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An Election Like No Other

Election 2016“What do you make of the presidential campaign, Barry?” That’s the question I'm often asked by fellow CPAs and CGMA designation holders.

I have a simple refrain: It is an election like no other. And it may well matter more than any U.S. election before it for one reason. It comes at a time when the country is the most polarized it’s been in modern political history. People on both sides of the ideological spectrum feel distrust and anger at large institutions and government officials. So it’s fair to wonder if the new President and new Congress will choose to build bridges—or burn them. 

Regardless of your own political preferences, the outcome is likely to have a significant bearing on the accounting profession in the U.S. and beyond, our advocacy agenda, and our ability to shape legislation and regulation for at least the next four years.

By the way, eight CPAs are running for re-election to the House, and a current House member is making a Senate bid. If victorious, he will be the first CPA Senator since the 1980s. There’s also another accountant, who is not a CPA, up for re-election in the Senate.  

When the post-balloting dust has settled, our advocacy program will again switch into high gear. A lame-duck session of Congress is scheduled, and we’re hopeful it will be an opportunity to gain Senate passage of the mobile workforce legislation we’ve fought to see become law.

Then, after Inauguration Day, the new President and new Congress will get down to business.

The new President’s appointments will include a chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), who in turn will decide who takes the helm of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB). The President also will appoint a new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner. More broadly, the next occupant of the White House will establish a federal regulatory framework that determines how issues of interest to the profession are handled. At the moment, we’re monitoring the Department of Labor’s pending overtime rule and proposed revisions to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s pay data collection requirement, both of which will burden the nation’s accounting firms, not-for-profit organizations and businesses. 

On Capitol Hill, there will be changes in the leadership of committees that have primary jurisdiction over key CPA profession issues—and even more if Democrats take control of the Senate.

Tax reform is likely to be a dominant issue under any scenario. Thirty years after the passage of the last major overhaul of the tax code, the House Ways and Means Committee is expected to move tax reform legislation in 2017. The AICPA will continue to inform the process on both sides of Capitol Hill and guard against the inclusion of language mandating the use of accrual accounting for tax purposes, which would unfairly harm accounting firms and other service companies.

The collaborative effort we have begun with legislators and other stakeholders to improve IRS taxpayer service will remain a priority during the 115th Congress, as will a targeted approach to tax preparer regulation favored by the CPA profession.

The new Congress will also hold sway over recurring profession priorities, including the effort to clamp down on patent trolls and our work to add accounting to the math component of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program to aid in global recruitment and retention efforts.

Further, lawmakers of both parties will be on point for oversight of the SEC, PCAOB and the Financial Accounting Standards Board. The CPA profession wants to prevent further erosion of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, seeks preservation of the independence of accounting standard-setting, and opposes the premature disclosure of PCAOB enforcement proceedings, knowing that the publication of unproven charges can end an auditor’s career.

And while our primary focus is the nation’s capital, it’s important to note that voters in 12 states will select governors. Additionally, 3,400 state legislative seats are up for grabs. The outcome will help determine states’ legislative agendas, which may include efforts to tax professional services such as those provided by CPAs, as well as consideration of full CPA firm mobility.

You’ve heard it said that the only poll that matters is the one that happens on Election Day. There’s no denying that wall-to-wall media coverage and non-stop polling have contributed to voter fatigue. But it’s still important that you exercise your civic duty on November 8. Whether you back Democrats, Republicans or a third party, I urge you to cast a ballot. There’s a lot riding on the outcome…for the accounting profession, the nation and the world.

Want to learn more? Join us for one or more of AICPA’s post-election webcasts or online conferences, with insights into the impacts the incoming leadership will have on the regulatory environment, tax accounting and personal financial planning.

Barry C. Melancon, CPA, CGMA, President and CEO,  American Institute of CPAs. 

Election 2016 courtesy of Shutterstock.

 

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