Change is good

October 11, 2013

Scott D. Wiley, CAE
President & CEO
The Ohio Society of CPAs

In standard association models, it’s common for strategic planning and programming to focus on the common good; that is, where can we move the needle on behalf of a majority of our members or a significant faction of them fairly quickly?

That model has sound business implications because associations, like for-profit companies, have limited resources, making a targeted approach absolutely crucial for achieving results that members or stakeholders can point to when it’s time to join or renew.

But we also know that membership in The Ohio Society of CPAs is largely a personal, one-to-one decision in terms of what we offer of value to you, a CPA who might be working in any number of industries or disciplines across Ohio.

And that’s where I think The Ohio Society’s sweet spot is – striking that critical balance between being focused and strategic so we continue to drive the CPA profession and Ohio business environment forward while serving the important needs of individuals who rely on us as a resource for their career.

To that end, your Executive Board has begun the process of identifying what we believe are the top opportunities to move the needle on behalf of the profession over the next several years. That process kicked off in August at the Executive Board retreat, and out of that emerged four broad-based areas of focus we think are the right direction for our future. These are:

Knowledge: OSCPA will be a leading source for ideas, tools, and resources for the accounting profession.

Learning: Those in the accounting profession will attribute their enhanced performance to OSCPA’s learning experiences.

Advocacy: Ohio’s legislative and regulatory climate is favorable to business and the finance community, and the role that CPAs play in advancing the public interest is recognized as valuable.

Community: OSCPA will be a preferred community of value for CPAs and those who engage with the accounting profession.

Over the next several months, the Board and staff will undertake a strategic planning process to identify specific strategies and initiatives that fall into each of these domains. We will be aligning our priorities and lines of business around emerging issues that are directly affecting CPAs today and over the next 3-5 years.

The goal will be to build on OSCPA’s past successes while ensuring we are remaining relevant to growing segments of members who are the future of the profession. This includes young CPAs, women and other currently underrepresented populations. This will be important as we seek to widen our reach and impact for CPAs everywhere.

Bottom line, we want to be the preeminent resource and professional society for all CPAs in Ohio. That means we’ll need to change, and for the better. I look forward to bringing you news of our progress as we embark on this important journey. And I hope you’ll join us as we build the OSCPA of tomorrow for you.


Network and volunteer your way to a bright future

October 1, 2013

By Robert Zunich, CPA/ABV
2013-2014 Chair of the Executive Board

If you are majoring in accounting or are in the early stages of your career, you have a great opportunity. The demand for well-prepared accountants is high, so your chances for getting and keeping a job are great.

However, you can have much more than a job. You have the chance to embark on a rewarding career that makes a difference in the communities you care about. If you want your work to matter beyond the numbers, the financial statements and the spreadsheets, you can make it happen.

Here’s how: start now. Your 20s are your developmental sweet spot and the perfect time to advance your education, build your professional networks and engage with people who share your values.

Seek mentors within and outside your current organization. Start by asking for advice from an experienced, trusted professional in your industry. Select someone who is a good role model, listens well and is willing to be honest with you. It’s also helpful to find someone who is unlike you in a key way.

As your relationship develops, ask the person if he or she would be willing to meet regularly. You might be surprised to find how willing successful people are to share their knowledge and experience.

You can also learn from people you don’t even know yet. You can meet new people through what are called our weak ties, our friends of friends of friends. That’s where your membership in OSCPA can be so valuable. One good conversation could have an enormous effect on the rest of your life. With 21,000 members and affiliates, there are many good conversations to be had here. So make a phone call, send an email or get involved in our Facebook or LinkedIn pages.

Another great opportunity is to be part of one of these programs from OSCPA and The Ohio CPA Foundation.

FETCH!® Financial Education Teaches Children Healthy Habits®

It’s never too early to teach kids the connection between managing money and future success. On Nov. 13, OSCPA members will visit elementary classrooms throughout Ohio to help students understand that connection through FETCH! This game, which was created by The Ohio CPA Foundation, mobilizes CPAs to teach kids basic financial literacy concepts now so they can better manage their money later in life.

ACAP-Ohio Accounting Careers Awareness Program

Inspire minority high school students to major in accounting and consider careers in the CPA profession. Through ACAP-Ohio, the Foundation partners with the National Association of Black Accountants to provide a week-long residential college experience for minority high school students to help attract talented individuals and foster a more diverse and inclusive profession.

Financial Fitness Ohio

Train Ohioans how to whip their personal finances into shape. Through this public service campaign, CPAs provide tips and advice for taking charge of personal finances and meeting goals. We’ll provide the resources, you provide the expertise, and together we’ll work to improve the financial outlook for Ohioans.

Young CPA Initiative

Last fall, The Ohio Society of CPAs Young CPAs sent one or more YCPA volunteers to nine Ohio college campus career fairs. The group is now planning outreach activities for this fall.

In addition to OSCPA’s CPA Day of Service, the Young CPAs will:

  • Participate in American Heart Association Heart Walks.
  • Serve meals to families in need.
  • Collect donations for charity at group events.

The Ohio Society of CPAs is here to help you solve problems, give you a competitive edge and connect you with like-minded people – people who want to be more.


Municipal tax reform: Are you in or out?

October 1, 2013

Scott D. Wiley, CAE
President & CEO
The Ohio Society of CPAs

The past two years have been a battleground in the fight for municipal income tax reform. On one side: representatives in many of Ohio’s nearly 600 municipalities fighting to preserve a costly and inefficient system that’s stunting business growth in Ohio. On the other: a number of forward-thinking state legislators and 30 organizations in the Municipal Tax Reform Coalition. Led by The Ohio Society of CPAs, Ohio Chamber and NFIB-Ohio, this group is pushing for a more equitable system that eliminates inefficiencies and red tape in return filings and spurs business investment.

It would be an understatement to say it’s been anything but an uphill climb the entire way.

While we had hoped for a truly collaborative process, it’s resembled more of a negotiating tug of war with opponents waging an all-out misinformation campaign, and painting an exaggerated picture in the media of Ohio post municipal tax reform. Despite that, we believe we’ve landed on a piece of legislation, H.B. 5, that will help improve Ohio’s local tax compliance climate and therefore our state’s economic development attractiveness.

The substitute version of H.B. 5 will require every city and village to follow the same definitions for not only filings, appeals, audits and assessments, but also NOLs (five years), partnerships (taxed at the entity level) and occasional entrants (moving from 12 to 20 days – with withholding in the “other” city starting on day 21), reporting to a single city per day and eliminating tracking for employers earning $1 million or less in gross receipts. Simplifying the system will also help to cut compliance costs for governments.

We knew it wouldn’t be an easy row to hoe when we set out to form a coalition and drive for reform. But we did so knowing we had the strong support of a majority of our members. In a survey last year, 90% of respondents agreed that adopting more uniform rules governing Ohio’s municipal tax structure was critical.

We’ve worked hard to keep you informed and engaged in the process. A small group of CPAs worked with the coalition to draft and revise legislation, taking cities’ concerns into account. Others provided testimony during nearly 40 hours of hearings held over the past year.

Despite progress made, we need many, many more voices in the chorus. We’ve reached a critical juncture and we need hundreds of members to speak out publicly to help counter the howls of opposition coming from dozens of city officials across the state.

H.B. 5 is very close to a vote in the Ohio House – we may well see a House committee vote in early October, hopefully followed by a floor vote soon thereafter. But there are still many legislators on the fence about municipal tax reform.

It’s not for lack of education by OSCPA and our Coalition partners.

But it’s difficult to rise above the din of a consistently vocal opposition. Legislators have told us time and again that they hear plenty from municipalities on why H.B. 5 is bad for cities and bad for Ohio. But they aren’t hearing the other side of the story from local CPAs and businesses.

If you think municipal tax reform is important, you can’t afford to sit back. Don’t expect your peers or someone else to make the contacts required to help pass this bill. Speak up now. We have a short window to make an impact—just a few weeks. With 21,000 CPAs, I know we can move this bill out of the House and on to the Senate.

Call or write to your local legislators today to ask for a yes vote on H.B. 5. OSCPA can give you all the tools you need to get your message delivered.

It matters to Ohio’s future. Are you in or out?


Sales tax effort a good model for action

August 13, 2013

By Robert Zunich, CPA/ABV
2013-2014 Chair of the Executive Board

One of the best things about serving as chair of The Ohio Society of CPAs is meeting with talented, intelligent CPAs from around Ohio to discuss the timely issues important to our profession.

But what is it like to be part of these discussions?

Having served on the board and as chair-elect, I thought it would be helpful to explain how the dialogue materializes as we work to promote and protect the profession.

A good example is OSCPA’s work to remove a proposed sales tax on services from the state’s biennial budget.

As proposed in February, H.B. 59 called for an expansion of the sales tax base to potentially thousands of services, including accounting, legal and consulting.

OSCPA members were justifiably concerned. Such a plan would have harmed Ohio’s business environment, and by extension, all taxpayers.

We surveyed members, and more than 80% of you opposed an expanded sales tax on most services. Almost two-thirds of you thought the negative impact of the sales tax proposal overshadowed any gains that would have occurred from the income tax reduction.

OSCPA’s governmental affairs team worked behind the scenes, finding out why similar tax efforts had failed in other states, and getting important information to governmental leaders.

On March 5, after considering the facts and your input, the OSCPA Executive Board voted to formally oppose the sales tax expansion and to offer OSCPA as a resource to help lawmakers find alternatives that were better for Ohio. OSCPA representatives also testified on March 6 about the harmful implications of the expanded sales tax.

I’m happy to say that the budget bill that Gov. Kasich signed into state law in June did not include an expanded tax on services, in no small part because of concerns raised by OSCPA.

The bill did include several things OSCPA supported, such as $2.7 billion in tax cuts, including a phased-in 10% reduction in personal income taxes. This helps Ohio be more competitive with nearby states.

The expanded tax on services is just one example of the issues the OSCPA Executive Board tackles. Every issue has its own challenges and opportunities.

I am looking forward to having deeper discussions with my fellow board members about their goals for the Society. I also look forward to discussing those ideas with you – both in person and here in CPA Voice. It’s not about what I want to do; it’s what do we as an organization want to do. Send your thoughts to cpavoice@ohio-cpa.com.

Robert G. Zunich, CPA/ABV with Barnes Wendling CPAs, Inc. in Sheffield Village, is The Ohio Society of CPAs 2013-2014 Chair of the Board. 


CPAs can lead by translating the technical

August 13, 2013

Scott D. Wiley, CAE
President & CEO
The Ohio Society of CPAs

In the July issue of CPA Voice I discussed OSCPA’s commitment to providing quality CPE to meet your needs in a changing world.

This month I want to address the other side of the education equation, and it’s something I’ve heard mentioned repeatedly this year by leaders in the accounting profession: the importance of being a constant learner. It’s a habit that will make you not only more competitive and employable, but also a better citizen and well-rounded person.

This is an issue that extends beyond CPE, and it isn’t just for those interested in another certification or an advanced degree. Professional education for CPAs – and anyone else – should be constant and self-motivated.

Just by earning your CPA you’ve proven you have the knowledge and skills needed to be a business leader: financial savvy, strong ethics and an analytical mind. Spending time working in a particular business area also gives you expertise in that domain.

Are you developing skills that go beyond your technical expertise and underscore your value to your employer or clients? These could include communications skills, leadership, the ability to pitch and close a sale, customer service knowledge or strategic planning.

One good example is communication skills. A course on how to make financial presentations to non-financial people could provide an edge in today’s business world. The ability to relate the numbers to a strategic direction, and then explain them is a valuable skill to any organization.

Why is this important to you? Because it can position you as someone who does much more than crunch numbers, open doors you don’t even know exist, get you in contact with more people and elevate your chances of taking your career to the next level.

It’s critical to stay on top of technology. Laysha Ward, president of community relations at Target, said, “We know that, with the rate of technological change, (a career in the 21st century economy) will require a lifelong commitment to learning.”

Leaders have to be able to go even farther beyond that technical business and financial information and be able to communicate it in such a way that audiences of varying knowledge and experience understand and can internalize.

That’s just one possibility for improvement, and I am sure you can think of others. Though the CPE requirement is a cornerstone of the accounting profession, learning is lifelong and shouldn’t stop at the 120-hour requirement every three years. Its true value is intellectual development; it’s an investment that improves our work, elevates our profession and makes our lives more enjoyable.


Continuing education is getting better

August 6, 2013

By Scott D. Wiley, CAE
President & CEO
The Ohio Society of CPAs

Providing quality continuing education has always been a top priority for The Ohio Society of CPAs. As some of the state’s leading business and financial executives, CPAs must remain knowledgeable and competent in a wide range of tax, accounting and business topics. And it’s a requirement of maintaining a CPA license in Ohio.

That’s where OSCPA believes there’s a potential disconnect and a huge opportunity for the Society to provide more value in education delivery.

In our discussions with the Accountancy Board of Ohio and with our own members, it’s clear that some in the profession are far too focused on simply meeting the 120-hour CPE reporting requirement rather than viewing it as an opportunity for ongoing learning that makes them a better professional. This is in direct contrast to the intent of the rule and a point of concern for the ABO and the Society’s Executive Board and staff.

Some CPAs now think of CPE as a commodity and a chore. The proliferation of ‘all you can consume’ CPE for very low prices is feeding this trend but is not, in our opinion, a model that best serves the future of the CPA profession even if it satisfies a short-term need.

We must move beyond the mindset that easy-to-earn CPE is sufficient for maintaining a strong professional competency and edge.

Consider this fact: over the past three years, Ohio CPAs who are not members of OSCPA were nine times more likely to receive disciplinary action ranging from fines to revocation of their CPA license from the ABO. We believe there is a direct correlation between these findings and the continuing education CPAs choose to take.

As your professional society, we understand that education needs are changing. Every year, CPAs are asked to absorb and master a long list of new and complex tax laws, standards and government regulations. And taking time away from your everyday responsibilities to attend a full or two-day class to get up to speed on these changes isn’t always possible.

That’s why OSCPA continues to evolve our educational products, giving CPAs more choices for what they take and how it’s delivered – all while ensuring that it meets higher standards for content, quality and learning.

So what does that mean for you?

The Ohio Society of CPAs is committed to providing an optimal learning experience, recognizing that every CPA’s needs are unique and preferences for learning styles and formats vary from person to person.

For those who learn best in face-to face environments, we will continue to offer many live, in-person seminars and conferences each year. Many sessions from these events are available afterward in the OSCPA online store.

We’re expanding online learning opportunities to accommodate busy schedules and tighter budgets. OSCPA’s video classroom increases the variety of programs we can offer to more CPAs through webcast. High definition video and an interactive chat feature for remote participants ensures those tuning in have a quality experience similar to those sitting in the video classroom. These programs are taped and available on demand afterwards for the convenience of those who can’t participate in the live broadcast.

Finally, OSCPA will soon introduce a new series of on-demand educational courses that move beyond our traditional online CPE models. They are developed by a panel of recognized subject experts and designed to develop core competencies in key areas like tax, A&A, technology and professional development. The content is in-depth and robust, and delivered in a curriculum-based format. Successive courses will allow CPAs to define a clear cut educational plan for achieving higher competency and professional success in specific areas depending on career goals.

Best of all, you can take these courses on your own time, not just when and where they might be offered.

OSCPA is confident this direction will encourage more CPAs to embrace CPE as an opportunity for lifelong learning and building the knowledge base needed to address today’s business challenges. And we’ll continue to keep our ear to the ground so that we are continually responsive to members’ needs. What do you think?


Accounting has a diverse future

June 24, 2013

By Brendan Fitzgerald, CPA 2012-2013
Chair of the Executive Board

The CPA profession is making significant efforts to improve diversity and inclusion by hiring and retaining employees from the underrepresented classes of women and ethnic minorities.

We use the word “diversity” when describing the composition of firms and companies, the profession and the student population. Employers have created diversity initiatives or appointed managers to be in charge of encouraging diverse representation within our organizations – from entry-level positions, to the partner ranks in public accounting firms and prominence within the corporate hierarchy.

Employers implement programs centered on cultural awareness. But how effective are these programs if statistics support the notion that very little progress has been made in narrowing the gap in recent years?

The keys to achieving diversity within the accounting profession must begin with the realization that this issue isn’t about numbers. We can quote statistics on the number of minorities enrolled in bachelor’s programs as a percentage of undergraduate students and compare those numbers to the composition of our own organizations, but what does that really tell us, other than most of us are below average?

Women make up nearly half of the new accounting graduate hires in recent years but represent less than one quarter of the public-firm partner positions, and minority figures, both in terms of representation and leadership roles are even lower. The profession aspires to attract the best and the brightest, but how attractive are we to minorities? While we think we can offer the best chance for success, is the CPA profession perceived to be as attractive as medicine or law?

In addition to the many profession-wide issues requiring attention, we must also understand our individual biases. These are not institutional, but personal. Terms like “unconscious bias,” or “implicit bias” are used to describe the unreasoned judgments we all have. The fact that we are not aware of them is what makes them so hard to overcome. And even though bias is universal, it has a negative connotation. For someone to admit to bias takes courage. Rather than be fearful of repercussions, such self-awareness should be encouraged and applauded as the first important step toward change. Cultural or gender bias can be overcome only after we acknowledge its existence.

We must address the perception of our profession. In a profession dominated by white men, it is difficult to look through the door of the conference room or the board room and offer a reasoned argument that we are inclusive. We have a problem with representation at the highest levels that cannot be remedied quickly. Role models are critical to altering that perception, but if there is a dearth of candidates, where will the future role models come from? At the staff level, we must continue our efforts to encourage minority students to pursue a career as a CPA. It will take time to cultivate and encourage more minority students, but we must persevere. We cannot overlook the importance of peers and immediate supervisors in development along the way. Once on track, it will take mentors within organizations to support the effort by acting as coaches and advocates for underrepresented groups. Not all of us achieved success solely on our own merits; along the way we had someone champion our cause, which greatly contributed to our successful careers.

We must also be willing to listen and understand each other. How many times does poor communication lead to failure in an endeavor? The problem is often too little information being shared, not too much. When people are missing crucial information, they tend to fill in the blanks with their own suppositions. Lack of awareness about cultural differences leads to misunderstanding or incomprehension.

A panel comprised of women or minorities, or a combination, discussing the issues of diversity and inclusion would be very enlightening. It’s notable that what you are not hearing from these panels are arguments for lower standards for entry or promotion. All that is asked is that the same opportunities exist for all. In a profession that touts integrity as a pillar, we can do better.


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