Winkler: Preparing for the coming CPA shortage

Jake Winkler - The Journal Record

Sep 12, 2022

In 2019, the number of CPA exam candidates was the lowest it has been in a decade.

An alarming trend has emerged over the past few years in the accounting profession. Graduates are down. Numbers taking the exam are down. The profession is aging. Forty-seven percent of the AICPA membership is in the baby boomer category. In 2019, the number of CPA exam candidates was the lowest it has been in a decade.

The profession has a pipeline problem.

For a profession that is known for long hours during busy seasons and month- and year-end close, the shortage could pose a significant problem for employers who are not prepared. The potential risks to employers could create a cycle of problems for management including high hours, high turnover and increasing costs.

With these issues in mind, businesses should start thinking about potential solutions. A few ideas might include:

• Upgrading accounting software. Looking at new solutions for your accounting processes might be the best long-term solution for your company. Some of the newer software solutions can incorporate artificial intelligence that allows accounting functions to be completely automated.

• Online collaboration and remote work. More accounting professionals are taking advantage of remote work and online collaboration. This will expand your ability to hire professionals outside of your immediate market. However, this can create a culture challenge as it is difficult to create relationships with remote co-workers.

• Workplace wellness. With the long hours that may be required, policies surrounding workplace wellness may be beneficial. Consider ideas like hour maximums, flexible hours, unlimited PTO with minimum requirements and counseling benefits.

• Outsourcing. By outsourcing portions of the accounting functions, like accounts receivable/payable, general ledger functions and even CFO services, you may gain insight to special skills, technology and expertise in those areas that can expedite your processes. The drawback is that your employees may not learn those skills.

There are other things that can be done, but most importantly, businesses need to make preparations for this shortage.

Jake Winkler, CPA, is a partner at Arledge, an Edmond-based public accounting firm. Arledge is a recognized leader in the accounting industry offering practical solutions in the areas of tax planning, auditing, consulting, accounting advisory services and client accounting.