Monday, November 29, 2010

If you wound up here from reading Michelle Golden's book...

I am quite thankful to be the subject of a case study in Michelle Golden's excellent new book Social Media Strategies for Professionals and Their Firms: The Guide to Establishing Credibility and Accelerating Relationships.  And perhaps you wound up here as a result of the case study.

When Michelle interviewed me for the case study, this was my primary blog; I had only been blogging on AccountingWeb for a couple of weeks at that time.  Since then, I have shifted my blogging from here to a combination of AccountingWeb and my new blog - The SEC Auditor.  I post to AccountingWeb generally once a week; if I have a lot on my mind I post more.  The SEC Auditor I'm still working on getting right but that will soon be the main blog.

Why?  I like the flexibility of a self-hosted blog using WordPress has over this one.  Plain and simple.

When I remember I will cross post here, but I hope you go to the other blogs, especially The SEC Auditor, subscribe and share your comments!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

10 Ways to Know You Were Born to Be an Accountant

The nice people at Best Online Colleges Online.Net sent me their posting called 10 Ways to Know You Were Born to Be an Accountant

I didn't match all of them - I don't have an abnormal passion for tax law for one.  But still kind of describes me pretty well.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Note On Blog Comments - English Only Please

I have been receiving comments on some of my blog posts in languages other than English, generally I think in Chinese.  While I like to think of myself as worldly, this blog is just me and I only speak English.

Please be advised ALL blog comments that are made in a language other than English will be rejected.  I have no way of knowing what they say or if they are spam posts.  Any spam posts in English will also be rejected.

Friday, July 2, 2010

iPhone App Coming From My Firm's Association

We at Silberstein Ungar, PLLC are a proud member firm of MSI Global Alliance of independent legal and accounting firms.  MSI recently announced they are coming out with an iPhone app called Advisors2Go.  According to Giles Brake, MSI's Marketing & Business Development Manager and I think technology guru, the application "will take advantage of the iPhone's great features to allow you to find and connect with your MSI colleagues around the world, and will also put our worldwide directory into the hands of businesses for the first time."  MSI is the first association to develop such an application.

Kudos to Giles and MSI.  I think this is a fabulous idea and just a further indication of how much more power there is in the palm of our hands.  I only wish I had an iPhone so I could use it!  I really like my BlackBerry Tour.  But I'd switch to an iPhone if it was available on Verizon Wireless.  That is a conversation for another day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CCH's Idea of a Hot Topic

I just got my daily CCH Accounting Research Manager email and the lead item starts off:  "Accounting Research Manager has published a Hot Topic, Foreign Currency Issues Related to Investments in Venezuela - SEC Staff Views."

My biggest client's 10K is being Edgarized tomorrow.  We've got a bunch more due by the end of the month.  1040s are coming in every day, and there are the various reviews and audits of private companies that I'm trying to complete.  And CCH thinks that Foreign Currency Issues Related to Investments in Venezuela is a hot topic.
Did I miss something here?  Because I don't see how this is earth shattering news to about 99% of accountants.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Counting The Ways The FASB Codification Has Improved My Life

I'm working through a disclosure checklist on a small audit client (my previously mentioned franchisor that led me to great aggravation with auditing standards.  Of course I'm now seeing FASB Codification references throughout, and I started to think about all the ways my life has improved as a result of it:
  1. All of my clients, especially those that are publicly traded, have had to update the notes to their financial statements, removing references to familiar states like FASB 5, 13, 109, FIN 48, etc. without the new Codification references.
  2. I graduated from The University of Michigan in 1984.  That means I've been at this for more than 25 years.  I suppose it is a good thing that FASB took away all of this familiarity I had with statement references and is making me start over from scratch.
  3. Searching through what seems like endless levels of the codification in CCH's Accounting Research Manager (sorry not slamming CCH - I'm sure it is a similar experience in others) to get to what I'm looking for.  Why spend time at home with my wife and kids when I can do that.
  4. Why say FASB 13, paragraph 29 when you can say ASC 840-10-50-1? 
Look, I'm just a simple auditor trying to do outstanding work for our valued clients.  How this helps me or them is beyond me.  To paraphrase Simon Cowell "I don't get it.  Sorry."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Talk About Focusing on a Niche

At my Firm, we focus on a few niches - SEC auditing, franchisors/franchisees, broker/dealers and increasingly restaurant groups.  But we still do lots of work that doesn't fall in any of those niches.

Which made an experience I had yesterday make me think about this.

We're located in Detroit, but almost all of our niche clients are located outside of Detroit.  We travel a lot.  And it looks like I'm going to Russia and possibly China sometime in the next month.

I went yesterday to a place called Passport Health Michigan which I think is a franchise of Passport Health USA.  My partner and one of our staff went there last year for immunizations before a trip to China, and now it was my turn.

What an incredible experience.  I called to make my appointment, and they asked me where I was going.  I arrived a couple of hours later, and they had a spiral bound document for me with all of the information I could possibly need for travelling to Russia and China.  The document included:
  • Recommended immunizations
  • Health issues
  • Travel tips
  • General information about the countries
  • Visa requirements
  • And more
The nurse operating the office was incredibly knowledgeable and helped me make informed decisions about what shots to get.  In case I go to China, I got pills to prevent malaria.  They had diarrhea kits (ok unpleasant subject) but I got some pills just in case.  They also had other kits and travel accessories.  
Essentially, it was a one stop place to find out everything I needed to know before going on these trips.

This is giving me a lot to think about.  We are very good at the niches we focus on.  As auditors, can we be more "one stop" all you need to know like this business?  I haven't figured that one out yet.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Aggravated with Auditing Standards

I attended a PPC seminar in September 2007 on implementing the then new auditing standards.  One of the highlights for me was a session led by, if my memory is correct, Harold Monk, the chair of the Auditing Standards Board.  The part that really stuck with me was when he said something to like the following:

Our goal is that every company that has an audit of their financial statements will use two CPA Firms - one to help them with their year-end close, and the second to do the independent audit.
I understand their logic.  I just don't agree with it.  Did they think about asking the ultimate purchasers of an audit, namely the business entities, if they wanted this?  

We do a lot of audits - primarily SEC audits but also a good number of audits of privately held entities.  I can assure you the privately held companies were not overly excited to hear this.  To their minds, two CPA Firms = a needless increase in fees.

I can't argue with them.  Prior to these changes in the standards, one firm could generally help with the closing and drafting the financial statements, including the notes.  Let's be realistic - there aren't many small businesses that can do this themselves.  They may have a very good controller with a good knowledge of GAAP, but maybe they left public accounting and don't want to stay on top of the continuing changes in accounting standards (another sore point with me but that can wait for another day).  So the auditor did the adjustments on some complex accounts and drafted the statements and notes.  

The Auditing Standards Board decides this can't continue.  Again, I understand their logic - the auditor shouldn't be a part of an entities system of internal controls.  

But it just isn't likely that two CPA firms will do this for the same amount of fees.  And how does this help the business entity?  I still just don't get it.

There are times an audit client will ask us to adjust something like deferred taxes for them.  We have to tell them to try and do so themselves.  Then we audit it and fix it.  This is just plain inefficient for the audit client.  They waste time doing something they can't do.  We have to post an adjustment that says something like "To correct error in deferred taxes" where in the past we'd have said something like "To adjust deferred taxes to actual."  Do you think the client likes seeing "To correct error"?  I can assure you some get irritated and don't like hearing "that is what the standards require."

All of these standards lead to a tremendous amount of checklists that need to be prepared.  I have a small franchisor that I audit.  It literally takes me under 30 minutes to test 100% of the transactions.  The required checklists - at least 6 hours.  This doesn't make sense.

I'm hoping some sanity comes in this area.  Of course, if and when it does, I'm going to have to redo all of my audit documentation once again.  

It just doesn't end, does it?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Announcing A Name Change

Maddox Ungar Silberstein, PLLC Announces Name Change to “Silberstein Ungar, PLLC”

Nationally recognized CPA Firm Adds Staff and Expands Deeper into Audits of Public Companies, Franchise Businesses, and Broker Dealers

Bingham Farms, MI, February 2, 2010 – Maddox Ungar Silberstein, PLLC, a nationally recognized public accounting and audit firm, with services primarily focused within the publicly traded company, franchise, and broker dealer industries, announced today that it has changed its name to Silberstein Ungar, PLLC. The firm also announced recent additions of audit staff, as part of a significant investment in expanding its Public Company and Broker/Dealer practice groups. Silberstein Ungar, PLLC provides a complete range of high-level assurance, tax and consulting services to numerous clients throughout the US, Canada, Asia, and Europe.

According to Joel Ungar, Principal and 2003 firm founder, “It has long been our clear and strong vision to grow our audit practice to meet the increasing needs of our rapidly expanding client base. Our continued growth and expansion in the SEC, Broker/Dealer and Franchise sectors provides us with an ideal opportunity to carve out a distinct identity. It enables us to further become one of the prominent, “go-to” firms in the small to mid-sized business community. The name change to ‘Silberstein Ungar, PLLC’ reflects the departure of John Maddox from the Firm and reflects our dedicated commitment to charting the course for firm growth, as well as improved client service, in a more cohesive way.”

“As part of this initiative, the firm is thrilled to announce that Dave Kobylarek, CPA and Seth Gorback have each been promoted to Audit Manager, and we welcome Cary Hammond, CPA and John Chirco, both new members of our audit staff. Each has Big Four audit experience and will help us better serve our clients.”

According to Ron Silberstein, Principal and head of the firm’s SEC Audit and Franchisor Audit Practices, “Throughout our firm’s existence, we have held an unparalleled commitment to our clients - and this won't change – in fact, it will improve. Our office is still in the same location, with the same mailing address, phone and fax number. The only external change is the name on the door which will now be SILBERSTEIN UNGAR, PLLC; internally, however, we have a heightened focus on client responsiveness, and an expanded, more experienced team to serve them.”

About Silberstein Ungar, PLLC

Silberstein Ungar, PLLC is a boutique CPA firm headquartered in Bingham Farms, MI. In addition to providing a range of accounting, tax and consulting services to small and mid-sized businesses, the firm is a top 20 auditor of publicly traded companies and has extensive experience in working with Franchise businesses and broker/dealers. It is a member of the MSI Global Alliance of Independent Legal and Accounting Firms and has clients located throughout the US, Canada, Asia, and Europe.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Certain Donations for Relief in Haiti to be Deductible for 2009

The Haiti Assistance Income Tax Incentive Act was enacted on Friday, January 22, 2010. It allows US taxpayers who give to charities providing earthquake relief in Haiti to claim these donations on their 2009 tax returns. Qualified contributions must be made after January 11, 2010 and before March 1, 2010. Taxpayers have the option of deducting these contributions on either their 2009 or 2010 returns, but not both.

Only cash contributions are eligible, as opposed to contributions of property. Taxpayers must keep proof of payment as typically required for charitable contributions, however, an exception was made for amounts donated via text message in that the cellular bill showing the name of the charitable organization, date, and amount will satisfy the requirements.

Taxpayers must itemize deductions in order to benefit. Qualifying contributions must be made to a US-based organization that is assisting with relief efforts. IRS Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations, can be used to help identify qualified organizations.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

H&R Block and TurboTax Have It Wrong

Driving to the office early on a Sunday January morning, you hear lots of radio commercials for H&R Block and Turbo Tax with a very common theme: We get you the maximum refund possible!

They've got it all wrong.

I can get you the maximum refund possible too. Have 100% of your paycheck withheld so that everything goes to taxes will get you the maximum refund possible. If you want to go beyond the maximum, then you can make quarterly estimated tax payments too. Come tax time you'll get all of the excess you paid in back. Which means you made an interest free loan to the government, by the way.

The idea is to pay the least amount of tax legally possible. It is actually better to pay on April 15 the largest amount possible while avoiding any penalties. That way you hold onto your money longer, and earn some interest off of it too.

You also do that through planning major transactions, ideally with the assistance of a qualified professional. The money you pay the professional will be far less than the tax savings you will realize.

Now don't get me wrong. H&R Block and Turbo Tax provide a valuable service to the American taxpayer. But they are not providing a good service when they misinform people on the real goal.