As the accounting profession continues to build trust, create opportunity and grow prosperity amid the global pandemic, the AICPA has implemented numerous advocacy initiatives, built coalitions, created tools and provided leadership that simultaneously propels the profession while addressing its issues and concerns. The AICPA’s advocacy efforts have helped the profession navigate clients’ and businesses’ needs in the United States and abroad. This blog highlights some important recent events in our U.S.-based advocacy.
The AICPA has guided Congress, the Department of the Treasury, the IRS, regulatory agencies, business trade groups and other stakeholders. We offered sound advice, developed practical tools and spearheaded programs related to COVID-19 and small business recovery efforts. The AICPA offered dozens of ideas, feedback and proposals for federal relief bills for small businesses and their employees. We continued to meet with members of Congress and their staffs, as well as officials from the IRS and Treasury, to advocate for commonsense practices that would help the country manage through the pandemic and regain economic stability.
2020 U.S. advocacy highlights
- Accounting as an essential service — As state and local governments were requiring businesses to close because of the coronavirus, the AICPA strongly encouraged Treasury to include public accounting as an essential service. CPAs and tax professionals were already in the middle of a busy season and needed access to their offices to complete returns. As an essential service, they could continue to serve clients as local government mandates required businesses to shut down. Following our outreach, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency included public accounting as an essential service. State and local officials used this guidance to determine which businesses and services were essential.
- PPP Coalition facilitates information sharing — The AICPA created a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Coalition to support and amplify the AICPA’s advocacy efforts on behalf of small businesses. The coalition communicates information about small business relief programs, assists with gathering required documentation and application processes necessary for PPP relief funds, and is a general resource for overall economic recovery initiatives. For example, in coordination with state CPA societies and over 170 small business payroll providers, the AICPA urged Congress to include a technical correction to address the tax treatment of loan forgiveness under the PPP.
- Guidance issued on tax credits and due dates extended — The AICPA successfully urged Treasury and the IRS to issue guidance on the employer retention credit, the sick leave and medical leave credits and PPP loan forgiveness (we still advocate for expense deductibility) and pushed for the broadest income tax filing and payment relief possible. We repeatedly asked that any returns due between March 3 and July 15 be postponed until July 15, until that became a reality.
- E-signatures adopted on 18 forms — The AICPA Tax Executive Committee (TEC) requested that the IRS update and modernize its e-filing signature requirements in four areas because of COVID-19. The aim was for the IRS to at least temporarily, and then permanently, adopt the changes to make using electronic signatures easier for taxpayers and tax practitioners. The IRS initially identified a dozen forms for which it would accept e-signatures for the rest of the year. At the AICPA’s request, it then added six more forms. We are still advocating for permanent e-signature acceptance.
- State guidance issued and adopted — The AICPA’s Recommendations for Administrative, Filing and Payment Relief for State and Local Taxes during the Coronavirus Pandemic helped state CPA societies that wished to request their state taxation authorities provide automatic acceptance of their returns into the state electronic filing program, if accepted by the IRS. The recommendation asked that states not require a separate signature authorization form other than the IRS Form 8879 series. Fourteen states and several localities now allow for automatic acceptance. We created numerous other tools to support state CPA societies with their advocacy efforts on state and local tax matters, including the regularly updated AICPA chart on State Tax Filing Guidance and resources on one additional month for state filing after federal filing.
- Guidance about the e-filing outage — The AICPA informed the IRS about the impact, implications and need for relief from the 15 e-filing outage and provided immediate guidance to practitioners. The AICPA successfully encouraged the IRS to issue a clarifying statement explaining the relief. In a Sept. 24 statement, the IRS acknowledged the e-filing software outage. It announced that a return and any elections filed with that return that were affected by the Sept. 15, 2020, external tax software outage would be timely if e-filed by Sept. 17, 2020.
- Mobile workforce initiatives — The AICPA coordinated with key Senate staffs and supported new proposed legislation ( 3995) that refocuses the need for relief from having to file non-resident state income tax returns during the pandemic. It included a key provision in the final coronavirus relief package (AICPA Recommendations Phase Four letter). Additionally, the AICPA coordinated an effort with state CPA societies and other stakeholders that called for passage and inclusion in a larger deal. The joint letter with the Council on State Taxation garnered over 120 signatories, including 45 state CPA societies.
- Proceeding with pre-pandemic initiatives — The AICPA has led an initiative on the need for a Practitioner Services Division and continues to send expanded stakeholder letters to Congress and the IRS that highlight support for this proposal. Also, in March, at the request of congressional staff, a member of the Tax Executive Committee testified before the Committee on Small Business’ Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access on South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc.: Online Sales Taxes and Their Impact on Main Street.
The AICPA is committed to advancing the best interests of the accounting profession. Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to fight for the needs of taxpayers, tax professionals, firms of all sizes and many other stakeholders. After the pandemic is over, we will still advocate for the best interests of our members and the public.