If you're reading this, then the world didn't end on December 21, the Mayans were wrong, and I've blown my life savings on freeze-dried food and a military-grade bunker deep in the Adirondacks.
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That seems highly unlikely (and the bunker was a bargain, in any case), but on the off chance that the Mayapocalypse didn't happen, I thought I'd share some thoughts on what 2013 is likely to hold for accountants, to give us all something to look forward to now that the Mayans have let us down.
• More mergers. You'll be shocked -- shocked! -- to hear that there will likely be lots more firm combinations in 2013, but that happens to be the case. There will be changes to the market, however, with more strategic combinations among large firms, and smaller firms seeing a flight to quality among buyers, meaning that you can't necessarily count on selling out as an exit strategy, unless you're top-notch. (Assuming they haven't been washed away in a Mayan-predicted flood, you can read more -- and better-informed -- thoughts on the M&A market in 2013 in our roundtable of experts here.)
• A tough tax season. If Congress isn't incinerated by a Mayan-flavored rain of comets, it will undoubtedly have already delayed the start of tax season and left preparers with a jumbled mess of tax legislation. But that's pretty much every year, right? What's different this year, and will continue to play out for the next few, is that the new registration, testing and education requirements from the Internal Revenue Service will drive more and more tax preparers out of the business. While this will most likely raise quality, it will mean much tougher competition for staff. Be prepared to be flexible, and to use remote technology to accommodate far-flung staff - say, people who live in bunkers in the remote Adirondacks, because they thought the world was coming to an end. But then it didn't.
• The end of IFRS? Naturally, International Financial Reporting Standards won't end -- if they haven't been destroyed in a Maya®-brand earthquake, they'll continue to be enjoyed internationally, but here in the U.S. we'll most likely hear a lot less about them. Unless the next commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission really feels strongly about them, expect them to be quietly swept under the rug.
• Watch the PCAOB and the PCC. I don't know what the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board is going to do this year, but I'm excited to find out. Under Chairman James Doty, it raised its profile throughout 2012 on a wide range of issues, most notably auditor rotation. The question probably isn't whether we'll have rotation, but what measure the board suggests in its place. Meanwhile, it's too early yet to say how the new Private Company Council will shape up, but it will definitely be worth paying attention to (assuming, of course, that it wasn't swept away in Mayageddon).
• The competition continues. Now that the world is apparently not ending, it's time to recognize that the Mayan deadline is no longer an excuse for not facing up to the enormous challenges that lie ahead. IFRS isn't likely to turn into the next Sarbanes-Oxley or Y2k, floating everyone's boats. Instead, firms are going to have sharpen up their acts to compete in a tougher environment, one with more price competition, more complicated regulations that change more frequently, disruptive technology, scarcer staff, and more difficult clients. It'll require managing change on an entirely new scale, and adapting everything from your pricing structures, service offerings, and marketing, to your compensation plan and your partnership structure, to say nothing of your approach to technology (go cloud!) and how you recruit and retain staff.
Kind of makes you miss the Mayapocalyspe, doesn't it?