Letter from the AICPA Tax Executive Committee Chair: Looking ahead – reform, appreciate, and reach out

Annette Nellen, CPA, CGMA, Esq., Tax Professor and Director - MST Program at San José State University

November 30, 2017

Tax reform moves from discussion to legislation

After almost seven years of active study by Congress on tax reform, we saw legislative language on Nov. 2, 2017 from the House Ways and Means Committee (H.R. 1). Soon after that, the full House passed H.R. 1, and the Senate Finance Committee passed a tax reform bill with many similarities to the House legislation.

Along the way and even before 2011, the AICPA Tax Division submitted over 100 letters on tax reform to the congressional tax committees. AICPA volunteers and staff have worked diligently to identify existing tax rules in need of change to help simplify the tax law, such as repealing AMT and streamlining the many education tax preferences.

looking ahead – reform, appreciate, and reach out

AICPA volunteers and staff have identified areas that can impede the work of CPAs in operating their businesses and serving clients, such as limited use of the cash method of accounting. We have always promoted consideration of the principles of good tax policy to help identify and craft appropriate reforms.

Also, staff and volunteers have written articles, created many videos for members to stay apprised of the status of tax reform efforts, and are ready to help members understand a reformed federal tax system if the current activities continue their course to a signed bill.

Assuming tax reform legislation is passed, AICPA Tax Division volunteers and staff will continue to have much work to do. They will be identifying technical corrections, commenting on proposed regulations, suggesting to the Treasury and the IRS areas in need of guidance along with ideas for such guidance, and creating new checklists and other tools to assist CPAs in dealing with new rules.

The tax reform process won’t capture all needed changes. These include improvements and modernization of IRS services or providing needed guidance on new economy transactions such as the use of virtual currency and crowdfunding. Thus, work to improve our tax system and support for tax compliance and planning will still be needed.

Tax reform will continue to keep us all busy learning new provisions. It will keep us considering how new and changed rules likely alter past personal and business decisions in many areas from financing assets, saving for college and retirement, structuring business entities and cross-border activities, and much more. It will be exciting times!

It’s great to be a member of a professional organization

I’ve been a member of the AICPA since at least the last time we saw major tax reform in 1986. I’ve been actively involved in committee work, writing articles and making conference presentations for a few decades. I volunteer many hours annually, and that often makes me a material participant in the over 500 hours per year category. I’m not alone on this.

looking ahead – reform, appreciate, and reach out

Many volunteers spend 100 or more hours per year helping other members, promoting the work and value of CPAs, and helping to improve our tax systems. Along the way, we meet lots of amazing CPAs who become esteemed colleagues and friends. We learn a lot from each other on technical tax matters, how to practice, how to serve clients, how to teach, and how to demonstrate the value CPAs offer to clients and the tax system.

I have no doubt that my professional career has been enhanced and made more meaningful due to my work with others across the country via my involvement with the AICPA.

Learn more about our Tax Division committees and technical resource panels and go directly to Volunteer Central to apply to one of these prestigious groups. Or, just contact someone on the tax team and let them know about your interests; they will find ways for you to engage with your peers and give back to the profession.

Reach out to aspiring CPAs

Currently, AICPA Tax Section membership is skewed to those over the age of 50. To keep the momentum, we need more young professionals engaged in our thriving profession. Young people are entering the accounting profession, but not necessarily pursuing CPA licensure or joining the AICPA.

Perhaps members of Gen Y and Gen Z need a connection to CPAs to learn the value of being a CPA and how it can enrich and broaden their career options and satisfaction. Learning more about opportunities in the tax field should help (visit our Tax Careers Opportunities page for more information).

Also, more varied opportunities to serve are likely of interest, such as helping at a VITA site or low-income taxpayer clinic or helping people improve their financial and tax literacy. Tech-savvy young professionals also have a lot to offer those who are not as confident or experienced in the use of new and emerging technologies. 

looking ahead – reform, appreciate, and reach out

I encourage you to find the time or expand the time you already spend in meeting with high school and college students exploring career options to be sure they truly know what CPAs do and how they add value to every business, government agency, non-profit, and to individuals.

Encourage them to explore how artificial intelligence, robotics, and the blockchain are changing the world of recordkeeping, investments, and ways of doing business. Show them that as a CPA, they will be involved in how audits, financial reporting, and tax compliance advance with these new technologies. Teach them how tax rules work in our world of multijurisdictional transactions and investments by taxpayers large and small. 

Help them understand why and how to engage with other CPAs via professional organizations and how doing so will enrich their careers and enable them to have a great number of helpful and amazing colleagues.

Bring a young CPA or CPA candidate to a meeting or conference of your local CPA chapter and the AICPA. Show them how to volunteer for a committee or help with a project. And listen to what ideas they have for engaging in professional organizations via social media and finding new ways to serve the profession and improve our tax systems. Let’s all see what we can do to keep the work and value of our professional organizations strong, diverse, and moving forward.

Annette Nellen, CPA, CGMA, Esq., Tax Professor and Director of the MST Program at San José State University. Annette is the chair of the AICPA’s Tax Executive Committee, co-chair of the CalCPA Accounting Education Committee, and an active member of the tax sections of the ABA and California State Bar. A recipient of the Arthur J. Dixon Memorial Award, she is a frequent speaker and author on federal and state tax developments, tax policy and reform, and taxation of new economy activities.