Posts Tagged ‘accounting’


This blog post is written by Federico Giordano, Tax Partner on Secondment from Marchionni & Partners – HLB Italy at Withum.

The HLB International Secondment is temporary work assignments arranged between HLB Member Firms that operate in two different countries.

Many people do not realize that it is possible to explore different career possibilities by temporarily changing roles within the HLB professional network. This is often known as “going on secondment” and is especially prevalent in Multi-National Enterprises (MNEs) where the management is adept at making the best use of the various skills and interests of their key staff.

In the past, Withum has informally sent and received staff among the HLB Member Firms throughout the world. A few years ago, Withum formalized a “Secondment Program” to temporary assign staff to HLB Member Firms to continue to provide its staff with many opportunities to elevate their skills and increase their wins.

What Do You Know about HLB International?

Formed in 1969, HLB International is a world-wide network of independent professional accounting firms and business advisors present in more than 130 countries worldwide. HLB International ranked 13th worldwide among the “Top 20 Networks 2016” published by AccountancyAge (latest combined revenue USD 1,910M) and 11th in Europe among the “2015 Regional Breakdown” published by the International Accounting Bulletin. Withum is an involved member of HLB International.

Why Go on Secondment?

There are various advantages to go on secondment – mainly to improve your career growth by developing your resume and doing networking between professionals of different generations and backgrounds. In addition, to improve your language skills if you decide to move on secondment to a foreign language-speaking country.

It is not about changing jobs completely in order to maximize this sort of opportunity. A secondment program offers professional staff who are content in their current role the chance to try something new in a foreign country, to improve their skills and experience in order to better interact with others.

This is exactly how I see the secondment experience at Withum. I am a tax partner at Marchionni & Partners in Pesaro, an Italian firm with a staff of 35 people, and I provide assistance on international tax matters both for companies and individuals. Staying within Marchionni & Partners is challenging, due to its small size I have to be a multitasking professional able to work individually and as a part of a team and, of course, able to engage and keep clients bringing business.

Moreover, I am a board member at HLB Italy in Milan, an alliance of Italian tax, accounting and legal firms. HLB Italy, with a staff of over 250, with more than 200 professionals and a combined revenue of around EUR 30 million, provides accounting, tax and legal services through its offices in Milan, Rome, Turin, Verona, Florence, Parma and Pesaro. Together with the other board members, we determine the strategic policies and professional standards for the HLB Italy Member Firms and establish the marketing strategies to meet the goals and objectives of the alliance.

I love my job at Marchionni & Partners, but I believe that the move to Withum gave me a unique opportunity to learn about the different working practices, organizational structures and cultures. My secondment is for a period of three months, and is providing me an enormous challenge, both personally and professionally. The “Withum Way” is great and I believe I will gain an important cultural background which might be very important in establishing professional relationships.

A secondment program is a fantastic way to meet people in other areas of practice and with other types of jobs, and find out what they do and what is important to them. It is not easy to stay abroad, out of the familiar surroundings, without support of the close relatives and friends, but an international experience will give you a much more rounded experience so I can recommend it with confidence.

I would like to thank Withum for making my secondment a reality!

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This week’s blog post is written by Withum’s International Services Group member, Phyllis Tsai.

Withum’s International Services Team recently welcomed one of our HLB International network firms from China, Baicheng Tax Consulting Services.

Beicheng has been operating as a professional tax service company since 2003. They mainly service large-scale companies and corporations in China. They are based in Shanghai and have braches in Beijing and Shandong Province. All of Baicheng’s five directors (plus one translator) came to visit Withum’s Princeton office to gain an understanding of the U.S. tax system and an introduction to Withum’s culture and various services we provide to our clients. Throughout this meeting, Baicheng also gave Withum some insight of the Chinese tax system and culture relating to marketing.

HLB baicheng

Since most of our visitors do not speak or understand English, May Du (senior tax accountant in Withum’s Princeton office) and I practiced our Chinese skills to try to translate Withum’s, culture, various industry and service niches, and social media involvement, etc. into Chinese terms our visitors would understand. Withum’s attendants also used this opportunity to practice correct business card exchange etiquette in China. The following are some points we learned from meeting our HLB friends:

  • China does not have many social media tools as we do for Baicheng to market their services. They do not have access to Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook. They have limited access to LinkedIn.
  • They have limited internet access so it is difficult for them to download HLB training materials or provide their clients training online. Therefore, they hold many conferences to provide the training to their employees and tax updates to their clients.
  • China does not have individual tax returns currently. Chinese withhold taxes from their paychecks in lieu of filing tax returns (although this policy will change soon).
  • Less than 10% of companies hire accounting firms to prepare corporation tax returns.
  • China revised their transfer pricing rules recently which would be more in line with OECD rules (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).
  • Some of Baicheng’s clients would like to invest abroad since Chinese government has been encouraging companies and individuals to do so.

During early 2016, it was reported by news media that due to China’s “Go Global” strategy, Chinese companies have invested more money in foreign locations in the first ten weeks of 2016, compared to all of 2015. Chinese companies invested $110 billion until mid-April 2016, compared to $108 billion in 2015.

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KsikoraThis week’s blog post about volunteering in Africa is written by Withum’s International Services Group member, Kathy Sikora.

Dear Africa,

It’s been a little over a year since I’ve seen you, and I’ve missed you so much that I’ve decided to come back and stay… for an ENTIRE YEAR! Get ready!

So what’s happening?

Nerdy accountant exciting things! I will be joining a team of missionaries at a hospital in Niger. I’m sure there will be several hats that I will wear once I arrive; however, my official duties (for now) will be to work with all of the finances and the accounting/finance team at the hospital. I’m grinning from ear to ear at the fact that I will get to combine volunteering, traveling the world and accounting all in one opportunity – this one!

When am I going?

Exact dates still to be determined, but the plan for now is to be in Africa at the end of June 2016!

But, how?!

So there was that time I found myself at the missions table at our church ministry fair one Sunday afternoon, picked up the missions pamphlet, saw Niger on the list and said to myself, “Totally going there!” Two and a half months later, I was on a plane. I was extremely fortunate to be part of the group from our church that went to Niger in December 2014, which is when I discovered this hospital for the first time. There seems to be this rumor going around that most short-term visitors have a tendency to return…and well, the rest is history.

And more importantly, why?

IMG_1878For starters, I’m really looking forward to how awesome of a professional experience this is going to be. I’m excited to be a part of a multi-lingual team and to learn French! I’m excited to teach others, especially those who have not had the same education opportunities as I’ve had. I’m excited to use my accounting skills to help the hospital. Gosh, I’m even excited to have to reconcile payroll, and I tremble at the thought of reconciling payroll (not joking, I seriously dislike anything payroll related). This will no doubt be a HUGE challenge for me and one that I am really looking forward to!

The hospital I will be at is such an important staple of the surrounding community and region for that matter. It serves many. The latest study showed just one doctor for every 50,000 people in Niger (compared to the U.S. that has 123 doctors for every 50,000 people). The survival of this hospital depends on missionaries to come and serve the needs of the hospital and the people. I am told that there is a huge need for accountants and to be able to fill a role that is so vital in the ongoing of operations of this hospital is giving me all the more motivation and excitement to go. I’m really looking forward to joining the team of missionaries there, and words cannot describe how honored I feel to be chosen to fulfill this need for them.

Above everything, expanding the kingdom of God so that others may know the joy of knowing Jesus and the hope of eternal life is what this is really all about. This hospital is a Christian hospital, and when people go there, they can hear the gospel – a story of which still remains unknown to a mass amount of people to this very day. To have the chance to love people and serve others – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. I consider it such a privilege to get the opportunity to do life with the Nigeriens for a year. I have no doubt I will learn many things from them. Life is not about being comfortable, making money, having a successful career, buying a new car, or even traveling the world (too bad I can’t remember this all the time), nor does my ultimate satisfaction lie in any of those things. And as I continue to do life here, I’m left with a hunger that can only be satisfied by one thing and that’s Jesus. SO… This is me following where He wants me to be. This is a big leap into the unknown. I have no idea what my future in this journey will hold, but I know who holds it!

I am incredibly humbled at this opportunity, a little nervous, and a little “is this really happening and am I really doing this?” – but most of all I am excited. That said, I would love nothing more than to continue to share this journey with all of you! More details coming soon! I will be sharing much more about Niger, this hospital, and this experience in the weeks/months to follow!

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Lonnie BloomThis summer I had the amazing opportunity to work in Perth, Western Australia for four months as a secondee for HLB Mann Judd. My role as senior auditor included planning, conducting and finalizing all aspects of new and reoccurring audits. I also assisted managers with substantive testing and additional procedures necessary to complete their jobs.

Even though I was using new audit software (CaseWare) and worked on clients in a new industry (Exploration & Mining), I felt a sense of similarity when setting up workpapers, documenting analytics and completing long checklists and audit programs. The biggest change for me was getting familiar with the exploration industry and Australian accounting standards. Some interesting facts I noted during my experience were the following:

  • Mining is huge part of Western Australia’s economy. The major commodities include Iron ore, petroleum, gold, alumina, and other various minerals
  • During the mining boom, the mining and the petroleum industry accounted for almost 90 percent of the State’s income from total merchandise exports. In 2009, the industry had a value of $A61 billion. During this time, mining companies held large amounts of cash to pay their employees and on any given mining site, janitors, cooks, and bookkeepers could easily earn over $100k per year
  • Those that have to fly into their mine site are considered Fly in Fly out (FIFO) workers. These miners would fly to their work site for the duration of their roster then fly home when they are off duty. This is typical in the mining industry.
  • The mining industry has been on the decline for the past few years due to unstable resource prices and has caused job cuts and increased unemployment rates. This has also led many companies to seek additional funding and capital raisings to continue their exploration activities
  • An entity is considered a “Mining” company when an exploration and evaluation asset has reached a point when the technical feasibility and commercial viability of extracting a mineral resource are demonstrable. Companies that have not reached this point of technical feasibility but maintain rights to explore the land are considered exploration companies
  • Mostly all of the clients I dealt with were exploration companies listed with the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). All of my clients were unique but generally had some similar characteristics. Some activities these companies were facing include the following:
    • Revenue – since these exploration companies have yet to “strike gold”, they only reflected minimal revenue (i.e. interest revenue)
    • Capital raisings – exploration companies listed on ASX are selling shares for pennies. It is common to see companies issue millions of shares in order to raise funds which they would use to continue their exploration. Larger companies and wealthy individuals would purchase these shares also in hopes to “strike gold”
    • Large balance sheets – money spent on these exploration sites (tenements) would be capitalized according to the standard, which would be reflected on their balance sheets
    • Impairment – exploration and evaluation assets are assessed for impairment when facts and circumstances suggest that the carrying amount may exceed its recoverable amount. Triggers for impairment include expiration of their rights to explore, substantive expenditure on further exploration is not budgeted or planned, or the entity has decided to discontinue operations since the exploration of specific areas has not led to the discovery of commercially viable quantities of mineral resources. Large impairments were common with my clients
    • Going concern – all exploration clients I dealt with had going concern issues. I grew used to reviewing cash flow forecasts and documenting that the companies would need to seek additional funding in the coming year in order to meet its planned exploration expenditure

Working with new faces and learning the quirks of each manager and partner reviewing your work made things interesting. HLB Mann Judd welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like I’ve been working with the team for years. I am forever grateful for the opportunity and will always remember my experience with a new firm in a foreign country.
The industry was different and the work was challenging at times, but my experience in Australia extends beyond the cubicle walls at HLB Mann Judd, as you will hear about in my next few blog posts.

By Lonnie Bloom, MBA | 609.520.1188 | lbloom@withum.com

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Canada and United States flagsThe U.S. Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) has released revised Publication 597 (Rev. October 2015), “Information on the United States-Canada Income Tax Treaty” (the “Publication”). The 1980 United States-Canada income tax treaty was signed on 26 September 1980. It has been amended by five protocols, the most recent of which became effective on 1 January 2009.

The Publication provides information on the income tax treaty between the United States and Canada. It discusses a number of treaty provisions that most often apply to U.S. citizens or residents who may be liable for Canadian tax. Treaty provisions are generally reciprocal (the same rules apply to both treaty countries). Therefore, Canadian residents who receive income from the United States may also refer to the Publication to see if a treaty provision affects their U.S. tax liability.

The Publication discusses a number of treaty provisions that often apply to U.S. citizens or residents who may be liable for Canadian tax. Specifically, it discusses the following:

  • Application of the treaty (including saving clause)
  • Personal services
  • Pensions, annuities, social security and alimony
  • Treatment of “other income”
  • Investment income from Canadian sources
  • Charitable contributions
  • Income tax credits
  • Competent authority assistance
  • How to get tax help from the IRS and the Canada Revenue Agency

The Publication further notes that taxpayers who take the position that a U.S. tax is overruled or otherwise reduced by a U.S. treaty, referred to as a treaty-based return position, are generally required to disclose that position to the IRS using IRS Form 8833, “Treaty-Based Return Position Disclosure Under Section 6114 or 7701(b).”

In addition, the revised Publication includes information on the relief provided by Revenue Procedure 2014-55 to eligible U.S. taxpayers who hold interests in certain Canadian pension plans, including registered retirement savings plans (“RRSP”) and registered retirement income funds (“RRIF”).

If you have any questions, please contact a member of Withum’s International Services Group at international@withum.com.

By Mark Farber, CPA, Partner, International Services Group | 212.751.9100 | mfarber@withum.com

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This past January I was fortunate to take part in another amazing volunteer opportunity – this time back to Africa! I was part of a 15-member team from my church that ventured across the pond to serve those in need in Niger. The weeks leading up to this trip were filled with tons of excitement as I prepared for yet another African adventure, nervousness due to timing of visas and yellow fever shots (which apparently are a rare commodity in this country), and laughter (a lot of laughter actually) at the amount of times I was asked if I would return home with Ebola. While it comes as no surprise to me, some of you might be shocked to learn that I did indeed go to and come home from West Africa without Ebola!

nigerOur team spent two weeks in Niger: one week in Niamey which is the capital of the country and another week in Galmi which is a town about six hours (ten hours in a van) outside of the capital. Our first week was spent serving the needs of a local hospital in Galmi, but before that we took a mini road trip from Niamey to Galmi, and quite frankly I loved every second of it! There is no better way to see a country than a good old-fashioned road trip! This six hour ride quickly escalated into a near ten hour ride, but it was not without excitement. We passed through more than 50 villages, got gas on the side of the road from a man carrying a jerrycan, saw hundreds of wild camels roaming free, witnessed the ever-so-popular means of transportation – a donkey pulling a wagon, almost hit a cow in the middle of the road, and had a real interesting encounter with two elderly African women and a man with a machete when we stopped to use the restroom (not to imply that there was an actual restroom). Not to mention, we were the main attraction in every village that we passed through. I mostly try not to put on my americano costume when I travel abroad, but sometimes the blonde hair and blue eyes make blending in a somewhat difficult task! Did I also mention that we drove on one road for the entire trip?

One of the members of our church, Deb, is a full-time missionary/occupational therapist at the hospital in Galmi (galmi.org) and has single-handedly developed an entire therapy unit and has made strides in advancing the care within the emergency burn unit in the hospital – all in a couple of years’ time might I add! As the hospital is mostly led by a team of international volunteer doctors, our team was there for the week to simply lend a hand with whatever tasks needed completing.

As we arrived on the hospital compound, I was overtaken by the serenity and peacefulness of the sights, the sounds, the gentleness and humility of the local workers, and just the overall ambiance. Simply put, I was overwhelmed at how at home I felt in this tiny little community in the middle of nowhere in Africa. As we were now on Deb’s soil, she made sure we jumped right into the African lifestyle and prepared for us some delicious homemade African cuisine during our stay. Our first night at the hospital compound we discussed the various ways that our team could serve the hospital and also those that keep the hospital running. Our main objectives were a few organizational projects and simple encouragement. Life can be very difficult financially and also emotionally draining at times for missionaries, and organization of records often comes secondary to patient care, especially in a region where sanitation is not always a primary concern. So those were our primary tasks, and with that we concluded our first night at the hospital.

As we headed to our rooms that night I heard, “Hey Kath, hang on a second. We have something for you to do.” Deb called me over and explained that they had a special project for me to help out with. In my head I’m thinking, “I’m probably not anymore organized or organizing ‘capable’ than anyone else on this trip. I wonder what this is about?” To my surprise, the hospital was asking for help with their accounting! I never in a MILLION years imagined this would be an opportunity on this trip, and boy am I ever so grateful that it was! I spent the entire next day helping the finance manager of the hospital reconcile cash, post entries, close out a few months in preparation for year-end close, and also discussing internal controls. I learned about Nigerien payroll, how the Nigerien social security system functions, got hands-on experience with their accounting software, and most importantly was able to fill a vital need for the hospital. My heart was overjoyed by and through this experience, and it was just unexpectedly perfect at the way it all fell in place together. And as a result, this nerdy accountant had the biggest cheesy smile glued to her face for the days following.

There were a lot of mixed emotions at the sight of the hospital. There was happiness as we learned about all of the improvements that they have been making on a continual basis. However, I was heartbroken as we walked through the ICU and learned that there were only so many oxygen masks to go around and if someone needed it more than you, simply put, you could be out of luck. This hospital is one of the best hospitals in the entire country of Niger with incredibly skilled doctors, and the realization that they are limited to the resources around them is a tough pill to swallow, especially knowing that there is a television in probably 95% of the hospital rooms in America. I’ve had a few hospital visits in my day, but this was by far the toughest.

Carl CamelAnother highlight of this trip is the day I got to ride a camel, in the desert, in Africa. I had the pleasure of riding the best camel ever. His name is Carl and he is awesome. This was without fail, one of the coolest things I’ve ever done! Carl is also the most photogenic camel I’ve ever met — #selfiegamestrong.

Stay tuned for part 2!!

By Kathy Sikora, CPA | 609.520.1188 | ksikora@withum.com

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Business-CardIt has been several years since I last went back to Taiwan to visit my relatives. During my recent trip there, I felt more like a “foreigner” than before. I observed many differences between the Taiwanese and American culture etiquette. For example, during a so called, “family banquet,” where I did not know 95% of the people, I had an opportunity to reacquaint with one of my cousins whom I had not seen since he was in elementary school. I asked for his business card so we can keep in touch in the future. He presented me his business card with both hands and a slight bow. While he bowed to me, he also spoke a short phrase which meant to please provide him feedback to help him improve. I was intrigued since I saw this done during the business environment, but not during a social event. In addition, since we are closely related cousins, I did not realize that this etiquette also applied to us. After a long conversation with my cousin, the following are what I found out about the business card exchange etiquette in Taiwan, which is very similar to Japan:

  • When presenting your business card, you hold the card with both hands. Make sure you hold the card facing your contact so he/she can read it.
  • A small quick bow to show your respect.
  • It is best to stand up when exchanging cards.
  • Exchange cards one-on-one, so don’t distribute your cards like dealing cards in a casino.
  • Don’t put your cards in a stack on a table and offer others to take your cards.
  • When receiving a business card, take the time to read the card in front of your contact. Don’t just shove the card into your pocket, especially NOT into your back trouser pocket.

And yes, in any event, regardless social or business, always bow back if someone bows to you to express their thanks. Don’t just nod and say, “you are welcome,” thinking you did good.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact your WithumSmith+Brown professional, a member of WS+B’s International Services Group or email us at international@withum.com.

By Phyllis Tsai, CPA, MBA, CGMA | 609.520.1188 | ptsai@withum.com

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