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The Magazine of the Illinois CPA Society

www.icpas.org/insight.htm | May/June 2009

In this issue Can the economic stimulus really save us? Crossed cultures could cost you the deal Prepare for disaster, come rain or shine. Beware the mobile technology menace The credit crunch boosts careers Don’t get scissor happy with cost cuts Hire Gen X women into the C-suite Watch out! Love could cost you Position yourself as an IFRS guru IPOs plunge as finances flounder Tax developments make for fast talk Hunting for tuition money? Find it here

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cover story 30

Where are the Top Jobs? By Derrick Lilly The job market may be stuck in a rut, but top finance spots can still be won.

features 34

Crossed Cultures By Judy Giannetto Did you give your Russian colleagues the thumbs up after that impressive presentation? Yeah, well, you might as well have told them to “%@$#-$@#!”

38

A Guide for Rough Weather By Carolyn Tang Climate changes are bringing on a tidal wave of natural disasters, with a huge social and economic impact.

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columns

index May/June 2009 Vol.58 No. 7

Are We Saved? By Kristine Blenkhorn Rodriguez What used to be a hopeful question now sounds naive in the face of an economic stimulus that has yet to take off.

8

Career

Crisis? What Crisis?

By Selena Chavis Ironically enough, the current credit crunch could mean an upswing in your career options.

10

Economy

Cutting Room

By Christine Bockelman Cut costs in a bad economy—but don’t go overboard with the shears.

12

Diversity

X Factor

By Renee Beckman, CPA Now more than ever, Gen X women are a valuable commodity in the executive suite

14

IFRS

IFRS Guru

By Selena Chavis Position yourself as an expert in all things IFRS.

18

Strategy

Public Exposure

By Sheryl Nance-Nash Is it worth taking your business public when the economy’s down?

22

Technology

On the Move

Theresa Casey WiFi is everywhere; mobile technologies are it. But are you putting yourself at risk by using them?

24

Wealth

Love & Money

By Janet Haney Protecting your client’s assets before they tie the knot goes beyond traditional prenups.

www.icpas.org /insight.htm

26

Tax

Talking Points

By Harvey Coustan, CPA The end of tax season doesn’t mean the end of tax talk. Here, three developments you should know about.

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Students

Find Money Now

By Derrick Lilly Higher education costs are a drag, but finding financial aid doesn’t have to be.

regulars 4 6 46

First Word Seen+Heard Classifieds


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FIRST WORD

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ICPAS OFFICERS

here are many ways to describe these times. Historic. Life changing. Uncertain. Scary. But words we’re putting into play here at the Society—proactive, responsive and motivated—just might help counter the daily dose of uneasiness we get from the media, our workplaces and even our friends and family.

Chairperson, Sheldon P. Holzman, CPA Virchow Krause & Company LLP Senior Vice Chairperson, Lee A. Gould, CPA Gould & Pakter Associates LLC Vice Chairperson, James P. Jones, CPA Edward Don & Company Vice Chairperson, Michael J. Pierce, CPA RSM McGladrey Inc.

The Society is striving to be as proactive as possible, reaching out to members through email messages and mailings, and at member town hall forums, to find out what you need. We’ve heard that you want to sharpen your skills and find ways to boost your career, and that you want us to keep costs down, particularly when trying to get CPE credits in a reporting year.

Vice Chairperson, Ray Whittington, CPA College of Commerce Depaul University Secretary, Charles F.G. Kuyk III, CPA Crowe Horwath and Company LLP Treasurer, Sara J. Mikuta, CPA The Leaders Bank Immediate Past Chairperson, Debra R. Hopkins, CPA Northern Illinois University CPA Review

ICPAS BOARD OF DIR EC TORS Brent A. Baccus, CPA Washington Pittman & McKeever Therese M. Bobek, CPA PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP Robert E. Cameron, CPA Cameron Smith & Company PC William J. Cernugel, CPA Alberto-Culver Company (Retired) Anthony Fuller Grant Thornton LLP William P. Graf, CPA Deloitte & Touche LLP Cara C. Hoffman, CPA Blackman Kallick LLP Charlotte A. Montgomery, CPA Illinois State Museum Gerald A. Olsen, CPA Illinois Wesleyan University

And we’ve already taken steps to respond to your comments. Earlier this year members received a special $25 gift certificate for a CPE program. Society members continue to receive $70 off full-day conferences and classes, as well as discounts on publications, office products and insurance through our Member Buying Advantage Program. At the Midwest Accounting & Finance Showcase on August 25 and 26, you’ll be able to get 17 hours of CPE credit for just $270. You can also stay closer to home and take advantage of local educational opportunities, including expanded downstate CPE offerings, to save money on gas and travel. Free or low-cost monthly career events on topics such as using social media in your job search and free career coach advice are now available through our Career Center, which already includes job listings, free resume posting and search firm directories. If you find yourself unemployed, call us to find out how you can maintain your membership and all of its benefits, including the Career Center, at a time when you need them most. Underlying these efforts is the wonderful sense of motivation you have to help each other— through the growing number of members who volunteer for the Military Service Tax Preparation Project and others whose donations make scholarships possible—and to help the profession by talking to the media or the community. In doing so, you carry out our mission of enhancing the value of the CPA profession. For the Society to continue to work effectively for you and with you, communication is key. Write, call or email. Help us find the best ways to help you. Together we can put meaningful actions behind the words that define our times.

Annette M. O’Connor, CPA RR Donnelley & Sons Company Mary Lou Pier, CPA Pier & Associates Ltd. Marian Powers, PhD Northwestern University Daniel F. Rahill, CPA KPMG LLP Lawrence H. Shanker, CPA Shanker Valleau Accountants Inc.

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INSIGHT www.icpas.org/insight.htm

ICPAS President & CEO


Publisher ICPAS President & CEO Elaine Weiss Editor-in-Chief Publications Director Judy Giannetto Creative Services Director  Gene Levitan Creative Services Manager Rosa Garcia Publications Specialist Derrick Lilly National Sales & Advertising  Derrick Lilly 312.993.0407ext.227 lillyd@icpas.org Information Systems Manager Jim Jarocki jarockij@icpas.org Editorial Office 550 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60661

INSIGHT is the official magazine of the Illinois CPA Society, 550 W. Jackson, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60661, USA. Its purpose is to serve as the primary news and information vehicle for some 23,000 CPA members and professional affiliates. Statements or articles of opinion appearing in INSIGHT are not necessarily the views of the Illinois CPA Society. The materials and information contained within INSIGHT are offered as information only and not as practice, financial, accounting, legal or other professional advice. Readers are strongly encouraged to consult with an appropriate professional advisor before acting on the information contained in this publication. It is INSIGHT’s policy not to knowingly accept advertising that discriminates on the basis of race,religion, sex, age or origin. The Illinois CPA Society reserves the right to reject paid advertising that does not meet INSIGHT’s qualifications or that may detract from its professional and ethical standards. The Illinois CPA Society does not necessarily endorse the non-Society resources, services or products that may appear or be referenced within INSIGHT, and makes no representation or warranties about the products or services they may provide or their accuracy or claims. The Illinois CPA Society does not guarantee delivery dates for INSIGHT. The Society disclaims all warranties, express or implied, and assumes no responsibility whatsoever for damages incurred as a result of delays in delivering INSIGHT. INSIGHT (ISSN-1053-8542) is published bimonthly except monthly in July and August by the Illinois CPA Society, 550 W. Jackson, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60661, USA, 312-993-0393 or 800-993-0393, fax 312-993-0307. Subscription price for non-members: $30 U.S., $40 Canada and International addresses, $42 Mexico. Copyright © 2008. No part of the contents may be reproduced by any means without the written consent of INSIGHT. Permission requests may be sent to: Editorial Director, at the address above. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: INSIGHT, Illinois CPA Society, 550 W. Jackson, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60661, USA.

INSIGHT AWARDS 2008 2007 2006 2006 2004 2004 2002 2002 2001 2001 2000 2000

Apex Award, Magazine & Journal Writing Magnum Opus Award, Best All-around Association Publication Apex Award, Magazines & Journals

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2009 is a CPE Reporting Year Licensed CPAs need 120 hours of CPE* by September 30, 2009. *Must include 4 hours of Ethics CPE

Apex Award, Magazine & Journal Writing Apex Award, Magazines & Journals Apex Award, Magazine & Journal Writing Apex Award, Magazine & Journal Writing Chicago Women in Publishing Excellence Award, Writing/Editing Apex Award, Feature Writing Apex Award, Best Redesigns Apex Award, Magazine & Journal Writing

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www.icpas.org/insight.htm

May/June 2009

5


SEEN HEARD NEWS BYTES, SOUND ADVICE AND PRACTICAL BUSINESS TIPS

$2.3 trillion Assets managed by hedge funds worldwide.

Source: Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, www.cimoney.com.ky

How’s Your Morale? As recession doldrums continue to weigh on employee morale, companies are taking action to dissipate the storm clouds. In a recent Accountemps survey, 68 percent of the CFOs interviewed said they are implementing strategies to buoy the mood of their teams. Thirty-seven percent cited increased and improved communication as the most common method. Financial rewards, professional development opportunities and team-building activities are also popular options, each being cited by 18 percent of respondents. However, not all employers have jumped on the morale-boosting bandwagon—26 percent, in fact, said their firms aren’t doing anything to improve morale.

Is Your Firm Built for Success? A preliminary report from an ongoing Bay Street Group LLC and Capstone Marketing survey reveals seven factors that lead CPA firms to success in the marketplace: 1. Clear company goals and managerial leadership. 2. Enhancement or adoption of technology. 3. Consistent staff training and development opportunities. 4. Enactment of precise marketing and business development plans. 5. A positive workplace environment. 6. Strong client relationships. 7. Team strategy accountability, collaboration and execution. To participate in this survey, visit cpatrendlines.com/seven-keys-research.

Data Analysis Just Got Easier To simplify and improve the quality of data analysis work, CaseWare IDEA Inc. and Audimation Services Inc. have made enhancements to their new release of IDEA Version Eight. This data analysis tool now includes a Project Overview, which provides a graphical representation of the entire audit or investigation process. By recording all performed actions, auditors and accountants can independently share and review workflows. The new release also features a Visual Script that allows users to build their own analysis and monitoring scripts without any programming. Added features include the ability to create custom “@Functions,” which can be easily shared with others, faster drag-and-drop document import and extraction, calendar pop-ups and data-sorting abilities.

Audimation Services is hosting training groups and walkthroughs of IDEA Version Eight. For a schedule of User Groups, visit www.audimation.com/idea_user_groups.cfm. For a complete list of the new features, visit www.audimation.com. 6

INSIGHT www.icpas.org/insight.htm

$170,000

Estimated average total compensation for a first-year investment banking associate hired in 2009. Source: www.careers-in-finance.com

Unlucky Seven 2008’s worst performing retail industries include: 1. Automobile Dealers: -11.77% 2. Furniture Stores: -6.36% 3. Home Furnishings Stores: -5.93% 4. Other Motor Vehicle Dealers: -5.08% 5. Building Material / Supplies Dealers: -4.97% 6. Clothing Stores: -3.19% 7. Automotive Parts, Accessories, Tires: -0.42%

Source: Sageworks, Inc.


7 Management Mistakes to Avoid Managing employees is never easy, and a challenging economy makes it even harder. Here are seven of the most common mistakes and the best ways to avoid them. 1. T hinking your s taff can’t handle the tru th. Talk openly about the effects of the downturn on your firm, and collaborate on techniques to turn things around. 2. B laming those at th e top. If you’re a middle manager who has to deliver bad news, don’t tell employees that you would have done things differently. Instead, explain the reasons behind the news, including how your firm will persevere.

The best and brightest interns are at your fingertips.

3. Feeling people are lucky just to have a job. Give your employees the attention they deserve, especially the top performers; not only are their contributions critical now, but they are also attractive targets for competitors. 4. Not asking for employee s’ help in e xpanding client re lations hips. Ask your staff to think about initiatives to help to achieve business goals without sacrificing productivity. When appropriate, involve your team in efforts to generate new business. 5. Making work “mission impossible.” If one person is doing the work of two or more, identify which projects are mission-critical. Put the other tasks on hold, delegate remaining tasks or bring in temporary professionals to avoid overwhelming your staff. 6. S hiftin g the focus from the fron t line s. Client service matters even more when times are tough. Employees that come across as indifferent or inexperienced could lose you both prospective and existing customers. 7. Waiting to try new th in gs . If you have a promising new service offering or client niche you want to pursue, don’t wait to act. Well-calculated risks can separate you from competitors and possibly carve out an additional revenue stream.

Source: Robert Half International, abstract from “The 30 Most Common Mistakes Managers Make in an Uncertain Economy.”

Boomers Boosting Social Networks If you think that it’s the 20- and 30-somethings that are blogging, Twittering and Facebooking their way across the World Wide Web, then think again. According to the latest Consumer Electronics Usage Survey from Accenture, Baby Boomers “are the fastest growing users of social networking sites and are also increasingly reading blogs.” Surprisingly enough, Generation Y’s interest in these social networking tools has, in fact, plateaued. Visit www.micropersuasion.com/2009/03/social-networking-demographics.html for more.

Twitterverse Codes of Conduct

The Illinois CPA Society has made it easier than ever to identify the up and comers in the accounting profession. Just visit the Illinois CPA Society’s Career Center and search student resumes to fill your next internship. All across the state, Illinois CPA Society student members have uploaded their resumes for you to view online. These students represent the future of the profession and your guidance as a seasoned member of the profession can put them on the right track. These students are available for summer, fall or spring internships.

Search by various criteria, including: Geographic Location Timeframe Paid or College Credit Internships

While Twitter is still emerging as a communication outlet for individuals and businesses alike, users already are establishing some form of Twitter etiquette. Here are five tips to guide you. 1. Don't spam: If you’re constantly sending out tweets that say things like: "I've just put up a new blog post. Check it out" or "Sign up for my RSS feed," then you’re a culprit of spamming. As a marketing method, you'd probably be better off flying paper airplanes out of your office window. 2. Follow s tyle rule s: Twitter isn't text messaging, which means words should be words and not abbreviations. 3. Give credit for re tweets: When one person spots a good tweet, he or she can pass it along, and soon it will spread across the Twitterverse. But always give credit to the source.

Visit www.icpas.org and click on the Career Center.

4. Stick to 140 characte rs: This number is the max that can fit through SMS systems. Don’t separate your thoughts into three or four tweets—keep them succinct. 5. Follow people who follow you: Follow thousands of people and reading tweets will become a full-time job. Follow only close friends, and you’ll defeat the object of this communications tool.

Source: Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time,” by Joel Comm, with Ken Burge. www.icpas.org/insight.htm

MAY/JUNE 2009

7


CAREER

Crisis? What Crisis? Ironically enough, the current credit crunch could mean an upswing in your career options. By Selena Chavis

A

s banks continue to tighten their belts and businesses try to protect their interests going forward, many finance industry experts believe that a specialization in credit risk and areas aligned with the credit industry will place finance pros in the land of opportunity. “Credit is emerging as a significant part of every company’s accounting function,” says Mike Cwiok, managing director of the Financial Risk Management group for KPMG in Chicago. “We’ve been continuing to enlist more people with credit experience to assist our audit teams in this environment of heightened credit exposures. I think it’s a really hot area right now.” In the present economic downturn, companies are focusing on the changes needed to effectively evaluate loss reserves. “We’ve been operating in such a strong economy for so long that many accountants have never had to analyze loss reserves in an environment filled with this level of uncertainty,” Cwiok explains, pointing out that market-savvy companies will be looking for a broader, more holistic approach to credit risk management. “Companies will be looking for resources and tools to assist them in evaluating how market conditions impact value as investments are marked to market. Today, the analysis may require going beyond traditional sources such as Bloomberg or looking up prices in the WallStreetJournal.” The demand won’t rest with public firms, Cwiok adds. He expects the need for this type of specialization to filter over to large and small enterprises alike. He notes that even those

8

INSIGHT www.icpas.org/insight.htm

industries considered the last to be impacted by economic turmoil—such as utilities—are facing uncertainties with reserving for losses. “When people can’t pay their bills, utility companies have to set aside reserves. They need methodologies for what those reserves should be,” he says. “The manufacturing companies that offer terms of 60 to 90 days are also finding themselves exposed because payments are being delayed or not paid at all.” And since much of the credit industry revolves around accounting principles, professionals in the field who have experience with credit risk will be in high demand in the coming years, says Tim Moritz, partner with Illinois-based McGladrey and Pullen. “CPAs understand financial statements,” he says. “The accounting profession provides a good stepping stone to careers in such areas as credit risk and credit analysis. “Accounting professionals have the skill sets to make sound determinations about the feasibility of borrowing,” Moritz adds, “a role that is certain to become a high-profile agenda within the banking industry going forward. I think credit analysts will have added importance even when things are cruising along better in the economy. I think there will be increased monitoring even in good times as opposed to what was done previously.” Since history tends to repeat itself, Moritz also points out that past financial crises and economic downturns on the national level have often meant a move towards increased government regulation. “The financial accounting professional has good skills that can help from that standpoint,” he says, referencing the demand created for public accounting firms following Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002. “When there’s more regulation, it typically means more work for accounting firms because we’re called in to assist. There will


be some good opportunities that will come out of economic cycles.” Financial transactions and investments will require more scrutiny going forward. And while current investment strategies have slowed to nearly a standstill, the expectation is that larger banks and investor groups eventually will look at the economy’s problem areas as opportunities. “Part of that decision-making process is due diligence. CPAs and financial professionals have a nice, well-rounded business knowledge for this area,” says Moritz. “Businesses will seek out that expertise to ensure investments are sound—especially since many investments have proven to rest on shaky ground due to mortgage industry mishaps.” Other specialties likely to emerge from the credit crisis are pricing and treasury management, says Cwiok. “The price is reflecting the margin you want to get as well as the risk,” he explains, adding that effectively assessing risk as a component of the cost in relation to the cost of goods and services will be critical to companies that need to succeed in an uncertain economy. “That piece from a risk management and accounting perspective is very valuable,” he says. “The current elevation of credit risk management complements an ongoing trend emphasizing the larger objective of better enterprise-wide risk management strategies,” says Marv Gordon, a CPA with Illinois-based Frost, Ruttenberg and Rothblatt P.C., and a professor at Illinois universities, including Loyola University, Chicago. “At Loyola, I’m teaching a course that focuses on the role of the internal auditor. The company’s internal auditor will become a line of defense going forward,” he explains. “If there are problems, they should be able to find those before external auditors do. That’s one profession I would recommend to those who are not interested in public accounting.” To specialize in credit risk management, Cwiok says that accounting professionals need to spend time in the field, with a focus on credit. Alongside hands-on experience, Moritz is a “big believer that a public accounting start is a good one,” due in large part to the variety of industries and roles an accounting professional experiences. “The time you spend there translates so well to various job opportunities,” he says. “The experience could form a path to credit analyst or CFO. There’s a lot of diversity to what you do.”

keep your career on track [ in today’s job market ]

Career Center A benefit of your Illinois CPA Society Membership

Search Job Listings | Post Your Resume Locate Search Firms | Explore Career Resources Find a Career Coach* Check out the Career Center today at

www.icpas.org *fee-based service

www.icpas.org/insight.htm

MAY/JUNE 2009

9


ECONOMY

Cutting Room Cut costs in a bad economy—but don’t go overboard with the shears. By Christine Bockelman

W

ith the United States struggling through a recession, scaling back has become somewhat derigeur. “Sometimes, it takes a good recession to kick us in the head,” says Jay Forte, CPA, a speaker, employee performance consultant and author of FireUpYourEmployeesand SmokeYourCompetition. “It’s a reason to examine almost everything.” While dumping fancy travel and client dinners is a bit of a no-brainer, there’s a right way and a wrong way to cut costs, especially when you put people and places into the equation.

People Power When the economy heads south, the kneejerk reaction is to start cutting the headcount. Layoffs are sticky situations though. Who do you let go? The most expensive staffers? The ones who have been there the least amount of time?

Three Cost-cutting Lessons 1. Don’t be che ap with your people “Cutbacks can negatively affect employee morale,” says Forte. “You can let people have a longer lunch every once in awhile or be a little flexible about letting them leave earlier.” 2. Don’t in sulate your e mploye es “You’re better off involving your people in your decision-making,” says Boswell. “They can raise ideas you haven’t thought of or confirm ideas that you already considered. They might surprise you with their creativity or their willingness to swallow tough medicine for the greater good.” 3. Don’t go layoff crazy “Very often layoffs have unintended consequences,” says Boswell. “You could end up cutting the things your customers value most. Or you could leave your best performers exposed to burn-out...Some of the companies that emerged from past recessions in a position to grow were the best at keeping layoffs to a minimum.” “First and foremost, since your customers are ultimately funding your payroll, ask yourself, ‘If my customers were making the decisions about what and who to cut, what decisions might they make?’” recommends Ed Boswell, CEO of The Forum Corp, a Boston Mass.-based consulting company. “It might surprise you what you come up with from a customer’s point of view.” What about your superstars—the people on your team who consistently perform the best and bring in the most business? Perhaps surprisingly to some, there are two schools of thought on how to handle your top performers during times of financial crisis. First, the cut ‘em argument: “I would start the cutting process with the stars,” Forte states. “The idea is that stars know their value, and that someone is willing to pay for them. I generally find that high performers...say, ‘Thanks for the paycheck, but I’ve found someone willing to give me more.’

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INSIGHT www.icpas.org/insight.htm


Sometimes the benefit you get from a star doesn’t make sense. Should you keep a star if they’re hard to get along with, or if they don’t fit in long-term?” Second, the keep ‘em argument: Stars often bring much too much to the table for a company to consider letting them go. Jim Muehlhausen, CPA, author of The51Fatal Business Errors and How to Avoid Them, suggests that companies approach staffing decisions much as professional sports leagues do; namely, introduce a salary cap. “Companies have x number of dollars for payroll, and need to figure out what percentage of the overall payroll a star is worth,” he explains. The National Football League offers a few good examples. Teams like the Indianapolis Colts could afford to hire or retain a lot more talent if they cut Peyton Manning and his reported $14 million a year contract from their payroll. Manning, though, is a “superstar” who helped the team win a Super Bowl, says Muelhausen. Similarly, companies should identify who’s helping them meet their goals and then figure out how much of the salary cap they’re worth. Sure, the superstars are expensive, but they’re also hard to find. Let yours go and your competitors, if they’re smart, will snap them up. “A great salesperson is a great salesperson, no matter what the economy. Let someone like that go and you’re only taking away a great revenue source for yourself,” says Muelhausen.

Client Cutbacks As tempting as it is to hold onto every client, it doesn’t always make sense to. “It’s important to keep the clients who are most profitable,” Boswell explains. “That might sound like a no-brainer, but many companies treat all customers equally. That’s a mistake.” Hanging onto all your clients can be problematic, Muelhausen agrees, particularly if you’ve reduced your staff. “Employee burnout becomes a risk,” he explains. “If your best people are working harder and getting paid the same amount, they’re not likely to stick around. “You have to do a customer-cost analysis,” he continues. “The mistake most people make is thinking that revenue drives expense....Some customers demand a lot more activity for the same amount of money. If you’re a $100 client with a 70 percent margin and I’m a $100 client with a 10 percent margin, you’re a much better client.”

The Thirteenth Annual

Space Savers Now that you’ve streamlined your staff and clients, it may be a good idea to focus on your office space. If you have fewer people, you probably need fewer desks, and even if you have the same number of people, you should ask yourself whether you can cut back on square footage. “I think the recession is an important opportunity for firms to really look at their real-estate portfolios, especially if they’re leasing,” says Mike Hillgameyer, who overseas firm-wide operation services for Crowe Chizek. Cutting space can be a tough call, though, especially if the economy is predicted to gain momentum anytime soon. “Business owners...tend to say things like, ‘I don’t want to get rid of that space, because things are going to pick up next year,’” says Muelhausen. “You need to be objective. If sales are down, and have been down, you don’t know for sure if they’re going to pick up in six months. Go with what you know to be true right now.” During economic downturns landlords are likely to renegotiate the terms of a lease to keep their buildings occupied. “There are a lot of cards you can play right now. You might be able to get a reduced rent per square foot, a certain time period when you might not have to pay rent, or some tenant improvement dollars,” Hillgameyer suggests. “Landlords also might allow you to reduce your footprint if you agree to extend the lease term.” Be creative—consider employee requests to work from home or telecommute. What’s more, at Crowe Chizek, a few offices work with a system called “Space on Demand,” a revamp of the hoteling concept. “It might be a desk, it might be a meeting room, it might be a project room,” Hillgameyer explains. “When people do come into the office, we offer services and amenities. We’ll put pictures of their children or awards they’ve won at their desks, or give them a nice biscotti or cup of gourmet coffee.” Also consider how and when you use your space. “We have one group that works weekends during busy periods, and instead of giving them their own floor, we have one group use a space Monday through Friday, and another use it on weekends,” says Hillgameyer. Simply think outside the box and you’ll find the savings you’ve been looking for.

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For program and registration information, call us at 414-229-3821 or email us at salt-conf@uwm.edu

www.icpas.org/insight.htm

May/June 2009

11


DIVERSITY

X Factor Now more than ever, Gen X women are a valuable commodity in the executive suite. By Renee Beckman, CPA

S

andwiched between 80 million Baby Boomers and some 78 million Millennials is Generation X. Gen X (roughly anyone born between 1965 and 1976) accounts for about 46 million people. Some have called it the lost generation, the underappreciated generation and even the overlooked generation. But one thing’s certain: Gen X amounts to nearly half the size of both the Baby Boomers (born between 1943 and 1964) and the Millennials (born between 1977 and 1998). With the flood of retiring Baby Boomers, Gen X will be responsible for filling key corporate leadership gaps, but with only half the manpower to do so. Given that, understanding the needs of Gen X women, and what will keep them in your ranks, becomes evermore vital. Why focus on Gen X women, specifically? Because, according to the Small Business

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Administration, 1-in-15 Gen X women are leaving corporations to find new employment opportunities or to pursue their own entrepreneurial endeavors. Charlotte Shelton and Laura Shelton, authors of TheNeXtRevolution:WhatGen X Women Want at Work and How Their BoomerBossesCanHelpThemGetIt, write, “This looming crisis constitutes more than a mere labor shortage; it’s a loss of the female perspective in leadership roles.” According to the authors, a 2004 Catalyst research study revealed higher profitability among companies that hired a greater number of women for senior management roles. “In fact,” they explain, “the companies with the most women on their senior management teams outperformed the businesses with the least women by at least 34 percent.”

What Makes Them Tick? Gen X women saw their parents face economic downturns and limited job opportunities. Not surprisingly, they mistrust institutions and give little loyalty to their companies. That’s not to say they have no loyalty whatsoever. Rather, it is reserved for their peers, bosses and work. The aggressive nature of corporate consolidations has added to their mistrust by stunting career growth for those standing at the threshold of senior management. Now, the corporate ladder is viewed more as a lattice, where movement up, down or out is a situational option. Since Gen X women are the first to face widespread divorce and single parenthood, its populace tends to be fiercely self-reliant and individualistic. This group has become known for working smarter—not harder—by learning on the fly and maneuvering fluidly between teams. Because of corporate America’s heavy focus on cost-cutting and downsizing over the last 20 years, there’s been very little on-the-job mentoring or long-term training for Gen X. As a result, members of this generation of employees have been forced to become efficient self-managers.


Keys to Retention What, then, can corporate America do to retain this crucial group of professional women, who make up approximately 46 percent of today’s workforce? Mike Shove, CEO of Computer Sciences Corporation-Australia and ceoforum.com, explains that, “Gen X-ers are no less willing than Boomers to do as the company directs, but they do expect something in return. As managers, they hold you more accountable in keeping your promises to look after them…you also have to take more time to explain things to get their commitment and be more open and transparent in your management style.” For these women, each project is viewed as a learning experience and a way to acquire marketable skills. However, they tend not to commit to things when they don’t have an intellectual understanding of the objective. In fact, research conducted by Charlotte and Laura Shelton found that 77 percent of Gen X women would quit in a minute if offered “increased intellectual stimulation” at a different company. Encouraging creativity and initiative-taking are key motivators for this demographic. Keeping them informed and stimulated by establishing clear performance expectations and measures without micromanaging creates an environment in which these women will thrive. Charlotte and Laura Shelton also found that Gen X women are intent on managing their own time: 51 percent would exit their current position for the chance to telecommute, and 61 percent would leave their current jobs if offered more flexible hours elsewhere. Recognition scored very low and power and prestige ranked last. Time management is indeed a significant factor among Gen X women, who tend to have different priorities than their Boomer bosses. This generation grew up valuing time spent with family and the flexibility to take part in personally enriching activities. Offering flex-time and telecommuting can significantly increase retention efforts. And, in fact, higher pay often will be conceded in exchange for the opportunity for greater work-life balance. Gen X ’s openness to wage and salary discussions often leads to quick realizations of discrepancies in pay equity. Even though federal laws protect women against discrimination, a pay gap exists. Census statistics released on Women's Equality Day—August 26, 2008—revealed that the gap between men's and women's earnings changed by less than one percent from 2006 to 2007; women earned 77.8 percent of men's wages in 2007. Clearly communicating to all staff that women receive the same pay as men for the same work is a vital retention tool. Career opportunities or the lack thereof has been a tiring point of contention for many Gen X women. It is imperative that employers understand that workers are more willing to stay in jobs that offer the opportunity for skills development and professional growth. If not given this opportunity, then Gen X women will quickly opt for an organization that is willing to invest in their development, or will set up an entrepreneurial venture on their own. The result for employers is diminishing retention numbers and increasing business competition in the marketplace. ICPAS member Renee Beckman, CPA, is a principal at Pareto, Inc., a finance, accounting and IT permanent and temporary staffing firm. She can be reached at 312.214.6144 or rbeckman@paretoinc.com.

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May 11, 2009 - Chicago, Illinois

e Astute Cash Flow Management: Improving Company Value Marian Powers, PhD - Adjunct Associate Professor, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University May 12, 2009 - Chicago, Illinois International Issues Conference May 19, 2009 - Chicago, Illinois Executive Roundtable Series: Obama’s Economic Policies - Good or Bad for Business? Robert Kallen - Visiting Professor of Economics, DePaul University and Adjunct Professor, Lake Forest Graduate School of Management June 3, 2009 - Chicago, Illinois

c How to Measure Financial Success: The Which, When, Why and How of Strategic Financial Measurements Thomas L. Zeller, PhD, MBA, CPA - Professor of Accountancy and University Scholar, School of Business Administration, Loyola University Chicago June 30, 2009 - Schaumburg, Illinois Executive Roundtable Series: The Lesser of Evils – Making Tough Decisions Richard Burger - Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, Secretary and Treasurer, Coleman Cable, Inc. and Faculty Member, Lake Forest Graduate School of Management July 21, 2009 - Chicago, Illinois

e Internal Controls in Today’s Business Environment Debra R. Hopkins, CPA, CIA - Director of CPA Review, Northern Illinois University September 25, 2009 - Chicago, Illinois Midwest Financial Reporting Symposium

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www.icpas.org/insight.htm

May/June 2009

13


IFRS

IFRS Guru Position yourself as an expert in all things IFRS. By Selena Chavis

I

t comes down to basic economics. When the demand is high and the supply is low, the commodity becomes much more valuable. In this case, that commodity is International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) knowledge. As the accounting industry readies itself for the adoption of IFRS, many companies are scrambling to find talent capable of getting them up to speed. That demand for talent is only expected to increase over the next decade. “It’s no longer a question of whether we are going to convert to IFRS, it’s when,” says Mike Shapow, regional vice president of Robert Half International (RHI). “This is the cutting edge of accounting.” In August 2008, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) unanimously voted to issue a proposed roadmap and rules changes for US public company adop-

Find Tomorrow’s Talent Today Industry professionals agree that companies need to approach the search for IFRS talent as a strategic recruiting effort. “For companies, it’s important that they identify someone in their firm as a champion,” says Resch, noting that clients are already asking about the availability of IFRS talent up front. Hopkins, agrees, adding that, “Companies should be looking for a sound technical person with a willingness to embrace global issues.” And it’s not just a competency for public accounting, says Resch. “Most of the air time has been given to public companies, but business globalization will drive IFRS needs across both public and private sectors.” What’s more, “In five years, if a particular university isn’t teaching IFRS fundamentals, we’re not likely to recruit from that school,” says Grant Thornton’s Cavanaugh. “In 10 years, US GAAP isn’t going to be talked about anymore,” she stresses. “You’ve got to get on the wagon. If you don’t start understanding what’s going on, you’re going to get left behind.” tion of IFRS by 2014. The proposal will make 110 of the United State’s largest publicly held companies eligible to begin using IFRS at the end of 2009 in connection with their 2010 filings. “Those two pieces—the roadmap and the rules changes—firmly placed IFRS on the table,” says Ben Resch, IFRS technical leader for the Midwest region at Deloitte. “If 2008 was the year of IFRS awareness, then 2009 will be the year of IFRS assessment for many companies.” Don’t let your guard down, says Debra Hopkins, CPA/CIA, director of CPA Review at Northern Illinois University. “Accounting professionals absolutely must be trained for IFRS,” she states. “IFRS would be a cost-cutting measure across the world, which is what companies are looking for today.”8

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Currently, nearly 100 countries require or allow the use of IFRS for the preparation of financial statements by publicly held companies. This growing acceptance puts increasing pressure on the United States to converge international standards with its own. Estimates suggest that more than 12,000 companies are currently reporting under IFRS, including listed companies in the European Union. Regardless of the US roadmap, many professionals agree that business globalization will continue to increase the demand for IFRS knowledge. “I almost can’t come up with a client that isn’t challenged by globalization on some level. Global accounting is an increasingly important cog in the wheel of how business is run today,” says Resch. “Companies are trying to market to international investors—they often need IFRS statements for that purpose.” Large firms like Grant Thornton are already seeking IFRS talent and creating their own internal pool of experts to serve clients, says Jennifer Cavanaugh, professional standards partner in the organization’s Chicago office. “We already have a number of clients on IFRS because they are subsidiaries of European companies,” she explains. “As more and more companies demand that skill set, we’ll have more and more staff apportioned that way.” It’s not just the big players though. In an unstable economy where smaller companies are being bought out by foreign players, Resch cautions that many are caught off guard by IFRS needs. “We’ve seen a number of smaller entities that are suddenly thrust into the realm of IFRS,” he explains. “They don’t have the time to plan.” To get up to speed, Shapow sees larger firms forming IFRS teams from within. “Last year, we had a large client that was way ahead

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of the curve,” he recalls. “They reached out to their Canadian subsidiary for talent. Canada is three years ahead of the United States in adoption.” Trends suggest that a number of companies, in fact, are starting with their overseas talent. Grant Thornton, for example, is leveraging the knowledge of experienced staff in Europe to serve US clients and get others trained internally. “I suspect that’s going to be expanded in the very near future,” says Cavanaugh, adding that the company has started an educational IFRS series for staff and clients as an introduction. “Next we’ll move to the more nittygritty technical aspects of the standard.” Deloitte kick-started its IFRS efforts by taking stock of partners and staff with experience working with overseas clients. Next, it identified 3,000 people internally “who we thought needed to have IFRS skills," Resch explains. To help them develop the necessary skills, the company created a comprehensive course curriculum with an accreditation system and CPE credits. “That is working well,” he says. The firm also recently announced the availability of a complete IFRS academic curriculum through its IFRS University Consortium, offering lectures and transcripts from Deloitte subject matter leaders, actual case studies and case solutions, and other materials. The course is available for free to all colleges and universities. Hopkins acknowledges that the halls of learning are behind in their efforts to make IFRS curricula available to students. “There’s a definite advantage for universities that are gearing up, but resources are tight,” she says. “Small universities need help, but the big firms are reaching out.” Deloitte’s IFRS University Consortium, for example, numbers approximately 150 colleges and universities since its launch in spring 2008. KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst and Young are also moving forward with strategic academic initiatives. Hopkins suggests that smaller firms that lack the necessary resources for training and education consider partnering with consortium groups that have an international sponsor and offer comprehensive education courses. “There’s a cost involved, but there’s a greater cost for not doing it,” she says. “You will become a dinosaur fast if you don’t gear up. Those firms that have done it already are pleased with the results.” Resch suggests three strategies for accountants. First, “Seek out those in your organization who are knowledgeable about IFRS and let them know you are interested in learning more,” he says. Second, stay apprised of transitional plans and US roadmap status through industry newsfeeds and other resources. And third, obtain specific skills in this area through seminars and online courses that can be found on websites dedicated to international financial reporting topics (such as www.IASPlus.com). It’s a small investment with great returns, says Resch. “I believe that in the next 8 to 10 years, IFRS will be what we do for a living. Even in the next 5 years I expect IFRS to develop as a core competency. It’s the next platform that will generate leaders in the field.” A new International Financial Re porting S tandards Task Force chaired by Debra Hopkins will brainstorm IFRS issues and provide IFRS programming, including: In May, an AICPA two-day class held in the ICPAS Education Center and a new International Issues Conference; in September, an IFRS Full-day Session by Debra Hopkins. Visit ICPAS at www.icpas.org for information.

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STRATEGY

Public Exposure Is it worth taking your business public when the economy is down? By Sheryl Nance-Nash

N

ot so long ago, companies were tripping over themselves to get to the head of the IPO line. These days, only the brave dare step up. “The IPO market is deplorable, even non-existent. I’ve been in practice nearly 30 years and I’ve never seen anything remotely comparable,” says Thomas Murphy, partner-in-charge of the Chicago corporate practice at the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery. The numbers aren’t pretty. Globally, only six companies were able to raise more than $100 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, down 97 percent year-over-year, says Frederick Lipman, author of InternationalandUS IPOPlanning:ABusinessStrategyGuide. In the United States, more than 100 companies withdrew or cancelled their plans to go public, adds Stephen Ferrara, a partner with BDO Seidman in Chicago. Total US IPO proceeds were approximately $30 billion in 2008, a 50-percent drop from 2007. Much of that money included the $18 billion from Visa, which was the largest US IPO in history. “If you exclude Visa, it was the worst IPO market since 1990,” says Ferrara. Many of those who ventured into IPO waters nearly drowned. “The average return on IPOs in 2008 was negative 32 percent,” Ferrara adds. “Poor economies or strong economies are not the problem with markets—uncertainty is. Stock analysts and investors love stability, not uncertainty,” says Mark Lundquist, cofounder of SellMyBusiness.com, an online resource for finding business, real estate and equipment for sale or lease. That uncertainty, plus the costs and complexities of Sarbanes-Oxley, have really hurt the public market, says Lundquist. Nobody expects a major turnaround any time soon. “Based on recent economic reports, we will be lucky if the economy picks up this year. Maybe the fourth quarter will bring an uptick in IPO activity. But in reality, it may be 2010 before we see market conditions

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show some real improvement. Because we’re in unprecedented economic times, no one really knows what the future holds at this point,” says Ferrara. Companies that are in declining industries, including retail, financial services and real estate, likely aren’t good candidates for an IPO in the near future, he adds. Who else should think twice? “Companies that need 5 years before reaching positive cash flows or any appreciable revenue, and possibly even energy-related products, unless there are some huge government incentives,” says Lundquist. Rather than selling equity in the public markets, companies might look at alternative ways to raise capital. For example, in late 2008, Chicago firm Entrex announced that it was institutionalizing an alternative new security structure known as “TIGRcubs™” (Top-line Income Generation Rights Certificates) for private and public companies. This security structure represents a fixed ownership interest in an issuer’s GAAP gross revenues, in consideration for a lump sum infusion of cash. This in turn provides investors with current income and avoids dependence on liquidity events as the sole source of investor returns. It‘s ideally suited for companies with annual revenues of between $5 million and $250 million. “TIGRcubs™ is an alternative security to equity and mezzanine financing for companies to use, and is attractive to investors because of its pricing and current income features” explains Entrex CEO Stephen Watkins. Chief among the advantages for an issuer is the fact that there is no equity dilution, which means that ownership percentages are retained. For investors, the advantage is that cash distributions are provided monthly and, unlike equity investments, returns are not dependent on liquidity events or market timing. “It’s a radical change that reverts back to the original and fundamental methods of


the regional security exchanges that were so successful where there was transparency,” says Watkins. Even with the risk, doom and gloom, going public still might be a savvy strategy for some. Two factors are making going public attractive now. “First, the SEC changed its rules just before the holidays, making it easier to conduct an IPO. The SEC recognizes that if banks and private lenders can’t provide the capital for companies to grow, it’s best to allow more companies to raise capital via shareholders,” says Lundquist. “Second, hedge funds and some investment banks have decided to take matters into their own hands, away from Wall Street, and are now aggressively seeking appropriate companies to invest in. Some investment banks that normally shied away from pre-review or early-stage companies now see that these opportunities may provide better returns than the Standard & Poor’s,” he explains. “It may be a good time, too, for companies with proven business models in mature industries that are generating significant cash and returns, that have a fast return on cash, but are looking to transition the business,” says Roger Hardy, CEO of Coastal Contacts, an online vision-care supplier based in Vancouver, Canada. If a company is already a household name, with great growth plans and a compelling reason for the money, then public may be an option, says Murphy. Companies that haven’t been so adversely impacted by the recession, such as healthcare businesses, energy and defense, also may make good candidates. What’s more, some companies will stand to benefit from the economic stimulus package. For those fortunate businesses, the timing might be right for an IPO. There isn’t likely to be a crowd of companies hankering for the spotlight. They’ll get their 15 minutes and hopefully more. So if the odds are in your favor, here’s what you need to consider. For starters, be clear about your objectives. “CEOs have to look hard at the IPO journey. Besides the often underestimated cost and resource implications to reach and maintain public status, you have to consider what being on the open market offers you in terms of support for ongoing share price. With stock prices so depressed, it’s hard to say where a company might price or what it can sustain for shareholders beyond that. If remaining as, or becoming, a public company doesn’t provide efficient access to

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capital (at a reasonable cost), along with shareholder liquidity, then what’s the value of being public?” asks Watkins. “The IPO process in itself is not the end all and be all that it’s chalked up to be. An IPO is not a kind of accomplishment of status, as it was once thought to be; it’s an activity that takes a tremendous amount of attention and resources, has its associated risks, and needs to be considered in relation to its benefits. It’s an extraordinary commitment, actually, and if alternatives to raising capital at less cost are available then they should be seriously considered,” he explains. Secondly, be willing to complete your transaction at a lower price. Think conservatively, says Murphy. “Don’t rush. Spend more time than usual planning and preparing for the offering. Don’t hurry to market to meet a window. Even if a window opens in this market, over-prepare and over-plan, because it will be hard to extrapolate from previous markets, since there’s no real comparison,” he explains. Slowing down will keep you grounded in those things that are important, such as researching the investment bank behind the IPO. “Gain an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the partner they are working with, including the bank’s success rate in completing IPOs, the bank’s knowledge of your industry, its track record in getting the price promised to the target company and for supporting the company in markets post-IPO,” explains Ferrara. Most importantly, ask yourself, “Will the IPO help my company in the future when seeking financing, acquiring businesses and recruiting/retaining talent?” and “Are we ready for the microscope?” You’ll be measured quarter to quarter, and senior management will be required to disclose personal compensation and benefit information. There will be less flexibility in managing your business, since you’ll be required to report to an independent board. And you’ll need to guarantee the appropriate internal corporate structure to support a public company’s reporting requirements. If after a good, long look the answer is decidedly a go, know that success is possible in any market, even this one. Says Ferrara, “The top performing IPOs in 2008 were all niche businesses that had a distinct market for their products. They returned approximately 30 percent on average.” Not so bad after all, perhaps.


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TECHNOLOGY

On the Move WiFi is everywhere; mobile technologies are it. But are you putting yourself at risk by using them? By Theresa Carey

W

hether you’re on the road or just out to dinner, mobile devices used for everything from scheduling meetings to paying bills online are part of our everyday lives. But are we risking identity theft, corporate data loss, or an empty bank account by using them? Probably the biggest risk facing mobile device users is theft or loss. Imagine forgetting your laptop at the airport, or having your iPhone pickpocketed. Wave good-bye to email accounts, logins, photos, and more. Then there’s the WiFi peril. Thieves use strategies such as packet sniffing, phishing, and pharming to steal login information. Not familiar with these terms? Well, you should be. Packet sniffing refers to software or hardware that logs data being transmitted over a digital network. The intent is usually

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INSIGHT www.icpas.org/insight.htm

benign—to locate trouble spots or highlight attempted break-ins early on. But packet sniffers also can be used to steal data such as passwords. Former FBI agent Geoff Bickers suggests using a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) to tunnel your web traffic through an open access point and therefore avoid sniffing. You can install a VPN on your mobile devices for a monthly fee between $7.50 and $15. (Take a look at HotspotVPN [www.hotspotvpn.com] or Hotspot Shield [www.hotspotshield.com].) Or you can use non-commercial open source VPN equivalents, but these require technical expertise to deploy. Linux users, however, will have relatively few problems. An even better option, says Bickers, is to “Leave open WiFi for dead and join the rest of us on EVDO (Evolution Data Optimized, [www.evdoinfo.com]) or GPRS (General Packet Radio Service). It's faster, more secure than WiFi, and not that much more expensive when you realize you won't be wasting time looking for a signal or worrying about what you can and can't do on it.” Next on the list of threats is phishing, which uses a seemingly legitimate email to deceive a recipient into communicating confidential information. For example, an email might claim to be from your bank, and sensitive financial information, like a Social Security or bank account number, is needed ASAP. In pharming, the victim is lured into making transactions on a phony website that looks like the homepage of a bank or legitimate investment company. These sites typically ask for a lot more log-in information, including Social Security number and credit card information, than a legitimate site would do in order to verify your identity. One way to thwart these scammers is to use a digital security ID card, which is the size of a credit card with a small numerical display. The number changes every minute


or so, in sync with the broker’s system. A user logs in with his or her ID and password, and then types in the current number. Many banks and brokers make these “two-factor authentication” cards available to their customers upon request. Scott McGrath, director of product management for Rave Mobile Safety, says that, ”Mobile security risks are much the same as those confronting web surfers. Watch out for phishing, and use caution and common sense when clicking links from emails, SMS messages and Twitter feeds. If you want to get to the web, type in the web address rather than trusting a link, and use bookmarks in your browser. Even at the cost of typing on a small or virtual keyboard, never reveal passwords.” If you’re making any financial transactions from a mobile device, make sure the firms you’re working with employ encryption for transmitted data, and that they’re monitoring transactions for unusual behavior. Most banks and brokers are now on the lookout for activity that originates from geographical areas that they know are hotbeds of criminal activity, and have been successful at stopping the great majority of these intrusions. Another major line of defense is firewall software, which monitors your Internet connection and alerts you to intruder attacks. It’s also a good idea to disable file and printer sharing, especially on Windows-based laptops, when working in a public hotspot. You should password-protect extremely sensitive files, and consider encrypting them as well. Jamie Rawson, a technical instructor at VM Ware, Inc., who taught security at Sun Microsystems for over a decade, says, "Encrypt everything you send across wireless connections. Once you send data over a medium that you do not control 100 percent, you risk it being intercepted by unauthorized folks. Encryption is the best protection to reduce that exposure to acceptable levels." Also password-protect your mobile devices, including your laptop. While this won’t stop a determined crook, it will slow down the amateurs. If your laptop carries confidential data, you should seriously consider some kind of biometric security, such as a fingerprint recognition device. Your laptop isn’t the only problem though. The incredible popularity of Apple’s iPhone has made it a target, especially now that it’s possible to write third-party applications for the platform. In the “Settings” menu, you can define a 4-digit passcode lock, which should be one of the first things you do when you buy your phone. The passcode can be set so that all the data the iPhone holds, including contacts, text messages, and email login, is erased if someone enters the wrong code 10 times. Phone number spoofing is another trick being perpetrated against owners of various Smartphones with built-in web browsers. Let’s say you’re searching for a copy shop or a restaurant while you’re traveling, and you want to call one that came up on your device’s web browser. Some crooks are formatting the dial links so that you are charged for an expensive 900 number or overseas number. You may need a defibrillator when you read your next mobile phone bill should that happen. Mobile devices, whether phones or laptops, are indispensable to business today. It’s not as though we can say, “These gadgets are risky; let’s not use them.” It’s simply a matter of knowing what the risks are, and doing whatever necessary to protect against them.

2009 | call for nominations

Women toWatch A

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A

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D

S

The Illinois CPA Society, together with the AICPA, is once again looking for outstanding women who have made significant contributions to the accounting profession, their organizations, and to the development of women as leaders. Awards will be given in two categories:

experienced leaders • mentoring other professionals • public or community service • major or unique contributions to the profession • leadership in workplace improvements • authorship of professional articles

emerging leaders • demonstration of leadership • contributions to the profession • creation and implementation of unique initiatives in the workplace • public or community service • involvement with her alma mater

For more information or to nominate a deserving woman, visit www.icpas.org, or call 800.993.0407, ext. 220.

Deadline for submissions is June 20, 2008 www.icpas.org/insight.htm

MAY/JUNE 2009

23


WEALTH

Love & Money Protecting your client’s assets before they tie the knot goes beyond traditional prenups. By Janet Haney

R

omance isn’t all wine and roses. The nation’s divorce rate is proof of that. In fact, marriage is just as much about protecting assets as it is about love these days. “You don’t know what the future will bring, so arm yourself with the best defense,” advises Mark Gilbert, CPA/PFS, of Reason Financial Advisors. “Look at your future spouse as a future creditor down the road.” That might not seem the most romantic sentiment, but it is, perhaps, the most practical. A recent University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business study reveals that divorce rates in the United States fluctuate depending on age, education and length of marriage. "The ubiquitous 50-percent divorce rate is unlikely to ever be true for those who married in the past few decades," says Betsey Stevenson, assistant professor of business and public policy at Wharton. "For many of these folks, their divorce rates so far have fallen substantially compared with previous generations." So why worry? “My view is that it is less expensive if you have a premarital agreement that delineates what is marital property and what the rights are to maintenance,” says Barbara Grayson, partner at Mayer Brown LLP in Chicago. “Without a premarital agreement, there is room for more vigorous litigation. Since a premarital agreement is negotiated when the future spouses are feeling more fondly about each other, they will be more generous,” she says. “What clients are worried about is facing a long, drawn-out court battle.” Commonly, spouses-to-be will establish either a revocable or an irrevocable trust to protect individual or business-related assets. The grantor of a revocable trust determines who will serve as the trustee and who the beneficiaries will be upon death. The trust is considered part of the grantor’s estate, and assets are therefore subject to individual taxation. The trust can be changed or cancelled during the grantor’s lifetime, and con24

INSIGHT www.icpas.org/insight.htm

tributions can be withdrawn while the grantor is still living. The grantor of an irrevocable trust, on the other hand, cannot take contributions out of the trust, but can give away assets held while he or she is still living (in cases of succession, for example). The downside is that the grantor effectively eliminates all of his or her rights of asset ownership. On the upside, he or she is relieved of tax implications on the income generated by the assets. “The separation of assets is the most important thing. If you have assets keep them titled in your name,” says Kevin Metke, private client advisor in the tax practice at Deloitte & Touche in Chicago. This means keeping bank accounts and titles to homes and businesses independent. Each person also should be represented by his or her own attorney. Gloria Birnkrant, CPA, partner at NSBN LLP, suggests that both parties attach a signed balance sheet to the prenuptial agreement, acknowledging which assets will remain separate. Non-marital property such as a house purchased before marriage, an investment portfolio or an inheritance generally goes back to the individual who holds the title. There are exceptions, however. “How property is held can differ from state to state, and the rules covering property rights differ from state to state,” Birnkrant warns. If the assets increase in value during the marriage, or if a spouse buys additional property with income from the original assets, it might all be tagged as marital property upon divorce. “Meticulously maintain the separate property and the income from it so that the separate property doesn’t get comingled with the community property,” Birnkrant advises. “This is the usual problem for couples and creates issues concerning which property is really separate and which property, by comingling, has become community. Keep detailed records of the source of the assets and the income from those assets.”


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MARCH/APRIL 2009

25


TAX

Talking Points The end of tax season doesn’t mean the end of tax talk. Here, three developments you should know about. By Harvey Coustan, CPA

T

ax returns have been filed, and the craziness of tax season has come to an end for another year. But tax developments are a constant. In particular, there are three developments that I want to share with you. First, while we’ve lived for months with the final preparer penalty regulations and Notice 2009-5 that accompanied them, there is one feature of the rules that escaped me the first time I read through them. This rule should save a lot of angst on returns bearing taxpayer understatements that don’t rise above statutory thresholds. Second, I’ll tell you about a recent IRS memorandum that provided “Interim Guidance on Preparer Penalty Procedures for Employment Tax.” And third, I’ll describe a court case that reiterated a liberal application of “work-product” protection for taxpayer’s accrual workpapers, but didn’t provide any clear direction on whether disclosure of those workpapers to outside auditors waives the privilege.

Avoiding the Preparer Penalty As most of us realize, an understatement of tax will only invoke a “substantial understatement” penalty for the taxpayer in a situation where it exceeds $5,000 or 10 per-

26

INSIGHT www.icpas.org/insight.htm

cent of the correct tax (if the 10 percent amount is greater). For C corporations, the threshold is $10,000, but the trigger point, once that amount is exceeded is 10 percent of the correct tax. If the C Corporation’s understatement exceeds $10 million, however, it is “substantial,” and the penalty can apply even if 10 percent of the correct tax is more than $10 million. The preparer penalty has no thresholds. Once there is an understatement, the penalty can apply. This dichotomy has existed ever since the preparer penalty was first enacted, and has created some tension between preparers and their clients. Before May 2007, the preparer’s standard for avoiding penalties for nondisclosed positions was “a realistic possibility of success,” a lower standard than substantial authority, which was and continues to be the taxpayer’s standard for nondisclosed tax return positions. This means that, before May 2007, there were fewer situations where the conflict arose. Even in situations where the taxpayer’s position failed to have substantial authority but the taxpayer threshold was not exceeded, the position had to meet a lower standard for the preparer to avoid a penalty. For a while, from May 2007 until October 2008, the preparer’s standard was higher than the taxpayer’s, and only some preparerfriendly IRS rules for meeting disclosure obligations prevented conflicts. These friendly IRS rules didn’t provide relief in those situations where the taxpayer avoided the penalty, because it was lower than the thresholds, however. Now, with the preparer’s standard for nondisclosed positions reduced to the same level as the taxpayer’s, the IRS has provided relief for this scenario. Conflict can be avoided in those situations where an income tax return position invokes a preparer penalty because it doesn’t have substantial authority, but will not invoke a taxpayer understatement penalty because the amount of the understatement falls below the penalty thresholds.8


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Treasury Regulations Section 1.6694-2(d)(3) indicates that the signing preparer will be considered as satisfying disclosure requirements, “For returns or claims for refund that are subject to penalties pursuant to section 6662 other than the accuracy-related penalty attributable to a substantial understatement of income tax under section 6662(b)(2) and (d), (if) the tax return preparer advises the taxpayer of the penalty standards applicable to the taxpayer under section 6662. The tax return preparer must also contemporaneously document the advice in the tax return preparer’s files.” If the preparer describes any other penalties that can be applied under that same code section, and documents the advice in his or her file, this “disclosure” surrogate will avoid the preparer penalty as long as the position has a reasonable basis. The other taxpayer penalties contained in this code section are imposed for negligence, substantial valuation misstatements, substantial overstatement of penalty liabilities, and substantial estate or gift tax valuation understatements. One caveat—this relief does not apply to tax shelters, listed transactions, or reportable transactions that have a significant purpose of tax avoidance. Positions that meet any of those categories require a more-likely-than-not chance of success, and disclosure will not avoid the preparer penalty.

ment of a taxpayer’s liability due to an unreasonable position that the preparer either knew or reasonably should have known about. A higher penalty is applied if the understatement was due to willful or reckless preparer conduct. Since paid preparers are required to sign these returns, penalties can be imposed for failure to sign and other actions under Internal Revenue Code Section 6695. The memorandum also indicates that, during all field and office examinations, a determination based on oral testimony and/or written evidence will be made concerning whether the case supports the development of a preparer penalty issue. Examiners are required to comment on preparer penalties on all cases examined. Information on preparer penalty applicability will be kept in a separate file from the taxpayer’s case file, and the IRS examiner cannot propose or discuss the preparer penalty in the presence of the taxpayer. Generally, the employment tax examination must be completed at the group level before the preparer penalty is proposed. Manager approval must be obtained, and the IRS Return Preparer Coordinator must be contacted prior to initiating a preparer penalty case. Many practitioners prepare these forms, and the application of the penalties to preparers of employment tax returns adds a layer of risk we all should be aware of.

Preparer Penalties for Employment Tax Returns

Tax Accrual Workpaper Protection

A recent IRS memorandum provides “Interim Guidance on Preparer Penalty Procedures for Employment Tax” for employment tax territory managers, group managers and specialists. Issued by the IRS chief of Employment Tax Operations, the memorandum is a reminder that, since May 2007, employment tax returns (e.g. Forms 940, 941) are subject to preparer penalties if there is an understate-

Finally, in January of this year, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s decision in Textron (Rhode Island Dist Ct , 2007-1, USTC ¶50,605) that certain tax accrual workpapers prepared by Textron were protected under “work-product doctrine.” The Appellate Court, however, vacated the determination that work-product protection was not waived (by disclosure to Textron’s auditors, Ernst & Young [E&Y]) and remanded for the District Court “to reassess…the question of whether disclosure of E&Y’s workpapers would reveal the information contained in Textron’s own workpapers.” In addition, the District Court was also asked to “assess the discoverability of E&Y’s workpapers by determining whether Textron has the legal right or ability to obtain these documents.” The question, then, that has been the subject of much conjecture continues unanswered: Will disclosure to outside auditors of company-prepared tax-accrual or tax-reserve workpapers waive the work-product privilege? The Appeals Court upheld the “because of” test applied by its circuit to determine that work-product protection exists even if the documents were prepared for more than one purpose—as long as they were prepared in anticipation of litigation. In Textron, the papers also were prepared to determine the amount of reserves for income taxes that were necessary for financial statement purposes, and to justify that amount so that E&Y could certify the statements. The Fifth Circuit has applied a “primary purpose” test that rejects the protection’s application where there is more than an anticipation of litigation purpose for the document preparation. Of course, the conflict between appeals courts can eventually pave a road to the Supreme Court. The Textron court remanded the case to the District Court for a ruling on the questions described here, but the government can request an enbanc (full court) review by the First Circuit or, I’ve heard, can appeal the case to the Supreme Court without resolution of the waiver issue. I will be writing more about the case as it proceeds through the system.

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INSIGHT www.icpas.org/insight.htm

HarveyCoustanisanErnst&Youngretiredpartner.Heispresently consulting on substantive technical and professional standards issuesandhasbeenanexpertwitnessinanumberofcases.


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Where are the

top jobS? 30

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The job market may be stuck in a rut, but top finance spots can still be won. By Derrick Lilly

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ow may not seem like the best time to think about promotions, but even in the face of an economic downturn, lucrative jobs in finance may be within your reach. Why? It’s simple: Highly qualified finance professionals are a necessity, whatever the economic climate, and, in fact shake-ups in the marketplace often create opportunities for career advancement. “Organizations can’t afford to operate without executive levels in finance,” says Toby Coffey, director of Permanent Placement Services with Robert Half International in Chicago. In fact, the RobertHalfGlobalFinancialEmploymentMonitor reports that employers around the world are having difficulty finding accounting and finance talent, and the toughest positions to fill are in the C-suite. So, how do you position yourself as the best candidate to fill that empty executive seat? www.icpas.org/insight.htm

May/June 2009

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“There is no substitute for education,” says Coffey. “Credentials like the Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) are the ‘gold standards,’ and there’s absolutely going to be opportunities available to professionals with those certifications.” Advanced degrees like a Master’s in Tax and credentials like the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA) also can help you stand out in the marketplace, he says. “When companies come to hire at the executive levels, they have the expectation to find as many items on their laundry list as possible, and each one of those shaves off percentage points of the population qualified for that role,” says Coffey. To stay in the running you’ll need expertise in various business-critical areas. The Global Financial EmploymentMonitor cites industry-specific experience, regulatory compliance expertise, public company knowledge, familiarity with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and an understanding of international markets as the top five attributes sought in executivelevel candidates. Technical expertise aside, superb communication skills will help you move up the ranks. Jeramy Kaiman, division manager at Chicago-based recruiting firm Garelli Wong & Associates, stresses, “There’s a big difference between an accountant who can do a job and an accountant who can get in front of board members, sales people and customers. That’s what determines the difference between a front-office and back-office accountant in the market, and the front-office accountant is typically going to get promoted to much more visible roles.” Dependability doesn’t hurt either. “There’s a lot to be said for someone who is loyal to an organization that comes up through the ranks and has a track record of success,” says Coffey. “There is no substitute for someone who is trustworthy, where you know their value and worth because you have worked with them day-in and day-out. Those kinds of people are often going to be the first to get promotion opportunities.” Now that you have an idea of the skills and experience needed to get you to the top, all you have to do is choose the best path to get you there.

Go Public “Public accounting is a phenomenal place for accountants to get their technical skills sharpened,” says Kaiman. And while there are many significant positions to be won in public accounting, probably the most prominent is partner. “Financially, partners do really well; they do better than many corporate CFOs. It’s very lucrative, but getting there is a lot of work,” says Kaiman. 32

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Aside from extensive financial expertise, a partner’s strategic planning, negotiation and business analytic expertise must be top-notch. “A must-have is a business development mind,” says Kaiman. “Without that it’s hard to become a partner because you have to generate business.” In fact, a partner’s primary focus is to effectively manage and grow the business. Not surprisingly then, paychecks directly reflect performance in this area. “Salaries obviously depend on how profitable the company is,” says Coffey, “but partners at successful firms can make in excess of $1 million a year.”

“Those individuals make a tremendous amount of money,” says Coffey. “But there is a very tough lifestyle that goes along with it, and it’s so competitive that many of those positions will not even be available to the everyday finance professional.” PE firms demand financial leaders capable of handling typical CFO duties, while continually analyzing strategic acquisition targets and managing the CFOs at their portfolio companies. Because of these extensive demands, total compensation commonly surpasses $1 million and is often accompanied by significant equity options and payoffs when portfolio companies are spun-off.

Climb the Corporate Ladder

Turnaround Profits

Transitioning into the corporate sector can be an extremely rewarding career move. “Individuals that work at public accounting firms have a lot of success finding jobs in the corporate world; they are very sought after candidates,” says Coffey. In fact, publicsector experience is highly valued among corporations and private equity and consulting firms, alike. To get on a successful career track, Kaiman suggests identifying an industry you have a passion for because, generally speaking, “The people that make it all the way up stay in an industry—and within a niche in that industry—throughout most of their careers.” The size of an organization also plays a significant role in determining upward mobility. In large organizations, the top positions may include a VP of finance, treasurer and CFO; however, the CFO alone often fills multiple rolls in mid- and small-cap organizations, or in organizations that emphasize a hands-on management structure. Here, a CFO’s duties may comprise strategic management of the accounting and finance functions, procedures and policies; compliance; business risk; human resources; investments; insurance; and budgeting processes. As a CFO, all of your skills will be put to test—especially the softer ones. “The CFO is the face of the organization from a finance perspective,” says Kaiman. “If a company wants to go public or is publicly traded, the CFO is going to be doing the ‘road show’ with board members, investors and analysts.” While the current economy has taken a chunk out of the earnings of many, base salaries for corporate CFOs typically stretch into six-figures and may surpass $1 million at large organizations and multinationals. What’s more, performance bonuses and incentives can often increase total annual compensation by 30 to 40 percent.

Join the PE Elite The private equity (PE) market has heated up over the last few years, and its lucrative nature is garnering increasing attention. The opportunities and management structures found in PE firms are very similar to those of public accounting firms and corporations, but, Kaiman explains, “Finance and accounting jobs inside PE firms require very elite talent.” PE firms look for the best-of-the-best and expect no less. Associates and principals on “deal teams” can reap substantial rewards, but the big money is again in the C-suite.

Due to the ailing economy, the CTPartners 2009 Executive Hot Jobs Report identified restructuring officers, turnaround experts and distressed asset managers as the top three finance careers in the spotlight for the year. Turnaround consultants analyze and restructure distressed company operations and balance sheets in order to return organizations to profitability. They also help to spearhead bankruptcy reorganizations and company mergers and acquisitions. Organizations in need of a turnaround consultant will look for someone who is “battle-tested,” says Coffey, because “ownership in these organizations wants that comfort level of not only hiring someone who says they can do what they need to, but who has previously done it successfully.” As a turnaround specialist, expect to be met with immense challenges—and the monetary rewards befitting them. Base compensation can range from $500,000 to $1 million, and is often accompanied by substantial restricted stock options or an equity stake in the restructured company.

Find the Road to the Top It’s easy to find your inspiration in money and prestige, but, says Kaiman, “As you move up in a career there is going to be a sacrifice made each rung up the ladder.” If you win an executive-level position, prepare to trade personal time for longer work hours. The success or failure of a business is directly tied to its finances, and that responsibility will rest heavily on your shoulders. What’s more, significant pressure to “outperform” will likely come from ownership, board members and investors who will be analyzing your financial performance and management techniques. “As long as you’re honest with yourself about what your motivators are, you will find the jobs and companies to fit them,” Kaiman explains. And if money and prestige are indeed your motivators, then networking is key. “If an organization is going to open up an upper-level position there are probably a few people that they are going to use as networking resources,” says Coffey. Organizations often look to established business partners and individuals they have dealt with over the years for potential recruits or candidate suggestions. “There is a lot of comfort in that,” says Coffey, “because they already know the quality and the caliber of the individual they’re getting.” www.icpas.org/insight.htm

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crossed

cultures Did you give your Russian colleagues the thumbs up after that impressive presentation? Yeah, well, you might as well have told them to “%@$#-$@#!” By Judy Giannetto

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et’s face it, it’s really easy to mess things up when you’re doing business in another country. No matter how impressive your credentials or high your social status, wear a yellow and green tie to your business meeting in Brazil, use red ink to write a thank you note in China, or give the thumbs up to the captain of Russian industry (the equivalent of the middle finger in the United States), and you might as well pack your bags and book your ticket home. Everything from what you wear to the gifts you give carry a cultural nuance. Think of Former President George H. W. Bush when he handed Chinese Premier Li Peng a pair of cowboy boots, embellished with the American and Chinese flags. A great gesture of Asian/American goodwill, wouldn’t you say? Actually, no. Since the sole of the foot is considered the dirtiest, basest part of the body, Bush couldn’t have given a more flagrant—albeit unintentional—slap in the face.

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Even in the current economic climate, cultural knowledge is extremely relevant. “Cultural IQ has never been more important, since the volume of international business is increasing and companies can’t afford to make mistakes. Mistakes can ruin careers,” says Sheida Hodge, president of management consulting firm HIA and former managing director of the Cultural Consulting Division at Berlitz International. GMAC Global Relocation Services’ recently released 2008 GlobalRelocationTrendsSurvey reveals that, of the 154 companies interviewed across various industries, an overwhelming 95 percent plan to increase the number of employees they send on international assignment, or, at the very least, to keep numbers at 2007 levels. This is due in part to the opportunities presented by fast-developing economies, particularly Brazil, Russia, India and China—collectively known as BRIC. And while you know that Brazil is hot, Russia is cold, India brews great tea and China makes great dim sum, do you really know anything about the management styles and negotiation intricacies involved in doing business with these cultures? “Too often we find that companies are coming to us when things start to break down, rather than taking steps to minimize the chances of a mishap in the first place,” says Diana Rowland, a cross-cultural trainer, consultant and author, and president of Rowland & Associates, Inc., a cross-cultural consulting firm. “The American market is fairly forgiving, but in much of the rest of the world, damaged relationships and market faux pas are not easily repaired. When crossing cultures, an ounce of prevention can be worth 1,000 pounds of cure.”

B is for Brazil Brazilians are a passionate, expressive, tactile people. Body language is exuberant, handshakes are heartfelt and eye contact is strong. Brazilians are also extremely sociable. Meetings and business dinners tend to be informal, starting and ending with a lot of small talk (soccer, the family, etc.), intended to build the basis of a long and trusting relationship. If you’ve prepared an agenda, don’t bother bringing it. That bond-building aspect of business carries over to team-building as well. The cohesiveness of the group depends on the strength of the relationships forged—and strong relationships take time. Each team member will want to know his or her precise role, otherwise there’s the danger of encroaching on someone else’s turf. At the same time, the chain of command in Brazilian business is extremely hierarchical, with key decisions being made at the most senior levels of the company. Personal relationships—and therefore internal politics—are extremely important and may impact the unofficial chain of command. Remember, too, that what you say carries much more weight than what you write. When you send a written proposal, contract or other document, you should follow it up with a phone call or personal visit. Don’t rely on email, IM, text or any other technology to do the job for you.

R is for Russia The same is true of Russia, where people tend to trust what they hear over what they read—not that surprising when you put contemporary Russia in the context of old Russia, where mistrust of state authority and its bureaucracies ran rampant. Relationship36

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building, business entertaining and face-to-face meetings are therefore a must. But there’s a significant challenge to this in a culture often stereotyped as at once dour, volatile and corrupt. Generally speaking, the country follows a centralized system of business management, where a strong central leader carries the responsibility for strategic decision-making, with little consultation with others, save, perhaps, a small group of trusted advisors. Given this, negotiate with individuals as close to the top of the chain of command as possible. If you do go straight to the top, you’ll find decisions are made swiftly. Deal with middle management, though, and you’re on the road to nowhere. “Always start at the highest authority level and remember that people in BRIC countries would like to work with people at the same levels,” says Hodge. ”Sometimes you might reach out to someone at the higher level in your company to pave the way before you take action.” Micro-management is the rule in Russia. Teams are not asked to take initiative, but rather to efficiently carry out explicit directions. It follows that meetings are extremely formal, and generally for information-sharing purposes only. By the time you get to a team meeting, the likelihood is that the big decisions have already been made. Think carefully about this—without access to “behind-thescenes” discussions, you’re unlikely to have any impact on the decision-making process. What’s more, don’t be surprised if you don’t see a lot of document-sharing, conversational give-and-take or expressive body language during your meetings. Responses are not given impulsively. Patience is considered a great virtue in Russian culture. And yours might well be tested. Final offers most likely are not final offers at all—just as long as you have the patience to hold out for the lucrative deal you’ve been after. And while your lack of punctuality would be considered extremely rude, your patience in dealing with your Russian colleagues’ lateness will be proof of your worth. Unlike the other countries covered in the BRIC group, Russia focuses more on short-term gains than on long-term ones. This is a culture that grabs opportunity by the horns, and your Russian colleagues will want to know the short-term benefits of their collaboration with you.

I is for India A fascinating aspect of Indian culture is the caste system, where class is determined by heredity and strictly adhered to. Where the American Dream tells you that you can change your social position if you just work hard enough, the caste system tells you that your lot in life is predestined and unshakable. Not surprisingly, this system permeates business structures as well, and tells a familiar BRIC story: Companies are extremely hierarchical, and the boss—of which there is clearly one—is unequivocally the boss. Explicit orders are issued, never questioned, and carried out to the letter via the cut-and-dry chain of command. The team leader takes responsibility—in its entirely— for the team’s successes and failures. If anything does go wrong, he is expected to handle the situation personally. A great advantage of doing business in India is that English is one of the nation’s 15 official languages, and it’s rare to find a business person who doesn’t speak English excellently. This is fortunate given that, “For business people to learn a BRIC language is a waste of time. To become fluent to the point of making a differ-


CULTURAL FAUX PAS BRaZIl: Avoid wearing yellow and green—the country’s national colors—or purple and black—the colors used in Holy Week processions. And don’t assume that it’s fine to speak Spanish—Brazil’s national language is Portuguese. Never start into business discussions before your host does. And the A-OK hand gesture is absolutely not A-OK—in fact, it’s an obscenity. RUssIa: Never be late for an appointment—and don’t express aggravation if your host is late. Patience is a virtue—no really, it is. Don’t stand with your hands in your pockets, or take your jacket off during negotiations. But do take your gloves off before shaking hands. Never show the soles of your shoes—the basest part of the body—and don’t speak or laugh loudly in public— you’ll be considered rude. Oh, and that A-OK thing about Brazil? It applies to Russia as well.

ence will take years. These days, people don’t have the time, and a little knowledge could be dangerous,” says Hodge. “On the other hand,” Rowland adds, “learning to speak ‘international English’ is imperative. This means leaving idioms and colloquialisms at home. I know someone who spent 6 months on a difficult negotiation in Asia. At one point he responded to his counterpart’s comment with, ‘That’s a no-brainer’ meaning to convey that the suggestion was acceptable without needing thought. This, however, was the final straw in their dealings when the man sitting across the table from him thought it was an assessment of his intelligence.” Note also that saying “no” in India (as well as in China) is considered an insult. Unless you get an unequivocal “yes” (not “yes, possibly” or “yes, if all goes well”), the answer most likely is “no.” “Americans have been conditioned from childhood to ask questions when they don’t understand and to tell it like it is,” Rowland explains. “But in the Chinese and Indian cultures, respecting hierarchy and saving face are guiding values, so people are reluctant to tell superiors or clients that they don’t understand or that something won’t work. The problem only becomes apparent when deadlines are missed, the product has flaws, or other predicaments come up that spell business trouble.”

C is for China Guanxi—the concept of forging influential, personalized networks—is the crux of Chinese society, a place where diplomacy and accord are favored over bluntness and debate, and where respect—for elders, influencers and leaders—is synonymous with honor. Naturally, then, the code of conduct for business meetings is extremely formal. For example, business cards are always exchanged on first meetings and treated reverentially—hold the card in both hands and study it closely. Whatever you do, don’t glance at it, jot down a few notes on the back of it and then shove it in your pocket. Handshakes are light and lingering (a bow or nod may be used instead), eyes are lowered as a mark of respect, and body language is restrained—and definitely non-tactile. “Americans like to slip into a casual informality,” Rowland explains. “But in these hierarchical countries, formality and respect for status are essential. And it’s hard to overstate the irreparable damage that can be done by causing someone to lose face by criticizing them in front of others or exposing their weakness.”

IndIa: Don’t stand with your hands on your hips (an aggressive gesture) or beckon someone with the “dog call” (palm raised, wagging finger), which is considered an insult. Whistling is a definite no-no, as well. Also, don’t wear all-white or all-black, which are considered unlucky, perhaps because they’re often worn by widows. As an example of the intricacies of culture in business negotiations, note that saying “thank you” to your host at the end of a meal is considered a form of payment and therefore an insult. ChIna: Don’t ever point with your index finger; use an open palm instead. Always address your colleagues by title, not by first name. Do not eat or drink before your host does—and always taste all the dishes you are offered. Do not discuss business during a meal, and whatever you do, don’t stick your chopsticks straight up in your bowl—it’s considered bad luck. “People in China and India don’t express emotions as readily as they do in Brazil and Russia,” says Hodge. ”Being group-oriented in these countries relates most to the level of importance of a person, and then to task.” Even when it comes to business entertaining, formality reigns— seating arrangements are linked to perceptions of hierarchy and social position, and gift giving takes on ritual status. There’s a fine line to tread here. Gifts should be thoughtful but not extravagant, and given in the spirit of friendship rather than business, since they otherwise may be misconstrued as a bribe. It’s wise to give the gift to the company, rather than singling out a specific person. Always wrap the gift and expect it to be refused three times (in order to not appear greedy) before being graciously accepted. Even then, the gift will be unwrapped in private. If you are receiving a gift, follow the same protocol. Unlike Russia, with its short-term take on business opportunities, China, as a culture, believes strongly in the merits of longevity. Incorporate long-term objectives into your proposal and you’ll be upping your chances of a successful deal. Don’t expect any quick decisions though. Business meetings tend to take place in series, during which relationships are forged and trust is built. While Brazil, Russia, India and China are very much in the limelight these days, cultural knowledge is a must for anyone whose work carries them into international waters—wherever those waters may be.

OBJECTS OF IRE When gift-giving in China, it’s best to wrap your gift in plain red paper, the color of luck. Avoid blue, black or white, which are funerary colors. If giving a group of one object, avoid the number four or any multiple of four, which is symbolic of death. Six, eight and nine are considered lucky numbers. What’s more, don’t give any of the following objects: GReen hats: Symbols of cuckoldry. CloCks: Symbols of mortality—tantamount to a death wish. handkeRChIefs: Associated with funerals. shaRp oBjeCts: Symbolic of severed ties. Red Ink: Symbolic of severed ties. footweaR: An insult (extends to anything associated with the sole of the foot).

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rough weather a guide for

By Carolyn Tang

Climate changes are bringing on a tidal wave of natural disasters, with a huge social and economic impact.


With earthquakes and forest fires on the West Coast, hurricanes down South and flooding in the Midwest, businesses today are keenly aware of the murky and uncertain aftermath that follows a natural disaster. Whatever the nature of the event, the outcome, potentially, could be devastating: Death or significant injury to employees, suppliers, and/or customers; incapacitated operations; devalued financial standings; and even a shattered public image. According to Frank Rudewicz, managing director at BDO Consulting, the basic objective when it comes to managing a crisis remains fundamentally the same: Secure your premises, protect personnel and ensure business continuity. A 2007 report authored by Rudewicz reveals that 44 percent of businesses that lose records in a disaster never resume business. Even so, the majority of businesses spend less than 3 percent of their total budget on disaster recovery planning, and most don’t have an emergency recovery plan in place. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 93 percent of companies that experience a significant data loss are out of business within five years. Such figures highlight—under a neon light bulb—the importance of having a solid disaster plan documented, especially when considering the absolute breadth of potentially critical scenarios. “It’s not a question of how important it is to have a disaster recovery plan in place. In my opinion, it is a must,” explains James C. Bourke, CPA/CITP, partner and director of internal technologies at WithumSmith+Brown. “The plan should cover every aspect of the business and be the ‘go-to’ manual in the event of any disruption in any business process.”

Weather the storm While a magic turnkey strategy that can solve the needs of any and all businesses simply doesn’t exist, it’s imperative for all organizations, no matter their size, to have some kind of disaster plan to turn to should the worst happen. Rudewicz calls this strategy “The Two Ps”—prevention and preparation. “If you can prevent a disaster from happening, great. If you can’t, then you must prepare for it,” he says. Think of a disaster plan as a form of risk management, advises Mitchell Freedman, CPA/PFS, AIF®. “Businesses typically plan for any variety of matters,” he says. “Downturns, growth, hiring needs, technology needs, financial needs, etc. Disasters are no different, albeit they are not as easy to anticipate.” And while the more comprehensive the plan the better, a barebones start is better than no start at all. “A first run would not necessarily have to cover everything indepth, but as the plan is continually updated, it should go deeper and cover a broader spectrum of the business,” says Bourke. At a minimum, do include crisis procedures for each department; procedures for notifying employees of facility closures; priority lists of vendors; a data-retrieval system that consists of backups of all critical information or reports; and designation of crisis response team members. Draw on all segments of the organization, including finance, human resources, purchasing, marketing, legal and security. Then, for each of these functions, ask three interrelated questions. First, will the systems and programs that served the firm in the past continue to function under heightened and complex needs? “Whatever your business was doing in the past, and whatever you had in place, as you’ve grown and as the environment has changed, are these same systems and programs applicable?” Rudewicz asks. Second, does the firm already have some form of written emergency procedures and protocols in place? Finally, note the last time 40

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those systems, procedures and protocols were reviewed. Were they audited, tested, drilled and updated based on those results? “Many times, we’ve seen companies with written policies and procedures, and even some systems put in place. But everything was written years earlier and never tested. Under those circumstances, you will never know the vulnerabilities or gaps until something happens,” says Rudewicz. Bourke recommends that businesses evaluate their disaster plan a minimum of once every quarter, and ideally on a continual basis. “A word of advice regarding a disaster recovery plan: it is never finished,” he says. Ensuring that the plan grows and changes with the organization, in fact, is imperative to effective crisis management. “There must be an understanding that even the best crisis management program is a work-in-progress,” Rudewicz emphasizes. One approach is to consider the plan part of the traditional financial audit, especially since it can drastically affect the company’s financial stability. “So as you’re reviewing your internal controls and fraud risks, disaster planning is another area that should be looked at,” Rudewicz explains. It’s also important to recognize that even if your firm is not directly impacted by a disaster, its business operations could be vulnerable if the disaster impacts a key stakeholder, such as a major supplier. “If that supplier is key to your operations, any disruption in their pipeline could have a detrimental effect on your operations. In fact, a good disaster recovery plan will include doing your homework to make sure your key suppliers also have plans in place,” says Bourke.

Keep the wheels turning Another essential component of disaster planning is business continuity. For example, if your place of business is destroyed or inaccessible, it is critical to have temporary or alternative quarters available so that operations can return to normal as quickly as possible. Freedman also urges firms to secure critical financial records and documents to minimize operational disruptions. “The business financial books and records must be able to be accessed, either remotely or via copies, in order to be certain that receivables and cash can be appropriately tracked,” he says. “If a business doesn’t have current, accurate knowledge of its assets, liabilities and records, it’s flying blind,” Freeman cautions. Useful records include statements from depositories (banks and brokerage accounts); copies of insurance policies; up-to-date accountsreceivable data; and key client and employee contact information.


“It’s not a question of how important it is to have a disaster recovery plan in place. In my opinion, it is a must.” Value your losses

5 Keys to Disaster Planning 1. An alyz e. Examine, identify and differentiate critical and non-critical organizational functions. In addition, identify the various sources of threats (such as fire, water, wind, cyber, etc.) to create a plan that best fits your needs. 2. De sign a solution. What are the minimum needs and time requirements of your plan? The solution’s design traditionally considers factors such as chain of command, location of the disaster recovery site, the physical infrastructure needs of the disaster recovery site, the data recovery process, where and how to back-up data created while offsite, contact information for critical support services, Internet connectivity, and more.

3. Imple men t the plan. Simply put, implementation is the roll-out of the solution determined in #2.

4. Te s t th e p l an . Analyze the plan as it is being implemented. Any flaws can now be identified, isolated and remedied. The goal here is to get buy-in from all stakeholders. Ideally, the plan is tested on a recurring basis, with larger organizations testing more frequently (monthly/quarterly) than smaller ones (semi-annually/annually). 5. M ain tain the plan. Examine the plan’s content to make sure it remains accurate and timely. Maintenance should be addressed on a recurring basis. Provided by James C. Bourke, CPA/CITP, partner and director of internal technologies at WithumSmith+Brown.

Accurate financial records are also necessary for insurance and legal purposes. Civil litigation frequently sees claims for recovery of damages arising from business interruption, and courts have generally defined these damages to be the profits lost during the period of interruption. The question then becomes, what kind of methodology can you use to measure lost profits? The “before-and-after method”: Following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the amount of litigation in affected regions ballooned, resulting in a court backlog. “In many instances of lost profits arising from business interruption, the event causing the interruption will have been cured by the time the action finally makes it to court or to settlement negotiations,” Rudewicz explains. In these instances, the courts commonly apply a “before-and-after method,” in which sales and associated expenses before and after the incident are made comparable, and subsequent analysis yields projections for what profits should have been during the damage period. The “projected-sales method”: Sometimes referred to as the “butfor” method, this is more commonly used when the damaging event is incurable or not yet cured, or when more precise estimation is needed. “This approach uses more sophisticated econometric modeling, and often involves extensive evaluation of the market, suppliers, competitors, and political and economic events that may affect the future of the firm,” Rudewicz explains. The  “yardstick  method”: This method examines the plaintiff’s industry or another group of comparable businesses. The analysis assumes that, but for the damaging event, the plaintiff would have enjoyed growth in sales within the same reasonable range as its peers. “Its expenses would have grown commensurate with its growth in sales for those expenses associated directly with sales, been impacted by regional and national inflationary factors, and enjoyed the efficiencies associated with economies of scale,” says Rudewicz. This type of examination would be quite difficult if the firm didn’t have key financial records and statements at hand. All said and done, it’s not impossible to recover from a natural disaster if there’s enough data to base a loss analysis on, and the right methodology is used to complete that analysis. “As the losses from recent disasters mount into the billions of dollars, litigation and the need for supportable estimates of the lost profits and the values of affected businesses will explode,” says Rudewicz. www.icpas.org/insight.htm

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are we

saved? What used to be a hopeful question now sounds naîve in the face of an economic stimulus that has yet to take off. By Kristine Blenkhorn Rodriguez

It passed with a hopeful title, H.R. 1: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Its post-position is a sure indicator of the US government’s priority for the upcoming year. It passed, however, without the fanfare and applause for which many had hoped. In their place, a flurry of partisanship and sniping ran rampant in our nation’s capital and media outlets. H.R. 1 passed nonetheless, to the relief of the 59 percent of Americans surveyed by Gallup in early February who said they favored passage. The numbers are staggering: A roughly $790-million stimulus plan, with approximately $308 billion in new spending, $267 billion in social services and $212 billion in tax breaks. Yet many experts say it’s not enough to dig the American economy out of its rut. New spending programs will include approximately $48 billion for transportation infrastructure, the lion’s share of which will pay for repair and replacement of highways, bridges and roads. A significant portion will be used to modernize the US electric grid. And, of course, we will fund alternative energy research, per President Barack Obama’s campaign promise.


The $212 billion in tax breaks includes a “Make Work Pay” refundable tax credit for individuals ($400) and families ($800) earning under certain cutoff amounts. En masse, families and individuals who have higher education expenses will receive $14 billion in tax credits. Families with three or more children will receive $4.7 billion in earned income tax credits. The numbers become even more overwhelming when you consider that US taxpayers footed the $700 billion financial industry bailout bill last autumn. The irony is that $75 billion of the sum total will be used to provide mortgage relief for as many as 9 million Americans, giving mortgage lenders incentives to help borrowers on the verge of foreclosure. Missing the irony? If the US economy were a household with a checkbook and credit line gone amiss, we would have been foreclosed on long ago.

the average taxpayer It’s far easier to detail the potential benefits to taxpayers who have overextended themselves than it is to discuss how a truly average taxpayer will fare. No government official or expert can accurately predict how US taxpayers will really end up paying for the bailout or the stimulus. Mortgage holders are a key area of focus. According to Moody’s Economy.com, about 13.8 million of the 52 million Americans with a mortgage owe more on their mortgage than their house is now worth. Of those who don’t, many are still struggling to pay the monthly mortgage and avoid foreclosure. The $75 billion Homeowner Stability Initiative will help those “responsible” homeowners who have committed to making reasonable monthly mortgage payments and have loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The government will incent servicers for making modifications like reducing a borrower’s monthly mortgage payment to 38 percent of income. It also will create an insurance fund of up to $10 billion to discourage lenders from foreclosing on these homeowners. And it will provide $1.5 billion in relocation funds and other assistance to those displaced by foreclosure. Robert Wright, a financial historian, New York University professor and author of OneNationUnderDebt:Hamilton,Jefferson, andtheHistoryofWhatWeOwe, looks at the current crisis with a sanguinity that only those with a broad perspective can muster. “It’s not like there’s been a huge spike in greediness. As long as there have been humans, there has been greed that has caused problems on a large scale. Our country owes its actual existence to two such crises in the 1700s,” he says. Wright first cites the crisis that occurred when America was still a British colony in the 1760s. “Within a few years, housing prices had tripled. This was at a time when mortgages were callable by financial institutions. Many colonists borrowed against their homes, farms and shops, which worked just fine until the realestate market fell to 33 to 50 percent of its former value. Many homes were lost; farms and shops folded. Lenders were calling mortgages because they wanted their money back to invest at a higher rate elsewhere, and the value of the loans exceeded the value of the properties. Sound familiar?” The second crisis took place in the 1780s, when America had no mother country to blame. “During the American Revolution, hyperinflation occurred. The government paid for troops by print44

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ing money—lots of money. And then there was a massive deflation a decade or so later,” Wright explains. He notes that bailouts really are more of a 20th-century concept. “In the 18th and 19th centuries, the government didn’t tend to bail anyone out.” Rather, says Wright, Hamilton’s Rule applied (developed by Alexander Hamilton during the panic of 1792): “Central banks raised the interest rate (above the prevailing rate under normal circumstances, but much less than market rates during the panic), but lent to anybody that wanted to borrow and could post sufficient collateral. The notion was that companies that had taken on excessive risks would fail but all solid companies would be able to put up sufficient collateral to survive. The collateral and the high rate of interest meant that the socialization of risk, while still present, was minimized, and most of the profits accrued to the central bank. Hamilton’s Rule also minimized moral hazard because risky companies expected to fail and nobody expected to profit from adverse market conditions.” Many taxpayers rightly construe bailouts as private-interest handouts that come at their expense. “And, statistically, you can’t prove that any bailout since the 1970s has worked,” says Wright. “Of course, statistically, you can’t prove that they haven’t either. But the moral hazard element can’t be ignored. You’re rewarding people for taking on excessive risk, and they get a bailout from their more cautious brethren if all doesn’t go well.” Dirk Van Dijk, director of equity research at Zacks Investment Research, is a bit less controversial in his opinions. “Even some of the things in the package that are not terribly effective are not horribly bad either,” he says. Van Dijk cites taxpayer rebate checks, which he says probably will be used to pay down personal debt or to save. “Even if everybody used the $400 they get to pay down a credit card bill—which is zero stimulus to spending—there is still a net benefit for the individual paying down the bill.” He is in favor of anything that helps the “tapped out middle class.” “The distribution of income in this country is more out of balance than at any time since 1929. In 2006, when the last data was available, the 400 highest-income individuals paid an effective tax rate of 17 percent. You and I are paying 15 percent off the bat just for Social Security.” Van Dijk does see the other side, though. “For the past several years, many people acted like there were ATMs in their kitchens. They’d roll 10 grand of credit card debt into a refinanced mortgage, go from 18.5 percent interest to 6.5 percent, and now it’s all tax deductible,” he says. Scott Hamer, president and CEO of Community BankWheaton/Glen Ellyn, Ill., sees a very different trend now. “A large segment of our account holders are senior citizens who live off the interest from their investments,” he explains. “A one-time tax break might help slightly but it’s certainly not enough to make them go out and spend. We’ve grown rapidly in deposits since the beginning of the year. People are just looking for a safe place to keep their money.”

big business and the markets “It’s big business that profits from this stimulus package,” says Van Dijk. “They’re better set up to act as contractors on government projects. Small businesses may be helped to a much lesser extent as sub-contractors.” Jerry Mills, founder and CEO of B2B CFO, a CFO firm focusing on mid-market entities, thinks the gains for certain sectors are not offset by the losses big business will incur as the result of raised


corporate and capital gains taxes. “Cut those and this stimulus package makes more sense. Not a lot more, but some,” he says. Mills isn’t even bullish on alternative energy, despite the flurry of activity certain to result from the funds earmarked for it. “If the market demands alternative energy, then the free market will bring it to pass without this package,” he says. “I like alternative fuels, but forced government involvement will put it back a decade or so. Consumers won’t buy unless there’s a demand. I don’t see it.” Talk to Mills for a few more minutes and a Draconian picture comes into focus: “In 12 months or more the stimulus will depress the markets. Our national debt is skyrocketing; taxes will have to pay for that, which means more money out of big business’ pockets. That means fewer dividends, lower stock values and a lower market.” Again, Van Dijk is more optimistic. “I see a net positive for equities markets in sectors where large firms will be beneficiaries of the stimulus spending: Engineering and construction firms, alternative energy companies, and electric companies—the smart grid project is a potential goldmine for them. Investment spending on things like infrastructure puts jobs here and now and leaves something of value going forward.” He’s bullish on spending that provides ROI, though, and says infrastructure fits that bill. “One person’s vital infrastructure project will naturally be another person’s pork simply because of the localized geographic impact of most infrastructure work. The building of the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey brings residents of those states a huge ROI. To most Californians, it was pork. But in tolls alone, it paid for itself quickly. And to New Yorkers, while the Golden Gate Bridge may be a great piece of architecture, it’s pork.” Larger-scale projects, such as improving the nation’s electrical grid, provide an ROI that goes beyond business, says Van Dijk. “In January, about one million people were out of power for two weeks due to bad weather. Think of the impact on productivity. We’re a First World country with what’s amounting to a Third World infrastructure. We can’t function like that.”

small business Small-business owners were not optimistic in December, according to a survey by the National Small Business Association (NSBA). While believing more could have been done to target small businesses, the NSBA is hopeful that the legislation may provide some help—however modest—to entrepreneurs. Only 3 percent of survey respondents anticipated economic expansion over the coming 12 months (compared to 21 percent anticipating it the previous August). A majority (64 percent) anticipated a recession in December, compared to just 26 percent who anticipated the same the prior August. While tactful, NSBA Board Chair Keith Ashmus, is also realistic. “There’s very little in this act that’s directed specifically to small business, and what’s there may or may not be of help,” he says. “We wanted small-business targets included in the bill. Without those, I think the most we can hope for is a trickle-down effect. That’s not enough.” Seemingly not. According to the December NSBA survey, more members were using credit cards as a source of financing (49 percent) than bank loans (44 percent). Compare those figures to the previous August when 41 percent used credit cards versus 50 percent using bank loans. “There are lots of businesses with good credit ratings not getting financing,” says Ashmus. “When businesses like those are using credit cards instead, that’s trouble. They need cash flow.”

In 30 years of doing business, Mills has never seen as negative a view from bankers as he sees today. “They’re a lot more skeptical regarding loans and lines of credit,” he says. “These are bankers that didn’t get involved in the sub-prime scandals. They say they have money to lend but it’s not being lent. They’re skittish.” According to Hamer, though, the publicity surrounding bankers not lending is overblown, at least for community-owned banks. “We are absolutely looking for good opportunities and are ready to lend,” he says. The stimulus package does contain some provisions that will benefit small businesses, such as the net operating loss carry-back provision, which allows a 5-year carry back of 2008 net operating losses for small businesses with gross receipts of $15 million or less, at a cost of $947 million over 10 years. Furthermore, the Business Stabilization Program included in the act provides $255 million for loan subsidies and modifications. The Small Business Administration (SBA) could issue or back loans of up to $35,000 for “viable small-business concerns,” which are experiencing “financial hardship” and have a “qualifying small-business loan.” The small-business recipients of these loans would use them to make full or partial payments on their existing loans for up to 6 months. Interest would be fully subsidized, and payment on the loans would be due one year after the final disbursement of funds is made. Borrowers would have 5 years to repay. Other provisions, while not providing immediate small-business relief, could help small businesses avoid big expenses down the road. One such provision allows for $1.1 billion in health programs (prevention and wellness) that will be invested in immunizations, health promotion, HIV/AIDS prevention and other programs aimed at avoiding large healthcare expenditures at a later date. Regardless of the provisions, it seems that small business’ true needs were not met. When NSBA members were asked which issues Congress and President Obama should address first, reducing the tax burden clocked in as the leader at 29 percent, followed by increasing small business’ access to capital at 25 percent. “I think this stimulus package is a complete joke for small-business owners,” says Mills. “I work with many small businesses every day and most of the owners when shown this package would have said, ‘You might as well not do anything.’” The litmus test will be how small businesses respond, says Ashmus. “Improving general economic activity could improve this sector. But making a million small businesses feel better and more secure about hiring one more person creates a million new jobs. We haven’t done that in this package. It’s well-intentioned but will its effects trickle down? That’s the question.”

the fallout “Any government spending acts as a stimulant; that’s first-semester macroeconomics,” Van Dijk contends. “But I think people are still underestimating how deep our problem runs. This is not like the 1991 downturn. Structurally, the causes are much more like the causes of the Great Depression. This package is like triage. It’ll save some of those that can be saved. Or consider it an airbag. It won’t stop the crash but it will at least allow some of the passengers to live.” Not exactly words that will give you a comfortable night’s sleep. But, truthfully, has any seasoned financial pro been sleeping well lately? Have you? We thought as much. Editor’snote:Informationcurrentasofprintdate. www.icpas.org/insight.htm

MAY/JUNE 2009

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STUDENTS

Find Money Now Higher education costs are a drag, but finding financial aid doesn’t have to be. By Derrick Lilly

I

More on scholarships • Accountingmajors.com • CollegeIllinois.com • College-Scholarships.com • Ed.gov • Fastweb.com • FinAid.org • Scholarships.com

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t’s no secret that college and university tuition is on the rise, and student loans are often a lingering burden long after your school days are over. The US Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and university-specific financial aid and scholarships are usually the first places students look for help. Unfortunately, though, they’re often limited in scope. Luckily, there are lots of financial aid and scholarship opportunities out there—if you know where to look. Realizing how important a continued stream of qualified accountants is to the CPA profession, the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS), in tandem with the CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois, has established programs and scholarships specifically designed to aid accounting students and individuals on their way to becoming CPAs. “The mission of the CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois is to ‘pave the way for tomorrow’s CPAs’ by providing academically excellent students with financial assistance to achieve their educational goals and ensure the continued growth of the accounting profession,” says Duane Suits, president of the CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois. “Thanks to the generous donations from Society members, we are able to achieve this goal.” Through the ICPAS’ and the CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois’ joint efforts, currently four scholarship programs are offered, including the Illinois CPA Society Accounting Scholarship; the Women’s Executive Committee’s Advancing Women in Accounting Scholarship; the Herman J. Neal Scholarship, which awards African-American accounting students, specifically; and a book scholarship, which helps students cover textbook expenses. Through these offerings, 38 students will receive approximately $82,000 for tuition and books during the 2009-2010 school year. Additionally, the CPA Exam Award Program helps students and recent graduates

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cover the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) fee (currently $809.71), which is part of the total cost of the CPA Exam. About 40 CPA Exam Awards are granted annually. The ICPAS and CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois also have collaborated with Chicago State University, DePaul University, Southern Illinois University and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to expand scholarship offerings to accounting students attending these institutions. Altogether— excluding the CPA Exam Award Program— the Society is actively involved in eight scholarship programs. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is another prominent organization stepping up to help young accounting talent reign in financial burdens. In addition to its own academic scholarships, the AICPA works with state societies and diversity partners to promote accounting scholarships and programs to students. “It can be challenging at times to encourage students to apply for scholarships, whether it’s due to a cultural barrier, lack of time or lack of awareness. But with the current economic conditions, it is more important than ever for students to take advantage of the financial aid opportunities available through their schools, state CPA societies, the AICPA or other institutions,” says Elizabeth DeBragga, coordinator for the AICPA’s diversity programs. A little research can go a long way in securing the financial aid necessary to bring a quality education within reach. As De-Bragga stresses, “The money and support is out there; students just have to take the time to dig in and explore, but the payoff is worth it.” ForinformationaboutICPASscholarships, contact Deborah Jani at janid@icpas.org. For AICPA programs, contact Elizabeth DeBragga at edebragga@aicpa.org. If you would like to make a gift to the CPA Endowment Fund of Illinois, contact Julie Lenneratlennerj@icpas.org.


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INSIGHT Magazine May / June 2009  

INSIGHT is the award-winning magazine of the Illinois CPA Society. May / June 2009 issue. INSIGHT Magazine presents global and local issues...