Bramwell's Lunch Beat: Remembering Abraham Briloff

Tax reformers see hope in budget deal
Congressional tax writers – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) – believe that ratification of the latest budget pact could give them new momentum next year, The Hill reported.

“The budget deal struck [on December 10] includes no new revenues from ending tax breaks, giving them free reign to pursue full-scale rewrite of the tax code,” the article stated.

Also, by setting top-line spending numbers for the next two years, tax writers argued the deal could shift Congress out of crisis mode and give other meaningful issues time and space to proceed.

“Provisions that were not part of the budget are going to be part of tax reform,” Baucus told The Hill last week. “Oh yeah, it very much helps.”

Abe Briloff, an accountant who saw through the games
A nice piece in the New York Times by Floyd Norris reflected on the life of his friend Abraham Briloff. Briloff, who died on December 12 at the age of ninety-six, was an accountant and accounting professor whose “trenchant and sometimes scathing analyses of corporate financial records often sent investors scurrying to dump their stocks,” according to the New York Times obituary for Briloff.

Norris, who in the 1980s edited articles that Briloff wrote for Barron’s, said Briloff “cared deeply about, and was outraged by, the games accountants play.”

“When a Briloff piece was published in Barron’s, the immediate reaction from the company criticized was almost always to angrily protest that their accounting was completely proper and consistent with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles,” Norris wrote. “That response puzzled me, because the articles seldom alleged otherwise. Instead, they pointed out how the rules allowed misleading reports, and how the company in question had produced such.”

Big Idea 2014: the shift change in accounting
Tom Hood, executive director and CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA), wrote an article on LinkedIn about the shift change that is taking place within the accounting industry, liking it to the shift changes he witnessed as a security guard while in college at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard in the Locust Point neighborhood of Baltimore.

“Day in and day out I witnessed this shift change,” Hood wrote. “The fascinating thing was that the workers came on and pretty much picked up the work that the prior worker was doing with the same skills as the prior shift. Welders picked up right where their fellow welders left off.

“Can you hear the shift change whistle? Because today the whistle is blowing for the accounting profession,” he continued. “The shift change is the transfer of the retiring baby boomers to the next generation of leaders that will be taking the helm in the next few years. Except this time it is not the same as the shipyard. This time the incoming shift will require a new set of skills and tools to continue the work of the prior shift. This time it’s different.”

Five accounting red flags the SEC is watching
Emily Chasan of the Wall Street Journal wrote on December 12 about which red flags the new US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Financial Reporting and Audit Task Force are focusing on to catch the next big accounting fraud faster.

Robust auditor reports lure investors: PCAOB audit chief
Martin Baumann, the chief auditor of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), said adding additional information to the auditor’s report, which the PCAOB is proposing, could attract capital markets investment.

“Yet by and large, the attitude of financial preparers toward adding more information to the auditor’s report has been that ‘we should be talking about the financial statements and auditors should simply say whether they are presented fairly or not,’” Baumann said during an auditing conference held recently by the Zicklin School of Business and Baruch College, as reported by CFO.com.

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