Are Your Accounting Fees on the Rise?


by David Hegstrom

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last year, you have noticed costs in the Treasure Valley are rising rapidly. Everything from gas, materials, and equipment prices in the construction industry, to your bill at the grocery store are being affected. And now, for a variety of reasons, the prices for your accounting fees and services are following suit. But what are the major factors contributing to this escalation and what can you do to help reduce costs?

RISING COST FACTORS

Inflation: You have probably already seen the impact of inflation affecting multiple aspects of your business. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual inflation rate for the United States for the 12 months ending December 2021 was seven percent. This is the largest inflation rate for a single
calendar year in nearly 40 years.

The Great Resignation: Employees are leaving their jobs at an unprecedented rate across all industries, or leaving their local jobs to work remotely for companies in states with higher wages. The effect of this trend is compounded by the fact that the accounting profession has one of the most aged workforces in the nation. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) estimates that over 75 percent of current CPAs will retire in the next 10 to 15 years.

Changes to the Tax Code: Every year there are amendments to the tax code. Typically these are small changes and the additional time required to prepare a tax return would be modest at best. Then in late 2017, the Trump administration passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which was effective for the calendar year 2018. It was a massive overhaul to the US Tax Code. Enter the 2019 tax season; by most estimates, the TCJA increased tax preparation time by 30 percent. And since that time CPA firms have
been in hyperdrive due to the CARES Act, Employee Retention Tax Credit, PPP Loans, and all the amended tax returns that come with an ever-changing regulatory landscape. IRS Backlog: If you have received a letter from the IRS, you are not alone. The IRS has been understaffed and underfunded for decades. Right now the IRS is sitting on literal trailer-loads of notification responses and other correspondence. On February 10, 2022, the IRS determined that they would stop sending automated notifications for most tax related issues until their current backlog has been “sufficiently” resolved. It is important to note, however, the IRS has not suspended assessing fees and penalties; they are simply not communicating the fees and penalties they are assessing and effectively creating more backlog for later.

Other Regulatory Updates: The GAAP framework, the standardized rules required when presenting financial information for audits, review, and compilations, has adopted some major updates over the last
few years with more changes on the way (i.e. financial reporting leasing standards which must be adopted for 2022). And as we already talked about, more changes equals more time required for your CPA. To sum it all up, costs are on the rise because of higher operating costs, more work, increasing complexity in tax codes, and less staff to do it all. 

SO WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Now that we have identified why fees are on the rise, lets discuss what can be done to reduce costs.

Interim Work: If you are required to obtain an audit, review, or compilation ask your CPA if there is work that can be done outside of the typical CPA “busy season”. This may allow you to complete a portion of the engagement at a time of the year when there is additional staff availability and flexibility. This is even
more important if you are required to adopt a new ASU (Accounting Standards Update). Make a plan, identify a timeline, and then execute.

Regular Communication: The old process of only speaking to your CPA once a year during tax season doesn’t work anymore. Aside from the increasing regulatory hurdles for businesses, you may also be missing out on time-sensitive tax planning opportunities. So instead of waiting until the end of the year to bring in that old file full of receipts, begin consulting with your CPA in real time as financial situations change and events occur that financially impact your organization.

Systems Upgrade: When was the last time you took a hard look at your accounting procedures to find
efficiencies? There are many new tools that can increase a company’s accounting capability while also reducing the time and administrative burden of maintaining accurate financial records. Having your CPA clean up your books at the end of the year only increases your costs. Have an open conversation with them about what you can improve year-round to reduce the year-end burden. Keep in mind your CPA most likely also works with many other construction companies and is a great resource when looking for
new software to improve efficiencies, or for other accounting best practices. With all the changes we have seen the last few years, one thing can be sure it’s unlikely we will ever operate our businesses like we did pre-2019. And that’s okay. Your CPA isn’t the same professional that they were three years ago either, and have had to adapt to a vastly changing industry. It’s time to find a better way of managing our businesses,
of being more intentional, and of shaping the environment we all find ourselves in.

This article can be found on The Idaho AGC Building Idaho Magazine

Link to full magazine: https://www.idahoagc.org/sites/default/files/u-23/SP2022%20buildingIdaho.pdf

 

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