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’s Proposed Joint Venture with CIMA–A Member’s Perspective CON

by Joshua Herbold, PhD. CPA, MSCPA Secretary/Treasurer

In this blog post, Josh will address the CON side of the proposed venture between the AICPA and CIMA. Scroll down to see previous posts on this issue from President Brenda Byrnes and MSCPA Director Clint Morrison.

Herbold Josh sitting 2014

Josh Herbold, MSCPA Secretary / Treasurer

The American Institute of CPAs has proposed a joint venture with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (based in the UK). While there are some benefits to such an endeavor, I believe this proposal is, overall, not in the best interests of CPAs for the following reasons:

  1. It dilutes the “CPA” brand in pursuit of membership growth
  2. The AICPA is trying to be too many things to too many people
  3. The value of the CGMA designation has not yet been established in the marketplace
  4. Closer to home: For non-CPA members, the Montana Society of CPAs will be providing benefits (i.e., incurring expenses) with no control over the revenues from those members

The following paragraphs explain these points in more detail.

Those members who have been around for a while probably remember when the AICPA proposed to open AICPA membership to non-CPAs. These non-CPA members were to be called “Cognitors,” and the proposal went on to state that the term would also refer to CPAs. This proposal was soundly (and wisely) rejected by the AICPA membership. After all, what would be the point of becoming a CPA/Cognitor if others could qualify for the same designation without completing the “four Es” (education, experience, ethics, and the CPA exam)? How would a CPA signal to clients and employers the extra effort and dedication that they put forth to become more qualified? Obviously, it would be difficult for anyone outside of the profession (and even for some of those within the profession) to determine how a Cognitor had earned that credential, and AICPA members were rightly concerned about this brand dilution. The current proposal makes things even more confusing by using the same acronym for the new organization as the American Institute of CPAs: the Association of International CPAs. This proposal allows for both CPAs and non-CPAs to earn the CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant) credential and become members of this new organization, and thus has the same potential as the failed “Cognitor” designation to dilute the CPA brand.

Related to that point, one of the stated goals of the joint venture is to “further advance advocacy, achieve economies of scale and better support accounting professionals.” While I agree that all of these are worthwhile pursuits, I have to wonder which accounting professionals the AICPA has in mind. Not all accounting professionals are CPAs (even though I believe that the designation and the work required to achieve it would benefit most accounting professionals). Is it the job of the American Institute of CPAs to advocate for all accounting professionals? Or would our profession be better served by having the various professional groups (the AICPA, the IMA, the ACFE, and others) participate in a consortium of some sort? Furthermore, “advocacy” is a tricky issue even within a given jurisdiction; it gets trickier when an organization tries to represent multiple jurisdictions, which is exactly what the AICPA intends to do. The AICPA is trying to be everything to everybody—a strategy which usually ends up satisfying nobody.

And the fact is that the overwhelming majority of CPAs have opted against obtaining the CGMA designation. Prior to this year, current CPAs were grandfathered in and could obtain the CGMA designation simply by checking a box on their membership renewal and paying an extra fee. Even with no other effort required to obtain the designation, “90% of the AICPA’s members declined multiple invitations to become CGMAs.”[1] Also, when faced with the choice of which designation or designations to pursue, students have yet to see the value of the CGMA. (See http://ipassthecmaexam.com/cgma-designation/ for one blogger’s take on the decision between the CGMA and CMA designations.)

Finally, we get to some details of the joint venture that could have an impact on our state society. If the joint venture proceeds, CGMAs who are not also CPAs will become members of their respective state societies through their membership in the joint venture. On the surface, that’s great! But for those non-CPA members, dues will be set by and collected by the joint venture, then shared with the MSCPA. This means that we (the MSCPA) will be providing non-CPA CGMAs with all of the same benefits of membership that every member of the MSCPA receives, yet we will have no control over the dues that these members pay. While we expect the number of these non-CPA CGMAs in Montana to be small, incurring expenses when you have no control over your revenues seems like a risky strategy at best, and a losing proposition at worst.

 

[1] While the AICPA has noted that there are more than 150,000 CGMAs worldwide, only 40,000 of those are in the US. For more details, see: Miller, Paul B.W., and Paul R. Bahnson. “Transparency, integrity, prophecy and the AICPA merger.” Accounting Today 1 Jan. 2016: 22. Academic OneFile. Web. 4 Mar. 2016.

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.