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Mark Your Calendar: 2nd Annual Insurance Industry Summit

A spirited debate on state versus federal regulation of the insurance industry, along with the emerging life settlement business will highlight the Second Annual Industry Summit and Breakfast being held December 5, 2005, at the Union League Club of Chicago, Illinois.

Congress Passes Spending and Tax Cuts Before Going on Vacation

Both the House and the Senate passed bills affecting the federal budget at the end of last week. Making either of those bills, or a combination of both, into law may turn out to be more difficult that it seems.
Community News

Bernanke Nomination Approved By Senate Banking Committee

The Federal Reserve is closer to finding a replacement for Alan Greenspan, who will be retiring as Chairman in January. The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee has recommended Ben Bernanke’s confirmation to the full Senate. Bernanke serves as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors as well as a former Princeton economics professor and Fed governor.Bernanke’s nomination received its only opposition from Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY). Bunning voiced concerns that Bernanke was not enough of an independent thinker as the outgoing Greenspan has demonstrated.

Business Impact of Tax Code Rewrite Unclear

With a presidential committee studying a massive revision to the federal tax code, business leaders are unsure of how it would affect their companies.BusinessWeek asked accountants at Ernst & Young LLP to analyze the impact on hypothetical companies of the two main proposals suggested by the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform.“At first glance, business' interests would seem clear,” BusinessWeek reported. “Support the panel's consumed-income tax, which would cut the overall tax from 25.9 percent of corporate income to 7.2 percent.

New Medicare Drug Benefit Open for Enrollment Today

Seniors can begin enrolling in the new Medicare prescription drug plan starting today, but many are finding the wealth of options confusing.Selecting the best plan may be difficult, but President Bush touted it in his weekly radio address as “the greatest advance in health care for seniors and Americans with disabilities since the creation of Medicare 40 years ago.”Some of the country's 40 million Medicare beneficiaries have felt stymied by the system in the past.

Freddie Mac to Revise Income Downward for First Half of 2005

The mortgage finance company Freddie Mac said Tuesday that it will lower first and second quarter income by $220 million because of a computer error. Total profit for the period will be adjusted to $1.4 billion from $1.6 billion.

Celebrating 75 Years of VA

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) celebrates 75 years of serving American service men and women and their families this Veterans’ Day. The Washington Post reports that the VA is among the largest federal agencies having more than 235,000 employees and operating the largest hospital system in the country.“During times of challenge throughout our history, men and women have stepped forward to defend our freedom. They’re doing that today,” the Honorable R. James Nicholson, Secretary of Veterans Affairs said in a prepared statement.

Postal Rates to Go Up; Holiday Mailing Deadlines Announced

The cost of a First Class postage stamp will go from 37 cents to 39 cents in January if, as expected, the Postal Service’s Board of Governors approves the rate hikes recommended by the independent Postal Rate Commission last week, the Associated Press reports. The Postal Service had requested an across-the-board increase of 5.4 percent, which was accepted by the Commission with a few revisions. Media and Book rates were increased to 12.7 percent and increases for nonprofits and local newspapers were reduced to 2.3 percent.

Drug Program Choices: Employer Paid Benefits or Pharmaceuticals’ Charity Programs

Retirees currently covered by employer-sponsored health plans will receive letters by November 15 that tell how their coverage compares with the new Medicare Part D, and how their current health benefits may change, a requirement of the federal government, says the New York Times.

Katrina Survivors and Cleanup Workers Wait for Money

Gulf Coast residents who weathered Hurricane Katrina and the immigrants who flooded in to clean up the mess are playing a waiting game, and their patience has run out.Mississippi and Louisiana residents who lost their homes and businesses are waiting for their insurance checks; workers, many of them illegal immigrants, are still waiting for paychecks after weeks of work.Meanwhile, the federal government is waiting for $3.7 billion from the state of Louisiana as repayment for its hurricane relief costs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may be waiting the longest—Gov.

Attention Turning to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs

Just two months after Congress passed a massive energy bill supporting increasing supplies of oil and gas, homeowners and businesses in the Northeast and Midwest are bracing for huge projected cost increases for natural gas for heating and electricity this winter, and are scrambling to find ways of conserving energy. Children have been encouraged by the U.S. Department of Energy to be on the lookout for “EnergyHog” in their homes, reports.

Accounting for Campaigns

Political campaigns, whether they are for the local school board or the Senate, are run on money as much as on issues. And all that money must be accounted for. Candidates, election officials and the public have a right to know how much money was raised from whom and how it was spent. Two software applications, DirectFile and CompleteCampaigns makes the job of campaign accounting and financial reporting easier.Calling itself “the most advanced political accounting software available today”, DirectFile was created in 1995 for campaign treasurers in California.
Community News

Congressman Oxley to Retire in 2006

Representative Michael Oxley, the Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee said Tuesday that he will retire from Congress at the end of his term. Co-sponsor of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, Oxley has served since 2001 as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees banking, securities and insurance matters, the Associated Press reports. The Financial Services Committee conducted the House investigation of Enron Corporation. Rep.

As Expected, Fed Raises Rate One Quarter Point

The Federal Reserve’s interest-rate setting Federal Open Market Committee raised the federal funds rate one quarter point to 4 percent Tuesday, the twelfth consecutive increase since June 2004. In a statement announcing the increase, the Fed cited “robust underlying growth in productivity” and “economic activity that will likely be augmented by planned rebuilding in the hurricane affected areas,” as motivators for the change, the Associated Press reports.

Record High Oil Profits Spur Talk of Windfall Tax

Talk of a windfall tax on oil companies is surfacing as the companies are reporting their latest quarterly revenue. The concern is that while American consumers are facing much higher energy costs, especially for heating oil and natural gas, the oil companies are reporting record-high profits. “Some might call it a novel approach for me, but I cannot sit back in good conscience while those in our society struggling to heat their homes are being left in the cold by oil companies,” Sen.
Community News

San Diego Officials Struggle with Throwing More Money at Accounting Problems

San Diego’s City Attorney, Michael Aguirre, on Friday asked the City Council to reject additional funding for the independent risk firm, Kroll, Inc. and law firm Wilkie, Farr & Gallagher, who are investigating the City’s finances, including disclosure practices relating to the $1.4 billion shortfall in the City’s pension fund. The two firms have said they will be unable to conclude their work by December as scheduled, because the City’s data search has not produced all of the records they need, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

HIPAA Privacy Concerns

Although it was not fully implemented until 2003, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 was enacted to insure that people between jobs would have access to quality health care coverage. Changing insurance carriers before HIPAA was difficult or impossible without facing lowered coverage or exorbitant premiums. The Act was also intended to guard private health care information and create a uniform rules for dispersing personal information.Under HIPAA, the U.S.
Community News

Bernanke Named to Succeed Greenspan

President George W. Bush on Monday announced that Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, was his choice to succeed Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chairman. Bernanke came to Washington as a Federal Reserve governor in 2002 from Princeton University, where he was chairman of the Economics Department, Reuters reports.“Ben Bernanke is the right man to build on the record Alan Greenspan has established,” Bush said.

Circular Logic: Making Sense of Circular 230 Changes

Tax practice for CPAs is changing. Recent modifications to Circular 230, the U.S. Treasury Department regulations that govern practice before the IRS, have established several changes that leave CPAs with a new standard for the practice of taxation. The rationale for the revised regulations is part of an IRS effort to promote ethical tax practices and curb abusive tax avoidance programs promoted by some tax professionals. Some CPA and law firms were coming up with tax-motivated transactions for clients and then packaging those transactions to sell to other companies.

Florida to Launch Model Medicaid Program

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced their approval for Florida to launch an “unprecedented demonstration” Medicaid program starting in July 2006 reports the Senior Journal. The program will be phased in starting in Broward (Fort Lauderdale) and Duval (Jacksonville) counties with a statewide implementation to follow.


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