Monday, June 25, 2018


Hey, Georgians... this is something you need to know about:

House Bill 673 (also known as the “Hands Free Law”) was passed by the Georgia General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal.  The Hands Free Law will take effect on July 1, 2018.  A link to the complete law can be found here.

The long and short of it:  You’re not allowed to hold your phone while driving.  You cannot have your phone in your hand or touching any part of your body at all (including in your pocket).


Highlights / Details of the Bill

A driver cannot have a phone in their hand or use any part of their body to support their phone.  Drivers can only use their phones to make or receive phone calls by using speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headphone, or phone connected to vehicle or an electronic watch.  GPS navigation devices are allowed.

  • Headsets and earpieces can only be worn for communication purposes and not for listening to music or other entertainment.
  • A driver may not send or read any text-based communication unless using voice-based communication that automatically converts message to a written text or is being used for navigation or GPS
  • A driver may not write, send or read any text messages, e-mails, social media or internet data content
  • A driver may not watch a video unless it is for navigation.
  • A driver may not record a video (continuously running dash cams are exempt)
  • Music streaming apps can be used provided the driver activates and programs them when they are parked.  Drivers cannot touch their phones to do anything to their music apps when they are on the road.  Music streaming apps that include video also are not allowed since drivers cannot watch videos when on the road.  Drivers can listen to and program music streaming apps that are connected to and controlled through their vehicle's radio. 


FAQ

Could I still talk on my phone while driving?

Yes, as long as it is done hands-free. Drivers would be able to use their phone’s speakerphone, Bluetooth technology, an earpiece, a headphone or other device to allow them to communicate on a hands-free basis.


Am I be required to purchase a hands-free accessory, such as a mount or bracket?


No. The proposed law simply states that a driver cannot hold or support a mobile phone. A phone can be left on a vehicle’s console, a front seat, etc. However, for the safety of all Georgians, state and local law enforcement recommend the purchase and use of a hands-free device if using a mobile phone while driving.



Sources




This is the official site with info about the law:


Stay safe (and don't get a ticket)!

Craig Rhinehart
Chief Information Officer

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Significant changes ahead for non-profit financial reporting

The most significant changes in non-profit (NFP) financial reporting in the last 20 years will be effective for reporting years beginning in 2018.  In an effort to enable NFPs to better “tell their story”, Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2016-14 modifies net asset classifications and improves consistency and transparency regarding financial performance, cash flows and liquidity.  The following link provides an overview of the changes: NPOChanges - ASU 2016-14.pdf 

Here are some recommendations to help you successfully implement the new standard:

  • Start early.
  • Identify the individuals who will lead implementation of the new standard.
  • Attend training to understand the changes.
  • Review net asset reporting to make sure classifications are correct.
  • Discuss the changes with your audit or finance committee.
  • Discuss the changes with your auditors related to audit timing and planning.



Executing changes of this magnitude can seem daunting.  Our NFP team is available to answer questions, help with general training, and provide resources for best practices in implementing the new standard.

Daria Cruzen, CPA

Friday, September 8, 2017

Equifax was hacked... what do I need to do?

You've probably seen the new reports of the cyberattack on Equifax that may have compromised your personal information.  Here is an article about it from USA Today. Note that the article mentions that you should not click links in any emails claiming to be updates from Equifax or connected to the breach.

So what should you do?  First of all, here is the Web site (the address is https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/) that Equifax has set up to inform you about the situation.  It’s worth a few minutes of your time to read over the information on that page.  The rest of this post simply describes what you can expect to do once you are on that Web site.

At the bottom of the page you should click the Potential Impact button (pictured below without links)




Follow the instructions on that link – you’ll have to provide your last name and the last six digits of your SSN, then jump through some Captcha hoops to prove you aren’t a robot.  It will then let you know if you are likely affected by the breach.  If your information was likely affected you'll see a message like this one. 





If you do then click the Enroll button (to enroll for free in Equifax's Trusted ID Premier program, which provides you 5 offerings - again, for free: credit reporting, 3-bureau credit file monitoring, credit report lock, social security monitoring, and identity theft insurance) and you'll then see a screen similar to this one, which will advise that you will have to check the indicated Web site at a later date to complete the enrollment process.  Note that because of the incident Equifax is offering one year of this program to anyone in the US - whether you were impacted by the breach or not.




Other helpful links:




Craig Rhinehart
Chief Information Officer




Monday, May 15, 2017

Ransomware... scary stuff

You have probably seen the news reports from this weekend about a new and dangerous type of ransomware known as "WannaCry".  Ransomware is a specialized form of cyber attack that attempts to hold your data hostage by encrypting it (essentially scrambling it in a way that only the software's creators know how to unscramble).  In order to get your data unscrambled you have to pay the software's creators a ransom (through a payment method that allows the other party to remain anonymous)... hence the name "ransomware".

You should know that is not a false alarm -- this is a real and scary situation.  You should also know that there is no single “pill” for computer system security.  Securing a computer system is done in layers such as firewalls, anti-virus software, and employee education.

The list below provides some helpful information for business owners or workplace managers.  This list is not really specific to the WannaCry ramsomware, but is a more general list of basic security measures that should be performed and maintained.  See the section in red for something you can do right now to help secure your computer system.

  • Check your firewall to confirm that its protection mechanisms against this type of malware code are up to date and activated.  Most firewalls today have "gateway security" features built-in, but these features may need to be turned on and configured in order to function properly.  Sometimes there is an annual fee paid to the manufacturer for this feature, but the protection is usually worth it.
  • Your anti-virus software, if properly implemented, should provide some measure of protection from malware code.
  • You should review your computers and patch any that are not already patched.  Do this by running Windows Update on all computers.  There is a specific Microsoft patch mentioned in almost every article written about this particular episode.
  • I suggest communicating the following information to your employees right away.  It's the best protection you can have.
    • Ransomware is often spread by computer users clicking links in emails.  Do not open or click any suspicious emails.
    • Just because an email looks like it’s from someone you know doesn’t make it OK.  Use good practical judgment and err on the side of caution. 
    • If you receive an email you are uncertain about, check with the purported sender or check with your technical support contact for advice and guidance.
    • If you think something’s up, don’t take further action yourself and contact your technical support contact immediately.

Happy computing!

Craig Rhinehart
Chief Information Officer

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Some tax return due dates have changed


The IRS has changed the due dates of Partnerships, C Corporations and FinCen tax returns effective for all returns due in the coming 2017 filing season (2016 Tax Returns).



Calendar Year Entities Old Due Date New Due Date
1120 C Corporations* March 15 April 15
Extended Due Date September 15 September 15
1065 Partnership April 15 March 15
Extended Due Date September 15 September 15
1120 S Corporations March 15 March 15
Extended Due Date September 15 September 15
1040 Individual Returns April 15 April 15
Extended Due Date October 15 October 15
FinCen Report 114 (Foreign Cash Report) June 30 April 15
Extended Due Date Not Available October 15




*C Corporations with tax years ending June 30, the current filing dates will remain in effect until years beginning after December 31, 2025. Other Fiscal year end filing dates have been revised, similar to calendar year ends, as well as extension dates.

Proponents of these changes to the return filing dates believe the changes will permit investors in partnerships and S-corporations to receive needed information before the investor’s own due date.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The dangers of online shopping during the upcoming holiday season

For today’s consumer, e-commerce has become a convenient alternative to the long lines associated with holiday shopping. Shopping online allows buyers to order goods and have them delivered to their doorstep, all without leaving their home.  As a result, shoppers are beginning to prefer “Cyber Monday” over “Black Friday”. Unfortunately, as the preference for online shopping increases, so to do the risks of identity theft and other cyber-attacks. Identifying the risks and vulnerabilities could limit the damages of fraud you could potentially face.  


What are the risks?

There are several ways others could access your personal information when shopping online. Today’s most common forms of fraud that result from shopping online include:
  • Purchasing from phony/bogus websites that offer goods or services that do not exist. You make a purchase from what you think is a legitimate website, only to have the items you ordered never show up and your credit card information compromised.
  • Purchasing goods from websites that are not secure web pages. When a website does not have certain firewall and other security capabilities, it allows hackers and cyber attackers to easily access your personal and bank account information.
  • Shopping on an unsecured Wi-Fi connection.


Prevention

While knowing the risks is important, preventing them is the most important. Here are a couple steps you could take to avoid damage.  

  • Visit Reliable Websites - Only visit websites that can be trusted (that you are familiar with and you deem to be reputable) and ensure the spelling of the web address is correct. For example, there could be a situation where you want to visit “Amazon.com” but accidentally type in “Amzon.com” which could potentially lead you to a phony website designed to make fraudulent sales. 
  • Ensure that websites are secure before entering your payment information. You can do so by looking for web addresses that begin with “https://”  or show a “padlock” beside the Web address, which symbolizes that it is a secure website. When checking out on the website, look for reliable card protection services. These include Visa’s “Verified by Visa” and MasterCard’s “SecureCode”.

  • Credit over Debit - Be cautious when choosing your method of payment. Shoppers need to be aware of the different risks associated with both credit and debit cards and realize there are certain advantages to using a credit card over your debit card when online shopping. When using a credit card you are spending the card provider’s money as compared to using a debit card, in which case you are using your money. If your debit card information falls into the wrong hands, it is your money that is at risk. In most cases, card providers (debit or credit) will work to rectify the situation for those who fall victim to fraudulent purchases, but if you used a debit card for those purchases you may not have access to those funds until the dispute is settled. If your personal preference is to avoid the use of credit cards, limit the amount of money that is in your checking account.  Minimizing the balance in your account could lower the risk of exposure to fraud when using a debit card.


Identity thieves and cyber criminals will most definitely be aggressive this holiday season. Employing these steps will help make your online holiday shopping experience safer.

Will Heard