The past couple of weeks have been extraordinary, and though they won’t be the last extraordinary weeks we’ll face during this crisis, I wanted to take a few moments to give you an update on what your professional association has been doing on your behalf.
On Friday, March 13, all members of the MACPA team took their laptops home and became a fully remote workforce. With our completely cloud-based systems and our remote / flex policy, we have not missed a beat in keeping up with our work.
We are working with our committees and other volunteers to reschedule and reimagine our live events. We are also working on forecast and contingency plans for our business model. One bright spot: Our e-learning capability is fully up and running, and we ran a free COVID-19 webcast to more than 4,000 people last week without a hitch.
Last week was extraordinary for other reasons as well. The General Assembly ended its 2020 session early on Wednesday, March 18 — the first time that has happened since the Civil War. And our members became frustrated when they heard that officials had extended the federal and state tax payment deadlines without also extending the tax filing deadlines.
That kickstarted another round of MACPA advocacy. Our staff and members targeted the Treasury Department, the IRS, and even in the Senate for relief, which was ultimately granted. Both of our Maryland senators helped in writing letters to Treasury and signed onto a bill in Congress. Our efforts were appreciated by our members and recognized in two national publications, Accounting Today and Kiplinger.
Then, on Friday, March 20, I had a call with my fellow CEOs at state CPA societies across the country and heard stories of several states in which all residents have been ordered to stay home; the only exemptions were essential life-saving personnel. In those states, the CPA associations were asked to appeal to their governors to allow limited access to CPAs’ offices to keep that work moving. Those associations encountered long “lines” of other businesses that were making the same arguments, and they expected weeks of delays to get an answer.
That prompted us to use our anticipation skills and try to get in front of this issue, even before it was announced in Maryland.
So we did some research into how other states decide which personnel beyond “essential life-saving services” would be allowed into their offices at reduced capacity. We found that our profession is part of the “16 Essential Critical Infrastructure Sectors” designated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
We decided to make our case. We also offered our assistance to help the state of Maryland with assistance in communicating and implementing relief.
On Saturday, March 21, with help from MACPA Technical Services and Regulatory Affairs Director Mary Beth Halpern and a quick consult with our lobbyist, we sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan and copied Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz and Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson. We expect both of them will be involved in the governor’s decision.
Here is a very short summary of our request, which has been acknowledged (but not granted yet) by Secretary Shulz:
I am writing in anticipation of increased measures to protect the citizens of Maryland, which might include an order to close the physical locations of all non-life-sustaining businesses in Maryland.
I am hereby requesting that Maryland’s Certified Public Accounting Profession be included in the list of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce exceptions and be allowed to go to their physical offices when needed — maintaining the social distance guidelines (less than 50 percent capacity) when in their offices.
CPAs are essential to the U.S. economy as we work on compliance with federal and state tax and financial reporting requirements. CPAs are essential for the preparation of taxes, audits, and financial reports for business financing and loans, projections, and contingency planning for businesses.
The MACPA’s team held our first all-virtual team meeting on March 20, and morale is high. They are working hard to keep up with developments in this rapidly changing environment.
Stay safe and healthy. We will update you as developments warrant.