4 accounting profession challenges (and what to do about them)

Accounting firms face ongoing challenges: remote work, staff retention, tech advancements, cybersecurity and changing tax laws. Adaptation is crucial. Here’s what to do…

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Last Updated July 2, 2024

Accounting team gathered in a meeting room to talk about their firm's challenges


Accounting profession challenges never cease.

A few years ago, you faced—and overcame—the challenge to pivot to remote work…nearly overnight. The COVID-driven disruption spiraled into a host of other challenges that changed work forever:

  • Remote work turned from a nice perk to a must-have.
  • Remote employees had to be equipped with devices and virtual workplace protocols.
  • Changes to cybersecurity policies had to be implemented to safeguard firm and client data.

And that’s not all.

Current trends and ongoing developments in the accounting profession—from the demand for more services to figuring out how to retain Gen Z—are causing firm leaders to take a step back. To rework. To remaster.

Let’s examine some of these challenges and burgeoning trends—and then learn how to face them head-on.

Challenge 1: Finding and retaining staff

  • There’s a growing demand for skilled accounting professionals.
  • Attracting and retaining top talent continues to be a struggle.
  • Flexible work arrangements and new technology are helping to attract and retain younger talent.

The number of accounting graduates is declining. (The number of graduates getting an accounting bachelor’s or master’s degree has dropped 4% since 2020.) And even fewer accounting graduates are choosing to become certified. Combine that with the news that nearly 75% of CPAs met the retirement age in 2020—and it all adds up to a major shortage.

As Economics 101 taught us all, the greater the demand, the more people are willing to pay. Not only are new grads pushing for a higher starting salary, but they also want more benefits.

Overcome the accounting shortage with competitive benefits

To attract and retain the best talent, take a look at your firm’s culture and benefits. How do they stack up against the competition?

When professionals are looking for a new job, they’ll always evaluate various factors that could make an employer more attractive.

List of 8 employee benefits to help differentiate your firm: Professional development opportunities, work/life balance, competitive compensation, comprehensive benefits package, positive workplace culture, career advancement, technology and tools, and corporate social responsibility.

Here are a few benefits that can serve as competitive differentiators:

1. Professional development opportunities

  • Continuing education reimbursement: Many firms offer to cover the costs of courses, certifications or advanced degrees, allowing accountants to keep up with evolving standards in the profession.
  • Mentorship programs: Access to seasoned professionals for guidance and career growth can be incredibly appealing.

2. Work/life balance

  • Flexible work hours: Allowing accountants to choose their work hours can be a significant perk.
  • Remote work options: Providing the ability to work from home or other remote locations can attract top talent.

3. Competitive compensation

  • Performance bonuses: Rewards tied to individual or team performance can motivate and retain employees.
  • Salary increases: Regular reviews and salary adjustments to match market rates are appealing to potential and current staff.

4. Comprehensive benefits package

  • Health and wellness programs: Including medical, dental, vision insurance and wellness programs round out a good package.
  • Retirement plans: Competitive 401(k) or pension plans with matching contributions can attract and retain talent.

5. Positive workplace culture

  • Supportive environment: Many people today are looking for a culture that promotes teamwork, diversity and inclusion.
  • Employee recognition programs: Regular recognition and rewards for outstanding work can boost morale and job satisfaction.

6. Career advancement

  • Clear career paths: Well-defined paths for promotion and career growth within the firm are essential.
  • Leadership development programs: Training programs aimed at developing future leaders within the organization show your investment in your team.

7. Technology and tools

  • State-of-the-art technology: Access to the latest accounting software and tools can make work more efficient and enjoyable.
  • IT support: Robust support for any tech-related issues is a significant factor.

8. Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

  • Community involvement: Providing opportunities to participate in community service or volunteer initiatives is important.
  • Sustainability efforts: Commitment to sustainability and ethical business practices demonstrates your values.

Challenge 2: Keeping up with tech advancements

  • Technology is transforming the accounting profession.
  • Automation, artificial intelligence and cloud solutions have changed traditional accounting processes.
  • Firms that fail to keep up with the latest advancements will be left behind.

I’ll say it: Technology has disrupted the accounting profession for the better.

I recently had a great experience with our internal accounting team. Details aren’t super important here, but I needed to be reimbursed for a course. I used an application called Expensify to track and handle reimbursements. In a word, the experience was fan-freaking-tastic.

The app did its thing, was approved by various people, then deposited into my account within a few days. Totally frictionless. I was able to check in on my expense report’s progress the entire time as well.

This is just one app—one small example—but it’s indicative of a much larger transformation in the accounting profession.

Client standards are changing. We expect rapidity; we demand a positive experience. Why? Because we have a limitless number of accounting firms or businesses to choose from (aka, the internet).

You must use technology to your advantage—not only to avoid being left behind, but to enhance your existing business and keep clients happy (and earn more money, too).

How to start using technology to overcome challenges

Begin by evaluating a technology provider that provides more than one solution. The simplest way to do a lot with a little is by consolidating your solutions.

Evaluate managed service providers who offer solutions that help overcome accounting challenges.

Technology to address remote work and client collaboration challenges, cyberthreats and inefficiencies

  1. Remote work: Consider “remote work” as any instance when you log into a firm file outside the office. In those instances, you need a remote work solution. A cloud hosting company puts your apps, software and tools in the cloud, backs up and protects the data therein, and allows for a seamless, work-anywhere experience.
  2. Client collaboration: A cloud solution also makes client collaboration tons easier. Give them access to their client portal and teach them how to upload the files you need to where you need them. And suddenly, a once-time-consuming task becomes instantaneous.
  3. Cyberthreats: Technology with built-in cybersecurity protocols is the most efficient way to overcome cyber risks. Ensure your firm’s physical devices remain locked down with device protection, your critical apps are secured in the cloud and your email is monitored by a security service. Don’t forget about ongoing virtual security awareness training for all employees, too.

Challenge 3: Protecting your firm from cyberattacks

  • Accounting firms handle sensitive financial information and are at risk of cyberattacks, data breaches and other security threats.
  • Firms must invest in robust cybersecurity measures to protect client data (and their own reputation).

“Rising cybersecurity/fraud threats” was among the most frequently selected accounting profession challenges from the State of Accounting Firms Trends Report 2024.

And it’s no surprise. As accountants, you’re quite literally handling the most sensitive financial information and personally identifiable information (PII) out there.

A successful accounting firm breach is a hacker’s goldmine. Just think: Hacking into one accounting firm is like striking a few hundred birds with one stone.

Image with a quote from the blog that reads: Hacking into one accounting firm is like striking a few hundred birds with one stone.

Protect your firm from cybersecurity risks with a layered approach

Layering your security is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the idea of having multiple safeguards in place to protect every possible entry point from intruders. There are three main components to a layered security approach: cloud, device and people.

  • Cloud: Work from a protected environment, like the cloud. Hosted apps are more secure than non-hosted apps for a multitude of reasons.
  • Device: Monitor your devices. Because not everything can be run in the cloud and attacks come from multiple entry points, you need someone consistently monitoring work laptops and desktops for intrusions and vulnerabilities. (Don’t forget about protecting your smartphone, too.)
  • People: Everyone makes mistakes. The only way to lower your number one data breach risk is by training staff. (And don’t forget to take the training yourself. No one is immune to a cyberattack.)

Challenge 4: Keeping up with changing tax law

  • Regulations continue to change.
  • Keeping up with the new requirements and standards is nearly impossible.
  • Failure to understand changing tax law and compliance implications could lead to additional costs or penalties.

According to Caseware’s State of Accounting Firms Trends Report 2024, 16% of accounting professionals stated that new laws and regulations were among their top practice management challenges in the past year. This was the most frequently-cited top challenge. The sentiment was echoed in AICPA and CIMA’s PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey.

But it hasn’t been just the past year—it’s been many years. In the last half-decade alone, we saw the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act significantly change tax laws. We saw a multitude of updates to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) issued new guidance for auditors to better evaluate the effectiveness of a company’s cybersecurity controls.

And those are just three of many, many changes.

What’s to be done?

How to stay informed about changing tax laws and compliance

There are several ways to stay informed about accounting profession changes:

  • Subscribe to profession-specific publications: Follow sites like, and, which provide updates on new regulations, accounting standards and other accounting-specific news.
  • Join professional organizations: The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) offer a wealth of resources—including training programs, conferences and webinars— that provide updates on regulatory changes and other important developments.
  • Continuing education: As you’re already aware, you’re required to complete a certain number of continuing professional education (CPE) hours each year to maintain your professional license or certification. CPE courses often cover new accounting standards and regulatory changes.
  • Visit government agency websites: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the IRS websites are great places to browse information about new regulations and guidance. As the saying goes: Straight from the horse’s mouth, eh?
  • Network, network, network: Participate in the societies mentioned above, as well as your state societies, and attend webinars and events. Social gatherings like these provide opportunities to learn about and discuss the impact regulatory changes are having on firms. And they may provide you with better ideas for how to address them.

Another way to keep up with changing tax laws? Use AI. An AI tool (like Spark) can explain complex tax changes in simple terms. It’s a great way for you to get a summary of information for yourself, or for a client who may not understand tax language as well as you.

Accounting profession challenges aren’t going away

The number of accountants will continue to dwindle as baby boomers retire. Hackers will continue to find ways to break down the safeguards. Technology will only keep getting better, with more and more solutions being released all the time.

It’s time to embrace change! Adopt newer and better technologies. Block the hackers. Rejuvenate your firm with exciting benefits and an irresitable culture. And stay ahead of the change curve.

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