SURVEY: A Glint of Optimism for 2021

Accountants expect to out-perform their clients. Is that a good thing?

By CPA Trendlines Research

Patrick McDermott, of McDermott & Apkarian in Orcutt, Calif.
Patrick McDermott: Fine-tuning the work-from-home model.
A certain tiny germ whose name we need not mention is making life tough for a lot of people and businesses. Accountants are no exception.

The CPA Trendlines Business Barometer is turning up a few cases of COVID-19 that shut down CPA offices at the height of the season. And even where the infection hasn’t managed to muscle its way into the office, firms are taking draconian measures to keep operations up and running.

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The Busy Season Barometer is finding CPAs cautiously optimistic about their own futures. Only one percent think the next 12 months will shape up “much worse” for their firms and families. Some 15 percent think their firms will do “somewhat worse.” Twelve percent are similarly concerned for their families. About half foresee no change. About a third actually think their economic situation might improve.

But accountants turn quite a bit more pessimistic when they look a little farther from home. While only 16 percent think their firms will do worse over the next year, 36 percent think their clients will do worse.

Uh-oh! Can CPA firms do better if their clients are doing worse?