February 2010


In continuing education hot topics ebb and flow with what’s going on in the world. Of course in the accounting industry the popular topics have always tracked very closely with new tax laws, revised accounting and auditing regulations, and mandatory areas like ethics.

In a down economy, we might expect to see a shift in what practitioners are spending time learning. I thought I’d share the topics that have been claiming the highest interest with CPE Link webcast audiences. In the past six months, these were the winners:

1. Accounting and auditing updates
2. Federal tax updates
3. Small Audits Made Easy and Profitable
4. The Coming IFRS Conversion
5. Fair Value Measurement
6. QuickBooks Set up/Troubleshooting
7. Excel Speed Tips/Excel Macros/Automating Excel-Based Financial Statements/Creating Error Free Spreadsheets
8. Internet Research Techniques for Accountants
9. Building a Remote Consulting Practice/Working with Your Clients Online
10. Social Media for Accountants

Not a surprising list. We always expect to see the tax and Accounting and Auditing updates at the top. The interest in IFRS comes and goes based on the latest announcement regarding the timetable for implementation. Because QuickBooks and Excel are used by many practitioners and their clients on a daily basis, these topics always win a top spot on the list.

The newcomers to the list are the technology-related topics like Internet Research Techniques, Building a Remote Consulting Practice, and Using Social Media for Accountants. If you haven’t already checked out these practice-enhancing areas, perhaps it’s time to get in the game!

What you are studying?

I just read about a recent association conference that was supposed to be held in Washington DC earlier this month, but was cancelled due to an unexpected blizzard. Not so unusual, right? True, it’s certainly not the first time an event has been affected by the weather. Conference speakers and attendees often face delayed or cancelled flights and other travel woes. But in this case, technology was able to salvage some of the program. Some of the conference organizers declared that the “show must go on” and rallied the equipment needed to take the program online. How awesome is that? These people figured out a way to deliver the information–another way.

Of course you don’t have to wait for a snow storm to enjoy the convenience of CPE delivered online. You can take some (or all) of your courses online all year round. Stay home and forget about fighting the weather or the traffic. You can get your CPE without leaving the office with the added benefit of not giving up your whole day for CPE. As some recent CPE Link attendees declared: “I loved being able to do this from home!” and “I love this at-home web CPE!”

As convenient as web-based CPE is when the snow is deep, it’s not just a winter solution. Learning online is the up and coming way to earn your CPE. See ya this spring!

Does it make sense that each state has a different continuing education ethics requirement for its CPAs? Some states accept a behavioral ethics course—basic right and wrong stuff, conflicts of interest, etc. Others require the course cover ethics regulations—AICPA Code of Conduct and/or their state’s accountancy regulations. I get it. I’ve been in the CPE business for over 25 years and I understand that each state has a different philosophy and approach to CPE requirements. But I have to tell you that practitioners are confused! They do not understand what they need to take to satisfy this requirement.

As a national CPE provider, CPE Link gets customer calls weekly asking whether a particular live webcast or self-study course will count to fulfill their requirement. Good question! Let’s see, one state requires simply “ethics education.” That sounds pretty broad. I’ll give that a tentative, yes. Another requires specific subject matter (i.e., Code of Conduct) and real life case studies. Better look closely at the major topics on that one. Yet another state has one ethics requirement every license renewal period and a different one every third renewal cycle. Good luck with that one.

I hate to steer people wrong, so even when I’m pretty darn sure that a particular ethics course will count for them, my standard answer is still: “Check with your State Board. They have the final say.” I’d like to see some simplification of the requirements. Give these guys a break, already. Can’t ethics just be ethics?

Can learning about tax code be entertaining? Absolutely. Tax guru, Vern Hoven’s Federal Tax Update webcasts have been getting rave reviews from CPAs nationwide. It’s no wonder that this series has been one of CPE Link’s most popular programs. Of course the content is first rate. Vern produces one of the most comprehensive tax update manuals in the industry. His in-depth coverage of every new legislative change is exactly what tax practitioners need to get ready for tax season. But, beyond that, Vern’s enthusiasm for the subject combined with a very entertaining video presentation makes for a most enjoyable way to get your annual tax update.

Word of warning: Be ready for Vern’s often corny jokes. Comments on the evaluation often make mention of Vern’s wise cracks—in a positive way (mostly). One attendee commented, “Vern’s goofy humor kept me going at times.” Another: “Vern’s humor makes the course enjoyable as well as educational.” Of course, co-instructor, EA William Roos brings a more series attitude to the presentation, answering all participant questions throughout the webcast. He often does extra research during the breaks to bring back exact tax code references. Educational and entertaining—what a great combination!