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Firm Management

Finding Qualified Staff Is the Top Issue Facing Most CPA Firms In 2024

The AICPA revealed topline results of the PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey during a Town Hall at ENGAGE 2024 this week.

This week at the ENGAGE conference in Las Vegas, topline results of the Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) CPA Firm Top Issues Survey were revealed during the AICPA Town Hall. What was discussed were the biggest issues facing accounting firms of differing sizes in 2024—and which of those challenges were the most common.

Survey respondents were asked to rank the impact of a host of issues on a 1 to 5 scale, with one being “minimal” and five being “extreme.” There were 667 respondents representing a mix of practice types and firm sizes in the biennial survey, which is conducted by the AICPA’s firm practice management section.

Except for sole practitioners, the No. 1 issue for accounting firms with two or more employees was finding qualified staff. Sole practitioners said their biggest issue is keeping up with the changes to and the complexity of the U.S. tax code.

A second leading issue—for all but the largest firms (21 professionals or more)—is challenges working with the IRS. 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 tax return backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Talent issues stretch beyond staff recruitment, the survey found. The two largest CPA firm categories (11 to 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. Accounting 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, the AICPA said.

The largest CPA firms listed effective staff utilization and management, as well as staff compensation and reward programs, among their top five concerns.

Results courtesy of the AICPA & CIMA.

“A lot of times we think that maybe the challenges in a small firm are different than the challenges in a larger firm, but I think this chart [above] shows us that in reality, as a profession, many of us are facing the same issues,” Lisa Simpson, vice president of firm services for AICPA & CIMA, said during the Town Hall on June 5.

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.

Results courtesy of the AICPA & CIMA.

“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,” Simpson said. “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.”

A full commentary on survey results will be available later this summer, along with a roadmap to resources for firms to address their challenges, the AICPA said.