The Changing Roles of CPAs

The Changing Roles of CPAs

The public accounting industry has seen a dozen noteworthy changes over the last few decades — primarily due to tech and automation, cloud-based solutions, machine learning, and AI. This process has only accelerated over the last few years. Despite the fact that this industry witnessed revenue growth of 72% over the last decade, many companies still find it an uphill battle to attract and retain CPAs.

CPAs are not just required for basic bookkeeping, payroll, or taxation calculations. Their ability to connect strategy with financial objectives is now more important than ever.

From Compliance Experts to Strategic Advisors

Traditionally viewed as compliance experts, CPAs now assume a more dynamic and strategic role. Knowledge of financial statements and their adherence to regulations is still vital, but using this knowledge to pave a future pathway for businesses is the new norm.

CPAs historically assisted with tax planning, audits and assurances, and other compliance tasks that needed knowledge of submission rules, formats, and guidelines. CPAs are still responsible for all of these tasks, but also act as business partners rather than just fact-checkers and auditors. Their ability to create comprehensive financial and strategic plans for their clients sets them apart from other advisory professionals.

Embracing Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility

Sustainability and corporate responsibility have become paramount in the corporate world. CPAs in North America are adapting to this shift by catering to financials related to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations in their practices. For example, sustainability-related financial disclosures and standards, such as those laid down by the CSSB, have to be followed by organizations.

This expanded role aligns with the growing demand for transparent and responsible business practices, positioning CPAs as guardians of not only financial health but also ethical and sustainable business conduct.

Technology: Continuous Learning and Adaptability

The changing roles of CPAs necessitate a commitment to continuous learning and adaptability. Staying up to date with emerging technologies, regulatory changes, and industry trends is commonplace now, rather than a unique selling proposition for CPA firms. Annual professional development requirements offer accountants the opportunity to continue their education and understanding of essential tools to amplify the value they can provide to their stakeholders.

From Excel spreadsheets in the early 2000s, to ERP systems, and automation platforms, new tech is always around the corner to help CPAs spend less time on calculations, and more time on planning and advising.

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