People call them "tax experts," "financial consultants," and "trusted business advisors."
The most important role CPAs play, though, might be "legislative watchdog."
Think about the ways in which the profession has changed over the past 10 years, starting with the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Before 2002, CPAs took pride in the fact that theirs was largely a self-regulated profession.
Since then, it seems as though the profession has been regulated by almost everyone except CPAs.
That’s where advocacy comes in. Protecting the profession today means raising your voices. When state and federal legislators start throwing ideas around the room, that's an absolute necessity.
CPA Day in Annapolis was Exhibit A. With a record number of MACPA members on hand, that message echoed throughout the capital over and over again.
- Ask Anthony Brown. Maryland's lieutenant governor, pictured, stopped by CPA Day with a bit of good news: Lawmakers are unlikely to consider sales taxes on CPA services in their next budget. He followed that up by praising CPAs for being the profession's squeaky wheel. Laws enacted by uninformed lawmakers tend to have nasty unintended consequences. Educating those lawmakers protects more than just CPAs, Brown said – it protects CPAs' clients and the public at large.
- Ask George Manis, a longtime lobbyist and friend of the profession. The MACPA honored the founder of Manis, Canning and Associates for his decades of work in Annapolis on behalf Maryland CPAs, and he echoed Brown’s thoughts. “If we could organize CPAs and turn them loose (on the legislative front), there’s nobody who could take them on,” Manis said.
- Ask Karen Syrylo. One of our more active members, she also took home MACPA honors from CPA Day in recognition of her nearly 30 years of advocacy on the state legislative front. She’s passionate, she’s committed, and she effects real change each time she speaks with a legislator or testifies in Annapolis.
Now imagine: How strong would our profession become if thousands of CPAs – not dozens or even hundreds, but thousands – found that same passion and commitment.
Thousands of Karen Syrylos – now that’s a legislative advocate’s dream come true!
The dizzying pace of legislative and regulatory change won’t slow down anytime soon. As governments deal with economic woes, debt, and (potentially) tax reform, we’ll see more and more legislators take a stab at financial issues without having all the facts – and a greater need for CPAs to raise their voices.
It’s your choice, folks. You can help determine the profession’s future … or you can let politicians determine it for you.
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