Greg Anton, the freshly minted chairman of the American Institute of CPAs, will have a full plate of issues to deal with as he starts his tenure, ranging from the fight for a private accounting standards board to the gala celebration marking the Institute’s 125th anniversary next year.
Anton, the founding partner of Anton Collins Mitchell LLP in Denver, was installed as the AICPA’s new chairman at the Spring Meeting of Council this week in Phoenix. One of his priorities over the coming year will be enlisting the talents of CPAs around the country to help governments get a better grasp of the accounting and financial reporting issues that are contributing to budget deficits and a host of other problems.
“I have created a board task force that is going to be meeting over the next nine months,” Anton said in an interview Thursday. “Their charge is to evaluate how we as CPAs can give back in ways to improve our nation, our communities and not-for-profit organizations.”
He noted that there is a huge pool of retiring CPAs, and CPAs nearing retirement, who can bring their expertise and knowledge to bear to help solve problems facing school districts, local and state governments, and even Congress. There are currently eight CPAs in Congress, who—unlike many of their fellow lawmakers—actually understand the language of business and financial reporting.
“Many of the members in Congress have a very astute business acumen, but they may not fully understand the details and the language of business as it relates to the U.S. financial statements,” he said. “We’re looking at creating a program to help users of the U.S. financial statements better understand them so that they can manage the business of the United States government and have an improved understanding of the decisions as it relates to the U.S. government’s financial concerns. There’s a lot of focus in this area and who better than CPAs to help navigate it?”
He envisions educational forums and materials, such as white papers, that will provide objective information while avoiding a political stance.
Other priorities for Anton include the new Chartered Global Management Accountant credential that the AICPA plans to launch in January through a joint venture with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. “It’s critical upon introduction that we have success in the United States with that credential with our members in business and industry,” he said. “That project has received the full support of Council and the support of members, and now we’re going to bring it to fruition.”
The AICPA is also gearing up for its 125th anniversary celebration at the Spring Council Meeting in Washington next year, while also planning ahead for changes in the profession. At the Fall Council Meeting this week, members discussed the CPA Horizons 2025 report, which laid out a series of initiatives and priorities for the Institute to tackle over the next 15 years.
“Now we need to look to that Horizons 2025 plan as we navigate our courses of action through the next 15 years, just building on success into the next 125,” said Anton.
Another major priority for the Institute has been the issue of private company accounting standards. The AICPA teamed up with the Financial Accounting Foundation and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy on a Blue Ribbon Panel last year that issued a report recommending the creation of a separate standard-setting board for private company accounting. In response to the Blue Ribbon Panel report, the FAF trustees have now proposed the creation of a Private Company Standards Improvement Council that would be able to identify and vote on changes in standards for private companies, subject to ratification by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which the FAF oversees (see FAF Proposes New Council for Private Company Accounting Standards).
However, the AICPA thinks the FAF trustees’ proposal doesn’t go far enough in removing responsibility from FASB for private company standards and is pushing its members to register their objections during the comment period on the proposal, which lasts until January 14.
If the proposal is not significantly changed, the AICPA Council members voted Tuesday to approve a resolution that would give the AICPA the option of creating its own board or committee for private company GAAP (see AICPA Issues Ultimatum on Private Company Accounting Standards).
“The Council supported the resolution of the AICPA, which was to first and foremost work with the FAF and try to have a successful outcome with a separate private company board reporting directly to the FAF that’s independent and autonomous, with the expertise to set differential standards for private companies,” said Anton. “I’m hopeful that the FAF will, upon receiving input, support that view as well.”
He is certain to make the case for a separate board in his travels on behalf of the Institute. “I can tell you when I’ve had the opportunity to talk to individuals who have been on the fence or not had a lot of prior knowledge, and walking them through the facts surrounding this issue, with education I found that they leaned towards the Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations.”