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  • 04/17/2019 2:35 PM | Deleted user

    Meet President-elect: Dianna Kindseth

    Schedule for 2019 President's Chapter Tour

    May 7
    Minot: 12 pm
    Brady, Martz & Associates, P.C.
    24 West Central Avenue 

    Williston: 4:30 pm
    Lee Suess LLC
    210 University Ave

    May 8
    Dickinson 7:30 Moutain / 8:30 Central:
    Brady, Martz & Associates, P.C.
    2257 3rd Ave W

    Bismarck 12 pm:
    Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC, 1640 Burnt Boat

    May 9
    Grand Forks 12 pm
    3451 32nd Ave S

    Fargo 4 pm:
    Brewtus Brickhouse
    635 32nd Ave E, West Fargo

  • 03/18/2019 2:52 PM | Deleted user

    Flip or flop: Construction industry revenue recognition issues

    Many people enjoy watching DIY shows where homes in disrepair are transformed from shabby to chic in less than an hour. If only the real world worked the same as DIY TV. Firms would be able to get clients implementing revenue recognition during advertisement breaks for hardware stores and home decor

    Sadly, that’s not the case. Now that we’re in 2019, the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s (FASB) new revenue standard is no longer an event on the distant horizon for nonpublic entities. It’s now front and center. The new revenue standard is applicable to all industries, however some are expected to be more significantly affected than others. One of these industries is construction.

    While the effect can vary from entity to entity, here are 10 key items to consider if you work in construction or serve construction clients:

    1. The criteria for recognizing revenue is changing. While most in the industry will likely meet the over-time criteria, you can’t assume you will just because you did in the past. If you don’t meet the criteria, then revenue should be recognized at a point in time.
    2. Measuring progress on a contract using an input method such as cost-to-cost may require adjustments for costs that do not represent the transfer of goods or services to a customer (i.e. rework, waste, mobilization costs, uninstalled materials).
    3. Accounting for change orders and modifications look different. Key determinations include whether modifications add distinct goods or services and if they’re priced at their standalone prices.
    4. Performance obligations must be capable of being distinct AND distinct within the context of the contract. This determination requires careful consideration of what the customer is ultimately buying.
    5. Is the contractor a principal or an agent? To answer this, consider whether the individual is being engaged to provide a service (principal) or to arrange for someone else to provide a service (agent).
    6. Variable consideration (e.g., penalties, bonuses) likely will be recognized much earlier than under legacy guidance; however, evaluation of the likelihood of a reversal is required (concept of a constraint).
    7. Noncash consideration (equipment, materials or labor) used in fulfillment of a contract is included in the transaction price if the contractor obtains control over the noncash consideration provided.
    8. Consideration of whether long-term agreements include a significant financing component is also required.
    9. Cancellation terms may have a material impact on when and how much revenue can be recognized.
    10. Guidance for customer-provided materials, uninstalled materials, costs to obtain a contract, set-up and mobilization costs and bid costs has been addressed by the new standard as well.

    To help ensure that implementation of the standard isn’t a flop for our members, the Center for Plain English Accounting developed a suite of resources on revenue recognition. Those resources include individual reports on aspects of the standard, archived webcasts, contract review checklists, onsite training and industry-specific resources such as our two-part report on the construction industry. This report is usually available exclusively to Center for Plain English Accounting members, but we have unlocked part one temporarily so that anyone can access it. You’ll also want to mark your calendars for the AICPA Construction & Real Estate Conference, taking place Dec. 5-6, 2019, in Nashville, TN.

    Practitioners need answers to their difficult A&A questions. The Center for Plain English Accounting is here to help. Make sure your firm has access to top-notch A&A advice by joining the Center for Plain English Accounting.

    Mike Austin, Senior Technical Manager- Center for Plain English Accounting, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants 

    Resources Available From the AICPA

    No matter which credential you pursue, the AICPA supports you every step of the way by providing everything from exam prep materials to exclusive tools and technical resources that will help you, as a credential holder, maintain the highest level of competency in delivering advisory services. When you’re ready to take your career to the next level with an AICPA credential, visit

  • 01/18/2019 2:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    How a Few Little Letters Can Change Your Career

    When there are hundreds of thousands of financial professionals at work in public accounting, business and industry, government, academia and consulting, how can you stand out in such a crowded profession?

    Many financial professionals do this by leveraging the rapid growth of advisory services. By offering specialized knowledge to your clients or employer, you’re positioned to be more competitive in the marketplace and are able to differentiate yourself from others in the field. And that translates into increased compensation and career advancement opportunities. Firms are finding that offering more services can increase their bottom line.

    When you move beyond compliance work to more future-oriented, value-added work, you can do more for your clients, serving them in new ways. Organizations with credentialed professionals realize increased profit margins through the management of risk, improved controls, process and workflow improvements and faster decision-making through simulations and data analytics.

    The fact is, value-added services are not just a trend, and they are not going away. Of Accounting Today’s Top 100 Niche Services, business valuation consistently has ranked in the top five for the past 15 years. Also, an IBISWorld 2012 report projects that forensic accounting will grow at a rate four times that of the U.S. accounting profession through 2017. Financial planning follows closely at a growth rate that is double that of the accounting profession.

    According to the Robert Half 2016 Salary Guide, the need for financial professionals with technology experience is rising, given the complexities of systems and tools, and emerging technologies.

    Unlock the Possibilities

    The AICPA offers the only credentials built on the foundation of competency, objectivity and integrity. The credentials are: Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF®), Personal Financial Specialist (PFS™), Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV®) and Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP®).

    According to [name], CEO of [state society name], “financial professionals who are looking to move up in their career, add greater value in the workplace and take advantage of the recent growth of advisory services within the accounting profession should pursue a credential.”

    Credentials for All Areas of Interest

    Forensic accounting has become one of the fastest growing specialty-practice areas for U.S. financial professionals who want to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and experience in the forensic accounting area. The CFF credential encompasses fundamental and specialized forensic accounting skills that you can apply in a variety of service areas, including bankruptcy and insolvency; computer forensic analysis; family law; valuations; economic damages calculations; and fraud prevention, detection and response. In addition, the CFF credential sets you apart as an expert witness in the courtroom.

    The PFS credential showcases a financial professional’s expertise in personal financial planning. This credential is an excellent next step for financial professionals seeking to expand or diversify a tax-focused practice. Your comprehensive knowledge in financial planning and tax enable you to bring a holistic approach to your clients’ financial needs, whether advising in retirement, estate, tax, risk management and/or investment planning.

    Two major factors are driving up the demand for financial planners. First, given the complexities of ATRA and the new net investment income tax that will affect every area of financial planning, clients are looking for objective guidance. Secondly, large numbers of boomers are heading into retirement and seeking advisers to help them plan accordingly to avoid outliving their financial resources.

    The ABV credential is ideal for financial professionals who want to enter this in-demand area by positioning themselves as a premier business valuation service provider who goes beyond the core service of reaching a conclusion of value to creating value for clients through the strategic application of this analysis.

    The rise in demand for business valuation experts and firms that offer this service has been fueled by a rapid increase in merger and acquisition activity, gifting and estate transfers, and the Small Business Administration’s requirement for independent business valuations on loan regulations. Other valuation services include valuing a business due to transfer of ownership, divorce settlement, fair value accounting, ESOP valuations, economic damage calculations, and expert witness or litigation support.

    Financial professionals who have considerable expertise in information management and technology assurance should seek the CITP credential. Financial professionals who have earned the CITP credential are recognized for their unique ability to provide technology-related assurance and business insight by leveraging knowledge of information, data relationships and supporting technologies.

    This credential spans a broad base of knowledge from IT assurance, IT risk management and security, and privacy to analytics and emerging technologies. CITP credential holders are helping their clients or organization improve operations, ensure financial data integrity, determine risks associated with financial reporting, and prevent and detect fraud.

    A Closer Look at the Requirements

    In addition to being an AICPA member in good standing and signing a Declaration of Intent to comply with the requirements of credential recertification, each candidate must also meet the following requirements:


    Exam Requirement

    Business Experience Requirement

    Education Requirement


    Pass the CFF Examination

    1,000 hours of business experience in forensic accounting within the five-year period preceding the date of the CFF application

    75 hours of forensic accounting continuing professional education (CPE) within the five-year period preceding the date of the CFF application


    Pass one of three comprehensive exams: Personal Financial Specialist (CPA/PFS), Certified Financial Planner® (CFP) or Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

    3,000 hours of personal financial planning experience within the five-year period preceding the date of the PFS application; up to 1,000 hours of tax compliance experience can count toward the total experience requirement

    75 hours of personal financial planning CPE within the five-year period preceding the date of the PFS application


    Pass the ABV Examination (this is waived for Accredited Members and Accredited Senior Appraisers of the American Society of Appraisers)

    Either 6 business valuation engagements or 150 hours of business valuation experience within the five-year period preceding the date of the ABV application

    75 hours of valuation CPE within the five-year period preceding the date of the ABV application


    Pass the CITP Examination


    1,000 hours of business experience in information management and technology assurance within the five-year period preceding the date of the CITP application

    75 hours of information management and technology assurance CPE within the five-year period preceding the date of the CITP application


    Resources Available From the AICPA

    No matter which credential you pursue, the AICPA supports you every step of the way by providing everything from exam prep materials to exclusive tools and technical resources that will help you, as a credential holder, maintain the highest level of competency in delivering advisory services. When you’re ready to take your career to the next level with an AICPA credential, visit


  • 01/02/2019 2:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Get Involved with Junior Achievement!

    The Grand Forks Area is looking for volunteers.  Training sessions will be held on January 16 and January 23 for new volunteers.  

    For more information, click here to download their handout.

  • 06/14/2018 4:10 PM | Anonymous

    When will the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issue guidance on new Internal Revenue Code section 199A?  That’s the number one question on CPAs’ minds related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

    The answer is soon, according to Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter.  On June 8, when speaking at a tax conference in Charlottesville, Va., Kautter said that the proposed section 199A regulations could be released “within a couple of weeks.”  Kautter also said the IRS is trying to hit the key points with the proposed regulations (implying they will not address many of the less-urgent points in the initial guidance).  He noted that the proposed regulations will likely include general rules, aggregation rules, anti-abuse rules, and the definition of specified services. 

    Kautter had first predicted at a May tax meeting in Washington, D.C. that the proposed regulations would be released in July.  At that time, he said that the proposed regulations probably would not answer all practitioners’ questions and that public comments would help shape the final regulations. 

    Under the new law passed by Congress last December, qualified business income (QBI) from many pass-through entities is eligible for a 20 percent deduction, although many basic questions about the provision will remain unanswered until the Treasury Department and the IRS issue guidance.  

    The American Institute of CPAs began its push for immediate guidance in February.  In a letter to Treasury and IRS officials, the AICPA stated, “Taxpayers and practitioners need clarity regarding QBI in order to comply with their 2018 tax obligations and to make informed decisions regarding cash-flow, entity structure, and other tax planning issues.”  The AICPA has since reinforced the urgency for guidance in meetings with the IRS and Treasury, and also provided real-life examples of challenges about how the rules may impact our members and their clients.

    The AICPA identified six top priorities for QBI guidance and suggested how guidance in those areas should be written.

    The six issues are:

    • Definition of QBI
    • Aggregation method for calculation of QBI of pass-through businesses
    • Deductible amount of QBI for a pass-through entity with business in net loss
    • Qualification of wages paid by an employee leasing company
    • Application of section 199A to an owner of a fiscal year pass-through entity ending in 2018
    • Availability of deduction for Electing Small Business Trusts

    “We offered our suggestions on guidance early in the process because we believed it would be helpful to IRS and Treasury as they thought through how to draft the proposed regulations,” Edward Karl, CPA, CGMA, AICPA vice president of taxation, said.  “We also know how important this area of the law is to our members and their clients,” Karl added.

  • 05/16/2018 10:29 AM | Anonymous


    The Office of Professional Responsibility: What You Need to Know about Practicing before the IRS (rebroadcast)

    ·         Date: June 13, 2018
    ·         Time: 2 p.m. (ET); 1 p.m. (CT); 12 p.m. (MT); 11 a.m. (PT)
    ·         Register here:

    Please check HERE for National and Local webinars for Tax Professionals.

    Check HERE for webinars and videos recently posted to the IRS Video Portal.


    IRS urges ‘Paycheck Checkup’ for key groups; tax withholding may need adjustment

    ·         Following the recent tax law changes, it’s especially important for certain people to use the Withholding Calculator on to check if they are having the right amount of withholding.

    ·         Among the groups who should check their withholding are people who:

    ·         Belong to a two-income family.

    ·         Work two or more jobs or only work for part of the year.

    ·         Have children and claim credits such as the Child Tax Credit.

    ·         Have older dependents, including children age 17 or older.

    ·         Itemized deductions on their 2017 tax returns.

    ·         Earn high incomes and have more complex tax returns.

    ·         Received large tax refunds or had large tax bills for 2017.

    Newly-revised estimated tax form and publication can help people pay the right amount

    ·         The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed the way tax is calculated for most taxpayers, including those with substantial income not subject to withholding.

    ·         The newly revised estimated tax package, Form 1040-ES is designed to help taxpayers figure these payments correctly.

    ·         A companion publication, Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, has additional details, including worksheets and examples, that can help taxpayers determine whether they should pay estimated tax, such as those who have dividend or capital gain income, owe alternative minimum tax or have other special situations.

    Inflation Adjustments Under Recently Enacted Tax Law

    ·         The IRS has updated the tax year 2018 annual inflation adjustments to reflect changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The tax year 2018 adjustments are generally used on tax returns filed in 2019.

    New rules and limitations for depreciation and expensing under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

    ·         A taxpayer may elect to expense the cost of any section 179 property and deduct it in the year the property is placed in service. The new law increased the maximum deduction from $500,000 to $1 million. It also increased the phase-out threshold from $2 million to $2.5 million.

    ·         See the article for more information about:

    Temporary 100 percent expensing for certain business assets (first-year bonus depreciation)

    Changes to depreciation limitations on luxury automobiles and personal use property

    Changes to treatment of certain farm property

    IRS grants relief for taxpayers affected by reduction of maximum deductible Health Savings Account contributions

    ·         A change in the inflation adjustment calculations for 2018 under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, reduced the maximum deductible HSA contribution for taxpayers with family coverage under an HDHP by $50, to $6,850.

    ·         For 2018, taxpayers with family coverage under an HDHP may treat $6,900 as the maximum deductible HSA contribution.

    IRS issues guidance on business interest expense limitations

    ·         The Treasury Department and the IRS issued Notice 2018-28, which provides guidance for computing the business interest expense limitation under recent tax legislation enacted on Dec. 22, 2017.

    IRS Announces 2018 Pension Plan Limitations Not Affected by Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

    ·         The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 does not affect the tax year 2018 dollar limitations for retirement plans announced in IR 2017-177 and detailed in Notice 2017-64.

    Many corporations will pay a blended federal income tax this year under the new tax reform law

    ·         Many U.S. corporations elect to use a fiscal year end and not a calendar year end for federal income tax reporting purposes.


    ·         Due to a provision in the recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), a corporation with a fiscal year that includes Jan. 1, 2018 will pay federal income tax using a blended tax rate and not the flat 21 percent tax rate under the TCJA that would generally apply to taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017.


    What Taxpayers Should do When They Need More Time to Pay

    ·         Here are some tips for those who can’t pay their taxes in full.

    Current Year Transcript Availability

    ·         Use the table to determine the general timeframe when you can request a transcript for a current year Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ return filed on or before the April due date. Availability varies based on the method you used to file your return and whether you have a refund or balance due.

    Sharing Economy Tax Center

    ·         Small business owners that offer goods and services online may be part of the sharing economy. Activities such as ride sharing, freelancing, renting a spare bedroom and crowd funding are usually taxable. The IRS has a Sharing Economy Tax Center to help these taxpayers find the information they need to meet their tax obligations.

    Combat zone tax benefits now available to Armed Forces members who served in the Sinai Peninsula; IRS accepting retroactive tax refund claims back to 2015

    ·         U.S. Armed Forces members who served in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt may qualify for combat zone tax benefits retroactive to June 2015, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

    ·         Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) enacted in December 2017, members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard who performed services in the Sinai Peninsula can now claim combat zone tax benefits.

    ·         Eligible service members should review Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide.


    IRS, Security Summit Partners warn of new twist on phone scam; crooks direct taxpayers to to “verify” calls

    ·         There is new twist (yes, another new twist!) on an old phone scam as criminals use telephone numbers that mimic IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) to trick taxpayers into paying non-existent tax bills.

    ·         In the latest version of the phone scam, criminals claim to be calling from a local IRS TAC office. Scam artists have programmed their computers to display the TAC telephone number, which appears on the taxpayer’s Caller ID when the call is made.

    ·         If the taxpayer questions their demand for tax payment, they direct the taxpayer to to look up the local TAC office telephone number to verify the phone number. The crooks hang up, wait a short time and then call back a second time, and they are able to fake or “spoof” the Caller ID to appear to be the IRS office calling. After the taxpayer has “verified” the call number, the fraudsters resume their demands for money, generally demanding payment on a debit card.

    When to file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit

    ·         Taxpayers who experience tax-related identity theft may wonder when they should file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.

    ·         In the vast majority of tax-related identity theft cases, there is no need to file the Form 14039 affidavit. The Form 14039 affidavit should be filed if the taxpayer attempts to file an electronic tax return and the IRS rejects it because a return bearing the taxpayer’s Social Security number already has been filed. Or, it should be filed if the IRS instructs the taxpayer to do so.


    Speed Up Correspondence Audits with Secure Messaging

    ·         The IRS is testing the Taxpayer Digital Communications (TDC) Secure Messaging program to streamline correspondence audits. The TDC program focuses on audits involving Schedule A Itemized Deductions, the Child Care Credit and the Education Credit, which are processed by the IRS Philadelphia Campus. For approximately 19,000 of these audits, taxpayers and their tax professionals with valid powers of attorney (POA) can communicate with the IRS using secure messaging.

    ·         This program is by invitation only. If your client is under audit with the Philadelphia Campus and the audit letter says the client can use secure messaging to reply to the IRS, encourage your client to sign up using the website provided in their letter. Once your client registers via IRS Secure Access, you will be able to register under your own SSN and complete the request access verification process.

    ·         Before you can participate as a tax professional, your power of attorney must be filed on the IRS Centralized Authorization File (CAF) system. After you authenticate and the IRS verifies your power of attorney, you will have access to your own secure messaging mailbox.

    ·         Additional Information regarding secure messaging and other options is available on at Alternatives to Secure Messaging.

    Tax law, cybersecurity key topics at the 2018 IRS Nationwide Tax Forums

    ·         With recent tax law changes and continued cybersecurity threats facing the tax community, the IRS encourages tax professionals to sign up for this summer’s Nationwide Tax Forums to get the latest information and developments.

    ·         Each of the five IRS Nationwide Tax Forums is a three-day event with more than 40 seminars and workshops. These focus on a wide variety of federal and state tax issues presented by experts from the IRS and partner organizations. Tax professionals can earn up to 18 continuing education credits.

    ·         Tax professionals who pre-register by June 15 will receive an early bird rate of $235 per person. The standard rate of $255 is available starting June 16 and ends two weeks prior to the start of each Forum. Attendees registering on-site or after the deadlines below will pay $370.         

    Location                                   Forum Dates                Standard Reg Deadline

    Atlanta, GA                               July 10 - 12                   June 26

    National Harbor, MD                  July 17 - 19                   July 3

    (near Washington, DC)

    San Diego, CA                          Aug. 7 - 9                      July 24

    Chicago, IL                               Aug. 21 – 23                 Aug. 7

    Orlando, FL                               Sept. 11 – 13                Aug. 28

    Keep All Information for a Complete Tax Record

    ·         As a tax professional, you know how important it is to keep good records. Did you know that includes records of electronic and telephone contacts with the IRS? If questions later arise, having a complete record of all documents and contacts may speed up resolution of your issue.

    ·         If you need to contact the IRS by telephone, note key information from the conversation, such as:

    The date and time of the call

    The name and employee identification number of the contact representative

    Any resolution or information you received from the representative.

    ·         Before you call, also check for the topics and information people ask about most. You may find the information you are looking for without having to call the IRS.


    Business owners: Ensure employees check their withholding

    ·         Business owners should remind employees to check their withholding and do a “paycheck checkup” following changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Using the Withholding Calculator is the best way for employees to check that they aren’t having too much or too little tax withheld from their paychecks.

    IRS provides certain small employers with relief for the small business health care tax credit for 2017 and later years

    ·         The IRS issued guidance that provides relief for certain small employers that wish to claim the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit for 2017 and later years.

    ·         In general, the relief provided helps employers who first claim the credit for all or part of 2016 or a later taxable year for coverage offered through a SHOP Marketplace, but don’t have SHOP Marketplace plans available to offer to employees for all or part of the remainder of the credit period because the county where the employer is located has no SHOP Marketplace plans.


    U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division

    ·         Mission Statement: The Wage and Hour mission is to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards to protect and enhance the welfare of the Nation's workforce.

    ·         The WHD enforces Federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. WHD also enforces the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, wage garnishment provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act, and a number of employment standards and worker protections as provided in several immigration related statutes.


    Tools for Tax Professionals

    ·         Subscribe to e-News for Tax Professionals

    Preparers can register to get this electronic newsletter. It’s one of the best ways for tax professionals to get the latest national and local IRS news. (Editor’s note: most of the articles in this monthly newsletter come from e-News for Tax Professionals.)

    • Tax Scams / Consumer Alerts
    • We send out emails each time there’s a new tax scam. It gets confusing to remember all of them. You don’t have to! This page lists ALL scams targeting taxpayers, tax professionals and others

    ·   Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center

    Loads of info here, including:

    Federal Trade Commission:

  • 04/27/2018 2:40 PM | Anonymous

    Published on Thursday, January 25, 2018 by Jeff Budiac
    In today’s strong economy, businesses large and small are booming. But with growth comes added complexity. Are businesses using accounting software that’s up to the task?

    Read more here...

  • 04/16/2018 12:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Now in its tenth year, the AICPA Leadership Academy continues to encourage emerging leaders, who understand the legacy of the profession and have the passion (and skills) necessary to address the challenges of an everchanging global business environment, to volunteer at state and national levels. Participants focus on deepening their unique leadership strengths thereby providing a solid foundation for volunteer positions. 

    Scheduled for Oct. 7-11, 2018, in Durham, NC, the 4-day event focuses on developing the four Cs:

    1. Competency: Personal and professional leadership competencies
    2. Context: Understanding the larger context of the accounting profession and business environment
    3. Collaboration: Engagement in highly collaborative learning experiences
    4. Community: Building new peer relationships

    We hope you will consider sponsoring or recommending a deserving “rising-star” for this once-in-lifetime event. We would love to see a candidate from ND!

    Applications are being accepted with a deadline of May 31, 2018. For more detailed information, direct your emerging leader(s) to this website.

  • 04/16/2018 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The AICPA is working with the AACSB to increase CPA practitioner engagement in the accreditation process. Increasing accounting practitioner engagement in the accreditation process will add value for the university accounting program seeking accreditation/reaffirmation and ultimately for the profession. The AICPA has agreed to recruit 75 CPA volunteers for the program. Selected practitioners will be a vital part of the accreditation process and governance structure by volunteering to serve on an AACSB accounting peer review team or AACSB committee. Click here for more info.

  • 03/26/2018 1:28 PM | Anonymous

    Summit partners warn tax pros to be on alert; step up security measures

    IR-2018-68, March 22, 2018

    WASHINGTON – The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry warned tax professionals to be alert to taxpayer data theft in the final weeks of the tax filing season. The Security Summit partners urged tax professionals to enhance their data safeguards immediately.

    In recent days, the “New Client” scam has re-emerged, signaling ongoing attempts by cybercriminals to target tax professionals with spear phishing schemes. In this scam, a “new client” emails the tax pro about a tax issue, attaching documents to their email that they claim to be an IRS notice or prior-year tax information. The documents actually contain malware that, if opened, enable the criminals to steal taxpayer information.

    This filing season, the Internal Revenue Service has seen a steep upswing in the number of reported thefts of taxpayer data from tax practitioner offices. Seventy-five firms reported taxpayer data thefts in January and February, nearly a 60 percent increase from the same time last year. Much of this increase follows one scam, the erroneous refund scheme, that affected thousands of taxpayers and numerous practitioners earlier this filing season.

    January through April represents prime season for cybercriminals to attack tax practitioners, but data thefts can occur at any time. Tax professionals should be on high alert and deploy strong security measures as the filing season reaches a peak with the April 17 deadline approaching. Criminals try to take advantage of this extremely busy time of year when tax professionals are in greater contact with taxpayers and are therefore in possession of more data.

    Some tax professionals may be unaware they are victims of data theft. Here are some signs:

    • Client e-filed returns begin to reject because returns with their Social Security numbers were already filed;
    • The number of returns filed with tax practitioner’s Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN) exceeds number of clients;
    • Clients who haven’t filed tax returns begin to receive authentication letters (5071C, 4883C, 5747C) from the IRS;
    • Network computers running slower than normal;
    • Computer cursors moving or changing numbers without touching the keyboard;
    • Network computers locking out tax practitioners.

    Identity thieves often are part of sophisticated criminal syndicates based in the U.S. and abroad. These syndicates are resourceful, being tax savvy and having digital expertise to pull off these crimes. They use a variety of tactics to break into tax professionals’ computer systems and steal client information if appropriate security measures have not been taken.

    A common tactic, called spear phishing, occurs when the criminal singles out one or more tax preparers in a firm and sends an email posing as a trusted source such as the IRS, e-Services, a tax software provider or a cloud storage provider. Thieves also may pose as clients or new prospects. The objective is to trick the tax professional into disclosing sensitive usernames and passwords or to open a link or attachment that secretly downloads malware enabling the thieves to track every keystroke.

    The “New Client” scam is one form of spear phishing. Here’s an example: “I just moved here from Michigan. I have an urgent Tax issue and I was hoping you could help,” the email begins. “I hope you are taking on new clients.” The email says one attachment is the IRS notice and the other attachment is the prospective client’s prior-year tax return. This scam has many variations. (See IR-2018-2, Security Summit Partners Warn Tax Pros of Heightened Fraud Activity as Filing Season Approaches.)

    The IRS Criminal Investigation Division continues to investigate a series of data thefts at tax preparers’ offices that occurred earlier this year in which the criminals added a new twist to their scheme to file fraudulent tax returns. The thieves directed the fraudulent refunds into the taxpayers’ actual bank accounts. This scam has claimed thousands of taxpayer victims. (See IR-2018-17, Scam Alert: IRS Urges Taxpayers to Watch Out for Erroneous Refunds.)

    Although reports of this data theft have lessened recently, taxpayers and tax professionals should remain on alert for this scam. Taxpayers should return any fraudulent refunds to the IRS as well as discuss security options for their checking or savings accounts with their financial institutions. Here are the recommended security steps by the Security Summit:

    • Learn to recognize phishing emails, especially those pretending to be from the IRS, e-Services, a tax software provider or cloud storage provider. Never open a link or any attachment from a suspicious email. Remember: The IRS never initiates contact via email.
    • Create a data security plan using IRS Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, and Small Business Information Security – The Fundamentals, by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 
    • Review internal controls:
      • Install anti-malware/anti-virus security software on all devices (laptops, desktops, routers, tablets and phones) and keep software set to automatically update.
      • Use strong and unique passwords of 10 or more mixed characters, password protect all wireless devices, use a phrase or words that are easily remembered and change passwords periodically.
      • Encrypt all sensitive files/emails and use strong password protections.
      • Back up sensitive data to a safe and secure external source not connected fulltime to a network.
      • Wipe clean or destroy old computer hard drives that contain sensitive data.
      • Limit access to taxpayer data to individuals who need to know.
      • Check IRS e-Services account weekly for number of returns filed with EFIN.
    • Those who experience a security incident or a breach resulting in data disclosure should report the incident to the appropriate IRS Stakeholder Liaison.
    • Stay connected to the IRS through subscriptions to e-News for Tax Professionals, Quick Alert and Social Media.

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