Life is stressful, there’s no doubt about it. But you have the choice to maintain a different perspective, instead of letting stress overtake you every day. Here are four steps to reduce stress and live a well-balanced life: Step one: Get clear on ...

 

Your life. Your terms: Four steps to reducing stress and reclaiming your life. and more...




Your life. Your terms: Four steps to reducing stress and reclaiming your life.

Shutterstock_603744017Life is stressful, there’s no doubt about it. But you have the choice to maintain a different perspective, instead of letting stress overtake you every day. Here are four steps to reduce stress and live a well-balanced life:

Step one: Get clear on your purpose

Living life on your own terms requires clarity of purpose. Do you know what matters to you most, and why?  Consider the life wheel. There are eight buckets on the wheel: family, work, money, personal growth, health and wellness, spirituality, community and living environment. You must decide which three or four are most important to you, and why. Time is limited, which means you can’t weight all life areas equally. When you know your “what” and your “why,” you’ve got power—the power to dial up the time and energy for what matters most, and the power to pull back on what doesn’t.

Step two: Dial up GUTS over FEAR

 

Living life on your own terms requires guts over fear. The guts to cure the disease to please. Be gutsy enough to press pause on perfection. Be gutsy enough to stop and ask the question, “Do I need to add value here?” And be gutsy enough to say no to adding more monkeys onto your back. By being gutsy enough to embrace some “no’s,” you’ll reduce stress, increase productivity and regain hours of time each week.

Step three: Let go of judgement

Living life on your own terms requires you to stop judging yourself when you fall short. We all fail, in large and small ways. Accept the moments you miss the mark by saying, “Oh well, I’m human” instead of, “O.M.G. I’ll never work again—I’m a failure!” A forgiving attitude is critical for keeping your energy focused forward—and your sanity.

Step four: Shed your “shoulds”

Living life on your own terms requires you to shed your shoulds. You should accept that job. You should join that board. You should take on that new client. “Shoulds” are the things we do out of obligation because we have not thoughtfully considered our true objectives. Often, they are derived from fear: What if I never get another opportunity like this? What will others think of me? What will I think of me? Here’s the thing: If you cant say no, then your yes doesnt mean anything. Think about that. Your commitment to something means much less when you’re committed to everything. So, shed your “shoulds,” and make your “yeses” count. (Download my free guide to shedding the shoulds here.)

It’s your life, and you only get one of it. Own it. Claim it. Love it.

Regan Walsh, NYU-certified executive and life coach who focuses on helping women who are over-programmed and underwhelmed reclaim their lives, both personally and professionally. She is located in Columbus, Ohio and has coached hundreds of women from all over the world through her one-on-one and group coaching programs. She regularly gives keynotes and facilitates workshops for Fortune 500 companies, including Nationwide, OhioHealth, Scotts Miracle-Gro and AllianceData. Regan contributes to Harvard Business Review and Forbes, and has been featured in Ladders, Smart Business, and Columbus CEO.

 

5 tips to help small business clients prevent cyberfraud

Shutterstock_1017233524Imagine you’re at work on a typical Monday morning. Suddenly, an email from the CEO hits your inbox. It’s marked ‘urgent,’ so you open it right away. She needs you to wire $15,000 to one of your regular vendors ASAP. You make the wire transfer, and head to the break room to refill your coffee. There’s just one problem – that email wasn’t really from your CEO. And that bank account where you sent the funds? That’s not your vendor’s account. You just sent thousands of dollars to a cyber criminal. Uh oh.

It’s a scheme called executive impersonation, a type of business email compromise (BEC) scheme mentioned in an SEC alert issued last month. Unlike a typical scam email, which may have poor grammar or overly suspicious requests, BEC scams are convincing because the criminals spend time figuring out the corporate culture and common phrases and terms used by employees. CPAs should take note, because scammers could try to perpetrate a similar fraud against their small business clients.

The AICPA’s Forensic and Litigation Services Fraud Task Force has been sounding the alarm on executive impersonation for some time. And its latest Eye on Fraud report highlighted new schemes to help CPAs raise awareness with clients, so they can stay one step ahead of the scammers. Below are 5 tips for you to share with your clients:

  • Awareness and discussion of the risks, the characteristics of these schemes, and the potential consequences are necessary for all departments that may be involved in the payment of funds, including IT, treasury, and purchasing. Be sure that practitioners keep themselves apprised of the varying types of impersonation schemes and ensure that clients have adequate training of personnel in addition to appropriate internal control measures.
  • Training should begin with the on-boarding process of new hires for the accounting and finance functions. Some or all of these people will be in positions to authorize, initiate, or record wire transfers. Teach employees about both internal and external cyber threats (e.g. phishing, fake vendor emails and executive impersonation schemes) and test them to see if they would fall victim to scams. Require two employees to approve wire transfers and train them with a focus on BEC schemes. Enforce a policy of verifying all wire requests that arrive via email with phone calls to company-registered phones.
  • Encryption should be implemented before backing up important data. Even safeguards like two-factor authentication (2FA) are not foolproof. Sending an SMS text as part of 2FA seems secure, but if the carrier account is compromised, the authentication can still be hijacked. If hacked, a small business can still protect its data by using strong encryption. Always make sure data is encrypted – and can only be unlocked by keying in a password – before saving to external devices or backing up to the cloud.
  • Security controls must be implemented and maintained. It is estimated that about 90% of cyber breaches could be prevented if the proper security controls are in place. Stay aware of the latest trends in firewalls and anti-virus protection and install software updates and patches as soon as they are available. Frequently remind employees to use complex passwords and change them often.
  • Repetition. Obviously, a one-time training session will soon fade from memory. Periodic updates for accounting and finance staff regarding recent frauds perpetrated against companies within the client’s industry will serve as reminders that the need for vigilance is constant.

With the costs of cybercrime estimated to climb to six trillion dollars by 2021, it doesn’t look like cyber scams are going to disappear anytime soon. And while fraudsters often target small and medium-sized companies because they may have fewer security controls in place, CPAs can play a critical role in helping their clients keep their defenses strong.

The bottom line is that cyberattacks preying on human fallibility can be mitigated. AICPA’s quarterly ‘Eye on Fraud’ reports are a great resource for all CPAs to help them protect their clients or their organizations from latest scams. The current edition is always available in the FVS News and Publications section of AICPA.org. Also check out our Cybersecurity Resource Center, which has cybersecurity resources for CPAs providing advisory services.

Brian Simpson, Manager, Public Relations, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

 

The secret to less copying and pasting – Robotic Process Automation

GettyImages-459689741Remember the last time you copied information from one system and put it into another? Wasn’t that three hours of Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V fun? It wasn’t? Sounds like you might want to look at robotic process automation (RPA) then.

The name is long and slightly intimidating, but the actual use of RPA isn’t. Despite the name, the technology is accessible and easily integrated into your existing platforms. It increases efficiency and reduces mistakes. This means you can be more productive and can spend more time using your higher-value skills like data analysis.

So how can you get started using RPA?

First, identify areas in your practice where automation makes the most sense. Generally, a process is suitable for RPA if it’s repetitive, rules-based and a swivel chair skill (taking data from one system and putting it into another). Some good starting places include accounts payable, accounts receivable and bank reconciliations.

For example, RPA software can extract sales listings, import that information into an Excel file, calculate total sales and compare it to a trial balance – all in a matter of seconds. You can use the technology to capture information from PDFs – such as mailing addresses, credit card numbers and due dates – and automatically update your databases. RPA can also automatically pay invoices that come in every month from the same vendors. You could even use it in human resources to assist with staff on-boarding.

Once you’ve identified the areas where RPA makes the most sense in your firm, you’ll need to invest in the technology. Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism and UI path are some of the more well-known RPA software providers, but there are dozens to choose from. Analyze as many vendors as you can to make sure the one you pick best aligns with your RPA goals. And if you still need to convince decision-makers in your organization to make the investment, run a demonstration where RPA software competes against a group of humans to complete a task. Spoiler alert: the RPA software is going to win every time. Most software providers will happily coordinate such a demonstration for your leadership.

Finally, make sure everyone in your firm understands what’s going on. Just as email wouldn’t be a very effective communications tool if only a few people in your office knew about it, you’re not going to reap the most benefits from RPA if only certain teams are aware of its existence. Get your staff trained on what the technology will do, and how staff can best take advantage of it.

Robotic process automation completes repetitive tasks more quickly and accurately than humans, freeing you up to perform higher-level data analysis so you can help your client make better decisions. And if you aren’t using the software soon, you’ll quickly find yourself playing catch-up. Ready to take a deeper dive? Check out our Facebook Live video “Robotics in your accounting practice” or our RPA learning series.

Lindsay N. Patterson, CAE, Senior Manager – Communications and Public Relations, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants 

 

Licensure under fire in the states

GettyImages-159754158A powerful narrative is taking shape across the country that could define the future of licensure. State legislators are coming together to challenge the necessity and value of occupational licensing. 

So far, there have been no direct challenges to whether CPAs should be licensed. However, there’s a national anti-licensure legislative strategy that does not distinguish between occupations and learned professions such as CPAs.

The changing legislative environment means we risk losing licensure as a means to protect the public. That would mean no licensed architects, no licensed engineers and no licensed CPAs. We’ve spent decades ensuring that only qualified and educated professionals can hold out as CPAs. Clients trust CPAs to act as their fiduciaries because they know the profession is well regulated.


There is resistance to the expansion of occupational licensing across the political spectrum. In the 1950s, 5% of workers in the United States required a license, whereas 30% required a license in 2015. The increase leads to a lot of questions about whether licenses are truly protecting the public or whether they are stifling competition. While state legislatures are not looking directly at learned professions — like the CPA — all occupations and professions are getting swept into the legislation.

But if licensing has increased since the 1950s, why is the conversation changing so much now? In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in FTC v. North Carolina Dental Board that the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners was not entitled to immunity from antitrust laws when it tried to prevent non-dentists from offering teeth whitening services. The case did not address occupational licensing directly, but it provided an opportunity for anti-licensure voices to enter the national conversation.

From 2015 to 2018, 34 states introduced legislation related to occupational licensing reform. On both coasts and in every region, state policymakers are seriously considering these reforms. For example, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez signed an executive order that would allow people to perform services normally restricted to licensed professions, including CPA services, if they had the customer sign a waiver.

This national conversation around licensure threatens our mobility laws and could eliminate substantial equivalency. If this legislation succeeds, requirements for licensure will vary wildly across states, creating costly compliance burdens for CPAs.

This issue will continue into 2019 state legislative sessions. The AICPA is working with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, state CPA societies and state boards of accountancy to educate state policymakers on how smart, uniform and predictable regulation protects the public and promotes economic growth. Reach out to your state CPA society to learn more and get involved.

You can read more about this topic here and listen to this podcast to hear a state CPA society’s first-hand account of fighting this kind of legislation.

Skip Braziel, Vice President, State Regulatory and Legislative Affairs, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants

 

AICPA Announces 2019 CPA Exam Score Release Dates

The 2019 score release dates are now available on aicpa.org/cpaexam.  For complete information regarding scoring, please visit the Exam Scoring and FAQ pages.

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy will release scores to boards of accountancy based upon the target score release dates listed in the tables below. Some boards may require at least one day beyond the published target release date in the table to process and release scores.

Testing Window: January 1 - March 10 (Q1)

If you take your Exam

on/before:

….and the AICPA receives your Exam data files from Prometric by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on:

Your target score release date is:

January 20

January 20

February 5

February 14

February 14

February 26

February 28

February 28

March 8

March 10

March 11

March 19

Testing Window: April 1 - June 10 (Q2)

If you take your Exam

on/before:

….and the AICPA receives your Exam data files from Prometric by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on:

Your target score release date is:

April 20

April 20

May 7

May 15

May 15

May 23

May 31

May 31

June 11

June 10

June 11

June 19

Testing Window: July 1 -September 10 (Q3)

If you take your Exam

on/before:

….and the AICPA receives your Exam data files from Prometric by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on:

Your target score release date is:

July 20

July 20

August 6

August 14

August 14

August 22

August 31

August 31

September 10

September 10

September 11

September 19

Testing Window: October 1 -December 10 (Q4)

If you take your Exam

on/before:

….and the AICPA receives your Exam data files from Prometric by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on:

Your target score release date is:

October 20

October 20

November 5

November 14

November 14

November 22

November 30

November 30

December 10

December 10

December 11

December 19

  • All dates and times are based on the Eastern Standard Time (EST) zone.
  • For most candidates, Prometric sends Exam data files to the AICPA within 24 hours after you complete testing.
  • Exam data files received after the AICPA cutoff dates will result in subsequent scheduled target score release dates.
  • If you take the BEC section, you might receive your score approximately one week following the target release date due to additional analysis that may be required for the written communication tasks.