CPAs Converge on Capitol Hill

June 30, 2011

Congressman John Campbell (left), a Republican from California, meets in his Capitol Hill office with California CPAs Harold Schultz (top right) and Andrew Mintzer.

Top elected leaders of the accounting profession from across the nation converged on Capitol Hill on May 24-25 for face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress about issues important to CPAs.

About 500 CPAs including members of the AICPA’s governing Council met with more than 200 lawmakers in both the U.S. House and Senate. 

“It is really important to let them know that we are a resource both back at home and in Washington through the AICPA,” said Peggy Dzierzawski, president and CEO of the Michigan Association of CPAs. Michigan flew in extra members so they could meet with as many of Michigan’s congressional delegation as possible succeeding in getting face-to-face meetings with 49 of 50 Michigan federal lawmakers.  “It’s making the relationship work so that they see we are not just coming to ask but we are here as a resource.  Who better than CPAs with our business expertise to talk about taxes, budget and deficits.”

“Senator Orrin Hatch spent a lot of time with us talking about our issues and he’s always been a good friend of the profession,” said Michelle McGaughey, CEO of the Utah Association of Certified Public Accountants whose members were able to meet with all five of Utah’s federal lawmakers. “We were able to introduce ourselves to our new senator Mike Lee.”

The CPAs visiting Congress told lawmakers that tax laws need to be simple and based on sound tax policy so that taxpayers can understand them and comply correctly and cost effectively. 

Passing a comprehensive patent reform bill that includes an AICPA-backed provision that would stop patents for tax planning methods is a key priority for CPAs.  The Senate passed a patent reform bill, S. 23, on March 8.  A similar bill, H.R. 1249, cleared the U.S. House of Representatives on June 23.

CPAs discussed with their elected representatives the need to establish a national standard for withholding state income taxes for nonresident workers, so that compliance burdens on business can be reduced.

CPAs are seeking to rationalize the due dates for filing returns for partnership, S corporation and other pass-through entities, so these taxpayers don’t face problems when they receive IRS K-1 Schedules late.  These affect businesses such as partnerships and LLCs in which the taxes are “passed through” to individuals and paid on their personal income tax returns.

“Surveys of congressional staff show that the face-to-face constituent meeting is one of the most effective means of advocating on behalf of your position,” said Barry Melancon, president and CEO of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. “Getting our CPA members up to Capitol Hill so they can meet with their congressmen and senators is essential and very valuable. The expertise and thought leadership we offer as CPAs is very helpful for members of Congress as they consider changes to the tax law.”

Rich Jones, president and CEO of the Washington Society of CPAs, said the visits to congressional offices in May paid off in June when the accounting profession opposed an amendment in the House of Representatives that would have opened a loophole in the legislation banning tax strategy patents. “We were educating staff about the issues they would be seeing, most significantly the patent reform legislation, so we were pretty effective at elevating that issue,” Jones said. “Those were warm calls we were able to make since we had just visited with the congressmen and their staffs in their offices.”

The amendment, offered by Representative Jared Polis of Colorado, would have grandfathered more than 160 pending tax patent claims that would be ineligible under terms of the bills that have now passed both the House and Senate. It was defeated by voice vote during House floor debate.

In addition to the congressional visits, Council members heard presentations during the three-day meeting from House Ways and Means Committee member Eric Paulsen and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  Representative Paulsen is a Minnesota Republican and Representative Wasserman Schultz is a Florida Democrat. 

The founding members and co-chairs of the 10-member bipartisan Congressional CPA Caucus – Representative Mike Conaway, a Texas Republican, and Representative Brad Sherman, a California Democrat – spoke to Council members.  Other congressional speakers included two newly-elected CPAs: Representative Jim Renacci and Representative Steve Palazzo.  Renacci is a Republican from Ohio who serves on the House Financial Services Committee, and Palazzo is a Republican from Mississippi who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.