The work of our advocacy team didn’t stop just because the 2020 Virginia General Assembly Session is officially in the books. In a year when the session was called “one of the most consequential sessions in Virginia’s history” by the Washington Post, as lawmakers advanced the South’s strictest gun regulations, enacted the most robust LGBTQ protections and ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, many of the fireworks are happening after the session ended. Lawmakers at every level of government have been scrambling to address the COVID-19 pandemic and our team has been in the fight, advocating for the CPA profession and our members.
On March 23, 2020, Gov. Ralph Northam issued an executive order that stated:
Although business operations offering professional rather than retail services may remain open, they should utilize teleworking as much as possible. Where telework is not feasible, such business must adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces, and apply the relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities.
CPA firms can continue operating in person but are strongly encouraged to promote telework and maintain social distancing when in the office.
Crisis-Related Letters and Positions
We urged Gov. Ralph Northam and Virginia Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne, CPA on two fronts:
Tax deadlines: On March 19, we sent a letter requesting that Virginia offer penalty relief after the federal government announced a payment extension. Then, on March 20, we requested a Virginia tax due date extension immediately after the federal government moved its extension to July 15. Thank you to all members who took our last-minute poll on Friday to urge alignment of state and federal tax deadlines. As soon as we have any news, we will let you know.
CPAs as essential employees: On March 21, the VSCPA sent another letter arguing that, should the governor implement shelter-in-place or lockdown orders, we believe he should include CPAs and the accounting profession in the list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.
The Society also lobbied federal leaders to find an efficient solution for the federal government to use already-existing payroll providers as it distributes payroll funding to small businesses to help keep those businesses from closing their doors.
The 2020 Session
We faced an uphill battle to educate the dramatically changed legislature around tax conformity but got emergency fixed-date conformity passed (HB 1413 and SB 582). In fact, this legislation with the first bill signed into law by Gov. Northam. Our efforts around rolling conformity (HB 734) received overwhelming support in the House but did not come up for a vote in the Senate. Your outreach to elected officials was crucial in advancing rolling conformity as far as it went. The groundwork laid down during this session will set the table for us to try and pass the measure again in 2021.
Other legislative success for the 2020 session:
We supported HB 1417 that will enable Virginia to align with the new IRS partnership audit regime and streamline administration; the bill passed both chambers unanimously.
The VSCPA joined with a coalition of interested parties to defeat HB 680 and 685 that presented significant privacy and data security risks for Virginia citizens, contractors and state government agencies. The bills were killed before ever reaching the floor.
We supported HB 689 that requires the number of hours worked to appear on employee wage-payment statements only if the employee is paid by the hour and not on a salary basis. The pay stub or equivalent electronic version is to include information on how gross and net pay were calculated; the bill passed both chambers unanimously.