Policy, but no politics: Accountants say it’s OK — and even necessary — to focus on government and taxes

Alan Sobel.

Accountants, like everyone else, might be divided over political opinions, but they do share some common ground: They’re not talking about it, especially with clients.

Alan Sobel, managing principal of the New Jersey offices for CliftonLarsonAllen, said political chatter rarely comes up among accountants, even in the midst of a contentious election year.

Partly, that’s by design.

“Because it doesn’t ever lead to anything good,” he said. “We do spend plenty of time talking about taxes, laws and regulations and how that might impact businesses. But I try to steer away from political conversations.”

One thing’s for sure: Who’s in office, and how they’re directing tax policy, does mean something to the profession. A year into former President Donald Trump’s administration, he enacted one of the largest tax overhauls in decades, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

The changes made by that revamp, including taking the corporate tax rate down to 21% from 35%, are set to sunset after 2025, barring an extension by Congress.

That’s something accountants are more than willing to talk about with clients. Sobel said that means there’s a lot of planning going on, particularly among trust and estates professionals, who are busy helping clients secure higher gift and estate tax exemptions before they potentially expire.

Aiysha “A.J.” Johnson.

Aiysha “A.J.” Johnson, CEO of the New Jersey Society of CPAs, said there’s also everyday conversations going on in regards to inflation, the supply chain and the overall health of the economy.

Outside of that, she said, most of the focus in New Jersey for accountants and their clients is on staying abreast of issues on a community and state level.

“And for us, as a state society, we’d hope that whoever comes into the (state) Senate recognizes the importance of making New Jersey business-friendly,” she said. “We think that’s how you also attract and retain young talent who are committed to the state’s economy. “

Patrick Walsh.

Patrick Walsh, CEO and managing partner at Withum, supposes that the elections factor into accountant-client conversations less than one might expect.

He also figures it’s a sign of the times.

“In this particular election year, the exasperation with politics is leading people to maybe long for 2028 — when the current candidates won’t be candidates,” he said. “The rancor in politics today, not just in November’s elections, but just the inability for legislative and executive branches to function in a civil manner, I think is frustrating for people, regardless of political affiliations.”