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Blog What's New in Technology

Handling Talent Shortages in Tech Departments

Technology advancement has brought about great digital transformation. Unfortunately, this has come with a global tech talent shortage. IT executives highlight the shortage as a huge barrier to the adoption of emerging technologies, as reported by this Gartner study.

It is estimated that the demand for tech talent will keep increasing, and this could result in an estimated 85 million global talent shortage by the year 2030. Therefore, companies need to rethink their approach to hiring and retention.

Reasons Behind the Tech Talent Shortage

It is worth trying to first understand what is causing the tech talent shortage. A few of the reasons that have led to the shortage include:

  • Advances in technology – technology is advancing at a high speed, requiring workers with skills to match the new technology. Unfortunately, the tech education system can’t keep up with the speed, hence a shortage of people with the required skills.
  • The great resignation – this became a buzzword with work from home that came with the Covid pandemic; unfortunately, even after the pandemic people are still leaving jobs. A survey by TalentLMS and Workable found 72 percent of employees working in tech are considering quitting their jobs or exploring other opportunities.
  • High demand for tech talent – There has been an increase in the demand for tech workers in recent years as more businesses and industries turn to technology for daily operations. New technology creates new roles such as data professionals, data security specialists and software engineers among others that are highly competitive.
  • Challenges in training and development – some companies might not have the resources and time to invest in employee development.

Business Challenges of IT Talent Shortage

Businesses are feeling the effect of the tech talent shortage, especially when it comes to digital transformation. Emerging technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence, blockchain and augmented reality that promise to keep a business ahead of its competition require skilled workers.

Hiring new talent or reskilling employees also comes at a cost, and companies struggle to fill positions. On the other hand, failing to have skilled employees results in unrealized annual revenues.

As a result, businesses of all sizes find themselves failing to develop projects on time and hence fail to meet deadlines. In other cases, the existing employees end up overburdened with too much work, and this may lead to them quitting. Eventually, a business experiences slow innovation and slow growth.

How to Handle the Tech Talent Shortage

A few strategies to help address this issue include:

  • Investing in employee development and training
    Providing ongoing training and development opportunities for current employees can help them acquire new skills and knowledge. This will not only make them more valuable to your organization, but also less likely to leave.
  • Attract top talent through a strong employer brand
    Building a strong employer brand can help in attracting top talent to your organization. This can involve highlighting your company’s culture, values and mission, as well as offering competitive compensation and benefits packages. A good reputation will also help attract new talent.
  • Partnering with educational institutions
    A company may also partner with local colleges and universities to gain access to a pool of talented students who are looking for internships or entry-level positions. Additionally, setting up mentorship or internship programs helps build a pipeline of talent for your organization.
  • Increase recruitment efforts
    Sometimes it might be difficult to find the right talent, which makes it necessary to increase recruitment efforts. This could involve working with recruitment agencies, posting job openings on job boards and social media platforms, and attending job fairs and industry events.
  • Consider hiring remote workers
    Even with all efforts in place, it may still be difficult to find the right talent in a business location. Today, technology has enabled people to work remotely. This offers access to a larger pool of candidates and also can help attract top talent from other parts of the country or even the world. It is also possible to work with freelancers or contractors to fill specific skills gaps on a project-by-project basis.
  • Enhance the recruitment process
    An inefficient recruitment process will cost the company good talent. Therefore, any poor communication or delayed communication will affect talent acquisition. A company might need to streamline its recruitment process.

Final Thoughts

The global tech talent shortage is already negatively affecting businesses. Since the shortage is expected to rise, business leaders need to decide on the best way forward so they are not left behind in digital transformation. A good decision should fit business goals whether choosing to hire internal talent, remote workers, or outsource technology needs.

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Blog Congress at Work

Expanding Options for Marriage, Defense, Medical Marijuana, Amateur Athletes and Rail Workers

Respect for Marriage Act (HR 8404) – Introduced by Sen. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) on July 18, this Act replaces previous provisions that defined marriage as strictly between a man and a woman. It codifies marriage to state that a spouse may be a person of the opposite sex as long as the contract between the two individuals is valid under state law, and prohibits any state from denying out-of-state marriages on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity or national origin. The bill passed in the Senate on Nov. 29 and the final bill passed in the House on Dec. 8. President Biden signed the Act into law on Dec. 13.

James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (HR 7776) – This bill authorizes defense spending at $858 billion, an approximate 10 percent increase over last year and $37 billion more than President Biden requested in his budget. This bill is expected to increase pay for service members and civilians by 4.6 percent and include inflation bonuses for those earning less than $45,000 a year. The bill was initially introduced on May 16 and the final bill was agreed upon by a bipartisan committee comprised of Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Reps Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) The bill first passed in the House on July 14. It was signed into law by the President on Dec. 23.

Help Find the Missing Act (S 5230) – This Act is designed to facilitate data sharing between the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and the National Crime Information Center database of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in order to improve efforts in finding missing persons. The bill was introduced by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Dec. 8 and passed in the Senate on the same day. It passed in the House on Dec. 14 and is currently awaiting the President’s signature.

Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act (HR 8454) – This legislation was introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) on July 21. The purpose of the bill is to increase the supply of marijuana that may be used in government studies. It expands the number of registered entities (e.g., academia, practitioners, manufacturers) that may manufacture, distribute, dispense or possess marijuana or cannabidiol (CBD) for the purposes of medical research. The bill also enables physicians to discuss with patients the potential harms and therapeutic potential of marijuana and its derivatives (such as CBD). Going forward, the Department of Health and Human Services will report on marijuana’s impact on various conditions, such as epilepsy; its impact on adolescent brains; and on the ability to operate a motor vehicle. The bill passed in the House on July 26 and in the Senate on Nov. 16. It was signed into law by the President on Dec. 2.

Equal Pay for Team USA Act of 2022 (S 2333) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) on July 13, 2021, and was passed in the Senate on Dec. 8. The legislation would require equal compensation and benefits for all athletes representing the United States in international amateur athletic competitions, regardless of gender. The bill would require each sport’s national governing body to submit annual compliance reports pertaining to this requirement. The bill’s fate currently lies in the House.

To provide for a resolution with respect to the unresolved disputes between certain railroads represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee of the National Railway Labor Conference and certain of their employees (HJ Res 100) – Passage of this bill was successful in averting a nationwide strike of rail workers, but it did not satisfactorily address all of their demands. The Act provides improved healthcare benefits and a 24 percent pay raise, as well as the ability to take limited unpaid sick leave without being subject to penalties. However, the bill failed to provide the five days of paid medical leave sought. The bill was introduced by Rep. Donald Payne Jr (D-N.J.) on Nov. 29, passed in the House on Nov. 30 and the Senate on Dec. 1. It was signed into law on Dec. 2.

Safe Connections Act of 2022 (HR 7132) – Introduced on March 17 by Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), this bill instructs cell phone service providers to waive separation of contract service fees when requested by survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and related harms. The Act requires that the requestor present verifying documentation that a cosigner of thecontract committed or allegedly committed an act of domestic violence, trafficking or a related criminal act against the survivor. The requestor must assume financial responsibility for services after a line separation. The bill passed in the House on July 27, in the Senate on Nov. 17 and was signed into law on Dec. 7.

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Blog Tax and Financial News

The 2022 Tax Guide

The 2022 Tax GuideNow is the time of year to do everything you can to minimize taxes and maximize your financial health with proper year-end planning. In this article, we’ll look at several actions to consider taking before the end of 2022.

Thoughtfully Harvest Losses and Gains Before Year-End

Tax loss harvesting by selling securities at a loss to offset capital gains is a classic year-end planning strategy. Just make sure not to violate the wash sale rules. This means you can’t buy back the same security or a substantially identical one within 30 days of the sale.

Reinvest Capital Gains into Opportunity Zones

Another way to offset capital gains is to reinvest those gains into a qualified opportunity fund (QOF). To be eligible, you must make the investment within 180 days of the sale of the asset-bearing gains. QOF investments allow you to defer the recognition of the capital gains tax on the original investment. The details and exact rules can be tricky, so it’s best to check with your tax advisor before making this type of transaction.

Consider Installment Sales Where Applicable

When a taxpayer sells a private asset such as real estate, a business, or private equity in exchange for a series of payments over multiple years through a promissory note, this can constitute an installment sale. Installment sales are generally taxed with each payment representing a portion of the proceeds; return of basis, interest, and gain are recognized over the life of the note

There are situations in which installment sales can be structured so that gains are not recognized until principal payments are recouped. If you are considering selling an asset via an installment sale this year-end or next, consult with your tax advisor to determine if it’s possible to structure the sale to defer gains.

Funding Retirement

If you can contribute to a retirement account, now is the time to see if you need to make additional contributions or top-up to the full amount allowable. As you review your situation, keep in mind the annual maximum contribution limits for 2022.

  • IRAs – $6,000. If you are 50 or older, it’s $7,000.
  • 401(k)s/403(b)s —  $20,500. If you are 50 or older, it’s $27,000

Also, converting assets from a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA may be a smart move if: you believe your tax rate will be higher in the future; you can afford to pay the taxes now with spare cash; and you don’t plan to leave the IRA assets to charity.

Take Your Required Minimum Distributions

The annual deadline to take required minimum distributions (RMD) from your own or inherited retirement accounts is Dec. 31, 2022. It’s important to take RMDs because there is a 50 percent penalty on amounts not distributed. The amount needed to be taken were determined on Dec. 31, 2021, even though the value of the investment has likely fluctuated significantly since that time. RMDs are based on a calculation of age and amount of assets. There are online calculators to help you figure out the amount you need to take.

Giving to Charity

Some taxpayers believe that the deduction for charitable donations is no longer applicable to them since it can be hard to make donations large enough to exceed the standard deduction. One strategy to overcome this challenge is to cluster your donations. Instead of making equal gifts every year, consider making more substantial gifts all in one year instead.

When it comes to making donations around year-end, it’s important to understand the rules on timing and when a gift is effectively deemed given for tax purposes. Here are the basic rules on timing of charitable donations.

  • To give to charity by check => the date the check is mailed
  • Gifts of stock certificates => when the transfer occurs, according to the issuer’s records
  • Gifts of stocks by electronic transfer => when the stock is received, according to the issuer’s records
  • Gifts by credit card => date the charge is made

Conclusion

As we enter the final part of the year, now is the time to take stock of your financial and tax situation to see if there are any moves you can make to minimize your 2022 tax liabilities and maximize your wealth.

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Blog General Business News

Defining and Calculating Amortization

Calculating AmortizationWhen there’s a question of the benefit that tangible or intangible assets provide businesses, there are many factors that must be weighed to make internal accounting procedures effective. Businesses must determine how the cost of business assets can be expensed each year over the asset’s lifespan. Looking at how amortization and depreciation work, implementing both processes depend on the type of asset being expensed. There are noticeable differences for each method, including how to salvage value is considered, whether accelerated expensing is allowed, and how each type is expressed on financial statements.

Amortization

Amortization is an accounting practice of spreading the cost of an intangible asset over its useful life. Examples of intangible assets, according to the Internal Revenue Service’s “Section 197 Intangibles,” include goodwill, intellectual property such as trademarks, patents, and government or agency-granted permits or licenses. These are all assets that must be amortized over 15 years.

Based on IRS regulations, when it comes to determining how an asset is expensed over its useful life, amortization is most similar to the straight-line basis method of depreciation. 

It’s important to note that the timeframe of amortization is subject to interpretation. Examples, according to the IRS, include a 36-month amortization timeline for computer software because it’s not categorized as an asset under the same IRS Section. Other examples not mandated to be amortized under a 15-year time frame include interests to land, business partnerships, financial contracts (such as interest rate swaps) or creation of media. 

Depreciation

One of the main differences when it comes to depreciation is that it focuses on tangible or fixed assets and requires a certain percentage of its useful life to be allocated each year. Examples of assets that can be expensed include trucks for service calls, computers, printers, equipment for production, etc. Another important difference is that the asset’s salvage value is deducted from the asset’s starting cost. The remaining balance (original cost – salvage cost) determines annual expensing amounts, which is divided by the asset’s years of useful life.

Along with the above method of depreciation, also called “Straight-Line Method,” there are other ways depreciation can determine how much is expensed annually and over the asset’s useful life. For example, Declining Balance or Double Declining Balance methods are alternate ways businesses can depreciate their assets – some frontload the amounts to take advantage of accounting/tax rules to reduce their tax liabilities. Another way is to depreciate via Units of Production. This method pro-rates the level of an asset’s expected use within a particular accounting period, on a per-unit basis, to determine how much the company can expense during a particular accounting timeframe.

When it comes to accounting for goodwill, according to a November 2020 electronic survey of CFA charter holders by the CFA Institute, respondents found that investors who see amortization used by companies still require investors’ due diligence. Sixty-one percent of respondents said there need to be alternate ways to figure out if management is effective or not, and 63 percent said that amortization “distorts financial metrics.”

When it comes to understanding and navigating the differences between amortization and depreciation, business owners and investors need to be well-versed in performing due diligence to ensure compliance.

Sources

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p535.pdf

https://www.cfainstitute.org/en/research/survey-reports/goodwill-investor-perspectives

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Blog Financial Planning

Retirement Tax Planning For 2023

Retirement Tax Planning For 2023Although you might get busy with the holiday season, don’t forget to consider ways to strengthen tax efficiencies for 2023 and beyond.

2023 Retirement Contribution Increases

Set up your accounts to automatically defer money to meet the new increases in retirement contributions next year. In 2023, you can defer up to $22,500 in a 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the government’s Thrift Savings Plan. Plan participants who are age 50 and older may defer up to $30,000 next year.

Furthermore, the combined 2023 limit for Traditional and Roth IRAs is $6,500, or $7,500 if you’re age 50 or older.

If you are a business owner with a solo 401(k) plan, you may make an additional employer contribution of up to 25 percent of compensation, for a combined maximum of no more than $66,000 in 2023. Note that self-employed individuals are subject to specific calculation rules.

Investment Tax Management

If you’re bullish that the New Year will outperform the dismal investment market returns of 2022, consider repositioning assets to reduce your tax liability. One way to take advantage of this year’s poor results is to convert assets from a Traditional IRA to a Roth. While you still have to pay taxes on any earnings to date, the tab should be lower than in a year of outperformance. Going forward, any gains made under the Roth will grow and be withdrawn free of taxes. This can help lower your tax bill during retirement. It’s a good idea to do a Roth conversion while still working in order to pay capital gains without having to use money from the account. Be aware that you don’t have to convert the entire IRA balance. Assets will be reported as 2022 income, so try to convert only up to your current tax bracket.

As a general rule, it’s a good idea to spread your investment portfolio across a variety of vehicles, including taxable (brokerage), tax-deferred (employer plan) and tax-free (Roth IRA) accounts. When you retire, you can better manage your tax bill based on which accounts you draw money from each year. Conventional guidance recommends withdrawing from taxable accounts first, giving your tax-advantaged accounts more time to grow. However, another option is to make proportionate withdrawals from both taxable and non-taxed accounts for a more stable tax impact each year – that way you won’t have a higher tax bill in the latter years of retirement.

Residential Property Sales

Higher housing prices may cause some home sellers to exceed the current tax exclusion amount:

  • Exclude $250,000 from the sales profit if the seller is single or married filing separately
  • Exclude $500,000 from the sales profit if the seller is married and filing jointly

If your sales profit is higher than these exclusions, that amount may be subject to capital gains taxes. However, if you make value-added improvements to the home, keep those receipts because you may be able to add certain expenses as well as closing costs to your cost-basis – which will help reduce your tax bill.

Charitable Giving

If you are required to take distributions (RMDs) from retirement plans but don’t need the money, consider redirecting that money to a qualified charity. This tactic enables you to redirect up to $100,000/year and avoid paying taxes on those distributions. Another way to donate and receive a substantial tax break is to gift stocks with long-term appreciation to the charity of your choice. This will allow you to receive a tax deduction without having to pay capital gains taxes by selling the stock first.

If you are on the cusp of exceeding the standard deduction for your 2022 return, consider making several years’ worth of charitable donations in one year in order to exceed it and be able to itemize your return. If you don’t know where you stand for this year, consider delaying charitable gifts until next year so you can bunch them on your 2023 return. Note that for charitable donations to qualify for a deduction, they must be completed by Dec. 31 of the tax filing year.

Estate Transfer Planning

The 2023 gift tax exclusion ($12.92 million per person; $25.84 million for married couples) is scheduled to return to $6 million in 2026. Therefore, ultra-high net-worth households should consider taking advantage of this window to transfer much of their net worth by the end of 2025. Also, you may gift up to $17,000 (2023) per year per person without those amounts counting toward the gift tax exclusion limit.

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Blog Tip of the Month

Your Year-End Financial Checklist

2022 Your Year-End Financial ChecklistBelieve it or not, the year is coming to a close. If you want to finish strong and set attainable goals for 2023, here’s a handy, actionable checklist to help you navigate upcoming expenditures.

Review Your Spending and Create a Budget

This might seem like Finance 101, but it’s a tried and true method that works. Take a look back to see where your money went. When you’ve evaluated your patterns of spending, you can reset priorities for the New Year, assuming you want to make changes. If you do, sit down and create a budget. Your tax professional will probably have a downloadable tax planning guild so ask them first, but here’s an example of a family-friendly free, downloadable template to get you started on your 2023 plan. 

Rethink Your Savings

If you already have a healthy amount in savings, congrats. Make sure it’s an account that’s interest-bearing and you have the best rate. However, if you had to dip into your emergency savings, then chart a course to replenish it. If you don’t have an emergency fund, it makes good sense to start one. A smart rule to consider is having six months of income saved up, should your heater go out, you experience a sudden job loss, or suffer unforeseen medical expenses that your insurance doesn’t cover. A no-nonsense way to begin is to automate a certain amount each month that will be deducted from your paycheck. You’ll begin to accumulate money in no time. Best of all, you’ll never miss it.

Evaluate Your Debt

Have you made progress in paying it down? Or have you gone the other way?  If you’ve eliminated your debt, once again, congrats. If you’ve increased your debt, don’t despair because there are some easy ways to cut expenses. Slow down on eating out. Review your subscriptions and see which ones you really need. Here’s a list of more areas to consider. Another way to get rid of the shackles of debt is to apply for a consolidation loan. You might also use the debt snowball method—starting with the smallest debt and working your way up to the largest. Or the inverse, the debt avalanche, where you pay off high-interest rate balances first.

Contribute to Your 401(k) by Dec. 31

You still have time to do this, but make sure it happens before the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31. If you’re fortunate enough to receive a year-end bonus, you might want to put as much of it as you can toward your 401(k) plan. For the New Year, increase the amount you’re contributing. Just one or more percentage points higher can make a big difference. Finally, if your company offers a match that you have yet to take advantage of (read: max out), do so before it’s too late.

Consider a Roth Conversion

If you’ve experienced a loss of income this year, you may be in a lower tax bracket. This means you can take advantage of your situation by converting some of your pre-tax assets like a Traditional IRA into a Roth IRA. If you’ve earned too much to convert to a Roth IRA, a back-door Roth IRA contribution might be the way to go. Here’s how you do it: Deposit money into a non-deductible Traditional IRA, then convert that IRA into a Roth IRA. But before you do anything at all, consult your tax advisor, as there are potential costs and tax liabilities that might come up.

Check your FSA Balance

An FSA (Flexible Spending Account) is a great benefit if your employer offers it. However, check your balance to see how much you have left because the rule is: Use it or lose it. That said, many companies offer a grace period until mid-March to spend what you have left, though not all do. Make sure to inquire about the rules of your account before the New Year.

Get a Free Credit Report

When was the last time you checked your credit? If you haven’t done so, now’s a good time because looking back can help you plan ahead. Here’s a great place to get a free report. If you notice any errors or discover any identity theft, you can immediately take steps to correct them and start with a clean slate for 2023.

While taking care of financial matters at the end of the year can be a love/hate kind of thing to do, if you spend a little time now, the coming days might be substantially merrier and bright.

Sources

https://www.bankrate.com/personal-finance/end-of-year-financial-checklist/

The First 10 Things to Cut from your Budget

https://www.bankrate.com/retirement/what-is-a-backdoor-roth-ira/

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Blog What's New in Technology

What is Datafication, and Should Business Leaders Take Notice?

What is DataficationData has become a primary asset for businesses today. Consequently, the survival of a business in our data-driven environment is highly dependent on the ability to have total control over data storage, extraction, and manipulation.

As businesses continue being bombarded with vast volumes of data, datafication has become a big trend that provides a solution to turn data into quantifiable, usable, and actionable information. 

What is Datafication?  

The term datafication was coined by Kenneth Cukier and Victor Mayer-Schöenberger in 2013 when they explained it as the transformation of social actions into quantifiable data.

Today, much data is collected at the point of contact with any technology device. Aside from data such as text, images, and numbers, there are logins, passwords, device activity logs, clicks, interaction times, and more. Datafication helps translate all of these human activities into data, which is then repackaged in a form that offers value.

In business, datafication means converting every activity of a business model into actionable data. This has been enabled by a rise in technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data analytics, and predictive analytics.  

It’s worth noting that datafication is not the same as digitization. While datafication is about taking all aspects of life and turning them into a data format, digitization involves converting analog content, such as images and text, to a digital format.

Examples of Datafication in Real Life

There are various ways datafication has been applied in real life, including:

  1. Social media platforms – a lot of data is found on social platforms through profile updates, preferences, reactions, comments and posts. Such information is used for customer profiling.
  2. Ad personalization – tech giants such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon are already using collected data in their storage to personalize their ads and target potential customers.
  3. In customer relationship management – data collected through language and tone in emails, social media and phone calls are used to understand customer needs and wants as well as buying behavior and personalities.   
  4. Human resources – HR uses data obtained from social media or mobile apps to discover characteristics and personalities when looking for potential employees. They also use the data to assess employee productivity. This means that it may no longer be necessary to take personality tests, as the collected data can be analyzed to check if a person matches the company culture and role for which he applies.
  5. Insurance and banking – understanding the risk profile of a customer applying for insurance or a loan, as the data is used to assess the client’s trustworthiness.  

Datafication for Competitive Advantage

With the above use cases, it is evident that businesses can leverage datafication to help improve operations, thereby increasing productivity and revenue.

For instance, collecting real-time customer feedback can help improve products and services. Additionally, it becomes easy to determine and predict sales by analyzing data from social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The information collected from social media, emails and other digital platforms is then used to create personalized campaigns, effectively targeting the most interested audience.

How Businesses Can Implement Datafication

Any trending technology that presents benefits to a business comes at a cost. Luckily, cloud computing eases datafication for businesses as they don’t have to worry about acquiring necessary hardware and software. With readily available software as a service (SaaS) or platform as a service (PaaS) technologies, businesses need only to define the goal they want to achieve with the data collected.

The main concern of a business remains the proper implementation of datafication. To begin with, it is best to ensure that the right technology – such as mobile devices, voice assistants, wearables, IoT – is used.

Next is to use appropriate platforms. Using the right platform will help effectively extract data that a business needs. Such platforms should also analyze massive amounts of data and produce reports that enhance decision-making.  

Another critical factor is to have a centralized repository where all authorized people in the organization can access the data.

Finally, it’s crucial to have skilled professionals in data infrastructure, data management and data analytics to evaluate and manage the data. This could either be an in-house team or outsourced.

Conclusion

Businesses that wish to remain relevant must consider datafication as part of their digital strategies. However, as datafication enters digital transformation, its successful implementation will require attention to data protection through adhering to legal requirements, technical measures such as access control, and best business practices.

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Blog Congress at Work

Improving Federal Hiring Processes, Foreign Election Influence and Natural Disaster Protections

S 3510, S 4254, HR 6967, S 5002, HR 8987, S3232, HR 5441, S 4524Disaster Resiliency Planning Act (S 3510) – Introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on Jan. 13,this Act details guidelines for federal agencies to incorporate natural disaster resilience with regard to real property asset management and investment decisions. The bill passed in the Senate on June 22, in the House on Nov. 14 and is awaiting signature by President Biden.

Disclosing Foreign Influence in Lobbying Act (S 4254) – This Act is designed to combat attempts of foreign adversaries, such as Russia and China, from trying to influence U.S. political elections. Specifically, the bill closes a loophole used to conceal lobbying efforts frequently used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).The bill was introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on May 18 and passed in the Senate on Sept. 29. It is currently under consideration in the House.

Chance to Compete Act of 2022 (HR 6967) – This legislation was introduced by Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) on Jan. 25, 2021. The bipartisan bill attempts to improve the federal civil service hiring process by waiving education degree requirements. The focus would shift to an evaluation of skills, aptitude and experience. Furthermore, the bill would enable agencies to share applicant assessments and permit interviewing by subject matter experts. The bill passed in the House on Sept. 29 and is now being reviewed in the Senate.

A bill to allow for alternatives to animal testing for purposes of drug and biological product applications (S 5002) – This bipartisan bill was introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Sept. 29, 2021, and was passed in the Senate on the same day. The legislation requires that certain alternatives be utilized in animal testing in order to receive an exemption from an investigation of the safety and effectiveness of a drug. Alternatives may include cell-based assays and computer models. The Act also waives the requirement of using animal studies to get a license for a biological product that is interchangeable with another biological product. The bill’s fate currently lies in the House.

Fairness for 9/11 Families Act (HR 8987) – Introduced by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) on Sept. 26, this bipartisan bill authorizes funding for catch-up payments from the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund. The Act passed in the House on Sept. 30 and is currently being considered in the Senate.

Stop Tip-Overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act (STURDY) Act (S3232) – This legislation directs the Consumer Product Safety Commission to revise the safety standards for freestanding dressers, bureaus and chests of drawers. The new manufacturing standards would require testing related to tip-overs for all products sold in the U.S. market. The bill was introduced by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) on Nov.18, 2021. It was passed in the Senate on Sept. 29 and is presently under consideration in the House.

Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act of 2021 (HR 5441) – Introduced on Sept. 30, 2021, by Rep. Steven Cohen (D-TN), this bill addresses soring horses. Soring is the practice of making adjustments to horses’ limbs in order to produce a higher gait for showing at horse shows, exhibitions, sales and auctions. These alterations can cause pain, distress, inflammation or lameness. Specifically, the bill seeks to expand soring regulation and enforcement by establishing a new system for soring inspections and increasing penalties for violations. The bill passed in the House on Nov. 14 and currently lies with the Senate.

Speak Out Act (S 4524) – Introduced on July 13 by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), this Act would waive enforcement of nondisclosure agreements (NDS) involving sexual assault or harassment disputes. The legislation would allow any survivor to share his or her story regardless of a previously signed NDA. The bill passed in the Senate on Sept. 29 and is in the House for consideration.

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Blog Tax and Financial News

Tax Planning Guide for Disaster Area Victims

Tax Planning Guide for Disaster Area VictimsThe recent hurricane Ian impacted much of the southeast United States. As a result, it is good to know the general tax rules related to disaster victims. Below, we look at several tax topics for disaster area victims.

1. Tax Returns and Filings

Q: I am a disaster area victim and needed to move from my home. I might not be back for a long time or even at all. Which address should I use on my tax return?

A: A taxpayer should always use their current address in filing a tax return. In the situation where you move after filing your return, you need to update your address with the IRS. You can do this either by filing form 8822 or calling the IRS Disaster Hotline at 866-562-5227.

Q: I filed an extension for my form 1040, giving me until Oct. 15 to file. Are there any further extensions available?

A: Taxpayers who already filed for an extension until Oct. 15 and live in a federally declared disaster area of the recent hurricanes receive an automatic extension due date of Dec. 31.

2. Payments

Q: I have a balance due on my 2021 tax return and am currently accruing interest on it. Is there any relief for disaster victims on interest charges?

A: No, the IRS is not giving any forbearance or cancellation of interest on tax balance liabilities. The IRS is, however, willing to waive late payment penalties when the taxpayer can prove the reason they are late is caused by issues related to the disaster.

3. Property and Casualty Loss

Q: During a recent disaster we lost electricity and all the food in my refrigerator and freezers spoiled and I had to throw it away. My homeowners’ insurance reimbursed me, and it was for more than the food cost me. Do I have to report any income on the amount over my food costs?

A: No. The tax code makes a distinction between scheduled property and general reimbursements. For unscheduled property (general reimbursements), the taxpayer does not need to recognize income for reimbursements on personal property, even if it was more than the cost of the lost property.

Q: I need to prove the reasonable value (FMV) of my home. Am I allowed to use property tax assessments to substantiate the FMV of my home?

A: No, the only way a taxpayer can establish the FMV of a property is either with an appraisal by a credentialed appraiser or using the cost of repairs method.

4. Sale of Home

Q: My primary residence was destroyed and the cause was deemed to be a federally declared disaster. After clearing the lot, I sold the land alone for a gain. Do I have to pay taxes on the gain or is there an exclusion since it is where my primary residence used to be?

A: Selling a vacant lot does not qualify for the exemption on gains from primary residences. The exception to this rule is if the land previously had the taxpayer’s main residence on it. In this case, if the taxpayer would have qualified for the main residence exemption before the disaster, the gain on the sale of the vacant land would be exempt here as well.

5. Expenses

Q: I worked in a federally declared disaster area and had to move for my job at my own expense. Can I deduct my travel and related expenses?

A: The answer depends on whether or not the move is expected to last for more than one year. If you expect the move to be temporary, defined as less than one year, then there is no change in your tax home. In this case, you can deduct travel and related expenses to get you both to and back from your temporary work assignment. If the move is long-term, defined as more than one year, then the expenses are not deductible, regardless of whether your employer reimbursed you.

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Auditing: What it is & Why It’s Done

What is AuditingThe Importance of Auditing

Auditing typically refers to an objective review of a company’s financial statements, which consists of the cash flow statement, the income statement and the balance sheet. It analyzes the level of accuracy that the business has characterized its financial records. The process looks at how a business documents investing, financing and operating ventures.

Depending on the type of audit and what it aims to accomplish, it can be conducted by internal employees or independent, third-party examiners like a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firm or a government agency such as the Internal Revenue Service. When it comes to the United States, the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) is what auditors look to when analyzing financial statement preparation. External audits are guided by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA) Auditing Standards Board (ASB). The AICPA requires that the generally accepted auditing standards (GAAS) are followed by external auditors to ensure proper protocol is followed.

When it comes to regulations, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires publicly traded companies to have their internal controls’ impacts reviewed. It also states that companies that do not implement and enforce their internal controls may be subject to criminal charges.

Defining Internal Controls

These can be thought of as how businesses can manage operations by regulating permissions, documentation, congruency, protection/safety and partitioning of responsibilities for business processes. These are broken into preventative and detective activities.

Sometimes referred to as protective activities, responsibilities are compartmentalized and distributed among different individuals to dissuade mistakes or deceit from occurring.

It also integrates highly detailed written procedures and validation procedures for further cautionary measures. It’s meant to verify that no sole person is able to approve, document or be responsible for monetary transactions and final products. Permitting invoices and validation of expenses are examples of internal controls. Only permitting appropriate access to the fewest employees necessary and the fewest required business equipment is one way to implement this type of internal control.

Detective Controls Defined

These are redundant systems that are put in place to intercept issues that might have fallen through the initial round of quality control measures. Looking to reconciliation procedures, which matches data in question against known accurate data sets, it’s used to fix discrepancies.

Internal Audits

This type of audit is usually conducted by the business’ employees, primarily performed as a way to evaluate internal operations and internal controls. It looks to identify any deficiencies or weaknesses in the business’ operations, often occurring before an external auditor reviews its financial statements. It’s also meant to review and identify any legal or regulatory compliance issues.

External Audits

This type of audit occurs when an independent auditor, such as a third-party CPA firm, assesses a business’ internal controls and financial statements. It is performed to provide an objective opinion that an audit conducted by the business itself cannot. With a “clean opinion” or “unqualified opinion” provided by the independent auditor, businesses can provide those looking at financial statements confidence that such financial statements are reliable. It enables the outside entity to focus on the financials, the business’ internal controls, etc. by providing a conflict-of-interest-free perspective.

Government Audits

This type of audit is done to ensure that businesses have accurately reported their taxable income to respective government agencies. This can include federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which are the U.S. and Canada’s respective tax collection agencies.

When an IRS audit has concluded its review, there may be a few different preliminary results and resulting paths. The tax return may see no modification. There may be a modification the taxpayer agrees to, which could result in additional money being owed. The third result occurs when the filer doesn’t agree with the change, and it is worked out through an appeal process.

Whether it’s an investor for a publicly traded company or a business looking for creditors for help with money, materials, etc., having audited financial statements provides confidence that they’ll see a return on their investment or a high likelihood of their debts being satisfied in the future.

Sources

https://www.congress.gov/bill/107th-congress/house-bill/3763