In addition to leading Fuentes & Angel CPAs LLC in Jericho, Lynne Fuentes has a new title: president-elect of the 24,000-member New York State Society of CPAs. She talked with the Long Island Press about the accounting profession and gearing up to lead the group celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.
What are your priorities as president of the state society of CPAs?
I have two main focuses. I’d like to concentrate on small to mid-sized firms. There’s an overabundance of them. It’s difficult for them to get staffing. We’re competing with large-sized firms. Being able to provide them with better continuing education classes and showing how the society is really here for them and larger firms.
What’s the second priority?
To continue building the pipeline for the profession. There are fewer students going into the profession of accounting. To me, it was the backbone of every business. I always knew I’d have a job. People lost awareness and don’t know what an accountant can be.
Do most people know what an accountant actually does?
Most people think accountants sit behind a desk with tape on their glasses and a pocket protector. And all we do is look at numbers, put numbers on a piece of paper and come up with a tax. There are numerous things that accountants do. Many go into the FBI, work for the U.S. Treasury. Knowing numbers tells a story. If it wasn’t for accountants, the Madoff scandal may never have come to light. Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike, was a CPA. Fred Wilpon, the former principal owner of the Mets, is a CPA.
How has technology changed the profession?
It’s made things a lot easier. Remote learning. You can have clients all over the country. It’s made choosing items to audit much simpler. The computer systems pick out things that look unusual.
Why are you trying to get accounting included as a STEM profession?
The state society believes it‘s a natural fit. We use a lot of technology for bitcoin, big data, blockchain. Even doing an audit is no longer picking up a general ledger. We run it through our computer system. It tells us these are the items you should look at. In doing a company audit, you need the technology end of it to see if their systems have the proper controls in place.
Accounting traditionally was seasonal. Is that still the case?
I wish it was seasonal. When I first started out in the profession, April 15 hit and I was able to relax. Now with extensions, with Covid, Delta, Omicron, our deadlines have been extended. Every time they make a tax law and say it’s going to be easier, it becomes more difficult. There’s a greater need for accountants than ever.
Why did you go into accounting?
My grandparents are from Cuba. My grandfather came here when he was 7, became a union organizer. My grandmother saw the neighbor preparing tax returns and making money off it. She told my grandfather he had to learn that. He was the original tax accountant in the family. My father became an accountant alongside his father since he was 19 years old. I joke that one of his clients had a vending machine route. He would bring us a box of M&M’s. As a 5-, 6-, 7-year old, I said, “This is what I want to do, because I can get free M&M’s.”
What are some big changes in taxation?
This year, they had the additional child tax credits. For children under 17, you got $3,000 instead of $2,000 and for children under 6, you’ll get a credit of $3,600. It still needs to be reconciled with the return. They received stimulus money last year. Clients last year weren’t remembering how much they received. This year the IRS will be sending out letters, saying, “This is how much you received for your advance child tax credit and stimulus.”
Do you think the profession can do more to promote minorities?
We need to promote more people of color, Latinx. That needs to increase. We’re seeing more women as partners. Two years ago, I did a study of women partners in accounting firms. That number barely grew in the 11 years prior to that. In the last two years, it’s been more and more. You see a lot of women accountants as managers, but not necessarily as partners. We need to keep increasing that.
What’s your favorite thing about being an accountant?
I love my clients. I meet so many diverse people from different parts of the country and the world, from your low-income taxpayer to someone who paid $35 million in an extension. Everyone makes my day more interesting. It’s the personal aspect of it. Being part of the state society has been an influential part of my life. I don’t think I’ve ever written a resume.
What’s it like to be running an accounting firm?
It’s got its challenges, especially this year, trying to find staffing. I’ve been doing work for some clients for so long. Some of these people have become like family or friends. Having to raise fees is the heartbreak of doing a job. But you need to pay people and stay on top of the rising costs.
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