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Turns Out I Wasn’t the Only One Under 40 at AICPA Governing Council After All

When I wrote Why Am I the Only Person Under 40 at AICPA Spring Council? last week, I knew that my tongue-in-cheek exaggeration would get people talking, which was mostly the point of saying something like that. As I think we all know, whenever someone implies that the profession is still represented mostly by middle-aged men in suits, everyone gets worked into a lather. My goal wasn’t to offend said middle-aged men in suits, most of whom I admire for their leadership, but to bring the issue of under-representation of the younger demographic to the table for discussion.

I didn’t actually believe I was the only one under 40 there (creative license people, dealtand that there is a hierarchy that young CPAs have to work their way up, starting on the state level. As a reporter, I had to do exactly the same, first covering MACPA’s CPA Day in Annapolis to get a feel for how visits with legislators work before being sent to cover Council. Cruising through the Maryland State House was a lot like attacking the Hill except on a smaller scale, and certainly prepared me for what to expect at Council.

As it turns out, I really wasn’t the only one under 40 there (as suspected). Evidenced by the following email I received from a young Washington State CPA shortly after Council wrapped:

Hi Adrienne,

I’m sorry I missed you! Thank you for your article. I am 2 years fresh out of college (work for an international firm), and was fortunate enough to be sponsored by the Washington (State) Society of CPAs to attend the AICPA governing council. I had a chance to meet with my representative, another representative’s office and my senator’s office today to discuss these issues with them and/or their staff. Tomorrow I’ll be meeting with the other senator from my state. The state society had the same view as you, in that it is important to start including accountants of my generation in the advocacy role, because these issues that are being introduced today will transform the profession for years, potentially decades, to come. The AICPA Governing Council has exposed me to numerous leaders in the accounting profession that serve as a great resource for the younger crowd to learn from. All it takes is the interest of young CPAs to become involved. It’s important now more than ever to have young CPAs step up to the challenge. Thank you for urging all young CPAs to contact their state society or nearest member on the governing council for more information.

“I found that for whatever reason, most state societies use their Council seats as ‘rewards’ for their (usually senior–both in experience and often age) members–so the ‘free’ attendance that Council members receive are not generally available to people our age. So I don’t blame most of the young CPAs, since without this free ticket, I wouldn’t be able to afford to attend this meeting either,” said Donny Shimamoto, CPA, CITP, founder and director of IntrapriseTechKnowlogies and the only young CPA we were able to track down at Council. Does that tell me that the system is rigged to keep middle-aged men in suits at the top of the food chain? No, it tells me that perks like comped trips to DC for Council are earned through demonstrated leadership, which is a commitment of both time and energy toward advancing the greater good of the profession.

As I said last week, if you are interested in legislative issues and want to get involved, you can start by contacting your state society of CPAs and checking out the AICPA Leadership Academy, which will be meeting in October in Durham, NC.

Here’s the bottom line: no one is going to approach you and ask if you want a free trip to our nation’s capital just because you have a pretty face (sorry, Joe Carey). You can position yourself as a leader by staying on top of important legislation that impacts the profession and even if you couldn’t make it to Council, there’s nothing keeping you from writing your Congressmen to share your feelings on this year’s key issues.

Why Am I the Only Person Under 40 at AICPA Spring Council?

So I’m here in downtown Washington, D.C. for three days of awesomeness that is AICPA Spring Council 2011. While today’s session started just past the asscrack of dawn (breakfast at 7am) and goes through evening, the first day was mostly cocktails and schmoozing, as these events tend to  be.

Here’s my question: where the hell are the young CPAs? Of the attendees, every single state is represented, some more than others. CPAs from across the country have descended upon Washington in their best monkey suit to listen to speakers like George Will and Eleanor Clift, as well as to get an update on the legislative issues that impact the profession. On Tuesday, they’ll be taking to the Hill to bring these issues directly to their Congress(wo)men.

But there is only ONE attendee (from Hawaii) who falls into our age bracket (your humble reporter excluded, of course). ONE.

Listen, I get it. You spent your last college years dealing with this kind of shit, putting on a tie and sucking up to partners and recruiters, all the movers and shakers of the industry. You worried about using the wrong fork at banquets and sat through symbolic awards ceremonies just to appear as though you are passionate about your industry. Now that you actually have a job, what’s the point?

The point is that these issues impact the profession which you will inherit one day. I’ve got nothing against middle-aged men in suits (hell, I’ve been dating one for the last two years) but one day soon, they’ll be retired and it will be up to us to take the reins and move the profession forward. How on Earth are we supposed to do that if we don’t figure out how it is done now?

There are endless opportunities here for mentoring and, better, for young CPAs to have a voice. Yes it’s somewhat symbolic. Yes you will have to wear a tie. Yes it can be stuffy and dull and a bit tedious. Guess what? It’s still important and one day, when all the middle-aged men are living their retirements out on yachts in the middle of the Pacific, you’re going to have to step up and do it anyway.

If you’d like to get involved (it’s not too late to start planning for next year), get in touch with your state society of CPAs for more information. You can find out more about AICPA Governing Council on their website.

You can follow #AICPAGC11 hashtag on Twitter to check out what we’re all up to for the next two days and please, don’t make me yell at you again. I didn’t put this monkey suit on this morning for nothing.

Here’s What Happens When 150 Maryland CPAs Storm the State Capitol

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 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.