BY RALPH ALBERT THOMAS, CPA (DC), CGMA NJCPA CEO AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
IN 2020, ACCOUNTING will continue to be a very desirable profession. Savvy CPAs will embrace the transition from the traditional role of reporting on historical data to playing a key role in forecasting and planning for their companies’ and clients’ futures.
Tax professionals will continue to help individuals and businesses comply with the provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. And here in New Jersey, CPAs will help their companies and business clients navigate through the myriad of new employment-related regulations.
The biggest challenge is how the digital era is transforming the world around us, changing the way CPAs work. The pace of that change isn’t incremental—it’s exponential. But that change also provides the greatest opportunity to reimagine the profession. The ever-increasing power of digital technology won’t replace accounting professionals, but it will change the nature of a CPA’s job.
Technology will do the heavy lifting of the compliance work so CPAs can start creating new service lines in their practices that deliver more proactive, real-time analysis of their clients’ businesses. CPAs who decide to look at these developments and grab hold of the future opportunity they afford can assure their clients that they chose the right adviser.
Training is key to preparing for these changes. According to the World Economic Forum jobs report, workers will need an average about 20 days per year to keep pace with technological advancements. This is a wake-up call to the profession to review how we’re currently training CPAs, so we’re ready for the shifts in technology and can take advantage of what they offer. Addition-ally, it’s critical that CPAs enhance their soft and interpersonal skills, such as collaboration and active listening, along with their analytical skills.
Our biggest concern about the coming election is the uncertainty that it brings. As we saw with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, federal laws and regulations can have a huge impact on New Jersey-based businesses and the state economy, and we won’t know who will be making policy in Washington, D.C., until after Nov. 3.
The future of the profession is bright, but there will be dramatic changes. The Baby Boomers, who built the profession into what it is today, are retiring, and the Xers, Millennials and even the Zs are introducing a host of new ideas to reshape the profession and accounting firms in dramatic and innovative ways.
I also think that the CPA profession of the future will be more diverse. In fact, diversity and inclusion is a business imperative. It’s essential that the profession attract more women and underrepresented minorities to its ranks to mirror the changing faces of new entrepreneurs and business leaders.