One-On-One with Mary Bernard

Mary Bernard specializes in providing income and franchise tax solutions and strategies as a director in Ryan’s Providence office. Through the firm’s professional development committee, she is responsible for the administration and development of Ryan’s internal technical training courses.

As a member of the Governor of Rhode Island’s Tax Policy Strategy Work Group, Bernard has testified before the House Finance Committee on various state income tax issues.  Prior to joining Ryan in 2010, Bernard was Director, State and Local Tax Services at Kahn, Litwin, Renza, & Co., Ltd., in Providence. She is a former president of RISCPA.    

WHAT COUNTS: What did you learn during your tenure as president of RISCPA?

Mary Bernard: My year as President was one of the highlights of my professional career.  During that year I learned how the business community regards the RISCPA as a respected authority.  This was also Bob Mancini’s first full year as Executive Director and his efforts in expanding the visibility of the Society were evident in all the appearances and speeches I made during that year. That year was a culmination of nine years serving on the Board in various capacities, dealing with the issues surrounding the profession and designing a strategic plan to keep the Society in the forefront of the profession.

WC: How has your involvement in RISCPA helped your career?

MB: I first became involved with the Society when I returned to Rhode Island in 1983. As a member of the Federal and State Tax Committee, I was able to discuss important tax issues with some of the most experienced tax professionals in the state.  The knowledge and camaraderie shared within this group has been instrumental in my career through introductions to the top tax officials in the state and having input on current and proposed tax legislation and regulations. I later joined the Social Committee, the Cooperation with Education Committee and the Large Firms Committee before joining the Board and serving on the Centennial Committee for our grand celebration. Through my involvement with the Society, I have become acquainted with members from all the major firms in the state as well as many smaller practitioners. The Society was also instrumental in recommending me to the governor for membership on the state Board of Accountancy, as well as for service with AICPA Council.

WC: What excites you about going to work each day?  

MB: I have just recently switched career paths to state tax consulting at Ryan, a national organization with 42 offices across the country.  My work now is project driven rather than based on current compliance deadlines.  I am enjoying this change and will soon experience my first “busy season” without doing tax returns.  My focus now is on state tax planning ideas to reduce tax liabilities.  I have the opportunity to research an issue with state tax implications to apply to a handful of select multinational clients.  This is the area of taxation I have always concentrated on but now it is mainly my exclusive area of concern, which allows a more in-depth approach.      

WC: Looking back, what drew you to accounting?

MB: I started out life as a math geek.  I was trained to be a high school math teacher but there were no teaching jobs when I graduated from college.  I started working in an office of a restaurant doing general bookkeeping, which seemed pretty basic after advanced calculus.  When I later went to work in the accounting department of an electronics company, they sent me to Bentley College (now University) to take accounting classes.  The last course I took in the MS in accounting program was a tax class, and the rest is history.  I went on to spend 29 years in national and regional public accounting firms before giving up busy seasons for state tax consulting, my favorite area of practice.

WC: During such trying economic times, do you see what you do for a living -- the very profession of accounting -- as more important than ever?

MB: The accounting profession has always been a critical part of every business venture, but now clients are turning to their advisors for more than just financial advice.  Sound business planning becomes essential in designing a budget, locating necessary financing for operating funds, and hiring skilled employees as well as putting together financial statements. The accountant’s role has expanded to include many aspects of a business enterprise. It has now become more critical to scrutinize every transaction closely to determine the best use of financial resources.

WC: What type of economic lessons does this current economy teach us?

MB: I think more people are learning the value of a dollar for the first time.  Many have never experienced financial setbacks and are now forced to do more with a lot less.  This is not necessarily a bad thing – Americans as a whole tend to be very wasteful.  This economy has given us all a chance to be more conscious of our actions and to more seriously contemplate how we spend our funds and use our resources.  Some companies have made cutbacks to streamline their operations and ultimately find a new level of success. This economy may make us all more fiscally responsible in the long run.

WC: What do you do in your spare time?

MB: My spare time, such as it is, is usually spent reading mystery novels or with my three daughters and four grandchildren.  The older I get the more important I find that my family is to me. Working efficiently helps maximize my free time so I can enjoy my grandchildren before they grow up and go off to college!  My youngest daughter has just successfully passed the CPA exam and will start her accounting career at an international public accounting firm in January.  She’s my contribution to the profession’s future!