The American Institute of CPAs kicked off its 2011 Spring Meeting of Council on Sunday with a discussion of the Institute’s legislative priorities.

The conference, in Washington, D.C., brought together a group of CPAs from around the country. They plan to visit the offices of their congressional representatives on Tuesday, and several members of Congress are also participating in the conference. The music at the reception on Sunday evening was provided by the Second Amendments, a bipartisan group of musicians made up of current and former lawmakers. Scheduled speakers at the conference on Monday and Tuesday include House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the new chair of the Democratic National Committee, along with several other influential lawmakers.

AICPA chairman Paul Stahlin opened the conference Sunday afternoon with a discussion of some of the AICPA’s legislative victories, including the repeal of the 1099 requirements in both the Affordable Care Act and the Small Business Jobs Act. “We are the only profession to discuss with Congress the rental property provision in the Small Business Jobs Act,” he pointed out.

Stahlin said the AICPA had also made progress in its effort to ban tax strategy patents. The Institute had recommended changes in the patent reform bill, and those changes were accepted in both the Senate and the House. “This is one of the topics we will be taking up to the Hill during your visits, and with your help we possibly will win another victory for tax practitioners and taxpayers all across the United States,” he said.

This year’s priority issues include tax due dates, tax simplification, tax strategy patents, and mobile workforce, he added.

Stahlin noted that the AICPA is also commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Personal Financial Planning member section, when the Institute decided to launch its first specialty credential, Personal Financial Specialist.

The AICPA has also recently unveiled an IFRS CPA certificate program, he added. In addition, AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon recently teamed with First Lady Michelle Obama to launch the Vets Fast Launch Program to connect CPAs with veterans across the country to help them start small businesses. The AICPA also has teamed with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants to give management accountancy a higher profile in the U.S. He also noted the positive impact of the AICPA’s Feed the Pig financial literacy advertising campaign.

Kathy Eddy, the chair of the AICPA Awards Committee, presented the Public Service Award to Battelle & Battelle LLP, a CPA firm based in Dayton and Troy, Ohio. Charles Foley, who chairs the firm’s Management Committee, accepted the award. The firm has participated in activities involving causes such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton, the Community Blood Center, and the Daybreak program that helps homeless children and their families.

Cindy Fornelli, the executive director of the Center for Audit Quality, discussed the CAQ’s efforts at fighting financial fraud. The CAQ is working on projects with other organizations such as the Institute of Internal Auditors and the Council of Institutional Investors to jointly develop a series of fraud scenarios to help identify areas where auditors can detect financial services fraud. In addition, the CAQ plans to release its own recommended set of changes in the auditor’s reporting model, and to develop training on how to ask tough questions during an audit without communicating a lack of trust. The first of a series of events on the role of public company auditors in better servicing financial reporting stakeholders will take place in Dallas on Wednesday. The CAQ has also produced an In-Depth to Public Company Auditing that is available for download.

Fornelli also commented on the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s efforts to convince Congress to amend the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to allow disciplinary proceedings against auditing firms to be made public while they were still ongoing. She said the CAQ supports some of the alternatives to public proceedings recently described by PCAOB Chairman James Doty and that these could be accomplished without amending Sarbanes-Oxley or expanding the PCAOB’s mandate.

AICPA senior vice president Sue Coffey closed Sunday’s session with an update on the work being done by the AICPA’s Audit Quality Centers, which provide a forum for members to address technical and regulatory matters and develop relationships with government agencies. “We build upon those relationships to achieve a common objective to enhance audit quality,” she noted. The top three priorities that the centers are working on now are new Labor Department requirements involving 403(b) plan audits, the complexity of the fair value disclosure requirements, and Labor Department and congressional interest in ERISA pension plan audit quality issues.

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