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Why I Became a CPA Advocate: How a Trip to the Dentist Resulted in Dinner with Legislators

Nov 13, 2019
I didn’t want to leave the office, but it was time for my semi-annual dental date. Yes, a dental date with my husband. Ride sharing saves on automobile expenses, general ledger account number 5450. It sounds funny, but we schedule our dental cleanings together and then go to dinner at Coopers Hawk afterward. That day he was driving us home when I decided to check my email. I noticed an email from the Indiana CPA Society. To my complete surprise, I was being invited to become a CPA Advocate.

I had butterflies in my stomach, wondering what this was all about, but my concerns were shortly overcome. I read through the entire email and pondered why I might want to become a CPA Advocate. I thought about the love I have for my business clients and taxpayers in general. If I got involved, I thought, maybe it could help me assist my clients should they need help advocating for their needs or rights.

I remembered my clients benefited when Indiana changed sales tax collection on fuel. In this situation, both the state and businesses benefited from an otherwise unfair practice when the state began to collect prepaid sales tax on fuel. Then I reflected on how I would like to see our state legislators be more open to pressing social concerns, women’s empowerment and diversity, as we are losing population and revenue to other more progressive states.

While I do not have a background in politics, I viewed the CPA Advocates program as an opportunity to learn and influence. I recalled serving as president of Rush County’s Economic Development Board of Directors and enjoying every aspect of it!
"While I do not have a background in politics, I viewed the CPA Advocates program as an opportunity to learn and influence. "

As I thought more about the INCPAS opportunity, I was honored to be asked to give back to the CPA profession which has served me very well over my 29-year career. After all, how many careers afford one the opportunity to read such exciting bedtime materials as tax law? I also love and support the Society’s promotion of the importance of diversity in the profession. So, I replied to the email right away and said, “Yes.” 

I quickly overcame my apprehension when I was welcomed into the program by Sherrill Rude, CAE, and the Society staff. I received a welcome packet guiding me on the expectations of the program, which was beneficial. The Society’s own lobbyist, Lou Belch, gave a group of us an educational and fun tour of the Indiana Statehouse. This was getting exciting! Following the tour, we went to Tastings Wine Bar and had the opportunity to meet other CPA Advocates and network amongst our peers and the Society staff. One CPA brought her mother, who was visiting from Missouri and also a CPA. It’s not often you meet a mother-daughter CPA duo!

Next, I was matched with Senator Jean Leising and Representative Cindy Ziemke, who represent my residential district. I was encouraged to email them and inform them I could be a resource. I recognized an opportunity to go beyond an email introduction—I
wanted to meet with them.

My intuition told me to contact my legislators, meet up and begin to form a relationship. Entrepreneurs need to learn to recognize and trust their intuition so I did just that. I invited both of them to dinner at a very nice restaurant. Their assistants responded and said yes, they would join me if they could bring their spouses. Initially, I thought it was odd for them to invite their spouses but nevertheless agreed.

Yikes, now I am buying dinner for four. Is this tax deductible, I quickly asked myself? Is the new TCJA going to eliminate the meals deduction? Or is this entertainment, I thought? I was also a little worried how this dinner would go. After all, I am a boring accountant who cannot tell stories so how am I going to entertain them? What if there is silence at the table? What if they ask me tax law questions and I don’t have my US Master Tax guide with me? Well, it was too late; I had already taken the plunge. I reminded myself I was doing it out of love and service to my clients and taxpayers, so all would be well. I took the leap of faith.

The dinner date was set and on the calendar. When the day came, I hoped my husband would join me. He could help me entertain them, I thought, and he is a great storyteller. But no, the local sports game was a higher priority, so he respectfully declined. Great, I thought. I will have to do this all on my own. 

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to connect with female legislators, but it is bigger than that. I reflect on the mother-daughter CPA duo and all the CPAs who are women (42 percent), and wonder why only 23 percent are partners (according to the AICPA 2019 Trends report)?

When I began my career, the percentage of female CPAs was very low. Often, I was among the minority of women in the room. I remember being turned down for my first job and told by a male CPA the world was not ready for a female CPA. In spite of that experience, I forged ahead and started my own business.
"I remember being turned down for my first job and told by a male CPA the world was not ready for a female CPA. In spite of that experience, I forged ahead and started my own business."

My experience as a CPA Advocate will also help me in my new role as an advisor to other women-owned business leaders (CPA or not). I want to help women learn how to trust their intuition and harness the power of confidence, courage and faith to believe in themselves and succeed. While I started this journey knowing it would help me provide value to my clients and taxpayers, my involvement has proven to be full of additional benefits like helping me empower other women-owned business leaders.

I am very proud to have the opportunity to participate in the CPA Advocates program. Yes, I know making general ledger entries is extremely exciting, but if you are looking for something equally as exciting and exhilarating that gives you a chance to meet new people, ponder social change, and be a resource to legislators, then I highly encourage you to participate and provide your expertise.

If CPAs can unite as trusted business advisors, I know we can influence legislation in a positive way. I am grateful for everyone at the Society and the PAC contributors for making this program available, and I look forward to the next event. Hope to see you there! 

CPA Advocate Jane Smiley with legislators

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