Bramwell’s Lunch Beat: Who Better Really to Talk About Ethics Than Scott London?

Hatch: Tax break deal not close
According to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a repeal of Obamacare’s medical device tax remains an obstacle to passing a measure to restore dozens of expired tax breaks, Bernie Becker of The Hill reported yesterday.

The Senate’s top GOP tax writer told reporters in the Capitol that he and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) had yet to strike a deal on potential amendments for the tax break package.

“This is something that’s going to take a little bit of time,” Hatch, the top Republican on the Finance panel, said as he was flanked by Wyden, according to the article. “We’ve got an agreement that we’re going to work through it.”

Becker wrote that GOP senators have pushed to repeal the medical device tax in the Affordable Care Act as part of the tax break legislation, noting that 79 senators backed scrapping the tax in a nonbinding vote last year. But Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Wyden, who was one of those 79 senators, have said they are opposed to allowing a medical device tax vote.

KPMG inside trader to give CPE webcast on ethics before going to prison
As you may recall, Scott London, a former senior audit partner at KPMG LLP, was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison last month for providing inside information about several of his firm’s clients to a friend, who used it to make at least $1.6 million in illicit profits. He also lost his CPA credential.

But before he reports to a federal minimum security prison in California on July 18, London will be the key guest in a CPE-eligible webcast on accounting ethics, CPA Practice Advisor Managing Editor Issac M. O’Bannon wrote on May 20.

The continuing education event was conceived by CPA Gary Zeune. Zeune and CPA Gaylen Hansen will interview London via video on June 25 at 1 p.m. ET. The webcast will be re-aired on June 27 and June 30, according to the article.

London told CPA Practice Advisor that he's doing the webcast because he wants to help others avoid his mistakes. Instead of contesting the charges and going to trial, he pleaded guilty and came forth because he didn't want what he did to sully the reputation of professional accountants and financial advisors.

“I had to plead guilty,” London said, according to the article. “The impacts on the profession and on KPMG could have led to even further damage if there had been a long investigation and court case.

“What I did was clearly wrong, and I take full responsibility,” he continued. “However, this is subject matter that unfortunately may be very prevalent with people who have access to confidential company information, but it's difficult to catch people doing. Even seemingly innocuous conversations with a good friend can lead a person to be tempted and think they won't get caught. I hope that my story can help prevent others from crossing the line.”

US lawmakers warned against using private debt collectors for IRS
In a letter to lawmakers on Tuesday, the IRS Oversight Board stated that making the nation’s tax agency hire private companies to collect unpaid taxes, as proposed in a US Senate bill, would be a money-loser for the tax agency, Patrick Temple-West of Reuters reported yesterday.

“The experiment has failed twice and there is nothing to lead us to believe it will not fail again,” the letter stated, according to the article.

The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that private debt collectors could raise $4.8 billion in new tax revenue over 10 years. But the IRS Oversight Board believes the joint committee’s revenue estimate “is far too optimistic” because it excludes administrative costs, Temple-West wrote.

Corporations shouldn’t be able to dodge taxes: Rep. Levin
Representative Sander Levin (D-MI) told CNBC’s Closing Bell on Wednesday that corporations should not be able to dodge taxes by moving oversees, Michelle Fox of CNBC wrote.

Levin introduced a bill on Tuesday aimed at curbing the tax-dodging tactic used by US companies called “inversion.” His brother, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), introduced similar legislation in the Senate on May 20.

“They can't just easily renounce their citizenship, keep major activities here, and essentially pay very low taxes in same tax haven,” said Representative Levin, according to the article. “Individuals can't really do that, and I think the public thinks it isn't fair for corporations to do that.”

It's a move that not only erodes the nation's tax base, but kills American jobs, he added.

However, critics say the US corporate tax rate of 35 percent needs to be lowered in order to keep companies on American soil. That’s a notion Levin doesn’t necessarily disagree with.

“I’m in favor of tax reform. I think we need to lower the corporate rate,” he said, according to the article. “It isn’t so easy to get down. We need to move in that direction but carefully.”

The punishment of Credit Suisse is not enough
In a blog today, Tax Analysts President and Publisher Christopher Bergin wrote that the plea agreement between Credit Suisse and the US government earlier this week, which resulted in the bank pleading guilty to criminal charges arising from allegations it helped US clients evade US taxes and agreeing to pay $2.6 billion in fines, reminds him of the “Church Lady” skit on Saturday Night Live some years ago: “Now isn’t that special.”

“Yes, $2.6 billion is a big number. But to an operation like Credit Suisse, it’s a cost of doing business,” he wrote. “So what’s my point? It isn’t the first Swiss bank to get caught doing this. And my guess is it won’t be the last. They are helping to undermine our tax system, and honest taxpayers get left holding the bag. Credit Suisse needs more than a slap on the wrist. People need to start going to jail for these types of abuses. And the US taxpayers who went to Credit Suisse looking to take part in this racket need to be held accountable. Giving out lollipops and amnesty won’t solve any of the serious issues that remain with several other Swiss banks currently under investigation. When they get over celebrating this great victory at the Justice Department, the DOJ, along with the IRS, need to get to work.”

Former PwC auditor who is really into fitness left his job and made his own gear
Back in January, “Bramwell’s Lunch Beat” featured a Cincinnati Enquirer Q&A with Brent Kruithof, a former PwC auditor who started FLYUP Fitness. The company’s flagship product, the FLYUP, is essentially two blocks with handles designed to deliver a total body workout on any surface, which accountants can use at home or on the road.

Adrienne Gonzalez, managing editor of our sister site, Going Concern, got a chance to speak with Kruithof to find out more about what compelled him to give up his career at PwC to start his own fitness business.

“During my six years of accounting, I had always enjoyed trying to stay fit and active.  However, it is very hard to stay consistent living a CPA lifestyle – long hours and frequent travel,” he told Adrienne. “So, I had actually created a fitness product that I used personally when I couldn't go to the gym. The principle is based off of functional training – using body weight resistance and multiple muscle movement at once. I wanted to make sure I created a product that was effective, affordable, versatile, and portable since I often had to work out at home or hotel rooms.”

Quick Links:

  • SEC working on protecting ridiculously rich people from investing in stupid startups (Going Concern)
  • Tax lawyer: Code reform stymied by dysfunctional Congress (Journal of Accountancy)
  • The US corporate tax code is bananas (US News and World Report)
  • France to go easy on firms that come clean on tax dodging (Reuters)
  • AstraZeneca’s shareholders remain sharply divided over talks with Pfizer (New York Times)
  • Pfizer’s paths to winning AstraZeneca: Narrow and vanishing (Wall Street Journal)
  • Options for Pfizer investors (Forbes)
  • American atheists denied standing to challenge church tax breaks (Forbes)
  • How to avoid the most common required minimum distribution (RMD) mistakes (Forbes)
  • No taxation without representation: How a fundamental American principle is a technicality to the New York Times (Forbes)
  • Minneapolis Super Bowl may seek more tax breaks (Associated Press)
  • SEC enforcement director: What empowered compliance looks like (Compliance Week)
  • Cloud accounting firm Xero tops Forbes most innovative list (ZDNet)
  • Advanced mobile technology solution from Wolters Kluwer, CCH wins prestigious SIIA CODiE Award (PRNewswire)

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