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Society continues long tradition of serving members

Ridgeland — Since 1920, the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants (MSCPA) has been the advocate for its members and has provided resources, education and information. That tradition continues with monitoring of legislation, tax institutes and continuing education on timely topics as needs arise.

Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, the organization sponsored education programs in Jackson and Hattiesburg on dealing with casualty losses. More than 300 members participated in this seminar at no cost.

Executive director Jack Coppenbarger says the MSCPA’s role with Gulf Coast members has been to assist them with information and any requests they make of the organization.

“Our Gulf Coast members are recovering, but we understand that the aftermath of Katrina will be with us for many years,” he said. “One of the frustrating elements to this storm was our inability to communicate with the members immediately thereafter. With no phone or e-mail or regular mail, getting information out was a real concern. Many lost their buildings and homes.”

The MSCPA will hold its annual convention next week in Destin, Fla., and more than 200 members are expected to attend. Officers will be elected and reports will be given by the treasurer, secretary and legislation chairman.

“Members of our legislative committee, as well as our officers and members of the board of governors, continually monitor legislation that is proposed in Mississippi and on the national scene,” Coppenbarger said. “Generally, they are watching for any matter which affects the accounting profession but also business in general, taxation issues and regulation.”

The association also works with a lobbyist to monitor legislation and maintains a legislative key person program made up of members. These members stay in touch with their state representative or senator on issues that arise. A separate political action committee with its own trustees makes contributions to legislative campaigns, Coppenbarger said.

The members’ key persons program also works on the federal level. “We have key persons assigned to each of our members of Congress to stay in touch with those issues in Washington affecting the accounting profession,” he said. “We regularly take our key person delegation along with representatives of our legislative committee to Washington to meet face to face with senators and representatives.”

Keeping up with changing tax issues is always important to CPAs. The MSCPA operates an annual tax institute each fall, bringing in national experts to prepare members for the coming tax season.

“We continue to expand and improve the continuing education opportunities for our members. The constant change in laws and financial reporting standards requires all of us to commit significant time each year to continuing education,” said the group’s president Paul Calhoun. “In addition to the traditional classroom training, Web-based training is now available on a variety of topics.”

He added that the national association in recent years has created quality centers to assist members in staying up to date with the change in laws and standards applicable to employee benefits and governmental auditing. Other quality centers will be created as they are needed.

Coppenbarger says the organization’s role remains to provide information to the membership and assist them in any way it can. Approximately 100 programs are offered across the state. The most intensive seasons are May/June and at the end of the calendar year as tax season approaches.

“We offer an extensive education program for CPAs as they are required to obtain 40 hours of continuing education each year,” he said. “CPAs also have a mandatory ethics CPE requirement and we offer those programs, too. In late 2005, we moved into a new building for the association on Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland which has a 60-seat classroom. That enables us to offer many of our programs here.”

The MSCPA has an education foundation that awards scholarships to students studying accounting at Mississippi colleges and universities. Students are recommended to the association’s committee for review and subsequent approval by the trustees of the foundation. Approximately 12 schools submit scholarship applications each year.

Asked how the association has handled the accounting scandals of recent years, Calhoun, managing partner of Haddox Reid Burkes & Calhoun of Jackson, says they recognize that a few members of the accounting profession have made some poor decisions and are suffering the consequences of those decisions.

“However, their actions are not representative of our profession as a whole,” he said. “We believe the majority of the public recognizes this and acknowledges that CPAs provide a valuable service, and that our standards for integrity and professionalism are very high. We strive each day to maintain the public’s confidence.”

The MSCPA currently has 2,563 members evenly divided between those in public practice and those in industry, including private companies, government and education. The organization has a 24-member board of governors comprised of the officers and members elected by chapters across the state as well as three at-large directors and one national council director.

“Membership in the MSCPA is voluntary, but it is unusual to find an active CPA who is not a member of this professional association,” Coppenbarger said.

The program of work each year is accomplished through committees and task forces that meet each May in an annual work day to schedule projects for the coming year. They also meet during the year as needed.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.


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