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Moments of Obligation: A Call for CPAs to Join the Financial Conversation

US budget 2013I’ve always been attracted to the “serving the public interest” element of our profession. As an auditor I didn’t see myself so much as a policeman enforcing the rules, but rather as the surrogate for the investors and creditors who had limited access to information about a company’s finances and operations. I knew that these nameless, faceless third parties trusted me and that no matter what, I could not break that trust, for it was the cornerstone of the profession.

“Moments of obligation” are those moments or events when you feel yourself pulled down a path that leads you to work that will benefit others. At various points in my career, I’ve made more conscious decisions about pursuing paths to give back to the community. Of course, thousands of CPAs make decisions every day to contribute their skills, experiences and—perhaps most importantly—their credibility to efforts aimed to benefit the public good.

The AICPA is now adding its voice with many who have called for a new fiscal accountability movement in this country. In his address at the 2012 AICPA Spring Council meeting, Greg Anton, Chairman of the AICPA Board of Directors, recently called on policy makers and the public to engage in a national dialogue on the U.S. government’s financial statements and how and why the financial stability of our country is at stake. CPAs can and should play a critical role in this dialogue.

Sadly, for the last two decades, the national discourse has coarsened. Ratings, web page hits—whatever metric used to measure audience and therefore revenue—seem to flow to whomever can make the most outrageous claim, can incite his or her self-selected audience into a higher level of outrage, can generate the most heat, not light.

In such an environment, can the voice of a single CPA or even the entire profession break through and make a difference?

Yes we can. And I would argue we must.

An unbiased analysis, the clearly stated opinion of the most knowledgeable and credible experts on financial matters, a profession with over a century of service to the public trust—this is what we bring to the debate, and this is why our voice is so powerful. I am convinced that there is a significant cross section of Americans who would welcome the CPA’s perspective and trusted voice into the dialogue.

Make a difference. The AICPA is currently working on ways we can leverage the knowledge of our profession to help school boards, city councils, and state governments—even Congress—better understand how historical financial information can inform budgets decisions and how public money is spent. Learn more about becoming an engaged and social citizen and get involved in this discussion.

Michael Ramos, Director of CPE and Training, American Institute of CPAs. Mike sets the strategic direction and manages operations of the professional development business unit at the AICPA. He combines his understanding of technical audit and accounting issues with his communication skills and experience to advance AICPA CPE offerings. He is the author of many books and training courses on SOX 404, internal control and other auditing matters.

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