Of Rubles and Dollars

When the Soviet Union collapsed and a slew of newly independent republics began looking for financing to operate a capitalist economy, a foreign banker was heard to comment, Governments come and go. Money remains. If money is a universal constant, it may explain why, as their country moves into a global capitalist economy, Russian accountants have much in common with their counterparts in the United States.

From Moscow to Washington
In September, the Maryland Association of CPAs played host to a delegation of 11 Russian accountants eager to find out what the U.S. professions concerns and interests were and to compare notes with their overseas counterparts. The visit included a trip to the AICPAs Washington office where the staff explained the CPAs role in the U.S. economy and listened to how accountants operate in Russia.

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All the visitors worked for what was translated as audit companies, equivalent to CPA firms. They seemed bewildered that the U.S. has 54 licensing jurisdictions: Russian accountants all are certified through a central ministry of finance. However, Russian firms must be licensed for some of the industries for which they act as auditors. Investment companies are fairly new in Russia and only a few firms have licenses to audit them, giving this small group a virtual monopoly.

The delegation members, like many U.S. CPAs today, wanted to know more about IASC standards and their application. One visitor explained that there was a lot of interest in adopting the GAAP of various Western European countries, which can differ from both U.S. and IASC standards. Griping about the tax authorities is a common thread there as well as here. We are not popular with the government tax authorities, said one accountant through an interpreter. They feel we work too hard to help people avoid paying their fair share. They want everyone to pay more than they should. Late-payment fines are very high, they explained, and are a key government profit center.

Marketing, of course, is another capitalist reality. We have to spend lots of time and energy looking for new clients, said one accountant. Its especially hard for a new firm.

100 years of CPE
M. Christine Stewart, president of the Maryland society and head of her own consulting firm, told the Journal that the U.S. profession has been moving to its present role as business advisers for much of the century. Her Russian guests were studying hard to bring their profession up to speed much more quickly. As the Russians met with CPAs around the state, they were stunned by the hourly rates many CPAs command, which are very high compared with Russian standards, said Stewart. Nevertheless, the Russians are not entering this economy with decades of existing perceptions about what the profession has been. They seem very eager to make the move to provide complete business advisory services. They readily bought into our Vision Process.

The Center for Citizen Initiatives, a private organization receiving support from the U.S. State Department, sponsored the trip through its Productivity Enhancement Program, which provides training to Russian business people.


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