Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Homebuyer Credit: What [Else] Could Go Wrong?

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) just reported that about $9 million in homebuyer tax credits were claimed by prisoners. Additionally, over 80 IRS employees made errant or fraudulent homebuyer credit claims. Overall, over 14,000 inappropriate credits have been allowed, including 2,500 for purchases prior to the credit's inception. TIGTA said that this development was "very troubling" but did give the IRS credit for working to reduce some abuses from the earlier stages of the credit. One example: no minors claiming the credit were found in this investigation.

At best, the Homebuyer's credit had marginal justification in attempting to stabilize the housing market and put brakes on the depths of the recession on 2009. With the economy doing slightly better and evidence that the IRS is having difficulty policing abuses of the credit; it appears that the only significant remaining beneficiaries of the credit are realtors and certain politicians.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

For the last several days I have been "batching" it with two dogs while my wife has spent time with her mom. One of the dogs, "Maggie," is a ten-week-old golden retriever and still has many things to learn. I'm afraid that I have not had much patience with her; making me wonder whether I would have been much good as a dad.

Dads do not have the easiest role in society today--and certainly one not nearly as respected as in my younger years. The dad is the most common butt of jokes in family sit-coms (Cliff Huxtable nonwithstanding), marketers surely put less effort into Father's Day vs. Mother's Day and elements within the feminist movement are quick to point out the failures of some dads and in effect spread the brush to others (not that this excuses parental neglignece or abuse--whether from dad or mom).

Yes, there may be some among my readers who need to get off their rump and start trying to reconcile themselves to sons, daughters or both. To the larger portion of my father readership and the tens of millions of men throughout the country who at least try (if not always succeed) to take Dadship seriously, Happy Father's Day and may God bless--especially Don Meyer, my own dad.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When to Carry Debt--Not Necessarily Approved by Dave Ramsey

Yahoo's Jeff Brown contrasts concerns with the Federal Budget with personal budgeting issues in this article. Brown points out that one lesson to learn from the Feds is to NOT use ahort-term debt to cover long-term responsibilities. Brown also argues that while an emergency situation can justify serious debt, "emergency" must be carefully defined so that vacations aren't defined as emergencies. Brown argues that only homes and education justify debt and that credit cards should only be used for convenience and timing, not as a source of funding.

I am generally satisfied with Brown's commentary, though he may be slightly more willing than I to borrow for a basic automobile. One additional point--do not borrow for education unless you have a specific plan--including both course of study/major and plan for employment after your education.

Wrapping up the 91st IMA National Convention--Tuesday PM, Wednesday AM and a Brutal Trip Home

Four solid to very good sessions to wrap up the convention: Tuesday afternoon featured Mark Frigo who did a good job of explaining how corporate governance and ethics not only could but needed to fit with the strategic plans for a company, Mark was followed by Sam Weaver who had a quite interested quiz on estimation as part of Risk Analysis in Decision Making. As a former executive with Hershey Company, Sam further endeared himself to many in the audience by passing out Hershey's candy.

Anirban Basu kicked off Wednesday morning with an analysis of the American economy. He stated that recovery had started but that the recovery was not robust. The session was not quite as good (but close) to David Walker's presentation last year and was certainly worth attending. The convention concluded with IMA favorite motivational speaker Nobby Lewandowski. Nobby, who also spoke last year, is a CPA and former baseball player who has overcome a serious stuttering problem to become an accomplished speaker. One of his techniques is singing (shades of Jim Nabors and (to my surprise) Carly Simon)--this year's songs were "Swinging with My Baby (Mr. DJ) and YMCA". Freed from the expectation of a primary ethics content, Nobby's presentation was an enjoyable conclusion to the conference.

The trip home included a failed A/C--not a big problem on a rainy/cloudy Wednesday evening but a BIG problem Thursday driving from Morgantown, WV to Clarksville (about 550 miles).

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

91st National IMA Convention--Tuesday AM

A combination of car problems (eventually requiring a $300 repair) and several frustrating problems with getting a light rail ticket caused me to miss the 9 am session by a previous CFO of Health South. Apparently it was quite good--the speaker had a sizable line to sign copies of his book.

The 10:45 session involved a panel moderated by Nevada finance officer Kim Wallin and including Mike Schlanger, Mark Montoya and Mike Willis on XBRL (standardized business reporting) was quite good. Willis of PWC was particularly good--he compared SBRL to the bar codes used in inventory control and pointed out that XBRL actually could facilitate (rather than complicate) convergence with IFRS.

Our luncheon speaker (the entree was chicken--surprise, surprise) was Annebel Beeren of Southern New Hampshire. She talked about facing new raalities and having the courage to adapt to change. She pointed out that "encourage" literally involves raising the courage of those around you. Ms. Beeren tended to be a shade theoretical at times and her presentation can best be described as solid but not spectacular.

Monday, June 07, 2010

91st IMA National Convention- Monday pm

A second very good session to start afternoon festivities--Peter Brewer and Doug Calhoun made an excellent case for teaching accounting students leadership skills as part of their education. A primary part of their argument--leadership and interpersonal are as valuable to a new hires long-term career as technical skills. Their primary components of leadership are vision or influence, motivate, enablement and integrity.

The second afternoon session was lead by Julia Trugman-Nikol to demonstrate the importance of documentation of human capital in a business before key people leave or retire. Her concepts were well thought-out but her handling of questions (including one of mine) did not impress, thus I can only give her a fairly decent rating.

91th National IMA Conference--Monday am

The mid-morning session of the conference likely will be one of its best--Dr. Marianne Jennings of Arizona State talked about the frequency and cost of ethical lapses in business. She pointed out that the culprits usually are aware that what they are doing is "not quite right," that many, many people disconnect between their beliefs as to what is ethical and what they practice and many reasons why ethical behavior is the best long-run policy. Though much of her talk was the same as last year in Denver; the message still reasonated.

After an exhibitor break, brown-bag luncheons were up next. While eating box lunches we self-placed at tables with about 100 potential topics. I did not choose well and lost interest after about 20 minutes. Hopefully, my choices on concurrent sessions this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon will be better.

91st National IMA Convention--Prelude

About to start my second year of blogging the Institute of Management Accounants annual conference--this year in Baltimore, MD. Drove up during the weekend and made brief visits to Fredricksburg and Chancellorsville Civil War battlefields yesterday. No points for Washington, DC or Baltimore drivers--traffic was NO fun either yesterday or today. Today features the brown bag luncheon; I also believe that last year's star speaker does another presentation on ethics this morning. More on today's festivities later.

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