Allan Rolnick, CPA
Someday, accountants will be cool. I don’t just mean in the “Oh, you’re majoring in accounting, that’s cool” sense. I mean Steve-McQueen-cruisingthrough-Rome-on-a-Vespa cool. Someday, little kids who dream of growing up to be accountants will collect bubblegum cards with Big Four partners’ pictures on one side and detailed career stats on the back. (Tax dollars saved, by year! Endorses checks: right-handed!) When they get to high school, they’ll be as popular as the quarterback of the football team and the Homecoming Queen. (56.8% of CPAs are women.) Someday, cool college kids will skip fraternities to party with the Accounting Club. Unfortunately, today is not that day. Accounting is still crucially important. It’s still the language of business. But it’s still not cool. And that has big implications for the taxes Americans will pay as the accounting profession evolves over the next decades. Last month, the Wall Street Journal published an investigation into why 300,000 accountants have left their jobs over the last two years. It’s not just baby boomer retirements. Young and midcareer professionals have been leaving since before the pandemic. And the article identified a fundamental problem with the talent pipeline: “Many college students don’t want to work in accounting. Even those who majored in it.” Companies working to make accounting cool are sending staffers into classrooms to change that perception. The AICPA sponsors a website at JoinAccountingPlus.com, celebrating the education, lifestyle, and career opportunities available in the field. (“Is it easier for a pilot to start an airline or for an accountant to launch their own company?”) There’s a TikTok account, naturally. (Out: numbers in boxes.
In: risk control, project management, controllership, asset management, audits.) Even the Sales Tax Institute is doing its part with its annual “Sales Tax Nerd Award.” If sales tax is cool – which it is! – then this year’s Sales Tax Nerd is the coolest cat around. In the end, though, most accounting employers are simply going to have to pay more to compete with banks and consulting firms. That, in turn, means convincing their clients to pay them more. And that’s not always easy, especially when it comes to taxes. Fortunately for them (and us!), there’s a formula for providing better client service that does the convincing on its own. Most tax pros are perfectly content to tell you how much you owe, then call it a day. That’s especially true for the storefront preparers (who really aren’t even accountants) that you’ll see advertising on NFL playoff games. They answer two very basic questions. Did something you already did last year give you a tax deduction today? And if so, how do you record it properly on the government forms that get more and more complicated every year? (It turns out tax simplification is like the weather: everyone talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.) Other tax pros, like us, want to help you pay less. We don’t just drive with the rearview mirror. Our value comes with more proactive questions that lead to more valuable answers. How can we help you restructure your business to keep more in your pocket? How can we customize your retirement plan to make the most of tax deferral when that makes sense? How can we help position your investment portfolio to make more out of the magic power of compound interest? In the end, the real goal isn’t just paying less today. The real goal is accomplishing your specific financial objectives with less interference from taxes. You won’t get that from a storefront tax preparer, or a faceless voice at the other end of an online chat, or even most full-service accountants. But you will get it from us. How cool is that?!?
Allan J Rolnick is a CPA who has been in practice for over 30 years in Queens, NY. He welcomes your comments and can be reached at 718-896-8715 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.