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Rick Telberg

CPA Sound-Off: ‘Dear Mr. President’

Accountants have plenty to say. But is your firm ready? Join the study; get the answers.

November 3, 2008
by Rick Telberg/At Large

Imagine for a moment that you could do more than just vote on Tuesday. Imagine you could whisper in the ear of the next President. What would you say?

Well, we have been asking, “What's your best advice for how the next President should try to fix the financial system and the economy?”

And after hearing from 153 accountants in just a few days, it’s clear that CPAs seem to be going to the polls this election year with more than their vote. They also have plenty of ideas and a lot to say.

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Like many Americans, CPAs are debating financial bailouts, the economy, energy, war, taxes, jobs and trade. To be sure, the CPA profession may take to heart some particular regulatory and legislative issues. But CPAs tend to choose a presidential candidate like most Americans — breaking along traditionally American lines of family, class, education, ethnicity, race, religion or region.

In their comments, however, CPAs seem to be looking for decisive leadership in the next President, accountability in government and effectiveness in new policies.

To sole practitioner Art Berkowitz, for example, the next President needs to re-instill confidence in the world economy.

“Mr. President,” Berkowitz says, “you need to be visible and comforting. You need to gather representatives of all the groups in this country, including business leaders (small and large), labor leaders (union and nonunion), investment leaders, economic leaders and political leaders of both parties.”

CPA Tony DelVacchio Jr., the managing partner of a local accounting firm, suggests the U.S. government could use some good accounting advice in the next Administration. “Bring on CPAs as expense-reduction specialists to examine all federal disbursements and determine the efficacy and legitimacy of the expenditures,” DelVacchio says.

“Mr. President,” says CPA sole practitioner Susan Kroeger, “I urge you to significantly reduce special-interest spending and re-evaluate the efficiency of government programs as well as reduce the size of government, in general.”

Another CPA would begin with determining accountability for the credit crisis. “Start convicting and fining more greedy executives and not exempting any of their assets, like trust and retirement funds, from seizure,” urges one CPA executive in a mid-sized corporation.

Patrick Robinson, CFO at a Midwest electrical parts supplier, might agree. “I think it will not be possible to restore confidence in the system unless investigations are done of the sub-prime mess and accurate assessments of the causes are widely published. If individuals or organizations are implicated, they must be appropriately punished. If not, the average man on the street will go a long time before they will make investments in common stock again.”

“Leadership is important,” says CPA Vic Ramsaroop. But leadership is no substitute for individual decision-making, Ramsaroop adds, urging accountability. “Let some people lose. Those who borrowed against their home to buy a new car need to re-evaluate their financial position. Businesses similarly need to re-evaluate the worth of their investment.”

Meanwhile, he sees clients and investors turning increasingly to the CPA profession for advice and guidance. “In a turbulent investing climate, people are looking for wisdom,” Ramsaroop believes. “More CPAs will seek to fill the need because they are closer to high-net-worth individuals who have money to invest.”

“We should become more involved,” agrees Ruben Cardona, a partner in a regional CPA firm, “especially those of us working with closely-held family-owned businesses.”

Still, a full economic recovery could take a while, no matter who is elected President. Voicing a view held by many colleagues, Cardona is telling clients to “wait for an indication of some stabilization and then begin to reinvest at a moderate rate. This will be a three–to-five-year turnaround and may be as long as 10.”

At that rate, Americans will have a few more opportunities to go the polls.

IS YOUR FIRM READY? Test your organization’s leadership rating. Click here to join the survey, get the answers.

COMMENTS: Rants, raves, questions or ideas? Contact Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2008 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. First published by the AICPA.

About Rick Telberg

Rick Telberg is editor at large/director of online content.

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Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA or CPA2Biz. Official AICPA positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.