Race, equality, and accounting

This post is inspired by the events taking place across the nation related to race.  Our mission is to inspire, empower, and impact our members to achieve professional excellence.  With that as our mission, I want to share these thoughts on how we can respond, grow, and get better.

The MSCPA Board will discuss this issue at our next meeting.  Over the past few days they helped me craft this message, to be clear these are my words not theirs.  I encourage you to share your reactions, this is your Society and we all want to know what you think and feel on this issue.  We see this as the beginning of a conversation, we are not here to judge but to learn from one another.

Ethics play a critical role in accounting; you are required to take a class before becoming a CPA and then you must take ethics CPE throughout your career.  Practicing ethics involves both identifying and reporting unethical behavior.  If you are aware of fraud and choose not to say something you can find yourself in serious trouble.  This is not easy, but it is a critical part of being a CPA.  Confronting racism and social injustice is similarly difficult and important.

Another core of accounting is objectivity; you make sure financial information is not influenced by opinion or biases.  You also practice professional skepticism; you have a questioning mind and are alert to conditions that may indicate misstatement.  These skills are critical to performing as a CPA, and I would argue these same skills are incredibly powerful right now.  Regardless of where you stand, take a moment right now to think objectively and skeptically about the racism and social injustice issues that our Country is currently experiencing.

I hope this simple exercise opened your mind a bit to seeing that this is a complex issue that will never be solved with a quick fix.  Whenever we try to solve a complex issue there is huge benefit to balancing different thoughts on the issue.  Applying the same thinking to issues and problems results in the same results repeating themselves.  If we want to solve lingering problems and be ready to address issues in the future, we need to be open to different ways of looking at the issues.

As a profession the best thing we can do to both address the issue of race and prepare ourselves for the future is to fully embrace not only diversity, but also inclusion.  Comparing these two, diversity is simple, to create a diverse workforce you simply need to hire people different from the people you hired in the past.  This can be based on the color of their skin or their life experiences or any number of other things.  It is a simple process, not necessarily an easy one.

Inclusion is far more complicated and difficult.  If you hire different people then ask them to act like everybody else you have built a diverse, but not inclusive team.  Inclusion requires you to adapt your organization to these new people.  You need to be objective and equally value and research ideas that come from people with a different perspective.  It does not mean you are not skeptical, but it means that you apply the same skepticism to all ideas.

I don’t expect this post to solve the issue of racism and social injustice  in America.  But I feel that what is most needed right now are the skills CPAs bring to the table.  People need to be more objective in how they look at the issue and we need to be skeptical of all the different solutions being brought forward.

MSCPA’s Mission is to inspire, empower, and impact our members to achieve professional excellence.  I hope this message has inspired you to empower those around you to make an impact.

I would also like to share a personal story about race.  I grew up in a small town where everyone was the same color.  My parents sent me to a private school in the sixth grade.  Every morning my parents would drop me off hours before school started so they could drive back to their work.  One morning I sat in the hallway working on my homework but was having trouble with something.  A group of older students walked by and a very tall black student stopped and sat down next to me.  He took the time to explain how to do whatever it was that I couldn’t figure out myself.  This was the first conversation I ever had with a person of another color.  Before that morning I always assumed different colored people were different.  What I learned was I was right we are all different and sometimes different is exactly what we need.  Whatever I wasn’t doing right had been explained by a white teacher and my white parents and nothing they said helped me figure it out.  That different person explained things differently and it helped me learn.

If I told you I never had a racist thought for the rest of my life after this experience it would be a lie.  When I first saw the video of George Floyd, I wondered what crime he committed to deserve that treatment.  In hindsight, no crime deserves a police officer kneeling on top of a person who is in handcuffs.  It is highly unlikely that any of us will ever be in either role of this situation, but that does not mean we cannot make a difference in this issue.  We can all work to learn from the differences between us and speak up when we see something that isn’t right.

As always, we welcome your thoughts on this and any other issue.

Allen Lloyd can be reached at allen@mscpa.org

Find the fun in everything

Bartlett Marilynn 2019It’s an absolute honor to announce our 2020 George D. Anderson Distinguished Service Award Winner, Marilyn Bartlett!  Marilyn has an incredible story and we are excited to share some of her accomplishments and the work she has done.  She is inspiring, dedicated to the profession and has an amazing sense of humor that draws everyone who meets her in.

Marilyn grew up in Nevada and watched her mother drive 90 miles a day in her 1952 Dodge with no air conditioning to get her teaching degree.  This set the stage for Marilyn and she followed in her mother’s footsteps. She has had an amazing career where she worked hard and pushed through obstacles to get to where she is today.  If Marilyn commits, she follows through and gets the job done.

Marilyn started her career in education and found that it wasn’t the right fit for her. She graduated from University of Reno in 1972 and then roughly ten years after that she started taking accounting classes at MSU- Billings. In 1986 she sat for the CPA Exam.  She still gets chills when she thinks about opening the letter and learning she had passed the exam!  Marilyn started her accounting career working for the Montana Power Company in Colstrip, as a staff accountant for the Colstrip power plants.   She then moved to Butte with  Montana Power, and continued working in  the mining industry for several years doing manufacturing cost accounting. Marilyn moved onto being a Controller at Anderson ZurMuehlen.  Her next step in her career was at BCBS and she was introduced to the healthcare and insurance/pharmacy industry. Marilyn then moved to EBMS, a third-party administrator for employer self-funded  health plans. At this point, she was eyeing retirement, but the State of Montana needed her more!  At 64, Marilyn started working at the State. The State’s healthcare plan was going to be bankrupt by the end of 2017. She was given 2 years to turn the plan around. Guess what? SHE DID IT!  She dug deep, followed the money and has become known nationally as a consultant to help other states do the same.  By the time she was finished cleaning up the mess, the state had $112 MILLION in reserves and was loaning money to the State’s general fund.

Marilyn is still actively working as a consultant part time from home. She has testified in Washington DC in front of senate committees. Marilyn has learned and watched the difficulties of the political games and how frustrating it is to see bills watered down or not pass at all. However, in true Marilyn fashion, she keeps pushing on and connecting the dots and providing data to help move things forward. One thing she remains humble about, is her recent recognition in Fortune Magazine as #13 of 50 of the World’s Greatest Leaders.

When reflecting about the CPA profession, Marilyn talked about how honorable of a profession it is and she has held her ethical responsibility so highly, that it even hurt her at times in her career. She’s proud of that too.

How dedicated can one be to the profession you might ask? Marilyn named her dog FASB! She, her husband Ed and FASB, enjoy hiking in Missoula and being with family and friends. Marilyn and Ed love taking their grandchildren on trips of their choosing. She laughed and recounted taking Libby to Disneyworld, Perry on a Disney Cruise in the Bahamas and Vinnie has shown interest in  a Steelers and Red Socks game.  Her greatest joy is her family and friends.

When you hear the song “It’s a Wonderful World”, smile and think of Marilyn.  She said this is one of her favorite songs and it seems so fitting. It’s people like Marilyn that make the world so wonderful by finding humor and lightness whenever possible and dedicating their life to their profession and others. Thank you so much Marilyn.  You are truly an inspiration and a deserving recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. Congratulations!

Please join us in Fairmont, at the 108th Annual Meeting, June 17-18, 2021 to honor Marilyn and the 2020 award recipients. 

Re-Opening

Written by Allen Lloyd

As the state begins to re-open MSCPA will also be shifting to our new normal. Later this week the office will be cleaned and next week we will be back in the office again. We are lucky that our office space is conducive to social distancing, especially with only a few people regularly in the office.

We will be working with the state and event locations to determine how best to hold events moving forward. Our next in person classes are in late July, we have learned that a lot can happen in that span of time so stay tuned for more information as we get closer to those dates. While we look forward to being able to bring you together in person to learn from each other, we understand that each of you will make your own decision about when to attend an event again. Please do not hesitate to ask us about alternative ways to attend and be a part of MSCPA moving forward. We will navigate this together and try different things to connect you with each other and the resources you need.

As your organization looks to re-open it could be more difficult. New rules on group sizes and providing adequate space for your staff and customers could have you marking your floors like a football field to keep people 6 feet apart. Businesses are being asked to perform health assessments on all employees before each shift. I never thought I would recommend thermometers as staff gifts, but maybe that is where we are today. Please keep in mind that these precautions are here to prevent us from spreading the virus.

Three years ago, when the search committee interviewed me, we talked about all kinds of issues MSCPA would face in the future. Adapting to a global pandemic never came up, but many of the things we talked about accelerated as we all quickly adapted. We are here to help you navigate the good times and the bad as we work to inspire, empower and impact members to achieve professional excellence.

Join the conversation on Montana Roots – mtroots.org, and tell us how your office is planning to reopen safely.

How can I make a difference in this mess?

Allen Lloyd, MSCPA Executive Director

We are facing a two-sided catastrophe right now, a deadly virus and an economic meltdown.  Regardless of how you feel about how the catastrophe is being handled, we can all agree the impact will be felt for a very long time in the future.  If any of you are doctors, I would ask that you stop reading this and do what you can to prepare in case the Coronavirus does spread rapidly.  OK doctors gone now for the accountants, go out there and use your accounting superpowers to do whatever you can to help your organization and your clients.  Your skills are needed now more than ever, you have the opportunity to help save people’s financial lives.

If you are thinking “How can I make a difference in this mess?” Let me tell you:

Tax Accountants:  Study up and keep reading the changes in federal and state tax laws.  Hopefully by now the June 15th estimated payment will be clearly delayed till July 15th, but who knows.  Help your clients plan for a volatile future.  Once the virus is taken care of there will likely be all kinds of economic stimulus efforts, help you clients plan to take advantage of theses.

Attestation Accountants: Have your client’s financials ready as fast as possible.  The Small Business Administration has programs to help businesses, but the applications require accurate financial data.  Be ready to help your clients with fast access to that data and assistance in completing the forms.

Industry Accountants: Advice your organizations on their options. You know your organization’s finances better than anybody, what can be done to get through this?  If the economy is going to come back, how can you take advantage of that?  What can you do as an organization to be prepared to get back to normal?  What assistance is available? Here is a link to some options there: https://www.forbes.com/sites/advisor/2020/03/20/list-of-coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-relief-programs/#7cd7a893e89d

Government Accountants: Think creatively! Tax revenues are likely to go down and stimulus is going to go up.  This doesn’t make it easy to balance the budget, especially at a time when more citizens are going to need your services.  Apply your knowledge to the issues your government is facing and try to think of ways to get the most out of the funds you do have.

Non-Profit: Pitch in wherever you can.  Much like government the demand for your services is likely to go up.  Your reserves probably took a hit and your donors are likely facing their own challenges.  Take a moment and read your mission and do whatever you can to help your organization achieve that goal.  Provide your leaders with realistic information and help them understand the financial impact of their decisions.

Educators: Inspire your students.  The need for accounting knowledge is greater now than ever.  Talk to your students about what accountants do in times of economic hardship.  Talk about risk and the new COSO Enterprise Risk Management process.  https://www.coso.org/Pages/erm-integratedframework.aspx

If I missed any groups, I apologize.  Get out there and do what you can to help us get through this! And don’t forget to use Montana Roots to connect to your peers, it is a great opportunity to find answers to your questions or just to find out if others are facing the same challenges you are facing.

We are in this together

Hello MSCPA Members,

If you are like me, you are working from home while trying to make sure your kids are learning something and wondering if you have enough toilet paper to last a month.  You are also questioning decisions you made last week and wondering if we all waited too long to sequester ourselves.

The truth is we don’t know, and hopefully we never will.  If we bunker down and nothing happens it will be easy to think that we overreacted, and this was just a hyped up story.  BUT the alternative is we act like nothing is happening and we turn into Italy.  As CPAs, you all understand risk management, if there is a risk that can be mitigated with relatively simple action you would take that action.  This is the situation we are in right now.

As you are involved in making these decisions for your organizations do so with an open mind.  In many situations it is important to be decisive and to make a decision and stick to it.  This is not one of those times, this is a time for keeping an open mind and being willing to adapt as the facts change.  Your organization needs your skills now more than ever.  Being able to provide realistic estimates of the financial impact of decisions is critical.

Most important of all, be safe and try your best to relax.  Health officials tell us that stress harms our immune system, stressing over this doesn’t help.  Learn what you can and take care of yourself.  We expect to hear later today that the IRS will extend the federal tax deadline up to 90 days and Montana already has an automatic extension.  That said if you enjoy tax work this would be a great time to dig in and complete a bunch of returns, so you don’t have to think about all the other craziness going on in the world.

As always if you need anything please do not hesitate to ask.  The MSCPA staff and other members are here to help!

Allen Lloyd

MSCPA Executive Director

What can we expect from 2020?

Written by Allen Lloyd, Executive Director Montana Society of CPAs

2020, it is hard to believe it is here already and we don’t have flying cars, but at least you can buy a robot to vacuum your house (or find ways to get it stuck and NOT vacuum your house.) So we didn’t get flying cars, but what can we expect from 2020?

Most important for the profession we can expect the CPA Evolution project to move from a simple concept (see picture below) to a full plan.  AICPA and NASBA have been working together for a couple years on this project and MSCPA leaders have provided input along the way.  We will continue to share our thoughts to try and make the final as good as possible.  At a recent meeting Barry Meloncon shared that the final plan will likely retain the current number of hours for the CPA exam, the number of parts may change, but the amount of time involved will stay the same.  We can also expect a plan that provides flexibility in the future for additional ring sections to be added.  What else could join tax compliance and planning, Business reporting and analysis, and Information systems and controls?  One thought is that strategy or risk would be the next.

cpa evolution

Another thing that you can expect this year is the roll out of .cpa, much like .com and .org .cpa will be an internet extension.  AICPA has secured the rights to the domain and is working on the rules they will use to police who gets their name.cpa.  For firms you will need to be licenses by your state.  Initially these url’s will be available to only US firms, so do not wait to secure your firm name.  AICPA is also providing access to the domains early to state CPA societies, so look for MSCPA to have a .cpa address in the future.

At MSCPA we are just starting to plan for our 2020-2012 fiscal year.  Keep an eye out for your membership renewal in February.  We are finalizing the CPE schedule and hope you will come to a conference and cluster event this year.  Both membership and CPE have a history of small but frequent price increases.  Every year inflation increases costs and we try to make small changes each year so there is never a huge surprise.  CPE costs have been increasing quickly for us, our providers increased their fees, hotels continue to charge more and the travel cost for instructors have increased.  So this year we went from a $5 increase to a $15 increase for a ## hour class.  We hope this will not become the new normal.  Overall my approach to managing our finances is to respect our non-profit status.  We try to have modest gains or losses each year while maintaining an appropriate reserve fund.  MSCPA is your organization and we take very seriously how we manage the investment you make in us.

One final fringe idea to consider is in the future auditors could use software that monitors people’s body language to determine audit risk.  Much like the TSA is monitoring body language to see if people look nervous and require additional screening, CPAs could do their interviews with a computer keeping an eye on the subject to report back on things it detects.  Adding this data to a sampling could target work to transactions involving multiple people with low trust scores.

Give (an Endowment Gift) & Receive (a 40% MT Tax Credit)

Ann Deegan, Chair of the MSCPA Legacy Foundation, recently blogged that “It is Better to Give than to Receive.”  However, isn’t it truly best to give AND receive?  If you agree, keep reading!

Please give an endowment gift to the MSCPA Legacy Foundation by 12/31/2019 and receive a 40% MT tax credit on your individual tax return, as well as a net federal tax itemized deduction!  Depending upon your personal tax situation – including your taxable income, tax bracket, filing status, age, and whether you itemize your federal deductions – you could save between 40% and 60% of the charitable amount of the donation!  Isn’t this a darn good payback just for being charitable and giving a gift to support the Montana accounting profession in perpetuity?

After such a great year on Wall Street, if you happen to have appreciated securities in your personal portfolio, you should consider gifting appreciated securities to the MSCPA Legacy Foundation Endowment instead of cash and save additional tax on the appreciation avoided – up to an additional 28% of the capital gain avoided.

Thus, by making an endowment gift by 12/31/2019, you could save between close to 40% — and potentially up to over 80% — of the charitable amount gifted on your 2019 personal taxes.  Of course, the actual tax savings depends upon your personal tax situation.  Please consult your tax advisor – probably you – or let us know if we can run a planning scenario for you so that you can work with real numbers, as all CPAs love to do!

As you are preparing your year-end 2019 contributions, Ann previously asked you to consider helping the MSCPA Legacy Foundation through an affordable cash gift:

  • If you have been a member for 10 years or less—Consider a $25 Donation.
  • If you have been a member 10 years or more—Consider a $50 Donation or more.

 I’m asking you to also please consider an endowment gift of at least $500.  Remember – you’ve got to give to the endowment in order to receive the 40% MT Endowment Tax Credit.  By giving away $500, you can potentially save between $200 and $400 in combined Montana and federal personal income taxes for 2019.  Give today so that future generations of Montana accountants can receive all the opportunities and benefits offered by a CPA credential and a great accounting career.

Cheers & Happy New Year (and New Decade) to All!

The Legacy Foundation Council—Ron, George, Ann, Clem, Walt & Richard

Contact Allen Lloyd to learn more about giving an endowment gift.

It is Better to Give than to Receive

legacy foundation header.PNGAs you are preparing your year-end contributions, we hope you will consider helping the MSCPA Legacy Foundation with our Christmas Wish List—A Simple Request:

  • If you have been a member for 10 years or less—Consider a $25 Donation.
  • If you have been a member 10 years or more—Consider a $50 Donation or more.

Why We Give:

  • To provide scholarships for Students attending our annual MSCPA Conference—breathing new life into our organization providing a great chance to interact with our future CPA’s
  • To support educators through the Accounting Bridges program—reaching out to high school students encouraging them to consider majoring in Accounting as they explore possible career paths
  • To sponsor speakers that inspire us as professionals at the Annual MSCPA Conference and the Industry Conference
  • To sponsor Educators attending our Annual Conference—strengthening our link to the university accounting students encouraging them to establish accounting careers in Montana
  • To Host College Campus Events—Interacting with students at Montana Colleges & Universities offering degrees in Accounting
  • To sponsor Financial Literacy—educating future generations

If all our members will contribute in some way, all our donations will help ensure the Legacy of our Profession for generations.  

In the spirit of “The Season of Giving” we hope you will consider a gift to MSCPA Legacy Foundation.  To learn more about the Legacy Foundation and to donate, click here.

Best Wishes & Happy New Year to All!

The Legacy Foundation Council—George-Ron-Ann-Clem-Walt & Richard

MSCPA Rural Road Show: Four Days. 8 Cities. 1100 Miles.

MapMapAllen Lloyd, Executive Director and Molly Holahan, Communications Director, set out to meet with our rural members and get to know them and the communities they live in.  It was a quick trip, but each stop gave us a unique opportunity to sit down and visit places we might not otherwise get the chance to see.

We enjoyed listening to each of our members talk about what they’re facing in their rural communities. We also learned what they loved about their community. They shared their WHY with us. Why they chose to live there and what makes their town special and unique. The one thing these areas have in common is the strong ties to the community and the way they all support each other.  It was echoed in every visit; it’s the people.

Middle of Nowhere

Montana is a big state and our rural areas are struggling to not only find CPAs, but other professions as well. We heard this common theme throughout the trip.  While I wish we had easy solutions, we are aware of  the problem and trying to help.  We’ve launched an initiative with the MSCPA Young Professionals Group: Raising the BAR to find ways to introduce students to the opportunities in these communities.  The BAR group is visiting a minimum of 10 high schools this year and we’ve started to do career days in middle schools as well.  We know theMiles City earlier students are introduced to the profession, the more likely they are to have interest in it and try classes in high school and potentially select accounting as a major when they enroll in college. We are also exploring different technological avenues to see how remote access is working for firms with remote employees to serve rural communities.

Glasgow

 

While we may not make this trip for another two years, we’ve added several items to our to do list for next time (including the underground tour in Havre and somehow timing it to see a production at the Fort Peck Theater!).

Havre

We really enjoyed meeting those of you that were able to join us while we made stops in your town!  Look for additional information on future trips and visits to your hometown.

 

 

 

 

5 Questions with Julie Kostelecky, 2019-2020 MSCPA Board President

Julie Kostelecky - UpdatedAbout Julie:

Julie was born and raised in Sidney, Montana. She graduated from Montana State University with her Masters in Accounting in 2003.  Julie is a partner at Rudd & Co and her focus is individual and small business tax, governmental audits, and business valuations. She currently resides in Bozeman with her husband Jason, and their two daughters, Sarah and Sasha.

Did you always want to be a CPA? Or How were you introduced to the profession?

Julie: Yes, I’m one of those nerds that knew since High school what I wanted to do! My mom worked at an accounting office doing data entry and my dad was a banker so the numbers thing seemed to come naturally.  My very first job was actually working in my mom’s accounting office when I was in Middle School.  I would walk down to her office after school and the partners paid me to update their tax research books.  This was back before everything was paperless so it was loads of fun.

How were you introduced to the Montana Society of CPAs?

Julie: A former MSCPA president, Kyla Quintero, was active in the Society when I worked with her. She brought me along to an annual convention one year and I was introduced to all kinds of characters.  (I’m looking at you Jim Gallipeau and Gordy Thompson!)  It was so much fun, I came back with her the next year and then she encouraged me to get involved in a committee.  The more people I met, the more I wanted to be involved so I could see everyone again!

What advice would you give students and young professionals that might be interested in getting involved in the profession and MSCPA?

Julie: It’s the best career choice. There are so many different avenues you can take with an accounting degree.  If you do the really hard work and get the CPA exam passed, there is no limit to the different things you can do with it.  The MSCPA is also a great place to meet people and find someone who can tell you all about their career choice.  The more you get involved, the more amazing people you can get to know.  You never know when those connections will circle back around to help your career, get you set in a new direction or just find you some great friends.

What’s your favorite Montana activity?

Julie: Definitely hiking. My girls and I love going on hikes to waterfalls so we’ve tried to find as many as we can.  We usually drag Jason along too, because someone has to carry the kids on their shoulders when they get tired on the way back out!

What tips do you have for balancing work, family and life in general?

Julie: The biggest thing I would say is that you have to set your own limits. Your priorities will shift and refocus depending on the time of year, the month or the day! It’s way too easy to let work and client demands dominate your life and I’ve learned that I will never be really outstanding at all of those things ALL the time, but if you give yourself a little empathy, set some limits and communicate those to your clients and co-workers, you can determine what matters most in this moment and then give your all to that. Work will always be there and thankfully I have an amazing group of people at my office that will cover for me or anyone else we work with when family and life in general need to take over for a little while.