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In light of the recent cyberattacks in higher education across the US, more and more institutions are finding themselves no longer immune to these activities. Security by obscurity is no longer an effective approach—all institutions are potential targets. Colleges and universities must take action to ensure processes and documentation are in place to prepare for and respond appropriately to a potential cybersecurity incident.

In my last blog, I defined the what and the why of data governance, and outlined the value of data governance in higher education environments. I also asserted data isn’t the problem―the real culprit is our handling of the data (or rather, our deferral of data responsibility to others).

Focus on the people: How higher ed institutions can successfully make an ERP system change

The enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is the heart of an institution’s business, maintaining all aspects of day-to-day operations, from student registration to staff payroll. Many institutions have used the same ERP systems for decades and face challenges to meet the changing demands of staff and students. As new ERP vendors enter the marketplace with new features and functionality, institutions are considering a change. Some things to consider.

“The world is one big data problem,” says MIT scientist and visionary Andrew McAfee.

That’s a daunting (though hardly surprising) quote for many in data-rich sectors, including higher education. Yet blaming data is like blaming air for a malfunctioning wind turbine. Data is a valuable asset that can make your institution move.

As a new year is upon us, many people think about “out with the old and in with the new”. For those of us who think about technology, and in particular, blockchain technology, the new year brings with it the realization that blockchain is here to stay (at least in some form).

A capital campaign is a big undertaking. During the planning stage of a capital campaign you need to not only focus on your donor outreach strategy, but also on outreach materials. 

Good fundraising and good accounting do not always seamlessly align. While they all feed the same mission, fundraisers work to meet revenue goals while accountants focus on recording transactions in compliance with accounting standards. 

With the wind down of the Federal Perkins Loan Program and announcement that the Federal Capital Contribution (FCC) (the federal funds contributed to the loan program over time) will begin to be repaid, higher education institutions must now decide how to handle these outstanding loans.

Cloud services are becoming more and more omnipresent, and rapidly changing how companies and organizations conduct their day-to-day business.

The late science fiction writer (and college professor) Isaac Asimov once said: “I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them.” Had Asimov worked in higher ed IT management, he might have added: “but above all else, I fear the lack of computer staff.”

The first time a student walks into a business class, they may expect to learn a lot about numbers. What they might not realize is they are walking into a foreign language class! 

As a leader in a higher education institution, you'll be familiar with this paradox: Every solution can lead to more problems, and every answer can lead to more questions. It’s like navigating an endless maze. When it comes to mobile apps, the same holds true. 

The relationship between people, processes, and technology is as elemental as earth—and older than civilization. From the first sharpened rock to the Internet of Things, the three have been crucially intertwined and interdependent. 

The Federal Perkins Loan Program expiration date has passed without extension and now the countdown is on for the program wind-down.

While GASB has been talking about split-interest agreements for a long time (the proposal first released in June of 2015, with GASB Statement No. 81, Irrevocable Split-Interest Agreements released in March of 2016), time is quickly running out for a well-planned implementation.

We humans have a complex attitude toward change. In one sense, we like finding it. For instance: “Now I can buy something from the vending machine!” In reality, we try to avoid change as much as possible. Why? 

We’ve all heard stories about organizations spending thousands on software projects that take longer than expected and exceed original budgets. One of the reasons this occurs is that organizations often don’t realize that purchasing a large, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) system is a significant undertaking.

As we begin the second year of Uniform Guidance, here’s what we’ve learned from year one, and some strategies you can use to approach various challenges, all told from a runner's point of view.

Read this if you are a business with employees working in states other than their primary work location.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to leave our offices to work remotely. For many businesses, that means having employees working from home in another state. As telecommuting become much more prevalent, due to both the pandemic and technological advances, state income tax implications have come to the forefront for businesses that now have a remote workforce and employees that may be working in a state other than their primary work location. 

Bipartisan legislation known as the Remote and Mobile Worker Relief Act of 2020 (S.3995) was introduced in the US Senate on June 18, 2020 to address the state and local tax implications of a temporary or permanent remote workforce. The legislation addresses both income tax nexus for business owners and employer-employee payroll tax responsibilities for a remote workforce. Here are some highlights:

Business income tax responsibility

The legislation would provide a temporary income tax nexus exception for businesses with remote employees in other states due to COVID-19. The exception would relieve companies from having nexus for a covered period, provided they have no other economic connection to the state in question. The covered period begins the date employees began working remotely and ends on either December 31, 2020 or the date on which the employer allows 90% of its permanent workforce to return to their primary work location, whichever date comes first.

The temporary tax nexus exception is welcome news for many business owners and employers, as a recent survey by Bloomberg indicated that three dozen states would normally consider a remote employee as a nexus trigger. Additional nexus would certainly add further income tax compliance requirements and potentially additional tax liabilities, complications that no businesses need in this already challenging environment.

Employee and employer tax responsibility

The tax implications for telecommuting vary wildly from state to state and most have not addressed how current laws would be adjusted or enforced due to the current environment. For example, New York implements a “convenience of the employer” rule. So if an out-of-state business has an employee working from home in New York, whether or not those wages are subject to New York state income tax depends on the purpose for the telecommuting arrangement. 

New York’s policy is problematic in the current environment. Arguments could be made that the employee is working for home at their convenience, at the employer’s convenience, or due to a government mandate. It is unclear which circumstance would prevail and as of this writing, New York has not addressed how this rule would apply.

If enacted, the Remote and Mobile Worker Relief Act would restrict a state’s authority to tax wage income earned by employees for performing duties in other states. The legislation would create a 90-day threshold for determining nonresident income tax liability for calendar year 2020, enhancing a bill in the House which proposes a 30-day threshold.

The 90-day threshold applies specifically to instances where the employee work arrangement is different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For future years, the bill would put in place a standardized 30-day bright-line test, making it easier for employees to know when they are liable for non-resident state income taxes and for employers to know which states they need to withhold payroll taxes. 

What do you need to do?

With or without legislation, the year-end income tax filings and information gathering will be very different for tax year 2020. It’s more important than ever for business owners to have proper record keeping on where their employees are working on a day-to-day basis. This information is crucial in determining potential tax exposure and identifying a strategy to mitigate it. The Remote and Mobile Worker Relief Act would provide needed guidance and restore some sense of tax compliance normalcy.

If you would like more information, or have a question about your specific situation, please contact your BerryDunn tax consultant. We’re here to help.
 

Blog
The remote worker during COVID-19: Tax nexus and the new normal

Read this if you are a member or leader of a policing agency. 

Due to recent events, community members have taken to the streets nationwide to demand what they deserve from the police as a starting point: social and procedural justice. 

Social justice is an essential component of healthy, effective communities. It is based on a fair and just relationship between individuals and society. Social justice demands that those in the community feel safe—including feeling safe from the police. Feeling safe starts with procedurally-just policing. Procedural justice in policing is the principle that forms the foundation of the community’s willingness, individually and aggregately, to accept the actions of the police, obey laws, participate in the criminal justice system, and partner with law enforcement to reduce crime and disorder, and is dependent on the community’s acceptance of policing actions as fair and equitable. Procedural justice consists of four primary pillars:

  1. FAIRNESS
    Being fair in processes
  2. VOICE
    Providing the opportunity for voice 
  3. TRANSPARENCY
    Being transparent in actions
  4. IMPARTIALITY
    Being impartial in decision-making

Achieving social and procedural justice within policing requires meaningful change and reform that must extend beyond prior efforts. 

Across the United States, communities are calling for revised policies, targeted training, increased accountability, and better screening of police candidates. All of these efforts are important and should be explored. However, these same efforts have been pursued since community-oriented policing (COP) became popular in the 80s and 90s, and even as COP gained additional interest and momentum following a series of high-profile excessive-force incidents that trace back nearly a decade. Despite substantial focus on these areas within the law enforcement industry, concerns over systemic racism, biased policing, and a lack of trust between the police and the community continue to persist.

Community Co-production Policing: The crucial next step

The current policing environment calls for broad and deep reforms in the operations and collaborative culture of police agencies. This level of reform requires a coordinated effort to reframe the police department as a community-owned resource, and can be accomplished through engaging a Community Co-production Policing (CCPP) model. Implementation of the CCPP model, developed by BerryDunn in collaboration with practitioners and community members across the country, merges and unifies police agencies and communities through multiple collaborative pathways, resulting in shared responsibilities in areas such as guidance, oversight, and the development of policies, operational strategies, public safety priorities, and other shared goals.  

Co-production expands the focus of traditional COP and includes a greater level of community participation and involvement in key policing strategies that affect the community. The key distinction is that while COP is informative, interactive, allows for community input, and is often collaborative with regard to problem solving, co-production involves a greater level of influence and involvement by the community regarding the overarching policing strategies and priorities that ultimately affect those being served by the police agency.  

Building trust and confidence with the community

From a co-production policing perspective, influence and involvement from the community form the foundation for trust and confidence in the police agency and agreement in the processes, procedures, and practices used in pursuit of public safety for those who live in or visit the community. This level of involvement serves as a persistent external accountability process, which helps ensure consistent alignment between community desires and expectations and the actions the police use to meet them. 

Co-production is a collaborative process, not an oversight process. It involves working together to cooperatively co-produce public safety, in a respectful and thoughtful manner that places value on mutuality.

Below, the goals and predicted outcomes of the CCPP model are outlined. Accomplishing the CCPP goals is expected to produce the predicted outcomes, and these new positive outcomes address the longstanding negative outcomes that remain unresolved within the policing industry.

CCPP Goals and Predicted Outcomes
CCCP GOALS PREDICTED OUTCOMES
Reducing fractionalism: The inharmonious separation which has occurred between the community and those responsible for policing it. Increased community trust: Because the community shares decision-making authority in substantive policing matters, they will have shared ownership over the results.
Creating transparency: There can be no more secrecy in accountability or policymaking, or in determining strategies to address and reduce crime and disorder. Enhanced public safety: Trust is the cornerstone to solving crimes, and when trust is established, people will more readily assist in public safety matters affecting them.
Balancing power: Those who police the community must have the authority to do so, however, police department governance should be a shared responsibility. Improved racial/diversity equity: Diverse partnerships lead to greater understanding, which in turn, changes perspectives, beliefs, and behaviors.


The public outcry for police reform provides cities, towns, and counties with a rare opportunity to affect how their communities are policed in the future. This opportunity involves transforming policing towards a collaborative model where the police departments of the future are increasingly community-based and community-operated. BerryDunn’s CCPP model can help communities achieve this level of reform and transformation. 

For more information

Mitch Weinzetl and BerryDunn’s Justice and Public Safety (J&PS) team are leading this unique service. Our independence and objectivity enables a facilitation-based approach to engaging stakeholders across the community with the goal of collaborating on a future policing model that addresses the need for public safety in a way that is informed and inspired by the community that the police departments serve. 

To learn more about how the CCPP model can help reconnect your police department and your community, contact Mitch Weinzetl.
 

Blog
Policing in America: Time for a change

Read this if you are a CFO or controller.

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) recently provided much needed guidance for governmental organizations struggling to account for relief provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). In their Technical Bulletin No. 2020-1, Accounting and Financial Reporting Issues Related to the CARES Act and Coronavirus Diseases, GASB addressed a number of pressing recognition and presentation questions that you should be aware of when preparing financial statements. The following is a summary of the guidance:

  • Resources received under the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) subject to restrictions should be recognized as voluntary nonexchange transactions, subject to eligibility rather than purpose restrictions. As such, the entity should recognize resources received from the CRF as liabilities until the applicable eligibility requirements are met, including the incurrence of eligible expenditures. When the eligibility requirements have been met, revenue should be recognized for CRF resources received.
  • Provisions of the CARES Act that address the entity’s loss of revenue should be considered an eligibility requirement for purposes of revenue recognition. 
  • Any possible amendments to the CARES Act issued subsequent to the statement of net position date but before the issuance of financial statements, even when enacted with retroactive provisions, do not represent conditions that existed as of the period-end being reported and should only be reported as a nonrecognized subsequent event.
  • With the exception of CARES Act funds provided through the Provider Relief Fund's Uninsured Program (operating revenues), funds received under the CARES Act are subsidies and should be reported as nonoperating revenues and presented as noncapital finance activities in the statement of cash flows.
  • Outflows of resources incurred in response to the coronavirus disease due to actions taken to slow the spread of the virus or the implementation of "stay-at-home" orders should not be reported as extraordinary items or special items.
  • In addition to the guidance provided with the Technical Bulletin, the GASB also provides a number of additional stakeholder resources that may be useful during this period on its website, including an Emergency Toolbox that provides guidance on donated assets, management’s discussion and analysis (MD&A), asset impairment, and many more. 

Please contact Robert Smalley if you have questions on the latest GASB updates.
 

Blog
GASB releases guidance for organizations receiving relief from the CARES Act

Read this if your company is considering outsourced information technology services.

For management, it’s the perennial question: Keep things in-house or outsource?

For management, it’s the perennial question: Keep things in-house or outsource? Most companies or organizations have outsourcing opportunities, from revenue cycle to payment processing to IT security. When deciding whether to outsource, you weigh the trade-offs and benefits by considering variables such as cost, internal expertise, cross coverage, and organizational risk.

In IT services, outsourcing may win out as technology becomes more complex. Maintaining expertise and depth for all the IT components in an environment can be resource-intensive.

Outsourced solutions allow IT teams to shift some of their focus from maintaining infrastructure to getting more value out of existing systems, increasing data analytics, and better linking technology to business objectives. The same can be applied to revenue cycle outsourcing, shifting the focus from getting clean bills out and cash coming in, to looking at the financial health of the organization, analyzing service lines, patient experience, or advancing projects.  

Once you’ve decided, there’s another question you need to ask
Lost sometimes in the discussion of whether to use outsourced services is how. Even after you’ve done your due diligence and chosen a great vendor, you need to stay involved. It can be easy to think, “Vendor XYZ is monitoring our servers or our days in AR, so we should be all set. I can stop worrying at night about our system reliability or our cash flow.” Not true.

You may be outsourcing a component of your technology environment or collections, but you are not outsourcing the accountability for it—from an internal administrative standpoint or (in many cases) from a legal standpoint.

Beware of a false state of confidence
No matter how clear the expectations and rules of engagement with your vendor at the onset of a partnership, circumstances can change—regulatory updates, technology advancements, and old-fashioned vendor neglect. In hiring the vendor, you are accountable for oversight of the partnership. Be actively engaged in the ongoing execution of the services. Also, periodically revisit the contract, make sure the vendor is following all terms, and confirm (with an outside audit, when appropriate) that you are getting the services you need.

Take, for example, server monitoring, which applies to every organization or company, large or small, with data on a server. When a managed service vendor wants to contract with you to provide monitoring services, the vendor’s salesperson will likely assure you that you need not worry about the stability of your server infrastructure, that the monitoring will catch issues before they occur, and that any issues that do arise will be resolved before the end user is impacted. Ideally, this is true, but you need to confirm.

Here’s how to stay involved with your vendor
Ask lots of questions. There’s never a question too small. Here are samples of how precisely you should drill down:

  • What metrics will be monitored, specifically?
  • Why do the metrics being monitored matter to our own business objectives?
  • What thresholds must be met to notify us or produce an alert?
  • What does exceeding a threshold mean to our business?
  • Who on our team will be notified if an alert is warranted?
  • What corrective action will be taken?

Ask uncomfortable questions
Being willing to ask challenging questions of your vendors, even when you are not an expert, is critical. You may feel uncomfortable but asking vendors to explain something to you in terms you understand is very reasonable. They’re the experts; you’re not expected to already understand every detail or you wouldn’t have needed to hire them. It’s their job to explain it to you. Without asking these questions, you may end up with a fairly generic solution that does produce a service or monitor something, but not necessarily all the things you need.

Ask obvious questions
You don’t want anything to slip by simply because you or the vendor took it for granted. It is common to assume that more is being done by a vendor than actually is. By asking even obvious questions, you can avoid this trap. All too often we conduct an IT assessment and are told that a vendor is providing a service, only to discover that the tasks are not happening as expected.

You are accountable for your whole team—in-house and outsourced members
An outsourced solution is an extension of your team. Taking an active and engaged role in an outsourcing partnership remains consistent with your management responsibilities. At the end of the day, management is responsible for achieving business objectives and mission. Regularly check in to make sure that the vendor stays focused on that same mission.

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Oxymoron of the month: Outsourced accountability