July 2010


It goes without saying that if you are going to teach continuing education, you have to know your stuff. But the requirements of a good presentation go well beyond having knowledge of your subject—especially in an online presentation.

At CPE Link, post-event evaluations continue to support that a speaker’s presentation skills must be top notch. You can have outstanding knowledge (and score a perfect 5.0) but if your presentation skills are off, everything falls flat to the attendees. So, how do you ensure a great online presentation? Here are some suggestions:

Rule #1: Mix it up! Simply reading your PowerPoint slides is the quickest way to earn a failing grade. Show a video clip, share a PDF form, show a related website, or demonstrate a software application. Give the attendees something with visual interest. Top-rated speaker, David Ringstrom demonstrates Excel tips directly in Excel by screen sharing most of his presentation. He even toggles back and forth between Excel 2007 and Excel 2003 to highlight the differences. David scores high! Larry Perry, who teaches a variety of accounting, auditing and nonprofit topics, often shares PDFs of key forms during his webcasts as he discusses the how and why to filling them out.

Rule #2: Engage the audience. Good presenters invite participants to ask questions and of course, answer them promptly. In his ethics webcasts, Art Berkowitz uses case studies to set up various ethical scenarios and then asks participants to share what they would do. This format scores very high with attendees. They love practical examples they can understand and easily relate to their own practices. A participant raved, “best CPE seminar on Ethics I have attended.”

Rule #3: Give us some energy! Without a face-to-face connection with the audience, some speakers sound a little dull, but good speakers keep their energy level up. They stand up, walk around, whatever it takes to help animate their voice. Federal Tax guru, Vern Hoven adds lots of humor to his webcast presentations to keep people’s attention and keep things interesting. One participant said, “Great! Enjoyed the humor!! Will be back for more webinars with Mr. Hoven.” Another said, “Thought Vern was a fabulous speaker who made CPE a little bit entertaining.”

Rule #4: Keep on pace. Rushing through the material ranks as a major offense. Having “bonus” material ready (just in case) is a better strategy than trying to cram too much into the core of the presentation. Pace may be one of the most challenging elements to master. Going too fast or too slow can receive poor ratings. And all participants may not agree. We have seen both “much too fast a pace” and “should have moved along much faster” on the same course evaluation!

Well, that’s the CPE biz. Happy teaching!

In the past, taxpayers who have had adjusted gross income (AGI) above $100,000 were precluded from converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. However, beginning with the 2010 tax year, this limitation will be lifted, thereby allowing many more taxpayers the opportunity to convert to a Roth IRA, but should your client convert?

Here are some reasons to convert to a Roth IRA:

1. Taxpayers have special favorable tax attributes, including a high basis ratio, charitable deduction carry‐forwards, Y tax net operating losses (NOLs), etc. This is because these attributes reduce the effective tax rate of the conversion.

2. Suspension of the minimum distribution rules at age 70½ provides a considerable advantage to the Roth IRA holder. This allows for additional tax‐free deferral.

3. Taxpayers benefit from paying income tax before estate tax (when a Roth IRA election A Roth is made) compared to the income tax deduction obtained when a traditional IRA is subject to estate tax. This is because the IRC § 691(c) deduction is inefficient.

4. Taxpayers who can pay the income tax on the IRA from non IRA funds benefit greatly from the Roth IRA because of the ability to enjoy greater tax‐free yields. This is because of the ability to move funds from a “taxable” to a “tax‐free” tax asset class.

5. Taxpayers who need to use IRA assets to fund their Unified Credit bypass trust are well advised to consider making a Roth IRA election for that portion of their overall IRA funds. This is because the exemption is funded on an after‐tax basis.

For more information on Roth IRAs, join Bob Keebler, CPA, MST in a live webcast on July 21 hosted by CPE Link. Bob is a partner with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP and a 2007 recipient of the prestigious Accredited Estate Planners (Distinguished) award from the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils. He has been named by CPA Magazine as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Practitioners in the United States as well as one of the Top 40 Tax Advisors to Know During a Recession.

On March 18, 2010, the President signed the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act intended to encourage employers to hire the unemployed. How does this benefit your clients? Well, as national tax instructor (and CPE Link speaker) Vern Hoven says, “You can’t base employment decisions on HIRE benefits, but if you are going to add workers, don’t leave this money sitting on the table.” Vern Hoven answers some common questions regarding the Act:

Question: If you hire an unemployed worker, how long are you able benefit from this program? Answer: The payroll holiday provides an employer reduction from March 18, 2010 through December 31, 2010. The retention credit provides an employer another $1,000 credit after retaining the employee for 52 straight weeks, meaning the credit won’t even start until 2011 and continues for 1 year.

Question: Are people who are receiving current pay checks, under a severance package, deemed to be unemployed when hired by their next employer? Answer: §3111(D)(3)(B) states that a qualified individual means any individual who “…certifies by signed affidavit, under penalties of perjury, that such individual has not been employed for more than 40 hours during the 60-day period ending on the date such individual begins such employment…” Interestingly, the IRS added “or have not worked for anyone” to Form W-11. Neither the Code nor Form W-11 have a limitation as to when the compensation for that work is paid or received. Therefore, it would seem that the receipt of severance pay is not a criteria for being a “qualified individual.”

Question: What if we replace a part-time position with a full time position and hire a new Employee . . . does this qualify? Answer: No. The payroll exemption does not apply to wages paid to an employee who is hired to replace an existing worker, unless the existing worker quit work voluntarily or was terminated for cause.

Question: Our firm sent offer letters last fall to college students. They graduate this may and are slated to begin work in September. Even though they accepted the job prior to this law, so long as they meet the w-11 requirements, does our firm qualify for the “tax holiday” and the 52-week retention credit? Answer: Yes. §3111(D)(3)(B) states that a qualified individual means any individual who “…certifies by signed affidavit, under penalties of perjury, that such individual has not been employed for more than 40 hours during the 60-day period ending on the date such individual begins such employment…” If those recent graduates had no summer job in the 60 days prior to going to work for your firm, I would think your firm would qualify.

For more on the new HIRE Act, join Vern in an upcoming live webcast presentation from CPE Link.