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: jane@mscpa.org 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 jean@mscpa.org 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 Margaret@mscpa.org.

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 Jane@mscpa.org.

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.

THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON THE SUCCESS AND LONGEVITY

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 EAQ@aicpa.org.

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 joshua.herbold@umontana.edu.

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.