What do you get when you cross 150 CPAs with the state capitol? You get the Maryland Association of CPAs’ CPA Day and, lucky me, I got to be there when a record number of MACPA members stormed Annapolis, Maryland (on Inauguration Day, none-the-less) and brought their passion (and the sun) with them.
Driving in the dark at the crack of dawn to Annapolis, I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. I’d heard about previous CPA Day successes and knew the day involved legislators and CPAs swarming their offices but I had no idea the day would be so powerful, nor did I expect the sort of enlightened passion I gathered from those in attendance.
For the day, I got to chase MACPA vice chair and association Legislative Executive Committee head Allen DeLeon, CPA. Al is partner at Gaithersburg’s DeLeon and Stang, a 2010 Accounting Today winner for best places to work, and yet another CPA touched by MACPA CEO Tom Hood’s powerful social media message.
As Tom so eloquently stated yesterday, the MACPA’s primary legislative mission is to protect the CPA license in the state of Maryland. Their secondary level of legislative influence means keeping an eye on tax policy in the state. The association has identified the following five issues for the 428th session of the Maryland General Assembly:
1. Pass 120/150 legislation. This legislation will allow students to sit for the CPA exam after completing the accounting requirements in an undergraduate program. They would be able to get their license upon completion of the 150 credit hours. This bill (HB 1137) passed the House and Senate committee last year but ran out of time before the end of the legislative session. See our prior post about this issue.
2. Stop sales tax on accounting, tax and consulting services. The real issue here is the compliance costs to CPA firms (and their clients), as intangible services are hard to identify where and when they are delivered to and from.
3. Exempt CPAs from proposed regulation of debt counselors. The CPAs education, examination and experience requirements, along with rigorous state licensing and oversight, make it unnecessary to include CPAs in this legislation. See our prior post here.
4. Stop the lawsuit tax. Efforts by the trial bar to liberalize tort law will be detrimental to CPAs and small businesses as the basis to argue suits would increase and liability would be linked to the entities with insurance. This means more suits and more settlements, effectively creating a lawsuit tax. This is bad legislation even in a good economy.
5. Pass “safe harbor” legislation. This is a technical correction necessary since the passage of mandatory peer review legislation in 2005. This will clarify the definition of “attest” and practicing certified public accountancy in Maryland law. This will allow non-licensed CPAs to prepare compilations for clients provided that they do not use AICPA SSARS language and state that they are not required to undergo peer review.
For Al’s part in yesterday’s event, we met with Senator Rob Garagiola, Senator Nancy King, Delegate Brian Feldman and Andrew Aleshire, aide to brand spanking new Delegate Aruna Miller. Having done this several years in a row, Al wasted no time bringing up the key issues with each legislator. We cruised between the House of Delegates and the Senate buildings (he’s done this so many times he even knows of the secret underground tunnel that connects them both) discussing taxes, the 120/150 rule, reviews and compilations and regulation of CPAs as debt counselors.
I was especially impressed by Senator King’s willingness to sit down with Al and discuss current issues, including a highly controversial (Tom Hood called it “dangerous”) 2 – 3% gross receipts tax, which the state is apparently considering in lieu of a sales tax hike. Al volunteered to give any proposed legislation a good once over as a politically-independent CPA, something young CPAs getting involved in legislative issues should take note of. While MACPA members came to Annapolis to push the association’s legislative agenda, it’s also important to remember that part of protecting the public interest also means protecting the profession from unnecessary or burdensome legislation.
Comments from first-time attendees included “I was surprised at how receptive everyone was” and one Rockville CPA noted that though CPAs had invaded state buildings, they did not get the sense that they were perceived as “a bunch of people coming to bother them.”
Barrett Young, one such first-timer in attendance yesterday, stated that he was surprised at how “normal” legislators were. The 27 year old Charles County CPA (who can be found blogging at CP…eh?) attended CPA Day after Tom Hood came to his area for a town hall on these issues and, like me, didn’t realize the full impact 150 CPAs would have in Annapolis that day. He came because he wanted to meet other CPAs in the state, not because he knew it would be a legislative day of action. But now that he’s attended one CPA Day, he is both informed and inspired to take action moving forward. “The MACPA keeps us focused on a bigger picture than our revenue sources,” he said.
Did yesterday change his view on these important issues? Absolutely. “I do have a big chance of running into my delegates at the store,” he said, “and now, I have the confidence to know that they are approachable – and interested – in my views on the profession. The MACPA knows what impacts us, and is doing a great job to remain nonpartisan. [They do not favor] a specific county, but protect our license as a whole.”
Tom reminded those in attendance that making face-to-face contact with legislators allows CPAs in the state the opportunity to show lawmakers that we care enough to show up, shake hands and make our concerns known. For young CPAs like Barrett, it also gives the next generation of the industry a chance to see how powerful their profession really is. “I have a responsibility to see that the profession is greater than just me, my career, and my need to make an income. CPA Day does this by introducing me to older CPAs, and connecting me with peers from my own age group,” he told us. Who would pass up a chance like that?
“If we had two or three hundred of you, we could rule the state,” Tom joked to the audience.
Judging by the tangible buzz yesterday, I’d say Maryland CPAs are pretty close to ruling the state as is.
Once again, we have to congratulate the MACPA for a job well-done and I’m already looking forward to following along next year.