The AICPA recently released the results of the “2022 AICPA Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) CPA Firm Top Issues Survey,” which sheds light on the most pressing challenges facing tax practices.
While the list itself did not have significant changes from the 2021 results, issues with IRS made its way strongly to the top of the list. The top challenges included:
- Challenges when working with the IRS
- Keeping up with changes and complexity of tax laws
- Keeping up with COVID relief programs, such as PPP, EIDL, ERC, etc.
- Seasonality/layering of deadlines
- Keeping up with changes in technology and managing associated costs
Among smaller firms (two to five employees) the list shifted slightly to include staffing issues and challenges identifying new team members when positions were opened.
How do, especially smaller practices with fewer resources, address these continuously larger and larger issues? Below are some key tips to start to chip away that our biggest sources of stress.
No. 1 — Divide and conquer as much as you can
When staffing also is a challenge, this one might not work, but try to delegate responsibilities by theme to condense similar work. For example, have one or two people be the point knowledge bearers for things like PPP regulations and ERC analysis.
It does not mean they cannot disseminate information to others within the practice, but having one or two individuals that know they need to stay abreast of changes in just this one category is less overwhelming and more effective than everyone trying to know everything.
Assign individuals also to new tax law changes, such as the Schedule K-2/K-3 reporting and task that performance with being the point person for everyone else in the firm. It is impossible to know everything in such a vast industry, but having a handful of people all concentrating on one thing at a time can create a solid team data bank for everyone to have access to.
Just make sure to share across the team who your point people are so everyone knows who to go to for questions.
No. 2 — Strategically plan CPE and training
Our workload is already big enough, when you add in CPE and training requirements it can feel impossible to keep up on everything. Taking control of CPE dissemination can help to ensure your team is getting enough of what they actually need. Sit down and look at your clientele as well as your staff.
Start by identifying key industries or areas that best serve your clients. For example, if your practice serves mostly high-net-worth individuals, maybe your team doesn’t need eight hours of CPE on S-Corp and Partnership law changes.
Conversely, if there is a specific industry you serve, such as e-commerce clients, look for CPE that focuses on state nexus issues or tax planning for multi-state clients. Once you have identified some of the topics you want your team to concentrate on, use the divide and conquer strategy to spread out the CPE acquisition responsibilities.
One person can attend a conference or webinar and then bring back their key learning points to the rest of the team. Alternatively, schedule CPE all together so you can get the most bang for your buck on training and reduce the number of hours that everyone is stopping production for training time when they do it individually.
No. 3 — Do a tech stack review no less than annually
Technology is changing faster than we can keep up. Your tech stack a year ago might not be the best fit now. You want to be careful not to burn your team or your clients out on change management though, so be careful when making decisions to change technology.
Look at areas of the least efficiency, maybe it’s being on hold with the IRS, maybe it’s responding to compliance notices, then look for a solution to address that most critical issue first. When budgeting, keep in mind that while cost is a factor the best things in life do not come free, most software that seems too good to be true for the price, probably is, do not make the mistake of trying to solve a problem with the least expensive option, you will just end up wasting time and money on it.
Consider the cost value of implementing something that will save your team time and be sure to demo any solutions first. Look at your current tech stack to determine if there are any places where you are not using integrations or just not fully utilizing all a solution has to offer and then consider what might be a more efficient solution.