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VSCPA Supports Adding Accounting to STEM Definition

September 30, 2018

June 21, 2013

Honorable Mark Warner
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Warner:

On behalf of the more than 11,000 members of the Virginia Society of CPAs (VSCPA), we respectfully request that you cosponsor and support Sen. Sherrod Brown’s amendment to S. 744 — the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act — that adds accounting to the mathematics definition of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

We strongly support Sen. Brown’s amendment because it would include advanced degrees in accounting under the definition of mathematics so that these highly skilled, highly trained individuals will qualify for the STEM provisions within S. 744.

CPA firms in Virginia need specialized skills to serve their clients and the public interest. The ability to move people with these skill sets across international borders using H-1B visas allows CPA firms to provide the appropriate skill sets to meet their clients’ needs.

In our view, accounting is not only an occupation that requires strong analytic and math skills, but also a profession that is instrumental to the functioning of a strong capital market and one whose skills promote innovation within our economy. While accounting is not traditionally thought of as an industry of innovation, it is upon the back of this industry that we can ensure the flow of capital that is necessary to fuel innovation. The strength of our capital markets depends upon investor confidence, and investor confidence is built upon the knowledge that corporate financial numbers are correct and transparent.

The demand for accountants and auditors on a global basis has increased dramatically in recent years. The U.S. Department of Labor indicates the accounting and auditing profession is expected to grow faster than average (18–26 percent) because of an increase in the number of emerging businesses, changing financial laws and regulations, and increased scrutiny of company finances. Professional accounting firms are hiring as many qualified individuals as they can, but many firms have had to limit the amount of work they undertake because of a global shortage of resources. In fact, public accounting firms cite hiring new staff as one of their major concerns in the coming years.

Despite the economic downturn in 2011 and 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a mere 3.5 percent unemployment rate for accountants. Compare that to the overall unemployment of over 9 percent at the time just following the peak of the worst recession in recent history.

Accountants and auditors are vital to the well-being of the capital markets and the U.S. economy. They further the provision of accurate financial statements, protection of investors and the public interest, and facilitation of healthy capital markets and capital formation. Advanced degrees in accounting and taxation are the primary fields from which the firms hire. These degrees have a heavy concentration in mathematics, statistics, tax and, increasingly, information technology.

Those who hold advanced degrees in these fields from U.S. schools typically become global leaders in business. More Chief Operating Officers have degrees in accounting than any other field of study. It is in the United States’ interest to attract the best and the brightest students in these fields and to retain them as permanent residents upon completion of an advanced degree. Foreign nationals who graduate from U.S. advanced degree programs in accounting and taxation are highly employable and make ideal immigrants. While H-1B usage varies from firm to firm, one of the Big 4 firms reports that in 2012, more than 84 percent of the H-1B users earned their degrees in the United States.

Adding accounting and taxation to STEM will help ensure that U.S. accounting firms can recruit and fill these vital positions.

Thank you for your service to Virginia and for giving our request your attention and serious consideration. If you have questions or we can be of any further assistance, feel free to contact me or VSCPA Government Affairs Director Emily Walker at [email protected] or (804) 612-9428.


James M. Shepherd, CPA
2013–2014 Chair
Virginia Society of CPAs

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