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Our Collective Voice Gets a Caucus

Joanne S. Barry

In my July 2010 column, I asked if there was “a CPA in the House,” rhetorically referring to a House of Representatives bill that would have required the U.S. comptroller general, the Government Accountability Office (GAO)'s top officeholder, to be a CPA. But I now have a literal answer to that rhetorical question: There is indeed a CPA in the House—in fact, there are eight of them. On February 9, 2011, they formed the Congressional CPA Caucus, composed of six Republicans and two Democrats. This type of CPA leadership is long overdue.

Cochaired by Representatives Brad Sherman (D–Calif.) and Michael Conaway (R–Tex.), the caucus defines itself as “an informal, bipartisan group” whose mission is to discuss and formulate “innovative policy approaches to the issues affecting CPAs, including tax administration and compliance, and accounting and auditing standards”—but the perspective this caucus will bring to federal fiscal and budgetary issues goes far beyond that. Sherman and Conaway formed the caucus after three more CPAs—Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), James Renacci (R-Ohio), and Bill Flores (R-Tex.)—joined the House as a result of the November 2010 midterm elections. During a recent interview with the NYSSCPA's newspaper, The Trusted Professional, Sherman said that the caucus will also provide CPA insight to lawmakers on the importance of the accounting profession to American business. The caucus is even engaging in talks with several senators to see if there is interest in making the group bicameral.

These members of Congress recognize the value their CPA licenses bring to fiscal and budgetary matters, and through their efforts, I'm hopeful that their fellow lawmakers will too.

Time to Speak Up

These members of Congress recognize the value their CPA licenses bring to fiscal and budgetary matters, and through their efforts, I'm hopeful that their fellow lawmakers will too. How often has Congress passed hastily drafted tax legislation, leading the IRS to then issue unworkable rules that contradict existing tax law or require immediate implementation without enough time for tax preparers to address the relevant issues? How many tax dollars could have been saved if the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's Form 1099 reporting provision, which most lawmakers and President Obama support repealing, was never included in the bill in the first place? The Congressional Budget Office is a federal agency charged with reviewing congressional budgets and other legislative initiatives with budgetary implications, but I cannot overstate the value of what Conaway calls the “unique education and experience” that the CPA lawmakers themselves bring to drafting legislations.

In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama called for a simplified tax code and an overhaul of corporate taxation rules. The iron is hot—CPAs are experts in this subject and CPA caucus members are in House committee positions that complement that expertise. Conaway, formerly of Price Waterhouse & Co., serves as deputy Republican whip and supports a simpler and fairer tax system. Sherman was a tax law specialist prior to joining Congress in 1997 and is now a senior member of the Financial Services Committee. Rounding out the caucus are Representatives John Campbell (R-Calif.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), and Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.). Among them are additional members of the Financial Services Committee, as well as Ways and Means Committee and Budget Committee members.

Throughout the year, in this column and in discussions with NYSSCPA members around the state, I've talked about the power of a collective voice and how the NYSSCPA leverages that power for its more than 28,000 New York CPAs with federal, state, and local regulators and lawmakers. Sherman and Conaway, a Republican and Democrat working together, recognized the power of a collective CPA voice, leading to the formation of this caucus. All CPAs speak a common language that only those with the same “unique education and experience” can understand. As a professional membership association, the NYSSCPA uses its collective voice to weigh in on important issues affecting the profession—but it is invaluable to have a group of lawmakers that understands that voice. I look forward to working with the CPA caucus and with you, our members, to define the message we bring to them.

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

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