On January 19, the first case of COVID-19 appeared in the US. By the end of May, over 40 million unemployment claims had been filed. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed or seriously threatened the jobs of millions of Americans.
One career, in particular, has been relatively safe in the midst of all this – CPAs. There are many indications that, while it has not been totally immune to the downturn, the profession has remained steady throughout the pandemic. Each of the Big Four Accounting Firms, Deloitte, EY, PwC, and KPMG, all posted solid growth in the fiscal year ended May 31, 2020.
But in reality, profitability isn’t the only key to a rewarding and worthwhile career. The true value of being a CPA in times like these is not just the job stability or reliable industry growth – though these are fantastic perks – but in the value created by CPAs for their communities.
For example, according to Forbes, 70 percent of small business owners applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). It goes without saying that many of these small businesses relied on the advice and expertise of CPAs to assist them in these applications which for many were the lifeboat keeping their business from going under.
But businesses aren’t the only ones relying on CPAs during the pandemic. Millions of individuals were given stimulus checks from the federal government, but many who didn’t file tax returns in 2018 or 2019 weren’t automatically eligible. The help of CPAs ensured that these individuals – often socioeconomically disadvantaged – were able to complete the proper forms to receive their check.
The 2020 tax season also brought chaos and uncertainty to many. As deadlines were extended, people wrestled with filing on schedule or using the extension. Those accustomed to visiting an office for tax assistance were faced with new challenges as well as virtual meetings and electronic filing. CPAs have been the ones sorting out the confusion.
The list is nearly endless. CPAs in all sorts of roles are poised to pick up the pieces of the financial ruin brought to so many by the pandemic, be it for their own company, for other businesses, or for individuals. CPAs, by their very nature, have been uniquely poised to manage the financial turmoil this year has carried, and in doing so have been exceptionally helpful in relieving the stress and uncertainty that others have faced.
As for taking care of themselves in these uncertain times, CPAs are in a relatively good position as well. The work of a CPA can largely be done remotely given the proper technology. Of course, COVID-19 rapidly accelerated the adoption of several technological resources, but whether in the office or at home, the work of a CPA can still be done.
While staying up to date with tax codes and public accounting best practices is always important, the pandemic has also created an opportunity for younger, tech-savvy CPAs to help lead their organizations in the technological transformation that has been necessary for business. More and more, employers are recognizing the necessity of having forward-thinking, technologically adept CPAs on their team.
For many younger CPAs, this is an incredible opportunity not only to prove their value but also to help enact meaningful change in their organization. The future of the profession and industry is being shaped right now. How businesses and CPAs change and adapt through the unfamiliar territory of the pandemic will determine the outlook of the entire profession.
The pandemic has shown just how valuable CPAs are, both to their companies and their communities, and it has opened a door of opportunity for CPAs that will literally change the future of an entire profession, lead the way for economic recovery, and set the standard for best practices in a new normal of business.