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Staying ahead is a key CPA issue

BILL TAYLOR

By CALLIE DANIELS BRYANT

The Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants is the largest professional organization for CPAs in the state, and William “Bill” Taylor is its chairman.

“I’m just getting started but so far I’m really enjoying it,” Taylor said, “The Chair-Elect is very involved at the MSCPA, so there usually aren’t any big surprises for the new Chairman early in his or her term.”

With a Master of Taxation degree from the University of Mississippi, Taylor began his accounting career with KPMG in Jackson in 1990, the same year he joined MSCPA.

After managing retirement and estate planning, he eventually left public accounting to start an investment firm that designed and managed retirement plans.  After selling the firm he became the Community Bank President with Renasant Bank in Water Valley.  After retiring at the bank in 2013, Taylor traveled around the country speaking.

“Since I retired, I travel around the country leading CPE seminars,” Taylor said, “So far I have spoken in 47 states but I have a contact in Alaska that may bump that to 48 next year – still waiting for Hawaii and Maine.”

He has met with CPAs around the country and has worked with numerous state associations similar to MSCPA.

“I like to think this gives me a good feel for the profession over all,” he said, “and Mississippi seems to be in a great position compared to the rest of the nation. Our state board members are accountants and move more deliberately than most states. While that can be frustrating for cutting-edge firms engaged in new fields of practice, it has helped protect our state’s accountants from some false steps that have been taken in other states.”

He also currently teaches Managerial Accounting in the MBA program at the University of Mississippi.

“Since my students aren’t in the Master of Accountancy program we don’t focus on the actual accounting function that much,” Taylor said, “In fact, I tell my students on the first day of class that everything they read in the book will be done by a computer in a modern company. That’s a bit of a stretch, but my point to them is that their value in the business world is to take the numbers they are given by the computer and use those numbers to make their business better.”

As the Chair-Elect, Taylor said his biggest project this year will be to develop online learning capabilities provided by for the MSCPA for CPAs’ continuing professional education.

Continuing Professional Education is paramount to CPAs’ careers. To keep one’s accounting license requires 40 hours of education every year, and the MS State Board of Education requires CPAs to be up to date to retain the title whether in public or industrial use.

In the last few years, the provision of Continuing Professional Education resources for CPAs has grown in the last few years so Taylor wants MSPCA to expand its online resources to assist with Continuing Professional Education.

“Online learning is becoming a larger and larger component of CPE for accountants,” Taylor said. “Those seeking the convenience give up a lot of local knowledge, networking and individual consulting that comes with joining a group of CPAs in a live seminar, but there are definitely some advantages.

“One of the biggest advantages is that a very specialized topic that may not draw enough attendees to warrant a live seminar can be offered to a much larger geographic base online. Maybe only four accountants in Jackson would be interested in a particular topic, but statewide there might be 20, enough to make a seminar feasible.”

The MSCPA has on-demand webinars from a number of vendors, but its goal for 2018 is to live stream seminars held in the MSCPA through its website.

Taylor explains that while live streaming seminars sounds simple, MSCPA must comply with standards set by National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) where participants must continuously interact with the instructors in an Q&A and the streaming software must also conduct random attendance checks to ensure the participants are actively watching.

He said, “One major reason for pushing ahead with this is to assist Mississippi-licensed CPAs currently living or working out of state. Our state requires four hours of Ethics education every three years, and one of those hours must be an update on Mississippi’s rules and regulations.”

For example, his fraternity big brother is licensed in Mississippi but lives in Virginia. Mississippi Rules and Regulations CPE is not offered outside of the state which Taylor says is a personal plus since he’ll see him every three years.

“It can be a real hardship for many though,” Taylor said, “For this triennial period, he will be able to attend a Mississippi ethics course from his desk, and hopefully he will come visit me anyway.”

With accessibility to online education due to location in mind, one of the challenges MSCPA is facing is the ability to practice accounting across state lines.

“Since each state licenses firms and accountants separately,” Taylor said, “it can sometime be difficult to serve a client not located in your own state. While that may be a positive thing for a small firm protecting its clients from out-of-state competition it is a hindrance for a Mississippi firm expanding across state lines. We have members in each of those groups so it is a serious issue for the MSCPA, but the overarching issue is how Mississippi can be comfortable that an accountant or firm licensed in another state will meet the standards of knowledge, training and public trust that we have come to expect from our own accountant.”

Another project Taylor is tackling with MSCPA is recruitment of students into the profession to address the shortage of qualified accountants since the profession has become in high demand which requires more hiring.

The MSCPA, and its Young CPA Network, currently recruits college students and Taylor hopes to expand into high schools to raise awareness of the profession.

“Let’s face it,” he said, “not many kids say they want to grow up to be accountants instead of cowboys, ballerinas or astronauts.”

He explains that the AICPA, the parent organization of MSCPA, has started a program to include more Accounting classes in high schools.

“The original plan was to expand college-credit dual enrollment classes,” Taylor said, “but that has hit some stumbles with accreditation so a new path similar to AP classes is being developed. Hopefully it will be in schools soon, but school bureaucracies don’t seem to move quickly.”

He added that several MSCPA members are actively speaking to high school groups which he sees as a start.

“The big issue we believe is awareness,” Taylor said, “Not many high school students know an accountant, so they have no idea what the profession entails or the career possibilities. Heck, when we finally do get a major motion picture about an accountant, he turns out to be an international assassin.”

While MSCPA works on its burgeoning high school recruitment, Taylor reports that college students have had success in accounting.

He said, “What I can tell you about Mississippi is that the accounting programs at most of our universities have had a 100 percent job placement for several years in a row. I can’t give you numbers but I am hearing a lot of older accountants like myself talk about how salaries for their staff are increasing. We are old, of course these discussions include words like ‘ridiculous’ a lot.”

As the incoming chair, Taylor is cognizant that MSCPA may be challenged by nationwide issues affecting the accounting profession.

One of those issues is PEER Review. Accountants who perform audits, reviews and other types of engagements that involve vouching for a client’s financial information must have their work reviewed by other accountants.

“Mississippi has one of the best PEER Review programs in the country according to national bodies,” Taylor said, “but many state programs are not as effective. This has led to an uproar nationally because the changes proposed by the AICPA that are intended to shore up weaker programs would cause a tremendous burden on effective programs like ours and could actually end up weakening the process in Mississippi.”

Taylor is confident that the accounting program is stable and thriving as he spearheads projects and leads MSCPA through national challenges.

“Overall, I think that the accounting profession in our state is in great shape,” Taylor said. “That is great news for an incoming Chairman. Of course, next year when the accounting profession in our state is in great shape I will be willing to take full credit for doing nothing.”

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