This is a warm and heartfelt greeting to every member of MSCPA in this new year of 2021! I’m sure many of you have been busy gathering CPE attendance certificates and catching up the NASBA database. I keep my CPE folder very organized, but I never seem to log into NASBA until year-end. I guess real-time uploading should be one of my New Year’s resolutions! Thankfully, MSCPA offers the wonderful member benefit of uploading all MSCPA-sponsored CPE credits, so we don’t have to do it all! It’s only a matter of those random AICPA or other outside courses to catch up on one’s own.
Another great member benefit and part of our strategic effort of “Connection” is the Find-a-CPA database at http://www.MSCPA.org. Have you updated your profile lately? Have you uploaded a photo of yourself? I’ve been thinking a lot about feeling connected to colleagues and long-distance friends during this era of social distancing and remote learning. With new members joining every month, the Find-a-CPA database would be a great way to extend and refresh our ties, in addition to helping the public connect with qualified trusted advisors. Even if you are not in public practice, I encourage you to participate in Find-a-CPA. It can be mutually beneficial to reach out to a colleague! Will you take me up on this challenge? Log into your account, click on Find-a-CPA, search your own name, and click to “Edit it Now”. Not there? To create a new profile, click on Members, Update My Profile, and Enroll in Find-a-CPA.
Best wishes as we jump into year-end payroll and financial reporting cycles and another busy tax season! Happy Housekeeping
Your MSCPA board just held our annual retreat as a live-virtual combination event over two days in Helena. Not only did we have rich, productive discussions, but it was so refreshing to meet in person during this long season of isolation! Our MSCPA staff did a superb job of ensuring the safety of the meeting amidst the pandemic with masks, hand sanitizer in abundance, infrared thermometer, and distance seating. We reminisced about past fire pits, pub crawls and karaoke – obviously out of the question this year – but we look forward to a future time when we can resume the revelry!
First, I would like to thank Julie Kostelecky for her capable and uplifting leadership last year, and Annette Hill for agreeing to provide wise and gracious counsel as my Ex Officio this year. These two exemplary professionals continue to inspire me, and I appreciate their generous service to our organization.
Now for news from the retreat. As we met, many of us mentioned how fulfilling and inspiring it has been to be involved with MSCPA, as members, volunteers, staff and board members. The question arose, “what is the secret of this success?” From a board perspective, I think the answer boils down to the fact that we continuously strive to be better and stay ahead of trending curves. What are the members’ needs now and well down the road? What future do we envision? With that in mind, we updated our strategic plan and sketched out some actions to keep our organization relevant, outward-facing, and forward-thinking. Notably spelling M-S-C-P-A, the five pillars of our strategic plan are:
Membership – We are the Treasure state’s network of CPAs who set the bar for professional excellence. MSCPA membership tells the world that you strive to earn the trust and confidence placed in your care, whether you are a CPA in public practice, private industry, nonprofit, government, education, or another important facet of our profession.
Sustainability – We keep our finger on the pulse of what it means to be a CPA as needs, roles, and demographics change in our information-driven world. MSCPA advances support to the ever-present and ever-changing needs of CPAs.
Connection – Feed your professional soul. MSCPA is the hub for members to find resources when they need them. MSCPA nurtures opportunities to interact with peers from all walks of CPA life.
Professional Excellence – Challenge yourself to be a better CPA. MSCPA offers a wealth of in-person and virtual learning opportunities to inspire and empower. MSCPA works with governing bodies to keep our credential strong and to uphold our high ethical standards.
Advocacy – Together we make an impact. Voice your ideas and concerns: MSCPA amplifies the voice of Montana CPAs to protect the profession and create the best possible regulatory environment for our members and the people we serve.
Within each of these pillars we maintain specific attributes and metrics to keep delivering value to our members. The full strategic plan is available at www.mscpa.org under Mission/Vision/Strategy, and I encourage you to read it. Based on our retreat discussions, we identified five calls to action, upon which we will work in the coming months:
1. Reserve & Investment Policies – we have assembled a task force to develop a reserve policy and investment policy and expect a draft to be presented at our January board meeting.
2. Diversity and Inclusion – we will be exploring how the Society might reach out to Native American students and other minority groups as to the mutual benefit of attracting them to our profession.
3. Career Expectations – the pandemic has shone a bright spotlight on the fact that work can be accomplished in creative, flexible ways, and that younger employees place a high value on work-life balance. We want to support members as they adapt to new employment models, and to help support a new set of expectations, so that younger workers can advance in their careers successfully.
4. Pre-Retirement Checklist – a large segment of our membership will be retiring within the next five to ten years. Several members have asked us if we have a checklist to help members transition from work life into retirement. We love checklists! And we will be reaching out to members thinking about retirement or actively engaged in the transition to develop this tool.
5. Rural Member Needs – According to Census.gov, one in five Americans live in rural areas. After talking with peers at the AICPA Fall Council and to members of our Rural Montana Chapter, serving the needs of rural CPAs has bubbled up as a topic of interest. Are there special needs of rural CPAs that the Society could facilitate or fulfill at the state and national levels? We will be exploring this topic – what would the product look like, how might we monetize such a service (akin to how some states are specializing in providing peer review administration), and is it viable from economic and resource perspectives?
As you can see, this is going to be a busy year! Your participation and support are greatly appreciated. If one of these projects particularly inspires you, please feel free to call or email our wonderful staff. They will listen to your ideas and get you connected. I am so excited for my year as your president. If I can do anything to enhance your experience with MSCPA or resolve concerns, please feel free to contact me anytime. It is my sincere honor and privilege to serve as your president during this unforgettable year!
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.
It’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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 givean 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 Donationor 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.