Staffing, IRS Service Challenges and Leadership Development are Top Issues for CPA Firms, AICPA Survey Finds

Finding qualified staff is the top issue for all categories of accounting firms except sole practitioners, according to a biennial survey by the AICPA’s firm practice management section.

A second leading issue – for all but the largest firms (21 professionals or more) – is challenges working with the IRS, the Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) CPA firm top issues survey found. That concern was the top response among firms the last time the survey was conducted in 2022, a period when the IRS was buried under backlogs due to the pandemic.

Talent issues stretch beyond staff recruitment, the survey found. The two largest firm categories (11-20 professionals and 21 or more professionals) listed “retaining qualified staff” as their No. 2 issue. Small to midsize firms listed “developing the next generation of firm leaders” as a top five concern or higher. Firms with six to 10 professionals also recognized the aging of owners and partners as a top five concern, which also reflects the need for firms to focus on leadership development.

Results of the survey are segmented by firm size, since the perspectives of a small-firm CPA are often substantially different from those of a practitioner employed by a large firm. Despite that, the firm segment lists often reveal trends across categories. Survey respondents are asked to rank the impact of a host of issues on a 1-5 scale, with one being “minimal” and five being “extreme.”

Among other findings of the survey:

  • “Keeping up with changes and complexity of tax laws” is a significant issue for sole practitioners through midsize firms.
  • The largest firms listed “Effective staff utilization and management” and “Staff compensation and reward programs” among their top five concerns.
  • Sole practitioners and the largest firms were most concerned with the impact of technology, with both categories naming “Keeping up with changes in technology and managing associated costs” and “Leveraging technology to enhance client service” as top five concerns.

Beyond current concerns, survey respondents were asked to rank issues expected to have the greatest impact on firm practice operations over the next five years. Staffing, contending with emerging technologies and changes in the regulatory environment were the most common issues across categories.

“The interplay between talent and technology is interesting, since we know that using technology effectively can have a significant impact on a firm’s ability to leverage staff to provide higher value services to clients,” said Lisa Simpson, vice president of firm services for AICPA and CIMA. “As firms look to recruit, retain and develop staff, being a technology-forward firm is attractive to professionals who are looking for innovation in how work gets done.”

Topline results of the CPA Firm Top Issues Survey were released at AICPA & CIMA ENGAGE 2024 conference. To learn more about PCPS and its resources visit the section’s webpage.


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