Professional development, legislative outreach, educational and volunteer services are some of the hallmarks of an organization that is one of the oldest state societies in the nation.
The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJSCPA) is a non-profit, professional business organization, comprised of more than 14,500 Certified Public Accountants. Founded in 1898, the NJSCPA is one of the largest and perhaps, one of the oldest state CPA societies in the nation.
The NJSCPA was founded in Newark by four accountants who worked in public practice to secure a solid position for their profession and to increase public awareness about the value provided by CPAs. Today, the increasingly diverse membership consists of CPAs who work in business and industry, in government, education, and at accounting firms ranging in size from sole practitioners to large international organizations.
A Broad Range of Opportunities
From its administrative headquarters in Roseland, the NJSCPA provides members with a broad range of opportunities for their volunteer involvement and professional development. There are 11 chapters in New Jersey and 39 statewide committees focusing on areas ranging from accounting, taxes and legislation to sports and entertainment, human resources and community affairs.
A 31-member Board of Officers and Trustees, that is elected each year by the membership, oversees and manages the operations of the NJSCPA while an executive director and professional staff conduct daily activities.
From its administrative headquarters in Roseland, the NJSCPA provides members with a broad range of opportunities for their volunteer involvement and professional development.
Continuing Education:Through the group's Education Foundation, the NJSCPA provides more than 300 continuing education programs annually, designed to advance the accounting and finance professions. Through conferences, seminars, hands-on technology courses, and chapter programs, the organization provides skills and enrichment opportunities to help member CPAs work more efficiently and effectively.
Legislative Advocacy:The NJSCPA represents the CPA profession's viewpoints on business, legislative and educational issues before government leaders, the State Board of Accountancy and other regulatory bodies.
Professional Development:The society's network of 11 statewide chapters and more than 35 committees helps members share ideas, practice their skills and expand their personal and professional contacts.
Communication Resources:Recognizing that communication is the key to any professional group's development and cohesiveness, the NJSCPA maintains an extensive website at www.njscpa.org, sends targeted e-newsletters to subscribing members, and publishes the group's member magazine, New Jersey CPA. These various outlets provide information and tools for New Jersey CPAs, including technical information and resources on accounting and business topics, an online catalog of continuing education programs, updates on legislative initiatives, career development tools, and information on how to become a CPA.
Student Outreach: For more than 40 years, the NJSCPA has maintained a scholarship fund—the state's largest—to provide financial assistance to New Jersey students pursuing careers in accounting. In the past decade alone, the NJSCPA has awarded more than $1 million to New Jersey high school, college and minority students.
Career Awareness: According to www.njscpa.org, NJSCPA members visit high schools across the state as part of the Society's Pay It Forwardprogram, educating New Jersey students about the wide-range of opportunities available to those interested in pursuing a career in accounting.
Financial Literacy:The NJSCPA has also launched a multi-faceted program to increase financial literacy in New Jersey as part of the group's response to what it perceives as an urgent need for more and better financial education for consumers. Through no-cost seminars for women, seniors and other groups, a consumer-focused website (www.MoneyMattersNJ.com) and other programs, the NJSCPA hopes to educate New Jerseyans about personal finance.
The New Budget and Taxes
On the legislative front, the organization was recently active in lobbying the state Legislature on a bill concerning the sales tax increase. After a shutdown of essential services, Governor Jon Corzine and state lawmakers came to an agreement and passed a compromise $30.8 billion budget on July 8, which includes an increase in the sales tax rate to 7 percent. The debate over property taxes, of which New Jerseyans are the highest taxed in the nation, was put off until a special session that is scheduled to convene later this summer.
With more than 2,000 New Jersey Society of CPA members contacting their legislators, the society was able to defeat a proposal that would have extended the sales tax to professional services. Although the sales tax was not extended to CPA services, it was extended to a number of previously untaxed items including security services, health clubs, landscaping, parking, self-storage and limousine services.
The increased sales tax is effective as of July 15 for previously taxed items and October 1 for the items that were not taxed in the past.
According to the New Jersey Department of Taxation, any properties sold and delivered or services rendered before July 15, 2006, the tax rate of 6 percent would still apply. However, if the property or services were sold but the property was not delivered or the services were not rendered until on or after July 15, 2006, the new tax rate of 7 percent will apply. This rule applies whether or not payment has been made in whole or in part prior to delivery or conclusion of the transaction.
According to the society, other significant tax changes in the budget also will have a significant effect on the business community. Most notably, businesses will now be able to continue to deduct all net operating losses, the alternative minimum assessment of the Corporation Business Tax (CBT) is eliminated, and the tax burden on S corporations is lowered.
Other tax changes include a new tax surcharge equal to 4 percent of a company's total CBT tax liability, after tax credits. The surcharge will be temporary, expiring after three years. The budget also creates a sliding scale for minimum CBT tax payments from $500 to $2,000 based on New Jersey gross receipts, doubles the tax on HMO premiums to 2 percent and extends for two years the transitional energy facility assessment (TEFA) surcharge, which is a tax placed on utilities.
Communicating Its Message
The Cooperator recently spoke with Donald Meyer, the NJSCPA's director of communications, about the role of the society, its membership aims, its legislative initiatives, and future goals.
What is the primary goal of the society?
"We serve CPA's in a variety of industries with timely and critical information, providing them with the most current and update best practices with regard to their profession. We also, strive to represent the interest of CPA's in New Jersey, demonstrating that the profession is of the highest integrity and serves with the highest level of knowledge and skill."
With such a diverse membership, how does the society handle of its membership need?
"Well, depending on the need of individuals or chapters, we have a variety of different programs, such as networking, if that is what an individual needs, discussing job opportunities and so on. There are also a number of information resources available to our members and is primarily in the form of our member magazine. We also offer education and that is the probably the most valuable benefit."
What kinds of education do you offer?
"We offer over 300 conferences and seminars each year and because CPA's are required to continue education, these programs are extremely important to the membership. We also offer list serves and resource groups. For example during tax season, someone may pose a question to a list serve and can with in an hour at most have that question answered by someone from with in the same industry."
Are list serves generally the way members communicate and ask questions on a day to day basis or does the Society have an in house resource center?
"We don't have an in-house "resource center," but we do constantly have new information on our website to assist members with questions they may have. The list serves are generally the way members communicate."
How often does the board meet and what sorts of things are discussed?
"Quarterly. The board looks for long and short-term goals and things like where the society will be in three, five and 10 years. Once the goals are set the staff looks for ways to develop these goals."
What goal is the society focused on currently?
"Well, it's no secret that the accountant profession is getting older, so we are really focused on governance issues. We are looking for the new generation of leadership and how to build in leadership training."
Where do you see the society headed?
"The accounting profession is a hot career choice on the college level and accounting students and grads are highly sought after. We are focusing on bringing students into the accounting profession and usher in that new generation of leadership. Most societies are being lead by the baby-boomers and we now are looking toward some of the gen-Xers and milleneads for the next couple of decades."
How do you reach out to students?
"We participate in a variety of outreach programs on both the high school and college level. Also, career fairs. But primarily we are linked through our scholarship program. We give out more $300,000 annually for students majoring in accounting. This is generally split between about 80 students. This establishes a rapport with students and assists in encouraging them to follow through with the accounting career."
How do you penetrate the public as far as promoting CPA's?
"Largely with press releases to the media. Anytime issues arise that are hot topics to the general public we position ourselves and our members as experts in the field. Whether it is the new tax or bankruptcy laws about to go into effect we will send out these press releases and are able to translate the verbiage into lay terms so the general public may better understand."
How active are your members?
"You never have 100 percent participation, but we are lucky to have a large number of our membership participating in various ways. Whether it is contributing articles for new letters or participating in the list serves the vast majority use membership to the society to their benefit."
David Garry is a freelance writer living in New York City.