January 2012

“What if” scenarios are good for thinking about and practicing personal and professional ethics. Here’s one that CPE Link instructor, Art Berkowitz, CPA likes to use.

As part of your accounting services, you provide limited financial planning services to your clients. One of you new clients (a middle-aged married) asks you to review their portfolio and make recommendations for investing an additional $100,000 they have in cash. In reviewing their portfolio you note the following:

  • The client is adequately diversified for their age between fixed income and equities
  • Approximately 35% of the equity portion of the portfolio is in one investment with a private money manager
  • The securities with this manager have outperformed all the other investments by 3 to 4 percent per year
  • The client tells you that this money manager waived his $1M minimum and accepted their investment of $250,000 because several friends invested at the same time.
  • The money manager has a track record of over 25 years of beating the S&P 500.

You check out the money manager and find that he does indeed have a long-term track record and is considered something of guru on Wall Street.

What recommendations would you make about

  • The 35% invested with the money manager
  • The $100,000 in cash your client would like to invest

Bernie Madoff—the money manager in question—has, by this time, served a little over 2 years of his 150-year prison sentence for fraud. But, remember, in this scenario, that hasn’t happened yet. Without the wisdom of hindsight, what would you, or should you, do?

According to CPE Link instructor and productivity expert, Laura Stack, “Success will come to those who can accomplish more in less time and consistently perform at their productive best.”

Let’s see how you rate. The more of the following statements that ring “true” for you, the more productive you probably are!

• I know exactly why I work hard and what I’m trying to achieve.
• I create systems to perform tasks more efficiently, so I can leave the office on time.
• I regularly rest and recharge my batteries, so I can be productive and creative when I return to work.
• I accomplish the day’s most profitable and valuable tasks
• I refuse requests when appropriate; I know how to say no graciously.
• I push tasks down to the lowest level of responsibility, trusting others to do their jobs.
• I weigh the results of attending each meeting against the alternative results I could produce instead.
• I do not live in my email inbox and stay focused on my work.
• I know I can only focus on a few items at a time, so I limit my multi-tasking in order to maximize my productivity.
• I know technology and my handheld are tools to help me be more productive—no addiction here.
• My email is organized, and my inbox is regularly emptied.
• I keep careful track of my contacts and my communications with them; I can tell you what was said in a meeting a year ago.
• When I have all the information I need to proceed, I make decisions quickly.
• I understand the difference between being busy and being productive: results.
• I keep an eye on my stress level, realizing it would be a mistake to ignore my emotional health.
• Even when a task is monumental, I keep working at it until I whittle it down to size.
• I am a positive person, even in negative circumstances.

Didn’t rate well? Get some guidance from Laura Stack and launch into 2012 at your productive best!

Over the past three years as an online CPE provider, CPE Link’s national webcast audience has grown, mobile learning has also advanced.

Mobile learning (or m-learning) allows the student to access the information from virtually anywhere—which supports today’s widespread work-from-anywhere lifestyle. It is an especially good fit for today’s accountant.

Given the popularity of tablet devices for both work and play, it was a natural evolution that we use tablets for learning as well. They are portable and so easy to use. To participate in one of CPE Link’s live webcasts using a mobile device, the user simply downloads the “Adobe Connect Mobile” app onto his/her device—Apple iOS or Android. On the day of the webcast, the learner logs in to join the class. The Adobe Connect app launches automatically. There are minor differences for the mobile user–such as the way to answer a polling question and toggle back to the main presentation view. But, overall the webcast experience is the same using the mobile app as it is on a PC.

Seeing the number of mobile users in its webcasts grow, CPE Link quickly responded by gearing up to support these attendees. Webcast hosts tested both Apple and Android devices, added instructions for mobile participants to the FAQ web page, and primed the customer service team to answer questions.

Mobile learning is here and CPE Link is ready!

Sherlock Holmes’ uncanny knack for solving cases actually comes from a combination of broad knowledge, keen logic, and a close attention to detail. Similar to the consulting detective of 221B Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes of Tax Practitioners would combine equal parts deep knowledge of tax law and strong research skills, says Annette Nellen, San Jose State University professor and CPE Link instructor on tax research.

So don your deerstalker cap and get your magnifying glass. Here’s a mystery for you to ponder. A new internet company, which we’ll call Printers to Go, has formed to sell computer printers on line. What method of accounting should the company adopt on its first tax return?

You discern the following facts:

  • The form of operation and business plan has already been created.
  • The company has arrangements with several printer manufacturers.
  • It has a website where customers can search for printers by features, obtain product specs, and place orders.
  • Manufacturers might set some limit on pricing and other sales terms.
  • Printers to Go expects first-year sales of $1.5M.

So what method of accounting is best for the company’s first tax return? How would you go about solving the mystery? What questions would you ask? What tax issues are involved? What do you already know about the topic and issues? What general rules are relevant? What IRC sections apply? And if you don’t get an answer in the Code, where else might you need to look for answers?

The client is waiting for your solution.