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Bramwell's Lunch Beat: Guild Wants Writers Exempted from ‘Cadillac Tax’

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Sep 1st 2015
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Writers union seeks ‘Cadillac tax' exemption
In a letter to the US Treasury Department and the IRS on Aug. 27, the Writers Guild of America East, which represents thousands of film, television, and digital media writers, argued that healthcare plans negotiated under collective bargaining agreements should be exempted from the Affordable Care Act's “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans, which takes effect in 2018, wrote Emily Chasan of CFO Journal. Under the healthcare law, employers will be subject to a 40 percent excise tax on employee plans that exceed government thresholds, starting at $10,200 for individuals in 2018. The Cadillac tax “would strip away benefits from the basic package of compensation Guild members have struggled for decades to win for themselves and their families,” the Writers Guild said in a statement. The group said historically, plans negotiated under collective bargaining agreements have been exempted from other benefit plan regulations.

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‘Cadillac tax' could wreck popular medical accounts
A popular middle-class tax benefit could become one of the first casualties of the “Cadillac tax,” wrote Brian Faler of Politico. Flexible spending accounts, which allow people to save their own money tax-free for everything from doctor copays to eyeglasses, may vanish in coming years as companies scramble to avoid the Affordable Care Act's 40 percent levy on pricey healthcare benefits. Already it's becoming an issue in the Democratic presidential primaries, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) vowing to junk the tax and Hillary Clinton saying she's open to changes. “I worry that it may create an incentive to substantially lower the value of the benefits package and shift more and more costs to consumers,” she recently told the American Federation of Teachers. Republicans, meanwhile, invoke the tax as one of many reasons to repeal the entire healthcare law. “This tax is devastating to over 33 million Americans annually relying on flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts to limit out-of-pocket costs and lead healthier lives,” said Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV).

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FASB proposes clarification to principal vs. agent guidance in revenue standard
The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) on Monday issued a proposed Accounting Standards Update intended to clarify the implementation guidance on principal versus agent considerations contained in the new revenue recognition standard. Stakeholders are encouraged to review and provide comment on the proposal by Oct. 15.

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FASB, congressman dispute lease standard's effect
The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is pressing on with its planned fourth-quarter release of the final new accounting standard on leasing despite House Financial Services Committee member Brad Sherman's (D-CA) plea to FASB Chairman Russell Golden to consider analysis that says the standard will exact a heavy toll on the US economy, wrote Tammy Whitehouse of Compliance Week. In addition to the cost of compliance with the new standard itself, Sherman worries about entities' access to debt when debt covenants are affected by the new balance sheet metrics that the standard will produce. In an exchange of correspondence, Golden replied by defending FASB's due process to date, saying many of the concerns raised in research Sherman cites have been refuted or addressed in deliberations on how the final standard will read.

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Toshiba drops after new accounting problems delay results
Toshiba Corp. fell in Tokyo trading after the industrial group discovered new accounting irregularities related to a US unit's construction project, wrote Pavel Alpeyev and Takashi Amano of Bloomberg. The problems caused the company to delay the release of its earnings for fiscal 2014, due Monday, until Sept. 7, it said in a briefing in Tokyo. President Masashi Muromachi, who took charge after three of his predecessors left following a July third-party report showing accounting irregularities at the company, said he may quit if the new deadline isn't met. The Japanese industrial group obtained permission from the securities regulator to postpone the report, its second delay of earnings that had been due earlier this year. Toshiba said on Monday it discovered irregularities in percent-of-completion accounting related to a US hydro-power unit's construction project.

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Obama, GOP in blame game over financial nominees
About a dozen key financial oversight positions in the Obama administration are vacant amid growing fears that they won't be filled until after President Obama leaves office, wrote Peter Schroeder of The Hill. No top regulatory position is open, but influential jobs are unfilled at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Federal Reserve, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission (FDIC). The situation isn't expected to improve this fall as Congress seeks to prevent a government shutdown and the political world increasingly turns its attention to the 2016 elections. The list includes SEC Commissioners Daniel Gallagher (R) and Luis Aguilar (D), who have agreed to stay in their positions until there are replacements, as well as two open spots at the CFTC, two positions on the Federal Reserve Board, and a spot at the FDIC. Obama has yet to name replacements at the SEC or CFTC and has yet to name a nominee for the FDIC's open position.

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