Bramwell’s Lunch Beat: Koskinen’s 15-Second Decision

Camp to Obama: Let’s talk
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) said on March 6 there are some areas in his proposal to overhaul the tax code where he thinks he can work with President Obama, Bernie Becker of The Hill reported over the weekend.

Areas of possible agreement include streamlining an array of overlapping tax breaks for college tuition to pouring funds back into a nearly bankrupt highway trust fund – ideas that are both politically popular and have bipartisan support, the article stated.

During a hearing with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew last Thursday, Camp opened the door to seeking a more targeted measure on education taxes, after for months insisting that he was only interested in a broad rewrite of the tax code.

“He also noted some similarities between his proposal for the highway trust fund and provisions in Obama’s budget,” Becker wrote. “And Camp even complimented Lew for continuing to back a corporate-only reform of the tax code, a path the Ways and Means chairman has long said he didn’t want to go down.”

In battle for IRS, commissioner’s in it to win
Bloomberg View columnist Albert R. Hunt wrote yesterday about why taking over as commissioner of the maligned IRS was an ideal situation for John Koskinen.

“A year ago, top White House aides Jeff Zients and Gene Sperling talked to Koskinen about a job in the Barack Obama administration,” the article stated. “He demurred, though he told them, if you've got something disastrous that no one else wants to manage, call me.

“They did; he says it took him ‘about 15 seconds’ to accept the job of IRS commissioner.”

As a successful entrepreneur, Koskinen was known for his ability to turn around troubled companies, such as Freddie Mac. When George W. Bush took office, Koskinen stunned his colleagues by accepting a job as city administrator for the often-ridiculed District of Columbia government. Under the Clinton administration, Koskinen was put in charge of the so-called Y2K crisis – the preparations to avoid cataclysmic computer malfunctions as the clock turned to January 1, 2000. The transition went seamlessly, Hunt wrote.

“You get the idea: Koskinen loves challenges. Many Republicans hate the IRS. Its budget has been cut for four consecutive years, while its responsibilities have increased. It has a major role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and it is embroiled in a controversy over the tax-exempt status of political groups,” the article stated.

“In less than three months on the IRS job, Koskinen already has bolstered morale at the agency, as well as its standing on Capitol Hill.”

The IRS’s behavior taxes credulity
Longtime newspaper columnist and author George Will wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post on March 7 on how former IRS official Lois Lerner may be the face of the IRS’s misbehavior, but she is not alone.

“The most intrusive and potentially most punitive federal agency has been politicized; the IRS has become an appendage of Barack Obama’s party,” the column stated. “Furthermore, congruent with exhortations from some congressional Democrats, it is intensifying its efforts to suffocate groups critical of progressives, by delaying what once was the swift, routine granting of tax-exempt status.

“The idea that politicians should write laws restricting people critical of them is as perverse as the idea that the sprawling, opaque IRS bureaucracy should be assigned to construe and apply such laws,” Will continued.

SEC may be closer to approving latest IFRS Taxonomy
Tammy Whitehouse of Compliance Week reported on March 6 that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) may be getting closer to approving the latest International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Taxonomy to enable US IFRS filers to begin submitting financial statements in eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL).

The SEC requires all US filers to use an SEC-approved taxonomy to submit financial statements in XBRL, but foreign-private issuers who file under IFRS have been relieved of the XBRL filing requirement since it first took effect for that population of US registrants in 2011, the article stated.

The IFRS Taxonomy has been maintained and updated by the IFRS Foundation with support from the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), just as the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) annually updates a US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) Taxonomy used by GAAP filers.

“While the SEC has annually approved FASB's updated GAAP Taxonomy, it has not found the IFRS Taxonomy fit for XBRL use in the United States,” Whitehouse wrote.

Study links audit fee pressure to quality, restatements
On March 7, Whitehouse also reported that a recent academic study suggests from 2006 through 2010 audit firms buckled under fee pressure and failed to get full compensation for the risk that an intentional misstatement may be lurking undetected in a company's books.

“The study found that companies with elevated financial reporting risk paying lower fees relative to that risk have significantly higher rates of restatements compared to companies with a comparable risk profile paying higher fee-to-risk ratios,” Whitehouse wrote. “The results suggest audit quality declines under fee pressure that doesn't adequately compensate auditors for the financial reporting risk, the study says. Auditors have warned companies in more recent years, however, to expect higher audit costs as they have faced harsh criticisms from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board and expected to perform more audit procedures and more documentation as a result.”

Top choice: Our favorite online-based business accounting apps
PCWorld recently reviewed four online accounting applications – Xero, QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and Kashoo – to determine which is the best.

“All offer essentially the same tools for keeping your business finances on track, but none offer what can be considered a complete set of tools. And none can perfectly satisfy every business’ needs. The reality is that none of these apps are exceptional, but all are serviceable, which, perhaps, is all you need in any business accounting application,” the article stated.

Quick Links

  • Big business takes on tea party, gently (Politico)
  • IRS agrees to hand over Lerner e-mails (The Hill)
  • After big bet, hedge fund pulls the levers of power (New York Times)
  • Google reaps tax breaks in $1.4 billion clean energy bet (Bloomberg)
  • Cost accounting on steroids for new era (Healthcare Finance News)
  • Reform financial reporting so dogs don’t die in vain (Financial News)
  • Small business tax credits for Obamacare? (Forbes)
  • A China fraud dissected: Part 3 AgFeed’s trusted advisors Protiviti and Latham & Watkins (re: The Auditors)
  • Daylight Saving Time + gas taxes = boom for tax collectors, but some money-saving options for added daylight drivers (Don’t Mess With Taxes)

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