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Mississippi CPAs take professional development seriously

Continuing education vital in rapidly changing profession

Few professions have the continuing education requirements of CPAs.

“We probably have one of the highest hourly requirements for continuing education of any profession,” said Karen Lee, CPA, Lee & Lee CPAs, Greenville, and chairman of the continuing professional education (CPE) committee of the Mississippi Society of CPAs. “Things change rapidly in the field. There are obvious benefits when you have an accountant who is abreast of the latest issues, and who has learned something new since he graduated from college 10 years ago.”

After being certified as a CPA, 40 hours of continuing education are required per year. Twenty percent of the continuing education must be in accounting and auditing subjects, and 80% other topics such as tax preparation, financial planning and other specialized topics.

Lee said CPAs place a high value on continuing education along with certification and believe it is important to continuously acquire new skills and knowledge. To help meet the need, the Mississippi Society of CPAs holds continuing education classes from May through December. Twenty or more classes per month are offered all over the state.

“Anything that requires a person to be out of work for one week of non-billable hours is obviously pretty important,” Lee said.

An obvious reason for continuing education is that tax laws frequently change, and the courses are a good opportunity to keep abreast. Lee said that, in addition, the American Institute of CPAs issues standards the profession must follow in filing reports.

“Continuing Professional Education addresses those issues,” Lee said. “It is also a wonderful resource because we get manuals and reference books in most classes. We are also told about useful Web sites and easy ways to get in touch with people using Internet addresses.”

Another popular topic of training is in financial planning. Many CPAs are interested in diversifying their business to provide financial planning services in addition to accounting services.

A course of study is available to become a certified financial planner (CFP).

Jack Coppenbarger, executive director of the Mississippi Society of CPAs, said there are many different types of continuing education offered to CPAs because the profession is one where things are always changing.

“Those who do taxes have issues they must keep up with,” Coppenbarger said. “We are in one of those kinds of environments that is constantly changing. If you are out there in business, changes can sweep over you unless you go to school to keep up. They have to be in class to keep up with it. It is just a constant thing.”

The Mississippi Society of CPAs and its national counterpart, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), have a program called the CPA Vision Project designed to help the CPA profession stay on top of the change curve. With direct grassroots input from CPAs across the nation and support from the professional organizations that act on the behalf, the CPA Vision Project has led to a comprehensive and integrated vision of the profession’s future.

The core purpose of the project is to make sense of a changing and complex world. The program is designed to help CPAs deliver value by:

• Communicating the total picture with clarity and objectivity.

• Translating complex information into critical knowledge.

• Anticipating and creating opportunities.

• Designing pathways to transform vision into reality.

The CPA Vision Project is designed to help develop communications and leadership skills to be able to give and exchange information within meaningful context and with appropriate delivery and interpersonal skills. The intent is to influence, inspire and motivate others to achieve results.

Efforts are also made to teach strategic and critical thinking skills so that CPAs are able to link data, knowledge and insight together to provide quality advice for strategic decision making. Emphasis is also placed on focusing on the customer, client and market to be able to anticipate and meet changing needs better than competitors.

Two other important competencies include the ability to interpret and provide a broader context using financial and non-financial information, and being able to use and leverage technology in ways that adds value to clients, customers and employers.

For more information about the CPA Vision Project, visit the Web site cpavision.org. The site include resources for visioning, planning and achieving a vision from both an individual and institutional perspective. These resources include profiles of CPA pathfinders, “white papers” on future-oriented topics and a copy of the CPA Vision Project-2011 and Beyond, which reports on the results of the grassroots vision effort.

For more information about Continuing Profession Education for CPAs, visit the Web site (www.ms-cpa.org) or call the Mississippi Society of CPAs in Jackson at (601) 366-3473.

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com.

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