Stickney Joins AICPA as Director of Congressional and Political Affairs

The AICPA welcomes Lakecia Foster Stickney as a director of congressional and political affairs.

Stickney will be responsible for representing the AICPA before Congress, the Trump administration and other major public policy organizations, and for implementing the advocacy initiatives of the accounting profession.

She joins the AICPA from the staff of U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., where she served as economic policy advisor. From 2013 to 2015 she was a tax and health counsel for U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif. Previously, she was financial services and tax counsel for former U.S. Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C.

“Lakecia was a principal policy advisor on a range of issues, including tax, trade and financial services, in the course of her tenure on Capitol Hill,” says executive vice president for advocacy Mark Peterson. “In particular, she has built bipartisan stakeholder coalitions, aided in the development of legislative strategy, and managed an economic policy team. Her experience will be a boon to the nation’s CPAs as we work to advance the profession’s advocacy agenda.”

AICPA Campaign Promotes CPA Firms’ Key Role in Advising Small Businesses

The AICPA launched the latest update of its national #CPApowered campaign, an initiative designed to showcase the strengths of CPA firms as trusted tax and business advisors to consumers and small businesses.

This year’s campaign features two 30-second videos with the tagline, “Don’t Worry, I’m a CPA,” both of which allude to practitioners’ expertise in business development, tax planning, risk management, cybersecurity and more. The videos are part of a national cable television and social media buy this fall. Firms can promote themselves through paid opportunities on YouTube, Facebook and local television, as well as use the two videos and other materials for free on their website and social media channels.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy, and no one is better suited to provide trusted, informed business advice to this sector than CPAs,” says Mark Koziel, executive vice president of firm services.

Since its launch in 2014, #CPApowered has reached more than three million people through innovative digital media and content strategies. The AICPA has created a CPA marketing toolkit for small business with promotional materials that firms can personalize with their brand. More than 130 firms and several state CPA societies have signed up to participate in the campaign this year.

Information on the videos, suggested social media postings and co-branding options for materials can be found here. Videos and content for small business owners on such topics as acquiring financing, succession planning and family office considerations can be found at cpapowered.org.

AICPA Names Braziel Vice President for State Regulatory and Legislative Affairs

Skip Braziel

Skip Braziel has joined the AICPA as vice president of state regulatory and legislative affairs.

Braziel will be responsible for building strong, collaborative relationships with internal and external stakeholders on state legislative and regulatory issues. He will serve as the AICPA’s primary voice and contact on those matters, working closely with state CPA societies, state boards of accountancy, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and elected state legislative and executive branch officials.

“Skip brings a wealth of leadership and knowledge to the AICPA, with more than 19 years of experience building consensus and reaching solutions with legislative, regulatory and community stakeholders at the local, state and federal levels,” says executive vice president for advocacy Mark Peterson. “He will lead our state advocacy program, with an emphasis on issues that impact the CPA profession at the state level in both the legislative and regulatory arenas, representing our positions before state boards of accountancy and in other venues.”

U.S. Business Executives Cite Scarcity of Skilled Personnel as Top Concern, AICPA Survey Finds

According to AICPA, business executives maintained their generally upbeat view of prospects for the U.S. economy, and have upgraded expectations for profit and revenue growth over the next 12 months, according to the third-quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey, which polls CEOs, chief financial officers, controllers and other certified public accountants in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles. But there is a dark cloud on the horizon: the growing scarcity of suitable job candidates.

For the first time, “availability of skilled personnel” was cited as the top challenge facing companies, up from No. 2 last quarter. Seventy-five percent of respondents said they were seeing at least some increased competition in recruitment efforts, with 21% reporting a significant increase. The last time this survey question was asked (2014), only 16% said they were experiencing a significant increase in hiring competition.

“One out of five business executives say their company has lost out on top job candidates because of increased competition, and a majority say they’re having trouble finding the right candidate to begin with,” says Arleen Thomas managing director of Americas market, global offerings & CGMA exam, management accounting for AICPA. “For some companies, the scarcity of skilled workers could have an impact on productivity and growth over time.”

Despite recruiting challenges, half of business executives said their companies had the right number of employees. Nearly one-in-four (24%) said they planned to hire immediately, the same as last quarter, while another 15% said they had too few employees but were hesitant to hire. Business executives who said their companies had too many employees dropped from 8% to 7%.

Sixty-four percent of business executives said they were optimistic about the 12-month prospects for the U.S. economy, the same as last quarter. Revenue and profit expectations returned to levels from the start of the year after dipping last quarter. Business executives now expect revenue growth of 4.3% over the next 12 months, up from 3.9%. Profits are expected to grow 3.5%, up from 3.2% last quarter.

Enrollments in Undergraduate Accounting Programs Remain Strong: AICPA Trends Report

Enrollments in undergraduate and graduate accounting programs for the 2015-2016 school year totaled more than 250,000, maintaining the record high level from 2013-2014. This was driven primarily by an all-time high in undergraduate enrollments. On the demand side, accounting firm hiring of new graduates was down from the historic level seen in 2014, according to the 2017 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report, released by the AICPA.

“The high number of undergraduate enrollments in accounting programs bodes well for the goal of continuing a strong pipeline of talent entering the profession,” says Yvonne Hinson AICPA academic-in-residence, senior director, academic and student engagement.

While undergraduate enrollments were at an all-time high, the report found projected master’s enrollments in accounting returning to pre-2014 levels. The last several Trends reports found a sharp rise in the number of master’s enrollments and graduates. The CPA profession has significantly lower rates of unemployment than the broader economy – particularly during economic downturns – which may have been a factor in attracting both traditional students and those changing careers to earn their master’s in accounting.

“In my experience as an educator, economic turmoil is a strong motivator for people to seek out the stability that a career in accounting provides,” adds Hinson. “The uncertain job market in the years immediately after the recession may have driven a high number of career changers to return to school for a master’s in accounting. At the same time, we saw many students pursing their master’s directly after they earned their undergraduate degree to bolster their academic credentials, raising the overall numbers during that period.”

The number of undergraduate degrees awarded in the 2015-2016 academic year (57,119) remained strong, totaling the second highest on record and representing a 5% increase from 2013-2014. While master’s degrees awarded (22,405) saw a decline from the historic level seen in 2013-2014, they were also the second highest on record. Combined, there was an overall projected decrease of 2,258 accounting degrees awarded in 2015-2016.

The 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook, found that employment of accountants and auditors was expected to grow at an 11% rate from 2014-2024 – which is faster than average and represents an additional 142,000 jobs. According to the BLS Handbook, solid demand for accountants may lead to good prospects for entry-level positions, with strong competition for jobs at the most prestigious accounting firms and businesses. The handbook also notes that the job prospects are particularly bright for accountants and auditors who have earned their CPA license.

The full Trends report is available on the AICPA’s website.

AWSCPA to Join AICPA

The American Woman’s Society of CPAs (AWSCPA), a professional organization representing women CPAs, has agreed to support an memorandum of understanding with the AICPA. The following is an excerpted letter from the AWSCPA:

The AWSCPA national board is pleased to announce that we have received and unanimously accepted a memorandum of understanding with the AICPA that will further the goal of supporting women in the profession.

For the first time since our inception, AWSCPA has the opportunity to showcase our strengths on a larger platform. The AICPA can provide the women of our organization the resources, knowledge and skills. This provides an opportunity for our members to connect with a vast community of professional women in all realms of the accounting world as mentors, role models and friends.

In exchange for assignment of the AWSCPA intellectual property (logo, name, etc.) AICPA will:

  • Create a new task force for AWSCPA under women’s initiatives executive committee
  • Provide discounted introductory AICPA membership dues for AWSCPA members who are not currently AICPA members
  • Develop communities and programming for women members of the AICPA, including former AWSCPA members, as the women’s initiatives executive committee deems appropriate

AICPA Acquires Accounting Pilot and Bridge Project

AICPA recently announced that it acquired the Accounting Pilot and Bridge Project (APBP) from Dan Deines. The APBP, a program that trains high school educators to teach a higher-level accounting curriculum, was founded in 2006 by Deines who will continue involvement with the program, providing direction and training to the instructors who teach educators.

The AICPA had been involved with the APBP as a sponsor, working with state CPA societies to expand the reach of the program. They will be providing additional guidance and support to strengthen the community of teachers who have been trained to teach the course. In 2016, the AICPA assisted with five training sessions with six state societies and plan to expand the program this year to 14 trainings, with 20 state societies, reaching over 350 high schools teachers.

“By bringing the Accounting Pilot and Bridge Project in-house at the AICPA, we now have a formalized path to recruit highly motivated, talented high school students into the accounting profession on a national level,” says Barry Melancon, AICPA President and CEO.

After going through the APBP program, teachers can use a curriculum that is considerably more advanced than what is generally offered at the high school level. It consists of a combination of financial and managerial accounting, and is comparable to a college entry level accounting course.

High school teachers who have completed APBP will receive support from the AICPA as they work to implement the course in their state, including:

  • Access to online teaching resources
  • Daily lesson plans and assignments
  • Pre-written exams with answer keys
  • A textbook, including teacher’s notes and Power Point presentations
  • Scholarships for high school students who took their accounting course from an APBP trained teacher

The potential impact of the APBP is substantial: Research conducted by the AICPA has shown that high school students’ first accounting course has a large impact on their decision to pursue accounting as a major and career choice. Their research has also found that 44 percent of high school students have either taken an accounting course in high school or plan on taking one.

“The level of enthusiasm I’ve seen from teachers interested in going through the training and high school students who are eager to take a more advanced accounting class is a clear sign that this program is effective. AICPA ownership will help grow the program and continue its success well into the future,” says Deines.

AICPA Chair Also Named Chair of International Association

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor

Kimberly N. Ellison-Taylor has been named chair of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, a global accounting organization formed in 2017 by members of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

Ellison-Taylor brings extensive experience to the role, which she will hold for a one-year term. She currently works as global accounting strategy director for Oracle America and also serves as chairman of the AICPA. In her new position, she will work closely with David Stanford, the newly elected president of CIMA who has been named vice chairman.

On her appointment, Ellison-Taylor says, “Technological innovation is disrupting our society, spurring demand for the higher value strategic guidance that CGMAs and CPAs offer to clients and businesses everywhere. In these extraordinary times, the association has united and strengthened our profession, creating boundless possibilities for the accountants of today and tomorrow.”

The association represents 650,000 CGMAs, CPAs and students from 179 countries. The board is made up of CPAs and CGMAs responsible for overseeing strategies that advance the organization’s mission. The chairmanship rotates between the chairman of the AICPA and the president of CIMA. Ellison-Taylor succeeds Andrew Miskin, who is the immediate-past president of CIMA.

AICPA Launches Program to Spur Innovation

The AICPA and CPA.com are jointly sponsoring an initiative to accelerate the growth of early-stage companies that could have significant impact on the accounting profession. The goal is to promote innovation and give the profession early insight into disruptive technologies and services in finance and business.

The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants and CPA.com Startup Accelerator will look to support up to five early-stage companies over the next year.

It will focus on startups in two key areas: 1) Technology and Financial Information, which could include advances in artificial intelligence, automation of routine tasks and the application of blockchain/digital ledgers, and 2) Professional Competency Innovation, which can encompass machine learning to personalize professional education, collaboration tools for mentors and experts, and improvements in measuring professional competency, among other categories.

“The Association and CPA.com have a deep base of knowledge and resources to offer entrepreneurs looking to find a foothold in the accounting ecosystem,” says Lawson Carmichael, the Association’s executive vice president for strategy, people and innovation. “And for us, the startup accelerator offers a chance to ‘see around corners’ and take a more long-range view of opportunities in business transformation and innovation. There’s a compelling business case for collaboration.”

The startup accelerator will offer benefits to entrepreneurs in three ways:

  • Provide up to $20,000 in funding per finalist
  • Access to subject matter experts, including an advisory panel of thought leaders in the accounting technology field, who can provide coaching and mentoring on issues and opportunities unique to the profession
  • An opportunity to showcase their product or service next June at AICPA ENGAGE 2018, one of the largest accounting-related events in the United States.

Applicants from all global markets are eligible. Submissions by startups are due by Oct. 5. Interested companies who want more information can contact Greg Lafollette, a strategic advisor with CPA.com, greg.lafollette@hq.cpa.com, or Mark Brooks, a member of the AICPA’s innovation team, mark.brooks@aicpa-cima.com. To apply for consideration or learn more details about the startup accelerator, visit aicpaglobal.com/accelerator.

U.S. Business Executives Temper Strong Optimism on Economy, AICPA Survey Finds

Business executives are taking a more conservative view of what had been bullish optimism about both the U.S. economy and prospects for their own companies earlier this year, according to the second-quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey, which polls CEOs, CFOs, controllers and other CPAs in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles.

Those who expressed optimism about the 12-month outlook for the U.S. economy dropped from 69% last quarter – a 13-year high for the survey – to 64%. Respondents also pulled back slightly on optimism about their own company’s prospects (66% to 64%, quarter over quarter) and their organization’s plans for expansion (67% to 64%). Optimists and pessimists alike noted more uncertainty in the economic climate.

On the hiring front, some 40% of business executives said they had too few employees. Nearly one-in-four (24%) said they planned to hire immediately, a significant improvement from the 19 percent expressing that view a year ago. Another 16 percent said they need more staff, but were hesitant to hire.

There is a growing perception of tightness in the labor market. Asked to list their top challenges, business executives put “availability of skilled personnel” at No. 2 on the list and “staff turnover” at No. 6. Those categories were No. 3 and No. 9, respectively, last quarter.

The AICPA survey is a forward-looking indicator that tracks hiring and business-related expectations for the next 12 months. As a point of comparison, the U.S. Department of Labor’s May employment report, looks back on the previous month’s hiring trends.

Other key findings:

  • 16% of business executives said they expect the Trump administration’s proposal to lower federal corporate income taxes will be signed into law this year, while another 33% expect it to be enacted before the 2018 midterm elections.
  • 24% of business executives said a reduction in the rate of federal corporate income taxes to the 15-20% range would be “significantly positive” for their company’s bottom line, compared to 18% last quarter. Overall, 60% said a lower tax rate would be positive to some degree, compared to 51% last quarter.
  • The top category for investment of potential tax savings from a corporate rate reduction is increased capital expenditures (46%).
  • Revenue and profit expectations for the coming year fell, quarter over quarter. Business executives now expect revenue growth of 3.9% over the next 12 months, down from 4.3%. Profits are expected to grow 3.2%, down from 3.5% last quarter.

IT remains the strongest category for planned spending over the coming year, with an expected growth rate of 3.2%.