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Education, focus on value are keys to tackling tax reform

Written on Dec 12, 2018

By Gary Hunt, CAE, OSCPA communications director

If CPAs are feeling anxious about tax reform, they need to attack the problem through education and by focusing on high-value services.

That was one of the messages Dec. 10 from Cari Weston, CPA, MST, CGMA, director of tax practice & ethics for the AICPA.

WestonMEGA1812“This year, CPAs aren’t sure what to tell clients,” Weston said. “It’s time to start doing that year-end planning, and up to about Oct. 15 they could rely on last year’s work… And they don’t understand the new tax code enough to offer advice such as, ‘We should set up a new entity,’ or ‘We should restructure you,’ or ‘We should separate your books.’ They don’t know the answers, and we don’t know all the answers right now, which is hard.”

However, Weston, who was a keynote speaker at this week’s MEGA Tax Conference, was able to offer valuable advice on how attendees could navigate such uncertain tax waters. In addition to learning as much as they can about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, she said CPAs should focus on technology to deliver efficient value to clients.

“Fear of losing clients is a concern of many people I talk to: ‘Is this tax system going to put me out of business?’” Weston said. “I absolutely don’t think it is. But I also think that they have to change the way they do business to ensure that doesn’t happen.

“CPAs – especially in tax – have to figure out how to make the lower value tasks as automated as they can. They have to embrace that technology, they have to look for new service lines and they have to sell and offer those service lines.”

Other takeaways from her discussion:

  • Congress is not likely to do much by the end of the year to address issues with tax reform. A natural disaster tax relief is likely to be among the items passed.
  • Studies have estimated that of the roughly 45 million taxpayers who itemized their expenses in their 2017 returns, only between five and eight million will itemize in 2018.
  • One issue the AICPA is watching closely now is the mandatory repatriation tax on foreign earnings as required by the amendment of Internal Revenue Code section 965.
  • CPAs who want to know more should check out the AICPA’s Tax Practitioner Toolkit.
  • In cases where CPAs cannot find a definitive answer on a regulation, they should “come up with a position, document it, train your staff and be consistent with all your clients,” Weston said.

Weston was joined as a keynote speaker by Nationwide Senior Economist Ben Ayers, who provided an economic update.

Amber McAuliffe, CPA, OSCPA’s manager of accounting learning, said MEGA Tax attendees were receptive to the message.

“We received a number of positive comments about how current the content was,” McAuliffe said. “We had a mix of state and national speakers, and they were able to cover tax reform with a level of detail that’s been hard for many CPAs to get.”

Photo: Cari Weston, CPA, MST, CGMA, director of tax practice & ethics for the AICPA, top left, speaks Dec. 10 to attendees at OSCPA’s MEGA Tax Conference. Joining her is Nationwide Senior Economist Ben Ayers, right, who provided an economic update.


New tax reform updates for the New Year

To help you stay informed on evolving tax reform guidance as you kick off the 2018 tax season, attend the Tax Reform Update seminars starting this January. These are meant to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the tax changes.

Corporations and Pass-Through Entities

Jan. 9 | Live
Jan. 9 | Webcast

Individuals and Sole Practitioners

Jan. 9 | Live
Jan. 9 | Webcast