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AICPA 125th Anniversary Meeting

May 24, 2012

Last week I attended the AICPA’s 125th Anniversary Council meeting in Washington, DC.  I caught up with some old friends and met new ones.  There were presentations of a quality that greatly impressed me and want to share some of what I heard.


IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman gave insights of what the IRS is doing to try to improve the level of their services (understanding that taxes are not what they used to be).  He said that 90% of all returns are either done by professionals or self-prepared by computer so methods to review these returns and assure competency by preparers has to adapt and be more effective.


David Walker, Founder and CEO of Comeback America Initiative and former Comptroller General and head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office said we need not greater fiscal responsibility, but fiscal responsibility…from both sides of the aisle.  He set forth a comprehensive plan that our legislators could follow to get control over the economy and debt.  One comment that really grabbed me was that “interest on the federal debt is a cost to be repaid by future generations for past excess consumption.” Some of his comments are presented in an article that will appear in the June Journal of Accountancy.


Robert Bunting, Chairman of Moss Adams and a past Chairman of AICPA gave an interesting and humorous history lesson of the development and meaning of trusted professional which originally came from a 1904 speech by the Chairman of the AICPA’s predecessor.  The history background of his speech was provided by the top CPA historian, Gary John Previts, who also assisted me, along with Dale Flesher, with the Carousel of History article in the 125th Anniversary edition of the Journal of Accountancy.  A big time plus for me was meeting and spending time with Gary and Dale – and I was not disappointed – two great people.  Another plus was Dale’s wife Tonya, an equally impressive professor and CPA.


George Colony, Founder and CEO of Forrester Research gave a very insightful explanation of how we are running out of time doing social networking and social networking is running out of people.  There is a cap – in the number of hours we can each spend online and on the number of people in the World.  He also pointed out that 20% of the world population is Gen-Y and that there is a widening disparity between this group and Gen-X the next oldest group… let alone everyone else older.  A point he made is that Gen Y does not read newspapers while Gen X does, and Gen Y are mobile-engaged 24/7… more than any other group. He also spoke about how technology has encompassed everything we do.  For example, 60% of travelers consult the Internet when they plan a trip, and the time and cost to bring something to market is 100 times faster than a generation ago.  He also gave a glimpse into the post-social world.


James Doty, Chairman of PCAOB, Troy Paredes, SEC Commissioner, Leslie Seidman, Chairman of FASB, and many other equally authoritative Accounting and Auditing Chairpeople were in a panel.  I must say that I was super impressed with Ms. Seidman.  She said that the accounting rules have to start concentrating on what is essential for investors to know, not what is nice to have.  Rules need to concentrate on relevance, transparency uses of new technology and delivering the right information that helps decision making.  She said we cannot solve problems with the old thinking that created them.  She went on to say that auditors need to be credible, neutral and dispassionate.  In addition, they must try not to become advocates or judges for what they audit.  “Policy makers” should get the auditors’ unbiased information with which to make decisions.  I have the feeling that she will deliver new looks at many approaches.


A panel on rebooting business raised the premise that information is the new currency and we need to be able to turn information into knowledge; questioned whether “dot connecting” can be taught; and raised the thought that shareholders should vote annually on their assessment of the performance of board members with the bottom 20% being fired each year. 


Being part of CPA history in some way and meeting the top people in our profession was an interesting and stimulating ride for me and I am glad to be able to share, with this blog, some of the excitement I felt.


P.S. I am very proud to say that my partner, Jim Bourke, was one of a small group that was representing the AICPA that went to the White House to meet with President Obama.

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