3 Ways to Increase Your Recall (and Look Smart)

Record and remember everything

Is it possible to recall everything said in a meeting and remember every word for years? Well actually, yes.

Using the three tips below, you’ll do just that.

Take your notes using a Livescribe pen, and take pictures with your smartphone of whatever you desire to retain. Then store the data in Evernote. It’s that simple.

The Livescribe pen records audio in conjunction with your notes. After the session, touch a word in your notes and the audio will play at that point in the conversation, allowing you to hear a select part of the discussion.

Use your smartphone to take snapshots of handouts or notes on a whiteboard. Use scanbot (an iPhone or android app) to take several pictures and then upload them.

 

Tech Tip #5: Using Slack for Messages

An easier way to keep up with messages (emails)

Do you ever lose emails?

If yes, you may want to take a look at Slack.

Recently my team and I started using Slack to send messages to one another. Why?

Here are a few advantages over using traditional email (e.g., Outlook) and general information about the product:

  • It’s free (unless you opt for the more advanced features)
  • The messages for a particular project (e.g., an audit) are all in one place
  • I can add members to my Slack groups on the fly (just send them a Slack message)
  • It aids in building community (there’s a “random” channel where I can talk about my funny dog)
  • It provides me with a place to put my private thoughts (and no one else can see)
  • I can add additional groups as needed (say for a new audit with particular team members)
  • I can upload documents (e.g., Excel spreadsheet) and retain them in the group communications
  • I can direct message a team member and only that person can see it
  • I can send group messages that all team members see
  • I can assign particular people to a private group and only those people can see the messages (in that group)
  • Companies such as the Wall Street Journal use it
  • Slack provides a nice smartphone and iPad app (with notification option)

Here’s a screen shot of my department (Quality Control) using Slack.

Slack

So if you’re looking for a way to capture project messages all in one place, take a test drive with Slack.

AICPA Changes Requirement to Disclose Open Tax Years

The AICPA Center for Plain English Accounting (CPEA) reports the following:

As a result of investigative work conducted by the Center for Plain English Accounting (CPEA), Technical Practice Aid (TPA or TIS) 5250.15, which required an entity to disclose a description of tax years that remain subject to examination regardless of whether an entity has any uncertain tax positions (i.e., unrecognized tax benefits), has been deleted. In researching our recent report titled, Controversy Over the Applicability of the Disclosure Requirement of Open Tax Years: Unintended Consequences and Lessons for All, we communicated with appropriate individuals at the FASB and AICPA on the issues noted in that report. Consequently, members of the FASB and Private Company Council (PCC) said that the guidance in TPA 5250.15, Application of Certain FASB Interpretation No. 48 (codified in FASB ASC 740-10) Disclosure Requirements to Nonpublic Entities That Do Not Have Uncertain Tax Positions, should change and that disclosures of open tax years are necessary only if an entity has unrecognized tax benefits. The March update for AICPA Technical Questions and Answers, which contain TPAs, has deleted TPA 5250.15.

Practitioners also should be aware that it may take a period of time for Peer Review Checklists and AICPA Accounting and Auditing Guides to be updated to reflect the elimination of TPA 5250.15.

Summary of Effect

In short: Entities are not required to disclose open tax years if they do not have material unrecognized tax benefits.

This is interesting since many peer reviews nationwide have included comments about disclosure deficiencies related to this area.

The report from the CPEA is posted on the AICPA with a date of March 24, 2015.

2015 Compliance Supplement and the Compliance Matrix

A draft of the 2015 Compliance Supplement is available from the AICPA Governmental Audit Quality Center here. The final issuance of the 2015 Compliance Supplement is expected in late June 2015. The draft should be used just for planning purposes, and auditors need to use the final compliance supplement (once issued).

The 2015 Compliance Supplement is effective for years ending June 30, 2015.

The 2015 Compliance Supplement drops two previous requirements from the matrix; those are:

  1. Davis Bacon
  2. Real Property Acquisition and Relocation Assistance

The slots for these two requirements are titled “Reserved.” See example picture below.

Also the “Period of Availability” requirement has been renamed “Period of Performance.”

Here’s a look at the draft compliance matrix requirements.

Compliance Matrix Requirements

Part 6 Internal Controls Removed

Part 6 (Internal Controls) of the compliance supplement has been temporarily removed for 2015. Part 6 will be updated in future years. The draft of the 2015 Compliance Supplement states the following in Part 6:

IN 2013 COMMITTEE OF SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS OF THE TREADWAY COMMISSION (COSO) UPDATED THE “INTERNAL CONTROL – INTEGRATED FRAMEWORK,” AND IN SEPTEMBER 2014, THE GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE (GAO) ISSUED AN UPDATED “STANDARDS FOR THE INTERNAL CONTROL IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT,” COMMONLY REFERRED TO AS “THE GREEN BOOK.” DUE TO THE NEED TO UPDATE OTHER PARTS OF THIS SUPPLEMENT FOR THE UNIFORM GUIDANCE IN 2 CFR Part 200, OMB WAS UNABLE TO ALSO UPDATE PART 6 FOR THE REVISIONS TO COSO AND THE GREEN BOOK WITHOUT DELAYING THE ISSUANCE OF THIS SUPPLEMENT. SINCE THE 2014 VERSION OF PART 6 IS OUT OF DATE, IT WAS NOT CARRIED FORWARD TO THIS SUPPLEMENT. NON-FEDERAL ENTITIES AND THEIR AUDITORS SHOULD LOOK TO THE COSO AND GREEN BOOK FOR GUIDANCE ON INTERNAL CONTROLS UNTIL PART 6 IS UPDATED. OMB PLANS TO UPDATE PART 6 FOR THE 2016 COMPLIANCE SUPPLEMENT.

This does not mean that internal controls will not be tested, just that OMB needs time to update the internal control guidance in the supplement. As the above states, auditors should refer to COSO and to the Green Book.

65% Realization–Again?

Leaks that sink audit engagements

You’ve just completed another audit, and you see your realization is 65%. You encourage yourself with the thought that next year things will be different. Next year you won’t have the same unexpected problems. Next year your staff will have more experience. But then you recall thinking the same thing last year, and the year before that. Why does this keep happening?

Low realization (the heavy discounting of standard rates) usually implies our engagement has leaks. So how can we right the ship? Here are a few thoughts.

veliero2

Picture courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Leaky Hole 1: Too Much Weight

Boats with light loads move quicker.

During your off-season (if you have one), review the file. Work paper files, like our closets, tend to accumulate unneeded clutter. Eliminate unnecessary work papers that add no value. Useless work papers have a strong tendency to reappear in the future. Why? Staff will often mimic the prior year file.

Leaky Hole 2: Not Identifying Risks

A good captain knows where the shoals are.

If we can identify our risks, we can focus on the essential–that which must be addressed. Doing so may require a change of habits, a change from auditing by automatic pilot to one of doing more work in the beginning stage of the engagement. Identifying risks is hard work and requires a greater level of skill than “beating up the balance sheet.” But risk-based auditing is more effective and efficient.

Risk assessment includes the following:

  • Creating effective planning analytics (do variances exist that merit attention?)
  • Walk-throughs (understand–really understand–significant processes)
  • Understanding the entity (What are the numbers that management and the board focus upon? What keeps management awake at night?)
  • Perform your brainstorming session (open discussion will generate better ideas)

Then take these disparate elements and synthesize them into your formal risk assessment.

The result: a plan that identifies and responds to risk.

Leaky Hole 3: No Budget

A good captain has a map (a target).

I’m not concerned with tracking time by audit areas. Doing so may take more time than it’s worth. But I want my audit team to know what the overall target is–the amount of time for the total engagement. And if they meet that goal? Give them a reward. A day off. (Okay, maybe a half day.) Take them out for a nice meal. Provide a small bonus.

Targets create focus.

Rewarding efficiency generates future success (even if we don’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express).

Leaky Hole 4: An Old Boat

Replace old boats.

Is your firm using outdated computers or software?

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Does each staff member have a portable monitor?
  • Does the team have a quality scanner?
  • Is the team working out of the cloud?
  • If your firm is not paperless, why not?
  • Are your work papers linked to the trial balance?
  • Does your firm provide audit templates by industry specialization?
  • Has the audit team received current technology training?

And If You Already Do These Things?

Can the fee be negotiated? If not, it may be time to let go of the engagement. Not all jobs are desirable, and this one may, in fact, inhibit your ability to seek out better opportunities.

FASB Issued Two Drafts to Simplify Accounting

The FASB continued its efforts to simplify financial reporting by issuing separate proposals designed to:

  1. simplify the equity method of accounting, and
  2. improve employee share-based payment accounting

Equity Method of Accounting

The exposure draft Investments—Equity Method and Joint Ventures (Topic 323): Simplifying the Equity Method of Accounting, issued Friday, would eliminate the requirement for an equity-method investor to account for the basis difference.

The draft states:

The Board is proposing to eliminate the requirement for an equity method investor to account for the basis Payment difference, which is the difference between the cost of an investment and the investor’s proportionate share of the net assets of the investee. Under existing equity method guidance, an entity determines the acquisition date fair value of the identifiable assets and liabilities assumed in the same manner as for a business combination. The entity’s proportionate share of the difference between the fair value of the investee’s identifiable assets and liabilities assumed and the book value of recorded assets and liabilities generally must be accounted for in net income in subsequent periods.

Share-Based Payment Accounting

The other exposure draft, Compensation—Stock Compensation (Topic 718): Improvements to Employee Share-Based Payment Accounting, issued Monday, is intended to simplify several aspects of accounting for share-based payment transactions.

The draft states:

The areas for simplification in this proposed Update involve several aspects of the accounting for share-based payment transactions, including:

  • the income tax consequences,
  • classification of awards as either equity or liabilities, and
  • classification on the statement of cash flows