February marks the time of year when a good number of our members suddenly go quiet. But we know why: February is the start of tax season. With our conference season over, the calls slow down, our committees meet less frequently, and we try to keep e-mail out-reach to our tax practitioners as limited as possible.
But the NYSSCPA offices are far from quiet. Yes, the calls from members looking for CPE courses slow down, but our technical hotline lights up with inquiries from members looking for busy season technical guidance. February, for the NYSSCPA, is when our government affairs program kicks into full swing. For instance, earlier this month, NYSSCPA President Joe Falbo left Buffalo for Albany to testify on behalf of the Society during the state’s joint budget hearings. He was invited because law-makers from the Senate Finance and the Assembly Ways and Means committees wanted to know what CPAs think about the tax provisions in the state’s proposed executive budget. That testimony led to a February 28 meeting with the office of Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, chairman of the Assembly’s Trust and Estates Subcommittee, to discuss amending the state’s estate tax laws, one of the items on the NYSSCPA’s 2016 legislative agenda.
We have other irons in the fire. The AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) have proposed changes to the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA), a jointly drafted legislative blueprint for establishing uniformity and consistency in the way accountancy laws are applied from state to state. That’s how we brought mobility to New York State and it was the basis for the bill we are currently supporting that would make CPA firm ownership more accessible to more professionals.
The proposed changes to the UAA include a provision that would help meet the needs of retired CPAs who want to use their expertise to volunteer for not-for-profit organizations. The UAA proposes a “Retired-CPA” status with clearly delineated guidelines on the scope of work retirees could offer to nonprofit boards. We welcome clarity in New York, where many of our members—primarily due to regulatory changes brought about the accountancy reform law enacted in 2009—currently face the choice to either maintain CPE hours in order to serve on a volunteer board in a role that may have tenuous connection to the scope of practice, or step down from the position. Enacting this provision would require an amendment to the accountancy reform regulations, and that’s not the only improvement we need to make to the rules implementing that landmark piece of legislation. It’s been seven years, and professional practice has changed. It’s our responsibility to make sure these changes are communicated to state legislators so that the laws regulating our profession remain effective.
The NYSSCPA is the voice of the profession in New York State. We have a voting bloc 28,000 members strong. When it comes to politics, that’s power. But in order to wield that power, we need an effective political action committee. I’ve been driving this message home for the past six years, and I know some of you have heard me, because we have more than 100 new members in the PAC this year. Unfortunately, we still have fewer than 2,000 members overall. It’s my job to change that, but I can’t do it without your help.
The NYSSCPA cannot fulfill its obligation as your advocate in Albany without a strong PAC. We use those PAC donations to attend legislative fundraising events, where we can establish and build relationships with lawmakers whose votes determine how our members can run their practices. It’s our job to make the connections and leverage them on behalf of our members. But it’s our members’ obligation to reach out to us when they become aware of a legislative or regulatory proposal that either harms the profession or helps it. We can oppose legislation or we can support it, but we can do neither without a strong PAC.
When we send out dues invoices in April, every member will have an opportunity to join the PAC. When you renew your membership, check the appropriate box to donate $25 to the PAC. Once you do, you become a member. Want to see who else is a member? Pick up the January/February issue of The Trusted Professional. The issue recognizes the New York CPAs who have made a proud commitment to a powerful profession in New York. Then, once busy season is over, we can head to Albany and make some noise.