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September 2017
In This Issue
Your BRC Team
Bernard Robinson & Company ranks number one on the list of the Best Employers in North Carolina (small and medium sized companies) by Business North Carolina!

Click here to learn more about why Bernard Robinson & Company is such a great place to work!

Noteworthy Links
Hurricane Irma victims get IRS reprieve - Journal of Accountancy
IRS Tax Calendar for Businesses & Self-Employed
United States Economy - CNBC Updates
IRS: Tax Scams / Consumer Alerts
2018 Health Savings Account Limits Increase Slightly
FASB simplifies accounting for certain financial instruments - Journal of Accountancy
Why lease accounting laggards face serious risks I Journal of Accountancy
Equifax Breach Aftermath: 10 Steps to Take to Protect Yourself Today, by Netgain
Celebrating 70 Years: And Our BRC Family
By Wade Pack, CPA
Firm Managing Partner

I have been lucky to be a part of Bernard Robinson & Company (BRC) for over 14 years.  (It's always easy for me to remember how long it's been - you see, my oldest son is 14 years old, born just a few short weeks after I joined BRC.)  When I think back upon that earlier time, I remember how personally exciting, and yes, scary, it was.  Leaving an established position at a national public accounting firm to start anew with a "small, local firm," and doing it when your wife is in her eighth month of pregnancy can cause some stress.  Specifically, I recall numerous times my wife asking me, "Are you sure?"  And time after time, my answer was "Yes!"
In fact, it was very clear to me that this was the right fit for our soon-to-be-growing family, because BRC was all about family.  I had heard often (four total interviews, but hey, there were over 30 people at the firm to meet) about how BRC had initially operated for decades with its family-based group, led by Bernard "Bernie" Robinson, Joe Robinson (Bernie's brother) and Joe Kent (Bernie's brother-in-law).  And now (then), the firm was led by a second generation of partners, which included Freddy Robinson (Bernie's son).  Freddy, along with partners Pat Price, Dan Hayes, Wes Stallings, Tim Smith and Alisa Moody, had continued to operate BRC the same as the founders had: like a family.
Freddy knew the names of everyone's children, everyone ate lunch together on Saturdays during busy season (Wes's mom and others even brought killer homemade lunches/desserts on some of those Saturdays), and throughout the year everyone got the best - and I do mean the best - brownies on their birthday thanks to bakester extraordinaire Ginny Colvin.  This was a closely-knit group.  And as I wrote in this article's opening line, I was lucky; lucky to become a part of this group, this family.
Some things have of course changed since I came to BRC.  For one thing, there has been tremendous growth.  Instead of around 30 people, we now have around 130 people.  And those people are not just in our Greensboro office; we now have offices in Raleigh and Winston-Salem, too.  With that many people in various locales, it's very difficult to sync up schedules for a weekly lunch.  And alas, with so many birthdays to celebrate, we had to give up on the brownies for each individual.  But one thing that hasn't changed is how everyone here treats each other: in the family spirit. 
At our monthly staff meetings, we still celebrate everyone's birthday for that month, with cake of course.  We have baby and wedding showers throughout the year, with cake of course.  We hold special celebrations for those passing the CPA exam, with (yep, you guessed it) cake of course.  We have an annual BRC Family Picnic (sometimes it's cobbler, for those wondering), and we invite everyone's kids for trick-or-treating each year at Halloween.  Plus, I'm pretty sure Freddy still knows the names of everyone's children, and grandchildren too these days! 
So, I offer my thanks and gratitude to everyone here and those that came before, for cultivating such a strong and rich family culture.  And congratulations to our BRC family on reaching the 70-year milestone; here's to another happy and successful 70 (or more) to come.

The Internal Revenue Service's Centralized Audit Regime

By Tracey Martin, CPA

According to Merriam-Webster, the word regime can, among other things, refer to "the orderly procedure of a natural phenomenon," "a period of rule," or "a mode of rule or management."  While proposed IRS regulations can at times feel like all three of these, we are going with "a mode of rule or management" while discussing the centralized partnership audit regime outlined in revised proposed partnership audit regulations reissued on June 14, 2017.
We previously reported on these proposed regulations from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 when originally issued in November 2015.   With the rules applying to tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, we wanted to draw your attention to the changes and reaffirm that we are reviewing and addressing these issues for our clients during year end planning and tax preparation of 2017 partnership returns.
The proposed regulations include, among other things, changes in how the IRS will audit and assess underpayment penalties with tax and penalties assessed and collected at the partnership level, rather than at the individual partner level; a requirement that partnerships annually designate a "partnership representative" whose actions taken with respect to the centralized partnership audit regime would be valid and binding on the partnership and partners; an expanded scope of audit procedures; and detailed rules regarding electing out of the regime for partnerships with 100 or fewer partners.

Additional details may be found in this BNA federal tax blog or in IRS Bulletin 2017-28.

A public hearing on the proposed rules will be held in Washington, DC on September 18, 2017.  We will provide additional information regarding the final rules as it becomes available.

Keeping Your Accounting Department In Check
By Tonia Hedrick, CPA  
Senior Manager
Developing and maintaining a policies and procedures manual probably doesn't sound like much fun, and may even seem burdensome, but an accounting policies and procedures manual can be an important tool for an organization's accounting department. It will clarify roles and responsibilities of accounting personnel, help employees understand how the accounting system works, establish proper communication for new and existing personnel, and ensure effective internal controls over financial reporting.

A well-developed policies and procedures manual helps with consistency in the handling of various accounting tasks. For accounting activities with multiple individuals processing the same types of transactions, either as a primary function or a backup role, adequately documented procedures allows transactions to be processed in a consistent manner, regardless of the individual performing the steps. Documented policies and procedures assist with continuity of accounting processes when used as a training tool for new and existing employees. The manual can also serve as a reference for how and why things were done in the past, as well as currently, in the organization.

Each policies and procedures manual is a unique document customized to fit the size, staffing and business model of the respective organization. Despite each manual's uniqueness, there are basic components commonly found in a policies and procedures manual: overview of organization, objective of manual, chart of accounts, organizational chart, general policies, internal controls, procedures for various accounting functions, and examples of key forms/documents. Additionally, all accounting policies and procedures manuals should have a common goal of defining policies and procedures for personnel to follow to ensure accurate and reliable financial statements are produced.

The following are some things to consider when developing a policies and procedures manual for your accounting department:
  • Make sure it is user friendly (i.e. include a table of contents, incorporate flowcharts to illustrate workflows).
  • Avoid using condescending language.
  • Gather input from users of the manual. Inquire as to the ease of use and understandability of the procedures outlined. Implement suggestions as appropriate and feasible.
  • The manual needs to be kept current. Ideally, updates should be made as policies and procedures change. However, the update process may be more manageable if the manual is divided into sections which are assigned to scheduled review periods. The review cycle would facilitate examination and update of the entire manual on a routine basis.
  • Make sure all personnel are aware the manual exists - and that it is accessible.
  • After the manual is developed, employee training may need to be conducted to ensure procedures are understood and properly executed.
  If you have questions about developing a policies and procedures manual for your accounting department, please consult with your accounting professionals.

Hurricane Relief Scams
By Olga Oganesov, CPA
Senior Manager

Our thoughts are with those affected by the recent natural disasters.  After the hurricanes left a path of destruction in Texas and the Southeast, naturally people want to help.  But with every natural disaster come the scams.  Americans are extremely generous when there is a devastating event, and criminals know exactly how to take advantage of a crisis.

The IRS recently issued a warning about possible fake charity scams emerging due to the recent natural disasters.  Such fraudulent schemes involve contact by telephone, social media, e-mail, or in-person solicitations.

One of the common tactics used by criminals is to send emails that steer recipients to bogus websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate charitable causes.  These sites frequently mimic the sites of, or use names similar to, legitimate charities, or claim to be affiliated with actual charities in order to persuade people to send money or provide personal financial information that can be used to steal identities or financial resources.

Use the following tips to avoid charity scams:
  1. Watch out for groups with names similar to better-known charities.
  2. Avoid anyone using high-pressure tactics, such as trying to get you to donate immediately without giving you time to do your research.
  3. Never give to anyone who asks for cash or wired money. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card and retain documentation that supports the donation.
  4. Be wary of organizations that won't provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
  5. Check out the credentials of a potential charity before you donate.  Use the IRS charity check tool at EO Select Check or the Charity Navigator website to confirm that donations to the charity are tax deductible.  Some organizations (like churches) may not be listed, so make sure to ask organizations which don't appear on the list for more information.
  6. For tax purposes, you can only deduct contributions to qualified tax-exempt charities.  Donations to individuals are never tax deductible, even if the individuals are really deserving.  Also, money solicited for individuals could be part of a scam - there were several fake pages created after Hurricane Harvey for individuals whose rescue was captured in the news.
  7. Don't click on a link in an email, even if it came from a person you know - they could have been scammed as well.  Instead, type the charity website address directly in a browser.  
If you are unsure if you are donating to an authentic charity, feel free to contact your tax advisor with any questions.  

Bernard Robinson & Company, LLP | (336) 294-4494 |  [email protected] |
1501 Highwoods Blvd, Ste 300
Greensboro, NC 27410
BRC Strategy is designed to provide information of a general nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional consultation and advice.  The opinions and interpretations expressed should not be construed or used as legal or tax advice, written or otherwise, and cannot be used for the purpose of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed under federal, state or local law.