicator of their sentiment turning weaker in June.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses said its Small Business Optimism Index dropped 3.2 points to 89.0 last month, more than erasing the modest 1.6-point gain it saw in May. The report, which was compiled by NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg, described the decline as ‘a very disappointing outcome.’ ”


Kilpatrick expected to ask for court-appointed counsel for fraud case [WXYZ]
Kwame Kilpatrick needs taxpayers’ help in his tax fraud case, namely paying for a lawyer. Since he cannot afford one, the people of Michigan will be picking up the tab.

Man Claims Ownership of Facebook [WSJ]
Today in wild-ass lawsuits, “A New York judge has issued a temporary restraining order restricting the transfer of Facebook Inc.’s assets, following a suit by a New York man who claims to own an 84% stake in the social-networking company.

Paul D. Ceglia filed a suit in the Supreme Court of New York’s Allegany County on June 30, claiming that a 2003 contract he signed with Facebook founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg entitles him to ownership of the company and monetary damages.”

Are Big Banks Really Helping Small Business?

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

In the latest move by a big bank to make itself into a friend to small business, Chase recently announced a program to offer incentives to small companies for hiring. But the actual benefit to most small businesses is hard to see.


Specifically, the bank will lower its interest rate on new lines of credit by 0.5 percentage points for each new hire, up to three employees, for the life of the loan. The offer is available to business owners who are approved for a line of credit of up to $250,000 or existing business customers who increase their line of credit by at least $10,000. And if you open a business checking account, you get an additional half percent discount on your loan rate.

A typical interest rate on a line of credit is 6 percent. According to the bank, if you choose the whole ball of wax – take the discount for three hires and open a checking account – you’ll lower that to 4 percent. And counting the discount for a new checking account, small business owners can save about $4,000 over three years on an outstanding balance of about $65,000.

Trouble is, that’s an offer most businesses are likely to refuse. Those already planning to hire and that are in good health might take advantage of the deal. In fact, they’d be silly not to. But the offer is hardly enough to inspire a business to hire if it wasn’t going to do so already.

What the offer might accomplish is to help Chase seem like a nice institution, not the greedy enterprise that helped bring down the economy. And it’s hardly the only attempt by Chase, or other banks, to do something to lift their image, something I’ve written about before. For example, last year, Chase unveiled plans to increasing lending to small businesses by $4 billion to a total of $10 billion. Bank of America recently said it would buy more from small businesses. In May, Citicorp launched a $200 million fund to boost small-business lending in low-income communities. And of course, last year, Goldman Sachs announced its own $500 million small-business fund.

It’s also a way to attract healthy businesses at a time when loan demand is down.

So a win-win for Chase. Not so much for small businesses.

Small Business Amendment to Financial Reform Bill Draws Mixed Feelings

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

The financial reform bill contains a small-business related amendment that hasn’t received a lot of attention. And it’s either very small-business friendly or very unfriendly, depending on whom you listen to.

Sponsored by Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, the ranking Republican on the Small Business Committee, it directs the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to take into account how proposed regulations would affect the cost of credit to small companies. It also mandates that the bureau be covered by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996.

That law, until now, has applied only to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s aimed at policing proposed regulations that could have a “significant impact on a substantial number of small entities.” In that case, a special government panel has to consult with small businesses who could be affected by the law to see just how they think it could hurt them.


Opponents, like the Consumer Federation, objected to the amendment on the grounds that it required the consumer bureau to consult with the very businesses it regulates. And they said it would slow down the regulatory process, thereby hurting small businesses that need fast access to credit to finance their operations.

On the other hand, such odd organizations as the National Federation of Independent Business–which didn’t much like a whole lot about the rest of the bill–supported the amendment, presumably because they liked including small businesses in the rule-making process.

Who’s right? It’s undoubtedly true that the amendment allows–requires–that the consumer bureau seek input from the folks it’s supposed to regulate. But the bureau doesn’t have to pay attention if it thinks the input lacks merit. The law only says that “Where appropriate, the agency shall modify the proposed rule.” It doesn’t say the bureau is required to modify the proposed rule.

And in the few occasions when a special panel was convened to deal with OSHA and EPA issues, the officials did their work well within the 60-day limit the law requires, according to Rob Mandelbaum in the You’re the Boss blog.

So, on balance, it’s not a bad thing.

Accounting News Roundup: Bank Tax Scrapped; Deloitte Cleveland Names New Managing Partner; What’s the Future of Internal Audit? | 06.30.10

Financial-Rules Redo Passes Major Hurdle [WSJ]
Who knew that lobbyists could be so effective? “Democrats initially proposed the $18 billion tax on the nation’s largest banks and hedge funds to cover the cost of expanding gof financial services, among other things. But the small number of Republicans crucial to the bill’s passage balked at the fee, which was added at the last minute to the legislation.

With more than a year’s worth of work in the balance, Democrats ditched the levy on Tuesday. Instead, they agreed to offset the bill’s costs by winding down early the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program and assessing a more modest fee on banks through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.”

Volcker Said to Be Disappointed With Final Version of His Rule [Bloomberg]
If you go to the trouble of getting your name on the rule, with specific ideas in mind about what said rule entails, you’d be pretty upset if lobbyists hacked up to the point that it’s hardly recognizable. Plus octogenarians are probably used to getting their way.

“Volcker, the 82-year-old former Federal Reserve chairman, didn’t expect the proposal to be diluted so much, said a person with knowledge of his views. He’s content with language that bans banks from trading with their own capital, the person said.

‘The Volcker rule started out as a hard-and-fast rule on risky trades and investments,’ said Anthony Sanders, a finance professor at George Mason University School of Management in Fairfax, Virginia. ‘But through negotiations, it was weakened and ended up with many loopholes.’ ”


How Not To Look Desperate When Looking for Your Next Finance Job [FINS]
Because we know there are plenty of you out there.

Deloitte names Craig Donnan managing partner in Cleveland [Crain’s Cleveland]
Cake party? Mr Donnan takes over for Pat Mullin who has been the managing partner of the office since 1999.

The future of the internal audit profession [Marks on Governance]
“If we are to be relevant, chief audit executives (CAEs) have to refocus on providing assurance regarding how well management identifies, evaluates, responds, and manages risks – including the controls that keep risk levels within organizational tolerances.”

The Problem With Unreported Income [You’re the Boss/NYT]
The problem being that if you’re going to have one helluva time selling your business if a decent portion of its revenues are unreported.

“Legal and moral issues aside, there is only one way to view unreported income when it comes time to sell the business: forget that money ever existed. If you can only manage what you can measure in business, then the same holds true for what you can sell.”

AIG hires ex-Lehman lawyer as compliance head [Reuters]
As long as AIG doesn’t ask about arcane accounting disclosures, this should work out fine.

Will Small Business Support Obama on Alternative Energy?

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

Looks like President Obama could have an unexpected ally in his push for alternative forms of energy: small business.

That, at least, is the conclusion of a study of 800 small business owners and their attitudes towards clean-energy policies conducted by several groups, including Small Business Majority, a small-business advocacy organization.

The study found that most small-business owners support having a clean-energy policy and think the right moves can jumpstart the economy and create jobs.


Specifically, 50 percent back clean energy and climate legislation that would “limit pollution, invest in clean-energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean-energy sources” and “put a price on carbon emissions from energy sources like coal and oil, so companies would have to pay if they release these emissions into the air.” And 61 percent feel that moving the country to adopt new, alternative forms of energy is a viable way to restart economic growth.

That’s in spite of the fact that nearly two-thirds think a new energy and climate policy would increase their costs–quite something, considering the really small size of most of the respondents, 79 percent of whom have five or fewer employees.

Still, the majority also would be more likely to support new legislation if they received government incentives to help reduce the costs of introducing energy-efficiency improvements. For example, 62 percent would support a bill if it included interest-free loans for upgrades. Fifty-two percent would be more likely to back legislation if they received grants or subsidies for energy improvements and if they had access to free training or consultation on how to profit from the emerging clean-energy industry.

Of course, other studies have come up with notably different conclusions. Early this year, for example, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) found that 66 percent of small-business owners and managers oppose a federal cap-and-trade system.

But if Small Business Majority is correct, then, if he plays his cards right, Obama might wind up with significant small-business support at a time when he’s going to need it badly.

The Fed’s Report on Small Business and Credit Card Reform Fails to Impress

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

When Congress voted not to cover small businesses under the credit card reform bill last year, they asked the Federal Reserve to study the issue and report back in May. A few weeks late, the Fed recently came out with its report.

Those who support not giving small businesses with 50 or fewer employees the same protections provided to consumers claim the findings support their view.

But the real bottom line is this: The findings aren’t conclusive either way.


That’s not to say the report doesn’t present a few definite opinions about the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act. (Yes, the acronym is CARD).

For example, it supports extending the standardization of disclosure rules about account terms to small business, saying it would help companies compare credit card plan costs.

It also opposes limiting bank’s ability to adjust interest rates. The thinking is that it’s more difficult for banks to assess the riskiness of small business borrowers than consumers. Plus small companies tend to need more credit. As a result, curbing the ability to raise rates “may lead to higher initial interest rates, which would harm those firms that borrow on small-business credit cards.”

So that sounds pretty definitive. It isn’t. The bill provides “substantive” protections against certain practices, from raising interest rates to charging penalties. But, the report barely touches on the rest of the bill, such as provisions that limit fees and the ability to tinker with payment deadlines.

Perhaps, in a rush to meet their deadline, or not miss it too badly, the Fed simply didn’t have time to get to the rest of the bill. But it means that they failed to provide a conclusive, comprehensive direction to Congress.

And by focusing on just one or two provisions, they created the false impression that they’ve really weighed in on the bill—thereby giving the bank lobby bogus ammunition with which to declare victory.

In fact, while bank lobbyists were ecstatic about the interest rate recommendation, not every bank is on board. Bank of America recently announced that it would give small businesses the same protections consumers get under the bill. According to Bloomberg/BusinessWeek, a spokesperson said that the move won’t hurt its ability to extend credit.

New Healthcare Tax Credit Should Help Small Businesses, Nonprofits

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

The Internal Revenue Service recently released some information to help companies take advantage of a tax credit provided by the health reform law.

The IRS estimates that about 4 million businesses qualify, and is sending out notices to as many as possible advising them of the tax break. If you haven’t received anything but believe your company may qualify, here’s what you should know:


The credit is available to companies with fewer than 25 employees with average wages of $50,000 or less. The full credit goes to companies with 10 or fewer employees and average annual wages of $25,000 or less. It is not available to self-employed individuals.

The credit covers 35 percent of an employer’s contribution to employee health premiums, so long as that doesn’t exceed 35 percent of the average cost of a health plan in the small group market. For a tax-exempt organization, the credit is 25 percent. Once the health exchanges are set up, the credit increases to 50 percent for businesses and 35 percent for nonprofits. At that time, the credit will only be available to companies purchasing insurance through the exchange.

A company can use the credit to reduce income tax owed and can carry the credit forward 20 years or back one year after 2010. Nonprofits can use the credit against withholding and Medicare taxes owed on behalf of their employees.

A key caveat is that employers must pay for half of the premium. For most workers, especially low-wage employees, a company that does not pay for at least half the premium is offering insurance that is essentially unaffordable. Even 50 percent is most likely not enough to do low-wage workers much good, especially at small companies where health care premiums are more expensive.

The amount of the credit is based on the premiums an employer pays for, so the more generous the coverage, the greater the credit. While premiums paid for owners and their families cannot be counted, those paid for seasonal workers can be. And the IRS has defined “premiums” broadly: not only does it cover premiums for standard medical insurance but it also applies to dental, long-term care and vision insurance-though again, an employer must pay 50 percent of each premium to count it toward the credit.

Calculating the credit probably requires any small employer to consult an accountant to see if the benefits are worth the cost of providing insurance. The tax credit is in effect, allowing employers who are already thinking about health insurance for their employees to factor in the savings as they plan ahead.

As an observer, I think the key issue is whether the credit is enough to offset the rising cost of health insurance. Those costs have hit small employers the hardest. We’ll see if the tax credit makes a difference in reversing the trend among small employers of dropping health insurance for their employees altogether.

HR 4213: Soon-to-be the Worst Tax Enactment of the New Decade?

“The S corporation tax increase in HR 4213 is a mess and should not be enacted.”

~ Joe Kristan, on the legislation that will hit small business with a 2.9% medicare tax increase.

Mario Armstrong: Cloud Computing, SaaS, Social Media Are Tools for All Small Businesses to Consider

Earlier this week we got the chance to speak with Mario Armstrong, on-air tech contributor for NPR’s Morning Edition and tech contributor to CNN. We discussed several technology issues, including SaaS and social media, for small businesses to consider to mark National Small Business Week.

There you have it! Cloud solutions, SaaS, social media. They’re all important tools for small business owners. You can spend your weekend boning up.

Doing Penance for John Edwards’ Sins: Provision Could Hit “Skilled” S Corp Owners

Long before John Edwards became known as a well-coiffed skirt-chasing weasel, he was a well-coiffed successful trial lawyer. He was successful enough to afford good tax advice, so he conducted his law practice in an S corporation.

Back in the old days, professional practices were conducted as sole proprietorships or general partnerships, reportable as self-employment income, subject to the 15.3% self-employment tax up to the FICA base (currently $106,800), and to the 2.9% Medicare portion of the tax to infinity.


When state laws allowed professionals to incorporate, attorneys and accountants quickly noticed that income on S corporation K-1s is not subject to self-employment tax. This makes S corporations a popular way to run a professional practice. The professionals take a “reasonable” salary out of the business (subject to employer and employee FICA and Medicare tax) – enough to not raise IRS eyebrows – and take the rest out as S corporation distributions with no employment tax.

John Edwards did well by this. His law practice generated millions dollars of K-1 earnings in excess of his salary, saving him hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll and self-employment tax.

Now that he has been reduced to a wealthy target of mockery, Congress is ready to crack down on the John Edwards S corporation tax shelter. The annual “extenders” bill has a provision – almost as absurd as Edwards love life – that will hit professional S corporation K-1 income with self-employment tax. The SE tax will apply when the “principal asset” of the S corporation is the “reputation and skill” of three or fewer professionals – defined for this purpose as “services in the fields of health, law, lobbying, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, investment advice or management, or brokerage services.”

Congress doesn’t muss its hair worrying about how taxpayers in multi-owner S corporations are supposed to figure out whether its “principal asset” is the “reputation and skill” of three or fewer owners. However it works, this provision is too late to hurt John Edwards — his reputation isn’t much of an asset anymore.

Joe Kristan is a shareholder of Roth & Company, P.C. in Des Moines, Iowa, author of the Tax Update Blog and Going Concern contributor. You can see all of his posts for GC here.

Small Business Saying Buh-Bye to Sarbanes-Oxley

“I believe the votes are there whether I like it or not.”

~ Barney Frank, on the House provision that would exempt small and midsized businesses from complying with Section 404.

Small Businesses Lead on Long-term Job Growth

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

If you harbored any doubts about the importance of small businesses to job growth, then you should consider the results of new research looking at payroll data over the past ten years. The clear conclusion is that the lion’s share of employment growth over the long term has happened at establishments employing fewer than 50 people.

But the implications for our current economic situation are disturbing.


The research, from Case Western Reserve’s Scott Shane, looked at data collected from Automated Data Processing’s monthly employment numbers from 2000 to 2010. The numbers are broken down into three categories: establishments with 1-49, 50-499, and more than 499 employees. By establishment, ADP means “a single physical location where business transactions take place and for which payroll and employment records are kept.”

According to Shane’s analysis, the most job loss has occurred at the bigger establishments. For example, in March 2010, the biggest folks employed 84.3 percent of the people who worked for them in December 2000. As for establishments with 50 to 499 workers, they employed 93.6 percent of those who worked for them over that same time period.

But, for the smallest establishments, the story is startlingly different. They now employ 103.5 percent of the people they employed in December 2000.

Then, there’s a study from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation I wrote about recently. It showed that high-growth companies that are three -to- five years old account for about 10 percent of new jobs in any given year, although they make up less than one percent of all businesses.

But, if small establishments and so-called gazelle firms are so important to job growth, then the latest data from the National Federation of Independent Business, reported on by my colleague Stephen Taub, is especially sobering. The findings showed continued decreases in hiring and flat growth in capital expenditures.

It all has urgent implications for government policy. Given the importance of fast-growing young firms, in particular, to employment creation, the wisest policies would be those that support these promising, three-to-five year old businesses. Something has to be done to get our engine of employment creation back on track.

Small Business Still Not Showing Signs of Life

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

Don’t look for small businesses to lead the economic recovery.

The monthly reading from the National Federation of Independent Business Index of Small Business Optimism clearly shows little optimism among small business.


Sure, nine of the 10 components that comprise the index rose from the prior month.

However, some of the critical factors that would indicate whether small business owners plan to invest in their firms did not show encouraging results. The NFIB’s job measures barely moved and capital expenditure plans were flat.

More specifically, according to the survey average employment per firm was negative in April. What’s more, since July 2008 employment per firm has fallen steadily each quarter, logging the largest reductions in the survey’s 35-year history.

If small business is key to job growth – as some pundits think – then this does not bode well for our economy.

And the jobs small businesses create are not exactly great ones. They are more likely to come without benefits and less time off for vacation.

Meanwhile, the Index does not suggest that small businesses will be investing heavily in non-personnel. It noted that plans to make capital expenditures over the next few months were unchanged from the prior month and its reading is only slightly above the 35-year record low.

Yikes!

The survey also noted that small business owners continued to liquidate inventories and weak sales trends gave little reason to order new stock. In fact, more owners plan to reduce stocks than plan new orders, according to the NFIB.

Meanwhile, regular borrowers continued to report difficulties in arranging credit. “Historically weak plans to make capital expenditures, to add to inventory and expand operations also make it clear that many borrowers are simply on the sidelines, waiting for a good reason to make capital outlays and order inventory that requires businesses to take out the usual loans used to support these activities,” the report notes.

Obviously, small businesses are not going to turn this economy around any time soon.

Amateur Accountants Need Not Apply

“It is the last part of the business I would hand over to someone who is less than qualified.”

~ Barbara Taylor, co-founder of Synergy Business Services, on the accounting function.

Small Businesses Need Accounting Help + Accountants Want Opportunities = This Should Be Easy

With all the uncertainty out there, more and more small businesses are cropping up. As anyone who has started their own business knows, there are plenty of decisions to be made, including your accounting method. While that answer may come easy, at some point small business owners have to ask themselves honestly A) Do I know squat about accounting? B) If no, do I hire someone full time or do I contract the work out as needed?


First, if you’re not versed in accounting and taxes are you really going to take the time to learn everything you need to know at the behest of growing and refining your business? Have you seen the tax code? You want to take advantage of everything you can, right? Best to call an expert.

Secondly, if you do decide to get some help, are you willing to pay for someone to keep the books, file tax forms, manage the payroll, etc. etc. full time? Are you going to pay them a salary, benefits, supplement their daycare, give them vacation? If you’ve got the resources to bring someone on, that’s great, start interviewing people. But what if you’re still in the early stages? Finding a CPA firm that can provide those crucial services for you can save a lot of headaches.

On the other hand, if you are already an accountant, maybe this growth in small businesses is your opportunity to get a little entrepreneurial yourself. CPA firms are the most profitable small businesses out there and somebody has to help those business owners keep their debits, credits and tax forms straight; it might as well be you.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…or: Cloud Computing and SaaS Briefly Explained

Figuring out how to sum up Cloud Computing and Software as a service (SaaS) in the space of ~800 words would absolutely require the biggest, puffiest, most cumulus metaphor that ever precipitated understanding over the dry, barren plains of ignorance EVER! Something like….

king Business Applications By Storm, or
– Burning off the Fog Around Cloud Computing, or
– Cloud Computing goes from Light Showers to Torrential Downpour, or even
– Quit Jiiiivin’ Me Turkey, You Got to SaaS it! (a Turkey is a bad person)

Why?

Because this thing is growing like a Class 5 Hurricane sucking up warm air over the Gulf of Mexico in mid-September, and you’re in the eye of the storm baby!


Enough! I can’t… I just can’t brew up another hackneyed metaphor!

All joking aside, Cloud Computing and SaaS are now “required reading” if you’re even remotely involved with technology (i.e. you use a computer). I can help you understand this stuff better, but first some disclosure:

I work for a SaaS company. My paycheck depends upon acceptance of this technology.

If you can accept this embedded bias, I’ll try to suppress any overt advocacy while providing a synopsis of this space over the course of the next few weeks. Call it Saas 101.

So, what is it?

We’ll get into this in more detail soon because there’s more to it, but very simply:

Software as a Service – A software application that you access online without having to download anything to your computer.

Cloud Computing – Provides computing power and data storage on an “as needed” basis much the same way as a public utility provides electricity.

Why should you care?

At the very least, you should care because you are already using this stuff for personal web activities (e.g. Facebook – think privacy, Twitter, LinkedIn, Gmail, etc). And I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that the next software sourcing project your company undertakes will include Cloud and Saas representation.

This is a bet I’ll win because even the big, established players in the software world like IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft are running to try and get in front of this thing on the business side.

You want to know about this.

Where did it come from?

How did Software as a Service and Cloud Computing as we know it come about?

Well, what’s in a word?

Again, there’s more to it, but without rekindling the internecine nerd-fighting I think tracing the roots of this movement back to Marc Benioff, the founder, Chairman & CEO of Salesforce.com is not unreasonable for our purposes. He was arguably the most vocal advocate for looking at software delivery in a new way back before this stuff HAD a name. Salesforce.com launched as an unknown start-up back in 1999 and is now one of the leading CRM (Customer Relationship Management) products Cloud or otherwise and is traded on NYSE with a market cap of over $10 Billion.

Along with another early entrant, Netsuite, these guys let the genie out of the bottle. Interestingly, both companies have deep, deep roots back into Oracle Corp., Oracle, a company that, according to Oracle, “would change the face of business computing forever.” I don’t dispute the claim though. And I would take it one further saying, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The Rain Fell in Torrents…

The creation of Salesforce and Netsuite were both extremely capital intensive. In order to host their customers (i.e. users of the software), tens of millions of dollars were required to build the data center infrastructure. You’re not required to buy servers and hardware, so where do you think all your data is residing? In a cloud? We haven’t advanced that far.

But we have advanced.

Today companies building Cloud apps don’t tend to build their own data centers, at least not right off the hop. Another important innovation in Cloud comes from companies like Amazon. Apart from books, Amazon has a whole other line of business providing computer infrastructure on a rental basis. It’s like a power grid for computing.

This changes the business model for companies who build software in the same way these Cloud app companies are changing things for you.

Suddenly, your IT goes from being a Fixed Cost to a Variable Cost.

More next week.

Enjoy!

Geoff Devereux as been active in Vancouver’s technology start-up community for the past 5 years. He regularly attends and contributes to the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the city through the Vancouver Enterprise Forum, guest blogging on Techvibes.com, and as a mentor with ISS of BC. Prior to getting lured into tech start-ups, Geoff worked in various fields including a 5 year stint in a tax accounting firm. He is currently working in a marketing/social media role with Indicee, a Saas Business Intelligence company, bringing B.I. to mere mortals.

Don’t Get That Excited About the Growth in SBA Loans

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

It’s time to dial down all the fuss about SBA loans.

First, there are the reports about increases in SBA loan dollar volume, thanks to the stimulus bill. For example, according to the SBA, over a period of about a year, average weekly loan dollar volumes increased more than 90 percent in the two most popular programs, 7(a) and 504, from the average before the passage of the stimulus bill. 7(a) loans can be used for such purposes as working capital and the purchase of equipment, while 504 provides long-term, fixed-rate financing for buying real estate and other fixed assets used for expansion or modernization.


But, a recent analysis by Scott Shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western Reserve, shows this conclusion should be taken with a big pitcher of salt. According to Shane, the level of growth is only impressive when compared to the previous year’s poor results. That is, in 2009, the volume was about $180,000,000. So, the approximately $300,000,000 for the first 27 weeks of the 2010 fiscal year represents a big jump. But compared to, say, 2006 and 2007, it’s about the same.

Then, there’s the more important matter of just how many small businesses get SBA loans in the first place. The answer is: Not many. Take the 7(a) program, which comprises 90 percent of SBA loans. According to Shane, last year, less than one percent of small businesses with employees received one of these babies. If you look at non-employer businesses, which comprise the majority of all small companies, their share was between one tenth and one twentieth of one percent–about 50,000 small businesses out of 29.6 million.

Of course, 2009 was a lousy year. But, the data still suggests that all the attention being given to the SBA-loan program may not be warranted. That, in turn, has some pretty serious implications for government policy. Those businesses that got SBA loans undoubtedly were helped, possibly increasing their sales and, perhaps, their hiring. But, to reach more companies, the programs just aren’t enough. Another approach is needed to help the vast majority of businesses that don’t use these loans at all.

Deciding Between the Cash and Accrual Methods of Accounting

While the IFRS v. U.S. GAAP rages (or stalls) a far simpler (yet no less important) decision with regard to accounting methods is considered by many small businesses every year.

The cash versus accrual decision is one that all businesses have to make but small businesses have to make and depending on an entrepreneur’s familiarity with the issue, this could be a very simple decision or a “HELP!” moment.
, a quick refresher:

Cash – You get cash; you record the transaction. You pay cash, you record the transaction. Simple.

Accrual – This is what your copy of Kieso, Weygandt, & Warfield harped on in college. Accounts receivable, accounts payable, deferrals, revenue is recorded when earned; expenses are recorded when incurred, the matching principle, you know the drill.

Before we get to the pros, let’s consider a simple example. If you and some friends want to pool your money together and buy a piece of commercial property, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to go the accrual route. Your tenants pay rent, you record revenue. You pay for supplies to make improvements, you record the expense. In general, don’t make something complicated that is inherently easy.

However, depending on the entity structure of your business, you may be disqualified from using the cash method. Generally, C Corporations, partnership with one C Corp partner, and tax shelters are not allowed to use the cash method. So if any of these apply, hello accrual.

Enough with the elementary crap though, amiright? Thought so. To get some additional insight, we called on a couple of partners who have no problem sharing their opinions: Scott Heintzelman of McKonly & Asbury in Camp Hill, PA and our own Joe Kristan of Roth & Company, P.C. in Des Moines, IA.

Since Scott is effectively the visitors, he’ll get first at bat. He told us that he encourages clients to adopt accrual right away for three reasons:

1) Fewer surprises. I just met with a prospect and the number 1 frustration they had about [their] prior accountant was that CPA encouraged [c]ash but things fell wrong that next year and they got killed with a tax liability.

2) It helps to prevents “games” being played with year end cash receipts and cash disbursements.

3) It helps the company to think like a “grown up” business. Too often a small business thinks and acts small (cash basis is thinking little) when I encourage them to think bigger.

So, according to Scott, if you’re thinking about getting into business you should think BIG, thus, accrual is the way to go.

Is it that simple? Well, maybe but Joe has some other considerations including – what else – taxes, “For tax, cash is normally preferred because of the ability to control taxable income at year-end. Farmers are notorious for stocking up on feed at year-end to manage taxable income, but being able to manage income by paying off A/P at year end is useful for anybody.”

Of course, the more complex your business gets, the cash method is less available:

Where it becomes a disadvantage is in mixed structures or large entities. If you have related entities doing business with one another, accrual is nice because you eliminate a lot of Sec. 267 related party problems. You don’t have to worry about paying a related party for A/P by year-end to get the deduction because they have to accrue the income.

For a simple structure without a lot of related entities, you will want to do your tax returns on a cash basis. As the structure gets more complicated, accrual method becomes more attractive, and likely mandatory under Sec. 448 or in medium to large entities with inventories.

But for anyone that has to produce GAAP financial statements Joe concedes, “I have no idea why anybody would be cash basis. You can’t be GAAP on a cash basis, and lenders don’t like that.”

The lesson? Like everything in this world, it depends. Do you have a complex entity structure with several related parties engaging in business? Accrual might be better. If you want to be the next Google (or even a fraction of Google), then you might as well be on accrual. If your bank requires GAAP financials to get a loan, you’ll be on accrual.

But on the other hand, if you’ve got no use for GAAP and a simple business not looking to get crazy, the cash method may be the way to go. If you’re still nervous about checking one box or the other, don’t worry, nothing is written in stone. Just consult your business or tax advisor and they’ll help you figure this out. Anyone got more advice? Feel free to chime in.

PwC Report: Venture Capital Activity in New York Jumps While Silicon Valley Sees a Slide

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

Silicon Valley is still central headquarters for venture capital activity in the US. But it looks like the New York City area is trying to play catch up.

A new report shows an increase in the region both in the amount of startup funding and the number of deals for two consecutive quarters, while activity in Silicon Valley dropped.


The report, from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, found that financing for companies in and around the Big Apple increased to $566 million in the first quarter. That was an 18.9 percent rise from the previous quarter, also a 34 percent year-over-year increase. A total of 75 firms received money in the first quarter, up 13.6 percent.

In Silicon Valley the story was very different. Investment dollars and numbers still won out over New York, of course. But the trend was down. Total funding of $1.5 billion in the first quarter represented a 21.4 percent drop from the fourth quarter 2009, while the number of deals fell 24.6 percent over the same period.

Overall share of VC money also rose in New York and fell in Silicon Valley. In New York, it reached 12 percent, up from 9.2 percent in the fourth quarter 2009, compared to 32.3 percent for Silicon Valley, down from 37.5 percent.

This New York- area investment growth reflects recent efforts by venture capitalists and the New York City government to rev up funding.

A few examples:

Last spring, New York law firm Lowenstein Sandler started First Growth Venture Network, which provides mentoring for newbie CEOs from venture capital firms, angels and more-seasoned executives.

Last fall, they announced the first 15 CEO mentees. Late last year, seven successful entrepreneurs launched the Founder Collective to make $50,000 to $1 million investments in very early-stage ventures in New York, as well as the Boston area.

In early 2009, NYC Seed, a partnership of venture capital, non-profits and universities, made its first investments in several seed-stage ventures.

Last week, I wrote about trends in angel investing and noted that such financing provides more money for startups than venture capital. Still, although VCs invest in a small percentage of all new companies, they do support enterprises with potential to become real powerhouses. So, the New York area economy clearly benefits both in the short and long-term from this financing activity.

Although it’s doubtful these firms will ever match the contribution in tax dollars and jobs provided by Wall Street.

Angel Investors Continue to Shy Away from Startups

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

Many startups, especially ones with high-growth potential, depend on receiving at least some of their funding from angel investors. Now, a new report sheds light on what type of entrepreneurial ventures got angel money last year.

Specifically, the report from the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire found that financing for really early-stage companies declined and a larger percentage went to more-established ventures. That is, 35 percent of investments in 2009 were in seed stage companies, a decrease of 10 percent from 2008. And new, or so-called first sequence investments, were 47 percent of all angel activity, a significant decline over the last two years.


What this means, of course, is that angels are favoring proven quantities that are less risky than newer ventures. That’s been a trend for several years now and it’s worrisome. You might not know it from press coverage, but angel funding is considerably more prevalent than venture capital financing: Many more startups receive angel money than VC dollars. So, if angels shy away from early ventures, that means the loss of a significant historical source of funding for these companies.

Then, there’s the matter of what these companies mean to the economy, which I’ve written about before. The startups that receive angel money tend to be ones with high-growth potential, the kind with at least a fighting chance of becoming a lot bigger and employing a lot of people. Thus, it’s not a positive development over the long haul if angels choose to play it safe and avoid very early-stage ventures.

On the modestly good side, the report showed a decrease in investment dollars but little change in the number of investments. Total investments in 2009 were $17.6 billion, down 8.3 percent from 2008. But a total of 57,225 ventures received funding, a 3.1 percent increase from 2008. In other words, more startups got money, although deal size was smaller.

It would be more reassuring if a larger share of the $17.6 billion had gone to a different type of venture.

Three Key Reasons Why CPA Firms Are the #1 Profitable Small Business

This morning we kicked off our certification series that may or may not get you motivated to find some additional letters for your business card. However, if you’re more interested in your getting your name (with letters behind it, natch) getting on the sign/in the window sooner rather than later, there’s good news as well. Forbes 20 Most Profitable Small Businesses list came out last week (on April 15th no less) and accounting related services took three of the top five spots.


Offices of CPAs #1 – Average pre-tax margin of 17.1% and; the trifecta of “pricing power…low overhead and marketing scale,” gave CPA firms the top spot in Forbes list.

Other Accounting Services #3 – Average pre-tax margin of 15.5%; The list states that this includes, “accounting, bookkeeping, billing and tax preparation services in any form, handled not necessarily by a Certified Public Accountant.” Of course many CPA shops do offer these services so it’s not something you should dismiss outright.

Tax Prep. Services #5 – Average pre-tax margin of 15.1%; Forbes took a page out of John “I hate my old accountant” Stossel and asks “Who likes doing their taxes?”

Yeah, being the boss is tough but for accountants its a path that many take, as FINS reported last week, citing the AICPA “Roughly three-quarters of the country’s 44,000 tax businesses are one-person shops, according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).” And it’s not like everyone is going at it alone. If you’ve got one or more colleagues that you trust (and can stand to be around for hours and weeks on end) a partnership is always a solution.

And while this is great news for you entrepreneurial types, you can’t forget what you’re getting yourself into – you will be responsible for the outcome of the business, succeed or fail. As much as you hate the bureaucracy, politics and all around song and dance of the larger accounting firms, the failure of those firms are completely out of your control. But then again, maybe that’s why you took the risk in the first place – so you can be in control.

The Most Profitable Small Businesses [Forbes]
Hanging Your Own Shingle: Starting a CPA Business [FINS]

More Small Businesses Ditching Big Banks for Community Lenders

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

Community banks are gaining ground in the banking sector, scooping up small business customers that are feeling underserved by bigger institutions.

The four largest US banks – Bank of America, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo/Wachovia – currently hold the greatest share of small-business customers, according to a report from Aite Group released Thursday. But community banks are growing their share at the fastest rate, often at the expense of large banks.

Roughly 35 percent of US small businesses consider a community bank to be their primary financial institution, up from 24 percent in 2006.


The report revealed that large banks are failing to connect with small businesses. One of the reasons is that they struggle to understand their needs.

“Large banks are missing the boat when it comes to effectively serving and cross-selling to small-business customers,” said Christine Barry, research director with Aite Group, in a press release. “This is evidenced by the declining satisfaction rates of their customers and their failure to meet cross-selling needs.”

Such a customer base is crucial, even for large banks, at a time when deposits are precious commodities.

Small banks have been able to make headway by purchasing failed community banks, as reported by The Big Money this week.

“As the continuing real-estate crisis pushes more tiny banks into failure, the most common saviors have been other small banks, community banks, small thrifts, and modestly sized lenders,” Heidi Moore wrote.

But small banks aren’t necessarily a safe haven from troubles ailing their bigger competitors.

Although banks with over $10 billion in assets hold over half of commercial banks’ total commercial real estate whole loans, smaller banks have an overall greater exposure to commercial real estate, according to a report from the Congressional Oversight Panel.

Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, recently voiced concerns about the risk that commercial real estate poses to community banks, noting that commercial real estate comprised more than 43 percent of the portfolios of community banks.

Those concerns are well founded, as commercial real estate has played an increasingly large role in bank failures. For the 205 banks that have failed since 2007, a third of their loan portfolio has been made up of commercial real estate loans, compared to an industry average of 26.9 percent, according to investment bank KBW. The seven banks seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation last Friday had an even higher concentration with almost 40 percent of their loans tied up in commercial real estate.

If write downs increase as expected, it could ultimately create capital problems for community banks, which could in turn curb lending to small businesses.

“The current distribution of commercial real estate loans may be particularly problematic for the small business community because smaller regional and community banks with substantial commercial real estate exposure account for almost half of small business loans,” the COP report published in February said. For example, smaller banks with the highest exposure to commercial real estate provide around 40 percent of all small business loans.

Venture Capitalists Pushing Bill That Would Help Small Businesses Create New Jobs

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

With all the talk lately about how small businesses are vital to job creation, turns out it’s a relatively small number of high-growth entrepreneurial firms creating much of that employment. And, now, there’s pending legislation, pushed heavily by venture capitalists, that could encourage the growth of such companies.

First, about those high-flying startups. According to recent research from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, fast-growing relatively young firms generate about 10 percent of all new jobs in any given year. That includes what the study calls “gazelle” firms–enterprises three to five years old. And, these ventures create all those jobs even though they’re less than 1 percent of all companies. The average firm in the top 1 percent contributes 88 jobs per year; most end up producing between 20 and 249 employees. The average firm in the economy as a whole adds two or three net new jobs each year.


Of course, these findings have important implications for government policy and what types of small business it should focus on. Among other recommendations, the study urges the passage of legislation just introduced in the Senate, informally known as the “Startup Visa Act.” Sponsored by Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar, the bill would address the problem facing many foreign entrepreneurial wannabes who can’t get a visa to come here and start a company.

To that end, it would create a new visa for such entrepreneurs who are sponsored by a US venture capital firm or angel making an investment of at least $100,000 in an equity financing of no less than $250,000. The legislation would modify the EB-5 visa program; that requires recipients to invest at least $500,000 in a US company and create no fewer than 10 jobs.

The bill is the product of heavy lobbying by such investors as Brad Feld, who is with the venture capital firm the Foundry Group. Of course, they have their own business reasons to push this legislation but there seems to be sound research to back it up.

Brightbook Gets a Groovy Review But Questions Remain

GC reader Geoff Devereaux pointed us to something that we were honestly surprised to see, a “glowing review” for the psychedelic-inspired online accounting application, Brightbook.

Accounting Web UK interviewed the two designers, James Henderson and “his colleague Warwick.” If Warwick isn’t a acid-dropping Dead Head name, we don’t know what is.


Anyhoo, the AWUK asks the question that you would expect from an accounting pub, “how will Brightbooks make its money?” To which, Hedernson responds, “this isn’t about the money man, it’s about sharing the love of accounting software for free.”

More or less, that’s what he said. Free software that does what small business owners need it to do. What WE still want to know is WTF is up with the T-Rex in the party hat? What is he celebrating? Or is it something that the partygoers are seeing?? Speaking of the rager, why isn’t the egghead guy partying with the hula-hoop girl or topless chick (or the dudes, whatever his preference)? Has he not dropped yet? All important questions.

Brightbook: Free web accounting software [AccountingWEB UK]

Earlier:
Brightbook Knows That Dead Heads Need Accounting Applications Too