The Early Years of Accounting
The time was the late 1800s and the industrial revolution was changing the landscape for all businesses.
The accounting profession was no exception. As factories in the United States and in Missouri increased six-fold from 1850 to 1900, “independent accountants” quickly responded and helped to prepare financial statements and audit these new enterprises.
In 1870, the very first accountants were listed in the St. Louis Business Directory…and in 1896, the very first “public accountant” was listed in the directory.
The first accounting firms on record in Missouri include Stuart & Young, later known as Arthur Young & Company, Price Waterhouse’s St. Louis office, and Haskins & Sells.
At the turn of the century, a number of colleges in Missouri were offering business courses…although the closest subject to accounting offered was “bookkeeping.”
This quickly changed and by 1908, 14 Missouri colleges and universities had added accounting courses to their curricula.
1909 was a crucial turning point for the accounting profession in Missouri. The first certified public accountancy law was passed in Missouri and along with it came the formation of the Missouri State Board of Accountancy to enforce it.
Francis A. Wright was awarded the first certificate to practice as a certified public accountant in Missouri.
And history was forever changed on June 18, 1909, when twenty-three certified public accountants gathered together in St. Louis, passed the first constitution and bylaws, and officially formed the “Missouri Society of CPAs.”
The Early Years of MOCPA
Three standing committees were designated in the original bylaws of the Missouri Society of CPAs. The Admissions Committee was charged with inquiring into the eligibility of CPA candidates.
The Legislation Committee served as the watchdog on all proposed legislation affecting CPAs and the Complaints Committee served to hear all matters bearing upon professional conduct.
In 1912, new bylaws were adopted by the Missouri Society of CPAs to incorporate a chapter structure—with Kansas City and St. Louis serving as the first two chapters. The bylaws also included provisions that additional chapters could be formed with the approval of the Board of Directors.
Early on, the Missouri Society of CPAs took an aggressive role in promoting the profession. The society urged the License Commissioner of the city of St. Louis to employ society CPAs rather than bookkeepers to make examinations of merchants’ accounts.
In 1913, the society advocated on behalf of the profession for the use of fiscal years rather than calendar. This change was made in 1913 with enactment of a general income tax law.
The Uniform CPA Exam was introduced in 1917…with Missouri being one of the first nine states to adopt the issuance of CPA certificates by examination.
By the end of 1919, membership in the Missouri Society of CPAs had slowly but steadily increased to 57 CPA members.
The `20s & `30s
The 1920s and 30s were characterized by considerable activity and collaboration with other professions.
In the `30s, the society established a “Committee on Cooperation With Bankers” to help inform bankers regarding accounting services and to increase the verification of financial statements.
Likewise, in 1937, the society initiated meetings with the Missouri Bar to clarify the roles of lawyers and accountants in the preparation of tax returns. MOCPA members felt strongly that income tax preparation services fell within the scope of CPA practice. But the lawyers felt differently.
By 1940, provisions were inserted into the MOCPA code of practice regarding activities which might be deemed a practice of law or departure from the proper sphere of accounting.
Cooperative efforts between Missouri lawyers and CPAs continued amicably through the `40s and `50s—although other parts of the country experienced difficulties through these decades.
In 1943, Missouri’s second accountancy law passed. Society members felt that the original 1909 accountancy law was too permissive. Members worked to write new legislation that required all practitioners to register with and come under the jurisdiction of the state.
The new accountancy law included 27 sections and included provisions to lessen the eligible age of CPA from 25 to 21, designated use of the CPA title, and grandfathered in practicing accountants if they could pass an oral accounting proficiency test.
The beginning of the `50s marked an expansive period in the society’s history. A committee was named to consider the establishment of an office and an employed staff.
During these years, the staff started a quarterly newsletter for members of the Missouri Society of CPAs. A contest among members was held to name the new publication, giving birth to the first issue of The ASSET in July 1952.
The mid fifties and early sixties also saw the formation of two new chapters of the Missouri Society of CPAs—the Southwest Chapter began as the third chapter of the society in 1954 and the Southeast Chapter followed as the fourth chapter in 1960.
In the mid-1950s, the membership also worked hard to recognize the non-practicing CPAs in the society—namely those working in business & industry.
The chapters saw this opportunity to reach out to the business and industry members and began sponsoring members in industry meetings.
In the early sixties, the Independent Accountants Society of Missouri was incorporated. This group sought title and licensing recognition from the Missouri General Assembly. The Missouri Society of CPAs vehemently opposed such attempts and, fortunately, these privileges were not granted to the independent accountants.
Through the years, the Missouri Society of Accountants continued with similar efforts, though CPAs today are recognized as the only signers of attest services and enjoy a credible reputation as the most trusted strategic and financial advisors.
Accountancy law was revised once again in 1967. Privileged communications between CPAs and their clients, CPA exam requirements, and accounting practice standards were all added.
The Educational Foundation
Also in 1967, the Educational Foundation of the Missouri Society of CPAs was established to aid promote develop and advance education and research for the profession.
The Governmental Accounting Conference was first conference to be held by the society in 1968. And it boasts the highest attendance of any conference held in the society’s history! The Governmental Accounting Conference today is the most successful conference and attracts approximately 350 attendees each year.
Today, the Educational Foundation continues to be the most comprehensive source for continuing professional education with more than 200 seminars and conferences held annually throughout Missouri.
By the mid 1970s, the society had grown to more than 2,000 CPA members.
In 1971, the Central Chapter officially became the fifth chapter of the Missouri Society of CPAs.
Committees had become increasingly popular among MOCPA members as an excellent means to networking and resolving profession issues. By 1970, MOCPA had formed 22 working committees and these committees were regularly meeting during the annual Committee Days in Columbia.
The Governmental Accounting Committee, which still meets today, was one of the first committees to be created.
Shortly after, the Management of an Accounting Practice Committee, otherwise known as MAP, formed. This committee developed the Missouri MAP Conference, which attracted CPAs from 40 states.
A major revision of the accountancy law occurred again in 1977. The two-tier system was put in place which separated the awarding of CPA certificates from the issuance of permits to practice.
Passage of this act doubled the number sitting for the CPA exam and helped those who chose business and industry for their CPA career path.
The late seventies and early eighties also represented significant growth of MOCPA’s governmental advocacy programs.
Missouri’s CPA political action committee, or PAC, was officially created in 1977 to provide funding to Missouri legislators who support the CPA profession. The following year, the MOCPA Keyperson Program was developed to encourage two-way communication between legislators and CPAs. Both of these initiatives continue to thrive today.
Peer review, on a selective basis, was passed into law in 1981. The Missouri Board of Accountancy could require certain firms to undergo a review and evaluation of the system of quality control of their accounting and auditing practice. Provisions of the law specified the Missouri Society of CPAs as the provider of peer review services for the state of Missouri.
In 1982, the sixth and last chapter of the Missouri Society of CPAs was created in the Northwest region of the state.
In the late seventies and early eighties, efforts began to require Missouri CPAs to complete forty hours of continuing professional education each year. It took years to get this bill through the Missouri General Assembly and it finally became law in 1983.
By 1984, the Missouri Society of CPAs had grown rapidly to 5,000 members. It proudly celebrated its 75th anniversary on its official birthday—June 18 in St. Louis.
During these years, CPAs working in public practice represented almost three-quarters of the membership, with those working in industry, education, and government made up the other quarter.
The early 1990s represented a time of explosive economic and technological growth for all businesses. The dot-com boom was in full force and businesses were enjoying a strong economy.
One of the major initiatives during the nineties was the passage of the 150-hour law to sit for the CPA exam. On a national level, the profession pushed for this change arguing that the additional year helps CPA candidates become prepared for the rigors of the CPA exam. In 1993, the law passed in Missouri and it officially took effect in 1999.
The mid to late nineties were characterized largely by the emergence of web technologies. The World Wide Web was introduced to the public in the early nineties and email exploded in popularity as a new means of communication.
MSCPA led the profession with the introduction of its own website in the nineties and helped its member firms and companies embrace the Internet, electronic commerce, and the new automated ways of conducting business.
In 1999, MSCPA appointed its first ever female chair of the board. Analee Lanio of Kansas City took the reigns of the society and helped spotlight women’s contributions to the profession.
The New Millennium
The year 2000 ushered in the new millennium and substantial changes for the CPA profession in Missouri.
In 2001 and 2002, the entire accounting profession was rocked by the stunning collapse of Enron and its audit firm Arthur Andersen. Closely followed by WorldCom and a number of other accounting scandals, the once revered accounting profession was suddenly dealing with large scale public relations issues, scrutiny, and integrity concerns.
Shockingly, the big five accounting firms became four and the federal government stepped in with public accounting reform legislation that changed the accounting landscape forever—the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002.
In 2004, the profession ended its run with its twice-year, pencil-and-paper CPA exam and launched a new computerized version of the exam that could conveniently be taken six days a week, throughout most of the year.
Also in 2004, the Missouri State Board of Accountancy updated CPE licensure requirements—adding two hours of mandatory ethics education to be taken each year.
In 2006, the Missouri Society of CPAs was one of the first state CPA societies to pass mobility legislation. After the UAA was passed in most the states, many still faced inconsistencies in their ability to allow CPAs from other states to practice in their own state.
Missouri took the lead and passed provisions which eased interstate practice mobility. Other states soon followed and by the end of 2010, all states are expected to have passed similar legislation.
In 2001, the Missouri Society of CPAs was busy working on the passage of the Uniform Accountancy Act, which was the most comprehensive update of accountancy law in almost thirty years.
The Uniform Accountancy Act or UAA was written by AICPA and NASBA to provide uniformity in accountancy law across state lines. It brought the laws in line with current practice. The UAA included provisions that eliminated the two-tier licensing, defined peer review standards for firms, and much more.
2001 was also a challenging year for the profession related to students. While the profession enjoyed great popularity among college students in the nineties, the tech boom and negative perceptions about accounting plagued the profession among students.
The Missouri Society of CPAs quickly took action and developed LEAP, which stands for Lead and Enhance the Accounting Profession, to help turn around this disturbing declining trend of accounting majors.
LEAP’s mission to promote awareness, appreciation, and understanding of the CPA profession was simple and resonated well with both students and CPA members.
LEAP quickly grew into one of the most active and energized initiatives of the society with hundreds of CPAs making presentations to high school classes, scholarships, and events on college campuses throughout Missouri.
Thanks to LEAP and several other attributes, today, colleges and universities across Missouri are nearing capacity with accounting majors.
Where We Are Today
Today, the Missouri Society of CPAs is the most comprehensive professional development association for CPAs in the state.
One of the most progressive and admired state CPA societies, the MOCPA boasts more than 8,000 members along with a strong student membership base.
The CPA profession has rebounded from the early scandals of the decade. In fact today, the image of CPAs is stronger than ever!
Demand for CPAs is at an all time high and accounting has proven that it remains stable even during economic slowdowns.
MOCPA leaders envision continued success for the profession and the society in the years to come.