CPA firms of all sizes are facing challenges with client retention, according to a new survey by the American Institute of CPAs.

The institute’s CPA Firm Top Issues Survey gathers information from a wide range of practitioners in five different size segments, from sole practitioner to firms with over 21 professionals, to get a snapshot of the most critical challenges facing AICPA members.

“There is no doubt that the weakened economy has shifted CPAs’ concerns from staffing to client retention,” said AICPA vice president of small firm interests Jim Metzler in a statement.

He noted that client retention was not one of the top five issues in the AICPA’s 2007 survey. “The AICPA is vigorously working with firms to help them provide better client service and more strategic planning during this recession, as well as rolling out value-added services and tools for CPA firms,” Metzler added.

Marketing and practice growth reappeared in the AICPA’s Top 5 issues list for the first time since 2005 across all five of the firm sizes that were surveyed.  Technical training standards and succession issues also topped the 2009 list. The top issues varied by firm size. After client retention, tax law complexity and changes are top concerns for sole practitioners, while partner accountability and succession planning are top issues for firms with 21 or more professionals.

The survey results show that while staffing dropped from the top spot since the last survey, finding qualified staff is still a Top 10 concern for firms with two to 20 professionals. New regulations and standards on small firms was a Top 5 concern for firms with up to 20 professionals, and was in the top 10 for practitioners in forms with 21 or more professionals.

More information and full poll results are available on the AICPA’s PCPS Web site at

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