Top challenges facing accounting firms

William Woods Business

Aspiring accountants and students pursuing a bachelors of science in accounting can get an inside look at some of the top issues affecting the accounting profession in a biennial report published by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

The AICPA Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) Top Issues Report is a result of a survey of private CPA firms, including sole practitioners, that aims to examine the trends and problems affecting CPA firms and practitioners.

The following were among the top issues cited in the latest PCPS report.

Tax law changes

As accounting laws change every year, accounting practitioners are responsible for remaining informed and knowledgeable regarding the latest federal and state tax laws. However, while larger CPA firms can tap internal resources to organize training sessions or mobilize knowledge sharing initiatives, smaller firms or sole practitioners face greater difficulty staying abreast. According to the report, the number one issue for single practitioners and the number two issue for firms with two to five accounting professionals is keeping up with the changes and complexity of tax laws.

Finding or retaining qualified staff

Recruiting and retaining top talent remains one of the key challenges affecting CPA firms today. With the exception of sole practitioners, “finding quality staff” is consistently ranked between the top two issues across all CPA firms regardless of size. The challenge of talent acquisition and turnover also feeds into another commonly cited issue: succession planning. As more baby boomers retire, questions regarding who will take over remain a pressing issue for many firms.

Seasonality/workload compensation

As the tax season can significantly increase the amount of work handled by CPA firms, managing workload seasonality is consistently reported among the top five issues. For many firms, the tax season means hiring seasonal staff, which requires adequate planning, training, oversight and resources to support and compensate the incoming fleet of employees.

At William Woods University, one of the many courses accounting students take is ACC319 Taxation for Entrepreneurs. This course examines many of the issues commonly encountered by accounting professionals. For example, students will compare the history, law and structure of sales, payroll and income taxes affecting taxable entities such as individuals and small business owners. Additionally, students will practice preparing accurate federal payroll forms and income tax returns while citing appropriate tax authorities for controversial issues that arise.

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