Will the CPA of the future look like George Jetson?

by Allen Lloyd, Executive Director at the Montana Society of CPAs

We keep hearing about automation coming to revolutionize the accounting profession and which will in turn, make many accounting jobs disappear.   This made me think about an old friend, George Jetson.  While many episodes revolved around the troubles at Spacely Space Sprockets, George typically only worked an hour a day twice a week.  I don’t think any of us would complain about that schedule.  His main responsibility was to turn the Referential Universal Digital Indexer (R.U.D.I.) on and off.

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When can we expect to live in this wonderful new world?  Unfortunately, not before tax season and probably not before many of us retire.  This doesn’t mean we won’t get to reap some of the benefits of automation.  The Big 4 firms have technology that can do most of the work a typical entry level person does today, this will filter down to all firms probably in the next 5 years.  Similar technology is being developed to automate much of the work accountants do in business and industry, government, and non-profit.

Initially automation is going to make our lives easier as our workloads shift from routine tasks to higher level work.  The bank reconciliation may be automated, but someone still needs to translate the financial statements to help make business decisions.  We will also have to monitor the automations to make sure they are working correctly.  The days of software not doing things the way it should are far from over.

At a recent accounting educators meeting professors from across Montana talked about the importance of learning the fundamentals of accounting.  These skills will be just as valuable in the future as they are today.  It will continue to be critical for CPAs to understanding how activity impacts financial statements.

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One of the issues with automating entry level work is figuring out how we develop recent college graduates into experienced staff?  When computers can do all but the most complicated tax returns how will people learn to complete these returns?

Automation won’t do everything we will still need to manage people, hopefully better than Mr. Spacely.

Change is coming and MSCPA wants to work with you to help shape the future.  Leave a comment below or email me your thoughts about the future.  We are here to facilitate your conversation and help you adapt to working one hour a day twice a week… someday.stat1stat2

Presidentially Speaking

By Annette Hill, MSCPA President 2016-2017

hill-annette-2016Hello fellow CPAs!  Happy Valentine’s Day!  I’m trusting you’ll take some time today to spend with your loved ones, especially your valentine!  Consider taking a breath to reflect on other areas in your life that cause you to feel grateful; home, health and relationships.

Many of you have asked us how it’s going with the search for a new executive director.  I’m happy to report that we are on schedule with the timeline set by our Strike Force leader, Brenda Byrnes. We are in the interview stage, having received numerous applications from qualified candidates and are on track to introduce you to a new executive director by our Annual Conference in June.

What about Jane?  Even more of you have inquired about Jane’s retirement and we assure you that you will have opportunities to celebrate with Jane, to congratulate and thank her for her many years of service to the Society.  Watch for details!

It is opportunity season for those of us in public accounting and no doubt many in industry, nonprofit, government and education are feeling the opportunity as well, wrapping up calendar year end activities and initiating 2017.  Our staff at the Society office have been closing the January 31, 2017 fiscal year and commencing the next one with issuance of dues statements.  Your statement hit your physical or virtual mail box on February 1st.

As you review the notice, you’ll see that our Society staff has done an outstanding job of detailing the five strategic pillars and the benefits your dues provide our members.

MEMBERSHIP tools and services, volunteer and leadership opportunities

SUSTAINABILITY and focus on being the most valuable resource for members

CONNECTION through Find-A-CPA, MontanaConnection.org, MSCPA.org, local and rural chapters, e-publications, social media and this blog

PROFESSIONAL EXCELLENCE with 52 live CPE courses, 4 conferences and thousands of webcasts

ADVOCACY with representation at the state Legislature, Department of Revenue, State Board of Accountants, IRS and AICPA.

What an inspiring and fitting list for our pillars! They guide our board of directors, staff, committees, task forces and all of our volunteers, charting the course for our mission.  That’s important and we need to keep it in front of us.  However, as you consider paying your dues this year, you might be asking yourself, “What’s really in it for me?”  I’ve spent a few moments considering the value my membership brings me.

In 20 years as a member, I’ve enjoyed benefits in all of the pillars and for that I’m grateful and have no doubt I have received much more than the cost of my membership dues.  One of my favorite benefits though, is really one captured in the MEMBERSHIP pillar.  “Tools and services” include our Society office and staff.  This is the benefit working for us every day that we may not even know is happening. Our Society office and staff are our best return on investment.

Have you called the Society office and been greeted with Heidi’s cheery and welcoming voice?  Have you experienced an issue with CPE and had Jean fix it for you?  Have you had Carol hold your hand as you worked through the paperwork to get your first peer review completed? Have you paused to giggle a little when you read the latest recipe for tax season mixology drinks on Facebook or learned what music Reidun cranks when she needs some inspiration? Attended a fun-filled, professional MSCPA conference? Reconnected with a CPA that left the state? (Thanks Margaret!) Finally, do you know the influence and the respect our illustrious executive director commands with our state legislators? Have you changed your job and in the stress of changing co-workers, locations and career goals, have you found some comfort in the familiarity of your MSCPA staff and office?  Have you remembered that these same people probably call you by name, recognize your spouse, know where you work and understand your passion for the accounting profession?

THIS is the value of membership.  I encourage you to renew (join if you are not currently a member) pay your dues and enjoy the benefits our greatest resource can bring you.  See you in Billings at the 104th Annual Conference!

 

 

Sing Along! It’s Harvest Time!

Margaret Herriges, MSCPA Communications Director

By Margaret Herriges, CAE, IOM |  Communications Director

I’m a farmer’s daughter and since I started working for MSCPA nearly 17 years ago, I’ve equated tax season with harvest: there’s a lot of work to be done and you only have so much time to do it.

Growing up, we’d take my dad a treat around 4:00 pm; something to sustain him and motivate him to keep working. It was that “pause that refreshes”. Similarly, each tax season we try to do something a little offbeat and fun for our members. It’s our way of supporting you and motivating you through this busy season. In the past we’ve done Tax Season Mixology and last year we found some pretty outrageous tax season memes. This year we’re going to help you burn that midnight oil with some groovy tunes. Welcome to our Tax Season Playlist!

We recruited MSCPA Board members to help us with this and each day at 4:00 we’ll be sharing a song, complete with the YouTube link, on our Facebook page.  We’d love to hear from you! Be sure to comment if you like the song, and tell us your favorites and we’ll add those to our play list, too. Occasionally there may even be a dedication from the MSCPA staff to our hard-working members!

You don’t have to be a CPA in tax to enjoy this. We dedicate these sound bytes to ALL our members!

So work hard and may your harvest be plentiful! We’ll be here for you to help in any way we can. And if you find yourself with one of our Tax Season Playlist songs stuck in your head . . . you are welcome!

In honor of the first day of tax season 2017, January 23rd, Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing by Stevie Wonder, dedicated by President-Elect Josh Herbold.

AICPA takes on the IRS

Yates 2007by Ron Yates, Former AICPA Council Rep,
MSCPA Past President 2010-2011

Greetings MSCPA Members. As you may have seen recently, American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) President/CEO Barry Melancon said the AICPA is pushing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to improve its services for both taxpayers and CPAs. As reported by Michael Cohn of Accounting Today on January 26, 2016, Melancon gave a speech to the Accounting Club of America regarding the AICPA and the future of the profession. Pertaining to the IRS, Melancon is quoted as saying, “Basically the service levels in the Internal Revenue Service to preparers and taxpayers are at an all-time low,” he said. “To use a South Louisiana French term, it sucks. We do not have a 21st century IRS, and we are not likely to get one in the short term. We’re not going to get one because the Congress absolutely loathes the Internal Revenue Service and the leadership of the Internal Revenue Service.”

According to Cohn, Melancon went on to discuss some of the political challenges facing the IRS in Congress, and the $290 million that Congress earmarked in the December 2015 tax extenders legislation, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, toward improving taxpayer service and cybersecurity and combating identity theft. “They [Congress] refuse to fund the Internal Revenue Service with any additional dollars,” he said. “In the last tax extenders bill, it looked like they funded it, but it was sort of a shell game, moving dollars around. And it is not going to change with this administration and this Congress and this IRS commissioner. On the political side, bridges have been burned and it is just not going to change. We have been big advocates that it needed to change. We have actually been on the Hill advocating for specific, dedicated funding to the IRS only for customer service—which, by the way, the IRS hates because they want just general funding—and even on that, we couldn’t get any traction from Congress.”

According to Cohn, Melancon hopes to make some headway this year. “We have called upon Treasury—and we are working with the Department of Treasury…to convene a group in 2016 prior to the results of the election, prior to us moving into a new election, to map out a vision of what a 21st century IRS might look like so that when we have new players and a new Congress and a new deal, we’ve got a blueprint to try to get that done,” he said. “Treasury has not yet been totally receptive to doing that, but we envision a forum in which preparers and not just CPAs, but lawyers and enrolled agents and others, come to the table, with representatives of the Service, representatives of Congress, and try to create a meeting of the minds, a rational way rather than the irrational political way. Hopefully we can be successful with that. No guarantees.” Finally, Melancon noted that an identity theft bill currently moving through Congress may provide an opportunity for the AICPA to address some of the current IRS funding and service concerns.

As Montana CPAs and accountants, what has been your experience with IRS service lately? Please share with us your thoughts and comments on what you are seeing and any “tips of the trade” that might be helpful over the next 10 weeks of tax season. Also, please share your opinion about the current level of IRS funding and what can be done to improve both customer service and move toward a “21st century IRS”.