During my inaugural address, entitled “Tomorrow is Promised,” I asked who hasn’t said or heard the phrase: “Promises, promises…”? Every day, we are challenged to keep our commitment as regulators to ensure a safer tomorrow for the public we serve and protect. Last year’s Annual Meeting theme focused on the continual evolution of the accounting profession and its effect on regulation. I asked you, the Boards of Accountancy, to: promise to implement your Board’s rules and regulations; guard against deregulation; and engage in the evolution of the profession, especially as it relates to technology. This past year, we achieved positive results and progress in each of these areas.
Implement Board Rules and Regulations: Throughout the year, Boards of Accountancy were extremely active in rulemaking. Four states adopted the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct and several states have begun the adoption process. In addition, several states adopted firm mobility provisions. They have enforced their regulations on use of titles. I applaud the efforts of these Boards of Accountancy and urge all jurisdictions to continue to work towards conformity with the Uniform Accountancy Act and Model Rules.
Guard Against Deregulation: For several years, and especially since the North Carolina Dental Board decision, there has been a concerted effort by various anti-regulatory groups to limit or dismantle the state-based licensing system for professions and occupations. These groups aim to weaken a Board’s ability to fulfill its statutory charge to protect the public. Their strategy is to pursue the consolidation of boards’ functions; require agency supervision and oversight; remove regulations claimed to be barriers for entry into the profession; and establish “sunrise” and “sunset” provisions. During the past two years, our Legislative and Governmental Affairs Department has identified 46 pieces of legislation specifically aimed at weakening State Board licensing statutes. The overarching debate is about the role of government in occupational regulation.
The validity of the profession and the necessity of an effective state-based regulatory system are being challenged in the courts and the legislatures. NASBA continues to work with stakeholders within the profession and with other associations to counter efforts that threaten the existence of State Boards. Several Boards of Accountancy were affected by deregulatory legislative proposals that aim to limit government by reducing occupational license requirements. These efforts are being supported by a bipartisan group and will affect the overall practice of the profession, including mobility, uniformity and reciprocity. Cooperative efforts between regulatory, professional and other interested parties are required to withstand this current movement.
Engage in the Evolution of the Profession: Current research has confirmed that there will be an increase in the hiring of personnel with technology backgrounds into CPA firms. These technologically savvy professionals will also need to have a working knowledge of basic accounting skills. In response to these findings, NASBA and AICPA leadership directed a new “Technology Pathway” to licensure be conceptualized. This new pathway was vetted and studied by joint committees and task forces prior to exposure at NASBA’s Annual Conference for Executive Directors and Board Staff, NASBA’s Regional Meetings and the AICPA’s Spring Council Meetings. However, the overall conclusion from participants at these events was that the pathway as initially envisioned would not be a viable option. There was a consensus that adopting technological advances is inevitable, and steps need to be taken to ensure the profession remains relevant.
A clear message that we must continue to work towards solutions for both regulators and the profession was received by NASBA’s leadership. The benefit of exploring the pathway project was reaping good information for continuance of the innovation process. We gathered ideas about experience requirements, educational curriculum, 150-hour credit requirements and the skill set for future accountants. During discussions with the AICPA leadership at our August Summit meeting, it was determined that we need to refocus our efforts on the evolution of the profession.
I am proud to announce the formation of a new joint taskforce: the “CPA Evolution Work Group.” This work group will be comprised of State Board of Accountancy members and executive directors, State CPA Society members and their executive directors, a large firm representative, NASBA leadership, AICPA leadership, an educator and an IT professional. This taskforce will bring fresh eyes to the subject, serve as a think tank for the short term, and work to develop strategies for a positive outcome.
Serving as chair of NASBA has been an honor and a privilege. I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many of you and to see firsthand, the dedication, expertise and valuable contributions you have made toward advancing this great organization. Thank you for your support and for your commitment to the regulation of the accounting profession. I leave you with the following words, which I recite to myself each morning:
“A Deliberate Life”: Sometimes we make choices in life and sometimes life makes them for us, but in the end it is where you put your heart and soul that really matters.
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