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Sales & Use Tax (SUT) compliance will loom large for businesses post-crisis. Here’s what it means for you and your clients right now.

If your firm is like most today, it’s being inundated with emails and phone calls from anxious small business clients who are trying to successfully navigate today’s uncertain times. Understandably, many of these clients are focused on the challenges immediately before them, not on longer-term planning. And because many of these clients are likely experiencing a significant downturn in sales currently, SUT feels pretty irrelevant to them at the moment.

Again, this is understandable. Right now, your small business clients are focused on their health and well-being first, and the sustainability of their business, second i.e., meeting payroll, tracking expenditures, adequate cash flow, etc. But eventually we will work our way through this and SUT issues will come back around, and very likely, in a big way.

State and local jurisdictions are facing unprecedented budget pressures brought on by the government shutdown and the overall response to the pandemic. Today, businesses, and accounting and tax departments, are doing their best with diminished resources and capacity. However, the most experienced among us know states will soon move to aggressively fill budget gaps, and the sales and use tax lever will be among the first they look to pull. As a result, clients will need help with planning and compliance, and firms must start thinking about this now. By planning well today, you can ensure your clients are prepared the moment SUT issues come back into focus. In this blog, we take a closer look at the state of things.

The SUT environment today:

  • Jurisdictions are losing revenue. You already know that this is happening, and you know the reasons why. When business is at a standstill, so are state and municipal revenues. Sales taxes play a large role in this dynamic.
  • eCommerce is booming – AND introducing new SUT issues. As retail locations have been shuttered, eCommerce clients have experienced an equally dramatic shift in demand and business models. They could be experiencing an increase in business in individual jurisdictions that are putting them over thresholds, or finding themselves in new jurisdictions where they’re not registered. These new opportunities introduce new tax complexity.
  • Jurisdictions are playing nice on SUT – for now. Jurisdictions understand the tremendous pressures on businesses today, so are taking a light touch when it comes to SUT compliance during these times. But sales taxes are also the fastest way for them to find money, and the budget picture for these jurisdictions is growing more dire each day. Eventually, the pendulum will swing in the other direction, with SUT enforcement becoming more aggressive.

What it means for your firm:

  • More SUT work is coming. As clients refocus on their core business, running as lean as possible with no extra bandwidth, many will look to outsource SUT compliance tasks. Be ready for the moment when clients ask, “can you just take this over for me?"
  • CFOs are looking for cash. Client CFOs are already looking under every rock they can find to free up cash, and there’s no reason to think they’ll stop anytime soon. SUT can be an important tool for helping these CFOs. For example, SUT advisory services such as Reverse Sales Tax Audits can help find previously overlooked sources of liquidity.
  • This is the time to help clients get their SUT houses in order. Your clients should expect to face more aggressive SUT enforcement as jurisdictions move to shore up their own budgets in the future. Now is the time to advise your clients for the coming wave of SUT activity.

Given all the current pressures vying for your clients’ attention, it should come as no surprise that you may need to convince them that SUT is an issue warranting their time and attention. It’s a sensitive discussion, and you know them best, so you decide when it’s an appropriate time to raise it.

But remember not to wait too long. The issue can compound itself and SUT is an important opportunity to demonstrate your firm’s strategic value to clients. In the end, they will appreciate your helping them anticipate and plan for this below-the-radar issue, before it comes roaring back in a larger than life way.

Lastly, if we’ve learned nothing else during these challenging times, it’s that there are leading cloud technology solutions available to you as a trusted advisor. These tools can greatly enhance the value you can deliver to clients. SUT is no different!

Looking for additional SUT guidance? View the recording of our LinkedIn interview - Two Years Post-Wayfair: A Look Back & A Look Ahead Sales & Use Tax. We discuss the implications of the Supreme Court decision as well as the current and unique circumstances facing businesses and accounting firms today.

A Who’s Who of the Group That Brings You Digital CPA

DCPA Advisory Board 2020

The Digital CPA Conference is always the capstone to our year here at CPA.com. It’s perhaps the purest form of what we do to help firms thrive – great content, unmatched networking opportunities and a forward-looking vision of what’s possible for the profession. And because it comes in December, it represents a summation of our activities for the year, too.

The work to create Digital CPA starts a lot earlier, though. In fact, we held our first advisory board meeting for the 2020 conference this month and we’re proud of the brains, expertise and experience represented on the panel.

One of our new advisory board members is Gabrielle Luoma, founder and CEO of MOD Ventures, who attended Digital CPA for the first time last year.

“Digital CPA was definitely all about the growth mindset,” Luoma said, “and how to really help your people move in that direction of innovation in your firm.“

Digital CPA’s roots lie in the evolution of client accounting services and that will continue to be a strong focus. The 2020 event will also examine the audit of the future, sales and use tax advisory opportunities, and cybersecurity and data security, among other topics.

You can see Luoma talk about Digital CPA and the advisory board’s role in this LinkedIn Live session, and also hear MACPA president and CEO, Tom Hood (another advisory board member and a self-professed “Digital CPA groupie”) discuss the same topics.

A big thanks to the rest of our Digital CPA advisory board, whose varied perspectives and experience with firms of all sizes help make the conference unique:

  • Gerard Abbattista, CPA, partner, EisnerAmper LLP
  • Inga Arendt, CPA, partner, small business services, Wipfli
  • Michelle Golden, president, Fore LLC
  • Javier Goldin, managing partner, Goldin Group LLC, and this year’s chair of the Digital CPA advisory board
  • Christopher Heinfeld, CPA, partner, HeinfeldMeech
  • Natalie Hoffman, CPA, CITP, partner, Honkamp Krueger & Co, P.C.
  • Kelly Johnson, CPA, national practice leader, business services and outsourcing, BDO USA LLP
  • Mark Koziel, CPA, CGMA, executive vice president, firm services, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants
  • Karen Larsen, CPA, partner, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP
  • Elinor Litwack, CPA, senior manager, outsourced accounting and advisory services, GRF CPAs & Advisors
  • Dixie McCurley, cofounder and president, Trusted CFO Solutions
  • Rebecca Pomering, partner and chief practice officer, Moss Adams LLP
  • Steve Ursillo, Jr., CPA, CITP, partner, assurance & advisory services, Cherry Bekaert LLP
  • Jennifer Lee Wilson, partner and cofounder, ConvergenceCoaching, LLC

This year’s Digital CPA will be held Dec. 6-9 in Orlando, Fla. Visit digitalcpa.com for more updates in the months ahead.

The Internet of Things Should Be on Your Radar

The Internet of Things (IoT) is about to become a major phenomenon, and there are substantial implications for accountants, finance professionals and business in general.

What is IoT? It’s any device that can connect to the Internet, be recognized by other devices and communicate data, according to David Bray, a Singularity University faculty member and one of our guest speakers at the 11th Annual AICPA/CPA.com Executive Roundtable held this January in our New York City headquarters. Think Fitbits, Apple Watches, smart TVs and the like.

A graphic artist's take on David Bray's Executive Roundtable presentation

There were 7.6 billion people in the world in 2019, and 26 billion Internet-enabled devices, Bray said. Soon enough, we will have 10 IoT devices for every person in the world. One problem: the devices aren’t evenly distributed – wealthier countries and individuals have more.

For accounting and finance, IoT can mean a more robust audit and more predictable supply chains. And there are other unexpected wrinkles: Bray said hedge funds are already using satellite imagery of retailers’ parking lots to gauge demand from shoppers before the company’s quarterly report so they can go short or long on stocks. Similarly, stores already exist that let customers “pay” simply by having their biometric data scanned when they pick up an item and carry it out of the shop.

Of course, there are concerns about privacy and security. What does it mean when virtually everything can be captured on camera, and our movements and consumer choices can be tracked and analyzed through our devices – either by corporations, hackers or, in some cases, governments?

“We’ve got to have the conversation about how this data is going to be used,” Bray said. “Not just to have better data for accounting, but better choices for the society we’re going to create.”

If you’d like to hear more, check out our LinkedIn Live conversation with Bray from the Roundtable.

Audit Report Delivery, Compliance, and More for the Credit Union Eco-system

Audited financials are critical today, especially for the credit union-CPA firm-regulator eco-system. In an era of increasing fraud and cyber-risk, how these sensitive documents are exchanged and delivered has never been more important.

At the recent conference on credit unions, I presented on audit report delivery, compliance, and more for the Credit Union Eco-system. Here are some key points discussed during the session:

Evolution of CPA professional audit report delivery

Firms (and their clients) have evolved their audit practices, and one area that has evolved tremendously is the delivery of the completed audit report to clients. These important reports are each the result of an extensive audit effort and how they’re delivered is part of the audit engagement and reflects upon the firm itself.

Audit Report Delivery, Compliance, and More for the Credit Union Eco-system 1

Why evolve? Why do firms change what worked OK for years? Here are some key reasons to evolve your audit report delivery:

If you’ve worked at a firm (or been an audit client) for any period of time, these stages of “evolution” should look familiar. Many of the firms we spoke with at the conference shared that their firm is simultaneously at 3 or more early stages of the evolutionary scale!

  1. Speed and Efficiency
  2. Differentiation
  3. Risk
    • Fraud
    • Cybersecurity
    • Compliance/Guidance
      • Independence
      • Withdrawal Due Diligence
      • Regulator Requirements
    • Reputation
  4. Adding Value
  5. Quality Control

The quality control-responsible partners at the event were particularly focused on ways to reduce risk. Firm leaders on the other hand confirmed their interest in increasing speed and efficiency, finding new ways to add value for financial institution audit clients.

The fact that innovations were so unevenly adopted within their firms, and even with the audit department, was definitely an area for improvement. Environment-specific evolution it seems is not limited to the Galapagos Islands.

The financial institutions and regulators in attendance were also fixated on risk, but more so related to compliance (e.g. National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) compliance), and the risk of financial statement-related fraud respectively.

Regulators and lenders are key users of audited financial statements and their concerns were justified considering these current market drivers:

Audit Report Delivery, Compliance, and More for the Credit Union Eco-system 2

Leveraging the latest evolution of audit report delivery

Next up was how to address current and longstanding challenges around audit report delivery and exchange through a private company clearinghouse designed for CPA firms, private businesses, and recipients of audited financials. These recipient users want to ensure the quality of the data they’re receiving is accurate, thorough, the most current available, and is from an authenticated source. Finally, as we’re living in a digital world, they would like to be able to request and receive it efficiently.

We provided an up-close look at RIVIO Clearinghouse, the online platform designed to meet the need for accurate, source-verified financial information exchange between CPA firms, credit unions (and other private businesses), and third-party users of audited financial and other types of financial documents.

Shawn Martin, Product Sales Manager for RIVIO and assurance solutions at CPA.com, detailed the specific RIVIO workflow for credit union audit reports for each group in attendance:

  • CPA Firms
  • Credit Unions
  • NCUA Examiners

With the change in NCUA policy regarding annual submission of audit reports, seeing the entire process from the perspective of each user type was illuminating for the audience, especially the ease of issuing reports and responding to document requests.

Audit Report Delivery, Compliance, and More for the Credit Union Eco-system 3

Figure 1: View of the workflow process from the NCUA examiner’s perspective

Mr. Martin also showed how the platform enables one-step withdrawals/recalls for firms and for credit unions, and the equally simple restatements/reissues. This addresses a longstanding due diligence/compliance issue for firms and clients alike.

Audit Report Delivery, Compliance, and More for the Credit Union Eco-system 4

The session concluded by showing how the clearinghouse solution enabled delivery throughout the eco-system while also increasing quality control through a standardized process for audit report delivery and complete reporting on all document exchange activities.

Audit Report Delivery, Compliance, and More for the Credit Union Eco-system 5

Figure 2: View of the audit report workflow, including multi-recipient delivery

If you’d like to go further into these topics, you can watch our recent on-demand webinar, Credit Union Audit Reports: Insights, Compliance, and Innovations for All, or visit RIVIO.com to learn more.

Follow RIVIO on Twitter at @RIVIO_CH

About the Author:

Steven A. Menges RIVIO Clearinghouse Product Lead, CPA.com

A business-to-business (B2B) innovator and products executive with 20 years’ progressive experience, Steven Menges is a frequent industry author and speaker on enterprise computing, data analytics, managed service providers (MSPs), IT Security, regulatory compliance, EdTech, and buyer’s journey-based engagement.

3 Staffing Insights for CPA Firms, Credit Unions, Banks and More

During a recent presentation for the firm-credit union-banker-regulator audience, an important topic that cuts across all the organizations today − staffing, or more specifically, challenges with finding and retaining quality staff – was discussed in detail.

New research by the American Institute of CPAsshows staff recruitment remains the top issue for most CPA firms, while risk management and compliance regarding privacy and data security are rising challenges.

“Finding qualified staff” was the No. 1 issue for every firm-sized segment except sole practitioners, according to the 2019 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey; that matches the topline results from 2017, the last time the survey was conducted.

2019 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues

When we start to consider areas for improvement for firms today, finding and retaining qualified staff is rightly top of mind. Staffing issues for credit unions, banks and other private businesses and organizations are ever-present as well.

There’s a generational element for all employers that you’ll need to embrace (or be caught unprepared):

  • Generation Z, born after 1996, is already here. 61M in the US and the first wave have graduated college already.
  • Millennials will comprise the majority of the workforce in 2025. That’s just 5 years from now.
  • Generation X workers begin retirement in 2030, and thanks to credit unions, in many cases they will retire or semi-retire because they’ve planned well, saved, and CAN retire.

Here’s a shocking finding from a new survey whose findings were just published in Harvard Business Review:

“About half of millennials, and 75% of Gen Zers, have left a job because of mental-health reasons.”

Credit unions (and smaller CPA firms) face another staffing risk: senior management and the C-suite. According to an article in Credit Union Times from 2012, the majority of the CEOs at credit unions with more than $100 million in assets are likely to retire in the next 10 years, so while this isn’t a new issue, it has been and is still a big issue.

While most credit unions have a succession plan prepared for their CEOs, less have one for other senior executives, and these are positions that can be much harder to fill. If you elevate an executive to CEO, who will replace them as CFO, Chief Lending officer, etc.? The AICPA PCPS study also listed succession planning as a top 5 issue for smaller firms, so this cuts across industries as well. These are real issues with big consequences if not addressed.

Attracting, developing and retaining talent is an immediate, short-term and longer-term priority for this entire eco-system, including firms and credit unions. How big of an issue is retaining staff? Over 40 million people now quit their job each year in the U.S. according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is a 25% increase over just 5 years ago. A not-so-unrelated pair of statistics to note are:

  • Just 32% of U.S. workers are “engaged” in their jobs
  • Engaged employees are 59% less likely to seek out a new job in the next 12 months

Employee engagement is the real insight here.

A major initiative at leading organizations is now to create a positive work environment for new staff. From our discussions with firms and other organizations, we’re hearing that this often includes quickly getting new staff involved in what they consider to be meaningful, or at least interesting work. Preferably, that involves some type of interaction with clients (or “members” for the credit union folks). Having them working with innovative technology that facilitates member or customer interaction can be an ideal way to get new staff engaged quickly.

Many newer staff are digital natives, so they can get up to speed very fast and can bring insights as to incorporating new technology more effectively. Take advantage of that! Also consider asking a sampling of them what types of work would they find more engaging and valuable.

NOTE: If you’d like to hear more about CPA firm staffing issues and innovative ways to address them quickly, check out this key webinar, Addressing Staffing and Cultural Challenges in Attest Services, presented by CPA.com’s Matt Towers.

References/Links:

About the Author:

Steven A. Menges Assurance Team / RIVIO Clearinghouse Product Lead, CPA.com

A business-to-business (B2B) innovator and products executive with 20 years’ progressive experience, Steven Menges is a frequent industry author and speaker on enterprise computing, data analytics, managed service providers (MSPs), IT Security, regulatory compliance, EdTech, and buyer’s journey-based engagement.