It has been a minute since I had the time to write a blog post. However, as we are now in the thickening of campaign season the old saying stands — there is no time like the present.
As an accountant I strive to have honest, open, and engaging client relationships. What do client relationships have to do with politics? I’m so glad you asked – One of the things I believe the world (yes, the world) needs is for accountants and CPAs to be more involved in politics. Not the brutal finger pointing and salty mud slinging (though some tax season emails can be a bit of both), but the honesty and integrity that those of us who love the job of being a CPA wish there was more of in politics.
Hear me out – I’ve listed several characteristics of the profession (outliers aside) that would improve the face of politics if only we as a profession were more involved.
I think it is safe to say that most folks who take up the ledger and abacus tend to like numbers more than people. A love of graphs and charts, statements and data analysis gives us the perfect opportunity to observe people and their habits purely from a data driven perspective. Governments, just as some of our clients, need to be monitored. What’s the famous line from Independence Day? — Julius Levinson: “You don’t actually think they spend $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?” – I know that there is the OMB which breaks down laws to clarify cost vs benefit. Big Washington Think Tanks double check each tribe’s claims or given point of view – but we as private citizens who know accounting should use our intuitive abilities to observe the data and be honest with our friends and family about what that data says, even if we tend to avoid the crowds and the clamor of public attention. We need to help those who have no idea how to read financial statements or what GDP stands for understand why it is important to them, why they should care, and encourage them to make informed decisions.
Code of Ethics – in politics:
Nevertheless, even the truth of data in a world so often vehemently fragmented by feelings and emotion, on the tongues of some, may not even be a hard truth but a manipulated one. This is where the importance of CPA code of ethical conduct comes into play. It is not an easy task to entrust a stranger with your most personal information. Ethically speaking, our livelihoods are built on the trust of the public. Our ethical code with the public – to act with integrity, objectivity, due care, competence, maintain client confidentiality, & serve the public interest – are all obvious reasons more CPAs should be involved in politics. In a sense we are already, as most politicians should be, serving the public. Involving ourselves more fully from a political standpoint is a natural extension of our current role as mediator between the government and the public and one we are ethically bound to manage with care. If more CPAs became involved with politics that needle on the morality compass of politics would swing closer to true north.
Tech that & privacy yeah:
I’d like to take a moment and back up to the part of the ethics code that demands we “maintain client confidentiality.” As CPAs we are required to protect the private information of our clients. For obvious reasons, ensuring the integrity of our information systems is an obvious, positive business decision. We are in a unique position to understand the vital importance of data security and stress the importance of maintaining strong data control systems. As an extension of our role as tax preparer, auditor, financial advisor, etc. how many times have we told our clients to change their passwords? Update their login for multi-factor authentication? Remind them not to email us old tax returns or send social security numbers in unsecure formats? If more CPAs were involved in government at all levels, I believe this data security hyper-awareness would be extended to government systems, public awareness campaigns, and financial literacy lessons for even the youngest data users. I believe we could do a better job of protecting the public by educating them on the dangers of a connected world and how better to safeguard their privacy if we, as CPAs, were more involved in politics.
Learn baby, learn:
The importance of privacy is not a lesson we learned in a day. It was several years of evolution. Continued pounding by our continued professional education has focused our attention on this need to protect our client’s information in a world that runs on metadata. It is continued professional education that I believe is another clear indicator of why more CPAs should be involved in politics. Our profession is in constant evolution. Whether it be new legislation or regulation, new tech or apps, new accounting methods, CPAs are always learning. Our licensing boards also require us to continually learn. I don’t believe politicians have required learning. In just three years the amount of change and learning that we as CPAs have had to manage for ourselves and our clients has felt almost like an avalanche burying us in PPP applications, forgiveness calculations, EIP – did you get it, did you not?, ERC, QBI, EDL, IRA (the new one) there are so many acronyms now we are recycling them, yet we move with the change while still working to improve our management style, empower our employees, update our long term lease agreement accounting, and be strong leaders in our communities.
Watch the bottom line:
Through CPE (continuing professional education) and on the job learning, I understand more completely the need to mitigate risks. It is also in my nature as an accountant to prefer to implement a small cost preventative to avoid a larger cost catastrophe. I believe that too often in politics the small cost preventative is seen as inconvenient, irrational, and sometimes even unnecessary. Yet the cost of the catastrophe in the long term is exponentially worse. Take climate change for example: what investments could we make in the short term that would improve our long-term prognosis. Something as simple as creating alternatives for plastic packaging could save us millions maybe even billions in a world thrown between epic heat waves & drought to devastating floods & hurricanes. CPAs are always on guard for cost savings. Doesn’t it make sense overall for us to help the government manage risk, evaluate where small cost preventatives could defer or stop the larger cost catastrophe. If I had to spend $5 today to save $5,000 in ten years, I bet most CPAs would take those odds and would convince their clients to do the same.
I realize that getting involved in politics is not the cozy, warm-your-heart opportunity that many CPAs are searching to be more engaged in; I do hope that the points I have outlined above make you pause and consider why accountants and CPAs should be more involved in politics, even if just a fraction more than they are now. CPAs are informed, insightful, ethical, penny conscience creatures that serve the public and create a bridge between their clients and the government. If you are an accountant and want to be more involved – even if you don’t know where to begin, let me know! I look forward to an honest, open, and engaging discussion!