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By Rick Telberg
And that goes double for CPAs. We’ve had it hard. When the recession hit, we lost clients. The clients we didn’t lose couldn’t afford fee increases. But the cost of software increased, and most hardware has had to be replaced twice since the recession first hit. Salaries have gone up, too, especially among accountants, whose ranks have thinned in recent years. And the tax regulations get harder, the waiting time on the IRS line longer, the reporting lengthier.
At long last, economic conditions seem to be improving enough for widespread increases in billing rates and fees. About 85 percent of respondents to The CPA Trendlines Study of Pricing Strategies and Trends see an upward trend underway.
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CPA Dave Murray at his eponymous firm in Troy, Ohio, is pushing through “significant increases.” He says, “Our firm is increasingly being paid for our knowledge.” “Yes,” he says, value pricing is becoming an important success strategy. “When it’s worth more to the client we charge more,” he says. And he does it all while maximizing profit margins and retaining clients. “We have a consistent flow of new clients and we no longer have to discount to get them to come in,” he says.
Frank Stitely, at SKC CPAs in Chantilly, Va., and a frequent contributor to CPA Trendlines, is being more careful, with only slight increases. “Personal taxes, specifically, are a commodity, and, in general, compliance services are commoditizing,” he says, with his pricing driven my market forces. On the other hand, the firm bills “per form for personal returns and by proposal for almost everything else.”
Brian Roark in Jenison, Mich., likes to say Integrity Tax’s offices have been doing taxes “since dinosaurs roamed the earth.” But today he’s playing catch-up in the wage markets, pushing through moderate billing increases.
At Southwest Tax & Accounting in Elkhart, Kan., owner Terri Ryman, EA and Quickbooks ProAdvisor, is going for significant price increases as clients struggle with the Affordable Care Act and repair regs. She says her business is growing every year. Ryman is also a prominent member of the National Society of Accountants and the National Association of Tax Professionals.