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Defining the New Normal for CPAs

Joanne S. Barry, CAE

These are extraordinary times with extraordinary challenges. We fear for our safety and the safety of those we love, for the stability of our country and our world, and for what we will ultimately see when we reach the other side of this crisis—not just as professionals, but also as people and as a civilization.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to major economic disruption that CPAs have been witnessing firsthand. Clients are watching their cash flows drop or dry up completely; some have filed their taxes only to see their businesses close shortly after. This turmoil has many professionals questioning how business failures might impact their own cash flows. Even the largest firms are preparing for painful times, to say nothing of smaller practitioners who don't have a large capital cushion.

In these trying times, the NYSSCPA is doing, as it has always done, everything it can to assist our members. We have been working tirelessly with our contacts on the federal, state, and city levels to provide relief for our members, their clients, and their businesses.

We pushed to get the federal tax deadline extended, having petitioned the New York congressional delegation as part of a national outreach. We repeated that process to seek guidance and clarification when many questions were left unanswered. Through persistent outreach to Gov. Cuomo and the Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF), the NYSSCPA helped secure an extension to the state tax deadline. We continue to work on more than 24 related filing extensions and additional guidance on the state level, and we are working with the AICPA on federal issues.

The Society has continued advocating to both the governor and the DTF for the state to accept electronic signatures for tax filings. We have pressed Albany on this issue for years, but this issue is even more relevant in this time of social distancing; we have therefore urged Gov. Cuomo to use his authority to at least temporarily suspend the requirement that tax preparers obtain a “wet signature” on an e-file authorization form when filing a New York State tax return on behalf of a client.

The NYSSCPA has also marshaled our members' skills and experience to create a Pandemic Issues Task Force to keep us informed of the magnitude of these issues and to lend its expertise in resolving them. We have appointed nine volunteer subject matter experts to this task force, whose work goes beyond tax deadlines to issues that impact the not-for-profit community, audit practices, peer review, and the CPA exam.

Recognizing the massive logistical challenge of distributing aid to the millions of small businesses threatened by the pandemic, we have joined with the AICPA in an early attempt to leverage existing payroll processors to ensure easier direct access to those funds. We outlined this plan in letters to Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, and Congressman Thomas Suozzi, a member of the Congressional CPA Caucus.

Throughout the pandemic, we will continue to work closely with the AICPA to keep you informed on the latest developments and guidance for businesses, both your clients' and your own. You can find resources and articles on what you need to know on our information and updates page (http://nysscpa.org/covid19). Most recently, we have posted guidance that clarifies a number of uncertainties in the CARES Act, such as applying for the new Paycheck Protection Program, clarity for CPAs acting as agents, and a CARES Act Stimulus Calculator. The website has the most up-to-date resources for our members.

The NYSSCPA will continue to advocate for our members and provide them the practical support they need to help themselves and their clients weather this crisis and adapt to these changing circumstances. We are already providing free CPE sessions on timely issues, analyzing the new laws and regulations, and providing a connection to the wider community through our social media platforms. Please let us know what further support you need.

Firms are already adding to the services they provide their clients, helping with small business loans, grants, and unemployment issues. Clients always turn to their CPAs in tough times. But even in this unprecedented crisis, there are opportunities to help clients in ways that will make them clients for life. We will do our best to prepare you to serve them in these new ways.

When the world finally emerges from this challenge, we will be there to guide you into this new future—one with new technology, new business assumptions, new rules and regulations, and new clients who will need their CPAs to help them understand it all. Those businesses that can adapt to these changes will find opportunities to grow and thrive.

These are uncertain times, and your clients need, now more than ever, the stability and peace of mind that is the CPA hallmark of this trusted profession. Providing sound guidance will be a pointed expression of the value CPAs bring to our clients.

The NYSSCPA will be by your side through these difficult times, as it always has been. That is our pledge. That is our promise. Together, as one united community of professionals, we will get through this.

Joanne S. Barry, CAE. Publisher, The CPA Journal, Executive Director & CEO, NYSSCPA.

 
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