Lisa C. Germano, CPA, CGMA, JD, has served as a Tax Division Volunteer for over 25 years. She has been a member of the AICPA Tax Executive Committee and Employee Benefits Taxation Committee, as well as several task forces on topics specific to employee benefits. In 2015, she was awarded the Arthur Dixon Award, the highest honor bestowed by the accounting profession in the area of taxation.
Lisa is currently a member of AICPA Council, Chair of the Board of the Virginia Society of CPAs, and active in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Additionally, Germano is president and general counsel of Actuarial Benefits & Design Company, which she co-founded in 1989.
I spoke with Lisa about her professional triumphs, such as working hard for the CPA profession with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and her personal triumphs, which include her two sons.
What drove you to the CPA profession?
More like who! I had a tax law professor who counseled me and encouraged me to take all of his tax classes. Since I had my BBA in Accounting, I figured I may as well go sit for the CPA exam. This discussion took place during my second year of law school, so that summer I studied for the exam with another law student.
What is your specialty in the tax world and what do you enjoy most?
I truly enjoy helping business owners figure out how to best design a retirement plan that suits their objectives, budget, and helps to find more in their budget for greater contributions. I work inside very few tax code provisions and yet, they are among the most complicated and create huge risks in the event of failure in any area. Managing those risks, and also teaching plan governance for the ERISA areas not in the code, for fiduciary compliance, are among the most satisfying aspects of what I do every day.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Professionally, I am most proud of the small part I have played in opening and maintaining a professional dialog with the Department of Labor and the IRS. It is the richness and respectfulness of that dialog that has led to the correction programs, and outreach that has fostered understanding in the retirement plan professional community of what our responsibilities are. We now know we need to move to a more compliant plan environment, because we do not need to wait for IRS or DOL enforcement to know if the plan is operating in a true qualified environment. I believe it has led to greater compliance with complicated rules.
Personally, I am most proud of raising two really fine young men despite all my time given to the AICPA, other organizations, and my long work hours that included travel. I tried never to take my worries from the office home, and yet shared the joy of my encounters around our dinner table most nights. My goal was to get home, cook dinner from scratch, and have it on the table by 6, and then work later if I needed to. The essence of what today is called work-life integration. My kids are really good people, good citizens. I have always loved their stories and ideas and now that they are in college, it is even more fun.
What is your favorite hobby when not working? What do you do for fun?
I love to read, write, and bike ride, most especially around Mamaroneck, NY which is where I am from. It is such a beautiful place to head out for a ride and picnic. I also love to cook and host parties and dinner events – what Italian does not like to eat? People who know me professionally may not know the real me is my cooking.
Last but not least, how would you describe yourself and why?
Probably one of the hardest questions asked. How do you answer this about yourself? I know how I want to be remembered, but not sure if that matches with how I would describe myself.
Intense – it may sound bad but, when I advocate for a position that I have researched, I stick like glue and want others to see what I see, whatever it may be.
- Driven & Collaborative, a woman of contradiction – My dad from a very young age told me I needed to learn to listen. I have practiced that all my life, so when people disagree, or give me their perspective, I take it and integrate it as necessary, too.
- Thoughtful — I never forget to laugh, watch the sun rise and set each day. I am sure to have good friends along for the ride as doing things alone is not as much fun all the time.