Tax Season 2013: Hard-Hit Soloists Voice Their Biggest Problems

By Rick Telberg
CPA Trendlines Busy Season Barometer

Tax and accounting professionals of all shapes and sizes, ranging in size from the soloist to the regional leader, are reporting a filing season markedly more problematic than the year before, according to the CPA Trendlines Busy Season Barometer. The data for April, still coming in, shows majorities of firms in all class sizes reporting "somewhat worse" or "much worse" performance and results this year.

Busy Season Barometer. Join the survey; get the results.

Busy Season Barometer

The CPA Trendlines Busy Season Barometer, now in it's tenth year, is a real-time tracking poll of tax and accounting professionals' sentiment, performance and results. As a reward for joining the survey panel, participants get early previews of top-line results and notifications.

Click here to join the survey; get the results

In this report, we present the first wave of in-depth details, starting with a chart that shows the number of respondents reporting on busy season conditions.

Those reporting a "worse" season include:

  • 66% of solo practitioners
  • 60% of firms with 2 to 10 professionals
  • 70% of firms with 11 to 50 professionals
  • 72% of firms with 50 to 100 professionals
  • 53% of firms with more than 100 professionals


  • We gather verbatim comments from the solo practitioners who reported a season "much worse" explaining their rating, and
  • We present their comments assembled into a word-cloud infographic that reveals at a glance the most oft-repeated issues and concerns.

For complete busy season coverage, click here. And stay tuned to CPA Trendlines as we report on new developments in the data and analysis.


Ten Strategies for the Smaller Firm Facing Competition from Larger Firms

When David meets Goliath.

By Bruce W. Marcus
Professional Services Marketing 3.0

Great turbulence in the accounting profession, as well as in the business world itself, make these difficult and unusual times.

Public outcry against the misdeeds of a few accounting firms, corporations, investment bankers and others in government and the business community is tarring the innocent as well as the guilty. In the meantime, mergers and acquisitions are altering the competitive landscape for firms of every size.

It’s likely that the major CPA firms will accelerate a long-standing practice of reaching into the low end of the market – the very market of the smaller CPA firms. For the smaller firm, competition is coming from unaccustomed quarters.

Can the smaller firm successfully compete against the bigger firm?

History says yes, if the firm follows at least some of the following 10 points: READ MORE →

Worst Tax Season Ever? “It’s Supposed to Get Better!”

Hoisted from Comments.

In this article, Ed Mendlowitz takes issue with Worst Tax Season Ever and suggests five strategies for continuous improvement year after year.

Barry Melancon, CEO of the AICPA, and Tom Hood, CEO of the Maryland Society of CPAs, both said that they heard this was the worst tax season ever.

I don’t know if it was or wasn’t.  For us it wasn’t that bad.  This raises a thought.  It’s supposed to get better – if not, then why do it, or why not make a serious effort to change what you are doing so it gets better?  I am reminded by a remark by Jack Nicholson in “As Good As It Gets.”  He said, “Maybe this is as good as it gets!”  I don’t buy that.

Here are five things that should be done to make tax season (and the rest of your practice or any business) better. READ MORE →

Tax Practitioners End Busy Season 2013 Short by 300,000 Returns

UntitledThe nation’s tax accountants failed in the final days leading up to April 15th to close the gap commonly attributed to early-season delays and confusion, according to the latest data available.

But if the shortfall holds through coming weeks of data gathering, CPA Trendlines believes it could mark a significant and serious downturn in the future of the tax prep industry.

In this report:

  • Tax professionals e-filed 63.3 million returns, down 0.4% from last year’s 69.6 million.
  • Meanwhile, the number of do-it-yourself e-filers grew 4%, to 43.1 million, up from last year’s 41.3 million.
  • Complete statistics on individual income tax returns, filings and filing rates, week by week, in year-to-year percentage change
  • Number sent to IRS
  • Number processed by IRS
  • Number e-filed by tax professionals
  • Number e-filed by self-preparers
  • website traffic
  • Number of refunds
  • Total dollar amount of refunds
  • Average Refund
  • Number of direct-deposit refunds
  • Amount of direct-deposit refunds
  • Average direct-deposit refund


Achieving Partner Unity: The Competitive Advantage

August J. Aquila

August J. Aquila

By August J. Aquila
Author of “Leadership At Its Strongest

Everyone knows that partner unity is one of the keys for success. And we know the benefits of having greater partner unity than the next firm – better client service, less employee turnover, superior profitability.

The problem that many firms face is this: They don’t know how to create partner unity.

This article shows you:

  • Ways to create partner unity.
  • What it is and what it isn’t.
  • Five steps to take.


Worst Tax Season Ever?


AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, speaking at the Oregon CPA society’s Strategic Leadership Forum says, based on feedback he’s heard, there’s a “90% chance” you had the worst tax season of your life this year.

The Oregon society wants to know: Do you agree?

“That is exactly what our Maryland CPAs are saying!” Tom Hood, CEO of the state CPA society, says on the CPA Trendlines Facebook page.

Jennifer Lee Wilson at Convergence Consulting reports, “I am hearing the same thing with all of our coaching clients in our first post-filing season meetings — at least the small to mid-size firms. Larger firms not as much. Most cited reason? Compression.”

Jody L. Padar at New Vision CPA Group says, “It was the most bizarre tax season. Not the worst… just the strangest.”

And in an article hoisted from his comments, Ed Mendlowitz suggests five strategies for continuous improvement year after year.

Get the facts. Click here to join the busy season survey; see the results.


The Client Service Team in Action

by Bruce W. Marcus
Professional Services Marketing 3.0

While some firms have explored the idea of client service groups, and leading thinkers like Patrick McKenna have been training firms in the concept for several years, few firms have developed the art and science of the team as successfully as the Washington-based law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld.

More for mid-size and large CPA firms: What We’ve Learned Since Accounting Marketing Was LegalizedDo Accounting Firms Really Want an ‘Image’?What Accounting Firms Need to Learn from Personal Financial Planning Specialists The Delicate Art of Positioning Your Firm in the Mind of the ProspectEven a Random Disaster Can Be Controlled with Risk Management

This report includes:

  • The lessons from an interview with creator and manager of the program.
  • Three necessary elements for success.
  • Ten accountable responsibilities for a client service team.
  • Seven actions common to successful teams.
  • Five questions every team should ask clients.
  • Effect on fees.
  • Departure from traditional practice.


Tax Trends in Small Business: What Drives Them to Seek Professional Help

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New data obtained by CPA Trendlines shows that 84 percent of small-business owners are now paying an independent tax practitioner or accountant to handle their taxes.

In addition, an increasing number of small business taxpayers appear to be taking advantage of Sec.179 expensing and bonus depreciation.

The new report available from CPA Trendlines includes information on:

  • the number of small business owners who use an outside tax or accounting service
  • how many hours per week a small business spends on payroll tax administration
  • average cost for using a payroll agency
  • hours spent on federal tax
  • various tax burdens
  • how to download complete report (PDF, 13 pages)


Nine Value-Adds to Command a Higher Fee

By Sandi Smith, CPA
Accountant's Accelerator

Want to charge more for your services?

One way is to offer clients more value. Your fees and your value to the client should go hand in hand.

Sandi Smith

More for soloists and small firms: Accountants, Do You Know Your Opportunity Number?Five Ideas to Reduce Client Price-SensitivityRise to the Top with a Fresh Elevator SpeechFour Ways to Practice Entrepreneurial Perseverance5 Mistakes to Avoid When Seeking New Clients The Top 12 Business Card Blunders Accountants Make Seven Tips to Keep the Clients You Have How to Attract Clients Like a Magnet Eleven Easy Ways to Deliver More Value to Clients

Here are nine ideas to increase your value to your clients: