An Update on Jane

Margaret Herriges, Communications Director

We are so lucky to have Jane. As her staff, as the members, as her friends . . . so many of us feel this way. That’s why we wanted to take a moment and give you an update to Jane’s blog post from October when she announced she had cancer.

She finished chemo and the next step was surgery. She underwent a very successful surgery recently and she will be out of the office recuperating for the next few weeks.

We are handling business as normal here at the office—missing Jane—but taking care of things and making sure your member value stays intact. And if you need to discuss is something you’d normally talk to Jane about, please don’t hesitate to contact Jean or me. We’re here for you.

If you’d like to share get well wishes with Jane, email or mail them to the office (1534 Ninth Ave, Helena 59601). We are happy to get them to her. For the next few weeks she will be healing and regaining her strength. Before we know it she’ll be back at it, answering emails and then we’ll look forward to having her in the office once again.

Thanks so much for your concern for our fearless leader. We count our blessings we have Jane as our Executive Director and we wish her all the best as she heals.

An Update from Jane

Dear Members,

Summer in Montana – you just can’t beat it. Well, maybe you can beat it with our fabulous fall. I love them both.

Jane Egan MSCPA Executive Director

Jane Egan
MSCPA Executive Director

I want to give you an update on what’s been going on this summer. As many of you know I was diagnosed with cancer in early June and missed our Annual Conference in Kalispell to have surgery. I started chemo on June 2nd and am currently on my fourth and last round scheduled to be done on October 13th. My summer and fall been consumed with fighting cancer. Another surgery will follow after chemo and then I look forward to getting back to normal – or even better!

Jean and Margaret have been keeping everything going at the office. Their help and support have made it possible for me to concentrate on treatment. I can’t thank them enough for everything they have done these past four months. Carol and Heidi have also lent a helping hand as they can.

I am working as I can (at the office and from home) and am keeping up with email so don’t hesitate to contact me.


via MSCPA – Montana Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Presidentially Speaking

It seems like yesterday that we were still all smiles after a terrific annual conference in

Brenda Byrnes, President

Brenda Byrnes
MSCPA President
2015 – 2016

Kalispell and Ann Deegan wrote her last Presidentially Speaking as she left office.  However time marches on and we find ourselves deep into my term as your new president.  I’m honored to serve as President and equally thrilled to pick up where Ann and so many terrific leaders have left off.

In 2013, Past President Paul Nisbet challenged us to consider our role for the next 100 years as an association for Montana CPAs.  The board began focusing on a continuity plan that invited our newer members of the profession to actively engage with the MSCPA and that allowed us to review what we do to provide benefits.  Then Past President Ann Deegan continued that endeavor as we developed the MSCPA strategic plan and implemented the first phase of strengthening the internal operations.

Now “no pressure” as we developed the course of action for the strategic plan to go forth this year… right?  Thankfully with the aid of our excellent staff, we saw where the path leads us.  This year is about involvement!  Involving you, our members, in making this strategic plan yours.

Before you mentally run away from the word involvement, hear me out.

Involvement in MSCPA has traditionally been through volunteering within our committee structure.  We read about other strategies and took a step back from this thinking.  You see, we completely understand how busy your schedule has been, is, and will be.   We respect that you have so many things vying for your attention and we know that the barriers that impact your involvement cannot typically be removed.  So we are proposing that we move away from meetings and conference calls that happen just because “it’s the second Tuesday of the month and we ALWAYS have a committee meeting on that day.” Instead let’s become more task oriented to accomplish the goals set forth in the strategic plan.  We are working to offer you additional, flexible alternatives to volunteering on a committee for a year or more.  We are asking you to contribute your time to a task or project with a known timeline, defined skills and targeted interests.

See here for a REAL example!  It is time to plan the 2016 CPE year.  The class selection and planning is a two-day commitment in Helena on Oct 1 and 2.  We are looking for additional volunteers to represent groups such as CPAs under age 35 who are willing to speak up about the types of training young professionals need, we are looking for input from auditors and government CPAs. Your involvement is for two days only.  No other commitment is required.  However, the impact of your involvement will be felt throughout the CPE year.

Over the course of this year we will be working with each of your current committees to inventory their ongoing projects and to see how many of their objectives could be accomplished in a new format.  This is by no means the death of committees.  In fact, I see this as a rebirth for some committees that will be free to chart their course for your benefit aided by the strategic plan.

While our Strategic Plan encompasses many projects and goals, the basic structure of it contains five main points under which our committees align:

  • Membership
    • Membership
    • Industry Group
    • Financial Reporting and Technical Standards (FRATS)
  • Sustainability
    • Future of Learning
    • Legacy Foundation
    • Audit Committee
    • Future of MSCPA
  • Connection
    • Local Chapters
    • Raising the BAR
  • Professional Excellence
    • Professional Development
    • Governmental Audit, Accounting and Financial Reporting
    • Annual Conference
    • Peer Review
    • Ethics
  • Advocacy
    • Federal Taxation
    • State Taxation
    • Legislative and Governmental Affairs

Each of our current committees fits under at least one of these strategic categories (as shown above).  Depending on the project, they may cross over into another area.

The Board, staff and I will be working with you over the course of the next year as we discuss this concept, listen to your ideas and concerns, and take inventory of what we all do.  Then our next step is to fine tune how we implement this new concept.  We’ll also be beefing up our website to accommodate a roster of volunteer opportunities and what time commitment is involved with each.   What the outcome of this phase looks like is yet to be determined but I am looking forward to working with you to create a new system that respects your capacity to volunteer, provides valuable volunteer opportunities and effectively enhances the value of your membership in MSCPA.

It’s an exciting time to be a CPA especially a MONTANA CPA. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your President this year.

Presidentially Speaking–a Goodbye from Ann Deegan

Ann Deegan, MSCPA President

Ann Deegan, MSCPA President

Time really does fly by.  This past year serving as President of MSCPA was a great experience.  When I met with Jane and Margaret to begin planning for the 2014-2015 year, I wasn’t sure what to focus on during the year.  As we talked about some of the past presidents’ plans and successful projects, the idea of reviewing our Strategic Plan, to ensure continued success of those projects, rose to the top.

So, beginning last May, the Board of Directors developed the M S C P A Strategic plan. From there, our very competent Executive Director and Society Staff focused on implementing the plan and making adjustments, with approval and guidance from the Board.  The plan has continued to evolve.

What does this all mean to you as a member? It means your society is continuously working to live up to its Tag Line—“Your Success. Our Business.”

MSCPA—It means much more than Montana Society of CPAs:

Membership:  We want MSCPA to be your professional organization throughout your career.  It is your organization; we hope you will always see the value in your membership, helping you to be successful–from Student Membership through the years to Honorary Life Membership.

Sustainability:  Maintaining a dynamic organization and ensuring our next 100 years of existence. The Legacy Foundation provided 10 student scholarships to attend the 2015 Annual Conference, paying their registration fees.  It was great to meet the students and interact with them during the conference.

Connections:  Your society strives to maintain connections with the local chapters, colleges, other professional organizations and helps you stay connected with your peers.  The Rural Chapter, for members who practice in our less populated communities, was launched this past year and is off to a great start.

Professional Excellence:  Delivering education and providing resources.  What is the Future of Learning?  How will we continue to learn and meet our CPE requirements?  And, resources—how do we continue to assist members and be a professional resource? We will continue to work on these issues to be a state society that is proactive, rather than reactive.

Advocacy:  Advance and protect the profession.  Your organization is advocating for YOU.  The 2015 Montana Legislative Session was a success in terms of bills sponsored and/or supported by our Legislative and State Tax Committees.  In May, your ACIPA council members spent time visiting the Hill in Washington DC, meeting with Representative Zinke and Senators Tester and Daines, advocating on issues important to the profession.

I feel we have accomplished a lot in a year that has truly flown by.  The plan is in place, always ready for adjustments if necessary.  I believe we are well positioned to be a viable organization for another 100 years.  With this, we will work through changes, to help us adapt to an ever evolving profession.  It is time to pass the torch to Brenda Byrnes and the 2015-2016 board.  They have some great ideas to help the MSCPA develop a new structure and new opportunities.  Stay tuned!

Mark your calendar now.  Next year’s annual meeting will be in Great Falls, June 23-24, 2016.  Don’t miss it—the proof of how much fun we had this year—it’s in the pictures!

Thank you MSCPA for a great opportunity and privilege to serve as President 2014-2015.

Your CPE tracked a new way

NASBA CPE Tracking

NASBA CPE Tracking

MSCPA is now using NASBA’s cpetracking system. NASBA’s cpetracking will automatically synchronize with the live classes and chapter events you take from the Montana Society AND it will allow you to upload certificates of attendance from webcasts and live classes you take from other vendors. It’s all online and easy to use!

Here’s how it will work on our website:

You’ll find cpetracking under the MEMBERS tab at From there you will click the link to go to NASBA cpetracking.  Once you establish an account you can log-in to see all your credits* and upload new classes/webcasts and attendance certificates. The Montana State Board sent log-ins to everyone in early May. If you have not seen this letter from the State Board please contact Grace Berger (406.841.2244)

The best part of cpetracking is that all your MSCPA credits from the past three years will automatically be uploaded* for you (these should appear by the end of June 2015). Then, going forward, all the MSCPA live classes and chapter events will automatically upload and you will only have to upload webcasts and events you don’t take from us (most webcasts listed on our site are from another provider).

What’s the advantage to you?

  1. If you are audited by the Montana Board of Public Accountants they will be able to access these records. The only thing you’ll have to do is keep your cpetracking up-to-date.
  2. You can now upload your certificates for classes taken from a provider other than MSCPA. With the old system, you still had to send those certificates to the State Board.
  3. If you already have classes uploaded into MSCPA’s CPE Tracker, those classes will automatically be transferred to NASBA cpetracking*. You may have to upload the certificates for classes not taken from MSCPA.
  4. NASBA cpetracking is free and easy to use.

Check out NASBA’s introduction video for more information and if you have questions please contact Grace Berger at the State Board or Jean Rieden at MSCPA.

*The classes you’ve taken from January 2015 to present may not be reflected on your NASBA cpetracking until the end of June.

5 Ways Web-based Meetings Improve Stakeholder Value (Beyond Saving Travel Expenses)

Closing Keynote Speaker at MSCPA's 102nd Annual Conference

Closing Keynote Speaker at MSCPA’s 102nd Annual Conference

Today’s guest post is by Roger Courville. He’s the Chief Aha! Guy at, author of The Virtual Presenter’s 102 Tips for Online Meetings, and on a mission to make his sessions at MSCPA’s 102nd Annual Conference in June the most fun you will have the entire conference.

In his brilliant book Start With Why, Simon Sinek makes a compelling case for what leading organizations do differently: They put “why” before “how” and “what.”

Professionals who create the most value for their practices with web conferencing do, too.

Let’s start with two easy assumptions:

  1. You “get it” that an online meeting can save time and money versus traveling even a short distance BUT…
  2. You know that people would still rather meet in-person.

Ironically, for a guy who teaches thousands of people to meet, train, and present online, I appreciate in-person communication too! Here’s why you’re leaving money on the table if you don’t add online meetings to your portfolio of communication tactics.

Save travel time
If you’re like most professionals your time a precious commodity. Even a short local trip, whether for you or your clients, might involve 30-60 minutes of travel. If the meeting’s an hour but that travel time is saved, it doesn’t take a scientific calculator to assess the benefit.

Increase sensory richness beyond a phone call
Most people’s learning and communicating preferences are visual and interactive.  They’re more engaged when they see you and your content and actively participate in the meeting.

Increase attentiveness
Video conferencing creates a sense of sitting-across-the-desk presence. If you worry about participants multi-tasking while on a conference call, it might be time to upgrade the experience.

Use VoIP to save audio conferencing costs
Here’s a tip your conference call provider doesn’t want you to know about: Better web conferencing vendors build in all-you-can-eat VoIP (voice over internet protocol). For many professionals this alone saves them more than the web conferencing subscription price.

Improve interpersonal connectedness and trust
Conference calls are obviously audio-only. Being able to see one another (with video conferencing) and share, present, and collaborate visually (seeing a computer desktop with web conferencing) enable natural interactions and trust.

The bottom line
To suggest that online meetings and webinars should replace in-person meetings would be irresponsible. Ignoring them, though, is a missed opportunity.

Now that you have a few more “whys” for online meetings, be sure to come to the Annual Conference in June for an action-packed breakout session of “hows!” with me. See you in Kalispell!

Tax Simplification and Senate Bill 171

By George Olsen, CPA-Retired
MSCPA Legislative Committee Chair

The following was written as an OpEd piece in response to an article published in the Helena Independent Record by Charles Johnson.

I want to thank Charles Johnson on his recent article about the tax simplification bill (SB171)

George Olsen, MSCPA Legislative Committee Chair

George Olsen, MSCPA Legislative Committee Chair

brought by Senator Bruce Tutvedt.  There are some points in this legislation that I think the public needs to better understand.

There are three important elements of simplification included in this proposed legislation:

    1. Montana income tax returns would start with Federal taxable income and use the same filing status as the Federal return. Currently Montana has nearly 50 separate line items that are additions to or reductions in Federal income to arrive at Montana taxable income that are explained in nearly 48 pages of instructions for just Montana returns.
    2. The bill includes the higher Federal personal exemption of $3,950 (for 2014) to replace the Montana exemption of $2,330 and Federal standard deduction of $12,400 compared to the maximum Montana standard deduction of $8,740. The result is a lower taxable income than under current Montana law particularly for those taxpayers who use the standard deduction. There are a few required additions to and deductions from that lower income but much fewer than presently. So under this proposed legislation the new income tax form would be reduced from the current four pages to just one or two. A separate form for itemized deductions for Montana will also be eliminated since the Federal itemized deductions are already used.
    3. This bill would introduce separate tax rate brackets for married taxpayers filing jointly, head of household and single or married filing separately. The new head of household rate bracket allows single parents or others qualifying as a head of household—like a grandparent raising a grandchild—a lower tax rate than the current one size fits all rate bracket. In fact, if the new law had been in effect in 2014 a single parent with one dependent would not pay tax on about $17,000 while under current Montana law that person would pay about $180 in tax. On incomes above that amount a single parent would pay less tax under the head of household tax rates than under the current single bracket. They would likely pay tax in the 6% bracket currently while the proposed bill would lower the rate to 4.7%. Montanans with lower incomes would see a reduction in their tax.

Some are concerned that the amendments to the bill in the House Tax Committee made the bill more complicated and defeats the goal of simplification.  The key elements of simplification are still intact under the amended bill: starting with Federal taxable income and using the same filing status as the Federal income tax return. Changes in the rates and brackets do not complicate the tax return.  They only change the numbers used to calculate tax.  Restoring some of the credits does seem to complicate the process but that only complicates the process for those limited taxpayers who use the credits.

The Montana Society of Certified Public Accountants believes that the current amended bill still gives Montana taxpayers much needed simplification of the preparation of their state income tax returns.  We encourage the Legislature and the Governor to give the Montana taxpayer the ease of preparation they deserve.

So why would MSCPA, an organization of Certified Public Accountants, be in favor of tax simplification? It’s simple: tax simplification is good for our economy. It’s good for the people and businesses of Montana.

Governor Signs MSCPA Legislative Priorities Into Law

By Jane Egan

We thank Governor Bullock and members of the Legislature for these important laws for our profession.

Jane Egan MSCPA Executive Director

Jane Egan
MSCPA Executive Director

HB 44 changes Montana from a two-tier license (certificate and then license to practice) to a one-tier (license only – no interim certificate). Currently, Montana is a two-tier licensing state. Tier one you receive a certificate once you have passed the exam, obtained your education hours and passed the ethics test. You cannot practice as a CPA with a certificate only. Once you obtain your experience, you reach tier two and receive your license to practice and can hold yourself out as a CPA.  (Sponsored by Rep. Tom Berry)

This bill will eliminate the issuance of the certificate. Candidates will pass the Uniform CPA exam, obtain the required education hours, pass the Ethics exam and gain the required experience hours to obtain a license to practice as a CPA.

The Board of Public Accountants has posted guidance for complying with this new law:

HB 184 exempts CPAs from obtaining a private investigator license when they are engaged in activities relating to the practice of accounting. (Sponsored by Rep. Greg Hertz, CPA and MSCPA member)

SB 39 generally revises patent and copyright trolling laws by prohibiting bad faith assertions of patent infringements. SB 39 will force patent trolls to alter their typical business model and remove some of the financial incentive to assert dubious patent infringement assertions. This will in no way limit legitimate patent claims.  (Sponsored by Sen. Cary Smith)

We also thank our members who testified: George Olsen, Dan Vuckovich, Gary Carlson, John Steinhoff, Keegan Witt, Ann Deegan, Seth Blades

Our other priorities are moving forward as of today:

HB 379 lowers the tax statute of limitations on individuals, sole proprietors and partnerships to 3 years (currently 5 years) and accomplishes two goals regarding penalties and interest provisions. First, it treats taxpayers who are trying to comply with Montana’s tax code more fairly by reducing penalty and interest provisions. Second, HB 379 imposes additional penalties on bad actors who are trying to game the system.  Current Montana law treats bad actors the same as those that are trying to comply with the law. The provisions in the bill are designed to help law-abiding Montanans.

HB 560 will allow the Board of Public Accountants to change their fund structure from an appropriation to an enterprise fund in order to have more control over how they spend the funds they bring in from license fees.

SB 171 is Senator Bruce Tutvedt’s tax simplification bill which we support and have worked on for a number of years. The House Taxation committee amended the bill Tuesday to include a tax cut which makes this bill the only remaining vehicle for tax relief. Our goal – tax simplification – is accomplished by starting your Montana return with federal taxable income and filing in Montana the same as you file federally.

SB 386 is DOR’s bill to simplify pass through entity tax provisions and will eliminate the PT-STM form for most filers.

The Legislative Session’s 90th day is May 1st. Legislators may adjourn early if they finish their business. Stay tuned for an end of session update.

An Award Winning CPA

Last week was awesome! The 6th Industry and Financial Professionals Conference was held in Helena and we had 80 attendees.  Who comes to this conference? The attendees exemplify our “BING” acronym working in all non-public areas of the profession: business, industry, nonprofit and government. It’s a really unique conference for these folks–a chance to network and connect with peers and attend classes chosen by industry professionals for industry professionals.

One of the most significant events at the Industry Conference is the presentation of the Outstanding CPA in Industry Award. The MSCPA Outstanding CPA in Business and Industry Award recognizes the achievements of individual CPAs employed in the non-public arena. The 2015 award was presented to Craig Stahlberg at this year’s conference by his friends, fellow Missoulians and past recipients of this award, Craig Birgenheier and Reidun Johnston.

2015 Outstanding Industry CPA

2015 Outstanding Industry CPA

Craig Stahlberg is the Vice-President of Finance at PayneWest Insurance, Missoula. Craig entered the insurance industry in 1988 as Controller for Western States Insurance. Over the past twenty-six years Craig received numerous promotions including Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, and later, Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer.  Effective November 1, 2012 he became co-CFO and then Vice President of Finance for PayneWest Insurance, one of the fifteen largest independently owned insurance agencies in the country.

Craig has been an active member of the MSCPA Industry Group since its beginning, helping facilitate the growth of the conference and participation by his wealth of knowledge, insight into the profession and contributions to the group. As the “Salary Survey King” he is instrumental in developing and encouraging participation in this valuable tool that we all use and benefit from in our duties.

Congratulations Craig Stahlberg on being named the 2015 Outstanding CPA in Industry! And our immense respect and pride for the contributions BING members make to our economy and the accounting profession.