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Small firms satisfied with AICPA but ask for more attention.

A survey of 2,000 local and regional firms conducted by the private companies practice section (PCPS) of the American Institute of CPAs division for CPA firms found that small firms are satisfied overall with AICPA services but want more contact with its board of directors and more attention given to the needs of local firms. When given the opportunity to express their concerns to the AICPA board, 25% of the firms said they would tell the board the AICPA should stress the relevance of membership for CPAs in smaller firms. This concern was mentioned more than three times as often as any other member response.

The 2,000 firms polled were equally divided between PCPS member firms and nonmember firms and were scattered across the country. Size categories included sole practitioners, firms with fewer than six AICPA members and firms with six or more AICPA members. The average firm surveyed had one location with two partners. It employed seven, including five professionals, three of whom were CPAs.

Overcoming file recession

Despite the recession, 59% of the firms polled made no changes in staff size in the past year. Another 27% added to their staffs, with only 14% of the firms reporting layoffs.

Still, the firms were not without problems. When asked to list their three most pressing professional concerns, by far the most frequently mentioned difficulty was keeping up with new regulations, cited by 38% of those polled. Next in line was liability insurance costs, mentioned by 19% of the respondents, and changes and complexity in the tax code, noted by 18% of the small firms. Keeping up with new technology was a problem for 13% of those polled, while 12% ,thought it difficult to obtain and keep qualified staff.

Small Firms and file AICPA

Overall, the small firms were satisfied with AICPA programs and services. On a scale of 1 to 5, the average level of satisfaction of those polled was 3.35. Moreover, 24% of the respondents said their level of satisfaction had increased in the past three years, with another 52% indicating the same level of satisfaction. Only 12% reported a lower level of satisfaction. The remaining 12% had no opinion.

Among specific programs, the AICPA life insurance program, used by 75% of the respondents, received a user's rating of 4.25. The Practicing CPA, a PCPS publication, was used by 89% of those polled and garnered a 3.81 rating. The Journal of Accountancy, used by 99% of those polled, and the CPA Letter, used by 93%, were both rated 3.81. Technical practice aids were used by 73% of those polled and received a user's rating of 3.58. AICPA conferences were used by 63% of the respondents and other continuing professional education services were used by 81%, with both receiving a 3.48 rating.

Priorities for file next five years

The respondents also were asked to rate the importance of programs and services that would be appropriate for the AICPA in the next five years, As might be expected, the elimination of exposure to unreasonable liability ranked first on the small firms' wish list, with an average rating of 4.63. The effort to modify financial reporting placed second, with an average rating of 4.14. Other priorities to garner a rating of 4 or better were programs to improve the quality of professional services (4.11), to encourage ethical standards of integrity and objectivity (4.04) and to communicate CPAs' professionalism and competence to the public (4.02).

Is AICPA membership worthwhile?

The small firms polled gave their AICPA membership an average value rating of 3.46, with 14% rating their membership at 5. Another 38% gave their membership an above-average value rating of 4 to 5 and 30% believed membership provided average value of 3 to 4.

Equally important, 19% of the respondents rated the value of their AICPA membership higher than three years ago. Another 60% said they valued their membership the same as three years ago, with only 13% perceiving lower value. The remaining 8% had no opinion.
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Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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