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lunch beat

Bramwell's Lunch Beat: SEC Asks for Input on Audit Committee Disclosures

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Jul 2nd 2015
Staff Writer and Editor AccountingWEB
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SEC solicits public comment on audit committee disclosures
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Wednesday voted to publish a concept release seeking public comment on current audit committee disclosure requirements. SEC officials are looking to receive information about the audit committee and auditor relationship, and whether improvements can be made to enhance the information provided to investors about the audit committee's responsibilities and activities. In addition, the concept release invites comment on whether SEC disclosure requirements should be refined to provide more insight into the information the audit committee uses and the factors it considers in overseeing the independent auditor. This includes considerations related to the process for appointing or retaining the auditor and the qualifications of the auditor and certain members of the engagement team, among others. The public comment period will remain open for 60 days following publication of the concept release in the Federal Register.

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Deloitte to settle auditor independence violations
Deloitte & Touche LLP has agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle charges that it violated auditor independence rules when its consulting affiliate maintained a business relationship with a trustee serving on the boards of three funds it audited, wrote Angela Chen of the Wall Street Journal. The SEC said Deloitte acquired a proprietary brainstorming business methodology from Andrew Boynton, a trustee who serves on the board of the three funds. Deloitte worked with him to use the methodology for both internal and external clients through 2011. At the same time, Deloitte stated in audit reports that it was independent of these three funds. The SEC said Deloitte failed to conduct an independent consultation before entering a business relationship with Boynton. A spokesman for Deloitte said the firm had self-reported the issue to the SEC in March 2012 and the firm is “pleased to resolve this matter.”

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Chicago extends taxing power to online movies, music, more
Chicagoans who pay to stream movies and music from services like Netflix and Spotify will now need to fork over an additional 9 percent for the privilege, as will Chicago businesses that pay to use everything from real estate to court databases online, under a decision the city quietly made recently to expand its taxing power, wrote John Byrne and Amina Elahi of the Chicago Tribune. The added costs are the result of a ruling by the city finance department that extends the reach of ordinances governing two types of taxes – the city amusement tax and the city personal property lease transaction tax – to cover many products streamed to businesses and residents alike. The city expects the June ruling to bring in about $12 million each year. Companies will have until Sept. 1 to begin paying the taxes, but the changes allow for them to start collecting them sooner, according to the new rules.

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After ruling, senator moves to alter tax forms
Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times wrote that after the US Supreme Court's ruling to legalize same-sex marriage on June 26, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Senate Finance Committee's ranking Democrat, moved quickly to draft the Marriage Equality for All Taxpayers Act, which would remove all gender-specific references to marriage from the tax code. Out: husband and wife. In: married couple and spouse. “It is high-time that Congress addresses the glaring fact that the tax code is replete with out-of-date references to marriage that no longer reflect the institution of legal marriage,” Wyden wrote on June 26 to fellow senators, seeking co-sponsors for his bill. “Such outmoded language arguably disparages those married couples who the Supreme Court has sought to protect and dignify by recognizing their constitutional right to marriage.”

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Washington budget deal includes tax increase for Microsoft
They haven't advertised it, but the budget deal agreed to by Washington state lawmakers this week quietly targeted Microsoft for a $57 million tax increase over the next two years, wrote Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times. The software giant – which has drawn criticism over its corporate tax tab – is apparently willing to go along with it, raising no public objections. The Microsoft-specific tax boost was written into the budget pact in the waning days of the Legislature's special session as Republican and Democratic negotiators agreed to close a few tax breaks and increase delinquent tax penalties to raise $185 million in new revenue. Bill language made it clear the tax break would end just for a particular “ineligible person” – defined in Senate Bill 6138 as a software company with more than 40,000 employees in Washington that has been around since at least 1981. Only Microsoft fits that description, state officials confirm.

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Advisor satisfaction slumps at brokerages
Advisor satisfaction and loyalty has tumbled at national brokerage firms amid heightened concerns over compensation changes and a lack of confidence in leadership, wrote Megan Leonhardt of WealthManagement.com. Overall advisor satisfaction at seven of the national brokerage firms dropped 3 percent over the past year, with firms earning an average score of 701 on a 1,000-point scale in J.D. Power's second annual advisor satisfaction survey. Comparatively, firms scored an average of 721 in 2014. The survey was based on responses from more than 3,300 financial advisors within the employee channel. Along with decreased levels of satisfaction, the portion of advisors who say they will likely still be at their current firm in two years dropped 6 percentage points (from 89 percent last year to 83 percent in this year's survey).

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