What hot topics are on CPA firm radar screens these days? That was a subject of lively discussion at the most recent PCPS Executive Committee meeting. The PCPS Executive Committee is comprised of practitioners in a variety of firm sizes from across the country. Committee members meet three times a year and volunteer regularly throughout their term to work with the PCPS team to provide direction and ideas to best assist member firms based on their real-world practice experience.
As the committee discussed the current hot topics in their firms, health care reform, and the best ways to advise clients on related implications, topped many executive committee members’ lists. Members questioned whether they should ‘pay or play’ and wondered the best way to prepare their firms and educate their staff. While PCPS offers a Health Care Reform Toolkit , it is currently being updated based on recent announcements regarding delayed provisions. Expanding upon the toolkit and providing even more health care guidance and education tools are also being considered. Another chief concern included state and local taxes, which members said was becoming extremely burdensome as firms continue to work across state lines. PCPS is exploring ways to develop related tools and resources and to collaborate with the AICPA tax section and state societies to address this issue.
As committee members expressed their top concerns, it was obvious that keeping up with complexity continues to be a challenge, so it was helpful that the PCPS Technical Issues Committee (TIC) joined this meeting. TIC is a committee of volunteer CPA practitioners who work with standard setters by providing the views of local firms and their clients. The executive committee and TIC meet together once a year to align goals and to ensure that member firms are receiving and understanding the technical developments that affect them and their clients. During the meeting, PCPS and TIC both provided an update on their current strategic plan and projects and discussed other ways for continued partnership. They also discussed current collaborative efforts, including a toolkit that will help members understand and implement COSO’s updated Internal Control—Integrated Framework. In addition, both committees reviewed the Financial Reporting Framework for Small and Medium Entities (FRF for SMEs) with Bob Durak, director of Private Company Financial Reporting Accounting Standards at the AICPA. Members of both committees were instrumental in developing the FRF for SMEs Toolkit which provides implementation guidance, illustrative financial statements, and comparative tables for IFRS, GAAP, and OCBOA.
Overall, PCPS and TIC members’ chief concerns generally aligned with the issues identified in the recently released 2013 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, which asks practitioners to identify the challenges that are keeping them awake at night. PCPS uses the responses to this biennial survey, which are categorized by firm size, and the direction, suggestions, practical insight and assistance from the executive committee and TIC to stay in touch with members, understand their pain points and create resources they can use to solve their most pressing problems.
By George S. Willie, CPA, CGFM, CGMA
The most recent PCPS executive committee meeting proved to be quite insightful as the hot topics recognized by committee members were similar to those identified in the 2013 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey. PCPS uses the executive committee hot topics session and our Top Issues Survey as great sources of business intelligence as we create new tools that our members can immediately put into practice. During this roundtable discussion, I stressed the importance to the committee of not just focusing on the issues, but also in thinking through recommended solutions. In fact, at the meeting we made sure that the hot topic items we discussed were immediately integrated into our strategic plan to ensure future follow up. Your firm is not alone in the challenges you face and PCPS understands and is ready to help and provide practical solutions.
While the top issues affecting CPA firms vary based on size, it appears that practitioners are experiencing a renewed demand for their services. As we recover from the recession, it is apparent that business is improving. However, challenges still exist. How do your own concerns compare? I challenge you to put your PCPS membership dues to work and check out these solutions that were carefully crafted with you in mind.
- Keeping up with tax laws. After the recent challenging and chaotic busy season, it’s no surprise that complexity and juggling workload demands are tough obstacles.
- The Health Care Reform Toolkit will help you and your staff understand and advise clients in preparing for the impacts of health care reform.
- Bringing in and retaining clients. This issue seems to be on the current agenda in most firms. As practitioners have emerged from the worst of the recession, they are now setting their sights on new business.
- Finding and retaining qualified staff. Firms seem to be struggling in their efforts to find and keep high-quality staffers.
- Succession planning. Many firm partners are nearing retirement and the active merger and acquisition market is forcing practitioners to consider their future.
- The Succession Planning Resource Center will help your firm create a well-defined strategy and succession plan.
- Owner/ partner accountability and unity. This issue topped the chart for larger firms and seems to be a continued challenge.
These types of resources are what PCPS is all about. We are thankful to our committee members for their dedication to the profession and continued direction, recommendations and insight they provide to best assist our member firms. PCPS is all ears and whatever your challenge, we will do our best to provide practical solutions to help you best manage your practice and lead you to success. If you have additional concerns, challenges or questions, email the PCPS team directly at email@example.com. We’re ready to help. Let’s tackle the challenges together.
For additional survey results and related resources identified in the 2013 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, turn to our survey results and the newly revamped PCPS home page. This webpage is now available in an easy-to-use format and resources are organized by firm size and by five practice management areas: strategy and planning; practice growth and client service; human capital; technical - quality and services delivery; and financial and administrative operations.
George S. Willie, CPA, CGFM, CGMA, the managing partner of Bert Smith & Co., is chairman of the AICPA PCPS Executive Committee.
It’s the Soft Skills
By Joseph M. Falbo, Jr. CPA, CGMA
When you review the results of this year’s 2013 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, it’s hard to miss one clear conclusion: Whether you are talking about bringing in new clients, retaining and finding staff or partner/owner unity and accountability, they are all in the realm of soft skills. With a couple of exceptions, this year’s results show that we (as CPAs) are generally comfortable dealing with technical challenges, but we all could use some help addressing interpersonal skills.
Training or nurturing interpersonal skills may not be easy, but in the end it all comes down to communication. Firms that have been the most successful with interpersonal skills are comprised of people who have figured out how to communicate what they think in a useful, understandable way. Good communications leads to better relationships with staff and clients. It begins with listening to what clients have to say, including the subtle clues that tell us they are uncertain or anxious about their situation and could use our help. It also involves asking the right questions so that we can understand the challenges they are facing and opportunities that may be in their reach. Using these skills will make you a great relationship manager, which in turn, makes bringing in new clients easier, improves your interactions with staff and leads to frank conversations with your partners. So, how can you and your firm get a head start on addressing most of the challenges on this year’s Top Issues Survey? Start by brushing up on your soft skills.
Joseph M. Falbo , Jr., CPA, CGMA, is a partner of Tronconi Segarra & Associates, LLP, a large firm in Buffalo, NY, and a member of the PCPS Executive Committee.
By Joel Olbricht, CPA
I’m getting endless client questions these days about health care reform, especially in light of the recent postponement of the employer mandate. Clients are wondering when changes will become effective, what type of additional documentation will be required and how these changes will affect their businesses and their bottom line. At this point, beginning in 2015, the Affordable Care Act will require that all employers with at least 50 employees either provide health care coverage for their employees or pay a tax. However, there are still many uncertainties surrounding this provision. It’s unclear, for example, how taxpayers will be required to prove that they’ve met the minimum coverage mandate. While it has not yet been determined, the Internal Revenue Service will likely issue reporting forms to prove a taxpayer’s ‘pay or play’ compliance.
Many clients may be happy to postpone thinking about this provision, but this is the perfect time to get ahead of the game and be ready when it does kick in gear. We’re being proactive at my firm by stepping up to the plate and really using this opportunity to become our clients’ Trusted Business Advisor.
- We are reviewing our client list to see who might be affected by the law and how part-time employees affect their ACA mandate. We then plan to contact each client and to discuss the rules, how they plan to meet them and how we can involve their insurance company or health care broker so that we get an informed view of what kind of health care coverage they may need to comply.
- We are considering the advantages of ‘playing or paying.’ It’s possible that a client’s best choice may be to pay the tax rather than comply. I attended a seminar given by my own firm’s health care broker, who brought in a major insurer to discuss the law. They had developed a spreadsheet and ran the numbers to see which option was preferable in different scenarios. Questions to ask include:
- If the company is already paying for health care coverage, does the plan qualify under minimum ACA coverage?
- If not, or if the company doesn’t have coverage, what penalties or additional taxes would they face?
- We are staying up-to-date on further changes and IRS forms. Compliance will become clearer as the forms we’ll need to file are released. But in the meantime, we can add great value by staying on top of the current issues and letting clients know we’re prepared to help them tackle this reform and find the best options for their businesses. PCPS members can turn to the PCPS Health Care Reform Toolkit for a wealth of resources aimed at educating and informing CPAs and clients, including a strategy checklist and customizable brochures and PowerPoint presentations.
Joel Olbricht, CPA, is managing member of Olbricht Storniolo Group, LLC a small firm in Hampstead, NH, and a member of the PCPS Executive Committee.