With NASBA and the Boards of Accountancy, I look ahead to a year unlike any others. Although COVID-19 continues to impact our lives at every turn, we will continue to adapt to each new environment and be ready for a better tomorrow. The rapid changes we are all experiencing have affected our regulatory, as well as our personal, lives. There are a few areas that, I believe, pose concern for the profession moving forward this year:

The changes brought on by the pandemic have encouraged and strengthened those forces that would like to see the CPA reduced to an unregulated occupation, rather than what it really is – a skilled, licensed and learned profession. Organizations like ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) view the regulation of the CPA as a barrier to competition, and the costs associated with its regulation as unnecessary and burdensome. Legislators, as they search for ways to cut costs in order to balance their states’ budgets, will be preyed upon more by these organizations.

Unfortunately, legislators have short memories and little recollection of the disastrous effect one accounting firm’s failure 20 years ago caused those employees and investors in a large publicly traded company. Had it not been for the Texas State Board of Accountancy, which had both the will and, more importantly, the financial means to independently lead an investigation of the firm, those associated with the audit failure would have not been called to judgement and held responsible for their lack of adherence to accounting standards.

NASBA’s Legislative Support Committee will continue working hard to give you the timely information you need to be aware of any potential legislative threats to your Board.

The Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL), created by NASBA and the AICPA, and NASBA’s Key Person Contact Program can assist Boards of Accountancy with educating those in governance about the Boards’ role in regulating the profession and protecting the public. I encourage you to use your influence and legislative connections to educate those making these terrible decisions.

“Diversity” is a word we have heard often lately. The Black Lives Matter movement has been responsible for calling attention to an issue that we must all be willing to address. We see and are reminded of the profound inequities that still exist in our country for women and persons of color. I wonder, if diversity had never been discussed, or viewed as an integral part of NASBA’s culture, would I, a Hispanic, be NASBA’s chair today? My answer is: “No!”

I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, where the Hispanic population is well over 80 percent. However, those holding political power and the means to incorporate diversity into the fabric of our communities were non-Hispanic. When I returned home from college in 1976, the two largest CPA firms in the valley were non-Hispanic owned. I, along with several other young Hispanics, were lucky because a founding partner realized that the future growth of business depended on recognizing the importance of having a firm reflect those in the community it serves. We were given the chance to grow professionally and to prove our worth to our communities.

The challenge that diversity presents is one that begins with a willingness to have a conversation to understand, and accept, that there are differences that exist among us, and that these differences should be viewed as tools to strengthen us, not divide us. That South Texas firm’s founding partner understood that reality. As State Board members, you must have that conversation. Your Board should reflect the public you protect and the licensees you regulate in order to attain their trust. Many will argue that, over time, young diverse CPAs will take on leadership roles in business and on boards, but I believe diversity will also come from those already in positions of leadership, like you.

Over the last decade, NASBA has made a concerted effort to change the composition of its board of directors through the efforts of the Diversity and Nominations Committees. Women and persons of color have been encouraged to become part of NASBA leadership and that has strengthened our organization.

Last year we embarked on the CPA Evolution, a comprehensive plan to change and modernize the Uniform CPA Examination. Under the leadership of Chair Laurie Tish, that bold initiative has taken root and, in partnership with the AICPA, the updated CPA Exam will be rolled out in 2024. There is still much to do over the next few years and many Board members will be asked to be part of the various committees and task forces that will study and assess the impact of the next Exam on our education and delivery systems. NASBA will continue to provide leadership by listening to all concerns and recommendations in order to make the CPA Evolution a reality.

No hay mal que por bien, no venga. [There is nothing bad that doesn’t bring with it something good.]

Regardless of the roadblocks that COVID-19 has placed in our path, President Ken Bishop and I, along with NASBA’s executive leadership team, will be taking a strong stand to protect the CPA profession against the winds of deregulation, will be open to having all discussions surrounding diversity, and will continue to advance the CPA Evolution to fulfill our mission in 2021.

— A. Carlos Barrera, CPA
Chair 2020-2021

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