Visits to Capitol Hill to engage in advocacy of the profession’s legislative goals were a highlight of the American Institute of CPAs’ Spring Meeting of Council in May. Importantly, the meetings with lawmakers and their staff members led to an impressive increase in the number of congressional sponsors of profession-backed measures.
To no one’s surprise, tax reform – which sits atop the list of the Institute’s legislative priorities – was a focal point of the visits. “As the dialogue regarding reform of the federal income tax system continues, we aim to provide unbiased facts and analysis to foster informed discussion,” said AICPA President and CEO Barry C. Melancon, CPA, CGMA. “Our goal, reflected in our recent testimony and comment letters, is a system that is perceived as balanced, fair to all, administrable, economically efficient, transparent, and neutral in its effect on economic activity.”
The CPA advocates also urged lawmakers to support several pieces of legislation, including:
- Due Dates – H.R. 901 and S. 420, the Tax Return Due Date Simplification and Modernization Act of 2013, would generally improve tax administration by establishing a set of due dates focused on promoting a chronologically-correct flow of information between pass-through entities and their owners.
- Mobile Workforce – The AICPA supports H.R. 1129, the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2013, because a uniform national standard for state nonresident income tax withholding strikes a balance between interests of the states in taxing work done within their borders and the needs of businesses to be able to operate efficiently.
- Municipal advisors’ registration requirements – Stemming from concerns about municipalities’ debt offerings, the Dodd-Frank Act addressed a change in the registration requirements for municipal advisors. Legislation (H.R. 797) has been introduced to exempt CPAs who perform customary and usual accounting services from SEC registration.
- Definition of “fiduciary” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act – Legislation exempting appraisers of employee stock ownership plans from fiduciary status has been introduced in the Senate (S. 273) and House (H.R. 2041). Many CPAs perform business valuation services and many of these CPAs regularly value the stock of employer corporations that sponsor ESOPs. Like its companion bill in the Senate, H.R. 2041 would modify the definition of “fiduciary” to make clear that Employee Stock Ownership Plan appraisers are specifically excluded.
Profession leaders also used the meetings as an opportunity to reinforce the CPA profession’s interest in the federal budget deficit. A new video, “What’s at Stake? The CPA Profession on Federal Fiscal Responsibility,” is part of an ongoing Institute initiative to provide clear and non-partisan analysis of important information in the U.S. government’s financial statements.
The profession’s advocates were briefed in advance of the Hill visits by members of the AICPA’s Congressional & Political Affairs team, who reminded them that such meetings are of great value to the profession and Congress alike, in part by building relationships that result in CPAs becoming trusted resources. As Representative Tom Price (R-Ga.), a guest speaker at Council, remarked, “In your Hill visits, you’re the brightest person in the room as it relates to fiscal matters. Remember that.”
The AICPA’s briefings yielded impressive results, with the number of congressional sponsors of measures of interest to the profession rising significantly as a result of the visits. As an example, the number of House cosponsors of the due dates legislation (H.R. 901), which stood at three prior to the Council meeting, rose to 28. And the Senate sponsor count for S. 420 climbed from two to 13.
“Our Council-related meetings with lawmakers and staff were informative and productive. They enable us to localize the profession’s public policy agenda. Indeed, I’ve always found members of Congress to be particularly responsive to our requests for legislative support,” said Judy Love, director of advocacy for the Washington Society of CPAs.