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Accounting Firms Once Again Face Tax Season Staffing Issues

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Dec 2, 2022

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As accountants gear up for tax season, they also gird themselves for working without enough experienced staffers, Accounting Today reported.

Managers attribute the shortages to many issues, such as retirement and misperceptions about the profession.

“Complex tax laws and demands of the job have driven many away, including the ones who were close to retirement and decided to hang it up,” said Scott Kadrlik, a CPA and managing partner at Meuwissen, Flygare, Kadrlik & Associates, in Eden Prairie, Minn. “There will be a real shortage of tax preparers this winter, and the cost of tax preparation will increase dramatically."

A declining talent pool is also a point of concern: Enrollment rates for bachelor's and master's degrees fell by 2.8 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively, in the 2019-20 academic year, according to the AICPA’s latest trends report.

"We're seeing a decrease in accounting majors when it comes to college enrollment, and many professionals are opting for in-house roles over public accounting due to a reputation of long hours and lack of work-life integration in the profession," said Nicola McGarry, senior director of talent acquisition at Armanino.

Smaller firms also confront competition with larger firms for the available talent.

"Competing with larger firms with larger payroll budgets [is a challenge],” said Manasa Nadig, an enrolled agent and owner at MN Tax and Business Services and a partner at Harris Nadig in Canton, Mich. “So even if we offer flexible hours, ability to work remotely and other benefits, we're having a difficult time.”

Competence also seems to be an issue.

“Finding skilled staff with tax experience is very challenging,” Robert Seltzer, a CPA with Seltzer Business Management in Los Angeles, told Accounting Today.

"Even if [tax practices] are able to hire someone, they're running into issues of work ethic,” said Larry Pon, a CPA in Redwood City, Calif. “'Quiet quitting' does not work in a tax practice, especially during tax season.”

Other CPAs interviewed preferred their employees to be in the office, but many find that newbies prefer to work remotely.

“Our office model is personal, face-to-face handholding," said Kerry Freeman, an enrolled agent with Freeman Income Tax Service in Anthem, Ariz. “The younger ones do not seem interested in the face-to-face but would rather do remote work. I believe that they're not understanding that this is a career that requires face-to-face interaction.”

“There are pros and cons to remote work," Pon said. "For newer staff, so much learning occurs in the hallways of the office. Remote work is great for experienced staff, since they want to get their work done without interruptions.”