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Reconsider CPE Requirements for Retired CPAs

Ann S. Bradburd, CPA

I enjoyed Joanne Barry's column, “New York's Seven-Year Itch” (September 2016). She wrote that the staff and leadership of the NYSSCPA are considering other initiatives that would update professional practices, including clarifying CPE provisions, among which she included “those that require retired CPAs to earn annual CPE in order to act in any advisory capacity on nonprofit boards.”

I am currently serving on the board of a local nonprofit organization with no staff. As the treasurer, I participate in preparing the budget, pay the approved bills, keep the financial records, prepare board reports, and prepare the Form 990 and CHAR500 filings. The organization is a land trust, and so there are some special issues relating to conservation donations that affect us.

Professionally, I am essentially retired; I only work a few hours a week for clients of long standing. My firm is still paying for my license, registration, professional memberships, and the expenses of my 24 hours of CPE. Once I am fully retired, my employer is less likely to want to pay my professional expenses, especially as I will surely move away.

When my husband and I leave upstate New York, I obviously won't serve on the board of the land trust any longer. But I am troubled by the thought that for the rest of my life, my ability to serve on a board and provide even practical advice (even basic recordkeeping) would come at a cost of hundreds of dollars a year. It seems a waste of experience to establish barriers to service.

The need is great. According to Guidestar, there are 114 charitable organizations in Potsdam, New York, alone. The population of Potsdam is about 10,000 people, but it is a college town; the big organizations are the local universities and various health-related organizations. The little ones are listed with zero income and may not be active, and there are lots of other organizations in the middle. Some are chapters of larger organizations and have places to go for advice, but many organizations do not. There is an enormous need for knowledgeable people to participate in such organizations. The CPE regulations have the effect of restricting participation on nonprofit boards to the people who are busiest or the most financially comfortable.

Maybe there is some more creative way to encourage retired CPAs to stay current—perhaps setting a modest requirement that can be met from a variety of sources, for example, a webinar conducted by an umbrella organization to benefit board members of smaller organizations.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my opinion.

Ann S. Bradburd, CPA. Potsdam, N.Y.

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