CPAs are expanding the range of specialties and advisory services they are offering clients, according to Carl Peterson, vice president of small firm interests at the American Institute of CPAs.

“The AICPA’s most recent brand research showed that CPAs ranked first among financial professionals in terms of a positive perception, and we also receive high marks for the overall satisfaction with the work that we do and the value that we add,” he said during a keynote speech Tuesday at Accounting Today’s Growth & Profitability Summit in Boca Raton, Fla.

He pointed to recent research from Sageworks showing that accounting, bookkeeping, payroll and tax preparation are collectively among the most profitable industries. “These services collectively had a net profit margin pre-tax of 19.8 percent,” he said.

“Accounting is a $94 billion industry, growing at a 3.5 percent rate,” said Peterson. “Our core services still drive the profession, and they will remain front and center in the future.”

He cited specialty services, including valuation, forensics and risk consulting. He believes that advisory services can also offer opportunities for CPAs.

Risk consulting is showing growth of 6 percent, while business valuation is growing at a rate of 3.5 percent. Forensic accounting is growing 6.8 percent, financial planning at 3.1 percent, and IT consulting at 6 percent.

However, CPAs are still making money from core services such as tax (35 percent), accounting and auditing (46 percent) and advisory services (16 percent).

Meanwhile, there are more immediate concerns for CPAs, with the AICPA’s top legislative concern right now being tax extenders. If they aren’t passed soon, Peterson warned that this could be the worst tax season ever.

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