CPA Business Execs Feel a Lot Better about the Post-Election Economy

CPAs who are also business executives at U.S. companies are expressing much stronger optimism about the U.S. economy after the election, according to a new survey by the American Institute of CPAs.

The AICPA’s fourth quarter Economic Outlook Survey found the outlook for the U.S. economy over the next 12 months among CEOs, CFOs, controllers and other CPAs who hold executive and senior management accounting roles in U.S. companies rose from 38 percent last quarter to 62 percent, the highest level since early last year. At the start of this year, the outlook plunged as low as 28 percent.

Optimism among CPA business executives about the outlook for their own companies soared to 61 percent, its highest level since early 2015, an increase of 8 percentage points from the third quarter. Expectations for profit and revenue at their companies in the year ahead also rose significantly.

Three out of four survey respondents said the outcome of the election would have an impact on their planning, budgeting and forecasting next year, with 15 percent indicating it would have a significant impact. However, most of the survey respondents said the election would either have no impact on their hiring and capital spending, or they only intend to continue addressing their planning, budgeting and forecasting at their current levels.

CPA business executives who were optimistic about the U.S. economy and specifically cited the election outcome in their comments said they were encouraged about the possibility of reduced regulation, lower income taxes and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

“We’re seeing renewed confidence in the U.S. economy, building on the encouraging signals on the outlook for revenue, profit and business expansion we saw in the third quarter,” said Arleen R. Thomas, AICPA managing director Americas and global offerings, in a statement. “The removal of the uncertainty that the presidential election cycle represented appears to be a driving factor in this significant increase in optimism.”

Expectations for revenue growth in the next 12 months among the survey respondents increased from 2.9 percent last quarter to 3.6 percent in the fourth quarter, while profit expectations rose from 2.3 percent to 3.1 percent, a strong recovery compared to the first quarter. Sixty-two percent of the CPA business executives polled indicated their companies plan to expand in the year ahead, the same percentage as last quarter.

There was a slight improvement in plans to increase headcount over the next 12 months, from a 1.3 percent increase last quarter to 1.6 percent this quarter. One out of five of the CPA business executives polled said they plan to hire new employees immediately, down a bit from 21 percent last quarter. However, 55 percent of the survey respondents said they currently had the right amount of employees.

Meanwhile, 28 percent of the CPA business executives polled indicated inflation was a concern, the highest proportion since 2014. Regulatory requirements and changes continued to be the biggest challenge cited by survey respondents. Employee benefit costs came in second, a jump of two spots from the previous quarter. Domestic economic conditions ranked in third place.

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