We are just completing work on our regional survey of accounting firms, the results of which will appear in the April issue of Practical Accountant.
Without going into specifics as to the results of the survey, I will note that one of the themes that I saw is the return of the importance of, and demand for, compliance services.

It is not just firms stating it and trying to convince the public. It is seen more in the clients' actions. They are seeking out firms for the delivery of auditing, accounting, and tax services based on the expected quality of the services to be delivered rather than then seeking the lowest bidder. In addition, some clients of the Big Four are realizing that the Big Four aren't right for them and the regional firms can better deliver the services that they need.

The impetus for this I believe is a number of factors, not the least of which is Sarbanes-Oxley. Public companies are turning to CPA firms for the new Section 404 internal control work created by the legislation. It goes beyond that as not-for-profits and private companies are focusing on governance. The fact that the IRS is aggressively going after tax shelters, many promoted by the Big Four, is also causing clients to question their relationship with the Big Four. 

I expect this trend of greater reliance on professional advice with regard to compliance by businesses and individuals to continue and to branch out into other areas beyond tax, accounting, and auditing. I expect it will include such areas as privacy protection and risk management, the services with respect to which CPAs are particularly well suited to provide.

It is nice to see CPAs receiving the recognition that is well due them. Interestingly, this new acclaim can be traced in large part to Enron and the demise of Andersen.

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