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A&A

Spitzer’s Office Adds $250 Million to State Coffers

The New York State Attorney General’s office has doubled the amount of money it won in fines and restitution last year, thanks to a number of multimillion-dollar settlements with firms on Wall Street.Eliot Spitzer’s office won $786 million last year in judgments and settlements — the highest ever — up from $352 million the year before, the Wall Street Journal reported."As a result of the office's activities, more than half a billion dollars will be returned to individual New Yorkers, and another $250 million will go to the state's coffers, which will reduce the tax burden on stat
A&A

SEC Rethinking Late Trade Crackdown

The Securities and Exchange Commission may offer alternatives to its plan to stop late trading in mutual funds.While Chairman William Donaldson defended the 4 p.m. "hard close" proposal before the Senate Banking Committee Thursday, he acknowledged the concerns. The SEC has received almost 1,100 formal comments, mostly in opposition, the Chicago Tribune reported.Many investors and retirement plan administrators oppose the plan, which would require all mutual fund trades to be placed with the fund firm — not just brokers — by 4 p.m. Eastern time to receive that day’s price.
A&A

Analyst Identifies New Ways to Reduce Risk of ID Theft

Billions of dollars -- that's what identity theft costs U.S. businesses and consumers each year. New research clearly demonstrates that online banking, bill payment and statement viewing is one of the best ways businesses and their customers can protect themselves against identity theft. Yet, consumers still believe incorrectly that online financial transactions increase their risk of fraud.
A&A

Increases in Audit Fees Not as Sharp as Expected

Companies that feared enormous increases in Sarbanes-Oxley Act-related audit fees can rest a little easier. The huge jump in fees doesn’t seem to be materializing in most cases, USA Today reported.Financial Executives International (FEI) reported in February that 321 chief financial officers had predicted audit fee increases of up to 35 percent. Instead, based on a USA Today analysis of data from AuditAnalytics.com of the 100 largest Standard & Poor’s 500 that have reported in for 2003, the jump in audit fees is more like 19 percent.
A&A

FASB Issues Proposed Stock Option Rule

As expected, the Financial Accounting Standards Board moved yesterday to require employee stock option pay be shown as an expense on company financial statements, beginning next year, the Wall Street Journal reported.FASB has debated the issue for two years and the exposure draft issued yesterday was long awaited. Stock options, which give employees the right to buy company stock at a fixed price within a certain time period, have never been regulated or recognized as a company expense. They are reflected in the footnotes of the company’s financial statements.
A&A

Coping with Time Pressure in an 'I Want It Now' World

by Dr. Kerry L. JohnsonJohn needed to process the paperwork on 5 more sales by noon and had another 10 issues to iron out in underwriting. He was falling behind in his client calls and couldn’t even get the standard paperwork done. His wife was getting ticked at him claiming he wasn’t the guy she married. He hadn’t spent more than 10 minutes with his kids in the last week. All this and he couldn’t even claim he was making more money. John was feeling more stressed as the week went on. It didn’t make sense. He should be able to coast a little after all these years.
A&A

As Stock-Option Rule Nears, Opponents Turn up Heat

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is soon expected to require companies to expense stock options like other forms of compensation, but opponents are fiercely lobbying Congress to block the new rule.The anticipation of FASB action, which could come this week, has "galvanized the effort" said Jeffrey Peck, a lobbyist and consultant to the International Employee Stock Options Coalition.
Community News

How do we Spread Flexibility in the Workplace?

Despite the desire by many attorneys at some time in their careers to have more flexibility in their working arrangements, particularly now that technology makes it so much easier, decision makers and even the candidates for flexibility themselves resist such arrangements. The deterrents to faster progress are perceived fears and uncalculated costs and benefits.
A&A

SEC Investigates Executive Compensation at Tyson Foods

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Tyson Foods Inc., looking into the compensation paid to the company’s officers, including Chief Executive Officer John H. Tyson, 50, grandson of the company’s founder.The world’s largest meat processor acknowledged that the SEC’s probe has shifted from informal to formal, Bloomberg reported.According to company filings with the SEC, Tyson received a 2003 salary of $993,590 plus a $2.5 million bonus and $325,286 in “other compensation.” He was elected chairman in 1998 and became chairman in 2000.
Community News

IMA Members Win Awards for Top CMA/CFM Scores

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) is honoring 18 IMA Members with awards for their superior scores on the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and Certified Financial Manager (CFM) examinations, during summer 2003.Those who have achieved IMA’s global CMA/CFM designations are among an elite group of distinguished managerial finance and accounting professionals who have advanced beyond the practical accounting skill set.
A&A

Treasury, IRS Caution Taxpayers about Frivolous Tax Refund Claims on Stock Options

Last week, the Treasury Department and the IRS issued a notice cautioning taxpayers against promoters who purport to offer ways in which the taxpayers can avoid income tax or alternative minimum tax (AMT) from the exercise of stock options.
A&A

IRS Says Credit-Counseling Firms May Face Prosecution

IRS Commissioner Mark Everson has threatened criminal prosecution and revocation of tax-exempt status for credit counseling companies that charge high fees and even fail to send money to the creditors of their debt-ridden customers.Everson told a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday that his agency’s audits "may very well result in the lifting of some tax exemptions and, in fact, criminal referrals to the Department of Justice." Testifying before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's investigative panel, Everson said audits on one-third of the $1 billion nonprofit industry should be com
A&A

Homeowners Could See New Tax Break on PMI

Congress is considering a new tax deduction for homebuyers who could not afford a down payment amounting to 20 percent of the purchase price.Those homeowners have to pay private mortgage insurance, which banks and lenders charge when the down payment is below the 20 percent threshold. The Associated Press reported that under a tax plan before Congress, millions of lower-income homeowners would be able deduct that cost, which is significant in some cases.For example, the owner of a $160,000 house would pay $50 to $80 every month for private mortgage insurance, also known as PMI.
A&A

AOL Launches 'Bill Pay' Service, AOL Personal Users Take Note

America Online, Inc., (AOL) announced this week the launch of AOL(R) Bill Pay, a new service that helps AOL's community of users save time and money with a streamlined way to track and pay bills online as well as manage their personal finances. AOL Bill Pay is more than just a bill payment service; it is a life management tool, according to AOL releases, that interacts with AOL emails, alerts and calendar. For example, alerts can be set up to notify members of large transactions on their credit cards, which may be an early indicator of identity theft or fraud.
A&A

Top Secrets to Hiring the Best People for Your Firm

By Christopher KnightTo hire the best, you must be the best. What can you do today, to take another step closer to being the best? When possible, do a quick seven minute telephone interviews, and have some key qualifying questions ready, so that when you are in a real 'face to face' interview, you're already 50% closer to hiring a real candidate. Don't assume that you know what is important to your interviewee, because until you ask them what is important, you don't know. Always Be Recruiting!
A&A

FASB Establishes Small Business Advisory Committee

In an effort to increase involvement by the small business community in developing U.S. accounting standards, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has established a Small Business Advisory Committee. Committee members will be a resource to the FASB in providing additional and ongoing input on accounting issues before the Board.
Community News

Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Plans IPO

Cendant Corporation and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc., its wholly owned subsidiary, announced this week that Jackson Hewitt has filed a registration statement with the SEC for the sale by Cendant of 100% of its ownership interest in Jackson Hewitt in a planned initial public offering. Goldman, Sachs & Co. and J.P. Morgan Securities Inc. are serving as joint book-running managers of the offering. The initial public offering is expected to take place in the second quarter of 2004.
Tax

Do You Have a Deductible Home Office? IRS Tax Tip

Whether you are self-employed or an employee, if you use a portion of your home exclusively and regularly for business purposes, you may be able to take a home office deduction.You can deduct certain expenses if your home office is the principal place where your trade or business is conducted or where you meet and deal with clients or patients in the course of your business.
Tax

Selling Your Home: IRS Tax Tip

If you sold your main home, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of gain ($500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly) from your federal tax return. This exclusion is allowed each time that you sell your main home, but generally no more frequently than once every two years.To be eligible for this exclusion, your home must have been owned by you and used as your main home for a period of at least two out of the five years prior to its sale. The two years may consist of 24 full months or 730 days. Short absences, such as for a summer vacation, count as periods of use.
A&A

KPMG’s Independence Questioned by States in WorldCom Bankruptcy Proceedings

As WorldCom strives to emerge next month from bankruptcy-court protection, several states are questioning the independence of KPMG, the company’s auditor.The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is claiming it was denied $89.9 million in tax revenue because of an aggressive KPMG-promoted tax strategy that helped WorldCom cut its state tax obligations by hundreds of millions of dollars in the years before its 2002 bankruptcy filing, the Wall Street Journal reported.Thirteen other states have joined the action led by Massachusetts Commissioner of Revenue Alan LeBovidge, who filed documents yest

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