Highlights

BY STANLEY ZAROWIN

In the most sweeping change to pension law since the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the Pension Protection Act of 2006 in August. Key provisions include the following:

Increased funding requirements for single- and multi-employer defined benefit plans. The rules go into effect January 1, 2008, and plans must be 100% funded within seven years. However, employers who sponsor “at risk” plans must make accelerated contributions; commercial airlines have 10 years to meet the requirements.

Stronger support for hybrid “cash balance” plans. The law provides companies with protection against age discrimination lawsuits when they convert from straight defined benefit plans to hybrids that combine elements of defined benefit and defined contribution plans.

Incentives to save for retirement. Employers now can automatically enroll employees in 401(k) plans, although the employees retain the right to opt out. Taxpayers can have the IRS direct-deposit their refunds into an IRA. Temporary incentives created under the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 are now permanent.

Tighter rules for charitable donations. For a taxpayer to claim a deduction, items such as used clothing and household goods donated to charity must be in “good condition.” For cash, checks or other monetary gifts, the donor must produce a bank record or receipt showing the charity name and the amount and date of the contribution.

A summary of the key provisions of the act can be found on the AICPA Employee Benefit Plan Audit Quality Center Web site at www.aicpa.org/EBPAQC .

President Bush also signed legislation exempting the income of nonresident retired firm partners from state taxation. The law, which the AICPA supported, is retroactive to 1996, when earlier legislation granted exempt status to nonresident retired firm employees. “The new law promotes equity by ensuring that states’ tax rules are uniform for both firms’ retired employees and partners,” said AICPA Vice-President of Taxation Thomas P. Ochsenschlager.

The International Accounting Education Standards Board, an independent body within the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), issued an exposure draft of International Education Practice Statement 2.1, Information Technology for Professional Accountants ( www.ifac.org/Guidance/EXD-Details.php?EDID=0056 ). Intended to help IFAC member bodies prepare accountants to use information technology effectively, the guidance describes the knowledge and skills they need. Comments on the proposal are due November 15, 2006.

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board proposed a Concepts Statement, Elements of Financial Statements, that would define the seven elements of historically based financial statements of state and local governments ( www.gasb.org/exp/ed_elements_financial_statements.pdf ). For statements of financial position, these elements include assets, liabilities, deferred outflows of resources, deferred inflows of resources and net assets; for resource flows statements, they include outflows of resources and inflows of resources. Comments are due November 17, 2006.

The AICPA submitted comments to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) on its Proposed Rules on Periodic Reporting by Registered Public Accounting Firms ( www.pcaobus.org/rules/ ) and Proposed Rules on Succeeding to the Registration Status of a Predecessor Firm ( www.pcaobus.org/rules/ ). The AICPA generally agreed with the proposals; it recognized the PCAOB’s need for annual updates of firms’ registration statements to help plan firm inspections and supported the proposal that firms should promptly notify the board of significant, nonroutine events affecting them. But the AICPA said certain rules would impose a greater compliance burden on firms than the board may have intended, and it requested more flexibility in some reporting requirements. For more information on the PCAOB proposals and related resources, visit the AICPA Center for Public Company Audit Firms at www.aicpa.org/CPCAF .

An AICPA Tax Section task force submitted comments to the Treasury Department on its 2005–2006 Priority Guidance Plan, which proposed the issuance of guidance on whether negative additional section 263A costs are taken into account under regulations section 1.263A-1(d)(4). In its comments, the task force said that the regulation already authorizes such costs, and that if the government does not agree, current regulations should be changed to explicitly allow these costs ( http://tax.aicpa.org/resources/tax+accounting/ ). The task force also said recently issued Technical Advice Memorandum 200607021 ( www.irs.gov/pub/irs-wd/0607021.pdf ) creates significant administrative burdens by requiring taxpayers to maintain separate inventory allocation methodologies for financial accounting for section 471 costs and section 263A costs.

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