Thank You from the Government Relations Team
Over the past few years, the financial management of our state has become increasingly difficult. Extended budget negotiations fueled by disagreement in all aspects of state government are becoming the norm. But despite these fiduciary pitfalls, the PICPA government relations team continues to walk the halls of the state capitol, committed to representing and protecting the interests of Pennsylvania CPAs. Advocacy for its nearly 22,000 members is a cornerstone of PICPA’s mission.
Thank you for your commitment to PICPA’s efforts this year. As Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself." We made many strides in 2017, and we are looking forward to building upon that success together in 2018 and beyond.
The role you play in advocating for your profession is truly invaluable. Thank you for your dedication to our efforts, and we look forward to working with you in 2018!
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PICPA’s Year of Advocacy
Your government relations team is constantly working on your behalf. We actively track all legislation that is introduced and pertains to CPAs. More than 3,000 bills have already been introduced in the 2017-2018 session. A full report detailing relevant legislation is available here.
In addition, we have submitted several comment letters, provided testimony at various hearings at the state capitol, held many webinars and events, and conducted hundreds of meetings with legislators. In this podcast, Pamela Baker, a partner with Barbacane Thornton & Company LLP, provides an Inside Look at Providing Testimony to the Government Accounting Standards Board, an activity that the PICPA takes part in throughout the year.
Notably, we held two high-profile webinars in partnership with the Department of Revenue in which we provided input on tax amnesty efforts and collection activities relative to schedule C.
A full summary of the year’s advocacy efforts is available here.
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The Certified Public Accountant Political Action Committee (CPA-PAC) is a nonpartisan, member-managed organization representing CPAs in public practice, industry, and government, as well as new and veteran members of the profession. CPA-PAC is the only PAC to specifically represent the interests of Pennsylvania CPAs.
This year, thanks to generous contributions from PICPA members and firms, we raised $184,000 in pledged donations, just a little short of our $200,000 goal. Your funds went to support the election of more than 100 CPA-friendly candidates for statewide office in the following categories: State House, State Senate, Governor, Attorney General, Auditor General, Treasurer, and Supreme Court.
We urge you to make a donation in 2018 as it is a major election year in Pennsylvania. All seven of our CPA legislators are up for re-election, in addition to 25 of the 50 state Senate seats, all 203 seats in the Pennsylvania state House, and the governor. Every dollar helps elect legislators who take CPA-friendly positions.
Thank you for your continuous investment in the CPA-PAC.
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Government Relations Focused on Enhancing Initiatives for Future Leaders
In 2017, the PICPA was awarded a grant to fund programming to address next-generation leaders and explore methods to further engage young members in advocacy.
The project began with a preliminary group discussion. In June, a group of 11 young CPAs from across Pennsylvania came together for a dialogue about the PICPA’s advocacy efforts. Based on feedback from the group, a survey was devised and disseminated to more than 4,000 PICPA millennial members throughout the summer. A second focus group convened in early fall. This group took a deeper dive into the findings of the survey to determine future strategies for engaging millennials.
From the survey we found that advocacy is not an easily understood concept or term for many PICPA members, and PICPA’s efforts must be adjusted to more accurately meet the needs of all of our members.
In 2018, you can expect the following:
- New opportunities to get involved in advocacy efforts
- More frequent and succinct communication on current efforts
- An enhanced selection of advocacy training and resources
CPAs have a unique opportunity to enhance the PICPA’s voice within the legislative and regulatory community in Pennsylvania. The challenges that lie in front of us in the public policy arena are at a critical stage, and we need the help of all of our members.
Stay tuned. We will follow up with specifics on these new initiatives in the coming months.
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Federal Tax Reform Legislation Becomes Law
Throughout the fall of 2017, tax cutting legislation was unfolding in Washington, and was signed into law by President Donald Trump just before Christmas. The PICPA has been monitoring the debate over the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and provided updates to our members through our Federal Taxation Committee. The committee wrote a series of blogs on the tax proposals:
These blogs were developed by PICPA members to keep CPAs informed as the tax proposals worked their way through the legislative process, and to highlight Pennsylvania-specific concerns and issues raised by changes to federal tax regulations.
While the new legislation is now in the books, adjusting to the new rules is far from over. Additional tax reform resources will be available via our Tax Reform Portal in the new year.
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State Budget – Year in Review
This year’s state budget process fell victim to the same dysfunction of budget seasons past, extending the stalemate well into the fall. An agreement to fund the $32 billion spending plan was finally reached by the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf at the end of October (more than four months after its initial approval, and eight months after Wolf proposed it).
Bond-rating agencies are not taking too kindly to these political stalemates. On Sept. 20, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Pennsylvania’s bond rating to A-plus from AA-minus, bringing it to the lowest level it’s been in 39 years. This was the sixth downgrade since 2012.
In July 2017, the PICPA voiced our opposition to harmful proposed changes to tax appeals process that were under consideration as part of the 2017-2018 budget. The proposal by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue would have dramatically changed the tax appeals process in Pennsylvania. The plan was part of the department’s enhanced revenue collection and enforcement efforts.
The proposal would have added onerous requirements that taxpayers provide all legal arguments and relevant facts at the Board of Appeals level, but it maintained harmful changes to the timeline for filing appeals throughout the process, from 90 days down to 30 days. This change would have affected many taxpayers.
The PICPA and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry initiated a joint effort to prevent these provisions from becoming law.
Despite the challenges that remain, there’s comfort in recognizing this major budget success. The PICPA’s government affairs team will continue to adapt and fight for the interests of CPAs in the commonwealth, but here’s to hoping ghosts of budget seasons past will be put to rest in 2018.
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Civil Justice Coalition Builds on Momentum in 2017
In 2016, the PICPA joined a group of six prominent business and health care organizations as a founding member of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform (PCCJR). The PCCJR is dedicated to improving the state's civil justice system by elevating awareness of problems and advocating for legal reform in the legislature and fairness in the courts. The coalition works with other advocates for civil justice fairness to ensure that our elected officials understand the extent of the problems and the importance of acting now to address them.
Pennsylvania’s legal climate was ranked below 36 other states by the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform. In addition, The American Tort Reform Association recently cited the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and Allegheny County courts as being on its “Judicial Hellholes” watch list. Areas of Pennsylvania law that have been met with criticism include the treatment of mass torts, discovery abuse, evidentiary procedures, excessive awards, unpredictability, forum shopping, and improprieties in state contracting with private attorneys, among others.
In 2017, the statewide organization worked hard to prevent lawsuit abuse by launching a website designed to identify problems in the legal system and promote fairness in the state’s courts.
This past year was one of tremendous growth for the PCCJR, and the PICPA is looking forward to building on that success in 2018.
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