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Bramwell’s Lunch Beat: FASB Looks Ahead to Its Next Big Accounting Project

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May 5th 2015
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Senate working groups to give updates
Senate groups working on tax reform are about to give their colleagues an update on their findings, wrote Bernie Becker of The Hill. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the top Democrat on the panel, set up the five separate working groups to take a deeper dive into the tax code. The five bipartisan groups will all get a chance to brief the other Senate tax writers in meetings starting on Tuesday. A Finance aide said the meetings would also give committee members a chance to offer up feedback in other issues. The working groups are scheduled to give their findings to Hatch and Wyden by the end of the month. The working groups’ meetings will conclude on May 12.

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FASB plans next phase of big accounting changes
The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) plans to publish a discussion paper looking for input on what comprehensive accounting standard revisions the board should add to its technical agenda, wrote Tammy Whitehouse of Compliance Week. FASB Chairman Russ Golden wrote recently that the board is looking to sink its teeth into something big. FASB is working on some clarifications and simplifications to its revenue recognition standard that are expected to be completed by the end of the year. Also expected by the end of 2015 are final standards on leasing and financial instruments. The FASB is also looking to simplify standards in areas such as income taxes, business combinations, employee benefit plans, share-based payments, and gift cards. “Now that some of our projects are winding down and good progress is being made on our narrow-focus simplification projects, the FASB is determining whether there are big-ticket issues we should tackle, and if so, when we should address them,” Golden wrote.

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Bill would offer tax credits for road projects
A bipartisan pair of senators has filed legislation to create a new tax credit for infrastructure projects, wrote Keith Laing of The Hill. The measure, which is known as the “Move America Act of 2015,” would expand the availability of tax-exempt bonds and create a new tax credit for state and local governments that are trying to pay for large construction projects. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), comes as lawmakers are struggling to come up with a way to pay for an extension of a transportation funding bill that is scheduled to expire on May 31. The senators said their measure would not completely solve the transportation problem, but they said it would help states that are struggling to finance badly-needed infrastructure projects. “An injection of private capital, in addition to sustainable funding for transportation programs, will help get America’s economic engine running at full speed,” Wyden said.

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Why the IRS won’t tell fraud victims what thieves stole
Keri Geiger and Margaret Collins of Bloomberg wrote that new consumer-protection rules were supposed to make it easier for the millions of US taxpayers who have had returns falsely filed in their name to figure out what thieves have stolen. But there’s a catch: Other IRS rules encourage its workers to keep a tight grip on the bum returns. Employees face the specter of felony charges for giving out private details – including, possibly, those of the identity thieves – to those who aren’t authorized. “It’s a shocker finding out that information can be stolen. But the real frustration is with trying to get the information that you need to manage the situation,” said Tim Loo, who learned early this year that his name and Social Security number had made their way onto a fraudulent tax return. Loo had asked the IRS for a copy of the bogus return. It refused. TurboTax, whose tax-filing software the criminals had used, told him they couldn’t share the fake return with him either, for “privacy reasons.”

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Apollo-backed Athene CFO leaves amid accounting lapses
Athene Holding Ltd., the insurer tied to Apollo Global Management LLC, said CFO Brenda Cushing is leaving as the company works to fix its accounting, wrote Sonali Basak and Doni Bloomfield of Bloomberg. The insurer, which has been planning for a possible public offering, has begun a search for a new CFO, Athene said in statement published Tuesday on the website of Apollo Alternative Assets. Cushing will assist in the transition and leave on Aug. 14, according to the statement. Athene is working to improve financial reporting after saying in February that it withdrew its first-quarter results amid flaws tied to its accounting for reserves and taxes. Cushing will lead the process of finalizing full-year statements for 2014 to meet Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, the company said. Those documents are expected to be released in September, according to the statement.

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