AICPA tackles many issues in coronavirus advocacy

By Nekose Wills

Before the coronavirus pandemic led to the declaration of a national emergency, the AICPA was advocating for COVID-19 relief on behalf of the profession. The AICPA's advocacy efforts have influenced the IRS, Treasury, the Trump administration, business trade groups, and others, while simultaneously helping the accounting profession navigate clients' and businesses' needs.

In early March, the AICPA made an initial push for broad tax payment and filing relief and requested the extension of deadlines for return filings and payments through Oct. 15, 2020. When the IRS granted payment relief through July 15 but did not change the April 15 filing date, the AICPA supported S. 3535 — the Tax Filing Relief for America Act, introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., which requested both payment and filing relief through July 15. AICPA members and state CPA societies were actively involved in making filing relief a reality.

The AICPA had various meetings with members of Congress and Treasury officials and strongly advocated for commonsense practices that would help the country regain economic stability. The AICPA convened a coalition to expedite small business funding via payroll processors, and the coalition grew in response to this message. As the AICPA pushed for the broadest income tax filing and payment relief possible, repeatedly asking that any returns due between March 3 and July 15 be postponed until July 15, incremental change was secured with Notice 2020-18, related to gift and generation-skipping transfer tax filing and payment deadlines.

As the IRS appropriately continued to announce shutdowns of key agency resources for the safety of its own employees, full relief was still not granted, even though the $2 trillion economic stimulus bill began to move through Congress. AICPA members were already concerned that a July 15 deferral would be insufficient, given the unpredictable spread of COVID-19, related closures, and stay-at-home orders. The AICPA anticipated a next phase of relief would be necessary and began calling for a contingency plan, which the Institute is still helping to implement.

When the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, P.L. 116-136, passed and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds became available, the AICPA was at the ready to help the accounting profession and small businesses. The Institute reiterated its recommendations that applicants use a gross payroll approach for average monthly payroll cost calculations and disseminated several resources for CPAs, such as a CARES Act stimulus calculator and a PPP loan calculator for self-employed and independent contractors. During this time, the AICPA's existing state tax filing relief chart, which is regularly updated, became a popular and heavily used resource.

In early April, the AICPA continued its efforts for expanded tax filing and payment relief by writing to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Two days later the IRS granted broad relief with the release of Notice 2020-23. The AICPA continues to lead the small business funding coalition in creating clarity and consistency in the PPP documentation process and has recently created recommendations for administrative, filing, and payment relief for state and local taxes during the pandemic. The AICPA continues to find ways to help bring clarity to IRS guidance, such as requesting clarity on the employee retention credit provisions, and called for additional PPP funding before the second phase of funding that began Monday.

For updates, resources, and advocacy information, please check the AICPA's main Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center, its Tax Policy & Advocacy–specific COVID-19 page, and its webpage with PPP resources.

In other advocacy news

Seven Statements on Auditing Standards deferred for one year. The AICPA Auditing Standards Board agreed to defer the effective dates for SASs No. 134–140 for one year due to the coronavirus.

State licensure updates. The AICPA's State Regulation and Legislation team is regularly updating a list of state actions on licensure, including CPE extensions and pass/fail grades for eligibility requirements.

COVID-19 financial reporting considerations. The Center for Plain English Accounting answered the most frequently asked questions submitted by members.

FinREC comments on FASB. The AICPA's Financial Reporting Executive Committee (FinREC) commented on FASB's exposure draft of a Proposed Accounting Standards Update, Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958): Presentation and Disclosures by Not-for-Profit Entities for Contributed Nonfinancial Assets).

The Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow's Workforce Act. The AICPA supported H.R. 5339, bipartisan legislation to provide accounting professionals with greater financial flexibility as they enter the workforce and seek to further their education.

Nekose Wills is manager–Advocacy Communications for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac (Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com), the JofA's editorial director.

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