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Posts Tagged ‘HLB International’

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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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During June of 2015, David Springsteen, Partner and Practice Leader of Withum’s National Tax Services Group, Kimberlee Phelan, Partner and Practice Leader of Withum’s International Services Group and myself, Richard Ingunza, an accountant in Withum’s National and International Tax Services Group in New York, traveled to Cuba to see first-hand what commercial opportunities might eventually emerge from the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba. We saw both potential and challenges. We remain in close contact with our HLB affiliate accounting firm, Interaudit S.A., in order to spot opportunities and find great promise in the recently announced changes to the regulations that govern commerce between the U.S. and Cuba.

On January 27, the U.S. government published its third set of regulations designed to expand commerce and contact with Cuba and its people. The new regulations follow significant regulatory changes announced in both January and September of 2015. The changes are part of the current administration’s policy of whittling away the embargo on U.S.-Cuban commerce and trade that can only be lifted by congressional action. To date, such action by congress has not been forthcoming. The recently announced measures cover export financing, aviation, construction, the organization of professional conferences and sports and entertainment events and a broadening of the list of U.S. exports now permitted without the need of a special license.

In order to encourage exports to Cuba, restrictions related to the financing of non-agricultural exports have been removed. Previously, U.S. exporters, while sheltered from Cuban credit risk, were at a disadvantage to exporters from other countries given the latter’s ability to provide export financing. U.S. financial institutions will now be able to provide direct export financing as will U.S. manufacturers. Interestingly, agricultural exports were excluded in the new regulations as the financing of such exports to Cuba is explicitly prohibited by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Act of 2000.

planeThe U.S. and Cuba reached a new civil aviation agreement in December that eventually will permit up to 110 regularly scheduled, daily flights between the U.S. and Cuba. U.S. airlines are currently preparing lists of those routes for which they would like to secure landing rights. Options available to the Cuban national carrier, Cubana de Aviación, are also being explored given the risk of asset seizures stemming from U.S. court cases. To facilitate the resumption of regularly scheduled flights and to foster airline safety, restrictions related to the export and re-export of aviation parts to Cuba for use by commercial carriers have been eased and agreements related to blocked-space, code-sharing and leasing will be permitted going forward.

On a case-by-case basis, U.S. companies will now be permitted to export materials for infrastructure projects that the U.S. government considers as directly benefiting the Cuban people. Such projects include those in the areas of water treatment and electricity generation and, most interestingly, represent a departure from previous policy that severely limited direct business contact with Cuban state entities.

Other new categories of exports that should be granted export licenses include those that encourage agricultural production such as pesticides, fertilizers and farm equipment as well as goods that bolster disaster preparedness. Similarly, items related to artistic endeavors, the processing of food, residential construction and public transportation will now routinely be granted export licenses. Currently, all exports to Cuba that are not carried in the accompanying baggage of travelers must be imported through Cuban state-owned enterprises. Through this most recent set of regulations, the U.S. government has explicitly stated that, provided that the exports meet the needs of the Cuban people, importing through Cuban state-owned enterprises is now permitted.

In order to encourage greater business contacts, U.S. nationals will not only be allowed to participate in professional conferences in Cuba, but are now permitted to actively organize such conferences on the island. Similarly, U.S. nationals will now be permitted to organize semi-professional sports events and music performances and art festivals and exhibitions without prior approval from the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control and the requirement that profits from such events be donated to not-for-profit organizations has been eliminated.

After announcing the current set of regulatory changes, U.S. government officials called upon the Cuban government to take parallel measures that would allow Cuban citizens to take advantage of the opportunities generated by the new changes. To date, Cuban authorities have been hesitant to undertake policy changes that would enable U.S. and Cuban firms to move forward on business projects that are now feasible given the recent changes in the U.S. regulatory landscape. A case in point is the resumption of ferry service between the U.S. and Cuba. During the summer of 2015, U.S. regulators approved licenses for U.S. operators to recommence ferry service between the two nations. To date, the operators are still waiting for approval from the Cuban government despite strong demand for international ferry service between both nations.

However, the next meeting of the Cuban Communist Party, scheduled for April 16 through the 19 , is quickly approaching and many, on both sides of the Straits of Florida, see an opening for select reforms to be announced by the government in Havana in the coming months.

By Richard Ingunza | 212.829.3219 | ringunza@withum.com

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I’ve never really heard about Perth until getting the opportunity to live here through the HLB secondment program. Here are some things I’ve learned during my stay:

  • No tipping at restaurants – don’t expect to add an extra 20%. Tipping is not expected and there is usually no line on the receipt for it anyway.
  • The average minimum wage in Australia is over A$17 per hour (which explains why there is no tipping).
  • Crossing the street – pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way here in Perth. I’ve learned this after many honks directed towards me. Jaywalking is the only way to survive.
  • Coffee – Dunkin Donuts does not exist and Starbucks has not made its way to Perth yet. Essentially, all you can get is a “Flat White” or a “Long Black.” There’s a coffee/espresso shop on every corner in the city and the menu always looks the same.
  • The sushi is not good – they put chicken and steak in their sushi rolls and call it “gourmet.”
  • Kangaroos – Yes, there are as many kangaroos here as there are deer in New Jersey. The little ones are cute and friendly.

perth

  • The Lingo:
    • Biscuits = cookies
    • Lifts = elevators
    • Macca’s = McDonalds
    • Chips = French fries
    • Rubbish = garbage
    • Australians abbreviate everything
  • Common terms
    • Massive
    • Heaps
    • Reckon
      • (i.e., “I reckon the concert will be massive with heaps of people” – Mindy)
    • No worries
    • No stress
    • Cheers mate
  • No Australian has ever said, “Let’s throw some shrimp on the barbie.” Australians call shrimp “prawn” anyway.
  • Perth is the second most isolated city (with over one million people) in the world. The next closest city to Perth is Adelaide which is 2,138km away (approximately a three-hour flight).
  • Everything in the city of Perth closes early during the week. Most retail stores close at 5:30pm, except Friday when they are open late (9pm). Only about a year ago is when Perth started opening its stores on Sundays from 11am-5pm.

 

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

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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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