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Law's Anniversary Is Quiet Reminder to Get It Right

Joanne S. Barry

July 26, 2010, marked the one-year anniversary of the enactment of New York's historical accountancy reform law. The law has ushered in a sea change in the profession in New York State by requiring all New York–licensed CPAs to register with the New York State Education Department (SED). According to SED figures, there are approximately 7,000 more registered CPAs in New York State now than there were on April 1, 2009. But not all of them may be in compliance with the new law. Not only must all New York–licensed CPAs be registered, but they must also complete an annual requirement of continuing professional education.

Most of the thousands of CPAs who reactivated their registration with the SED within the past year were likely doing so because they wanted to comply with the new law. Nevertheless, New York–licensed CPAs who have still not earned the required annual CPE credits—24 credits in a concentration or 40 credits in any subject area—are not just failing to comply with the law. They are also forgoing learning and networking opportunities that can help them maintain a high level of competence, increase job performance and job offers, and improve confidence in their professional abilities.

CPAs are lifelong learners, and earning CPE makes you a better CPA.

I think of NYSSCPA member Philip P. Goodkin, who, at 98 years old, is the longest practicing CPA in New York State. He works on trusts and estates in a New York City public accounting firm, so of course he is registered. (CPAs in public firms have had to register long before the new accountancy reform law went into effect.) But knowing that Goodkin earns his continuing professional education at 98 years of age is inspiring. He recently told The Trusted Professional, the NYSSCPA's newspaper, “I don't think I could ever retire. I have too much fun here doing this” (“New York's Longest-Serving CPA Honored,” July 15, 2010). He was at work when he said it.

Goodkin knows the value of the CPA license. In 1931, during the Great Depression, he began working for his brother, also a CPA, earning 25 cents a day—enough for lunch, transportation to and from work, and not much else. He went to school at night to earn his degree and continued working while studying for the CPA exam. He became licensed in 1938.

CPE is not inexpensive. And 10- to 12hour days are not unusual for CPAs, wherever they may provide services—in our colleges and universities, municipalities, nonprofits, corporations, or in public firms. Finding the time to dedicate to continuing education may not always be easy, but many vehicles, including online CPE courses, allow licensees to schedule their CPE whenever it is convenient for them. Professional associations often make CPE available to members at a discount. So, the opportunities are there and the investment is worth it. Most CPAs believe that. It's not only about compliance with the law; it's that they love the work they do every day and they want to do that work more competently.

That is why it is imperative that all New York–licensed CPAs not only understand the regulations that were adopted in December, but also prepare for the competency requirements for supervising attest services that take effect in January of next year and the quality review requirements currently being deliberated in Albany that will become effective January 1, 2012.

As Goodkin told The Trusted Professional, “It's up to us to see that we do it right…because that's our job.”

CPE is required by law because of the benefits that you, your employers, students, clients, and the public receive when a CPA is active and current in the profession. CPAs are lifelong learners, and earning CPE makes you a better CPA.

Joanne S. Barry. Publisher. The CPA Journal, Executive Director, NYSSCPA, jbarry@nysscpa.org.

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