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Society board approves new, non-CPA membership class

Colleen Lutolf and Rob Busweiler
Published Date:
Apr 12, 2016

The NYSSCPA’s Board of Directors voted on March 22 to approve a proposed change to the organization’s bylaws that, if adopted by the membership at large, would create a new membership category at the Society for individuals in other professions who work closely with CPAs, such as attorneys, actuaries and other financial professionals, but who do not hold a CPA license or work under a CPA’s supervision.

“At our last board meeting, we brought forward five different proposals, four of which this board has acted upon and are currently incorporated into either this year’s budget or [a] future year’s budget,” said Scott M. Adair, the Society’s immediate past president and chair of the Dues Restructuring Task Force. “One of them, probably the most significant one … is to have a non-CPA membership class inside of our organization.”

The NYSSCPA already has a sizeable non-CPA, associate membership base, composed of students, CPA candidates or individuals who either work for a CPA firm or for a CPA. The proposal seeks to expand the allowable criteria for associate membership so that individuals outside the direct supervision of a CPA have access to NYSSCPA membership. This new class of member would pay a membership rate of $250 annually. These individuals would be prohibited, however, from holding board or committee leadership positions and would not have voting rights. Sponsorship by a CPA member in good standing would continue to be required of all applicants.

“This really mirrors the [direction] the profession has [already] moved,” said NYSSCPA President Joseph M. Falbo Jr. at the Society’s Feb. 23 Executive Committee meeting in Buffalo, referring to the significant growth in the nonauditing practices in public firms, such as forensic accounting, business valuation and litigation support services. The Executive Committee’s approval in February paved the way for the bylaws change to come before the Society’s Board of Directors for a vote on March 22.

“One reason why we went in this direction is because it reflects the way more and more CPA firms look now,” said NYSSCPA Executive Director Joanne S. Barry at the board meeting. “There is a different kind of professional integral to CPA firm staffs now. [The new category] would make membership available to all of those other professionals who are vital to firms but who cannot be members of the organization.”

Under the proposal, non-CPA professionals with a bachelor’s degree working full time for the government; industry or nonprofits; or in financial, legal or banking services are eligible to join as associate members. Educators who are teaching accounting or accounting-related courses at an educational institution, college or university will continue to be allowed to join as associate members, as well.

“This change will not only connect us to individuals inside of firms, but to a greater length, generate additional [members] who are intertwined with the profession outside of firms as well,” Adair said.

Board member Jack F. Craven opposed the measure, saying he believed it would dilute the value of a CPA license, which is already unclear to the public, since non-CPAs are allowed to perform most of the same services CPAs do.

“I am going to vote against this,” he said. “Clearly, the room is behind this, but I just disagree with it.” Unlike attorneys or medical doctors, Craven said, CPAs compete with unlicensed accountants in all areas of practice except financial statement audits, but “the public doesn’t understand all of this.”

“I think, in some ways, we should make the CPA license more restrictive rather than less restrictive,” he said. “I just don’t see the advantage to this. The only advantage I see is the dues dollars.”

“I don’t [believe] we’re watering down the three initials,” Falbo responded. “One of the things I’m most proud about our state society—we always, always strive to meet the highest level of quality. I don’t [believe] we’ll allow these associate members any slack in that area”; to the contrary, they will be subject to our code of professional conduct, he added.

Other professional associations, such as the American Bar Association, and other CPA societies, already make available the type of associate membership category that the Society is proposing. The AICPA is also moving forward with a similar membership category for non-CPAs in management accounting.

Some NYSSCPA board members said they currently belong to these other organizations as associate members. “I’m an associate member of the Connecticut Bar Association, Bankruptcy Section,” said M. Jacob Renick. “My dues are reduced. I can attend conferences, meetings. I can’t vote, but I can buy publications at a discount.”

If the membership at large approves the proposal, the Society’s Code of Professional Conduct, which potential members must agree to abide by when they apply for membership in the NYSSCPA, will be reviewed and revisions proposed for the new category of members, Falbo said.

Because revisions to the bylaws require approval by two-thirds of a general membership vote, a proxy ballot that features the proposed change and the slate of 2016–2017 board and officer nominees has been sent to the membership (through email to those who have provided the Society with an email address and through the U.S. mail to those who have not). Read the rule change in its entirety, here.

Bylaws changes approved by the membership will go into effect immediately following the May 19, 2016, Annual Election Meeting, which this year will coincide with the NYSSCPA’s inaugural Moynihan Fund Gala in New York City. Tickets are available online, here.

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