Beware of False Accounting Narratives

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Can we all take a pause, please? We all know that with the advent of social media, podcasts, newsletters, and the myriad of ways to consume information like never before, narratives of all kinds can flood our thinking and cloud the decision-making process. With that said, the ones that are being spread in the accounting space of late need to stop.

As such, I’d like to discuss some of the top 3 false narratives being bandied about in accounting and, in my way, dispel them or offer some perspective.

Tax Prep Fees are Rising as It’s Not “Cool” to Be an Accountant

Laugh all you want, but this was an actual headline in Yahoo! Finance. Statements like this make me chuckle, but also boil my blood at the same time. It’s true, the “talent shortage” in tax and accounting is real, but to be so flippant and, I daresay, irresponsible in putting out this narrative is disappointing and frustrating.

The last thing people even remotely considering a career in accounting, or staying in the profession, need is a completely misinformed and barely scratching the surface concept that, somehow, professionals aren’t joining or staying in accounting because it’s not seen as a ‘cool’ career. Moreover, it is said this factor is tied to a rise in tax prep fees.

There’s so much to pick apart, I’m not even going to begin with the cool factor because, quite honestly, that conversation has been put to rest a dozen times over. I’ve written about as much and have another piece coming in Karbon Magazine about accountants finding their “other,” meaning things that define them outside of accounting.

Certainly there’s things the profession can do on the whole to make it a more attractive career (yes, I’ve voiced my views on that too), but this has little to do with tax prep fees on the rise.

There is clearly a dearth of accountants to do at least some of the work, which does have many professionals turning away work. But this is not the sole cause of increased prep fees. The larger reason there is that, despite technological improvements on the practitioner side, tax prep work has not become any easier. Quite the opposite, actually.

If the general public does an iota of research, they’ll see that increased complexities in tax laws, Congressional indecisions and missteps, and having to deal with an underfunded, understaffed, technologically antiquated governing body like the IRS on a regular basis are a larger justification for the increases.

So please do not proffer any further lip service or justification for the talent shortage and rising tax prep fees being due to the lack of “coolness.”

150 Hrs of Educational Credits is Preventing People From Becoming CPAs

I realize this is a tricky one because, much like opinions on being a CPA vs. other type of accounting professional, or even being an AICPA member and what they do (or don’t) for the profession, there’s a clear rift over the amount of required educational credit hours to be a CPA being a good thing or a deterrent.

My point is that there’s an even deeper divide over whether the hours themselves are the cause for people not wanting to even be a CPA. This is the false narrative I would like to help put a halt to.

I’ve heard many of your arguments over this issue, and you all make valid points about it. But from where I sit, and yes, I know I’m not an accountant or play one on TV, the profession has deeper issues than the required hours and if they’re not addressed first, and foremost, there will continue to be less CPAs, EAs and accounting professionals overall.

Are the required hours a factor? I think for some, yes they are. Putting that amount of time in for licensure is not to be taken lightly, some may even wear it as a badge of honor (as tax pros tend to do with the amount of time they work during ‘busy season’). But as many have pointed out, including myself,, the 150 hours are simply not the sole factor keeping CPAs from entering this profession, or not wanting to stay a CPA.

As I’ve said, core changes need to be made, beginning with starting and, up to, mid-level salaries. Yes, the hours and expectations therein need addressed so that we can see true life/work balance happen. And making the profession a more diverse place to work, another huge priority for the current generation and those to come. All of the aforementioned, in my view, trump the required credit hours for being a CPA.

And of course there is…

AI is Coming for Accounting Jobs

I’ll scream it from the rooftops of my fair city if I have to, but this idea that AI or ANY technology is replacing a job as essential and complex as accounting is beyond absurd. The core reason here is that accountants are no longer defined by the tasks they do. At one time, maybe, but it’s been so long that anyone who still sees accounting as a set of tasks to be replaced has lost the plot entirely.

It’s a weak argument, it’s misinformed and reactionary, and quite frankly, as with all of the above, the profession does not need it right now. Those of us who have been there/done that are over the fear mongering and the lack of basic consideration to truly talented and valuable professionals that exist in accounting. This says nothing of the talent shortage that already exists, due to no fault of automation.

And let’s just be honest, and review for the folks in the back of the room who have been playing with the pencils for decades and no listening. AI is just another form of automation. And while the true changes that will occur with its role in accounting and business in general won’t be seen for some time, if you learned to work with any software from desktop to cloud and mobile applications, you will actually enjoy working alongside (and not against) AI and being a part of its evolution. Because, yes, even AI needs humans to evolve and ultimately human professionals will need to be there to advise clients on the work produced and interpret and review the data.

So, have faith in what you do and in the community that surrounds you. Don’t buy into false narratives and let them distract you from the important work that you do, and is still to be done, to support our economy, entrepreneurial dreams, and the individual lives you impact every day.

5 comments

  1. I didn’t become a CPA because the hours in addition to the degree requirements are absurd. I only do bookkeeping and tax prep for basics returns (I have two s-corp customers and the rest are individuals or sole proprietors, w a few schedule E sprinkled in) and decided that the return on my time and financial investment to go the CPA route was just not enough.

  2. Yes! I already have the 150 hours and chose not to pursue becoming a CPA because of time to prepare for testing AND the apprenticeship under a CPA for two years before applying to the license. Not to mentioned the lifetime of CPE gatherings. I fully enjoy a work/life balance and I feel obtaining this license tilts that scale heavily.

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