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2017-11-17 / Front Page

Niche industry experts key to growing accounting firms

BY R. BROCK PRONKO
Regional Business Analyst


Eyer Eyer Technology is revolutionizing the accounting industry. By the end of this year, more than 90 percent of small and medium-sized businesses will be using cloud accounting software, according to Accountex USA, the largest independent accounting technology conference and expo. In addition, do- it-yourself tax preparation software is becoming more user friendly.

Given these developments, being a “trusted advisor” is no longer a goal for accounting firms but a necessity. Changes to the tax code from the pending tax reform bill make advising even more important next year as accounting firms help their clients navigate the new tax system.

Starting salaries for accountants rose by 3.7 percent in 2017, because more is expected of accounting graduates today than when being good at math was the chief requirement.

“Overall, I think it’s a good time for the accounting profession,” said Bob Eyer, president of Wessel & Company, an accounting firm with offices in Johnstown, Ebensburg and Bedford. Founded in 1958, Wessel has nearly 50 employees.

“Because the economy is picking up, there’s a greater need for the kinds of services that CPAs perform.”

QuickBooks has become the standard in accounting software. Intuit, which makes the program, offers QuickBooks certification.

“Smaller companies are able to use QuickBooks, and we have several QuickBooks advisors on staff that train them to use the software and help them set up the appropriate chart of accounts.

“We use more sophisticated software for data analytics and data extraction in our audit work, which cuts down on the grunt work and allows us to do higher level of work for our clients.”

Becoming a client’s “trusted advisor” is the chief goal of the company.

“We look at the preparation of a financial statement and tax return as the base level of service; in baseball, it’s like hitting a single,” said Eyer.

“What accounting firms need to be today are niche industry experts, whether that’s in business valuations or corporate reorganizations or mergers and acquisitions or specializing in a particular industry such as not-for- profits, government or manufacturing.

Hess & Marino, a small accounting firm founded in 1973, with offices in Altoona and Indiana, Pa., also uses QuickBooks in its accounting work.

“We have QuickBooks-certified advisors in our office, and overall, I think it’s a good accounting program; however, now Intuit is trying to get everyone to use their online version, and in my opinion, the online reports are not as good as the desktop version’s, though I have clients who insist on using it, because they can access the online version from any location,” said Stephen Hess, manager partner of the firm.

Hess is very outspoken about the GOP’s tax reform bill.

“Congress says it’s passing a tax law that will benefit everybody, but in my opinion members of Congress pass tax laws that chiefly benefit themselves and their big campaign contributors, because they own a particular kind of business or own a lot of stock in an industry,” said Hess.

“They rush the law through, and you have to learn about in 10 days, so the only ones who get to take advantage of it are the people who drafted the law.

“If Congress wants to reduce taxes, it should get the IRS to do its job properly, because IRS agents should be auditing ten times as many people than they do, and taxes could be significantly reduced without running up a deficit, because they’d be able to catch a lot of people who owe back taxes, some who might owe millions of dollars.”

However, Hess doesn’t want tax deductions to go away for businesses.

“If you can run your business effectively to the point where you’re able to make capital investments and expand your business, there are deductions you can take advantage of to reduce your taxes, and those should be retained, because they help businesses grow and create jobs.” 

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