Running a CPA firm today has plenty of challenges. As business clients expand their operations at an accelerated pace, CPAs must monitor multi-level tax compliance, international treaties and a host of global accounting and reporting standards. CPAs also stay current on technical standards and find, recruit, train and retain top talent in a competitive economy. We adjust our work models to align with the values of a new workforce, invest heavily in technology and develop new service offerings to meet client needs, all while combating shrinking profit margins. As a profession, we are more than capable of overcoming these challenges.
Of all these challenges, there is one that can be simplified: CPAs’ and CPA firms’ ability to seamlessly cross state lines to provide services to clients.
Most states have adopted mobility laws that allow individual CPAs to practice outside of their principal place of business without first obtaining another license. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the adoption of laws that allow CPA firms to do the same. To date, only 27 states have adopted CPA firm mobility. Firm mobility reduces regulatory barriers for our firms because it allows us to provide attest services across state lines without obtaining a reciprocal firm license.
It’s well past time for all states to adopt similar laws. CPA firms waste considerable intellectual talent and energy chasing unnecessary licensing differences across state lines. Some states still require the CPA firm to get a reciprocal license when providing services to clients in that state, and some jurisdictions still even require the individual CPA to get the reciprocal license. The licensing process and response time varies with virtually every jurisdiction.
With all the inconsistencies across the states, we need to remember that a CPA firm licensed in one state is qualified and capable of serving their clients with operations in any state. Client business needs are real, and they are often time sensitive. When clients turn to CPAs and CPA firms for assistance and advice about their business operations in different states, it shouldn’t be burdensome for us to respond to these requests because of licensing inconsistencies and compliance costs. Ultimately, it’s the client who pays the price both in time and cost.
The profession once made individual CPA mobility a priority, and we were successful. Our efforts were so successful that we now promote our mobility as a model for other professions to follow. It’s time for our profession to break down the remaining mobility barriers. If your state is still grey on the above map, ask your state CPA society to work on legislation.