by Andrew Brajcich, CPA, JD, LLM
Since joining the WSCPA board in 2019, I have learned more about the profession than I had ever imagined would be possible. CPAs are doing incredible work in a variety of capacities across the state and nationwide. As a board member, I often get an up-close look at how we as a profession govern ourselves through various organizations. I have also been a witness to how the Society effectively advocates for students, candidates, and professionals. Look no further than the more than $500,000 in scholarships annually awarded by the Washington CPA Foundation. Without the advocacy efforts of the WSCPA in 2015, those monies raised from CPA license fees would have been gobbled up by the state general fund. More recently, the WSCPA has explored extending the allotted window to pass all four parts of the CPA exam from 18 to 36 months. Working closely with our partners, a wider window looks to soon be a reality. And just this spring, board members met with members of Congress to ask for support of a tax extension safe harbor to ease the seemingly endless busy season for tax professionals.
I am humbled at the opportunity to serve as your Chair this upcoming year. When considering my many distinguished predecessors, the bar is high. Should I accomplish half of what any of them accomplished, it will be a personal victory.
The CPA profession is now at an inflection point. Our actions as a Society the next few years will determine the trajectory of our profession for decades to come. Pipeline issues have persisted. Many ask how we educate aspiring professionals about the many opportunities presented to a CPA during their career. Opportunities to have meaningful impact on business, nonprofits, government, individuals, families, and society. It is on us to change the misperceptions of what we do.
Diversity and inclusion remain a challenge. Last fall we lost a trailblazer in the profession, Elaine Myers, one of the first women to work in the accounting profession in Washington. Despite being CPA-qualified, Elaine was only given receptionist duties as she began her career. She went on to become a partner and spent a lifetime successfully mentoring other women to pursue a CPA credential. The WSCPA posthumously awarded Elaine its Lifetime Achievement Award this year. Let her story be an inspiration for us to increase access to the profession. I believe that if an individual wants to work hard, being a CPA is one of the surest ways to upward mobility.
Studies have shown the 150-hour credit rule has not increased professional competency. That makes sense as the credits can be in any subject matter. The rule is an additional barrier to becoming a CPA. Minnesota became the first state to introduce a bill that would create an alternative pathway to CPA licensure. If this legislation were to pass, this pathway to licensure would not replace, but be in addition to the current 150-hour rule. You can read more about their process and reasoning here. Given the current state of our pipeline and the projected demand for CPAs, I firmly believe all options should be on the table in Washington.
But what about substantial equivalence and mobility? This is something we define as a profession. Currently, there are routes for international candidates with only 120 credit hours to be licensed in the U.S. as substantially equivalent with full mobility privileges to practice in any of the 55 CPA jurisdictions. I fail to see why something similar could not be accomplished for domestic candidates. WSCPA will be keeping members updated on developments related to these topics via our newsletters and on social media.
Last fall OpenAI introduced ChatGPT. While CPAs are no strangers to questions around new technologies making our function obsolete, artificial intelligence (AI) has presented a new angle. To paraphrase AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, AI will not replace accountants, however accountants who use AI will replace accountants who do not. Like Excel, Google, data analytics, etc., before it, AI is another tool that will transform how we do business. We must find a way to leverage AI to increase efficiencies and add value to client services by embracing it.
Without a doubt this is a time of change and opportunity. I look forward to working with and for the members, staff, and board of the WSCPA as we forge a new path forward.
Chair of the WSCPA Board of Directors, Andrew Brajcich, CPA, JD. LLM, is the Jud Regis Endowed Chair of Accounting, Graduate Accounting Director, and Professor of Accounting at Gonzaga University. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.