Feedback from around Ohio at the Professional Issues Updates

June 24, 2013

Since April I’ve have the pleasure of traveling the state through the Professional Issues Update series. It’s been an educational and enjoyable experience to greet the more than 2,500 OSCPA members who’ve attended. They’ve provided valuable insight into the challenges CPAs face in 2013. And I’m finding it’s no small list.

I wanted to share some key observations formed from these group discussions and one-on-one conversations. During the PIUs, we conducted instant polling to get a better picture of issues commonly affecting CPAs’ businesses. Topping members’ list were increasing regulation and internal controls, leadership changes and employee retention, the economy, and health care reform.

Beyond those issues is the more important question of how can The Ohio Society of CPAs help members succeed in this swirling morass of business and environmental instability?

Take the economy, for example. On a scale of 1 to 5, CPAs’ confidence for sustained U.S. economic growth through 2013 was just 2.7. Not very optimistic, but understandable given the slow movement in Washington on issues most think will move the economy forward: slowing the deficit clock and enacting major tax reform.

Last month, I joined our Governmental Affairs team and 12 Ohio CPAs for the annual Legislative Fly-In. Over several days, we met with Ohio’s elected leaders who appreciated hearing directly how indecision in Washington caused headaches during tax season, and how laws and regulations are affecting Ohio businesses and individuals. We also urged their support of bills for mobile workforce rules and tax due date simplification. Finally, we again offered CPAs’ help to simplify our tax code.

We’ll continue to watch the developing controversy around IRS overreach, and will seek to offer our members’ experiences where appropriate.

Health care reform is the two-ton elephant in the room at every business meeting this year. CPAs continue to prepare for a new system even as it is still taking shape. OSCPA is committed to being your partner in the implementation and beyond, offering education and valuable resources to help CPAs prepare to guide their own organizations and clients.

Increasing regulatory obligations is one area OSCPA is weighing in on. We have worked closely with Lt. Governor Mary Taylor and the Common Sense Initiative (CSI) to identify red tape in Ohio that is slowing business growth. When new or revised accounting standards are released for public comment, OSCPA’s various committees are quick to weigh in on behalf of all Ohio CPAs.

Building effective controls at all levels in an organization is an unfortunate byproduct of increased regulation. But it’s also an opportunity for CPAs to lead by developing new controls, improving existing ones and ensuring accountability. OSCPA continually seeks the best experts in the business to conduct educational sessions on this growing topic.

Retaining a talented workforce is a key concern of CPAs today. We’re competing with a smaller student talent pool for the best and the brightest to fill our future ranks. CPA societies must act quickly and creatively to ensure a steady pipeline for the future. OSCPA now has Student Ambassadors promoting the CPA profession on 15 Ohio college campuses. We’ve increased the number of ASPIRE! community college minority recruiting programs we hold yearly and we were the first state CPA society to partner with the AICPA this May on a regional workshop for college students.

I appreciate your candor during the PIUs, and I’m thrilled by the high level of engagement and passion Ohio CPAs have shown on the issues that matter. Working together, we will continue to make a difference.

Scott D. Wiley, CAE
President & CEO
The Ohio Society of CPAs
614.764.2727 x 305 (office)
Twitter: @ScottDWiley


Your CPA Voice was heard on sales tax expansion plan

May 29, 2013

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

The initial furor over the proposed sales tax expansion included in House Bill 59, Ohio’s biennial budget, seems like such a long time ago.

Busy season has a way of causing the calendar days to click by faster than the totals on the “U.S. Debt” web page.

When the plan was first rolled out, OSCPA mobilized, polling our members to solicit input as we refined our position on the issue. While our position ultimately was to oppose the expansion, we did acknowledge the ambitiousness of the entire package.

Among other things, the proposed legislation would have expanded the sales and use tax to all services, unless exempted, which is an about-face from the current practice of assessing the tax on specific transactions. The concept of expanding the sales tax base to include services is not new, especially among public finance experts. But it turns out that it isn’t a panacea.

A few other states are developing their own version of the expanded tax on services concept. Florida in 1987 enacted a sales tax on services that was repealed by the end of the year. In 2007, Michigan repealed its sales tax on services law just 17 hours after it became effective. This is not to say a sales taxes on services is never appropriate, but it highlights the difficulty in implementing one.

Our efforts to have our position heard included testimony before the Ohio House Ways and Means Subcommittee. Special thanks is due to member and former Ohio Tax Commissioner Tom Zaino, CPA who testified on behalf of OSCPA during the subcommittee’s public hearing. His eloquence was equaled by the strength of his case.

OSCPA addressed the unintended consequences of the sales tax expansion proposal, including the competitive disadvantage caused by higher costs to businesses, and the likelihood business owners would seek professional service providers outside of Ohio to avoid the new tax. We did not ignore the use tax obligation that would still exist, but pointed out that tracking such transactions would be a significant challenge. Newly-registered vendors, legal battles over nexus and compliance — or more likely, enforcement — would undoubtedly strain the current department of taxation staff.

Unlike others who argued for exemptions for themselves or their industry, OSCPA addressed how the proposal would negatively affect Ohio’s business climate and potentially counter the positive initiatives already in place. Although there was significant opposition to the proposal by our members (over 80%), some did not see it as unfavorable. Proponents cited changes in our overall economic climate from a manufacturing-based to service-based economy, as well as the opportunity to generate substantial new tax revenue. By broadening the base to include services, they said, the outcome would be more fair. Sales taxes are regressive because they represent a larger portion of the income of lower income taxpayers. A solution to the regressivity argument, therefore, is to target those services consumed primarily by higher income taxpayers. Furthermore, if consumer spending continues to shift toward services, additional taxes on services might be needed to maintain long-term sales tax revenue.

The most recent iteration of the biennial budget bill — as passed by the Ohio House — removes the expanded sales tax on services proposal. While that is encouraging news, our work is far from done. The Ohio Senate now will evaluate potential reforms to Ohio’s tax system. Know that we will continue to weigh in on this and other public policy issues using the same yardstick: meeting the needs and expectations of our members while serving the public interest. Whether you supported or opposed the sales tax expansion included in HB 59, we need to hear from you. We likely have not have heard the last of sales tax expansion, but we will continue to make your voice heard on this issue.

Helping women define their future

May 7, 2013

by Marie Brilmyer
Women’s Initiatives Committee 

Women's InitiativesI am fortunate to be a junior partner at a large, progressive public accounting firm, and as the firm has grown it has maintained a friendly and flexible atmosphere. We pride ourselves on the firm culture, and have made changes when necessary to fit the needs of our employees.  As a result, we have very low turnover rates compared to the industry average. A great feat, especially for public accounting!

I believe that one of the secrets to our success as a firm has been not only responding to our employees’ needs, but anticipating them. Mentoring, wellness, leadership training – it’s all available and easily accessible. Most recently the discussion on employee needs has centered on women’s initiatives.

From mom-and-pop shops to Fortune 500 companies, work/life balance, or integration, has long been recognized for its importance. As our society has evolved to include people with unique situations, wants, and needs, employers have in turn responded by providing more flexibility.

Enter the AICPA and state CPA societies.

A professional society plays a much different role in helping its members achieve their goals. While it is up to each employer to meet the needs of employees, organizations like the OSCPA have an integral role in providing ancillary services. What does that mean? Societies, like ours, can serve to:

  1. Support organizations in their own unique efforts.
  2. Support those in the workforce to achieve their own unique goals.
  3. Provide resources for everyone in the profession.

Why women’s initiatives? The goal of achieving work/life balance is not, by any means, specific to women. But let’s face it, as the AICPA notes, “For the past 20 years, women have represented about 50% (1) of new CPAs in the accounting profession. Yet today, women account for less than 9% (2) of all CFOs in business and industry and 21% (1) of partners in CPA firms nationwide.”

The numbers just don’t add up.

While people can blame the statistics on different things, work/life balance or lack thereof being one of them, regardless of the cause, the goal is to support the advancement of women to higher positions within the industry and help them overcome the obstacles standing in their way. In the process, why not capitalize on some of those woman-to-woman relationships to build your network, find your next mentor, or gain a new friend? The possibilities are endless, and the OSCPA agrees.

We formed a task force to discuss if women’s initiatives are something the society wants. We polled our membership to determine what Ohio CPAs want out of a women’s initiatives program. We solidified our formal committee, held our first meetings and conference calls, and have just launched this initiative in full-force.

To learn more, join us at one of the spring networking receptions, which will be held at the Dayton Accounting Show, and after several of the Professional Issues Updates.

You can also join us on LinkedIn or email any one of your friendly committee members or OSCPA staff liaisons. Give us your ideas, your input, your suggestions and join us on our journey!

A new era begins at OSCPA

March 13, 2013

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

At the end of December, we closed the books on a career that spanned 40 years with the retirement of OSCPA President and CEO Clarke Price, CAE.

On Jan. 31, we welcomed Scott Wiley, CAE to lead us into the future.

I have the unique experience of serving as Chair of the Executive Board at the end of one era and the beginning of a new one. I am tremendously excited about the future of OSCPA under Scott’s direction. The Ohio Society is positioned as a nationally recognized and influential organization. With Scott’s hiring, we expect to continue being out in front of important issues and forge new paths under his leadership.

Scott’s many positive attributes made this a logical decision for the Executive Search Committee. He is a proven association executive coming to us from the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity, where he served as their Executive Director for the past 10 years. His broad experience in many areas of association management will be vital in retaining OSCPA’s position as a top association and driving development of even more innovative programs that serve CPAs and the public interest. He has a strong intellect, a passion for work and a track record of program and staff development. I believe you will find Scott to be a compelling public speaker and a creative, thoughtful leader. Scott will also undoubtedly be called upon to use his significant advocacy experience.

When comparing Scott’s qualities to the list of attributes we desired in a candidate, we found significant similarities and strengths in the right areas. When we also established that Scott was a cultural fit for OSCPA, we knew we had found the right candidate. While his past experience is not in the accounting profession, he impressed us as highly intelligent and a quick study. As a profession, we strive to attract the “best and the brightest.” Scott just happens to be our latest recruit.

Last month’s CPA Voice featured an in-depth story on Scott, his background, family and vision, providing insight into the formative influences on his leadership skills development. He describes the opportunities ahead and the challenges to be addressed with equal enthusiasm. While there are highly visible issues where Scott will be the “face” of OSCPA, he also understands that there is the business of OSCPA that will benefit from his leadership. Since Scott was announced as our new President and CEO in early November, he worked tirelessly to become familiar with our organization and the issues we face. Before he ever had an email address, he was listening and learning about our values, staff, continuing education, advocacy, dues, budgets, Professional Issues Updates, member needs and Society relationships with outside stakeholders. The good news is that he was not scared away.

In Scott’s first week on the job, the Ohio Jobs 2.0 budget was introduced, which includes – among other things – taxes on certain services that previously were exempted.

While Scott and I were talking about OSCPA’s need to poll our members to assist with strategy development, I said, “Welcome to OSCPA.” He immediately commented how excited he was to be involved in an issue that affects both our members and the public. He is also keenly aware of our highly visible efforts to reform the municipal income tax system in Ohio. His advocacy experience will certainly be valuable in that initiative.

It is incumbent upon the Executive Board to set priorities for Scott and staff to carry out. At the same time, the Board’s relationship with Scott will be one of symbiosis. As he engages our members in the coming weeks and months, he will be gathering valuable information about their wants and needs to share with the Board for thoughtful consideration.

There will be instances in the future, as in the past, where OSCPA’s position will be controversial to some members. That is unavoidable. As chairs come and go, Scott will be the one constant. I am convinced we have the right leader to move OSCPA forward. One piece of advice I gave to Scott early on was not to feel compelled to just build upon what he inherited, but to help us forge new paths into the future.

A surplus of debt

January 28, 2013

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

Congratulations! We survived the end of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21. It was entertaining, but few were really preparing for rapture. Amid the speculation that the end was near, we were treated to a 24-hour-a-day news frenzy on the fiscal cliff debate. But the greater threat continues to be the mounting federal debt, which has been increasing steadily by the annual deficits. We are sacrificing the long-term economic well-being of our nation through fiscal and monetary policies that are not sustainable.

The public debt is over $16 trillion and rising. In the coming months, we will be treated to yet another frustrating round of political gamesmanship as the battle over raising the debt ceiling is debated in Congress. The president has vowed that he will not negotiate with Congress over raising the debt ceiling, publicly stating that Congress must provide the funds to pay for the bills they incurred.

Some pundits have mistakenly used the analogy that the debt ceiling is similar to the credit limit set on a credit card, and therefore cannot be exceeded. That’s not the case. It more akin to a business reaching the maximum borrowing limit on its line of credit, and still adding to its trade accounts payable. Debt continues to be incurred as long as the expenditures are greater than the cash receipts. Add to the public debt the amount the government has borrowed from social security that must one day be repaid and we are facing an economic disaster.

Some contend that we need not worry about the government paying off its debts because it has the power to levy taxes, or simply print more of the dollars we have promised. In the short run, we can solve our problems with monetary policy to provide liquidity in the economy until the unemployed can become employed; or use fiscal policy, such as increased taxes for high income taxpayers; or focus on lower discretionary spending, but not entitlements. What is most concerning is, the threat to our national security and stability is real. What is lacking is a clear plan for addressing the long-term implications of continued deficit spending. “I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” was a saying made famous by J. Wellington Wimpy in the cartoon Popeye. Wimpy was a soft-spoken, lazy and uncharitable man who unabashedly had his hand out, but when Tuesday came and went, the debt was never repaid. That has a ring of familiarity to it.

As the lender of last resort, the Federal Reserve has stepped in to provide the liquidity to the economy by buying bonds to keep long-term interest rates at historical lows. The rollover of old debt to new debt in the future will undoubtedly cost more when buyers demand a higher rate on their investment because the value of the dollar is undermined. We will have more debt at higher interest rates.

We have to separate ideology from economic sensibility. With the economy on precarious footing, a sudden decrease in government stimulus spending combined with low growth in job creation would undoubtedly send the economy into a downward spiral. We need a reasoned plan we can begin to follow with checkups along the way to make sure we do not stray. Continued deficits adding to an ever increasing total debt will have devastating consequences. Fiscal policies such as tax cuts and spending increases that stimulate growth are normally expected to work in the short run, while tax increases and spending cuts tend to slow the rate of future economic expansion. A restrictive monetary policy will eventually be needed to slow the economy to offset inflationary pressures brought about by current policies. Those of us old enough to remember the 1970’s recall the “perfect storm” of economic bad news: high unemployment, slow economic growth and high inflation.

Our nation’s economic future is more at risk every day we add to the national debt. At $16 trillion dollars and rising, we will one day have to pay the long-term price for short-sighted political posturing. The reality is we must earn our way out of this mess, not borrow our way out. The debt crisis was not created overnight and it will not be resolved quickly or easily. One day it will be Tuesday for our nation and we better be prepared to make good on our promise to pay.

Getting the most out of your OSCPA LinkedIn groups

January 7, 2013

OSCPA’s presence on social media has steadily grown over the past four to five years, but none as much as our communities on LinkedIn. What originally started out as one main group for OSCPA members has since turned into a total of 19 groups consisting of the main group, one young CPAs group and 17 special interest section groups.

To most members, making the switch over to LinkedIn groups for our special interest section discussions presented some learning curves as many were signing up for and using the professional networking site for the first time. Now several months later, most of the bumps have been worked out, but members still have questions on the best way to use the many features offered in this community.

For your reference, we’ve created several short video tutorials showing you how to create a discussion, add comments, links and polls, and how to change your groups settings and make sure you have a secure connection.

Access the tutorials below, or for your convenience we’ve also created an OSCPA LinkedIn Groups playlist on our YouTube channel.

Find these helpful or think that we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

Note: OSCPA’s special interest sections are a member-only benefit. To learn more about joining one of our 17 sections, please visit our website.

Farewell, Clarke

December 18, 2012

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

It is not easy to craft a column that is worthy of saying farewell to Clarke Price. At the end of this month, Clarke will retire after 40 years with The Ohio Society of CPAs, the last 22 of which serving as president and CEO. While the number of years alone is impressive, it is really not what bears recognition. It is the legacy he created and leaves behind. He guided OSCPA to be nationally recognized and respected while advocating on behalf of our members. We all reaped the benefits of his dedicated service, his leadership and his integrity. He loyally served with distinction, selflessly promoting our profession with creativity and commitment.

I tried to imagine what past presidents and chairs of The Ohio Society of CPAs would say about Clarke if they were in my place. The stories that each could tell (or not tell). While the issues of their day might have been different, the character traits they would use to describe Clarke would likely be similar. Clarke was the one constant: a true leader and a better man. During his tenure as CEO, he answered to a different boss each year. He survived not by adapting to the annually changing styles and personalities of each individual, but by acting consistently with the best interest of OSCPA in mind. He turned ideas to action and action became habit. That habitual behavior allowed for continuity of focus each year. He led with wisdom and vision and the virtue to follow both. He did not dwell on what he had already accomplished, and instead set his sights on what remained unfinished.

If you were to ask Clarke to describe successes or setbacks under his leadership, he would describe them each with the same passion. In times of adversity and controversy he stood strong, as leaders should. He deftly allowed deliberation to evolve, all the while absorbing, percolating and even reformulating his advice. He had plenty of opportunities to shed opinions that were inconsistent with his own, but his conscience would not allow it. By the time an issue had been decided, it had been thoroughly analyzed and challenged. Clarke accepted that he served the Board and our members, and that never stopped him from offering sage advice. He participated in discussions and his opinion was always solicited. We knew we could count on him to advise us with conviction and execute dutifully on our directives.

Clarke would readily offer that not all success should be solely attributed to him. Along the way, he assembled a staff unparalleled in skill and professionalism. He was a demanding boss who held others to the same standards to which he held himself. It was not merely acceptable that his team fulfilled the directives put forth by the Board, but to do so with an expectation of adding value along the way. A true leader and teacher, he took interest in staff development and provided them with opportunities to achieve beyond what they might have thought attainable. He worked with volunteer leaders to enhance OSCPA in ways that were not just relevant to members, but relevant to our profession.

It would be selfish of us to be saddened by his retirement. We can remember him and smile that he led us for so long. Few men of action are able to make a graceful exit at the appropriate time. During this, his final year, he vowed to not slow down and he was true to his word. Clarke’s dedication to our organization throughout the years came with personal sacrifices we accepted without acknowledgement. He has given so much to us and we owe him a debt we can never repay. The best we can do is move forward without constraint.

In 1983 the final episode of the television show M*A*S*H aired, which at the time was the most watched show in television history. The final scene had Alan Alda’s character, Capt. Hawkeye Pierce, flying away from the camp in a helicopter. Once airborne, the message, spelled out in stones, became clear and brought a smile to Captain Pierce. I hope that message brings a smile to Clarke as well… GOODBYE.

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