Perspective

August 15, 2017

JRichardsonBy Jay Richardson, JD, CPA, CMA, CFM, CGMA
2017-18 OSCPA Chair

In my first message, I discussed accounting’s roots in antiquity. My second message marched ahead to events taking place today. People much smarter than me are trying to project the future of accounting.

My term as Chair ends in 2018, the 110th anniversary of the Society. What was life was like in 1908, the year the Society was founded?

  • The average life expectancy was 47 years.
  • Only 14 percent of homes had a bathtub; even fewer (8 percent) had a telephone. (Contrast this to Gen Z members: They all have cell phones, and those phones have always been “smart.”)
  • Henry Ford's company built the first Model T car. Eight thousand cars traveled on only 144 miles of paved U.S. roads.
  • The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
  • In Muller v. Oregon, the U.S. Supreme Court favored an Oregon law limiting the maximum hours a woman could work and denied that it curtailed “liberty of contract.”
  • The average worker made between $200 and $400 per year. A competent accountant could expect to earn $2,000 a year, behind a dentist ($4,000) and a mechanical engineer ($5,000).
  • Coffee was 15 cents per pound.
  • The population of Oregon was approximately 670,000 (today it is approximately 4,100,000).

Even stretching back over the last 30 years, the tax world I deal in has seen amazing and often confusing change:

  • For many years, taxes had seen little change. The Tax Reform Act of 1976 changed the game in a staggering number of ways. Since then, we have seen 15 major federal income tax acts.
  • Law “toggling” (turning a law “on” and “off”) has become an acceptable practice for government: The carry-over basis rules were on in 1977, off in 1986, and then back on again in 2010. Oh, and the rules were off again in 2011. The generation skipping transfer tax was on in 1977, off in 1986 retroactive to 1977, and then on again in 1986.

Obviously, the accounting profession in 2028 may shock us all. How do we cope, other than staying up with the professional changes? Put it all into perspective.  

Hubble

Scientists in charge of the Hubble Space Telescope decided to photograph a part of the night sky that seemed void of any celestial objects. After letting Hubble stare at the same small point of sky for several days, the telescope returned an astounding image that staggered astrophysicists. Subsequent exposures over the years, including with infrared and ultraviolet light, have added to the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image, pictured above.[i] Most of the lights you see are galaxies, many just like the Milky Way. The oldest galaxies are seen as they were some 13.2 billion years ago. And all of that is in an area of sky that you could observe by looking through a soda straw.

Our own backyard of Oregon – in the cosmic sense – is fortunate to be in the path of the August 21 solar eclipse. The earth has seen countless solar eclipses and will see many more.

So if the changes in the profession and life in general seem to be overwhelming at times, do what I do. I look at the Hubble images and instead feel overwhelmed at our relative place in the cosmos. Experience the August 21 solar eclipse. Although the tribulations we experience as professionals are important, taking time to appreciate the greater realm we live in can help us keep all things terrestrial in perspective.

Endnotes

[i] NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI)

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