Gearing up for tax season is always a big deal. Even for CPE providers! Every year, CPE Link features live webcast sessions and self-study courses that cover the latest tax changes. And we work hard on getting the content prepared for you on time and accurately.

This year’s offerings are off and running! In November, Eva Rosenberg’s live webcast Top 10 Tax Changes for 2012 Filing had its debut. Eva received top ratings from participants of 4.9 for knowledge and 4.7 for presentation. Check out Eva’s schedule for more dates.

Vern Hoven’s 16-hour Federal Tax Update series began last week. Vern scored an incredible 4.95 for knowledge and 4.875 for presentation. This is high praise when you consider that hundreds of reviews are coming in daily! Some participants have commented:

• “Good presentation. I learned some important things for my small practice.”
• “Love Vern’s wit!”
• “Awesome presentation.”
• “First Webcast. Enjoyed it.”
• “I enjoyed the presentation and would recommend CPE Link to my colleagues.”
• “Vern is an excellent presenter. This was a very beneficial seminar. Great job everyone!”
• “Great talking points on the material covered.”
• “Very informative. Better than the live seminars.”
• “This is my first time to do a 4 hour course online. Love it. SOOOO much better than having to drive 80 miles to Dallas EARLY In am! Great format!”

The online self-study version of the 2012 Federal Tax Update with streaming video of Vern is also getting great reviews:

• “Thank you for an excellent and informative update.”
• “The course is very educational and was easy to understand.”
• “Vern is funny – lightens the dreary task and makes the learning fun!!!”

If you haven’t taken your 2012-2013 tax update yet, please check for remaining live webcast dates and self-study course options.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (effective August 23, 2004) guarantees overtime protection to salaried employees earning less than $23,660 per year–thereby strengthening overtime rights for millions of American workers.

Since the enactment of these standards, wage-and-hour lawsuits have been on the rise with over 7,000 lawsuits filed in federal courts in the past year. Don’t be caught in the middle of one of today’s hottest litigation areas.

How well do you do your wage and hour law?

After you take the quiz, check your answers at the end of this post.

1. Which of the following terms is used to describe an employee whose minimum wage and overtime rights are not guaranteed under the Fair Labor Standards Act?

A. Exempt
B. Blue-Collar
C. Executive
D. Management

2. The modified FLSA laws that went into effect on August 23, 2004 are referred to by the Department of Labor as which of the following?

A. The Fair Pay Rules
B. Duties Test
C. White Collar Test
D. Blue Collar Rules

3. The Fair Pay rules guarantee overtime protection to all employees earning less than how much salary per week?

A. $155
B. $262
C. $393
D. $455

4. The principal, main, major, or most important duty that the exempt employee performs is defined as which of the following?

A. Executive duty
B. Management duty
C. Primary duty
D. Exempt duty

5. An exempt executive employee must customarily and regularly direct the work of at least how many other full-time employees?

A. One or more
B. Two or more

6. Under the FLSA, a workweek begins on?

A. Saturday
B. Sunday
C. Monday
D. Any day of the week

7. The Fair Labor Standards Act does NOT regulate which of the following?

A. Record retention
B. Agricultural jobs
C. Vacation or holiday pay
D. Employment of minors

8. Employees NOT protected by FLSA (or “exempt”) mostly include what type employees?

A. Administrative, executive, and professional employees
B. Manufacturing employees
C. Employees paid on a piece rate basis
D. Waitresses and Bartenders

9. Which of the following may bring suit for back wages?

A. Secretary of Labor
B. Wage and Hour Division
C. Securities and Exchange Commission
D. Internal Revenue Service

Answers: 1A, 2A, 3D, 4C, 5B, 6D, 7C, 8A, 9A

Review questions courtesy of Colleen Neuharth McClain from her self-study course on Wage and Hour Law.

CPE Link  is proud to announce it has launched www.CPE4RTRP.com, a simple, user-friendly, one-stop website dedicated exclusively to helping tax preparers figure out and meet the new IRS requirements for certification and continuing professional education.

According to the IRS, hundreds of thousands of tax preparers have yet to take the Registered Tax Return Preparers (RTRP) competency exam , and they are running out of time to meet the December 31 deadline this year to complete their 15 hours of required CPE.

CPE is an entirely new experience for a large number of people who have been preparing IRS tax returns for years or even decades. We get hundreds of calls daily from uncertain and often frustrated tax preparers who are trying to sort out what they need to do to prepare for the exam and to fulfill the newly mandated continuing education requirements. That’s why we’ve created the website just for them.

Preparing for the influx of registered tax preparers, CPE Link has made the search for exam prep courses and qualified CPE much simpler and easier, starting with the dedicated website. In one place, CPE4RTRP.com provides everything the tax preparer needs, presented in clear, straightforward choices.

Convenient, affordable RTRP CPE package. Tax preparers can choose an all-in-one 15-hour package that fulfills the full year’s CPE requirement. They don’t have to search through a lengthy catalog or database of courses to find and select the ones that apply to them because CPE Link has done the work for them.

The courses included in the complete CPE package are all self-study, so users can work at their own pace to complete the required hours by the fast-approaching December 31 deadline. In addition, to make compliance even easier, CPE Link takes care of reporting completed credit hours to the IRS.  Tax preparers who have never done this before are concerned about reporting their credits correctly and on time.

Best exam prep tools. In addition to getting the required CPE completed on time, many RTRPs seek help preparing for the competency exam. CPE Link is making that easier too, by offering the 15-hours of required CPE, plus the best exam prep tools, available in one convenient package. Located on CPE4RTRP.com, the Ultimate RTRP Value Bundle includes the popular RTRP exam-prep webinar series by Tax Mama, Eva Rosenberg. It also provides the exam review manual, with essential tax preparation information, exercises, and practice exam questions, from Wiley, an industry leader in exam preparation materials for CPAs.

Online chat customer service
For tax preparers who have questions about the IRS RTRP requirements related CPE Link course offerings, visitors to CPE4RTRP.com can get their questions answered via online chat with an RTRP-dedicated customer service specialist.

The RTRP requirements can seem complex and overwhelming, and with deadlines looming the stress and uncertainty increases. With CPE4RTRP.com, we’ve done everything we can think of to help alleviate that stress.

As December 31 draws near, CPE Link is hearing from more and more people intending to take the RTRP exam soon. They need help preparing for the IRS exam. And they need their 15 hours of CPE this year!

Above all else, though, this group of tax professionals is really looking for guidance and support. Some are unsure of what they need to do and how it all works. CPE Link customer service takes the time to help this group feel more comfortable as they forge ahead to take their exam and meet their CPE requirements.

And I have to say, they are very appreciative of the help:

“Thanks for your RTRP class. I passed on my first attempt and your class was a big help!!” Robyn from Pennsylvania

“Just a quick note to thank you for your assistance in passing my RTRP exam. I took advantage of your Ultimate value package especially the 2 day resource and Wiley’s. I thought that 1/2 of the exam was hard and 1/2 was very easy. There were a number of questions that immediately came to my head because of things you said during the 2 day course. Thanks again.” Larry from Michigan

“Love Eva! The end of the training went really fast and my head was spinning. I missed some details. Luckily I can go back and listen to the recorded training. This is my first experience with this kind of training and I did enjoy it. ” Jennie from Colorado

“Excellent course and very beneficial. The inside knowledge of the exam and its structure was extremely helpful.” Marlena from Michigan

“Eva is a well qualified instructor and puts forth an attitude that encourages learning. She is just very well liked and knowledgeable. What a combination- Unbeatable.” Doyle from North Carolina

“Eva Rosenberg presented her material in a way that kept my interest. I feel confident that this course will help me pass the exam.” Cynthia from Pennsylvania

CPE Link would like to wish all the RTRPs out there –
Good luck on your exam!

And please let us know how we can help with RTRP exam prep or CPE.

CPAs who are fluent in the language of financial statements have an edge in client loyalty and career advancement.

True fluency is more than a number-crunching ability. It is the ability to translate financial statements on the fly, explain in simple terms what the numbers mean for the client’s business, and make recommendations.

Financial-statement fluency is a continuum, says Linda Keith, CPA, CSP, independent consultant and a new instructor for CPE Link.

“There are clients who don’t know the language at all. For them, a financial statement is like a foreign newspaper; they recognize it as a newspaper, but they can’t get anything out of it. There are CPAs who can study the statements and get some useful information for decision-making, but it takes time and focus. There are other CPAs who can look at a set of financials and draw conclusions almost instantly. And finally, there are some who can translate what they see so obviously in the financial statements into language that the client understands.”

These adept CPAs are a select few, says Keith. “Any assumption that, because we have an accounting degree or have attained a CPA license, we are as far along that continuum as our clients or our employers would like us to be is not accurate.” says Keith.

As a public accountant, Keith’s favorite part of the job wasn’t creating the financial statements; it was explaining them. So she began training bankers how to analyze tax returns to determine cash flow available to pay debt. “Lenders don’t need to know everything the CPA knows about tax returns, but the part they do need to know, they really need to understand well,” says Keith.

Since 1979, Keith has been a trainer on a mission to improve the ability of CPAs and others to translate financial statements. “In many cases CPAs in public practice are providing financial statements but not adding the extra explanation that will lead to actionable insights by clients. And clients often don’t realize they could get more benefit from what the CPA is doing. Let’s move from numbers to insights that allow us to make or recommend decisions,” she urges.

Why go to the trouble? The answer is simple: client loyalty, says Keith. Clients’ loyalty to an accounting firm depends on the value they get from the relationship. If they can get the same thing from every other CPA in town, they have no reason to be loyal. “No one recommends with much gusto a CPA who just spits out the numbers,” says Keith. “But give them insights about what’s going on in their business and they’ll keeping coming to you as a trusted advisor,” says Keith.

How fluent are you with financial statements? View Keith’s free webinar on Financial Statement Basics: Balance Sheets, Income Statements and Cash Flow.

The California Tax Education Council (CTEC) recently approved CPE Link as a continuing education provider. With the addition of this California Registered Tax Preparer group, CPE Link is now serving six categories of financial professionals.

When CPE Link launched in 2008, it attracted CPAs from just a few states. Over the past four years, it has increased its reach, bringing its online curriculum to CPAs in all states plus international learners as well. Participants now include Certified Financial Planners (CFPs), Certified Management Accountants (CMAs), Enrolled Agents (EAs), and Registered Tax Return Preparers (RTRPs). CPE Link targets its programs to qualify for each group’s special requirements.

Practitioners governed by CTEC must complete 20 hours of continuing tax education each year in order to renew their license. These hours are broken down into specific topic requirements: 10 hours federal tax, 3 hours federal tax updates, 5 hours California tax and 2 hours of Ethics.

CTEC professionals will be able to choose from a line-up of live webcasts that fit their required categories. These California tax practitioners can stay up to date with CPE Link’s “Quarterly Tax Updates” or choose hot topics like “The Battle between W-2 and 1099.” Live webcasts currently on the summer schedule include “Representing Your Client at a 1040 Audit” and “Curing the Addicted Tax Delinquent”—both part of Eva Rosenberg’s popular IRS Practice series.

In addition to live webcasts, CPE Link offers self-study courses—delivered completely online, allowing users to study at their own pace and take the final exam when ready. With topics like “California Tax Differences,” “Health Care Provisions,” and “Death of a Taxpayer,” California tax preparers will be able to easily satisfy their annual continuing education requirements and find topics of interest and benefit to their tax practices.

CPE Link is registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) as a sponsor of continuing professional education as well as the state boards regulating public accounting in Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

Hundreds of thousands of Registered Tax Return Preparers (RTRPs) are working on meeting the IRS’s new licensing and education requirement. And the industry is preparing to serve this new group of financial professionals with exam preparation assistance as well as ongoing continuing education courses needed for their annual license renewal.

CPE Link has brought together some powerful resources into one affordable package to help RTRP candidates prepare for the new IRS exam and earn their required CPE credits in 2012.

Part 1 of the package features veteran tax practitioner and Enrolled Agent, Eva Rosenberg (aka Tax Mama) teaching an on-demand 8-hour RTRP preparation course. Rosenberg’s course includes coverage of the subjects included in the exam–plus essential testing tips. Topics include: Preliminary Work and Collection of Taxpayer Data, Overview of the 1040 and Related Parts, Exemptions and Filing Requirements, Treatment of Income and Assets, Adjustments to Income, Deductions, Credits and Other Taxes.

Part 2 provides the Wiley Registered Tax Return Preparer Exam Review book—a virtual tome of tax code guidance—the perfect guide to help practitioners brush up on tax law and pass the comprehensive RTRP test. The course, complete with extensive exercises and a final exam review, provides a solid foundation on the subject of taxes, and the preparation of an accurate and complete income tax return.

Part 3 contains the 15 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) courses necessary to meet the 2012 CPE requirement. These are all delivered conveniently online by CPE Link.

• Ethics: Ethics for Tax Professionals: Circular 230 Guidance (2 hrs)
• Federal Tax Law: Conducting Tax Research with Increased Confidence (5 hrs), 1099 Reporting: 2012 and Beyond (3 hrs), Tax Treatment of Individual Retirement Arrangements (2 hrs)
• Federal Tax Law update: What’s New in 2011 (3 hrs)

These combined resources and training assistance all packaged into one Ultimate RTRP Value Bundle–for only $99, will help these folks step gracefully into their new role as registered tax return preparers.

Do any of these complaints sound familiar?

1. I have too many requirements to keep track of.
2. It’s the 21st century for Pete’s sake—I shouldn’t have to keep paper files of certificates anymore.
3. Requirements keep changing. I’m afraid I’ll miss something.
4. I want to be more efficient. I wish it was easier to tell which courses will meet multiple requirements.
5. I have a career learning plan and I have CPE requirements. I wish they meshed better and reinforced each other
6. I’m a firm admin and have to manage the requirements of scores of professionals. A spreadsheet just doesn’t cut it.
7. I often end up scrambling for courses at the last minute. I wish I could check my status as I go.
8. I get so busy. Reminders about CPE deadlines would really help
9. Lucky me, I “won” the audit lottery. I wish I were more confident that I’ve done everything required.

These are some of the problems we hear about from professionals, like you, who take our courses. If any of above common laments sounds familiar, we invite you to check out CPE Link’s Compliance Manager. It just might be the solution you’re looking for.

What’s your biggest issue managing your CPE compliance?

The accounting department is the back office heart of a business. It takes in information from throughout the company and uses it to bring in cash from customers and pay out cash to suppliers and employees. Though it is an essential organ of a business, it tends to attract little notice from an operational perspective.

Nonetheless, there are massive differences been the efficiency and effectiveness of average accounting departments and those that operate at a world-class level. The key difference is having a lean focus on how the operation is constructed and operated.

The simplest definition of lean from the perspective of the accounting department is to maintain the function while spending as little as possible. However, the department must meet certain objectives that are time sensitive, such as preparing financial statements, paying employees, and issuing customer invoices. These tasks must be handled within certain time constraints, which introduce bottlenecks into a department that might be operating with minimal staffing.

Consequently, we need a looser definition of the lean concept when applying it to the accounting department. Thus, we propose the following mix of characteristics for lean accounting:

  • Minimal resource usage. There is certainly an overall goal of being cost-effective, but this goal is subject to the following limitations.
  • Maximize cash flow. The effective management of customer billings, cash receipts, credit, and collections can have a strongly positive impact on cash flows from customers, but doing so may require additional expenditures.
  • Enhanced financial analysis. The department can generate very specific financial analysis that, if acted upon, can increase company profits. Doing so calls for an investment in the cost accounting area.
  • Rapid reporting. A company needs feedback on its results, and this calls for a rapid-turnaround financial reporting system, which will only be effective if it is adequately supported.

In short, the controller needs to understand that the accounting department is primarily a cost center for which cost minimization is expected, but only within the goals of maximizing inbound cash flows, providing excellent financial analysis, and issuing financial reports as rapidly as possible.

This perspective on lean accounting, courtesy of Steven Bragg, CPA, a prolific writer on accounting best practices.

By guest blogger, David Ringstrom . . .

As an instructor leading dozens of Excel classes for CPE Link each year, I find that the preponderance of attendees use Excel 2007. A surprising cadre is still holding on to older versions such as Excel 2003, or even Lotus 1-2-3. At some point I’ll need to add Office 365 to my presentations, but I’ll wait until I see folks using it. Microsoft just announced price cuts of up to 20% for the service, likely in hopes of sparking demand.

As daunting as it is to lead classes that cover three different desktop versions of Excel, soon I’ll be adding a fourth version. Excel 15, likely to be dubbed Excel 2012, is currently in a technical preview, or pre-beta, phase. This allows select customers to provide feedback to Microsoft prior to the next phase, which will be a public beta this summer. A final release of the next version of Office is expected by the end of this year.

Microsoft has been particularly tight-lipped about Excel 15 and its other Office suite companions, but information is starting to leak out. Windows 8, currently in beta testing, sports a new touch-optimized Metro look that replaces icons with onscreen tiles. My observation over the years is that Microsoft tends to make major changes every other Office version, so we could be in for changes that are as initially jarring as the Ribbon interface introduced in Office 2007.

Microsoft maintains three levels of support for their products: mainstream, extended, and online self-help. During the mainstream phase, Microsoft issues service packs and provides full levels of support. In the extended phase, primarily security patches are issued, but paid support is still available. The online self-help phase allows users to use the Microsoft Knowledgebase to try to fix problems on their own. Office 2007 enters a five-year extended support phase on October 9, 2012, while extended support for Office 2003 ends April 4, 2014.

Unless you’re chomping at the bit for yet another new Excel interface, my recommendation is upgrade to Office 2010 this year so that you can stay on a supported version and let the dust settle on Microsoft’s Metro and cloud computing changes.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,282 other followers