CPAs Underscore Importance of Transparency in Fiscal Matters in Capitol Hill Meetings
The need for greater transparency in government finances was a key message that more than 400 representatives of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and members of its governing council brought to Capitol Hill last week. Their aim was to promote better public understanding of the federal government’s fiscal health.
AICPA leaders also explained how its just-launched online tax calculator can help taxpayers gain insights into their fiscal health by enabling them to estimate their total federal, state and local tax obligation.
“This year as the AICPA marks its 125th anniversary, and as part of our longstanding commitment to transparency and financial literacy, we have developed two new resources to help taxpayers better understand not only their own fiscal health, but also that of their government,” said AICPA President and CEO Barry C. Melancon. “We believe it is important to provide taxpayers with resources that are neutral, nonpartisan and objective, to help them make informed financial decisions, as part of our commitment to serve the public interest.”
CPAs discussed a video produced by the AICPA that explains why understanding the nation’s fiscal health begins with reading the U.S. government’s financial statements. Narrated by AICPA chairman Gregory J. Anton, the video encourages Americans to gain better insight into the federal government’s financial future by reading and understanding the financial statements published by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
“The continuing and growing mismatch between the federal government’s long-term spending obligations and projected revenues is probably one of the most important and toughest issues for taxpayers to understand. The video explains the mismatch in nontechnical language that clearly describes the magnitude of the problem. Knowing where our nation’s revenues come from, where the money is obligated to be spent, and how much it costs to service its debts gives very important insights into how we can reset our economic picture,” said Anton.
The video – What’s at Stake: A CPA’s Insights into the Federal Government’s Finances – explains that the U.S. government’s annual financial statements provide a more accurate assessment of the government’s fiscal outlook than the more commonly discussed federal budget.
“The budget describes the top target for government spending each year,” Anton said. “The financial statements provide a multi-year look, taking all of the federal government’s existing obligations into account. As a result, the financial statements provide a much more complete – and sobering – analysis.”
The CPAs also talked with lawmakers about the importance of tax transparency and visibility – a principle for which the AICPA has long advocated – and introduced the Total Tax Insights™ calculator, the AICPA’s new resource to help taxpayers by giving an estimate of the amount they pay each year for the most common federal, state and local taxes.
“Our aim is to demonstrate, through the resources we develop for the public, that CPAs are working every day to become part of the solution by generating awareness and promoting transparency. As a profession, we are committed to helping solve complex problems and leveraging our knowledge as strategic partners for our clients in the public and private sector,” said Anton.
More than 400 AICPA leaders from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam began a three-day meeting in Washington.
The CPAs held hundreds of meetings with their House and Senate members and afterwards members will hear presentations over the three days from U.S. and international financial regulators.
The regulators included SEC Commissioner Troy A. Paredes, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board Chairman James R. Doty, Treasury Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy Janice Eberly, IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman, SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills, Financial Accounting Standards Board Chairman Leslie Seidman and International Accounting Standards Board Vice Chairman Ian Mackintosh, and other key policymakers.