New Survey: Consumers Concerned About Rush to Eliminate Professional Licensing

A national survey by The Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL) reflects wide support for maintaining rigorous professional licensing standards for professions that have a clear impact on public health, safety and welfare.

The alliance says West Virginia and other state legislatures are considering broad proposals to overhaul or eliminate state licensing requirements.

“An overwhelming, bipartisan majority of the American people understand that professional licensing is rigorous for good reason and they want to keep it that way,” says Skip Braziel, a member of the ARPL, who also serves as the AICPA’s vice president for state regulatory and legislative affairs. “Consumers want to know that the professionals they hire are qualified and as this survey makes clear, voters want to see responsible licensing protected.”

Some survey results, according to ARPL:

  • 75% of voters believe that it is important to ensure qualifications for professionals in certain industries. A majority of voters believe that current professional licensing requirements protect the public and should not be reformed.
  • More than 70% of voters believe that regulating professionals in accounting, engineering, architecture, landscape architecture and related fields with high impact on public safety and welfare is important.
  • 71% of voters believe professional licensing should be required unless it can be proven that eliminating licensing will not have a negative impact on public health and safety. The public is wary of the alternative approach: requiring licensing only when it is proven necessary for health and safety.
  • 67% of voters believe that consumers are best protected by a system that regulates education, examination and experience standards ­– all of which are overseen by a professional licensing board.

ARPL is an coalition of professional organizations and their licensing boards to inform policymakers and the public about the benefits of licensing. Members of ARPL include the AICPA, NASBA, American Institute of Architects, American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, National Society of Professional Engineers and National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.

AICPA Gives Auditors Some Direction on Handling Digital Assets

The AICPA has issued guidance on how to account for digital assets.

Digital assets are defined as “digital records, made using cryptography for verification and security purposes, on a distributed ledger.” Blockchain is the distributed ledger used for crypocurrency transactions.

Because the business environment is changing so quickly and various types of crypto assets are being used more frequently, the AICPA is providing nonauthoritative guidance on how to account for these assets properly under GAAP rules. Digital assets are used for a variety of purposes, including “as a medium of exchange, as a representation to provide or access goods or services, or as a financing vehicle, such as a security, among other uses,” the AICPA says.

Ten questions and answers related to the issue are included in a free practice aid, which was developed by the AICPA’s the Digital Assets Working Group.

The AICPA notes that auditors should first think carefully about the risks and whether they have the skills needed before accepting or continuing audit engagements involving digital assets.

As additional topics are completed, the practice aid will be updated.

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Survey: Businesses Regain Some Optimism on Economy but Trim Profit Outlook

Business executives regained some optimism about the U.S. economy after a sharp decline in the third quarter, yet continue to rein in forecasts for profit and revenue growth, according to the fourth-quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey.

The survey polls CEOs, CFOs, controllers and other CPAs in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles.

Some 50% of survey takers expressed optimism about the U.S. economy’s overall outlook over the next 12 months, up from 42% last quarter. That’s still low for the post-recession period – positive sentiment on the U.S. economy had been as high as 79% in early 2018, the AICPA reports.

U.S. executives’ outlook on the global economy, while far more pessimistic, also improved in the quarter. Some 28% expressed optimism, up four percentage points from last quarter.

Profit growth over the next 12 months is now expected to be 2.7%, down from 2.8% last quarter and significantly below the outlook of 4.3% a year ago. Similarly, 12-month revenue growth expectations dropped a tenth of a percentage point to 3.4 %, quarter over quarter. That’s down from 5% a year ago.

“We saw a sharp drop in U.S. economic optimism in the third quarter due to the U.S.-China trade war really driving uncertainty, so this quarter represents a correction of sorts, with prospects of a reasonable outcome,” says the AICPA’s Ash Noah. “But there also is a continued sense of unease and uncertainty about trade and growth prospects, and we’re seeing that in some of these more conservative forecasts.”

Hiring plans were a relatively bright spot this quarter. Some 43% of business executives said they had too few employees, compared to 38% last quarter. Of that group, 28% said they planned to hire immediately and 15% said they needed employees but were hesitant to hire.

The AICPA survey is a forward-looking indicator that tracks hiring and business-related expectations for the next 12 months.

Other key findings of the survey:

  • The percentage of U.S. executives who expressed optimism about their own company’s prospects over the next 12 months remained unchanged at 58%, quarter over quarter.
  • Survey respondents who said they expect their organizations to expand in the coming year fell two percentage points to 59% and has dropped 8% year over year.
  • Availability of skilled personnel remains the top challenge for businesses, a position it has occupied since the third quarter of 2017.

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Americans’ Financial Satisfaction Near All-Time High

Although Americans are slightly less optimistic than the last quarter, the average American should be feeling a strong sense of financial well-being, according to results of the AICPA’s Personal Financial Satisfaction Index for the third quarter of this year.

The index shows a 3.6% decrease from the prior quarter. The decline was due to a 2.2% drop in the Personal Financial Pleasure Index, which outweighed a slight 0.8% decrease in the Personal Financial Pain Index. The Personal Financial Satisfaction Index is calculated as the Pleasure Index minus the Pain Index.

The data, combined with the AICPA’s CPA Outlook Index, shows that while Americans are experiencing near record high levels of financial satisfaction, CPA executives have become somewhat more worried about the potential for an economic downturn in the year ahead, the AICPA reports.

“It’s important for Americans to keep in mind that economies are cyclical,” says David Desmarais, a member of the AICPA Personal Financial Planning Executive Committee. “Now is the perfect time for Americans to check in on their financial plans to make sure that everything is in order. That may mean making sure they aren’t overextended with debt (whether it be credit cards, lines of credit, auto loans or home mortgages), and talking to their CPA about their goals, asset allocation, time horizon and risk tolerance.”

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AICPA Announces Annual Leadership Academy Graduates

The AICPA says 36 promising young CPAs from around the country have graduated from its four-day 2019 AICPA Leadership Academy in Durham, N.C.

The AICPA Leadership Academy uses interactive workshops to give participants access to advanced leadership training, networking activities and presentations from some of the profession’s top thought leaders.

The 2019 class discussed key issues and interacted with influential leaders in the profession including AICPA Chair Bill Reeb, AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon and Mark Koziel, executive vice president of firm services.

“This year’s Leadership Academy class is an impressive group of diverse professionals who are well-positioned to take the next step in their careers,” says Reeb. “New technology is disrupting the profession and creating new opportunities and challenges for CPAs. These talented CPAs are a great example of the forward-thinking leaders who will not only help steer us through this transition but lead us beyond it.”

The AICPA Leadership Academy is meant to serve as a succession plan for the CPA profession, ensuring a strong base of future leaders to address the challenges of an ever-changing global business environment. The event also encourages self-reflection and a thoughtful exploration of how leadership impacts their personal and professional lives.

The program was designed to strengthen and expand the leadership skills of promising young professionals while they network with a peer group of talented and motivated CPAs. The 2019 participants comprised the eleventh graduating class, and nearly 400 CPAs have now graduated from the program.

“The Leadership Academy really helped me identify what skills I need as I establish myself as a leader in the profession,” says Brittany Cummings, 2019 Leadership Academy graduate. “The program has given me the tools and confidence to navigate our changing profession successfully and strengthened my confidence that I am steering my career in the direction I want it to go.”

This year’s class included representatives from 31 states. Participants were selected from public accounting firms of all sizes, business and industry, academia and consulting firms.

The full 2019 Leadership Academy class:

  • Lauren Aldrich, Heard McElroy & Vestal, Shreveport, La.
  • Robert Allen, The Allen CPA Firm, PLLC, Houston
  • Karen Bartlett, O’Brien Shortle Reynolds & Sabotka, Rutland, Vt.
  • Jose Borbon, Kearny Bank, Fairfield, N.J.
  • Chris Brown, Beall Barlcay & Company, Fort Smith, Ark.
  • Clara Cohen, Bedrock Wealth Strategies, Elmsford, N.Y.
  • Kelly Crow, Reynolds Bone & Griesbeck, Memphis, Tenn.
  • Brittany Cummings, BKD, Springfield, Mo.
  • Sarah Flischel, Kundinger Corder & Engle, Denver
  • Jessica Foster, Cohen & Company, Youngstown, Ohio
  • Austin Foust, HoganTaylor, Tulsa, Okla.
  • Amanda Gessner, Schmitz-Holmstrom, Bismarck, N.D.
  • Matt Heo, Aronson, Rockville, Md.
  • Michael Jamison, OnTarget CPA, Indianapolis
  • Andrew Jordan, Jordan CPA Services, Carthage, Mo.
  • Shakor Jukes, Target, Minneapolis
  • Brian Klintworth, HBE LLP, Lincoln, Neb.
  • Jennifer Koffman, Bellows Associates, Plantation, Fla.
  • Ryan LaRue, StoneTurn, Boston
  • James McGettigan, Stoker Ostler, a part of BMO Financial Group, Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • Lacy McMoarn, Marcum, Portland, Maine
  • Jessica Mytrohovich, Georgia Society of CPAs, Atlanta
  • Eugene Park, HeinfeldMeech Co., Phoenix
  • Becky Peterson, Woltman Group, Sioux Falls, S.D.
  • Colin Proctor, Marshall Retail Group, Las Vegas
  • Charlene Rhinehart, CEO Unlimited, Chicago
  • Alexandria Romero, McPherson Goodrich Paolucci & Mihelich, Pueblo, Colo.
  • Adam Schrom, Bloomberg BNA, Arlington, Va.
  • Navneet Sharma, KNAV, Atlanta
  • Jordyn Sherman, Advantis Credit Union, Clackamas, Ore.
  • Ashley Sullivan, Haddox Reid Eubank Betts, Jackson, Miss.
  • Dalton Sweaney, Gray Salt & Associates, Claremont, Calif.
  • Jana Walker, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Alva, Okla.
  • Brittany Wilson, MHP, Cheyenne, Wyo.
  • Kendall Wilson, Dixon Hughes Goodman, Raleigh, N.C.
  • Samantha Young, Cohos Advisors, Lancaster, N.H.

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AICPA Offers Guidance on Working With New Clients in Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry offers CPAs a bevvy of prospective new clients. But the nature of the industry also opens to door to several potential challenges and pitfalls, the AICPA says.

Several states have legalized marijuana use for recreational or medical reasons, creating a burgeoning industry of growers, distributors, and retailers such as Full Spectrum. Revenue from medical and recreation cannabis is estimated to reach $12 billion this year. Due to how big this industry is set to grow, many people are deciding to start their own careers to help them make as much money as possible. Recreational marijuana has always been popular but in recent years, its popularity has grown considerably. People can smoke the marijuana via glass pipes or like a cigarette, or it can even be put into foods. Marijuana has become very versatile and individuals can do a lot with it. These days it is as simple as making and distributing this cannabis from home through using the rosin press piece of equipment. This will make it considerably easier for people to earn money quicker in this industry. It’s important that you receive all of the information that you think you may need first before making any further decisions about your career choice. The accounting profession, similar to the legal profession, can offer its expertise to clients in the cannabis industry, such as auditing and taxation services, as well as expert guidance for avoiding fraud or theft.

With these opportunities come serious downsides, as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. As a result, few banks are willing to deal with players in the industry, leaving it largely a cash operation. CPAs providing business advisory or other accounting services to clients in the cannabis industry need to navigate the nuances of federal and state law and to avoid being charged criminally, potentially resulting in fines, jail time or the loss of their license.

The American Institute of CPAs details the risks and opportunities for CPAs working in the cannabis industry in the latest Eye on Fraud report. It offers a review of many of the State Boards of Accountancy positions on working in the cannabis industry and highlights some of the issues and challenges facing both the cannabis industry and CPAs supporting it.

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Global Startup Accelerator Program for Accounting Profession Seeks New Applicants

The AICPA and CPA.com are looking for early-stage companies to apply for a startup accelerator that focuses on innovation in accounting, finance and regulatory technology.

Successful applicants for the program can access the expertise of senior leaders in the ACIPA and CPA.com, CPA firm leaders, Chartered Global Management Accountants (CGMAs) in major corporations and other influencers. In addition, they can qualify for up to $25,000 in funding.

“We offer deep insight into the rapidly changing dynamics of the accounting profession for participants in the accelerator,” says Lawson Carmichael, COO of the association. “In turn, we understand that innovation in the profession can come from all sources and we want to embrace and support change and better quality.”

Applications for the latest accelerator class are due Nov. 30, 2019.

The startup accelerator program is open to entrepreneurial companies worldwide. For questions about the program, email mark.brooks@aicpa-cima.com or kacee.johnson@hq.cpa.com. To apply, visit aicpa-cima.com/accelerator.html.

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Former AICPA Chair Joins Business Learning Institute

Former AICPA Chair Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, global executive director of finance thought leadership for Oracle, has joined the Business Learning Institute to offer a variety of courses on the intersection of emerging technologies and the future of work and finance.

Among her BLI course titles are:

  • Are We There Yet? Why Not?
  • Fingers Crossed Is Not A Path To Double-Digit Revenue Growth
  • Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
  • Inclusive Leadership: Does It Really Work?
  • Leading From The Middle
  • Why Standing Still Is Not An Option
  • Will SkyNet Become Self-Aware?

Kimberly Ellison-Taylor

“Her depth of knowledge is nearly unequaled, and her devotion to teaching and lifelong learning will help BLI clients master the skills they’ll need to succeed in a changing and complex world,” says Tom Hood, president and CEO of the Business Learning Institute and the Maryland Association of CPAs. “The skills she brings to the Business Learning Institute are exactly what we need to help our profession become more future-ready.”

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Ellison-Taylor, who was born and raised in Baltimore and served as chair of the Maryland Association of CPAs’ board of directors during the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Ellison-Taylor’s career achievements include leadership roles at Oracle, Motorola, KPMG, Prince George’s County Government and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. She has received numerous awards and recognitions for her leadership in the profession and serves as a member of the AICPA Assurance Services Executive Committee and as vice chair for the AICPA’s National Commission for Diversity and Inclusion.

Virginia CPAs Commit to Advance Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

The Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) has joined a coalition aiming to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. More than 750 CEOs have come together for CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™.

Signing on means the society is pledging to cultivate a workplace where diverse perspectives and experiences are welcome. The signatories have already shared more than 700 ideas for actions through CEOAction.com.

“Diversity and inclusion is one of our core organizational values as we strive to foster an environment that respects and reflects a diversity of people, cultures and perspectives,” says Stephanie Peters, VSCPA president and CEO. “The evidence is clear that businesses with diverse talent are far more innovative and achieve greater financial results, and it’s a critical focus for future relevancy of the CPA profession.”

A recent study found that 85% of those surveyed reported that diversity is a key component to fostering innovation. Data from the AICPA shows that minorities represent only 1 in 6 professionals at accounting firms nationwide, yet by 2044, minorities will become the majority of the U.S. population.

The pledge was launched in 2017 and ramped up following an incident in September 2018 when Botham Jean, an African-American associate at PwC, was shot and killed in his Dallas home by an off-duty police officer. PwC was a founding signatory of the pledge.

The AICPA has put together a toolkit (PDF) on how to get started with the pledge.

AICPA, NASBA Join ‘Advanced Professions’ to Launch New Coalition to Protect Licensing

The AICPA and NASBA have helped found the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL), a new coalition focused on educating policymakers and the public about the importance of rigorous professional licensing standards.

The coalition was formed to “ensure the voices and concerns of the advanced professions are heard by lawmakers amid the growing debate around licensing,” the coalition announced.

“Weakening professional licensing standards on a state-by-state basis will destroy the confidence in qualifications and completely disrupt existing mobility models for advanced professions like ours,” warns Barry Melancon, president and CEO of AICPA. “Employers will be less inclined to accept out-of-state licenses if some states have rigorous requirements and others have weak requirements. The result: it will become more difficult for CPAs to move and maintain their careers across states.”

Bills have been introduced in dozens of states around the country that would reduce state licensing requirements, not only for CPAs, but also for surveyors, architects and engineers. Some of the proposals could have eliminated the hard-fought ability for CPAs to serve clients and employers outside of their home state without getting an additional license.

NASBA CEO Ken Bishop adds, “When a CPA performs an audit of a business or government, the public must have confidence in its accuracy, thoroughness and integrity. The most effective way to maintain this confidence is to continue to have CPAs show rigorous education, examination and experience for their licensing requirements.”

ARPL members also include the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying and the National Society of Professional Engineers. Find more information on ARPL’s new website.

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