A large majority of CPA firms reported continuing strong growth during the past two years, according to a new survey by the American Institute of CPAs and the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants, but the survey was taken before the financial crisis hit home in recent quarters.

Seventy-five percent of the 2,722 CPA firms surveyed reported growth ranging from 1 to 19 percent over the two years from May 2006 through June 2008, according to the 2008 National Management of Accounting Practice survey. Average net client fees per partner rose 10 percent to $664,847.

"CPA firms continue to do well," said AICPA vice president of small firm interests James C. Metzler in a statement. "Clients go to CPAs to help them weather a troubled economy, and banks may seek greater assurance from practitioners about the companies with which they do business."

Fewer firms are reporting turnover. Thirty-one percent of the CPA firms surveyed said they had lost professionals in fiscal 2007, a significant improvement from the last survey, when 45.6 percent of firms reported losing professionals.

Succession planning and professional training continue to remain weak spots. Only 22 percent of all firms surveyed had a succession plan and only 10 percent of the smallest firms had a practice continuation agreement to protect their practices in the event of death or a disability that leaves the owner unable to work. The MAP survey found that continuing professional education represents about 1 percent of firms' expenses.

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