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.

Halfway There!

Friday marks the halfway point of the 2015 Legislative Session. This has been a very busy

Jane Egan MSCPA Executive Director

Jane Egan
MSCPA Executive Director

eight weeks for those advocating on your behalf at the Montana Legislature. So who is advocating for you?

We are having a great session so far with all of our priorities advancing – knock wood!

So let’s talk about the bills impacting the CPA profession and the position MSCPA has taken on each of them:

HB 44– Rep. Tom Berry

SUPPORT: Change Montana from a two-tier license (certificate and then license to practice) to a one-tier (license only – no interim certificate); eliminate any reference to LPA (they are a dying class); clarify firm registration (no separate registration for satellite offices); allow a fee for firm registration

WHERE IS IT: Passed the House (1/27), transmitted to the Senate

HB 184 – Rep. Greg Hertz at the request of MSCPA

SUPPORT: Exempt CPAs from Private Investigator License Requirements

WHERE IS IT?  Our first victory! SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR (2/18)! Effective Date: October 1, 2015

HB 560 – Rep. Greg Hertz at the request of MSCPA

SUPPORT: 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.

WHERE IS IT? Hearing in House Business & Labor 3/11

SB 39 – Sen. Cary Smith

SUPPORT: Provide for the civil offense of bad faith assertions of a patent right including remedies and damages. This bill will curtail the efforts of patent ‘trolls’ or ‘patent assertion entities’ which purchase patents for the express purpose of filing patent infringement lawsuits against companies to get licensing fees or a legal settlement without actually making any goods or providing any services

WHERE IS IT? Hearing in the House 3/9

SB 76 – Sen. Gene Vuckovich (Yes, this is Dan V’s dad)

SUPPORT: Allow a licensing board to administratively suspend a license; allow a licensing board to ask the department to do this for them

WHERE IS IT? Transmitted to the Governor

SB 286 – Sen. Cary Smith

MONITOR: Prohibit a state agency from adopting rules that will burden a person’s ability to enjoy the person’s property rights or engage in a lawful business or occupation. We are concerned this bill might prevent our Board of Accountancy from regulating CPAs. We may oppose if this bill makes it to the House.

WHERE IS IT? Passed out of Senate committee

SB 390 – Sen. Elsie Arntzen

SUPPORT: Study fees the Department of Revenue charges boards — including the Board of Accountants

WHERE IS IT? Passed Senate committee

Now let’s change gears and talk about the Bills Impacting Tax Law

HB 359 – Rep. Ed Lieser

MONITOR: Adjust the inflation factor calculations for individual income tax

WHERE IS IT? Passed the House

SB 91 – Sen. Fred Thomas by request of DOR

MONITOR: Allow for reciprocal collection and offset of tax liability between the state and Federal government

WHERE IS IT? Tabled in committee at sponsor’s request

SB 167 – Sen. Dick Barrett

MONITOR: Revise the criteria related to the water’s edge election for corporate income taxes by changing the list of countries consider tax haven jurisdictions

WHERE IS IT? Senate Finance and Claims hearing 2/25

SB 170 – Sen. Dick Barrett

MONITOR: Allow two Montana taxpayers to file a joint state return, or a combined filing separately return, if they filed a joint federal income tax return

WHERE IS IT? Passed the Senate

SB 92 – Sen. Fred Thomas by request of RATIC

SUPPORT: Reform penalty and interest amounts to more closely mirror Federal

WHERE IS IT?  Passed the Senate

HB 379 – Rep. Greg Hertz

SUPPORT: Reform penalty and interest amounts to more closely mirror Federal  AND lower the statute of limitations on individuals, sole proprietors and partnerships to 3 years (currently 5 years)

WHERE IS IT?  Heard in House Taxation committee 2/12

SB 269 – Sen. Duane Ankney

SUPPORT: Lower the statute of limitations on individuals, sole proprietors and partnerships to 3 years (currently 5 years)

WHERE IS IT? Passed Senate Taxation committee

SB 212 – Sen. Scott Sales

SUPPORT: Revise the penalty and interest provisions for certain taxpayers who receive an extension for filing individual income tax returns; clarify they are based on tax due – not tax liability

WHERE IS IT? Heard in Senate Taxation

SB 6 – Sen. Fred Thomas for RATIC

SUPPORT: Clarify the right to request alternative dispute resolution methods including mediation

WHERE IS IT?  Transmitted to the Governor

SB 166 – Sen. Dick Barrett

OPPOSE: Eliminate the waters’ edge election for corporate income tax filers

WHERE IS IT? Committee vote failed; remains in committee

SB 171 – Sen. Bruce Tutvedt

SUPPORT: Tax Simplification! This bill will restructure the individual income tax, reduce rates for the corporate income tax and eliminates several credits.

WHERE IS IT? Passed Senate committees

SB 386 – Sen. Jill Cohenour

SUPPORT: Revise laws related to pass through entity simplification. MSCPA members worked extensively with DOR to reach a compromise – second tier entities will be subject to withholding or composite returns (consent agreement goes away); small and/or family owned entities may continue using the consent agreement; the PT-STM goes away!

WHERE IS IT? Newly introduced; Hearing in the House 3/10

In addition to these bills we are also monitoring 13 tax credit bills and four tax reduction bills.

We encourage you to share your voice with your legislators on these issues and we hope you’ll join us by phone Monday mornings for Advocacy Mondays.

If you have questions about any of the legislation mentioned above or any bills you hear about and think we should be monitoring please contact me: or call 800.272.0307.

MSCPA is proud to advocate on your behalf!

Repair Regs Guidance

Confused about repair regulations and form 3115? You are not alone! MSCPA has been working to find the answers and resources for you.

Update 2/13/15: IRS Makes It Easier for Small Businesses to Apply Repair Regulations to 2014 and Future Years  Read press release

Update 2/13/15:  AICPA says help may be on the way. Read more in this Forbes article

Top 20 Q & A About Repair Regs

Surgent McCoy has put together a list for our members of the Top 20 Questions and Answers  CPAs are asking.

Questions asked by our members

Surgent McCoy was able to answer a few of our member’s questions.

Webcast offered to help with Repair Regs Form 3115 – 02/24/15

The IRS expects most businesses with significant amounts of real and personal property will be required to file one or more 3115s this year. This course will help you understand the impact of the regulations, determine if/when you need to file a 3115 and help you with the preparation of the dreaded form. Webcast details  – This webcast is through the Idaho Society of CPAs and you must register through them, MSCPA members will be given their member price.

Update & Implementation of Final Repair Regulations – 02/13/15 –

UPDATE: Replay on 02/23/15

Webcast details

This update will explore new regulations which include several taxpayer friendly safe harbors. These rules cover how to handle materials/supplies, de minimis expensing, repairs vs. improvements which includes a safe harbor for small taxpayers. Learn how to implement these rules by filing new annual elections and/or accounting method changes using Form 3115. Webcast tomorrow – please email or give her a call at 406-442-7301 to register for this webinar – our website shows registration closed for this but we can still get you included. For the replay on 2/27 you can register online. 

Implementing the new tangible property regulations

Circular 230, Regulations Governing Practice Before the Internal Revenue Service (31 C.F.R. Part 10), may present challenges to practitioners in signing tax returns for clients that have not implemented the final regulations. Due to the challenges of the regulations, waiting to address these issues until completing the 2014 tax return is ill-advised. This article provides some history, context, and a high-level overview of the major components of the final regulations and discusses the implications for Circular 230 and signing tax returns for clients who have not implemented the new regulations. Journal of Accountancy  (1/31)

Finding Value (and Referrals) With Find-A-CPA

by Margaret Herriges, MSCPA Communications Director

Herriges Margaret 2014Did you know MSCPA helps the public find CPAs? Our Find-A-CPA feature on our website is all about helping potential clients, and even other CPAs, find a person with the right expertise. And as a member of MSCPA you can post your profile for free.

Helena member Marca Gibson has had some success through Find-A-CPA, “I love Find-A-CPA as a member benefit. It provides an easy-to-use resource for potential clients, as well as for use by colleagues. I refer to it when I’ve met someone new at a local chapter meeting or CPE event, or if I don’t provide specific services that a prospective client needs.”

So what makes a good CPA profile?

  1. ADD YOUR PICTURE! Think of it like Ebay or Craigslist; would you buy anything from either of those sites that didn’t have a picture? So add a nice, professional, friendly picture to your Find-A-CPA profile. Great example: Marca Gibson (Helena)
  2. AREAS OF EXPERTISE. Pick four or five areas in which you are an industry expert. One of the best parts of Find-A-CPA is that people can search by area of expertise. Great example: Baiba Eastlick (Missoula)
  3. TELL YOUR STORY. This isn’t the place for your resume. You are trying to make people like you enough to contact you.  Make it interesting and friendly. Would you hire yourself after reading your Find-A-CPA profile? Great example: Kim Foard (Billings)
  4. HAVE SOME NARRATIVE. This ties in strongly with #2 and #3 in this list but the point is don’t JUST list your areas of expertise—make them your story!  You are a business expert! This is a really good place to tell people. Great example: Dave Gilmer (Missoula)

While it’s easy to see the value of Find-A-CPA for public practice members, it’s actually a very good resource for our BING (business, industry, NFP and gov’t) members, too.  For example, if you are a CFO for a manufacturer in Billings and you run up against an issue about inventory that you don’t know how to solve, you could go to Find-A-CPA and run a search for a peer with an expertise in this area. This member only feature has value for all.

Does the public really use Find-A-CPA?  It received almost 850 views last year and that number doubled from 2012. And what’s really critical is how long people are staying on this webpage. On average they stay over a minute, reading profiles to find the accounting professional they need. In web-speak, a minute is a pretty long time. So far in 2014 those numbers have nearly doubled again and visitors are spending over two minutes on the page. From this we can pretty safely say that yep, folks are using Find-A-CPA which makes it more imperative than ever for you to be listed with a GOOD profile.

It’s important to note that MSCPA members are not automatically added to Find-A-CPA. This is a profile that YOU must build. It is an important member benefit but it takes initiative from you to make it shine. It’s also critical to know that if you already have a profile you can edit it at any time. Simply log-in and click the Members Tab. From there you click on Find-A-CPA from your Member Dashboard. And as with all MSCPA benefits and services, we are here to help you. If you have questions regarding Find-A-CPA please don’t hesitate to contact me, 800.272.0307 or

Legislative Session Preview

by Jane Egan, MSCPA Executive Director

Jane Egan MSCPA Executive Director

Jane Egan
MSCPA Executive Director

Did you know that the Montana Society of CPAs is the ONLY organization advocating on behalf of CPAs in Montana? We are constantly monitoring the issues that will affect you, your clients, your organizations and businesses. And the 2015 Legislative Session is going to bring us many opportunities to be that advocate for you.

MSCPA’s 2015 Legislative Policy reads:

MSCPA will:

  1.  Analyze and support, oppose or improve legislation directly impacting our profession,
  2.  Provide resources and commentary in the areas of tax policy and administration, economic development and business issues,
  3.  Provide technical information and/or analysis to legislators, agencies such as the Department of Revenue and other groups on proposed legislation, 
  4. Review proposed bills that fall under this legislative policy and agree to support, oppose or remain neutral. 
  5. May initiate and promote legislation affecting our profession and tax policy.

We will continue to develop our role to meet these objectives.

With this in mind, here is a preview of the issues we will be monitoring when the Session starts January 5th:

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. MSCPA’s Legislative and Governmental Affairs and State Taxation Committee members have been working with Sen. Tutvedt throughout the interim on a tax simplification bill he is proposing.  We will also be working with other legislators as they bring forward tax simplification bills.

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 will 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.

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 155 introudced bills and 1,966 bill draft requests listed on the LAWS website. Of those, we have 132 on our watch list so far.

Holly Franz, MSCPA Lobbyist

Holly Franz, MSCPA Lobbyist

We have contracted with lobbyist Holly Franz again for the 2015 Session to help your voice be heard. Holly has lobbied on MSCPA’s behalf for many years now and she is an invaluable resource in our advocacy efforts at the Legislature.

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.

We’ll be publishing updates throughout the session. 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.

Advocacy Mondays
We also urge you to participate in Advocacy Monday conference calls, every Monday beginning January 5th at 7:00 a.m. throughout the session. All MSCPA members are welcome on these one-hour conference calls that outline the issues happening each week at the legislature. To join simply dial 888.289.4573 and use access code 8863665.

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