Tax Pros Fall Behind 6.2% in Returns Filed

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Week ending March 27

Self-preparers, website visits and average refunds the only bright spots.

By Beth Bellor

The year-to-year gap in professional tax preparations continues to grow, stretching past 2.9 million in this oddest of seasons.

MORE: Tax Pros Trail by 908,000 Returns | Tax Pro IRS Filings Lag by 532,000 | Tax Pro E-Filings Lag by 512,000 Returns | Tax Pros Kick into High Gear
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The IRS had received 90.6 million individual income returns, down 2.4 percent from the same period a year ago, as of the week ending March 27, the latest data released. It had processed 87 million returns, down 3.6 percent.
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Pre-COVID-19, Accounting Profession Hits New Highs

We'll be comparing apples to zebras for a while.

By Beth Bellor

What a difference a month makes. The accounting profession set several new records in the latest employment figures ... but.

For our analysis on the COVID-19 impact on the profession, see Planning for the Coronavirus Recession

That "but," of course, is the global pandemic. The numbers almost seemed dated as soon as they were released, because we know many of those gains quickly melted away.
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Tax Pros Trail by 908,000 Returns

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Week ending March 20

E-filing pace lags 2.2% from year-ago, but professionals hang on to market share.

By Beth Bellor

Coronavirus has changed much of society as we know it, but taxes remain a certainty.

MORE: Tax Pro IRS Filings Lag by 532,000 | Tax Pro E-Filings Lag by 512,000 Returns | Tax Pros Kick into High Gear | Slow Start for Tax Pro E-filing | Data Points Down as Tax Season Opens | The Fight for New Tax Clients
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Total returns, e-filings and average refunds are up, although tax pros are e-filing slower than last year.
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Tax Pro IRS Filings Lag by 532,000

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Week ending March 13

Self-prepared up by 5 million.

Busy Season Barometer:
Bracing for the Coronavirus recession
Join the survey. Get the facts.

By Beth Bellor

Even as coronavirus races across the globe, tax professionals appear to be gaining ground on Busy Season 2020.

More: Tax Pro E-Filings Lag by 512,000 Returns | Tax Pros Kick into High Gear | Slow Start for Tax Pro E-filing | Data Points Down as Tax Season Opens | The Fight for New Tax Clients
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See: All CPA Trendlines Special Coronavirus Coverage

At last count, tax practitioners handled more than half of efiled returns, though that's still behind last year by 532,000 returns. Self-prepared returns are up by 5 million as taxpayers race to collect their refunds.

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Planning for the Coronavirus Recession

If past recessions are any guide, the profession could lose up to 100,000 jobs.

Busy Season Barometer:
Bracing for the Coronavirus recession

Join the survey. Get the facts.

By Beth Bellor

The tax and accounting profession was adding new jobs at a rate of 2.3 percent per year before the Coronavirus outbreak, according to CPA Trendlines Research.

See: All CPA Trendlines Special Coronavirus Crisis Coverage

More Staffing and Hiring Trends: Automation and the Future of Accounting  |  Getting and Keeping the Best: The Struggle Continues |  Headcounts Dip by 3,500 in Tax & Accounting |  Creative Perks for Remote Employees |  What Staffing Shortage? |  Hiring Trends Flash Warning Signs of Slowdown in Tax & Accounting |  Salary Survey: Top Skills Getting Top Pay

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But with a new recession looming, CPA Trendlines estimates the profession could lose up to 100,000 jobs and take up to seven years to recover.

The latest data available show more than a million employees in the profession, and growing at about 2,800 new jobs per month. At the same time, wages are hitting record highs.

But with the Coronavirus crisis threatening a new recession, CPA Trendlines conducted a long-term, 30-year analysis, focused on the job losses caused by the dot-com crash of 2001 and the financial meltdown of 2007. From the analysis, CPA Trendlines calculates the profession could shed up to 10 percent of its current workforce, and not fully recover for two to seven years.

All employees, thousands, accounting and bookkeeping services, seasonally adjusted
^ Showing dips after the dot-com bubble in 2001 and financial crash in 2008: All tax, accounting, and bookkeeping services, all employees, in thousands, seasonally adjusted. (CPA Trendlines Research)

In this report, CPA Trendlines highlights:

  • Current and long-term hiring trends in each of the bookkeeping, payroll, tax and CPA segments of the industry (all data seasonally adjusted)
  • Average hourly wages for key segments
  • Typical hours worked per week
  • Trends concerning women in the accounting workforce

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Tax Pro E-Filings Lag by 512,000 Returns

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2020 FILING SEASON STATISTICS: Cumulative 3/8/2019 vs. 3/6/2020

As do-it-yourselfers surge by more than a million.

Busy Season Barometer:
How Does This Year's Busy Season Compare to Last Year's?
Better,  Worse, or About the Same?

By Beth Bellor

Tax professionals are losing their share of the e-filing market this tax season, dropping to 48.5 percent of all returns e-filed, down slightly more than one percentage point from the same time last year.

More Tax Season 2020:  Tax Season Turns Ugly under CoronavirusTech Tools for Working through the Coronavirus  |  What’s NOT to Like about Tax Season?   |  Why ‘Tick and Tie’ Needs to Die   |  Lessons from the Trenches of Tax Season   |  Coronavirus Rattles Tax Season   |  Tax Season Funnies: The ‘Service’ in IRS   |  Can Your Reviewers Answer These 10 Questions?   |  Top Tech Choices for the Virtual Firm  |

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The IRS had received 68 million individual income tax returns as of March 6 – the latest data available – up 0.4 percent from the same period in 2019. The agency had processed 65 million returns, down 0.5 percent.
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Tax Pros Kick into High Gear

Cumulative statistics comparing 2/22/2019 and 2/21/2020, IRS

Profession accelerates e-flings, but struggles for market share.

The CPA Trendlines Busy Season Barometer:
Today's Bonus Question:
Are You Ready for Covid-19 Conditions?

Join the survey. Get the results.

By Beth Bellor

Tax professionals are increasing their share of the e-filing market as we plow deeper into tax season. After starting at 34.6 percent and nudging up to 38.1, the latest figure is a healthier 44.3 percent of e-filings, although that's about a point lower than the year-ago date.

MORE: Data Points Down as Tax Season Opens | More Firms Falling Behind | Does IRS Need a Practitioner Services Division? | IRS Urged to Form Tax Preparer Strategy | Accountants Cautiously Bullish on the Economy | Tax Pros Forecast a Better 2020 | Can the IRS Enforce the Tax Code? | Tax Pros Upbeat on Cusp of Busy Season | IRS Undertakes Overhaul |  The Fight for New Tax Clients | What Makes a Good Tax Season Client? | Do Your Clients Feel Important? | 5 Small Leaks That Can Sink a Tax Season | 5 Tax Review Keys | 4 Reasons to Push Ahead with Tax Question Research | One Essential Touch for Tax Season | 5 Steps for Tax Season Success | Help Tax Clients Help You | 3 Steps to Tax Season Happiness |

See all Tax Season coverage here
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The IRS, which delayed release of the figures, had received 49.9 million individual income tax returns as of the week ending Feb. 21, the latest data available. That's down from the same period last year, but only by 0.1 percent. Meanwhile, it had processed 48.1 million returns, up 0.7 percent.
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Headcounts Dip by 3,500 in Tax & Accounting

Hourly earnings hit new high.

By Beth Bellor

CPA firms and payroll agencies are trimming their headcounts going into Busy Season 2020, according to new data obtained by CPA Trendlines Research

In this report, CPA Trendlines highlights:

  • Current hiring trends in each of the bookkeeping, payroll, tax and CPA segments of the industry (all data seasonally adjusted)
  • Average hourly wages for key segments
  • Typical hours worked per week
  • Trends concerning women in the accounting workforce

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Slow Start for Tax Pro E-filing

Data chartTax pro market share down 409,000 from year-ago.

By Beth Bellor

As of the week ending Feb. 7, the latest data available, the Internal Revenue Service had received 28.7 million individual income tax returns, down 0.4 percent from the same week last year. It had processed 27.5 million, down 2.1 percent.

MORE: Data Points Down as Tax Season Opens | The Fight for New Tax Clients
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The IRS had processed 96.1 percent of returns received.

E-filing receipts READ MORE →

Data Points Down as Tax Season Opens

Data chartDIYs, refunds are up.

The CPA Trendlines Busy Season Barometer: New year, new strategies?
Join the survey. Get the results.

By Beth Bellor

Filings were behind last year's marks as tax season opened, according to the IRS, and pros handled about 35 percent of e-filings.

MORE: The Fight for New Tax Clients | 5 Tax Review Keys | Treat Review Procedures Like Quality Control |  SURVEY RESULTS: Tax Pros Forecast a Better 2020 |  Can the IRS Enforce the Tax Code? |  Tax Pro’s Upbeat on Cusp of Busy Season |  Use Tax Return Prep for Training and Growth |  IRS Undertakes Overhaul  | All 2020 Tax Season Coverage
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The Internal Revenue Service received 15.8 million individual income tax returns for the week ending Jan. 31 – the first of the season and just five days long – down by 1.6 percent from the year before. It had processed 12.9 million returns, down 2.7 percent, for a processing rate of 82 percent.
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The Fight for New Tax Clients

Bar chart
By CPA Trendlines Research

And will refunds reverse their downward trend?

The CPA Trendlines Busy Season Barometer: New year, new strategies?
Join the survey. Get the results.

By Beth Bellor

The IRS is about to roll out its first filing statistics of 2020, but before it does, let's recap 2019.

MORE ON TAX SEASON: Pros Improving Performance | Can the IRS Enforce the Tax Code? | Tax Pros Upbeat on Cusp of Busy Season | IRS Undertakes Overhaul
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First, the market share: How many individual income tax returns were filed, and how many of those were touched by accountants?
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Tax & Accounting Headcounts Hit Record High

Records set in several segments.

By Beth Bellor

With year-end employment figures in, it remains a great time to be an accountant.
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By the Numbers

In this report, CPA Trendlines highlights:

  • Current hiring trends in each of the bookkeeping, payroll, tax and CPA segments of the industry (all data seasonally adjusted)
  • Average hourly wages for key segments
  • Typical hours worked per week
  • Trends concerning women in the accounting workforce

READ MORE →

Hiring Growth Rate Shows Signs of Leveling Off

Still healthy, but not as good as last year.

Who's hiring, who's not.
Who's quitting, who's staying.
And why and why not.
Join the survey. Get the facts.

By Beth Bellor

"Stay the course." Remember that chestnut?

MORE ON JOBS: What Staffing Shortage? | Payroll Agencies Lead Jobs Growth in the Tax & Accounting Industry | Hiring Trends: Accounting Hits 4.2% Expansion Rate | Hiring Trends Flash Warning Signs of Slowdown in Tax & Accounting | CHARTS: Tax & Accounting Among Biggest Jobs Creators in U.S. | Hiring Surge Powered by Growth in Payroll Agencies
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Maybe it's not time to rock the boat. The accounting profession is more than holding its own, with new highs seen in:

  • overall earnings,
  • staff earnings,
  • CPA firm staff numbers and earnings, and
  • payroll services earnings.

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