CPAs Have Seen Relative Calm Amid the Storm
Fortunately for the American economy, unemployment claims have fallen back to Earth: from a high of more than 6 million new claims in a single week last spring to slightly fewer than 1 million in recent weeks. That’s still more than four times as many initial claims than were filed in the beginning of December last year, indicating that COVID continues to threaten the jobs of millions of Americans.
CPAs, on the other hand, have remained relatively safe—and plenty busy—amid the turmoil. Though CPAs have not remained untouched, the unemployment numbers for accounting and finance positions have been better than the overall unemployment rate, notching just 5.7% in August, for example, compared to an overall unemployment rate of 8.4% for the same month.
While steady employment is an important piece of a worthwhile and rewarding career, it’s not the only factor. The true value of being a CPA in times like these is not just the job stability or reliable industry growth—though these are strong foundations for a lifelong career—but in the care CPAs have invested in their communities as they’ve helped navigate the financial uncertainty of the pandemic.
Here are a few examples of how CPAs have helped throughout the pandemic and have supported their clients through a tumultuous year.
Examples of How CPAs Have Helped Throughout the Pandemic
Caring for Small Businesses
According to an NFIB survey from last April, approximately 70% of the more than 30 million small businesses in the United States applied for funds through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Many of those business owners relied on the expertise and advice of CPAs to prepare and submit their applications, which were the only lifeboat keeping some businesses afloat.
A more recent survey from NFIB suggests that, if a second round of PPP funding is approved, CPAs will find themselves with plenty more useful work keeping struggling businesses—and their employees—above water. In August, 44% of small businesses surveyed said they’d apply for a second round of funding, and 31% said they’d consider it.
As businesses have adapted to the new conditions imposed by the pandemic—and as they begin to plan for the post-COVID world in the near future—CPAs are uniquely positioned to help them triage the economic damages they’ve sustained and gain a clearer understanding of their path forward.
Caring for Individuals
CPAs haven’t just offered vital assistance to small businesses throughout the pandemic. Many individuals turned to CPAs for help as they watched millions of people receive stimulus checks. Those who hadn’t filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019—many of whom were already socioeconomically disadvantaged—weren’t automatically eligible and turned to CPAs to help them complete the proper forms to secure their much-needed funding.
The extension of deadlines for filing 2019 taxes was certainly a relief to many, but it also introduced uncertainty leading people to seek the guidance of CPAs in deciding if they should file on time or take advantage of the extension.
CPAs have even found themselves sorting out the confusion of once-simple tasks, helping their clients adapt as meetings became Zoom calls, offices closed, and electronic filing became the best, if not only, solution.
Caring for Themselves
CPAs have done a pretty good job of caring for themselves, as well. As the world shifted to remote work, CPAs rapidly adapted to new technologies to ensure the work was done, even if no one was in the office.
The sudden shift in demand of technical skills required of CPAs has been an opportunity, particularly for younger, technologically adept CPAs. Many CPAs have found themselves in the role of helping their organizations transform, even as they work to stay up-to-date with tax codes and best practices.
As employers recognize the value of tech-savvy and forward-thinking CPAs on their team, it’s not just an opportunity for young professionals to demonstrate their worth during a pandemic. It’s also a chance for them to help shape the industry’s future by meeting the challenges of today.
Examples of How CPAs Have Helped Throughout the Pandemic – Summary
CPAs have been vital throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They have aided small businesses with PPP, as well as individuals with receiving stimulus checks, all while adopting remote work technology.
Professionals in this industry truly lent a hand as can be seen by these examples of how CPAs have helped throughout the pandemic.
Megan Burke is a content writer for UWorld Roger CPA Review, and an assistant professor of accounting at Marist College, NY.
She earned her PhD in accounting from Virginia Tech in 2010, and also holds a Master of accountancy from The College of William & Mary and a B.S. in accounting from Virginia Tech.
Prior to earning her doctorate, she worked at Andersen in corporate tax and was a tax manager at Argy, Wiltse, and Robinson in family wealth management. She holds an active CPA license.
Her work has appeared in the Journal of Accountancy, the Accounting Educators’ Journal, and others. Her work has been cited by Bloomberg and Forbes. She has received research funding from the Prenting Foundation and travel support from the Beyster Foundation.