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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, June 23, 2014, 5:43 am

Accounting: New accounting standards take another step forward

Also: IRS ‘Taxpayer Bill of Rights;’ accounting industry index rises

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     Eric Gneckow, Business Journal staff reporterThe International Accounting Standards Board, which develops standards for accounting outside the United States, and the Financial Accounting Standards Board, responsible for U.S. policies including Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP, in May issued a long-awaited converged standard for depicting revenue from customer contracts.

    The new standard hinges on the principle that companies depict the transfer of goods and services to customers in a way that reflects the payment expected from those customers – a seemingly straightforward concept, but one that has so far been difficult to develop amid myriad industry-specific revenue accounting rules.

    FASB and IASB contended that the differing rules made it difficult for investors and other users of financial statements to compare revenue not only between the two standards, but also between companies reporting under the same standard that recognize revenue in an industry-specific way.

    Industries that are expected to experience the biggest changes include telecommunications, aerospace, construction, asset management, real estate and software, according to FASB.

    The new provisions will be effective for annual reporting of public entities for periods beginning after Dec. 15, 2016. Nonpublic entities will be required to follow the standard for annual periods after Dec. 15, 2017 and for interim periods after Dec. 15, 2018.

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    The Internal Revenue Service in June announced the adoption of a so-called “Taxpayer Bill of Rights,” a one-stop document that outlines key information on audits, collection and other taxpayer concerns.

    Calling it a “cornerstone document,” the IRS included 10 broad categories that are now more visible on www.irs.gov. Taxpayers will receive a printed publication including those categories when they receive communication from the IRS on a variety of issues.

    “These are core concepts about which taxpayers should be aware. Respecting taxpayer rights continues to be a top priority for IRS employees, and the new Taxpayer Bill of Rights summarizes these important protections in a clearer, more understandable format than ever before,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, in a written announcement.

    While those rights are nothing new, the IRS contends that the scattering of provisions throughout the tax code makes them difficult to track and understand for taxpayers.

    Provisions listed on the document include the right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax, the right to appeal an IRS decision and the right to quality service.

    The initiative is the latest development in an overhaul of information resources under the IRS, spearheaded in part by a major overhaul of the IRS website in August of 2012.

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    The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants released its second-quarter CPA Outlook Index in June, finding an overall increase in the economic outlook of members holding executive positions across a wide spectrum of industries.

    The overall index rose two points to 72 for the report conducted in the three-month period ending June 30, a three-point increase compared to the same period one year ago. Scores above 50 indicate a generally positive outlook.

    The greatest gains year-over-year have been in expansion plans, up four points at 76, and in training and development plans, also up four points at 70.

    The index of general U.S. economic optimism ranked lowest at 67 points.

    Hiring expectations were greatest in the construction industry, with an overall 3.3 percent anticipated increase in staff over the next 12 months. Health care providers had the lowest level of expected hiring, at 1.5 percent.

    The overall outlook index has been headed upward since the recession, having reaching a low of “40” in the second quarter of 2009.

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    Send items for this column to eric.gneckow@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4259.

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