Category Archives: Articles

Why the 2019 Tax Season Could Get Off to a Rocky Start

By Dan Caplinger

Nov 18, 2018 at 6:01PM

Taxpayers have a number of deadlines they have to meet every year. Many of them wait until the last minute to complete their tax returns or file for extensions, facing the danger of costly penalties if they don’t get things done in time.

You don’t often hear about the IRS needing an extension to get its part of the tax puzzle completed, but that’s exactly what could happen this year. The magnitude of changes to the tax laws over the past year has made the Internal Revenue Service’s job a lot more complicated this year, and according to a recent report from a government official charged with oversight responsibility for the IRS, the tax agency could have a tough time starting the 2019 tax season on time.

Brick wall with Internal Revenue Service plaque, next to a red traffic light.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

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Data Analytics: Free Tools for Accounting Professionals

By Ryan Wade, Principal Consultant at Diesel Analytics 

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As seasoned accounting professionals, you may have grown used to using tools like Microsoft Excel for your data analysis and reporting needs. You might be an advanced user of Microsoft Excel and have mastered the use of VBA, advanced formulas, and pivot tables to facilitate your analysis. However, you might not be aware of tools that you already own or are freely available to you that could make your data analysis and reporting much more manageable and robust. In this article, I will list several Excel add-ins and some open source software that can add much value to your data analysis. Let’s get started!

Power Query

Power Query is an Excel add-in that comes pre-installed in Excel 2016 but is also available as a separate add-in in Excel 2013. Many believe that it is the best thing to happen to Excel since pivot tables! Power Query enables you to combine data from multiple sources into one dataset, pivot or unpivot data, and perform complex data transformations all from an easy to use interface! It allows you to efficiently complete tasks that used to require complicated VBA code or was not possible to do at all. Here is a link to a book that will get you from zero to hero reasonably quickly. If you are a visual learner, then you can watch this informative video from Oz du Soleil that introduces you to Power Query.

Power Pivot

My new favorite addition to Microsoft Excel, Power Pivot, is also an add-in that has been available in MS Excel since Excel 2010.  Power Pivot enables you to work with much bigger datasets by using the Excel Data Model. The Excel Data Model is based on the same columnar database engine that is used by Power BI and SQL Server Analysis Services. You can use Power Pivot to create calculated measures and KPI’s to develop traditional financial reports, time comparison reports, and dynamic financial reports. Here is a link to a book written by Rob Collie that is geared to helping traditional MS Excel users learn how to use Power Pivot. I also provided a link to a video by Cara Clifford that does an excellent job of introducing Power Pivot.

MRO

Some built-in data science capabilities in MS Excel enable you to create elementary regression models and do basic forecasting. However, if your goal is to create more robust regression and forecasting models, then you need to use software that is specifically designed to do that. There is premium software available to you like SAS that you can use, but the software is relatively expensive. Fortunately, there are free open source software options that are as good in many respects as the premium options. One of the most popular options is the programming language R, and Microsoft offers an enhanced but free distribution of R named MRO (Microsoft R Open). You can go here to download it for free.

There are over 12,000 packages that are freely available, and many of them are specifically for forecasting. One of them is a popular package developed by Facebook called Prophet. You can go to this link that contains the vignette that describes how to use Prophet for forecasting. The preferred IDE for R is RStudio. RStudio is available for download here.

 

Anaconda

Right now the hot topic everywhere is data science. Many are recognizing the value of using advanced analytics to get insights into their data. The R programming language is one option, but another one is Python. Python has been gaining popularity over the last few years, and Continuum Analytics developed a free distribution of Python for the data science community called Anaconda. You can go here to download Anaconda. You can go here to watch the first of a short, 4-part video series that introduces you to data science via the Python programming.

One of the things you get when you install Anaconda is a tool called Jupyter Notebook. The Jupyter Notebook is very popular in the data science community because it makes it easy to share your analysis with others. I believe there are many applications in accounting where this feature could be useful. One example is sharing a forecasting model that is complete with annotations, charts, and graphs that explains your model. Here is a link to a video that introduces you to the Jupyter Notebook.

In closing, the tools listed in this article could be valuable additions to your toolkit. Power Query and Power Pivot makes doing traditional tasks and analysis performed in Excel much easier, and they also enable you to do things that were not possible before. Both of these tools are heavily used in Power BI so if you learn them it will significantly flatten your Power BI learning curve. When you need to do forecasting or other forms of advanced analytics, take advantage of MRO or Anaconda. Even though they are free, they are very powerful and are used by large organizations like Facebook and YouTube to fulfill some of their advanced analytics needs.

 

Ryan wade is a data analytic professional with close to 20 years of experience. You can view his full LinkedIn profile here.

Blockchain Series Part II: Crypto Winter Season – How Long Is This Going to Last?

By Henry Ngan, MBA, CPA

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In the summer months of 2018, while it physically feels seasonally warm for most of us, for many cryptos investors, the long winter season just dragged on even into the hot and humid summer.  Originally, I planned on writing something in extension from Blockchain Series Part I: Origins of the Blockchain Buzz, but I’ve gotten a significant number of inquiries in regard to the correction in crypto assets’ prices.  I thought it would be appropriate and timely to address such a topic.

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Data Analytics: What Is It and How Can It Help Your Business?

By Ryan Wade, Principal Consultant at Diesel Analytics 
Intelligence-client-analytics
The volume of data collected is increasing at an extremely fast rate. Globally, this amount is expected to surpass 44 zettabytes by 2020.

To put this quantity in perspective, one zettabyte is roughly 1 trillion gigabytes. Data is considered to be the new gold because of the level of insight you can derive from it. With the amount of data collection increasing, all signs point to a virtual gold rush for data miners that can process the information.Wastefully, only about 0.5% of all data collected will ever get analyzed, regardless of the value the data may have provided. This disparity is mostly due to the lack of knowledge of the various methods that can be used to analyze data. In this article, we will discuss the main categories of data analytics and give examples of how they apply to business.

Data analytics can be broken down into four major categories:

  • Descriptive Analytics
  • Diagnostic Analytics
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Prescriptive Analytics

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Wayfair: Dazed, Confused, Uncertain? Don’t Worry You’re Not Alone.

 

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Wayfair: Dazed, Confused, Uncertain? Don’t Worry You’re Not Alone.

By Joni Johnson-Powe, CEO of Taxnologi

I’m sure you’ve heard it over and over and over again…the recent Wayfair ruling will have a significant impact on how and when retailers are legally required to collect sales and use tax in states where they make remote sales. Not only have I also heard this resounding warning but as a practitioner, I’ve had the same conclusion. However, as my team has been helping clients with software configuration updates, review of sales by state, and analysis of their overall footprint, I am not completely sure how it will all play out. Honestly, there are some practical questions for which I don’t have definitive answers.

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Blockchain Series Part I: Origins of the Blockchain Buzz

By Henry H. Ngan, MBA, CPA

Blockchain-Article-Header

Since an infamous white paper titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” was published in October 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto (his or her identity has never been confirmed), it was the beginning of an era of Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.  I was often asked how Blockchain has gotten so much attention over the last 9 months or so.

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Wayfair Sales Tax Nexus Ruling: What does it all mean?

Download or read the PDF here.

By Joni Johnson-Powe, JD, CPA

Taxnologi Solutions, LLC – CEO/Principal

 

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As I am sure you know, the Supreme Court ruled on June 21, 2018 in favor of South Dakota which enacted a statute requiring out-of-state retailers to collect tax if that retailer has engaged in $100K in sales or 200 transactions in the state.

In retrospect, prior to the oral arguments in April, there seemed to be a strong sense in my professional circles that the Supreme Court had no other option than to overrule the “physical presence” requirement in Quill.  However, immediately following oral arguments, there was a swing in the pendulum of positions that perhaps the Court was going to “punt” and push the decision back to Congress.

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How to Assist Your Accounting Clients With Determining Nexus

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More and more in today’s ever changing digital economy, clients are challenged with running and growing their business while complying with tax rules that continually evolve and expand. In the state and local tax arena, I find that clients don’t know what they don’t know. This issue does not only impact small businesses and start-ups but also established companies.

Thus, the first step with assisting your clients with their multistate obligations is determining whether they have the obligation to file: Nexus. A client is deemed to have nexus where that client has “sufficient contacts” with the state or locale to succumb to the jurisdiction of the tax authority and obligation to collect and remit tax.

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What is your employee listening strategy?

Please download the PDF version here!

Excerpt taken from The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty

“To be listened to is, generally speaking, a nearly unique experience for most people. It is enormously stimulating. It is small wonder that people who have been demanding all their lives to be heard so often fall speechless when confronted with one who gravely agrees to lend an ear. Man clamors for the freedom to express himself and for knowing that he counts. But once offered these conditions, he becomes frightened”.— Robert C. Murphy


Believe it or not, your organization needs an employee listening strategy.

What do I mean by this?

Many organizations administer an annual employee engagement survey and then stop there. By doing just that, they miss the opportunity to truly listen to what their employees like or dislike about the organization, their manager, their role and more.

This also undermines the most valuable reason for listening: Action!

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