Oh my! Two subjects that generate a bit of attention are “Politics” and “Religion”. Most of us are intelligent enough to avoid these topics unless we are in the appropriate environment. But these are two subjects that even CPAs cannot avoid. By the time this blog “hits the internet”, the mid-term elections should be over. I would assume that most Americans have had more than their reasonable quota of political advertising and election news by now.
So let me address the “religion” side. As in any subject, I have a perspective relative to my life experiences, as we all do. On the tax end of my profession, I have extensive experience in preparing personal income tax returns for ordained ministers. They have a dual status separating the computations for income tax and for the self-employment tax (Social Security). While most tax professionals understand the basics, I am surprised to see how many have little or limited knowledge relative to the unique applications of the tax law relative to ordained ministers. And much of this may soon come to an end, as one case is presently working its way through the court system that could disallow the tax exempt “housing allowance”. I suspect that the Supreme Court could hear this case in the near future. Suffice it to say that I unwillingly believe this tax application has the potential to soon become history, based on what I have read to date.
On the A&A side I find my CPA exposure in the audit arena. Over the years I have gained experience in auditing a number of churches in our market. While this is a challenging task, I can’t even imagine preparing an audit on some of the religious institutions and places of worship around the world. How would one determine the basis for some of the fixed assets of the beautiful cathedrals in and about Europe? The beautiful collection of art at the Vatican would surely present a marvelously sound balance sheet. Many of the Mosques I have visited in the Middle East and in India are quite modest in structure but rich in history.
The most amazing financial statement I could imagine would be one that shows the beauty and wealth of the Shwedagon Pagoda in down town Yangon, Myanmar. I had a privilege of visiting that Pagoda a few years ago. There were multiple metric tons of gold in the temple structure. I was told that there were over 7,000 rubies and other precious jewels in the upper portion above the dome. And pure gold statues of Buddha were located throughout the several acres of the Pagoda. Now that would be one extremely interesting inventory observation!
The privilege of auditing churches has richly blessed me. While I am a Southern Baptist, through the audit process I have learned more about other denominations and the way they conduct their business. I would challenge all my fellow CPAs to embrace matters of politics and religion in a very professional manner. We need to set aside our personal opinions and beliefs, as we listen, observe and appreciate the diverse society that surrounds us. In doing so we will be enriched, blessed and better CPAs.
Blogger: Charles ‘Eddie’ Brown, CPA