It's been my pleasure to work with accountants over the last 43 years. As my time at the Massachusetts Society of CPAs draws to an end, I'd like to reflect on major changes that have shaped where the accounting profession is today.
The professional landscape. In 1970, there were protests against the Vietnam War across from our office at the JFK Building. CPAs dressed in conservative dark suits, white shirts and ties, and had only recently dropped wearing fedoras (many still did). The Big Eight were all in Boston.
Fast-forward to 1978, and a new concept is born: mandatory continuing professional education that requires you to complete 80 hours every two years for relicensing. Prohibitions such as offers of employment without permission, advertising and solicitation bans, and competitive bidding restrictions, which existed in the 1970s, are now long gone. Also, voluntary peer review became a part of the profession in the late 1980s. It became mandatory in June 1997, and today is interwoven into the very fabric of the profession.
Women in accounting. Female CPAs were rare in the 1970s. Women in public accounting wore conservative business attire: navy blue suit, white blouse, bow tie and heels. Those days are over: Now, 50 percent of entrants into the profession are women, and the number of women in leadership positions at their firms is rising. Of all the changes in the profession over the last four decades, this one has been the most significant, and has had the biggest impact on the profession we see today. I expect this and the number of female partners will only increase in the future.
Life at the MSCPA. When I started my career, the MSCPA had a staff of four and membership was 2,500. I was the CPE director, public relations director and pretty much everything else. We've now grown to a staff of 20 and have a membership of 11,500.
Government affairs was not high on the profession's agenda; this was a gentlemen's club. The board room was thick with cigar smoke during meetings, something that would never happen today. That all changed and by 1985, the society established a Political Action Committee. Today, the PAC is the profession's advocate on Beacon Hill -- and when the MSCPA speaks on Beacon Hill, people listen. Because of the PAC, many laws that make it easier for accountants to do business have passed. Additionally, the PAC has protected CPAs from legislation that would harm the profession. It's a group that's behind the scenes at the MSCPA, but in the face of the big dogs on Beacon Hill. The PAC is instrumental in advocating for the profession and making Massachusetts a place where accountants can thrive. For example, in 1990-1991, we had a major battle over the sales tax on services. After a very brief period, the tax was repealed. Very recently, in another run at the sales tax on services, the "tech tax" was successfully repealed after a short time on the books.
Accelerating technology. Technology is changing constantly and at an exponential rate. I remember the excitement when fax machines were first introduced, but some of our staff have never used them. It's bewildering to me how fast technology is changing, and altering how CPAs do business. I'm also told e-mail is outdated. The MSCPA and state societies everywhere are working hard to keep you up to speed on the products and services that will help you be more productive and profitable.
Though our profession has seen many changes in the last four decades, our reputation remains strong. You should be proud to be a CPA; we work in a highly competitive profession that's well respected in the business community and active in the legislative arena. As you continue to evolve, I know you will always adhere to the cornerstones of integrity, objectivity and independence that make this profession great.
After 43 years of leading the Massachusetts Society of CPAs, Theodore J. Flynn, CAE, retired at the end of 2013.
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