Bramwell's Lunch Beat: Healthy Books Boost Herbalife Shares

Dems call for extension of clean-energy tax incentives
In a letter sent to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) on December 16, twenty-five senators urged the panel not to let clean-energy tax incentives expire at the end of the year for offshore wind investments and cleaner vehicles, among others, The Hill reported.

In a similar letter from the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, six Democrats urged that the clean-energy tax credits be extended.

“While typically approved on a routine basis, the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees are more reluctant to pass any such measure until broader tax reform starts to go through,” the article stated.

However, hope for extending the tax credits waned as none of the provisions were included in the new budget pact that was passed by the House of Representatives last week.

Herbalife clean audit won't deter Ackman in pyramid claim
Shares of Herbalife Ltd. soared on December 16 after a re-audit of the nutrition and weight management company by Big Four firm PwC found no material changes, Bloomberg reported.

PwC completed a review of Herbalife’s financial statements that ended December 31 in 2010, 2011, and 2012, and reported the company is now up to date with its filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

According to an earlier version of the article on December 16, Bloomberg reported that shares shot up by 9.4 percent to $74.83 at the close in New York – the largest one-day gain since May 20. In a recent version of the article, shares continued to climb on December 17, rising 0.5 percent to $75.21 as of 10:15 a.m. ET.

The re-audit was a blow to hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, who’s already lost as much as $500 million betting against Herbalife, which he accused of being a pyramid scheme.

Herbalife hired PwC this past May after its previous accounting partner, Big Four firm KPMG LLP, resigned because of alleged insider trading by one of its auditors.

For top earners, a bigger tax bite this year
“A lot of individual taxpayers are in for a huge shock when they file their taxes. If you had the exact same income in 2012 and 2013, your taxes can be significantly different,” Brittney Saks, US personal financial services leader for PwC, told the New York Times in a December 13 article written by Paul Sullivan.

Saks pointed out that income and capital gains tax rates had risen in 2013, a new Medicare tax on wages and investment earnings was introduced, and itemized deductions had been reduced for high earners. She added these changes usually affect the top 5 percent of earners, but that group could find itself with a tax bill 10 percent higher than last year, all other things being equal.

“Joe Perry, partner in charge of tax and business services at Marcum, took his analysis a step further,” Sullivan wrote. “He looked at his firm’s 1,200 individual clients who made more than $400,000 a year – the threshold for all the highest rates, new taxes, and reduced deductions to kick in. He calculated that they were looking at paying 7 percent more this year, but then he translated that into a real number: It equated to $250 million more.”

Align your controls with COSO’s principles
One of the most important activities for any organization implementing the updated 2013 internal control framework of the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) is a mapping exercise, wrote Ken Tysiac, senior editor of the Journal of Accountancy, on December 16.

“The updated framework includes seventeen newly described principles across the five components of internal control that were present in the original, 1992 framework,” wrote Tysiac, who added that experts at last week’s American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Conference on Current SEC and PCAOB Developments noted that “mapping your principles to those controls – or mapping the controls to your principles – is a key early procedure in implementing the new framework.”

According to the article, one expert, Stephen Soske, CPA, who led PwC’s efforts to author the framework update and related guidance, said fourteen of the seventeen principles relate to the “softer” components of internal control, such as control environment, risk assessment, information and communication, and monitoring activities. He believed these components are the ones organizations will be most likely to redesign or document differently as a result of the updated COSO framework.

Bitcoin is not anonymous and is always taxable
In this December 16 article in Forbes, contributor Cameron Keng tried to answer many questions regarding bitcoin and taxes, including “When is bitcoin taxable?” “How is bitcoin taxed?” and “How much is the tax on bitcoin?”

“The beauty of bitcoin is that it’s distributed and there’s a public record of every transaction,” he wrote. “Thus, every transaction is always recorded. It’s like an accountant’s wet dream – debits and credits everywhere. Some may say that their identities are ‘hidden’ or ‘obscured,’ but that really doesn’t matter unless you’re actively trying to hide the fact that you earned income. If so, then we’re talking about something entirely different. That is tax fraud – plain and simple. You’re attempting to defraud the government of its fair share of your gains.”

Taxes in 2013: from the fiscal cliff to tax reform talks
William Gale provides a recap of the top tax-related stories that occurred in 2013 in this December 16 article in the Christian Science Monitor.

Manhattan judge finds accounting firm stole from the Cloud in landmark ruling
Manhattan Federal Judge Robert Sweet ruled on December 16 that New York City-based accounting firm Weiser Capital Management LLC stole wealth manager Debra Schatzki’s business records off of the company’s online Cloud storage system without her permission and locked her out of her own database, the New York Daily News reported.

The actions could cost the firm millions of dollars when damages are decided at a civil trial next month, the article stated.

The valuable records included several years worth of personal financial information for 12,300 of Schatzki’s clients, including high-net-worth real estate and architecture executives.

“When Weiser gave Schatzki the boot in 2010, the company accessed her Cloud database, locked her out, and downloaded the information, transferring it to another Cloud system,” according to the article.

Parent company WeiserMazars LLP rebranded Weiser Capital Management as WeiserMazars Wealth Advisors LLC in January 2012.


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