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Accounting would be part of STEM under education grant proposal

School children
If a new piece of legislation is enacted, these two youngsters might bring their classroom enthusiasm to the accounting profession.

Tax professionals have been unsung heroes for the last two tax filing seasons.

They've dealt with complicated and often last-minute tax law changes created to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic's economic problems. Not only did they have to decipher and apply the changes, tax pros had to explain them to their clients and, in many cases, hand hold taxpayers through the process more than usual.

Plus, this all happened as tax deadlines were upended by the coronavirus and multiple major disasters.

So I'm all for celebrating the tax preparers and advisers and their beyond the call of duty commitment.

I'm also pleased to see that a pair of House members want to recognize one of the professions that's crucial during tax season and beyond. And they want to do it in a way that will encourage, and provide financial support for, more young people to join the accountants' ranks.

Reps. Haley Stevens, a Michigan Democrat, and Victoria Spartz, a Republican from Indiana, have introduced the Accounting STEM Pursuit Act.

The bill, H.R. 3855, aims to help establish the accounting profession as a valuable STEM — the acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics curricula — career pathway. It also looks to encourage diversity in the future of the accounting workforce, according to the bipartisan sponsors.

The Accounting STEM Pursuit Act would do so adding "activities to promote the development, implementation, and strengthening of programs to teach accounting" to the list of allowable uses of grant funding under the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program, which is part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

More options for more students: The bill's bipartisan sponsors say the focus of the addition is to promote career awareness in accounting as part of a well-rounded STEM educational experience.

From a practical perspective, it would increase access to high-quality accounting courses for students through grade 12 who are members of groups underrepresented in accounting careers.

"As a founding Chair of the House Women in STEM Caucus, there are few issues in Congress that are more important to me than working to promote and advance STEM education pathways for our diverse next generation of leaders and innovators,'' said Stevens.

Stevens said the bill would increase access to high-quality accounting education for K-12 students. That in turn ultimately should produce a more diverse workforce for the financial sector and consumers who will benefit from, per Stevens, "a strengthened pipeline of talented workers of all backgrounds who are ready to meet the needs of our rapidly changing world."

Spartz also cited personal and professional reasons for signing on as original cosponsor to the legislation.

"As a CPA who worked in a variety of industries, taught accounting at college, and started my own businesses, I understand the importance of finance and accounting skills for our students — regardless of which endeavor they pursue in life," said Spartz.

Industry support: It's no surprise that several accounting organizations also are supporters of the bill, which is awaiting further action from the House Education and Labor Committee.

Accounting organizations logos_STEM bill support letterhead

They include the American Institute of Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA), the Center for Audit Quality, the National Association of Black Accountants, the National Academy Foundation and the Diverse Organization of Firms

"The accounting profession has always been a leader in using and developing technology to make informed decisions, solve complex problems and improve the delivery of audit, finance and tax services. As the profession continues to apply advanced technology and technology-enabled techniques, it’s never been a more exciting time to be an accounting professional," said Susan Coffey, CPA and CEO of Public Accounting at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

That was echoed in a letter accounting organizations sent to the bill's sponsors:

"Our organizations believe that STEM recognition for accounting, coupled with the potential for such educational funding, will help to diversify and build a highly skilled and qualified pipeline of professional accountants in the United States. As the profession works to create a sustainable and robust future, finding and retaining qualified staff are consistently among the top issues facing CPA firms of every size segment and among businesses that employ accounting professionals."

Thanks accountants and all tax pros for all you do before, after and during tax season. Here's to seeing more of you and, thanks to the Accounting STEM Pursuit Act, to seeing more accountants who are representative of all taxpayers.

And I also hope that the new acronym is STEAM!

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