Presidentially Speaking — We Count Our Blessings

by Ann Deegan, President
Summers McNea, Billings

MSCPA President Ann Deegan

MSCPA President Ann Deegan

Hard to believe it is November, that time of year when we count our many blessings.   Like most, I count my family and friends among those blessings.  Anyone who knows me knows I have a lot of family to be thankful for, the gathering of which requires the rental of a hall to host Thanksgiving Dinner!

My work family (with whom I spend more time than anyone, especially during tax season) is also included among my blessings. Summers-McNea is a fun group of professionals to work with.  We occasionally find ourselves sharing stories, that only those with “accounting humor” can appreciate.  The office Christmas parties and open houses, almost always include a story or two from Leroy and Mel about “tax seasons past”.  Working those long hours is easier to manage, when you work with people you can share with–laughs, as well as the struggles that we all face along life’s journey.

I am also thankful for all the great people I have met from across the state at the MSCPA Annual Meetings, especially those I have gotten to know better through the years while serving on committees and the MSCPA board.  The Board travels to different cities around the state to hold our quarterly board meetings and while we work hard to accomplish the business at hand, we have some time after meetings to get acquainted personally as we share dinner and drinks . . . and stories.  Any past board member will tell you that it is a great experience to be a board member and meet CPAs from across the state.  We become friends as well as colleagues. We look forward to the Annual Meeting, to hear about the latest developments in our profession, to have the opportunity to participate and share view points on emerging issues, and to catch up personally and professionally.

If you have ever considered serving on the MSCPA Board of Directors—NOW IS THE TIME.  For all of us as professionals, it is time well spent. There are many benefits associated with connections made and knowledge acquired.  For firms and employers, it is a great investment in your employees and your future.  Like anything, we get out of it what we put into it.  If we don’t think it is important enough to make time to advocate for ourselves and our profession—who will?

Jump in and be a part of the future of accounting in Montana, as we continue to work through the ever-changing business world and the role of the CPA.

Learn more about the time commitment and expectations of Board Service and submit your application by November 25th.


by Becky Turner, CPA, CGMA
Glacier Bancorp

Becky Turner, CPA, CGMA

Becky Turner, CPA, CGMA

As with any organization, the support by and work done within the volunteer committees makes the biggest impact on the success and longevity of that organization.  The same is true at MSCPA!  While they are absolutely AMAZING, the Board and MSCPA staff could not possibly shoulder all of the work done by each of the Committees.

I have been a member of the Professional Development Committee since 2009.  I have known Jean (Rieden) since I was a kiddo and I had only been part of the Society for about a year when she—let’s be honest here—may have strong-armed me to consider joining the Professional Development Committee.  Jean knew I couldn’t possibly say no to her; she didn’t even have to threaten, “Don’t make me call your mother”.

At the time I joined, the Professional Development Committee needed some diversification in ‘years of experience’ within their ranks, and was in desperate need of Industry representation. Fortunately, I fit the bill! Being a typical CPA, i.e. introvert, this group provides me a networking opportunity with CPAs around the state.  The diversity of the group is an added bonus; we have a great mix of public practice, representing both tax and audit and industry individuals from a variety of businesses and positions. Being on the Professional Development Committee allows me to impact the courses provided in a given year, meaning I can help ‘steer’ the course offerings to the needs for my particular job, experience level or training needs of my department/company.

MSCPA provides accessible, affordable, professional development courses to meet a particular learning style. While webinars, self-study, and online courses are prevalent, we offer a service to our members that respond best in a live, in-person learning environment.  We also have the ability to provide specialized courses for Montana-specific issues, such as tax and employment matters.  In fact, stay tuned for a new series of webinars based solely on Montana issues, provided by experts in those areas!

Membership and involvement in the MSCPA and on their Committees shows how much my employer, Glacier Bancorp, Inc., stands behind their employees, helping us grow in our positions by maintaining our certifications, encouraging professional development courses and networking with fellow CPAs. This is at a relatively small cost to the bank; my involvement on the Professional Development Committee takes me out of my office for three days a year (including Leadership Day), we have two one-hour conference calls in the fall and I field a few emails during course scheduling.  The time and impact this has on my work and Glacier Bancorp is minimal, yet offers BIG returns and personal accomplishment.

Being involved on MSCPA Committees is my way of showing commitment to furthering the CPA profession and Society. It is a great networking opportunity while supporting the Society in their mission to help all of us achieve professional excellence.  The Professional Development Committee is always recruiting new members . . . (hint, hint).  We are currently seeking members to help with our diversification in ‘years of experience’ and BING representation.

Based on my committee experience, I would recommend every member consider serving a term on one of the Committees. It will make the biggest impact on the success and longevity on both your career and the value MSCPA continues to offer.

If you are interested in joining the Professional Development Committee, or any of MSCPA’s committees, please check them out on our website and contact the Society Staff for more information, 800.272.0307.

Becky Turner is a Vice-President and Internal Auditor for Glacier Bancorp in Bozeman, MT. She has been a member of MSCPA since 2008 and also serves as a member of the Industry Group and the Future of Learning Task Force.

Presidentially Speaking

MSCPA President Ann Deegan

MSCPA President Ann Deegan

by Ann Deegan, MSCPA President

I recently attended my first “official” AICPA Council meeting as President of MSCPA, a great opportunity that comes with serving as your MSCPA President.

During the council meetings we heard a lot of updates from AICPA staff & task force leaders who are addressing some of the many issues & challenges facing our profession.

I want to touch on one of the issues that is currently at the forefront–“Raising the Profession’s Quality Factor”. Jane & I attended a breakout session on this issue.  These breakout sessions are a great way to talk with professionals from across the country and from firms of various sizes & areas of practice, in small round-table discussion format.

The Peer Review program has been around for over 30 years. It is currently facing some tough questions related to the effectiveness of the program, as our profession is being challenged on the quality of audits being performed.  Audit standard complexity is creating application challenges.  I think most of us agree, if we don’t do a good job of self-monitoring, we will ultimately be subject to more government monitoring.

Unfortunately, one of the toughest challenges comes from those who don’t accurately complete their engagement reporting form, thus they are not being reviewed on some of their high-risk engagements. The system doesn’t work if the participants are not playing by the rules.

A lot of discussions centered on various problems participants have been seeing. The ACIPA Task Force is now faced with proposing possible solutions to those problems.  One topic that came up repeatedly is the need for better communication between the Peer Reviewers & the State Boards of Accountants.

Stay tuned—this issue is going to continue to be at the forefront of AICPA discussions as we all continue to Strive for Quality in the Profession. To quote one of our conference speakers, “There are risks & costs to action, but far less than the cost of comfortable inaction.”

Submit comments about the EAQ discussion paper by Nov 7th to

The Future of Learning in Montana

by Joshua Herbold, PhD, CPA, University of Montana
MSCPA Board of Directors and Future of Learning Task Force Chair

Josh Herbold, MSCPA Future of Learning Task Force Chair

Josh Herbold, MSCPA Future of Learning Task Force Chair

Where does real learning happen? According to a recent survey of MSCPA members, over 77% of Montana accounting ninjas (thanks to Craig Birgenheier’s recent blog post, I will henceforth be referring to CPAs as accounting ninjas) say that they do not have a comprehensive learning plan for their professional development. Furthermore, when we asked these accounting ninjas what they do when they need to learn something, the top three responses (personal research, asking colleagues, and internet searches) were items where the “learning” isn’t reflected in our traditional model of CPE.

We all see the changes that are taking place in the world around us, and many feel that the pace of this change is increasing. “Continuing Professional Education” needs to be about maintaining and improving competency in this ever-changing world. Montana was one of the first states to recognize the need for continuous education, and that need is even more pressing today. But the way that “education” is currently measured has limitations.

Specifically, the current CPE model only measures one input to education: hours spent in a class. But inputs to a system do not always lead to the expected outputs. While traditional CPE courses can, and usually do, lead to some learning and knowledge, that link is not guaranteed, nor is the knowledge gained consistent across learners. One person might struggle for days to learn a concept that another person masters in just a few hours. If both people have gained the same knowledge and the same competency, should the credit that they earn for their work be similar or different?

A related issue is that different people learn in different ways. Research has identified at least four to seven different learning styles—and one study claims that there are 70 different learning styles! While learners are not limited to a single learning style (the researcher in me suspects that many of us tend to lean towards a mix of two or three different styles), the evidence suggests that there are demonstrable differences in how we learn. For example, verbal learners and social learners will both gain some knowledge from an online self-study course, but it will likely not be the same knowledge.

We propose that knowledge and learning can be measured in different ways. The current model for traditional CPE is one way to measure knowledge. But it’s not the only way. Does “learning” need to take place in formal, one-hour classes? Or can a series of 10-minute podcasts provide the same (or better) knowledge? If you’ve researched a topic on your own, have you learned anything? If you’ve identified a weakness in your own competencies and addressed it, have you continued your professional education?

To address these issues, the MSCPA has formed the Future of Learning Task Force. The task force met earlier this year, and developed the following mission statement:

The purpose of the Future of Learning Task Force is to enhance, expand, and improve the availability of professional learning opportunities for Montana CPAs. This task force will encourage Montana CPAs to personalize their professional learning by:

  1. Providing resources to help CPAs efficiently plan their professional learning path.
  2. Exploring alternative ways of measuring learning.
  3. Facilitating the approval of credit for innovative and experimental learning opportunities.

We’re not alone in our desire to enhance the profession’s options for learning. Other states have started these discussions (for example, the Maryland State Board of Public Accountancy recently approved 10-minute CPE increments. The AICPA also just released their own “Future of Learning” report.

Just as the businesses that we serve strive to be flexible in order to respond to changes in their environment, we need to be flexible and respond to changes in our environment. Through the Future of Learning Task Force, we hope to supplement the current model of CPE so that accounting ninjas can better match their learning needs to the available learning opportunities. If you have any suggestions for the task force, please feel free to email me at

Who is YOUR inspiration?

by Margaret Herriges, MSCPA Communications Director

Herriges Margaret 2014I love talking to our members. You have this wonderful ability to acknowledge the people who have influenced you and played a part in your success story. I often think back to the wonderful speeches we hear each year at awards time. The Rick Reisigs (DSA ’14) of the world thanking the Tony DiLellos (DSA ’03)and Bob Bronsons (DSA ’09) for the impact they made on their careers; the Dwaine Iversons (DSA ’13) who credit the old guard for making this profession what it is today; the Lowell Duffners (DSA ’11) who encourage their peers to be involved in their communities and their profession; and the Reidun Johnstons (Outstanding CPA in Industry ’14) and Julie Kostelckys (Young CPA ’12) who are forging new ground in the accounting profession.

These speeches are really special memories for me, but they lead me to a question for you: Who has influenced your career? Is there someone who has made a big impact on you, on your community, on the accounting profession? If the answer is yes, it’s time to thank this person and acknowledge their contributions by nominating them for a special recognition award.

MSCPA is proud to recognize the influencers of Montana’s accounting profession. Each year we open nominations for:

Each of these honors are designed to recognize the contributions of CPAs who make a difference in the lives of the people around them. Each award has different criteria to distinguish the impact these professionals make.

Nominations are open for these awards and we hope you’ll take the opportunity to thank the people who have positively influenced your career by submitting their name. Nominations are easy and MSCPA staff is always happy to help you with dates and service records, just be sure to complete nominations by December 19, 2014.

You are all an inspiration to us here at MSCPA. We look forward to receiving your nominations and if you need more information about an award, please don’t hesitate to contact me because truly, I love talking to our members.

Tax Simplification Explained

George Olsen, MSCPA Legislative Committee Chair, has been asked to represent MSCPA’s tax simplification efforts on Montana Public Radio on Friday, October 17th, during the 5:30 pm newscast. The following is a copy of his speech.  Listen for George on your local public radio station on Friday between 5:30 – 6:00 pm.  And watch for more news about our tax simplification efforts throughout the upcoming months.
George Olsen, MSCPA Legislative Committee Chair

George Olsen, MSCPA Legislative Committee Chair

Hello. This is George Olsen, a Helena CPA, representing the Montana Society of Certified Public Accountants.

The Montana Society of CPAs believes that the current Montana income tax system is unnecessarily complicated and burdensome. Simplifying the process will enable Montana taxpayers to more easily comply with the law.  This may sound crazy from people in the tax preparation business but we think that simplification is good for all taxpayers.

During the 2013 session, the Legislature passed an income tax simplification bill that was ultimately vetoed by the Governor. At least one legislator has indicated that he will again introduce an income tax simplification bill in the upcoming session.

Two important elements of simplification in the bill are that the calculation of Montana income tax will begin with the taxable income from the Federal income tax return and the filing status will be the same as the Federal return. Montana taxpayers will no longer have to decide whether to file as married filing jointly or as married filing separately.  The proposal will include tax rate schedules for single taxpayers, married taxpayers filing jointly and taxpayers filing as head of household.  The rate schedules will be designed to eliminate the current advantage/necessity for married couples to file separately on Montana tax returns.   The bill that passed the 2013 Legislature had two tax rates of 4% and 6% compared to seven rates from 1% to 6.9% under current law.

Under current Montana law there are nearly 50 adjustments to Federal income for taxpayers to consider to arrive at Montana taxable income. This will be reduced to less than 10 potential adjustments.  The higher Federal personal exemption and standard deduction will help compensate for the loss of certain Montana adjustments to Federal taxable income.

Since the Montana income tax return will start with Federal taxable income the first four pages of the Montana return will be reduced to one page. Taxpayers will no longer have to fill out a separate schedule for Montana itemized deductions.  The Montana Department of Revenue had indicated that simplification will reduce the cost of administering the individual income tax law and will reduce the number of errors and resulting need to contact Montana taxpayers.

The bill in this upcoming session will again be designed to be revenue neutral so implementing it will not reduce overall tax revenue to the state. Because of the changes, some taxpayers may notice that their income tax changes slightly.  In any change like this, some taxpayers will pay a little more and some will pay a little less.

The legislature will consider which of the many tax credits currently in the law to retain and which will be eliminated. The proposed legislation contemplates keeping such credits like the popular endowment credit to encourage charitable giving.

The Montana Society of CPAs believes that the simplification will be good for Montana taxpayers and allow Montanans an easier way of fulfilling their tax filing obligation.

Our sincere thanks to George for sharing his time and expertise to make Montana’s accounting profession better and stronger.

8 Issues That Could Change the Way We Do Business in Montana

Jane Egan, MSCPA Executive Director

Jane Egan, MSCPA Executive Director

by Jane Egan, MSCPA Executive Director

The 2015 Legislative Session is shaping up to be one that will have a major impact on CPAs, your clients and your businesses. We need to start talking about it now, you and I, so we have the greatest chance at success.

The MSCPA State Taxation and Legislative Committees have compiled a list of bills we are already working on/monitoring and I’ll explain why they are important. MSCPA is proud to be your voice in the legislature but we need your help in three ways:

  1. Read and respond to the legislative updates we send.
    We need your input on proposed legislation and how it will affect you, your company or your clients’ businesses.
  2. Volunteer to run real life scenarios.
    If you think a bill will affect your business or that of a client’s, run the numbers and show us. It’s this type of information that has great impact on our elected officials.
  3. Support the MSCPA PAC
    Our PAC opens the door to legislators. By supporting the MSCPA PAC you can help ensure that your voice is heard and your interests represented at the Legislature. Please make your check payable to MSCPA PAC and mail to 1534 Ninth Ave, Helena, 59601 or charge to your credit card by calling Jean at 800.272.0307.

So let’s start with the first item above: please take a moment to review the bill list compiled below then let me know your thoughts.

Tax Simplification
As you are well aware, Montana’s tax system is one of the most complicated in the nation. Many legislators are very interested in working to simply our tax system. CPAs, as the tax experts, are an integral part of this process. Legislators rely on you to give them advice and we must be active participants to make sure Montana citizens—your clients and businesses—are represented in the final product.

Senator Bruce Tutvedt (Kalispell) will be re-introducing his bill from the 2013 session, SB 282. SB 282 passed the Senate and House but was vetoed by the Governor.

MSCPA’s Legislative and Governmental Affairs and State Taxation Committee members have been working with Sen. Tutvedt throughout the interim on his proposed bill. Committee members have been – and will continue to – visit chapters to talk about the provisions of the bill and get member feedback that we can share with the Senator.

Two Representatives, Kris Hansen (Havre) and Roy Hollandsworth (Brady) also introduced simplification bills in the 2013 session. We will work with them if they bring bills in the 2015 session.

Penalty and Interest Reform
The Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee has agreed to introduce a committee bill to reform Montana’s penalty and interest statutes to be fairer to taxpayers who comply with the law and to give DOR the ability to penalize the bad actors. The proposal will mirror Federal for the most part and would amend existing provisions and add new penalties for substantial underpayment of tax and for filing a fraudulent or frivolous return.

Exempt CPAs from Private Investigator License
CPAs who perform forensic accounting work in Montana are currently required to have a private investigator license.
Current law allows many exemptions including attorneys, legal intern, paralegals, law students, collection agencies and more. This bill, instigated by MSCPA, would include CPAs in the long list of exemptions from the licensing requirement.

Two-Tier to One-Tier Licensing for CPAs
Currently, Montana is one of approximately six states that have a two-tier licensing system for CPAs. The first tier you obtain the necessary education, pass the exam, take the ethics test and receive your certificate. (You cannot practice as a CPA with your certificate only). The second tier you complete the necessary experience requirement and apply for and obtain a license or permit to practice.

The two-tier system if very confusing for the public and for some CPAs. The Montana Board of Public Accountants will be introducing legislation to change to a one-tier system. CPAs will meet all the requirements (education, exam and experience) and apply for and obtain a license or permit to practice.

Enterprise Funding for the Board of Public Accountants
Our Montana Board of Public Accountants, housed in the Department of Labor, is currently funded by appropriation via the Legislature. MSCPA may instigate legislation to change the funding for the Board to enterprise funding. Enterprise funding would give the Board more oversight and greater participation in the funding of the Board activities using the funds they collect from licensing and renewal fees.

In 2008 a US Department of Treasury Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession reported that “greater independence of state boards of accountancy would enhance their regulatory effectiveness. The Committee recommends that …states evaluate and develop means to make their respective state boards of accountancy more operationally and financially independent of outside influences.” We believe enterprise funding will advance the goal of making boards more financially independent.

Pass Through Entity Reporting
MSCPA members have been meeting with the Department of Revenue for several years to work on pass through entity reporting for non-residents. DOR will propose legislation that will eliminate the consent agreement option which would eliminate the PT-AGR and PT-STM forms. This would leave the pass through with two options: withholding or filing a composite return.

Audit Threshold
Currently the Montana law regarding the audit threshold is tied to Federal. The Federal threshold will increase from $500,000 to $750,000 for fiscal years beginning on or after 1/1/2015. The Department of Administration and the Montana Association of Counties (MACo) are interested in decoupling the Montana law from the federal requirement and inserting $500,000 as the fixed amount in the Montana code. MSCPA’s Governmental Accounting and Auditing Committee support the change.

Tax Credits
Rep. Roy Hollandsworth mentioned during the September Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee that he would be bringing a tax credit bill during the 2015 session. No specifics yet but it might be a bill that puts a sunset on all credits.

In addition to these specific bills, there are 377 bill draft requests listed on the LAWS website. Of those, 10 are probably of interest to us by reading the titles. Once the election has occurred and legislators know they will be serving, the draft requests will increase dramatically.

MSCPA is the accounting profession’s voice in the legislature.  We will track the bills we know will affect you, your clients and your companies.  We will be monitoring legislation, going to hearings and standing up for the accounting profession and Montana businesses.  But nothing is more important than your voice to your local legislators.  If legislators don’t hear from business professionals on tax and business issues where will they get their information?  Your voice, your expertise and your involvement are crucial.

So please:

  1. Read and respond to the legislative updates.
    Published in weekly issues of eConnect, emailed directly to you and/or posted on our website and social media sites. If we ask you to talk to your legislator, please take a moment out of your business schedule and tell them why an issue is important to you.
  2. Volunteer to run real life scenarios.
    Let us know how those numbers stack up for businesses and individuals. Let your legislators know why it matters.
  3. Support the MSCPA PAC
    Your donation gives power to our voice, and MSCPA’s voice is the voice of the accounting profession in Montana. Please remember—donations to PACs must come from individuals; they cannot come from your companies. We rely on your personal contributions.

We’ll be publishing video updates throughout this fall and giving you up-to-the-minute reports once the session begins in January. Technology makes participation easier than ever. You can watch or listen to floor session and committee hearings live over the internet, or watch and listen to archived broadcasts of previous floor sessions and committees. We also urge you to participate in our toll-free conference calls, every Monday at 7:00 a.m. throughout the session.

If you have questions or comments I want to hear from you. Please call 800.272.0307 or email

The Pinnacle of a Career

The following blog post is the speech given by Rick Reisig at the 2014 Annual Meeting when he accepted the George D. Anderson Distinguished Service Award. As one of the best speeches we’ve ever heard we are printing it at the request of many of the members who heard it and were moved by Rick’s profound words.

2014 Distinguished Service Award Recipient Rick Reisig

2014 Distinguished Service Award Recipient Rick Reisig

Thank you so much for recognizing me with this award. I’m so grateful, appreciative, honored, proud, a whole host of emotions…but probably mostly humbled, and maybe even a little embarrassed…to be presented this award.

I’m embarrassed because there are so many of you that are worthy to receive this, and here I’m the lucky one…I can’t even believe it. And, I still have a good 10-15 years to go, God willing. There are more things I hope to do in and for our profession. I don’t plan on stopping now.

Margaret asked me what this award means to me and I responded like I always have when congratulating previous recipients…it’s the pinnacle of a career. It’s the highest honor I think a Montana CPA can ever hope to receive because of what the Montana Society stands for, and what it has meant to our profession, and because of all the previous CPAs that have been so honored.

My favorite memories of this award, at least up until now, have been presiding over the meeting in which Joe Shevlin received the award, providing testimonial comments for both Tony DiLello’s and Bob Bronson’s awards, and of course being able to notify Tom Shea that he was the winner of the award.

I found out about the award in this way….Carlen (Keaster) sent out an email announcing a brief, but important, partner meeting from 1:00 to 1:15. We all gathered in our conference room but Brenda Byrnes. That’s not too big of a deal, as she’s normally late. Well, Brenda comes in, and Carlen says “okay Brenda, it’s your meeting”. I thought, “oh my gosh, she’s pregnant again!” Well, she proceeded to tell me and everyone else about the award, although most already knew. I was pretty shocked, to say the least. Then, the entire staff came into the conference room to congratulate me. That was a special moment that I’ll always remember. Thank you for making that moment so memorable for me.

The Anderson ZurMuehlen family.

The Anderson ZurMuehlen family.

I do want to say a few remarks, if for no other reason than when does someone get a chance to have the people he cares most about, both personally and professionally, gather in one place to celebrate that person, and not have it be his funeral? In this occasion, I get to thank you people who mean so much to me.

I first would like to thank Dan Vuckovich and Bob Bronson, two of my partners and dear friends, who nominated me for this award – independently of one another, I might add. It means so much to me to have your respect in this way. Believe me, it’s what I work for every day, to earn and keep your respect. Dan Vuckovich is so supportive – at our recent NASBA Regional Meeting, Dan continued to tell people about the award. Between Bob Bronson and Tony DiLello…all that I have is due in large part to you, your guidance, your support, your friendship…thank you!

Thank you to the Board of Directors of the Montana Society. I know you always have many worthy CPAs to choose from for this award. Thank you so much for picking me. My partners know this about me…recognition from my peers has always meant the most to me, because you understand what goes into this profession…the challenges, the complexities.

Thank you to Jane Egan for all the support she’s given me in whatever I’ve asked her to help me with, as she routinely does for all of the MSCPA members.

A big thank you to my firm, Anderson ZurMuehlen, for allowing me the opportunity to participate in the various aspects of the profession that I have. It’s not lost on me that the award is named the George D. Anderson Distinguished Service Award. Obviously, a legacy of service for the firm to follow.

But, more importantly, thank you to those in the Great Falls office, those folks from Hamilton Misfeldt, who instilled in me the importance of being active in the profession and the community, and then supported me as I followed in their footsteps.

The Reisig Family

The Reisig Family

And, now, the biggest thank you to my personal family – my wife, Carrie, my son, Dawson, and my daughter, Skyler. Tom Shea so eloquently said a couple of year ago that when accepting this award, he shared it with his wife Patti. He was so right! I certainly share this with my wife, Carrie. I always have said you have your work life, your community life, and your personal life. Most of us know you’re not going to shortchange your work life. A lot of the time in our profession, your community life and work life kind of blend together, so unfortunately your personal life may sometimes take the hit. I tried for that not to happen too much, but of course I know that it sometimes did. Carrie is always there supporting me in all my endeavors, be they part of my work life, community life, or personal life. My kids have too, but I think they’ve regarded the times I’m away as a vacation rather than a sacrifice.

I’m so appreciative of my brothers Doug and Jerry and my sister-in-law Terri for being here to share

Rick pictured with his brothers Jerry and Doug

Rick pictured with his brothers Jerry and Doug

in this experience with me – my brother Jerry and I would say that every time our brother Doug steps into a room, he’s close to being the smartest guy in the room. And my brother Doug and I would say that every time our brother Jerry steps into a room, he’s close to being the best athlete and most competitive person in the room. They’ve been great role models for me to follow.

I would like to spend a few minutes talking about our profession, and yet what can I say? What can I say to those of you who have given so much to the profession, who have cleared the path for the rest of us to follow? I’m still working my tail off to be like you when “I grow up” knowing that I won’t likely reach you. I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to work with you, or at least get to know you. What can I say to those of you who are currently so involved in the issues of the profession…Mike Johns, Ron Yates, Dan Vuckovich, Jim Galipeau, Ryan Screnar? You all certainly belong up here in your own right. And, what can I say to those of you at the beginning of your career, those that don’t have the foggiest idea who I am or what the DSA is all about?

Well, I hope when I’m done, the “old” CPAs will say, “wow, he loves the profession like I do.” The “not so old” CPAs will say, “wow, he loves the profession like I do.” And, the “young” CPAs will say, “wow, he loves the profession like I hope I will.”

In a sincere nod to my brothers and sister-in-law who have devoted their careers teaching our young people, as well as our colleagues among us that work so hard educating our accounting students at MSU, UM, Carroll College, UGF, Montana Tech, MSU-Billings, MSU-Northern, theirs is on the list of noble professions as society benefits so much from the work they do.

Our profession is truly a noble profession. Name another profession where such a variety of 3rd parties…taxpayers, donors, beneficiaries, investors, bankers, legislators, SEC, the IRS….the public…rely so much on the services we provide to our clients, or our employers. In our profession, the financial statements and income tax returns we prepare, the audits we perform, the retirement and estate planning consultations we provide, all are heavily relied on by outside parties. They trust us, they depend on us, they need our expertise. Our integrity, honesty, objectivity, ability to critically analyze and assess, the broad business knowledge we possess…the cornerstones of our profession…are unmatched. No other profession can do what we do. It’s vitally important for us to protect that!

If we aren’t aware our profession is under attack, we haven’t been paying attention. The PCAOB, which many outside of our profession have proclaimed such a success, was created due to perceived weaknesses in our profession. Our profession’s peer review program has evolved from being a purely educational program to including an ever-growing regulatory aspect to answer calls by outside parties to have us oversighted by non-CPAs. In fact, there are state boards of accountancy that have the requirement that a majority of their membership be non-CPAs, or that their peer review oversight bodies be made up of non-CPAs – those states have lost faith in our ability to govern and monitor ourselves. The SEC, PCAOB, Congress, the IRS…all represent very visible, high profile entities that have gained a foothold in how we provide service.

We can’t sit back and just let things happen as that void will be filled by someone, and that someone will likely not be a CPA and likely won’t have our best interests at heart.
Get involved, stay current on the issues, voice your opinion, participate.

All of us have a vested interest in the continued strength of the profession. The Society, the State Board, the AICPA, NASBA, all are working for the same thing – to maintain that place on the pedestal that the CPA profession enjoys. Each of us has a responsibility to ourselves as well as those that will follow us to encourage our colleagues to do the right thing, continue to provide service with integrity, honesty, objectivity and be vigilant in removing those that choose not to. We have to continue to be active in the evolution of our profession. We can’t sit back and just let things happen as that void will be filled by someone, and that someone will likely not be a CPA and likely won’t have our best interests at heart. Get involved, stay current on the issues, voice your opinion, participate. This is OUR profession. We can’t let anyone take it away. Looking out over the group of young CPAs we have here today, I think we’re in good hands…keep it up!

Thank you so much, again, for this award. I can’t tell you how much this means to me. I’m so proud to be part of this group. Thank you!

The Montana Society of CPAs is now accepting nominations for the 2015 George D. Anderson Distinguished Service Award. Find complete information about the award process.


I like to ramble

by Craig Birgenheier, Big Sky Brewing Company
Member MSCPA Financial Review & Technical Standards (FRATS) Committee

Craig Birgenheier

Craig Birgenheier

I’m not a blogger.  I don’t blog and I don’t follow anyone either.  But I like to ramble.  Ramblers were really fun listening to growing up. They were mostly old bulls who warned us about girls, snakes and stuff.  They’re wise and snarly and keep you up late drinking by telling massively preposterous tales, ridiculously made up and embellished with 3D for maximum effect.  Of course they felt fine in the morning but not us, younger but not tough yet.

I actually don’t feel all that well this morning. Not fully an old bull. Sleep was mostly absent.   My mind was super busy going over several some things for nothing. The dog didn’t do well either.  We both heard the deer eating the flowers out in back. She’s a poor watchdog in the night. Her ears were up to the task but nothing else. I punished her occasionally with well-timed pats when I thought she was drifting back to sleep. 

Wasn’t her mistake that the deer were capitalizing on, just mine. Left the gate open and the roses are bloomless now. Yesterday was not a great day for my mistakes. I’m mostly the one who finds them and don’t usually tell anyone else. I sent out our June financials for an internal review before I forward them to the entire board. Neal, our company’s President, came in to my office a while later and sat down on the couch. It’s neither a nice looking nor particularly comfortable couch so he’s obviously up to something.

He suspiciously says that the June results are great and what a great year with great sales and great gross profit and he’s really, really acting like a smug jerk.  He eventually mentions he found a mistake in the financials.  Naturally I’m nervous but maintain a casual, “whatever” sort of demeanor. I’ve already concluded the odds of a major botching are low or we’d be on our way to the DQ for ice cream and I’d be driving and buying.

Ninja warriorTurns out the mistake’s an old one, all the way back old–eanings rather than earnings.  An easy to repeat spelling mistake with little repercussion or embarrassment.  I don’t doubt for a minute it would have been found sooner had the review been performed not by Neal but by astute, highly trained ninja assassin reviewers like ones on the MSCPA FRATS Committee.  Probably the committee of all MSCPA committees.  For no cost but nevertheless deserving superior pay, submitted financials will be reviewed this September by choice, hand-selected public and private practitioners who like to review ’cause we think it’s fun and we learn new trends and techniques…. during the day, not the night, without drinking and with minimal embellishment.

But I’m a rambler, not a blogger….

Learn more about how to submit your financials for review by the super ninja reviewers on MSCPA’s FRATS Committee.

Presidentially Speaking–What does MSCPA do for YOU?

MSCPA President Ann Deegan

MSCPA President Ann Deegan

You ask–What does your MSCPA Organization do for you? 

Good Question! One the MSCPA Board of Directors asked itself recently.

When our Board of Directors met in May for our Annual Board Planning meeting,  we reviewed the Society’s Strategic Plan, because we want to be able to answer that very question when you ask.  We talked about how important continuity is to you as a member and how much each of us relies on the Society for the services provided.  In that process we reviewed and affirmed our Mission, Vision and Values.  We also reviewed and prioritized our Goals and Strategies.  We want to ensure the organization has a written plan that is well organized and documented as we transition board members each year and when the time for staff transition arises.  Here’s the plan, as we see it.

Inspire, empower and impact members
to achieve professional excellence.

MSCPA’s vision is to be the most valued
professional resource for our members


  • We value our profession
  • We value ethical behavior
  • We value active members
  • We value visionary leaders
  • We value our professional staff
  • We value effective communication

Goals and Strategies for 2014 to 2017+

The board established five goals and within these goals everything we do is strategically aligned. As we review existing programs and look at new opportunities to enhance membership value, we will use these goals as our road map.


MEMBERSHIP—Your Professional Home
Facilitating member success from entry through retirement for all members, including business, industry, nonprofit, government, public practice and educators.

  • Engagement of Members
  • New focus of membership committee

Maintain a dynamic organization and ensure we exist throughout the next 100 years

  • Align committees with Board goals
  • Business continuity and succession plan
  • Ensure financial viability
  • Leadership Development among staff and leadership
  • Legacy Foundation/Community Foundation
  • Governing documents

Delivering education and resources

  • Professional Development Opportunities
  • Collaborate and provide regional opportunities—create opportunities for our members to share discussions with professional from adjacent states
  • The Future of Learning Task Force—enhance our current professional development program to better address the needs of our members.
  • Study the feasibility of benchmarking and data sharing to enhance professional excellence

Advance and protect the profession and the people we serve while improving member awareness of the Society’s advocacy role.

  • Lobbying—maintain a strong representation of the interests of the profession
  • Political Action Committee (PAC)—maintain and grow a respected PAC through member awareness and participation
  • State Issues—monitor all the legislation that affects the profession at the state level legislation and recruit bill sponsors
  • Federal Issues—monitor all the issues that affect the profession at the federal level

Connectivity and communications through chapters, community service and public relations

  • Chapter relations—working together
  • College relations—advance relationships with Montana schools
  • Student relations—create and communicate value
  • Public Relations—Respond to public and media—positioned as a resource to improve awareness
  • Social Media—Maximize use of social media to connect and promote
  • Pitch Project—show members how to use their membership to get the greatest value
  • Member visits by MSCPA Board—grassroots effort to listen to member concerns

 If you have questions about the Strategic Plan or the value membership in MSCPA can provide you please contact our staff at 800.272.0307.