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Calling all CPAs – you should run for office

ElectionYou know that feeling you get when you’ve helped a client in a concrete way? Perhaps you saved them money on their taxes, identified waste or even fraud. Maybe you designed a plan to take their children through higher education, helped them save for retirement or protect themselves from loss. Possibly you advised a small business startup, or helped a larger company report on their cybersecurity controls.

What if you could take that feeling — and your service — to the next level?

When you’re a CPA, you have a solid understanding of the many issues that power government: taxes, their assessment and collection and the rules that govern them; small business challenges and needs; financial literacy and responsibility; and myriad details of budgeting, responsible record keeping and the impacts of financial decisions.

CPAs’ expertise gives them a distinct advantage over other candidates, making them uniquely qualified to serve as thought leaders in government. As the country ponders the effects of the first major tax overhaul in more than 30 years, now more than ever, there’s a need for tax and fiscal expertise in our public servants. Who better to serve the community and protect the public interest than CPAs?

While running for and serving in an elected office can be extremely fulfilling, it also comes with some challenges. Before you take the plunge, it’s important to step back and consider what’s involved in running. Some things to think about:

  • It’s important to have specific issues and ideas to run on. Distinguish yourself from the competition and develop strong positions on key issues. Run on ideas and positions you’re passionate about.
  • Running for office can be physically, financially and emotionally exhausting. How will your family feel about this new obligation in your life? Will you be able to balance work, family, hobbies, running an effective campaign and, if successful, serve in office?
  • Will you be able to maintain your business while running? Will you be able to keep up with your CPE? Holding a political office can be demanding at any level and can present a substantial impact to your work schedule.
  • Will your family support the decision? If you win a position in government, it can mean less time for family obligations and could draw them into the spotlight as well. Be certain they are comfortable with your desire to run and win.

As it turns out, CPAs are perfect candidates for political office and it may not be too late to run in 2018. Forty-four (44) states are still accepting candidate applications, but state deadlines are approaching with 17 of those deadlines in March. Congressional filing deadlines for many states continue through July.

Once you’ve decided to run, your top priority will be hiring a campaign manager and treasurer. Every state, county and municipality have different laws pertaining to getting on a ballot, getting petition signatures and reporting campaign income and expenditures. You’ll need a competent manager and treasurer to understand the state’s election, compliance and campaign finance laws thoroughly. They’ll help make sure you meet all the requirements and deadlines.

It might also be a good idea to consult with a CPA colleague who has campaign finance experience and can help you meet campaign finance requirements. Be sure to research and familiarize yourself with all campaign laws and deadlines, which can be found on your state legislature’s website, department of election’s website, and NCSL’s Election Administration website.

Running for office can be a fulfilling endeavor and can put you in a position to make real change in your community. Regardless of political affiliation, the need for experienced CPAs in government is at an all-time high. As filing deadlines near, now is the time to consider jumping into races and making a difference in the country. For more guidance, check out the resources on AICPA’s How to Run a Successful Political Campaign – Electing CPAs to Office website and download the brochure, “Starting an Election Campaign: A Primer for CPAs.

Jeff Shaffer, Specialist - State Regulation and Legislation, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Election courtesy of Shutterstock


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