Hiding a Pregnancy from an Employer

Hiding a Pregnancy from an Employer

How many of you have considered, or have actually, hidden your pregnancy from your employer? Maybe you had concerns about being fired, being looked over for a promotion, or  you were in the position of potentially being hired by a new employer and worried about your chances if the employer knew you were pregnant.. 

Although legally, employers are not allowed to discriminate against a woman for being pregnant, many women still face challenges such as being passed over for job opportunities and other career-halting situations related to becoming, as well as being, a mom. 

Some women are so concerned and have so much fear about how their pregnancy will affect their job, that they’ll completely hide their pregnancy from their employer, and then take the lie even further by continuing the secret even after their child is born. 

In an article by Huffington Post titled “I Hid My Pregnancy And The Existence Of My Second Child From My Job. Here’s Why”, the author discovered a woman who had been working remotely and hatched a plan to keep her employer out of her pregnancy loop.   She wanted to keep the job she had worked so hard to obtain and feared her employer would “lighten the load” if they found out.

She had seen similar things happen to other women within the company, where they had gone on maternity leave or were coming back to work after taking it.  She was well aware that firing her was not an option, but by making her a temp employee, they could easily stop contracting her for projects.

She worked for a city agency that started out as a temp position, but they ended up keeping her on. However, in the four years of working for them, they never offered her a permanent position, benefits, or paid time off. 

She made it through her first trimester and reached the point of announcing her pregnancy when she received an opportunity that would also include a raise, and without much forethought, took on the project, determining she would figure out the logistics later. The project was set to start around the same time she was expecting to be in labor.

At this time she decided she was not willing to risk them offering the opportunity to someone else, and continued to keep her pregnancy a secret. 

She discovered that it was pretty easy to keep the pregnancy a secret as a remote worker, with the help of clever camera placement. Several times she considered coming clean, but as the project was near launching, she just kept focusing on completing a successful project. 

Delivery day for her baby involved several emails to team members that she had a “family emergency” and would be unavailable for the day. 15-hour induction later, and a sweet baby boy was brought into the world. 

She explained in the article that hiding a pregnant belly was one thing, but hiding a crying new infant was a completely different thing altogether.  She wondered how she was going to keep the secret going as she navigated breastfeeding, nap time, a 4 year old, and work meetings. 

After the project was successfully underway, she once again considered coming clean to her secret, but she never did, just focusing on working hard in order to have a successful project.

Unfortunately, once the project ended, so did her employment as she was let go as a contractor for the agency.

Sadly, she never did reveal her pregnancy to her employer, but even more sad is the fear she had, that led her to keep it a secret in the first place. .

The U.S. Department of Labor says that nearly 85% of women will become mothers during their career, the Pregnancy Discrimnation Act that was passed in 1978 is meant to protect women in the workplace when they become pregnant, and yet tens of thousands of discrimination claims are filed every year with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC). 

The unfortunate reality is that many women face the same issues and fear the potential discrimination because they have seen it happen time and time again to other women. While pregnancy should not be viewed, or treated, as a career halting situation, many women’s experience says differently.

Thankfully the woman in the article was hired a year later, for a full-time position, by a family friendly company, with benefits and paid time off. Her new employer embraces parenthood, and supports mothers raising their children. 

What do you think of this mother’s story? Do you relate to her fears and insecurities? Does your employer support raising a family? You are not alone.

Source: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/hidden-pregnancy-work-employment-rights_n_61083720e4b05ae33bf8ad28

Fighting Against Identity Theft

Fighting Against Identity Theft

While the pandemic has brought several programs and much needed assistance during this unprecedented time, these helpful programs have also become a preying ground for cyber criminals. As cyber criminals have ramped up their efforts in identity theft, the IRS has also been initiating warnings and awareness about cyber security risks. 

This summer, the IRS and its partners have been pushing a public awareness campaign regarding cyber security risks that tax professionals need to pay attention to, especially in the area of identity theft. 

The campaign is called, “Boost Security Immunity: Fighting Against Identity Theft” and it’s asking professionals to take those necessary steps to avoid data breaches. 

The IRS states that more data thefts have been reported so far in 2021 than the previous year, and those numbers are on the rise.

It is important for tax professionals to take the appropriate steps to protect their clients and their businesses. Cyber criminals have taken advantage of the pandemic, and unfortunately the various assistance programs have added easier targets for scammers to steal data and money from victims. 

Now that the IRS knows some of the signs to detect identity theft, they are sharing those areas to keep a close eye on.

Tax professionals should look out for:

  • Rejected tax returns due to Social Security Number having previously filed
  • More e-file acknowledges than returns filed
  • Emails being responded to by clients that were not sent to them by their tax pro
  • Unusually long processing times
  • Changing numbers when not touching keyboard
  • Mouse cursor moving without being touched
  • Unexpected lock out of network or computer

Cyber criminals continue to become more creative in ways to scam individuals and businesses, and tax professionals are a good mark due to the sensitive nature of their business. Stolen data from a tax professional allows criminals to file false returns that are incredibly difficult to detect due to the fact that the information used is real financial information.

Tax professionals and business owners need to consider the strength of their cyber security, as an attack on their business could negatively impact their reputation, brand, and overall success.

A few IRS safeguarding tips for tax professionals are:

  • Multi-Factor authentication
  • Anti-Virus software
  • Strong passwords
  • Virtual private networks
  • Encourage Identity Protection PINs to clients

One of the largest scams tax pros should be conscious of is false unemployment filings. Many individuals received year-end state unemployment forms to report taxable unemployment income that they never filed for or received.

“Spear Phishing” is another scam often targeted towards tax professionals. Carefully curated emails are sent to tax professionals posing as interested clients. After several days of communication, they will send a link or attachment that once opened will download a software that will provide them remote access to the professionals systems. 

Tax professional should take note of what clients report to them such as:

  • Receiving IRS authentication letters when they have not filed a return
  • Tax refund received when they have not filed a return
  • Receivable of tax transcripts not requested by them
  • Emails from their tax professional not initiated by them
  • Phone calls from their tax professional not initiated by them
  • IRS online account notification without their consent
  • IRS disable their online account
  • Unexpected IRS notice that someone accessed their IRS online account

If a firm is breached, it is important to immediately report this to the local IRS Stakeholder Liaison. They will in turn report this to the IRS Criminal Investigation and other appropriate parties. The quicker the report is in, the sooner the IRS can take measures to stop any fraudulent filings.

Also, it is good practice to report identity theft to the Federation of Tax Administrators, and many states also require that the states attorney general be notified as well. 

It is more important than ever for accounting professionals to do their due diligence to protect themselves and their clients from the risk of cyber criminals.

Sources:

https://www.accountingtoday.com/news/irs-warns-tax-professionals-about-identity-theft-signs

https://www.accountingtoday.com/news/irs-urges-tax-pros-to-beef-up-security-this-summer

Cybersecurity Advisory Practice

Cybersecurity Advisory Practice

Cyber attacks have become a common topic within the media with companies facing ransomware attacks, individuals facing identity theft, hacking, email scams, and so much more. The cyber world is full of risks, but there also lies great opportunity for those looking to help mitigate the risks for themselves and others.

Due to this continuously growing environment of risk, accounting and financial professionals may consider cyber security advisory practices as another opportunity to grow their business.

This begs the question, what skills and knowledge is needed to be successful with a cyber security advisory practice, and what services would that entail offering?

In order to enter into the cyber security advisory industry, a company or firm would first need a well thought out business strategy. First, it’s important to consider the knowledge already within the firm and what areas of expertise the firm would like to cover.  Second, the firm would need to consider the necessary steps to take in order to fill in the gaps of knowledge and expertise. 

By developing a strategy tailored to the firm and what the firm already knows and offers, this could help the company with important considerations about the cyber security advisory options the company can offer.

Top level management, such as partners and leaders, looking to offer cyber security advisory services should have someone in this tier of management with the drive and knowledge to build and manage the practice. They should already have the skills and abilities to practice in the cyber security arena. 

For those entrepreneurial spirited firms looking at this opportunity, many are considering the knowledge currently within their firm, while others are seeking out those knowledgeable individuals to bring in and build out this area. 

For mid-level management, this could be an opportunity for those who already have strong related skills, and an understanding of cyber security, to apply these skills in an advisory practice. Most of these individuals will already have experience with cyber governance and other technical aspects required for offering advisory services, providing them with the chance to hone their skills and develop more cyber security options for the company in the future.

As for staff members, hiring entry level, bright minded individuals with a passion for cyber security will also help build the practice as these individuals will embrace a strong understanding of technology, risk, control, and cyber security. 

The important point about considering cyber security advisory services is the variety of options a firm can offer. For example, there are opportunities to provide implementation and support, architecture reviews, governance matchup, other framework matchups, penetration testing, incident response, and establishing protocols are a few areas a company could focus their cyber security practice on. 

Considering the fact that CPA firms already have a level of IT risk and control mechanisms in place, the opportunity to offer these advisory services is often already established for many firms. These services have the potential to build into more opportunities and increase service options as the firm’s resources, knowledge, and skills continue to grow within their cyber security advisory practice.

A short, but non-comprehensive list of services that a firm may offer are:

  • Financial Reporting Controls
  • Cyber Compliances
  • Architecture Consulting
  • Penetration Testing
  • Employee Awareness Training
  • Cloud Base Technology Services
  • Identify Access Management
  • Software Development Life Cycle
  • Transaction Advisory
  • Incident Response
  • Breach Couching 

Another option could be, along with the firm’s current expertise, partnering with other firms providing those services or considering expanding to provide them. 

As you can see, there are many paths to choose from.  As accountants are typically ensconced in an environment that addresses risk, growing a firm that offers this type of risk relief can be a smart move for those interested in cyber security.

Source:https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/podcast/cpa-news-cybersecurity-advisory-firms-all-sizes.html

IRS List of “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams

IRS List of “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams

Around this time every year, the IRS releases their list of tax scams that they like to call the “Dirty Dozen.” This list consists of the current top tax scams that the IRS wants to make the public and accounting professionals aware of.

This year the IRS chose to release their Dirty Dozen list in 4 batches. The first notice focused on pandemic-related scams, warning that these scammers are developing schemes related to the economic impact payment, stimulus check theft, and unemployment compensation.

With the three stimulus checks that were distributed, these scammers are aware that some people have extra money, and they’re trying to come up with ways to trick them out of it.

The IRS included a list of things to look out for regarding these scams:

  • Any text messages
  • Random Phone Calls
  • Emails Inquiring about Bank Information
  • Requesting Recipients to Click on a Link
  • Requesting Recipients to Verify Data

As always, the IRS reminds the public that it will NOT contact you by phone, email, text, or through any social media outlet regarding Social Security Numbers, Personal Information, or Financial Information related to the economic impact payments.

Another scam involves unemployment compensation. Unfortunately identity theft is high, as millions of people were out of a job due to the pandemic.  This has led to identity thieves filing fraudulent unemployment claims with stolen information. Despite not collecting the unemployment payments, scammed individuals were receiving Form 1099G’s, reporting unemployment compensation they did not receive. 

If this is you, or if someone you know received a Form 1099G for unemployment compensation that was never received, the IRS has stated to contact your appropriate state agency for a corrected form.

Other types of scams mentioned on the list are phishing scams, scams related to personal information, and ransomware attacks. The list also included schemes related to fake charities, senior fraud, immigrant fraud, and attempts to persuade individuals into unethical actions such as offer-in-compromise mills and syndicated conservation easements. 

Be sure to check on the IRS’s full list on this year’s Dirty Dozen list.

Source: https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/podcast/cpa-news-accounting-as-stem-career-irs-dirty-dozen-tax-scams.html

Source: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/dirty-dozen

 

Accounting STEM Pursuit Act

Accounting STEM Pursuit Act

As technological advances have changed so much of what accountants do and how we do it, the AICPA is addressing this from an educational standpoint by strongly supporting the Accounting STEM Pursuit Act of 2021. This act would establish accounting as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum, providing the logical connection between technology and accounting.

Historically, since the first personal computer was introduced, accountants have ensured their understanding of technology, using it to create more efficiency processes and provide the best client services possible. This use of technology has only continued to grow exponentially for accounting professionals, creating new ways to work more effectively with larger amounts of data.

From its use in managing and analyzing data, ensuring data security, and solving increasingly complex problems, technology has opened the door for accountants to develop ways to maintain the safety and security of their client’s data, while also performing their job functions remotely, rather than on site. 

With this in mind, it’s easy to see how accounting falls into the STEM category, and how the inclusion of accounting within the STEM professions will also provide a more diverse talent pool.

In the educational system, STEM courses are often highlighted by teachers, influencing the career path choices of their students. Introducing accounting into the STEM program will promote more discussions about career options within accounting, and help increase student interest in the subject.

More importantly, this will also provide high-quality instruction to students through grade 12, especially to those groups that are underrepresented within the accounting profession. The Accounting STEM Pursuit Act will help provide better resources for students to learn about career options in accounting, and increase the exposure to the technologies accountants have access to. 

Those individuals interested in pursuing a career in accounting will need to have a strong understanding of technology areas, inside and outside the scope of accounting. For instance, technologies such as cybersecurity, information security, system controls, blockchain, and data analytics, will play a vital role. 

The AICPA not only plans to continue to educate and express the importance of this bill to lawmakers and staff, but they’re also providing accounting instruction and programs for students through their CPA Evolution. This program helps provide CPAs with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the accounting profession, as well as to universities to help students transition from the school setting into their chosen career. 

Stay tuned as we will update you on this important piece of legislation.

 

Source: https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/podcast/cpa-news-accounting-as-stem-career-irs-dirty-dozen-tax-scams.html

Tax Preparer Legislation Update

Tax Preparer Legislation Update

The Tax Protection and Preparer Proficiency Act, a new bill introduced to the House of Representatives regarding tax preparer regulations, has been in the works for quite awhile. 

You may or not remember, but 10 years ago in 2011, the IRS implemented a program to work towards this very goal, but a decision made in the Loving’s court case forced the program to shut down due to the IRS being told they lacked the authority.

However, in May of 2021, the AICPA sent a letter to congressional leaders regarding paid income tax preparers regulation in support of enforceable ethical conduct. The idea is to improve the level of compliance within the tax environment, something that the IRS currently lacks the authority to regulate.

The AICPA stated they were not interested in the IRS gaining a broad authority over the regulation, but instead are in support of the parameters outlined by the bill..

The AICPA also does not see this bipartisan bill moving forward without a companion bill in the Senate. They believe that there is hope for this to move forward as part of a larger tax measure, hopefully sometime this year. 

A key aspect of the bill that the AICPA is interested in, that was not implemented in the 2011 program due to the court case, is that tax preparers that are registered under the IRS’s program need to include a descriptor that states the IRS does not endorse any particular tax preparer. Claiming to be an IRS-authorized tax preparer is misleading to the public, due to the fact that the IRS does not endorse any particular tax preparer. 

As of now, this bill has a possibility of moving forward as part of a larger tax bill, and that tax bill may be part of the Biden administration’s infrastructure legislation being discussed in Washington.   

With that being said, the infrastructure legislation is not likely to close until the end of the year, therefore, the tax bill would most likely not pass until around the fourth quarter of this year. 

Stay tuned as we will let you know about any updates.

Source: https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/podcast/cpa-news-single-audit-demand-rising-tax-preparer-legislation.html