Tax professionals faced many challenges in 2019. The federal government shutdown delayed IRS processing, and 2019 saw most of the sweeping changes introduced by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) take effect. Guidance was late in coming from the IRS, especially with regard to international tax issues. Not surprisingly, among the top 20 most-read CPA Journal articles in 2019 (http://www.cpajournal.com), approximately half dealt with the complexity of the new tax rules. But the TCJA is not all that the accounting profession has been talking about this past year. The following is a collection of some of the topics that have sparked the most interest from our readers.
Ethics and Professional Responsibility
Several of our most-read articles focused on self-reflection by the profession. High on our list was an interview with Stavros Thomadakis, IESBA chair (“How the New Ethics Code Will Affect Your Standards,” May, http://bit.ly/2D8FrLQ). Also included in this professional self-reflection were “Revenue Recognition and the Potential for Fraud and Abuse” by Douglas Carmichael (http://bit.ly/2KML5HP), the highly read “Confessions of an Accounting Critic” by J. Edward Ketz (http://bit.ly/34cb8j3), and “The Risk of Fraud Collusion” by Yigal Rechtman (http://bit.ly/2D8soKw), all in the March issue. In the area of environmental, social, and corporate governance, Daniel Jacobs and Lawrence P. Kalbers illuminated a major corporate scandal in “The Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Scandal and Accountability” (July, http://bit.ly/2D8tbLu).
The Journal’s coverage of the impact of the TCJA ranged from articles on how to calculate the qualified business income deduction (Thomas Dalton, “Proposed Regulations Clarify the IRC Section 199A Deduction,” January, http://bit.ly/2DdX6BD) to income from renting out one’s home on services such as Airbnb (Mary Ann Hoffman, “The Tax Treatment of Home-Sharing Activities,” October, http://bit.ly/2OxHhv0), the marriage penalty (Allen J. Rubenfeld and Ganesh J. Pandit, “The Status of the Marriage Penalty,” January, http://bit.ly/2XDkj9S), and home-ownership (Dana L. Hart and Robert Slater, “Homeownership after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” January, http://bit.ly/37qGJQp). One particular unresolved tax issue was of interest in our October issue (Linda Campbell, Pamela C. Smith, and Kasey Martin, “Defining ‘Reasonable Compensation’ under the Tax Code,” http://bit.ly/2D4yGuq). Not far behind the TCJA in interest was the Taxpayer First Act, which was signed into law in July and covered in our August issue (Sidney Kess and Steven I. Hurok, “The Top Ten Changes in the Taxpayer First Act of 2019,” http://bit.ly/2rcJ1BT). Finally, in an area with more political ramifications, one of our authors analyzed what to do when a client’s tax return can no longer remain confidential (Caroline Rule, “Getting Taxpayer’s Consent to Disclose or Use Tax Return Information under IRC Section 7216,” November, (http://bit.ly/2RnRsoZ).
State and Local Taxation
The impact of the loss of the SALT deduction was also high on this year’s readership list. Several articles were published on New York’s attempt to decouple from certain federal personal income tax provisions (Corey L. Rosenthal and Benjamin Wexler, “New York State Decouples from Certain Federal Tax Provisions,” February, http://bit.ly/2QJMBhw; Rosenthal and Lance Rothenberg, “The Continuing Fight over the SALT Deduction Cap,” October, http://bit.ly/34iBeRS). Coverage in 2019 also looked at states that were finding clever ways to increase their taxable base as a result of the Supreme Court decision in Wayfair (Corey L. Rosenthal, Scott Smith, and Wendy Galex, “Changing the State and Local Tax Nexus Playing Fields,” May, http://bit.ly/31HQQxh). Other reported changes in state and local taxation across the country included the new activity tax in Oregon (Corey L. Rosenthal and Jessie Hu, “Oregon’s Commercial Activity Tax,” August, http://bit.ly/2OBeC8l) and the new tax laws in California (Corey L. Rosenthal and M.L. Castilla, “California State and Local Tax Update,” July, http://bit.ly/33etmiG).
The level of confusion over how to implement FASB’s “big three” accounting standards—leases, financial instruments, and revenue recognition—continued to be of great interest to CPA Journal readers. “The Challenge of Embedded Leases” (Dennis J. Chambers, Catherine A. Finger, and Jeff Horne, August, http://bit.ly/2qBIUQo) continued our coverage of this far-reaching standard, while “Liquidation Basis Accounting and Reporting” (Howard B. Levy, July, http://bit.ly/37uLVmd) examined how a 2013 standard has worked out in practice.
The impact of the loss of the SALT deduction was also high on this year’s readership list.
The ever-accelerating pace of new technologies represents tremendous promise for business and society, but along with it come tremendous uncertainties and the risk that new technologies will create their own problems. Among the most-read articles in June’s special technology issue were “Fraud in a World of Advanced Technologies” (Mark Nickerson, http://bit.ly/2LJedBZ), “Cybersecurity Tools for CPAs” (Susan Anders, http://bit.ly/338Lyug), and “Meeting the Challenge of Artificial Intelligence” (Paul Lin and Tom Hazelbaker, http://bit.ly/2OzWqff). Among the most popular columns by cybersecurity columnist Steve Wertheim was August’s “Send in the Clouds” (http://bit.ly/2XLaCXa).
The scope and purpose of financial statement audits for both public and private companies have been debated ever since CPAs were granted the monopoly, and 2019 was no different. One of the most-read articles was February’s “Auditing Accounting Estimates,” a panel discussion from the 13th Annual Audit Conference at Baruch College (http://bit.ly/2s9jt9j). Another highly read article described the application of advanced audit techniques [Michael Cohen, Andrea M. Rosario, and Chanyuan (Abigail) Zhang, “Exploring the Use of Robotic Process Automation in Substantive Audit Procedures,” July, http://bit.ly/2QJOMBG].
Among the most-read articles in 2019 on the subject of not-for-profit organizations were “The Reporting Impact of ASU-2016-14” (David Rottkamp, April, http://bit.ly/2qtxSga), “Applying the New Accounting Guidance for Contributions” (Marc Taub, David Hollander, Lisette Rodriguez, and Robert A. Dyson, April, http://bit.ly/2XDS1fl), and “Charitable Contributions by S Corporations” (Andrew M. Brajcich, April, http://bit.ly/33942KT).
Looking to 2020
Will the next year bring further postponement of the implementation of FASB’s big three standards? Will the tax-filing season be any easier? Will the newly reconstituted PCAOB lead to dramatic changes in the board’s mission or strategy? What impact will the federal elections have on the profession? You can be sure that we will cover all of these topics, and more, in the coming year of The CPA Journal.
In 2020, The CPA Journal is also celebrating its 90th anniversary of publication. We urge you to contribute to our special anniversary issue, coming in August.