While such issues as mobility, Sarbanes-Oxley 404, peer review and private company financial reporting continue to impact the accounting profession, keeping the CPA pipeline filled remains the profession’s No. 1 priority, American Institute of CPAs president and chief executive Barry Melancon told attendees at the institute’s spring meeting of  its Governing Council.

“You have 45,000 firms in this country, who are essentially led by Baby Boomers,” said Melancon, who noted that a low percentage of those firms have succession plans in place, and pointed to a recent study that showed 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 student recruitment campaign has already reached some 1 million students since its launch, but that the profession needs to deal better with the next generation’s concerns over work/life balance. He also said that among very large firms and the Big Four, there isn’t an “over-encouragement” to take the CPA exam.”

To address the 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.

And in regard to interstate mobility, Melancon said that revisions to the Uniform Accountancy Act are “nearing finalization,” while with peer review he called for more “user understandable” language that “someone who does not hold a CPA designation can digest.”

He also said that the Private Company Financial Reporting Committee, a joint task force between the institute and the Financial Accounting Standards Board to explore the long-running Big GAAP-Little GAAP question, was scheduled to meet in Denver in July.

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.

Renowned Democratic strategist, and former counselor to President Clinton, Paul Begala opened the Monday session, and said that the 2008 presidential race could prove to field the greatest batch of contenders the crowd would see in its lifetime. “You could very well have three or four future presidents with these candidates,” Begala told the audience.

Begala, who was one of the architects of Clinton’s 1992 victory, said that in the current climate of divided government, both Democrats and Republicans have a “constitutional obligation to work together. You cannot have a crippled presidency with more than 600 days remaining with this administration.”

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