Wednesday, October 24

Rallying For

Research Funds

Wise Young says that the late Christopher Reeve taught him not to be afraid of success. Interviewed shortly after Reeve died three years ago, Young said, “I was afraid to use the word ‘cure.’ And I think what he taught me was to be ambitious for the people, and to not be afraid to try to aim for the highest possible point.”

Young, one of the world’s leading neuroscientists, founded the W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience. On October 23 he was scheduled to help break ground for the $150 million stem-cell research facility, named after Reeve.

He will speak on “The Hope and Hype of Stem Cell Research” for the Christopher Reeve Lecture Series at the Princeton Public Library on Wednesday, October 24, at 7:30 p.m. He will be introduced by Harold Shapiro, former president of Princeton University and former chair of the National Ethics Bioadvisory Commission. The lecture is free.

Funding is in place to build the research facility, and at the groundbreaking it was named after Reeve. After his 1995 horseback-riding accident, the actor, who ironically had starred as Superman, became the world’s most celebrated partisan for research into spinal chord injuries and other disabilities.

But it’s an open question whether the stem cell research bond referendum will pass on November 6. For ballot question # 2, voters are being asked to approve borrowing $450 million over 10 years, which could yield $45 million per year for stem-cell research. If the research results in saleable products, the state will share in the profits.

The Legal Center for Defense of Life, acting for New Jersey Right to Life, protested that the wording of the ballot question does not specifically exclude human cloning. The legal protest was denied, but at press time it was slated to go to appeals court.

“We are in the fight of our lives to get the research funded,” says Young in a telephone interview. “At the present we are strongly opposed by the right-to-life groups, as well as religious groups, rallying to the pulpit every weekend. We are trying to fight the machine.” A half dozen public forums on the stem cell question have been scheduled before the election (see below).

“This is the kind of fight that Christopher Reeve would have relished, if he had been with us, toe to toe, side by side, in his wheelchair,” says Young. “He loved going to Congress, he used to say, because the hallways are long and straight and `They can run but they can’t hide.’ We need Christopher’s fighting spirit. We have to fill those huge shoes and we are trying our very best to fill them. But there is a lot of complacency. People think things will be done without effort.”

Two years ago Rutgers economist Joseph Seneca predicted that spending $450 million on stem cell research would, over 20 years, result in $1.4 billion new dollars earned, 20,000 new jobs, and $71.9 million in state revenue. Young claims that even this estimate is too conservative. He points to how monies for stem cell research would give a vital boost to the pharmaceutical industry’s lagging drug discovery efforts, and it would also have incomparable value to state universities.

Saying that New Jersey desperately needs to compete for the best talent, Young notes that New Jersey’s rivals are spending far more. California has plunked down $3 billion. New York — the state from which Young was recruited for Rutgers — may be spending as much as $2 billion for stem cell research.

Currently Rutgers has three stem-cell laboratories in the vicinity of New Brunswick. By 2010 they are scheduled to move to 160,000 square feet on five floors of the new 18-story tower on Little Albany Street, next to the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Three floors of the institute will house research laboratories, each with 24 lab modules, all connected by an interior atrium.

One of these laboratories, currently located next to the Keck Center, helps New Jersey human cell researchers. Funded by the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology, it provides training and laboratory space — not paid for by federal monies — for stem cell pilot projects. It can also supply fresh human tissue for research, not only for its own scientists, but also for other scientists in New Jersey.

Conscious of geographical equity, the state is also building two other smaller, $50 million centers. The one in Newark is part of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and the one in Camden will be associated with Rutgers-Camden, UMDNJ, Coriell, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and Cooper University Hospital.

Fiscal opponents of the bill point to the $3 billion in interest and principal paid annually, by the state, on debt of $33.7 billion. They do not want to add to the debt. Supporters of the bill cite the requirement that the state treasurer must certify annually that sufficient recurring revenues are available to meet the costs, and they say this provides fiscal responsibility.

Ethical opponents of the ballot question say that adult stem cells can replace tissue cells lost through injury and disease, and that using embryonic stem cells is, in essence, destroying a human life. Those who disagree with them point to embryonic stem cells’ research potential. Embryonic stem cells can grow into nearly every kind of cell in the body, and they provide the quantities of stable, identical cells that are needed for the best and speediest research.

Though stem cell research will be important for diseases like stroke, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, multiple sclerosis, and coronary heart disease, it is particularly crucial for disorders of the brain and central nervous system (Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases for instance) for which there are no known cures.

Young is staking his hopes that New Jersey will vote yes on the stem cell ballot question. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Japan, Young went to Reed College. He earned a PhD from the University of Iowa, an MD from Stanford University, and did his internships at Bellevue Medical Center and New York University, where he became director of neurosurgery research. In 1990 Young contributed to a seminal discovery, that of high-dose methylprednisolone (MP) could help spinal cord injuries. Before that time, spinal cord injuries were considered permanent.

To test possible therapies, he developed the first standardized rat spinal cord injury model, and it is now used around the world. Among the collaborative groups he has formed was the first consortium funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In 1997 Rutgers recruited him to establish and direct the Keck center, and he also teaches at Rutgers.

Young was on the medical team working with Christopher Reeve. “I truly admire his collaborative approach,” says Barbara Johnson, Reeve’s mother and immediate past president of the Friends of the Princeton Public Library. “Collaborative has been the operative word in his spinal cord research. I admire him and am grateful to him.”

“I do research for the people rather than to get credit,” says Young in a telephone interview. He attributes his collaborative ability to coming from a family of five children. “With a large family, you have to be organized. I spend a huge amount of time organizing, and teaching, and trying to raise funds, not only for our group but for everybody.”

“I have been working on spinal cord injury for 25 years and I don’t care who finds the cure. I want to finish this. I am in the business of putting myself out of business — I don’t want to be doing this for the rest of my life.”

“Chris was the one who taught me you must have hope and you must be ambitious in what you try to do,” says Young. He admits that his earlier reluctance to use words like “hope” and “cure” had the effect of making certain that the cure would never arrive.

Reeve, says Young, “imbued a sense of urgency to our field, which was really wasn’t there in 1995. And since his time, it really came. We felt that we had to do this quickly for Christopher.”

Christopher Reeve Lecture Series, Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-9529. “The Hope and Hype of Stem Cell Research,” Wise Young, founder of the W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience, introduced by Harold Shapiro. Register. Free. Wednesday, October 24, 7:30 p.m.

New Jersey Commission on Science & Technology, Stem Cell Research symposium. 609-984-1671. Keynote, John D. Gearhart, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. New Brunswick Hyatt, Monday, October 29, 9 a.m.

New Jersey Association for Biomedical Research, New Jersey Stem Cell public information forum, Barry Komisaruk of Rutgers, Donald Sebastian of NJIT, and Assemblyman Neil Cohen. Free. www.stemcellhealing.org Clarion Hotel, 1450 Route 70 East, Cherry Hill, Tuesday, October 30, 6:30 p.m. Also at 3 Tower Center Boulevard, East Brunswick, Thursday Nov 1, 6:30 p.m.

W. M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience, 604 Allison Road, D-251, Piscataway 08854, 732-445-2061. First Friday Open House, update by Wise Young on the Spinal Cord Injury Project, Email: SCIProject@biology.rutgers.edu Friday, November 2, 5 to 7 p.m.

Thursday, October 25

Smoking Guns

In E-Discovery

How long accountants kept electronic documents — and whether they kept all the drafts — could affect the outcome of a court case, says Hanan Isaacs, who has an office at Princeton Professional Park.

Isaacs will participate in a seminar that aims to throw some light on litigation support and forensic accounting. The New Jersey Society of CPAs stages the conference on Thursday, October 25, at 8:30 a.m. at the Sheraton Woodbridge Place, Iselin (www.njscpa.org/catalog/litigation.cfm). Cost: $339. Call 973-226-4494.

After the keynote speech by Robert L. Dunn, who has written several books on how to prove damages in an economic loss case, Isaacs will join a roundtable discussion on direct and cross examination of financial experts. Also on the panel are Vincent E. Gentile of Drinker Biddle & Reath, Ian D. Meklinksy of Fox Rothschild, the Honorable Joel Rosen, retired U.S. Federal Magistrate, and Honorable M. Allan Vogelson, now of counsel to Parker McCay. One of the afternoon sessions focuses on “Smoking Guns in Electronic Discovery from Experts: E-Mail, Draft Reports and Other Sources of Evidence.”

“Damages represent the hidden side of many cases, and it shouldn’t be that way,” says Isaacs. “At the end of the day, society translates harms and wrongs into dollars and cents. Often, that is the only measure of justice that clients receive for their pain and suffering, and to compensate them for wrongdoing by others. The professional community has to be proficient about asking for damages, defending against them, and carefully measuring them,” he said.

Isaacs warns that the federal and state rules on expert reports are quite different. “The state says the experts’ reports are workproducts,” says Isaacs. In most circumstances, the state court can ask only for the final report, not the notes, and not the drafts.

“But the federal rules say discovery is fairly broad and unlimited. Not only must the expert show the report, but the court can ask for the draft and iterations, and whether a lawyer asked for a change in the report. If you are used to state court and you get into federal court and don’t know those rules you will get hammered.”

Isaacs also warns the expert witnesses to carefully prove their opinion. “Don’t just say your opinion is based on your experience, but provide the details of your investigation, so the arbitrator can follow how you got from A to Z. Show the math.”

Where an expert provides an opinion, but the arbitrator thinks he didn’t have the factual basis to issue the opinion, the report gets thrown out. It will be too late to get another one. “Without an expert,” says Isaacs, “your side is done for.”

Tuesday, October 30

Mock Trial:

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment: Harassment or unwelcome attention of a sexual nature. It’s easy to define on paper; yet a taboo subject for workers, and a controversial issue for employers to establish guidelines and practices to guard against.

The Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce will shed some light on this sensitive subject with a program entitled “You Be The Jury! Sexual Harassment and Retaliation,” set for Tuesday, October 30, from 8 a.m. to noon at UMDNJ University Behavioral Healthcare, 151 Centennial Avenue, in Piscataway. In the mock courtroom will be lawyers from Wilentz, Goldman, and Spitzer and from Jackson Lewis. Cost: $50, including continental breakfast. Register online (www.mcrcc.org) or call 732-821-1700, extension 202.

Richard Cino, the national co-chair of Jackson Lewis’s corporate governance practice group and the coordinator of the Morristown office’s trade secret and non-compete practice group, says his firm always represents the needs of the company, and, as such, he will represent the defendant during this mock trial. An attorney from Wilentz, Goldman, and Spitzer in Woodbridge will represent the plaintiff, the employee who filed the alleged sexual harassment complaint.

Sexual harassment, according to the EEOC, is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII. The fact pattern for the mock trial, Cino says, “will contain aspects of what the individual faces once the complaint is levied.”

The case centers on allegations of improper advancements from a supervisor to a person being supervised. Also, Cino says, “There will be allegations of inappropriate behavior at a company sponsored social event, such as a softball game.”

Cino says his firm created this fact pattern that could be a real-life alleged sexual harassment case, but it is a shortened version so that people who can’t sit through a weeklong trial can get a feel for what takes place in one morning. He notes that this mock-trial will be especially helpful for employers, who often talk about what constitutes sexual harassment and receive training, but never see how their actions and words could play out in a trial, and actually be used against them.

And just like real-life cases, Cino says, “There’s opening statements, witnesses, a mock judge giving instructions to a jury, and the jury coming down with a decision.” The attorneys will first discuss the case with their clients and prepare their witnesses, which include employees who claim to have seen the inappropriate behavior and a representative from human resources.

Cino says all of the attendees will be jurors and they will be broken up into smaller groups to give each group of jurors the opportunity to decide on the case. The program will end, Cino says, “with an overall discussion to make it a learning study.” Employers will better understand what constitutes an adequate and quick response to sexual harassment allegations. Says Cino: “It’s a good opportunity to see what you hear about often.”

In 2006 the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received slightly more than 12,000 charges of sexual harassment. Policies and procedures might have prevented some of these cases. Cino makes these recommendations to employers:

Create policy, an effective complaint or grievance policy. “They need an anti-harassment policy that is widely disseminated to employees and understood by employees that the company will not accept any sexual harassment or allow retaliation,” says Cino. “You can’t have a policy,” Cino says, “if the victim is ostracized.”

Provide training. Businesses need to be able to document the circumstances and the context in which the alleged incident occurred. It is also important for management to learn how to react to a complaint; employers must take immediate and appropriate action.

These practices apply to all companies. Cino says, “New Jersey law applies not only to the largest, but also to mom and pop operations.”

He cites a case, which he successfully defended, involving an employee terminated for poor performance. “In response, she filed a lawsuit stating she was subject to harassment from a supervisor on a continuing basis over a period of years. In discovery, we were able to determine that the employee never complained about the conduct and that none of her co-workers corroborated the allegations.” Because the employer had a policy preventing sexual harassment and annual employee training regarding the prevention of harassment, the court determined there was no reason for the employee not to have raised her concerns to her supervisor and the case was dismissed. “Without the policy and the employer’s demonstrated commitment to a harassment-free environment, a different result could have occurred.”

Also, according to the EEOC, about 15 percent of the sexual harassment charges were filed by males. The EEOC has recovered $48.8 million in monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals, and this does not include monetary benefits obtained through litigation.

A 1987 alumnus of Villanova University with a law degree from Seton Hall, Cino works in the Morristown office and has been a partner at Jackson Lewis, a national firm, for four years (www.jacksonlewis.com). “Being an attorney at Jackson Lewis gives us the opportunity to assist clients to deal with issues that can truly help their business,” says Cino. “I find law to be exciting because it’s something new every day — it’s quite emotional. Overall it’s an opportunity to be creative and passionate about work and clients.”

— Cindy Lewinter

More Departures Than Arrivals

The facts are clear. People are leaving New Jersey. “The population outflow is real, is approaching worrisome dimensions, and is exerting a small but increasingly negative impact on the New Jersey economy,” says James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Less clear however, are the reasons for the “out-migration” or what do about it, he adds.

Hughes will participate in a panel discussion, “Why the Migration and How Do We Stop It?” offered by the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, October 30, at 8 a.m. at the Trenton Country Club. Cost: $35. Make reservations at www.Mercerchamber.org or call 609-689-9960. Panelists will include Lou Fantin of Lenox, which recently relocated from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, Eli Mordechai, who moved Medical Diagnostic Laboratories to the Princeton area and expanded here, and a representative of the New Jersey Housing Alliance. Hughes is also presenting at the Leadership New Jersey’s Forum on the Future of New Jersey, a day-long seminar on Wednesday, October 24 at New Jersey Network’s studio in Trenton.

Hughes uses IRS and U.S. Census Data to prove that, from 2002 to 2006, there has been a “sharp downward trend in New Jersey’s annual population growth and a corresponding sharp upward trend in the number of people leaving the state.” Population growth has decreased steadily from 79,184 in 2002 to 21,410 in 2006. Migration increased from 23,739 in 2002 to 72,547 in 2006. If the trend continues, says Hughes, the state “could have a net population outflow of more than 100,000 persons in 2009.”

Who is Leaving? The numbers show it is people in the higher income brackets. The average income of those leaving the state is slightly higher than the average income of the “inflow” or people migrating into New Jersey. Those leaving reported an average adjusted gross income tax of $65,319 on their income tax returns, while new residents’ adjusted gross income was $64,425. The result, according to Hughes’ report, is “an overall net income outflow of $1.96 billion in 2005.” That, he says, is bad news for the state’s long-term economy.

Where are They Going? The top three destination states for New Jersey out-migrants from 2000 to 2005 were New York (190,702), Florida (188,704), and Pennsylvania (183,885), according to the report. Other states who drew a significant number of migrants from New Jersey were California (55,431), North Carolina (50,913), Virginia (48,454), Georgia (38,581), Texas (33,895), and Maryland (31,449).

Why are They Leaving? That is the most difficult question to answer. “In the absence of empirical data, much of it is speculation,” he says. However, the high cost of living in New Jersey, particularly housing costs, combined with improved job opportunities in other parts of the country, have made it easier for New Jersey’s traditionally high-paid workforce to find employment opportunities elsewhere.

New Jersey ranks second highest in the nation in median household income ($64,470). The state’s median income is one-third higher than the national average of $48,451. But housing costs in the state are also higher, 52 percent higher than the national average for owner-occupied homes with a mortgage, according to the report. “A good portion of our income advantage is consumed by housing costs,” says Hughes.

In contrast, North Carolina has an average income that is 18 percent lower than New Jersey’s, but housing costs are also 12 percent lower than the national average. While 20 years ago, it would have been difficult for a white collar worker from New Jersey to find a job in North Carolina, today it is a different story. The Research Triangle area — bounded by Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill — boasts a large number of pharmaceutical and technical firms, and Charlotte, North Carolina is the second-ranked financial center in the country. North Carolina is now a reasonable alternative for many of New Jersey’s well-educated, highly-paid workers to shop for jobs.

In addition to movement by younger workers, there are also an increasing number of retirees who are leaving. While the warmer climates of the South and West will always attract a certain number of retirees, differences in tax structure as well as the cost of housing is making these states even more attractive to people on a fixed income, says Hughes. “The Baby Boomers are currently between 43 and 61 years of age. That is a huge potential cohort of people who will be retiring and considering a move.”

A poll issued in mid October by Monmouth University and Gannett New Jersey shows that many residents are also frustrated with high property taxes and other costs in the state. The poll found that 49 percent of New Jersey adults would like to leave the state at some point, 44 percent would prefer to spend their entire lives here and seven percent are unsure. And of those who say they would like to leave, 51 percent say they are “likely to make good on that wish,” the poll shows.

Poll statistics substantiate many of Hughes’ findings. It states that “those most likely to want to leave include adults under the age of 50 (54 percent) and those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 (59 percent). Those least likely to leave include adults age 50 and over (42 percent) and those earning below $50,000 (38 percent).”

What Are the Implications? Fewer residents mean a smaller tax revenue for the state. Combine the loss of numbers with the fact that the people who are staying are making less money than those who are leaving, means that the state’s income is also decreasing. Since the people who remain are older and have less money, an added demand for public services will go along with a smaller tax base.

“The top one percent of taxpayers in New Jersey pay 40 percent of the state tax; 80 percent of the state tax is paid by the top 10 percent of earners,” says Hughes. As these people leave the state, the tax burden falls not just to a fewer number of taxpayers, but to taxpayers who pay less money to the state to repair aging roads and bridges, pay for education, or maintain other state and local services that New Jersey residents have come to expect.

How Can We Stop It? “The recent sharp slump in the housing market, with the potential for home price declines, may result in a short-term decrease in future New Jersey out-migration,” says Hughes. “Basically, if you can’t sell your house, you can’t move.” Also, as more and more people move to areas such as North Carolina, “the increase in public costs, congestion, and overall costs of living and housing” in these areas may make them less attractive destinations for New Jersey residents.

But these are not answers that can be depended on, says Hughes. “Policies to reduce property taxes, invest in science and technology-based economic growth, enhance infrastructure, and restore business confidence offer significant economic and fiscal benefits that will help New Jersey to retain its residents and its businesses,” says Hughes. In addition, New Jersey must make sure that there is affordable housing available for its workforce. “There is no silver bullet,” says Hughes. While it is easy to read the number and identify the problem, the solutions to turning around “out-migration” in New Jersey are varied and may not be easy to implement.

—Karen Hodges Miller

Wednesday, October 31

For Non-Profits:

Fallout from Enron

In 2002 public companies faced tough, new legislation in response to several highly publicized corporate scandals, including Enron and WorldCom. Now the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is holding nonprofits responsible for these same procedures. While auditors have been operating all along with similar guidelines, the Auditing Standard Board’s new standards will require nonprofits to reeducate their staff, rethink their internal controls, and pay closer attention to their weaknesses.

“Auditors will have to spend more time on the audit, which means more fees for a sector that already has limited resources,” says Sherise Ritter, a managing director of the Mercadien Group and a principal of Mercadien PC CPAs.

In addition, the organization might also bear additional expenses if it has to improve its internal controls and provide additional information for its financial statements. The Internal Revenue Service’s changes to Form 990 will require organizations with related entity structures and activities that raise compliance concerns to spend more time providing additional information to the public.

The changes mean nonprofits have to learn more about procedures, daily operations, and what can and will now be disclosed to the Board and the public. And, Ritter says she’s “basically going out there and educating every client.”

Ritter will be discussing these audit and tax changes on Wednesday, October 31, at 8:30 a.m. The free seminar, entitled “Critical Tax and Auditing Developments That Affect Your Nonprofit,” will be held at the Mercadien Group headquarters, 3625 Quakerbridge Road. Call Kim Vecchia at 609-689-2401 to register.

Other venues offer similar courses at this time of year. On Thursday, November 1, the Partnership in Philanthropy offers “Toolkit for Strengthening Nonprofit Accounting Procedures,” at the New Jersey Law Center. Cost: $95 including lunch. Call Becky Dembo at 973-701-9810. Edward Noble teaches a accounting and tax update for nonprofits on Thursday, November 15, at Mercer County College’s West Windsor campus. Cost: $42 including continental breakfast. Call 609-570-3311.

Ritter is a licensed CPA in New York and New Jersey and a member of the American Institute and the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants. After taking accounting in high school, she majored in pursued it in college and, after graduating from Rider University in 1984, she began working at JS Lee and Associates, moving up the ranks to partner. When the firm’s owner, John Lee, retired, Ritter and another partner, Marguerite Mount, bought the firm and renamed it the Mount-Ritter Group. They joined the Mercadien Group about three years ago.

The Mercadien Group provides accounting, auditing, and tax services to nonprofit and public entities. It also provides business, management, and technology consulting; estate and trust planning; litigation support; and foundation services (www.mercadien.com).

Ritter says the ASB issued ten new audit standards that cover when an audit report can be dated, determining risks, and identifying weaknesses. Highlights of these standards are:

Audit Documentation, known as SAS 103, prevents the auditor from saying the audit is finished, while he or she is still addressing loose ends. It demands that auditors not date their reports until they have sufficient, appropriate evidence to support the opinion, which means that documentation should have been reviewed, financial statements should have been prepared, and a management representation letter should have been signed by the client.

Risk Assessment Standards, referred to as SAS 104-111, hold auditors and nonprofits accountable for what is reported and how it’s stated. They cover the following: Design and performance of tailored audit procedures to address financial reporting risks, audit risk and materiality, planning and supervision, and audit evidence.

These standards allow for a more in-depth understanding of the audited entity and its environment, including its internal control. They offer a more rigorous assessment of the risks of where and how the financial statements could be materially misstated. Third, they improve linkage between the auditor’s assessed risks and the nature, timing, and extent of audit procedures performed in response to those risks.

Communicating Internal Control Related Matters Identified in an Audit, known as SAS 112, changes the standards by which a nonprofit’s internal controls are evaluated and what must be reported. It also requires nonprofits to understand some new terms, including what a “significant deficiency” is and what a “material weakness” is. The new standard requires the auditor to report, in writing, to management and the Board on any control deficiencies found during the audit that are considered significant deficiencies or material weaknesses.

In addition to auditing changes, nonprofits also have to understand the changes to Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. The IRS already made changes to the form for 2006 and 2007, but Ritter says, “The major overhaul will be for the 2008 form.” Ritter says the IRS completed a draft of the new form and is requesting comments.

The most significant changes to the newest form include:

Compensation to individuals who formerly held the positions of officers, directors, and key employees must now be reported.

If the organization maintains relationships that may fall into a conflict situation, the relationships and the related financial term must be disclosed.

Payments to the five highest paid contractors for other services must be disclosed.

The organization must list the number of directors permitted to vote at board meetings.

In addition, Ritter says organizations will have to report excess benefits paid to trustees and board members and better identify its affiliations.

So what should a nonprofit organization do to prepare for these changes? Ritter says they need to focus on education, compliance, and better accounting practices. Organizations should:

Educate all nonprofit workers to understand the key components of strong internal controls. Ritter says, “They must determine what are the best practices they want to aspire to in their organization.” In other words, Ritter says, “They should be focusing on how to resolve and improve their accounting system and process.”

Educate the board of trustees. They could assist in evaluating and improving controls.

Eliminate all audit adjustments. This includes identifying and recording all potential adjustments prior to the audit. Ritter also says, “If the adjustments have been done for years, they should be at a point where that’s not going to happen again.”

In addition to audit and tax changes Ritter says the seminar will cover, hot topics, trends, and what the IRS is really looking for.” It will also highlight tax changes to New York and Pennsylvania and explain how the internet is affecting tax laws.

Ritter’s first accounting experiences came from working with closely held companies, but when she became involved with the YMCA of Trenton, Ritter says, “I became very passionate about the nonprofit side.” Ritter has held the positions of president and treasurer of the YMCA and is currently a finance committee member. One-third of Mercadien’s business focuses on nonprofits.

— Cindy Lewinter

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