Although Capitol Hill insiders such as Karl Rove, Paul Begala, Terry McAuliffe and George Will garnered marquee billing at the American Institute of CPAs Spring Meeting of Council, profession-centric issues, such as staff recruitment and the alternative minimum tax, reverberated the most with attendees at the three-day confab here.

The ongoing dilemma of keeping the CPA pipeline full remains one of the profession's top priorities.

"You have 45,000 firms in this country, who are essentially led by Baby Boomers," said AICPA president and chief executive Barry Melancon, who noted that a low percentage of those firms have succession plans in place, and pointed to a recent study showing that small firms have a shockingly high turnover rate of 44 percent. "We need to do a better job if we're going to prepare CPAs."

In his semi-annual president's report, Melancon said that the institute's CPA recruitment campaign has reached some 1 million students since its launch, but that the profession needs to deal better with the next generation's concerns over the work/life balance equation.

He also said that, disturbingly, among very large firms and the Big Four, there did not exist an "over-encouragement" to take the CPA exam.

To address a drastic shortage of doctorates in accounting education, Melancon said that academia has to work to shorten the average six-year cycle it takes to earn a doctoral degree in accounting.

Interstate mobility, a top issue at the institute's Fall meeting in Las Vegas, has shown progress, with recent revisions to the Uniform Accountancy Act "nearing finalization," according to Melancon.

At the confab, Council also voted on some 11 proposed bylaw amendments and a series of council resolutions.

The bylaw amendments going out to member votes included extending the date for the 150-hour education requirement through 2012; establishing a term limit of seven consecutive years for Council service, whether designated, directly elected or at-large, to avoid "perpetual membership," with an interim of at least one year after the seven before restoring Council eligibility; and eliminating the 90-day minimum requirement of sending members bylaw amendment proposals.

CREDENTIALS, LITERACY

Bob Harris, chairman of the institute's National Accreditation Commission, said that as a result of "overwhelming" support from polls taken at regional council meetings, the institute will move forward with a proposal to develop a forensic credential. He said that a plan would be presented in time for the Fall Council in October in Tampa, Fla.

In an update, Harris told attendees that the Accredited in Business Valuation credential currently has 2,688 holders, and should easily make its target of 2,718 by July 2008. The Certified Information Technology Professional credential, meanwhile, has a July 2008 target of 1,732 holders, and currently has 1,105. Harris projected that in July, it will have about 1,385 members.

Institute chair Jimmy Williamson told attendees that the AICPA's "Feed the Pig" campaign - part of the institute's financial literacy program - has thus far garnered 340 million media "impressions," with 139 million of those in print.

SPEAKERS AND AWARDS

The event also featured a point-counterpoint discussion with McAuliffe and Ed Gillespie, the former chairs, respectively, of the Democratic National and Republican National Committees; a keynote from former Clinton counsel and CNN commentator Paul Begala; and an address by TV correspondent and author George Will.

Throughout the confab, the speakers were grilled by the audience regarding the fate of the AMT, which, without another one-year patch, will affect between 23 million and 25 million taxpayers in 2007. McAuliffe, who now chairs Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, said that fixing the AMT was high on the "to-do" list of Ways & Means Committee chair Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. "He's obsessed about it," McAuliffe said.

Meanwhile, Robert F. Kevane of La Mesa, Calif., and the Louisville, Ky.-based firm of Mountjoy & Bressler were the recipients of the 2006 Public Service Awards, in recognition of their community service.

In addition, Dr. Dan Deines, the Ralph Crouch KPMG Chair at Kansas State University, was named the 2007 winner of the AICPA's Distinguished Achievement in Accounting Education Award. Deines has helped spearhead a pilot program at KSU where accounting will be taught on an advanced placement level at seven high schools throughout Kansas.

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