Every other spring, members of the Council of the American Institute of CPAs gather by state delegation in the nation’s capital to talk with legislators about pertinent issues within the accounting profession.

This year it’s no different.

But before they go talk with their states’ representatives, the AICPA makes every attempt to brief members with talking points to help make the conversation more successful. Mark Peterson, vice president of congressional and political affairs, and Thomas Ochsenschlager, vice president of taxation, talked with members Monday afternoon about ways to approach politicians and offered tips on how to keep the messages on point.

“We try to find things that are in line and going on right now so we can get their attention and keep it,” Peterson (pictured) said of how the AICPA decides which issues to present to legislators.

Council members are bringing four major issues to the forefront for these political leaders. First, to remind them that CPAs have been and are trusted advisors during the economic crisis. The goal is to share what the profession has been doing and what resources have been created to guide businesses through difficulties. Secondly, the AICPA will recommend to legislators their position on financial regulatory reform.

“Congress is going to look at financial regulation,” Peterson said. “It’s absolutely going to happen. We, as a profession, have some recommendations.”

According to the AICPA, reforms to current regulations should recognize both the clear need to enhance existing investor protections and the systemic risks presented by activities engaged in by broker/dealers, hedge funds, investment advisors, hedge fund advisors and custodians.

The third issue that members will be discussing with legislators is the AICPA’s opposition to patents on tax-planning methods. The organization believes that granting such patents limits the ability of taxpayers to utilize various interpretations of tax law that may have been intended by Congress and may cause some taxpayers to pay more tax than others in similar situations.

The fourth issue that members will bring to Capitol Hill is workforce mobility.

“We’ve had success with this, and we’re trying to push it over the goal line,” said Peterson.

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., introduced a bill Monday that would create a uniform national standard to limit state or local taxation of the compensation of an employee who performs duties in more than one state or locality to the state or locality of the employee’s residence and the state or locality in which the employee is physically present performing duties for more than 30 days. Under the bill, employees would be subject to state income tax withholding only after they have physically worked in a state for more than 30 days. 

The State of Florida also has just passed mobility legislation, which is on its way to the governor Tuesday morning for signage.

In addition to reviewing these main issues for Council members, Ochsenschlager went through a list of other topics of importance to the AICPA.

One such topic is Section 7216 of the Tax Code, which went into effect in January. According to Ochsenschlager, the regulation requires advance written permission from clients — separate from engagement letters — to use their tax return information in any capacity other than tax prep.

This is of great concern to many CPAs because it is the only regulation with a criminal penalty.

“It’s the provision we all love to hate,” Ochsenschlager said, describing the revised regulation as “draconian.”

In response, the AICPA has submitted testimony to congressional committees and believes the best chance for relief is to work with the IRS and the Treasury.

“We have had our hands tied behind our back to some extent because of the change in administration,” said Ochsenschlager.

Other topics discussed were the federal regulation of tax return preparers, estate tax reform, and the alternative minimum tax, which the AICPA would like to see repealed because, said Ochsenschlager, “It’s complicated and unfair.”

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